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Have you ever wondered “what if…”

I was thinking about some “what if’s” the other day and I decided to make a series out of my thinking. No I’m not going to give you the answers only pose the questions – you get to come up with your own answers in consultation with Holy Spirit. Why not actually ask yourself the following questions over the next month… All the questions are based on promises in scripture, see if you can guess which scripture this comes from…

WHAT-IF-COLLECTION-1

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Over the last few decades particularly there has been a disturbing trend that has mushroomed; that is the “Christian celebrity” scene. This in turn has led to something I call “celebrity led Christianity” which has crept in to the Church and has caused some people to become more celebrity led in their Christian walk than Spirit led.

In many ways celebrity status Christianity it is nothing new – the Christians in Corinth had the same problem saying “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos” (1 Cor 1:12). Yet during the last half century the tendency to elevate people and their teaching to celebrity status has reached a new high-water mark. This has, I believe, largely happened because of the increase in media saturation particularly through the Internet; not to forget the devils purpose in it of turning people away from their priority of loving and following Christ first and foremost.

Why does someone become a favourite – usually because they preach what we believe or because they bring us fresh revelation. If they preach what we believe then the trap is that it can subtly feed our ego and sense of pride. And if they bring fresh revelation then the feelings of thankfulness and emotion we have because of that can sometimes causes us to focus more on that person than on the Holy Spirit who is in fact the one who leads and guides us into truth. Liking what someone shares and liking them as a person isn’t wrong – it’s when that liking slips over into a subtle idolatry that it’s wrong.

While it is not always bad for preachers to become popular there are inherent problems in that. One is the problem of preachers believing their own PR and getting sucked into the celebrity trap. This has in some cases led to pride and fleecing the flock with some preachers charging thousands to speak in a church meeting or conference either because they believe they’re worth that much or they have big money hungry organizations to keep running. The size of an organization is not necessarily a indicator of it’s effectiveness in the Kingdom. Also they can fall into the trap of believing that they have the monopoly on “their revelation” or on the truth.

Another problem comes on our end, when we accept everything someone says simply because they are popular, one of our favourite preachers or are our Pastor.  The more popular someone is the more influence they have over people and there is a danger in this because they are not infallible, they do not always see things correctly, they are growing in understanding as well as character – as we all are! Don’t fall into the trap of accepting blindly everything your favourite preacher says just because they say it.

We all see things through the lenses of our current theological understanding and preachers are no different; they all preach from their place of current understanding and revelation. That understanding should develop and change as we gain more understanding and the Lord gives us more revelation. In five years time I may look at some things I believe now and be less convinced of them or I may be more convinced of them – depending on the fresh revelation and understanding that the Lord has given me. We must make sure we don’t fall into the trap of believing that our current understanding will be our only one on any subject – it can and should change as we grow in understanding and maturity.

In this media driven world we live in it is so easy to fall into the trap of relying on what our favourite preachers say without checking it out in scripture for ourselves or asking the Lord about it. In some cases we are even taught not to question those who hold some sort of position of authority. Asking questions is sometimes seen as sowing discord or being rebellious or even worse leading to someone being labeled as having a Jezebel spirit; the amount of times I’ve seen that happen over the years isn’t funny! The reason why it is seen like that is often because a leader was themself taught never to question authority figures or sometimes because of insecurity in that leader’s life.  An insecure person will sometimes be tempted use their position to prove or bolster their sense of worth.  So if their teaching is questioned they will sometimes see it as a personal attack or an attack against their credibility and not see it as what may simply be a very reasonable enquiry.

By our fascination and promotion of Christian celebrities we are in danger of building a Church that relies mostly on other peoples revelations, that no longer thinks for itself or asks the Lord for direction to the extent that we should. In fact it may be hard for many of us to accept that our favourite preacher has somehow become someone of celebrity status to us and a subtle idol instead of being simply a brother or sister who is on a journey of progressive growth and revelation just as we all are.

There are people that are gifts to the body – the five-fold ministry is a part of that, but even they should keep pointing you back to Jesus as the focus of your attention and not try to draw you to themselves. Their job description is to train the body for it’s work of ministry, not to just do the ministry themselves, become a celebrity and build a following.  They are given to train people in how to hear from the Lord for themselves and follow him, becoming good Kingdom representatives and sons and daughters who grow into maturity, releasing heaven into earth, bringing freedom wherever they go. If they are not doing this, then they’re possibly not a real five-fold ministry person or they have gone astray from their calling.

Today do take the time to do a spot check. Are there those that you follow who have become someone of celebrity status to you? Do you accept whatever they say without checking it out for yourself; if you do then determine to change that. You have the freedom to question and to grow, the liberty to think for yourself and to learn how to function as a mature son and daughter of God, walking a Spirit lead life not a celebrity led one. By all means, honour people and their gifting but don’t make them something they were never meant to be. Don’t fall into the ‘celebrity status Christian’ trap.

It’s Easter and traditionally it’s the time to tell the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection. Usually in the telling we focus on the aspect of salvation and how we can know God and have a relationship with Him if we will give our life to Him.

Yet the message of Easter (the gospel message) is not about us giving our life to Him; it’s really about Him giving His life to us! It’s a subtle difference in words but a huge difference in outcome! God doesn’t need our life but we definitely need His! Without His life in us we are dead – dead in sin and dead to knowing Him.

We often concentrate on Jesus’s death and the aspect of Jesus forgiving our sins. But I don’t believe we concentrate enough on His resurrection and its meaning, which is “life”, new life – God giving His life to us in order that we may fully live and that He may live in us and through us.

When you actually think about it, that’s huge! God – the One who is love, freely gives Himself for us and to us. That’s the good news, in fact that’s really good news!

What does that actually mean ….

  • God’s love is unconditional and is not dependent on anything we do!
  • His love and grace have nothing to do with how good or bad we are!
  • In His love God gave Himself to win us back, not just so that He could know us and we know Him, but so that we could know the reality of Him living in us and through us!
  • We can live our life knowing His love, grace and favour flowing in and through us if we believe and accept what He did for us and allow Him to give His life to us!
  • He will supply all that we need to live that life of grace and favour! All of it, everything! We don’t supply any of it!

Wow, that’s really good news!

I believe that the concept of us ‘giving our life to God’ comes from our belief that because of what Jesus did we owe Him everything, which includes giving our life to Him. Yet He doesn’t ask for our life in exchange for giving us His; He gives His life to us freely. Our giving our life to Him in any way, or loving and obeying Him, is simply a response to that love, not a prerequisite for obtaining that love. Yet we have made it a prerequisite. Over the last couple of centuries we have introduced into the Church the ‘sinner’s prayer’, which we maintain must be prayed in order to obtain God’s forgiveness and have relationship with Him. Yet the only thing God actually asks is that we believe / accept what He did for us. “Jesus answered and said, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”John 6:29

His forgiveness is already a fact, whether we accept it or not. We don’t have to do something in order to get it. He did something, He forgave while we were still dead in our sin (Rom 5:8). Then, in His resurrection, Jesus invited us into newness of life; His life – flowing in and through us!

The good news is that we can know the reality of a loving relationship with the Father because of what Jesus did. The good news is that by His death and resurrection Jesus has provided for our salvation, our healing, our wholeness, and a life of fullness and prosperity in all areas of life – “He has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” 2 Pet 1:2-4.

When we accept what Jesus has done and allow Him to give His life to us we are made new creations in Christ; the old ‘us’ is crucified with Christ. (How that transpires may be a mystery to us, yet it is still true and real). We are grafted into Christ and His loving grace brings us into a living relationship with Himself, the Father and Holy Spirit. We become sons and daughters of God. We then get to live no longer by our own efforts but by the life of His Spirit living in us. There is nothing we can do to earn His grace and favour; He gives it to us freely. It is a free gift from God. Rom 5:15-18

We live and walk by faith, which is based not just on cognitive belief but on relational trust, and the more we walk in Him and experience His love and faithfulness, the more we trust and can walk in faith. (Faith is belief in and experiential knowledge of His love, trustworthiness and faithfulness that comes from knowing and experiencing His character, His loving nature and His provision in every area of our lives).

The Good News message is all about God’s grace and love – love displayed, love given, love lived in!

In this life of God’s love, grace and favour…

  • We don’t have to give our life to God in order to get salvation – He gives His life to us when we ask Him into our lives. Gal 2:20
  • We don’t have to try and become close to God – He came close to us, He made us intimate with Him – in fact you can’t get closer than being “in”… Rom 8:9,10 2 Cor 1:21
  • We don’t have to earn His pleasure and His love – He gives it freely. Eph 3:17 1 John 4:16
  • We don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness over and over again – His love is such that He has already forgiven every sin we will ever commit – ahead of time!
  • We don’t have to try to become holy or sanctified; He has made us to be holy and sanctified in Him.  1 Cor 1:30 1Pet 2:9
  • We don’t have to try to become righteous; He has made us righteous in Christ. 1 Cor 1:30
  • We don’t have to try in our own strength to not sin; sin has lost its hold on us. His grace (and His Spirit) teaches us how not to sin Tit 2:11 – 13
  • We aren’t justified (made good enough) by our works but by His work Gal 2:16.
  • We don’t owe God; He gave all things freely, not so that we would be indebted to Him, or owe Him anything  Eph 2:8
  • We don’t have to try and keep in His good books; because of what Christ did we are loved and accepted unconditionally as His beloved child. Eph 1:16
  • Just as we were saved by grace so we are kept by grace Col 2:6
  • We can’t finish (in our strength) what He started; He will complete the good work started in us Gal 3:3  Heb 12:2
  • We don’t have to struggle to know the will of God; His will is that we know and live in everything that is good, acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:2 Ps 23:3
  • I don’t read the scriptures to find out what I have to do, the rules I have to live by; I read them to find Christ in them Luke 24:27 , to learn about His nature, character and heart for me and mankind, and to learn how His Kingdom of love functions.
  • We don’t have to try… because of what He did we get to rest in Him. Matt 11:28 Heb 4:3  
  • We don’t have to keep begging God to provide – He has already done so. 2 Pet 1:2-4 Mark 11:24
  • We don’t have to serve; we are not servants, we are sons and heirs. Any service we do is a response of love and allowing Him to serve mankind through us John 4:19 Eph 2:10 Phil 2:13
  • We were not saved because God needed workers; He saved us because He loved us and wanted us back in His family Phil 2:13 Eph 2:10
  • We are no longer under the law (any of it) but under grace; we live by a new law – the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. He has set us free from the law of sin and death Rom 7:5
  • We are made whole and complete in Him; In Him we live and move and have our being. It’s His life in us that causes us to live this abundant life. Col 2:10
  • We don’t have to jump through hoops to become free; He has set us free already. Gal 3:13 John 8:32
  • God does not want complete control of our life; He wants to give us His life and teach us to walk as mature sons not as puppets or slaves/servants John 10:10

You have been forgiven, buried with Him, raised with Him, made alive in Him and, filled with Him. You get to live in Christ and Christ lives in you and through you and… He supplies all you need to live that kind of Christ life! Now that’s good news! That’s the gospel of his glorious grace and that’s the love and grace that we get to live in!

Last month in our ministry newsletter we featured an article by Stephen Crosby that unpacked the verse “The just shall live by faith”. We had a couple of emails regarding it so I thought I’d share a little bit more on its theme this month. (see original article here)

In his article Stephen shared that from a Jewish perspective/understanding faith had more to do with relational trust than with cognitive belief. Obviously both are needed, but as western Christians we have tended to believe that faith has more to do with mentally understanding something than relational trust. This has caused an imbalance in our Christian walk on a large scale with many Christians filling our churches who read the Bible, listen to sermons, give mental assent to what they hear and end up with a religious belief in Christ rather than a living, growing relationship with Him. We hear and understand that the Christian life is one of relationship with the Lord yet for many that relationship is a formal and somewhat uneasy one, based on their ability to believe in their minds instead of trust in His nature and character.

The Bible tells us we have all been given a measure of faith (Rom 12:3) and that we need to believe in the Lord (John1:12; 6:29). That’s where the problems lay – we think that believing means agreeing in our mind. Yet believing has as much to do with relational trust as it does with mental agreement. We can only truly believe someone when we know that we can trust them.

When we initially come to Christ we trust that what is shared with us about Him is the truth. And when He comes into our life, filling us with Himself, we find out that it definitely is true! From there we get to know Him, and He proves over and over again His faithfulness, love, trustworthiness and so much more.

So when troubles and challenges come our way we look back on that track record and know that because He previously came though in all those times, He will do so again. That track record of His faithfulness is what builds relational trust. And relational trust makes it easy to walk in faith because we know He can be depended on to come through.

So when it comes to the Lord asking us to do things that require faith, it’s actually relational trust that we step into more than cognitive understanding. We still need the cognitive understanding but that is not all we need; we must combine the two, understanding and trust. It’s this combination that will get us through. We read in the Word testimonies of His faithfulness to others; we read His promises to us and we recall His faithfulness to us. We then step into the reality of His faithfulness, knowing that as He has come through in the past, He will do so again. He will provide all that we need to accomplish what He calls us to, and what our need in that situation calls for.

The Christian walk is one of relationship, not mental assent, so it figures that faith must also be about relational trust not just mental assent and understanding. Everything in the Christian life is about trusting in the Lord, knowing that He has already granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness and that He will supply all our needs according to His riches in Christ – He’s done it many times before and nothing is going to cause Him to violate or break that trust you have in Him. You can depend on Him and put your faith in Him – He is trustworthy. That’s why you can walk and live by faith!

 

We are in the midst of a great awakening in the Church where the children of God are waking up to “who they really are.” Part of the foundation of this awakening is a deepened revelation of the love and goodness of God that is giving birth to a “Love Revolution,” now sweeping the earth. The Church is learning how to live loved and, as a result, is becoming “living love” – pouring out love in ways that is causing transformation to come to thousands daily. You are called to be a part of that revolution, and it starts with knowing that you are loved – unconditionally and irrevocably.

Let Father God love you, really love you, and through the transformational effect on your life, you will not be able to do anything but love as He does. As a result, you too will transform the lives of those you come in contact with.

The One Word That Is At the Heart of the Good News of the Gospel

One of the amazing things Jesus accomplished through both His life and death was to reintroduce a reality that had not existed since the fall of mankind – a loving close relationship with God.

With one word Jesus changed everything. He declared the end of religion and proclaimed the restoration of relationship. He changed forever the way man would see God (if they really looked). That one word is at the heart of the Good News of the Gospel. It’s not the word “forgiveness,” or even the word “grace.” Those are powerful words, but the one word Jesus used to change everything is “Abba.” Abba is the word for “Father” or “Daddy.” It may not sound like much of a revolution-starting word when you first hear it, but that word “Father” changed everything and assaulted every religious belief in existence, both outside and inside Israel.

Knowing “Father” Changes Everything

Jesus came not only as the Savior, but also as a Son. He came to reveal the Father and to provide a way for us to return to relationship with Him. Knowing God as “Father” changes everything because it reveals our reason for being created – to be in a loving, cared-for, protected and provided-for relationship with Father God. We were never meant to have to strive in order to know God, or have to earn a relationship with Him. We were meant to be “children” to the Father – a Father who loves us with 100% pure, untainted, undiluted love and goodness.

Jesus came not only as the way back to the Father but as a model of how we were created to be in relationship with the Father. That’s why He came as a child, as a Son, because only a Son could reveal God as Father. A servant cannot reveal God as the Father – he can only reveal God as “master” or “boss.” Jesus said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”(John 14:9). In Jesus we see the Father’s love revealed and expressed. And once we see the Father, something in us wakes up and remembers that we were made to be in loving relationship with Him!

Experience His Daddy Love

God wants to lavish us with His love. He wants the experiential knowledge of His love to be the very foundation of our lives. He wants all that we do – all the decisions we make and our revelation of who He is and who we are – to be a result of knowing and dwelling in His glorious love. The apostle Paul understood how important it is to have this revelation of God the Father’s love and to experience it. That’s why he prayed, “That you, being rooted and grounded in love…may comprehend what is the breadth, length, height and depth and to know the love of God that surpasses understanding, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

He’s a Good Dad. God is Love. Everything He does is motivated by love. He has no ulterior motives, no agendas except to love. Love is not just something He does; it’s who He is! He doesn’t love you because He wants something from you. He’s not looking for servants. He’s not expecting people to try hard to please Him. He is looking for someone to lavish His love upon. That is the type of Father He is. Yes, we will serve and we will obey, but those are the results of knowing His love, not the means of gaining it.

Some of us never knew our fathers. Or maybe we had fathers who were absent emotionally even if they were there in person. Some of our fathers were abusive. Others demanded perfection of us. Earthly fathers have let many of us down, but we can’t afford to judge God the Father by what our experiences tell us a father is like. I used to, and because of my relationship with my dad I didn’t want to know God as Father. In my mind, fathers weren’t nice; they abused their children. Thankfully those hurts have been healed and I am set free from those lies. Now my relationship with Abba, Daddy God, is so precious to me. I know He will never abuse me, that He only has good things for me. And I know He is the same for you.

His Treasure

Daddy God has chosen us as His special treasure. He IS love and His love melts away our performance-oriented mentality. God does not want to treat us like a servant/slave but as a son/daughter. He’ll let us be a servant if we insist, but it’s not what He wants from the relationship. And if we insist in seeing Him just as master and not Daddy, Abba God, we miss out on so much.

You are a son or daughter of your heavenly Father, the One who is Love and who is forever good through and through. There are no hidden agendas in His love. You now live under a new and everlasting covenant based on Daddy’s promise that He will never stop loving you or doing good for you (see Romans 8:38-39, Jeremiah 32:40)!

God is love; and Daddy God loves you with an everlasting, 100% pure, unfailing love! Revel in His love; soak it up! You are not being greedy; you are not being somehow less spiritually mature by reveling in that love. In fact, really knowing His love is a mark of maturing in childlike faith and trust. Enjoy it – go on, really enjoy it. There are no catches here, no tricks, just pure undefiled love. God, your good Father in Heaven, wants you to know that glorious love, to be set free by it, to make your home in it, to be comfortable in it, and to find the full expression of who you are in it.

 

It’s almost Christmas and every year Christians around the world get upset with the whole Santa thing, the commercialism of Christmas and how to live in this world while not taking it’s standards as their own. When my kids were growing up I worried about the same things and in the end chose the route of teaching my children how to discern for themselves instead of using blanket “no’s” to many things.

When our kids got to an age where they could understand (about two – three years old) we explained Santa to them. They grew up understanding that he was make-believe yet fun and we didn’t feel it compromised our Christianity by allowing our children to partake in make-believe. After all God gave us our imagination to use not only to dream with him and see into the spiritual realms but to imagine – to make things up – thats where CS Lewis dreamed up Narnia and his other wonderful stories – in his imagination. (The world would be a very sad place if all imagination was removed – we would be automatons without dreams or vision and nothing that man has dreamed up would have been created yet)

The other day I was checking out some craft blogs and came across this wonderful example of explaining the whole Jesus & Santa thing. The explanation doesn’t kick in until a little bit down the page but I loved what they have chosen to do to explain it all. The couple in the blog are also learning to walk in grace-based parenting and share a couple of great books in the link that I’m sure would be well worth the read. Here’s the amazon link for them as well as another one called “Grace based parenting” which is on the same page.

I hope it gives you some ideas of how you can approach this whole subject with your family. I am certainly going to share it with my kids and hopefully we can incorporate something like it into their Christmas family traditions.

We’ve just had a great time with Linda and Dan Wilson. They did a mini conference for us called “Supernatural Marriage” and are the authors of the book by that name. It was, I think, the best marriage seminar/conference I have ever attended. Linda and Dan are just such lovers of God and of people that you couldn’t help but be encouraged around them.

While they taught on having a supernatural marriage many of the things they taught were applicable in a far wider arena than marriage. For example – a reminder that the fruit of the Spirit is who we become, not just something we try to do.  Life in Christ is about being transformed into the image of Christ and that affects every area of our lives. There was an encouragement to pray for each other and impart to, prophesy over and release the power of the kingdom into each other’s lives. We were encouraged to consciously draw on the wisdom, might, counsel, understanding etc of the Holy Spirit in all our relationships.

Dan & Linda also shared that because we often live so conscious of the earthly realm we can get lost in the facts of our life, and the truth just gets lost. Yet truth is mightier than facts – the truth of who God is and who he wants to be to us in this present situation and what of heaven he wants to release into the situation.

All these things are a part of living the normal Christian life and it was good to be reminded of them. I don’t know about you but sometimes I find that it is all too easy to forget some of these things in the demands of daily life.

 

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Jesus’ cry from the cross has for centuries been interpreted by the church to mean that the Father forsook Jesus, turned his face from him and left him to face the cross by himself. But is that true? Did the Father actually forsake Jesus and turn his back on him?

As we read those words of Jesus in scripture a seed question becomes planted in our minds – if he forsook Jesus will he turn away from us? I want to look at both of those things in this article – did he forsake Jesus and will he forsake us?

If we take the words of Jesus at face value we might believe that God abandoned Jesus on the cross, however if we look at other scriptures and understand some cultural things we actually begin to see something different.

In scripture we find quite a few verses in the Old Testament that seem to indicate that while God promised not to forsake Israel Deut 4:31 he then goes back on his word and does forsake them. But does he actually forsake them or does their sin have consequences; are they are reaping what they have sown? Here are some of those verses for you to check out – Deut 31:16-18; 1Ki 6:11-13; Neh 9: all esp30 ,31; Is 59:2; Is 54:8.

Let’s look at how God dealt with Jesus because that has a huge significance for us and our lives.

Throughout his lifetime Jesus made some interesting claims.

John 10:30,I and my Father are one.” That reality was never rescinded before, during or after the cross.

In John 14:9 -11 Jesus says four times that he and the Father are in each other. v9 “He that has seen me has seen the Father.”  10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” 11  “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.”

In speaking of his coming death, Jesus believed the Father would not leave him to face it alone.

John 8:28,29 Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself…. 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone.

John 16:32, Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.

Then we come to those famous words on the cross… My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me (Matt 27:46)

Did God really turn his back on Jesus and forsake him or was something quite different from what the words seem to imply actually happening. I believe that something different was happening.

Why?

Because God is good (Mk 10:18), he is love (1Jn 4:8) he is faithful (Deut 7:9) cannot be false to his word or who he is and his mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13)

Jesus perfectly fulfilled all the law and obeyed all Gods commandments so God couldn’t go back on his word and forsake Jesus. God said to the children of Israel that if they obeyed his laws then he would never leave nor forsake them (see verses earlier in article).

Jesus himself believed the Father would not leave him or forsake him as seen earlier in this article.

Paul says in 2 Cor 5:19 …God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.  God was IN Christ, they were one, and so he hung there too. The Amplified Bible says it like this “It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor).”(AMP)

Although mankind has felt abandoned or forsaken by God since the fall he was not. Even before mankind was created God made provision for the possibility of the fall, even then he decided he would never forsake us. Scripture tells us that Jesus was the lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8)

Jesus, as fallen man, was identifying with us, taking on our sin; our grief, our confusion and the inaccurate feeling of abandonment by God that mankind had suffered since the fall. He was not speaking out of his feeling of abandonment, he knew God was with him, he was speaking out of ours. You might be thinking but the Bible says our sins have separated us from God and hidden his face from us (Is 59:2) Note here it is sin that does the separating, sin that hides Gods face from us making us not able to see him1 not God hiding himself from us because of sin. It is sin that is the bad guy not God. God has not forsaken or abandoned us because of our sin.

Another thing that was happening at that point was something that would be yet another indicator to all present there at the cross, that Jesus was in fact the Messiah, the long awaited one. A teaching practice in those days was that the teacher / rabbi would say the first verse (as we know them) of a Psalm or passage and the listeners would know what was coming, where the teacher was going by quoting that verse.

Those words “My God, my God why have you forsaken me” are a quote of the first verse of Ps 22 – the prophetic, messianic, psalm of deliverance written by David that begins with that cry but goes on to say that God hasn’t despised him or his cry, he has not hidden his face from him, he has heard when he cried to him; and the passage ends with the declaration “they shall come and proclaim his righteousness because he has done it!“  In other words “It is finished” he has delivered us! David is telling us ahead of time that the Father will not turn his face from Jesus and Jesus refers the Jews back to that passage of deliverance by using this phrase.

Most of those Jews listening would know that Jesus was referencing the entire passage especially any Pharisees or Sadducees there. They knew their scriptures and were familiar with the Messianic prophecies. For those that heard this cry aright, they would have heard that Jesus did not feel forsaken; they would have heard that he was proclaiming hope and deliverance.

Yes there were some who did not get that, who thought he was crying out to Elijah but those possibly were not even Jews and while we can’t know that for sure we do know that there were many people there from different nations. Any Jew listening would have known that Eli means “My God” not “Elijah” so they would not be likely to have made that comment.

Now to the other question – will God forsake us? I recently received an email from a woman who wrote that she had been through a hard time over the last few years, losing their business and much more in the economic crash. A friend had that day given her a verse (to help her make sense of her circumstances). It was Isaiah 54:8 – In anger I turned away from you for a moment etc.

As his children, does God get angry with us and forsake us this side of the cross?

No he doesn’t ever forsake us, not for any reason!

What about when we sin?

In Jesus God forgave every sin even future ones. To be honest, when Jesus died, every sin you or I would commit was a future sin. And God forgave us ahead of time! Even when you do sin today you are already forgiven and there is no condemnation (Rom 8:1). God cannot condemn you, to do so would mean he would have to discount Jesus work on the cross. He cannot turn his back on you – to do so would be to deny his word and he would have to take back his forgiveness, making him a liar. You are forgiven, totally, eternally already forgiven!

My thoughts are that those verses from Isaiah have no place in a New Covenant believers life other than to show us how different our covenant is to the old Covenant that God had with the Jews.

As New Covenant believers in Christ it simply isn’t true of us in our relationship with the Lord. He will never leave us, forsake us or turn his face from us because of anger toward us!

He says in Matt 28:20 Lo I am with you always, even to the end of the world. And in Heb 13:5 for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Scripture is clear that we are now joined to God in such a way that we are one spirit with him – 1Co 6:17. God cannot separate Christ or us from himself – we are now in Him and one spirit with him.

Nowhere in the New Testament does it say that God will or does forsake us. That God will forsake us is a strategically planted lie of the Devil who delights in blinding us to the truth in scripture and the truth of who God is. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He will not turn his back on us or abandon us in our hour of need just as he did not abandon Jesus.

God’s promises to us of his continuing presence, goodness and provision for every area in our lives are too numerous to mention here, but I want you to know that if bad things do happen to you or you do sin, God has not and will not ever leave you or forsake you. He longs to give you peace, wisdom and strategy for your circumstances and to turn your circumstances into good for you (Rom 8:28) because that’s who he is and that’s what he has promised!

1 – Matthew Henry Commentary

In a meeting recently I heard the speaker mention being “promoted in the Spirit”. Normally on hearing something like this I would’ve just accepted it. But as I was sitting there a thought popped into my mind which I recognised as being a question from the Lord. “Is there such a thing as being promoted in the Spirit?” Now I’ve come to understand that when God asks me a question it’s not because he doesn’t know the answer – it’s because I need to know the answer.

I have heard that saying for many years and understood being ‘promoted in the Spirit” meant somehow going to a new level of authority or standing in God although quite what that was, was never explained. Indeed, I know of people who teach that at a certain time each year God judges our performance and accordingly either promotes or demotes us in the Spirit.

If this is indeed the case what criteria does God use to judge us by? What do we have to do in order to get a promotion, and what do we need to abstain from in order to avoid being demoted? Is earning a “promotion in the Spirit” dependent on how much we are obedient or how many good works we do, or on God’s judging us by some set of criteria that we’re unaware of? What does scripture tell us and what is the New Covenant reality?

In the world we live in we are so used to the promotion system – get good grades and you’ll get promoted to a higher class in school; work hard enough and you may earn a promotion at work. In our natural world promotions must be earned, they don’t come as a result of sitting back and doing nothing. So when people use the term “promotion in the Spirit” we presume that it must mean that they have somehow earned a promotion.

In the church we unconsciously foster the concept of promotion in several ways. One way it is fostered is by giving people ranks and titles. We call some people Generals or Fathers in the faith or Apostle (usually because they head up a denomination, ministry or a church). Mostly we do it as a sign of respect but it can foster wrong thinking and believing.

We encourage people to aim for, or earn status or title by practicing the promotion system in our churches. You have to work your way up through the ranks. You may be called to pastor people but you must start by teaching in Sunday School and then maybe you’ll be promoted to Youth Leader and then an assistant Pastor and finally one day you’ll earn the title and get to be a Pastor. Scripture may look like it gives ranks and titles eg pastor, teacher, apostle, prophet, evangelist etc but it doesn’t, they are job descriptions not titles. All these people are called to train the saints for their service and ministry not be given a title.

At first thought the idea that we can get promotions in the spirit sounds appealing, but dig deeper and there is something wrong with that whole line of thought. It means that our place in God’s order of things is dependent on what we do, but that system is called ‘the law’, and we are no longer under law but under grace. The Christian life, and our place in God’s order of things, is not based on what we do but on what Jesus has done for us.

Promotion is the idea that we can earn advancement through our efforts. People even talk about being in the school/university of the Spirit. There is no university in the Spirit; God doesn’t give a degree in Christian living or in theology. Degrees in theology are man’s idea that stems from man’s desire to please God, understand the Bible or/and be someone.

You may ask, “But doesn’t the Bible say that if we are faithful with what we have that we will be given more? (Matt 25:14-30) Isn’t that a promotion?” In these verses I believe that Jesus was not talking about a system of promotion but about a natural part of the Christian walk – we have been given a new nature made in the image of God – one of his attributes is faithfulness. So this parable is about growing up into Him it is not primarily about us earning promotion. It is about becoming mature sons and daughters.

As a part of that maturing process we should, and will, bear fruit and learn how to wisely steward what God has given us. As we do we will be given more responsibility, the grace to handle it, and his joy in doing what he has called us to do. A part of growing in maturity in Christ is that we should become increasingly more aware of just how much he has done for us. We believe it, and walk from a place of rest in his work, not ours.

Scripture says in Matt 16:27 that Jesus will reward us according to our works. This would appear on face value to say that if we work hard we’ll be rewarded for that hard work.  But this passage is not about works as we think of them. It’s not about how many duties we took on at church or how many orphans we feed; it’s about our accepting or rejecting Jesus according to the commentaries I read.1

The Church has brought into the idea of promotions partly because it has misunderstood that word rewards. That misunderstanding has now become an accepted part of church theology. It says that we will be rewarded or promoted according to what we do for God – how long and how hard we have worked. It says that by doing more we can receive more from God – a higher standing and place of authority before him and others, maybe a bigger mansion in heaven or a bigger, more jewel studded crown or a closer throne to Jesus in heaven. Thinking this-  is evidence of our not truly understanding who we now are, what Christ bought for us by his death and what the Father has consequently given us as sons and daughters.

In Matt 20, in the parable of the workers, Jesus tells us that we all get paid the same, whether we worked longer, harder or not.

I am reminded of the disciples’ mother that wanted her sons to be rewarded by being seated by Jesus in a place of honour in his kingdom (Matt 20:20–24). Jesus’ reply to that was to tell them that they didn’t get it, that they had it back-to-front; that the greatest in the kingdom got to serve more not accumulate more or get a greater place.

In this passage it says that God will choose who sits there beside Jesus, but after his resurrection and his being enthroned on high, scripture also plainly tells us who God chose to sit there – all of us! We are all seated with Christ in heavenly places (Eph 2:6), every believer in the same position, co-heirs and co-reigning with Christ.

(Now I am not saying people haven’t seen in visions what they claim to have seen, I’m sure they have seen those things. I have seen many things myself even. But we must remember to weigh our visions against what scripture plainly says and interpret them in the light of scripture. One problem with visions is that many people do not know how to interpret them, they are not all literal, many of them are symbolic. For example if you see some people sitting enthroned beside Jesus on thrones it may not be literally mean those people, they may just be representative of the fact that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places.)

God does indeed reward us, but not by being “promoted in the Spirit”. Col 3:24 says that our reward is the heirship or inheritance – what Christ won for us on Calvary. Phil 3:8 tells us that part of the true reward is “knowing Jesus and living with him forever”.

I believe our reward is knowing and experiencing the reality of relationship with the Godhead, and the things Jesus died to make our inheritance – some of which are his love, joy, eternal life, healing (for ourselves and others), abundant provision, and being seated with Christ in heavenly places.

Understanding that knowing Jesus and living with him forever is the true reward frees us to live for him with an attitude of doing whatever we do for love of him, not love of rewards. It frees us to take the focus off ourselves and back onto Jesus!

The idea of promotion in the Spirit is dare I say it, a subtle deception that has found its way into the church that appeals to our human desire to be the best we can be for Jesus and to our pride; but in the end it comes from a wrong base.

I believe that under the New Covenant to earn a promotion in the Spirit is actually impossible – you can’t get any higher than being in Christ, a co-heir with him. In order for us to earn a promotion in the Spirit we would have to come down from our place of seated authority in Christ, discount the work he did on the cross, come back under law and believe that our efforts are what count in ensuring our place in God’s eternal Kingdom. So we need to give up our ideas of worldly promotions and accept that he has already promoted us to the highest place beside himself. When we realize that, there is no striving for more, only gratitude for what he has done and what he has given us.

So where would you rather be – at rest in what Christ has done, seated with him in heavenly places, functioning out of that place of rest and authority or trying by your efforts to somehow earn your way into God’s good books and hope you have done enough to earn that promotion in the Spirit?

Think it through!

1 – Gills Bible Exposition & Barnes Bible Notes

This morning I (Lyn) read a blog entry that challenged me and got me thinking and that thinking has led to this post. Thank you Jonathan Welton for that challenge. You can read the post that challenged me here on his blog “The Rogue Theologian”  http://roguetheologian.com/2012/02/25/offended/

A few years ago I heard of a young man who many in the church considered too radical and offensive. His passion, youth and freedom along with the terms he used and the things he taught were considered by many to be almost heretical and some even made the claim that it was of the devil. But they thought and said that about Jesus too.

I have been on an interesting journey over the last few years, layers of religiousity have been peeled off and wrong thinking exposed and corrected. You might not think that is very unusual and in some ways I don’t either as God is continually causing us to be challenged in order to grow up into Him and be formed into the likeness of Jesus. But what has been interesting is who God has used to challenge me. But that is often the way isn’t it – God will use all sorts of things to challenge us, all sorts of people too.

(Passion, youth and freedom will sometimes lead us to do things that age, so-called wisdom and staleness will often not allow and unfortunately our staleness can lead us to feel threatened and challenged by someone who exhibits a life and freedom we no longer have. That is part of what I suspect happened in the case of the young man mentioned above. Add to that freedom his interpretation of scripture differing significantly from the accepted traditional view and you’ve got the potential for major upset.)

That young man was John Crowder and because I never like to take someone elses opinion as gospel without checking things out for myself I googled him and You-tubed him. Immediately I could see why people disliked him, the terminiology he used as he staggered across the platform would be enough to rattle the cages of most of us. I was no stranger however to the effects of the Holy Spirit on a human body and had done my own fair share of staggering and / or falling down and being pinned to the floor under the power of God so the drunken staggering didn’t worry me.

As I listened beyond that point in the videos what I heard began to challenge and yet confirm some things for me that God had already started to show me. (Yet at the same time it was stuff I had always known in my heart to be true but church life and traditional teaching had caused me to doubt it and eventually to bury it and accept the party line.)

I then read Johns books and I discovered a young man with a deeply questioning, searching mind who had done his homework. This man was a modern day theologian disguised with a mystics heart and passion. He had searched scripture and he had researched extensively what he was talking about. His scriptural knowledge was comprehensive and his ability to share it easy to listen to once you got past the drunkeness of the Holy Spirit. Does he have all truth – of course not;  but he has a great deal more than I had.

And then recently I got to go to a Mystical conference he did here in Auckland and there I discovered a slightly older and wiser but no less radical man. I have to say I came away from that time with him challenged more but also more convinced that he knew what he was talking about and that what he was teaching was scripturally accurate.

Johns books are just some of many that the Lord has used over the last few years to challenge and change my world. So today i wanted to say thank you to those people and honour their hungry, questioning searching hearts. I know they will probably not ever read this post but that’s not the point of writing it. There is too little honouring of each other in the church and so I decided I needed to do my part in changing that. Do I agree with everything I have read or listened to over the last couple of years – no; but that’s okay too.

So John thank you for being you, for believing and unpacking grace in a way that has challenged and changed me (it was God changing me of course but he does use people in that process). Thanks too to Benjamin Dunn, Andrew Wommack, Rob and Ryan Rufus, Cornel Marais, Paul Ellis and other grace teachers as well as all the naysayers and opponents. Thanks to those opponents who have challenged me on things I have said you have made me think through things on a deeper level and also dig deeper into scripture. Thanks also to our XP team who have been on the same journey – our discussions have been like rich satisfying food.

God has worked through each of these people to bring me into a freedom and love for God and others that continually delights me and fires the hunger for more. I honour you for the price you’ve paid and the truth you wouldn’t let go of. Thank you.