Monthly Archives: March 2016

Compassion and the Next Revival

I’ve written before on how I believe that the hallmark of the next great revival will be one of compassion for those whom the Church has routinely ostracised and rejected – for example, the homeless, the poor, and those of ‘different’ sexual persuasions.

Here is a tragic story explaining just a little of what happens when a Church prefers sacrifice over justice and mercy (Mt 9:13). And please read on into the comments too – this whole piece and its comments read as a powerful message from God to his Church today about how we treat Lesbian, gay, bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning (LGBTQ) people.

Sit up and take notice, Church – this is real and it’s happening now. We need to align ourselves with Father on this.

Click the link below to go to the article:

6 Ways The Church’s Treatment of LGBTQ People is Actually Damaging the Church

1
0

I want to be where You are…..

This has been the cry of my heart as long as I can remember. There’s nothing I want more than to be in God’s Presence, where all things that surround become mere shadows in His Light. In God’s Presence, there’s healing, there’s peace and there’s wholeness. There’s forgiveness, mercy and compassion. There’s love and acceptance like you never dreamed possible, no matter how bad you might feel about yourself. And the most important thing is that God is there, and He’s wanting to spend time with you!

Here’s a lovely song, written and performed nice and simply by Don Moen, which you can use as a prayer song. Listen to it, join in where you can, but own the lyrics. Make it your own song; make it your prayer. Desire to be in His Presence.

You see, God promises to draw close to all those who seek Him. Feel His presence right there with you. Everyone feels that presence slightly differently to others – some might feel a burning in their chest, some might feel a lightness of spirit, some might feel what seems like a cloak around their shoulders, some feel an overwhelming sense of love and acceptance, some see the air sparkling, some hear heavenly music – however you feel Him there, let Him draw close. He won’t scare you or do anything uninvited; He’s the perfect gentleman.

So, make this song your prayer, and then follow on into the next song, Here we are in Your Presence. Believe that He’s there in His life-changing power. Worship Him for His greatness and His love for you, for you personally. This is real; this is where it all happens!

I just want to be where You are,
dwelling daily in Your presence
I don’t want to worship from afar,
draw me near to where You are

I just want to be where You are,
in Your dwelling place forever
Take me to the place where You are,
I just want to be with You

I want to be where You are,
dwelling in Your presence
Feasting at Your table,
surrounded by Your glory
In Your presence,
that’s where I always want to be
I just want to be,
I just want to be with You

I just want to be where You are,
dwelling daily in Your presence
I don’t want to worship from afar,
draw me near to where You are

Oh, my God,
You are my strength and my song
And when I’m in Your presence
Though I’m weak You’re always strong

I just want to be where You are,
in Your dwelling place forever
Take me to the place where You are,
I just want to be, I just want to be with You

I just want to be, I just want to be with You

We want to be where You are,
dwelling in Your presence
Feasting at Your table,
surrounded by Your glory
In Your presence,
that’s where we always want to be
I just want to be, I just want to be with You

I just want to be, I just want to be with You

I just want to be with You

[Segue]

Here we are, in Your Presence
Lifting holy hands to You
Here we are, praising Jesus
For the things He’s brought us through

Here we are, in Your Presence
Lifting holy hands to You
Here we are, praising Jesus
For the things He’s brought us through

Feel free to search my site for other worship songs (using the ‘category’ of ‘Worship’), so you can continue with your worship if you want to do so. Most of my worship song offerings on these pages have the lyrics too, so you can join in.

Be blessed!

 

0
0

How to Record God….

I remember when our Church had a Vineyard team over to Leeds, all the way from Anaheim in California. This would have been in about 1986 or so, I suppose. They’d come to activate us in the healing ministry and it was all very powerful stuff.

They had brought some new worship songs, along with the tapes for us to learn the music and even the sheet music for the songs (not that I could read music anyway; I played entirely by ear, and I still do….). I can remember listening to the tapes with Fiona and being completely lifted into the high realms of worship, and it was almost as if they’d managed to get the Holy Spirit on tape. As we listened to the tapes, we could feel the Spirit welling up in our hearts and were transported into God’s Presence in our spirits. How can a song bear ‘anointing’ in it? How does this work? Is it really possible to capture God Himself on tape?

Well, no, of course it’s not. However the phenomenon is real – you will probably have experienced it yourself – so how does it work?

What’s happening is actually quite simple. Drawn by the Holy Spirit, the worshipper’s face is turned towards Jesus, and that is the point at which you feel the Spirit rising up in your heart. When you worship, the Spirit joins in and makes His presence known. The Spirit wasn’t ever on the tape, but in actuality He was always closer than that – he was right there in your heart all along! The reality of His presence comes as a response to your decision to worship, as your heart turns towards Jesus. That’s what’s happening and should come as no surprise when we remember that one of the things that Holy Spirit does is to glorify Jesus (Jn 16:14); when you decide to do that, He naturally joins in!

So, to complete the picture, let’s do a little experiment. Here are three of the songs that were so anointed in those days, I Will Magnify, It’s Your Blood and Thank You For Being. Have a listen, and don’t be surprised if you feel your spirit responding within you. If you feel your hands raising in worship – even if it’s not something you normally do – don’t stop them. This is a natural response to the love of your Saviour, Jesus. Bless the Lord!

I Will Magnify

I will magnify Thy Name above all the earth
I will magnify Thy Name above all the earth
I will sing unto Thee the praises in my heart
I will sing unto Thee the praises in my heart

It’s Your Blood that Cleanses Me

It’s Your Blood that cleanses me
It’s Your Blood that gives me life
It’s Your Blood that took my place
In redeeming sacrifice
And washes me whiter than the snow, than the snow
My Jesus, God’s precious Sacrifice

Thank You for being

Thank You for being just Who You are
Thank You for shining like a Morning Star
Jesus, Oh Jesus,
Thank You for being my bright and Morning Star

I love You because You first loved me
Your healing touch has set me free
Jesus, Oh Jesus,
Your healing touch has set my spirit free

Thank You for being just Who You are
Thank You for shining like a Morning Star
Jesus, Oh Jesus,
Thank You for being my bright and Morning Star

1
0

O Mighty Cross

Here’s a lovely song, beautifully arranged and with lots of excellent key changes, that proclaims just some of what the Lord Jesus accomplished at Calvary.

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the pivotal events for the Christian faith; while we cannot comprehend what He went through on that Cross, it is only right that we proclaim, and rejoice in, what He accomplished there. Here’s the song; I hope it blesses you:

O mighty cross, Love lifted high
The Lord of life raised there to die
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, what throne of grace
He knew no sin, yet took my place
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, O Christ so pure
Love held Him there, such shame endured
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

O mighty cross, my soul’s release,
The stripes He bore, have brought me peace
His sacrifice on Calvary
Has made the mighty cross a tree of life to me

(David Baroni and John Chisum)

1
1

Don’t Fall Back into Law!

In my previous post, I wrote about how the Christian believer is now no longer under Law

A Christian’s first adventures from under Law and out into the glorious freedoms of Grace can be scary – away from the known ‘safety’ of the written (and unwritten) codes of rules and expectations imposed by others, and out upon the ‘Great Unknown’ deep waters of faith and Grace.

I have personally felt the ‘warm, cosy fingers’ of legalism literally creeping up the back of my neck, in a meeting where I was tempted to listen to the voices of Law and security. But I am never again going to go back to legalism. Once a believer has tasted of the true freedom of Christ, there’s no going back there – even though the natural tendency of the human flesh is to drift back towards legalism and trying to please God in our own strength.

Joseph Prince, in his book “Unmerited Favor”, puts it like this:

“Paul asked the church in Galatia point-blank, ‘…Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh [self-effort]?’ Paul was saying to them, ‘You began by believing in His grace; why are you now depending on your works? That is foolishness! You should be continuing in His unmerited favour!’ These are strong words by Paul. Don’t start with grace and end up with the Law. Don’t start with the new covenant, only to turn back to the old covenant! There are those who say that they are not justified by the Law but believe that they should keep the Law for sanctification. My friend, both justification and sanctification come by our faith in Jesus’ finished work alone.

” ‘Pastor Prince, how would I know if I have gone back to the old covenant?‘ It is actually very easy to identify the difference between old and new covenant teachings. Just ask yourself if this teaching is putting the emphasis on what you have to do or what Jesus has already done. Does it make you introspective, always looking to yourself and how you fared or failed? Or does it make you turn your eyes away from yourself to look upon Jesus?

“When you are established in the new covenant of grace, you will experience a tremendous sense of confidence and security in Christ. When your confidence is in His unmerited favour and not your performance, you will not feel as if you are constantly jumping out of His favour and acceptance.

“It is unfortunate that some believers have put themselves back under the old covenant without realising it. Sometimes, they feel that God is on their side, but at other times, they feel that God is far away from them. Sometimes, they feel that God is satisfied with them, but at other times, they feel that God is angry with them. All these feelings are based predominantly on their own evaluation of how they have performed, how they feel about themselves, and not [on] how God sees them. Because there is no new covenant scriptural basis for such evaluations, they end up arbitrarily deciding [whether] they are deserving of God’s blessings and favour in their lives or not, when in fact, they actually have access to His blessings all the time, simply because of Jesus and His finished work at the Cross”.

Because we are no longer under Law, the only way that now remains is to live entirely under Grace and Grace alone. In fact, to try to live under both Grace and Law at the same time is simply impossible. So, don’t even try to work even a little with the Law; instead, stay living in the Spirit. But it’s your decision: whether you want the life of power, freedom and adventure offered in the Spirit under Grace, or whether you want the ‘safe’, cosy legalism lifestyle that always leads eventually to dissatisfaction and frustration – because it is not the way you were designed to live! So many these days are still under Law, yet they imagine, and convince themselves, that they are actually under Grace because they have read that this is the way to be, and that’s what everyone else says, and it becomes the ‘done thing’ to say….but they only do it lip service and there’s no reality to it. That’s a real tragedy; it’s theirs for the taking!

No, go for life in the Spirit, under Grace, every time. Only in that way will you maintain your freedom!

0
0

Law No Longer!

St. Paul says in Galatians 6:15 that “…what counts is the new creation” And Romans 6:11 says “…therefore count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus”. In Romans, Paul also describes how the Law and the sinful nature work hand in hand to bring death.

And, you need to know that actually if you are trying to justify yourself by Law – by trying to do good works to make yourself more acceptable to God; by trying to always obey the Law and striving hard not to ‘sin’ – then you are actually working hand in hand with the ‘sinful nature’. In short, the worst thing you could possibly do is to try to do good, if you really want to please God! And this is because you are effectively saying that you can manage it yourself; that you don’t need God’s Grace to do it for you. You are saying that actually, even in some small way, you can do this thing yourself, thank you very much, and you don’t need help from anyone!

And don’t confuse the help that you think the Spirit will give you – supposedly to achieve this monumental task – with Grace. Don’t confuse the two. Because Grace only comes into operation when you realise that actually there is nothing – nothing at all, big or small that you can do to help God work in you through His Grace. The only thing you need to do is to live life in the Spirit; God will take care of the rest. Don’t think that striving hard to do good works is the same thing as the Spirit of God working within you to resist temptation, obey the Law, or anything like that. It’s not the same thing at all; in fact it is a counterfeit of the real thing; a man-made set of ‘things to do’ and things to be seen doing, that will not justify you with God in the slightest. Why else do you think that the Law exists in order to bring you to the end of your own strength, if not to lead you to Grace so that you can shed the Law once and for all?

“Oh but you have to still obey the Law, you’ve got to do a token obedience, you’ve still got to obey the law a little bit”. That little bit would soon become everything, because it’s the yeast of the Pharisees . Be on your guard – because it’s insidious! Life in the Spirit is not anything like life under the Law, because in the Spirit you don’t even think about the Law, you just get on with living your life for Jesus. In fact you will then find that actually you obey the Law without even thinking about it, because of the Spirit living within you and living His life through you. This is life under the New Covenant, the Covenant of Grace. Legalists in Christian circles have it back to front; they think that obeying the Law makes you righteous (even though they would probably deny it, they do live as if they believe it!) – whereas actually it’s the Life in the Spirit that produces the righteous obedience to the Law. The legalists want the outside appearance without the inner power; they want it all to remain in their own control. And that’s why it doesn’t work, as we’ve seen already!

And now here’s even more Good News about being rid of the Law and its power. In Romans 7:1ff, Paul shows that “…the Law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives”. Because we have died with Christ, the Law now no longer has any authority over us. You die to the old life, die to the sinful nature, and because they are hand-in-hand with the Law, that means that you die to the Law as well. The power of the Law is in the sinful nature, trying to be justified through works. I’m not talking about the ‘law of the land’, where the government has decreed that you mustn’t murder or steal. I’m talking about God’s Law; the Law from the Covenant of Moses on Sinai where God set a Law that was actually impossible to keep*. And so, Jesus Christ is the One Who has kept the Law for us, so that if we are identified with Him, it is counted as if we have indeed kept the impossible Law and we are now the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor 5:21). This is all incredible stuff; unbelievable and undeserved indeed except that the Grace of God – the totally unearned, unmerited favour of God towards us – supplies it.

And in this way lies your freedom. Freedom from having to try to work your way into a place where God can bless you. Freedom from human rules and opinions, where the only opinion that matters is God’s.


*Why would God set a Law that was impossible to keep? Actually what He was doing here wasn’t so much to set the bar too high, but actually to show people that they could never be good enough simply by obeying the Law. It’s not that He set the Law too high to keep, it was that the sort of Law that people would feel they had to keep would always be too high, and unattainable. The people wanted to change from the Abrahamic covenant of Grace – where God justifies the righteous by faith – to a Law-based covenant. And so, at Sinai, God gave the people what they wanted in the Ten Commandments and all the little sub-laws, rules and interpretations that followed along from those Commandments. As described in Paul’s letter to the Romans, this Law was impossible to keep in order to show us that this was the case, not to make us lawbreakers.

2
1

Brother of the Son

I’ve shared Don Francisco’s songs on my blog before, such as ‘Vision of the Valley‘  and ‘Still Your Soul In Silence‘. Don is one of my favourite Christian artists. His trademark story-song brings to life so many Bible stories, for example the one about the thief on the cross next to Jesus’s Cross in ‘Too Small A Price‘. But Don also writes worship songs, prophecy, ballads and prayer songs, all of which bring the word of God into our lives in great measure. Don is a modern-day prophet and, if you let Him, God can speak to you clearly through his songs.

Here’s the first Don Francisco song I ever listened to, Brother of the Son, shared here with his permission. Enjoy!

Jesus, all I want to do is follow
I take the gift of life You offer me
Come and shine Your light into my darkness
Wash away my sin and set me free

Take this heart of stone and make it over
For all my life, it’s all I have to give
Fill it with your grace and truth and wisdom
Show me how to love, and how to live

Father, let Your Spirit flow inside me
‘Til all that will not praise You is undone
Help me keep my feet upon the highway
And grow to be a brother of the Son

When at last the Book of Life is opened
And accounts of all Your servants have been shown
Lord, let me bring somebody with me
And stand with all my friends before the Throne

Father, let Your Spirit flow inside me
‘Til all that will not praise You is undone
Help me keep my feet upon the highway
And grow to be a brother of the Son

And grow to be a brother of the Son


Don’s website can be found at www.donfrancisco.com

0
0

Lessons at Culloden

Today’s post is very different from the sort of thing I normally write.

I must warn you that some of what I write in this article is an account of a battle, and you may find some of the description disturbing. I certainly do. If you feel you might be upset by this piece, feel free to miss out the bits in italics; those are the most distressing. The article may evoke strong emotions; I’m sorry about that, but I am writing it to make a point and I want it to be hard-hitting.

As some of you might know from my page ‘Statement of Belief‘, I do not believe that everyone who does not accept Jesus Christ in this life goes to a place of eternal punishment; the place they call ‘Hell’. And I present here one of the big markers that, for me, convinces me of the correctness of this belief; I hope that this article is my most powerful one yet for debunking that terrible, terrible doctrine. The emotive language that I use is deliberately used in order to help that.

You see, I have studied military history for most of my life. And over the last few years, I have begun to visit places where military history was made. Places like Colditz Castle, where there was a famous German prisoner-of-war camp. Places like St. Nazaire, where in 1942, British Commandos carried out a near-suicidal raid in order to prevent the drydock there from being used by the Germans to repair the battleship Tirpitz.

But for me, the most moving place of all was the battlefield at Culloden, near Inverness, Scotland. On 16th April, 1746, the Battle of Culloden was fought there, and at (and after) that battle, between 1,500 and 2,000 Jacobite men and boys lost their lives. In addition, something like 300 Government troops also died. Plus the depredations visited on the population of the Highlands after the battle were brutal and many more people succumbed to starvation and disease. Culloden – the name evokes images of brutality, repression and suffering; and also images of desperate heroism in the face of overwhelming odds.

View Across Culloden Moor
This is the view westwards across Culloden Moor, from the steps by the Visitor Centre

I went there in October last year. Standing on that battlefield was an intensely moving experience. It brings tears to my eyes now even thinking about it, knowing that near where I was standing (or even probably exactly where I was standing), so many people had lost their lives. For the Jacobites, for example, where they were grouped according to their clans; where their clans advanced during the battle.

Picture the scene if you can: You are a Highlander advancing across a field into the face of driving sleet and hail and wind, into a storm of Government musket and artillery fire, and you’re closely grouped up with your people around you. Your family. Your uncles, sons and grandsons, some of them boys as young as eleven or twelve. And people you’ve known and loved all your life and all their lives are being hit by the murderous fire, and there isn’t a thing you can do about it. Next to you, a young lad from your neighbour’s family suddenly cries out and falls face down in the mud and doesn’t move again. You make the sign of the Cross and you carry on. The time for grief will be later – if you live that long. You’re frozen, exhausted, starving, and low on ammunition. You are desperate to make it as far as the Government lines so you can fight them more on your own terms – but suddenly you feel a massive hammer-blow, as if something has punched you really hard in the stomach, and suddenly your legs don’t do as they are told anymore and now it’s your face that’s in the mud and the sleet is on the back of your head and it seems you must suffocate….

During the battle, Government troops were under orders to take no prisoners; to give no quarter. After the battle, wounded Jacobite soldiers were slain where they lay. Most of what few prisoners there were, were summarily executed for treason.

The Jacobite dead were buried in mass graves, which were only later marked by clan stones.

graves

Sometimes, what they found to bury wasn’t identifiable enough to be assigned to one of the clan graves, so they were placed in graves for ‘mixed clans’; these were by far the biggest burial mounds:

mixed_graves

I could go on with the account of the battle and its aftermath, but I won’t. These men and their families were real people, just like you and I. They died on Culloden Field, and afterwards, in their hundreds and thousands.

And here at last is my point: as far as many Evangelical Christians believe, they went straight to Hell. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but that’s the state of affairs according to them. There are Christians who believe that if you do not accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour in this life, not only will you not go to Heaven, but you will go straight to a place of eternal, endless torment for ever and ever. That’s if you don’t believe things exactly as they tell you that you have to believe. So, according to those who hold to the doctrine of Hell in that way, these soldiers and other Highlanders all went to Hell.

And as I stood there on Culloden Moor, with the ground crying out to me with the voices of those who had died there so long ago, I realised just how utterly impossible that doctrine is. You see, I believe in, and know personally, a God of such infinite love, compassion and justice, that I cannot believe that all those people, none of whom had heard the Gospel as the Evangelical church give it, were condemned to move straight from the hell that was Culloden, into an eternal fiery torment. I just can’t reconcile it. Those men whose remains were so mashed up that they weren’t identifiable? God knew and loved each of those people, each of whom had a family, a history, hopes and dreams, and a courage that few people possess in this day and age. And each of whom had a belief system based on the same Jesus that I love, but just different from my belief system and from those of most Christians alive today.

I don’t believe that all those young lads of twelve, men in their twenties, old men of fifty or sixty and their families, helpless at home because their menfolk were mostly dead – condemned to a future of hopelessness and starvation because of the brutal repression of the aftermath of Culloden – that they all went to Hell because they’d never responded to a Gospel that had never even been thought of in its present form.

I. Just. Don’t. Believe. It.

No doubt Evangelicals who believe the generally accepted doctrine will have some get-out clause – I have heard one man of God a long time ago saying that he felt that God had a special procedure for soldiers killed in action – or something else to somehow make it more acceptable. Some Christians may also say that God makes certain allowances for certain people, for example, children who die before being born, or ‘before the age of responsibility’. Those who have never heard the Gospel. Somehow God will be ‘just’ to those people. But, to me, that just complicates things. My God of Love – loves everyone – and I simply cannot believe that Hell is a realistic concept. Personally, I think it’s all made up as an increasingly messy patchwork of repairs to a doctrine that should never have existed in the first place, that is simply an embarrassment to those who believe on one hand in a God of Love, and in the next breath they condemn ‘sinners’ to Hell. Or, to be generous, it’s perhaps people who are themselves trying to reconcile the difficult doctrine of Hell with the God that they, too, love. And maybe they just don’t feel comfortable with trying to bottom out their ideas on what is essentially an abhorrent concept.

But who could love a god who does stuff like that – and calls it ‘Good’? God’s just not like that!

monument

To be fair, I actually think that some people have never really thought it through. They’ve just believed what they’ve been told ‘the Bible teaches’. They’ve never been face to face with such mass suffering and death; not even centuries after the battle.

I actually think that they don’t really think in global terms. That if I clap my hands together once per second, for each of those claps, someone in the world has just died. (Probably best to stop clapping my hands, then!) And, according to the doctrine of Hell, the vast majority of those people will be taking up permanent residence there. And I believe that my God is just not that wasteful.

But what I felt at Culloden was real, it was heartbreaking, and it would have been made much, much worse had I believed that those people were still suffering now. Because, make no mistake, that’s what the doctrine of Hell really means. It means that right now, as you are reading this, there are ‘unrepentant’ souls roasting over a slow fire.

But like I said, I do not believe this is true. And this has been a pretty negative piece so far. But I am going to look on the positive side now. Here it is:

The standard Church doctrine of Hell simply cannot be true. God is far too loving to have created a place where most of – yes, most of – His precious children are going to be slow-cooker meat for the rest of eternity – and then called it ‘Good’, as the Genesis account says He called everything – everything – He made. I’m sure the Pharisees will harp on about God’s ‘Justice’ and ‘Holiness’ demanding the ‘punishment’ of the unrighteous. But, you see, as far as I can see, Jesus died for the unrighteous – all of us – the Bible does not differentiate when it comes to who becomes acceptable to God and who does not. Jesus’s death was sufficient for everyone. Now, I am not going to delve too much further into these ideas today. I am still working on what I believe about Hell, based on Scripture, ancient history and other factors.

If anything, today’s generally-accepted Hell doctrines have been a fabrication made up from (possibly deliberately) faulty interpretation of several Scripture passages, not least those spoken by my Lord Jesus Himself, in order to bring people in  mediaeval feudal societies into line. It was all about control. Images of devils using pitchforks to prod sinners burning in ‘fire and brimstone’ come more from Dante, Milton and mediaeval art than they do from Scripture. Eternal fires in Scripture generally refer to the fires ‘reserved for the devil and his angels’ – the devils etc. are in there as prisoners, not as torturers. And in the mediaeval artwork, the flames are the wrong colour. Brimstone is another word for the element sulphur, and that burns with a blue flame, not orange as usually depicted in artwork depicting Hell! 😉 Ah, the benefits of being a professional chemist….

plaque

I think that people in the world have a very well-developed sense of right and wrong, despite what many Christians think of them. And I also believe that it is everyone’s gut instinct that God is Good; they want Him to be Good, and He is Good – and that a good and just God is simply incompatible with the concept of eternal punishment – remember, punishment is supposed to be about correction, not ‘just desserts’ or revenge. So in some ways this is why many people find it difficult to believe in Hell. And it then means that one of the biggest objections to the truth of the Gospel has to be the doctrine of Hell, as put forward by standard Christian doctrine. An objector’s argument would likely be that Hell is so wasteful, so against the concept of a loving God, that the rest of it can’t be true either. And I agree. This is why I think of the doctrine of Hell as a travesty of the Gospel – which is essentially that God loves everyone and wants to fellowship with them.

There is so much more I could say on this matter right now, but I am still working on what I believe. For now, take a look at one of my older articles here  for some ideas on what happens to the ‘unsaved’. I also think that Hell occurs on earth right here and now when people are damaged by others or by their circumstances. More on this here. What happens about people we like to think of as really evil (ok, let’s trot Hitler out again, forgetting that Stalin was far, far worse…)? Surely, Hell is the fitting ‘punishment’ for such as these? Surely ‘the Bible says’ that Hell exists? What about divine retribution; what about Judgement Day? What about those who would decline admission into Heaven, even given free access? Sorry, but these are all ideas for another time.

But for now, remember the voices at Culloden. I will never forget them.

View from the Government lines at Culloden, looking westwards across to the monument cairn and the clan graves

I first became interested in the Battle of Culloden, (apart from being a military historian), because I’d read the ‘Outlander’ series of books, by Diana Gabaldon, which has now been made into a TV series. You can buy it on DVD from Amazon. The events at Culloden play a major part in the first three books of the series; take a look at Diana Gabaldon’s page  on Amazon for more information on how to get hold of the books. At the time of writing, the Kindle versions of the books are priced at a very reasonable £4.99 each.

4
0

The Misery of Legalism

Legalism is where a person believes – knowingly or unknowingly – that they need to adhere to some sort of rules, codes of conduct, or other behaviour-based method in order to make themselves acceptable to God. But the real message of the Gospel is that it’s all Grace: the full, free, undeserved favour of God on us which means that Jesus has already done everything for us on the Cross, everything we need for our salvation, for living the Kingdom life, and “… for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2Pet 1:3)

I saw this comment in a discussion on the blog jesuswithoutbaggage.com recently, and wanted to share it. If you are in this position, please be assured that your freedom is close at hand and is yours for the taking – just surrender your dependence on yourself, however much you may have disguised it as religious devotion!

“In general, I’ve found that people who are very legalistic try very hard to recruit others to their ranks. My opinion is that the more insecure one is in what one believes, the more that person will need the validation of others, which is often gained by getting others to join them and by refusing to even hear any other views. I suspect they’re also jealous of those who’ve found freedom by not having to beat themselves over the head daily with guilt and shame and “laws”. Jesus made it clear he didn’t / doesn’t appreciate spiritual enforcers, those who think they’ve got such a grip on righteousness that they are hammers, and everyone who doesn’t agree with them exactly is a nail that needs to be hammered.”

Jesus said of these people in Matthew 23:15, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are!” Legalism is such a miserable place to be in, but weirdly it’s also self-propagating in that the legalist wants to drag more unfortunate victims in! Misery loves company! Ugh!

And I do know what it’s like. I was once a Legalist. And, running parallel with my love for God and my knowledge that I am His child, was an underlying feeling that actually God could easily become displeased with me. The Cross was, quite rightly, my only hope in that I relied on Jesus’s finished work there to make me ‘worthy’ – but somehow I felt that if I put a foot wrong, then God would be mightily dischuffed with me despite the Cross. Although my salvation would not be at risk – I have always believed in ‘once saved, always saved‘ – I would not be able to minister in power nor to move in the consciousness of His presence. But in His Grace, God led me out of that mindset with a real revelation of, not only just how much He loves me, but also a revelation of the joy that is in His presence when we just let go and let Him do it all. It all becomes so effortless.

I escaped from Legalism over a fifteen-year period of being outside Church, questioning what I believed in and why. I saw a quote on a blog about a year ago which said this:

“It’s hard to overexpress how much unanticipated joy I felt in being
released from the prescribed mindset that Christianity gave me; in many
ways, it gave me the opportunity see the world and respect others in
ways I had not realized the Bible had closed me off from before”.

And that is more or less exactly what happened to me. I too felt that joy, not so much about what the Bible said, but about what others told me I should believe the Bible actually means when it says, well, whatever. I was free to believe in my own way without others telling me what to believe. It’s so liberating to be what I call a ‘free Christian’ – free from others’ dogma and interpretations. While I choose to consider myself answerable to people I am close to (both in and out of Church), I am not answerable to anyone else except God.

Interestingly, about a year ago I was once again subjected to an (uninvited) barrage of accusations/doctrinal correction/call it what you will, from a ‘non-free Christian’, and it made me realise, while in the process of categorically rejecting that person’s diatribe, just how far I have come in my freedom. I never want to go back to that life. My ‘detoxification’, as it were, has released me into entirely new freedoms to love people of different views without judging them or trying to change them. And that, to me, is real freedom!

I’ve also noticed that when you start to enthuse about your freedom while talking with a Legalist – whether they know they are one or not! – the first thing they will do is to try to explain to you why you should not be free. It’s usually couched in Bible verses, and [possibly] from a good heart, but still that’s what they are doing. “He gave His word for freedom; you use it to enslave“. And they will claim that they are under Grace but their lives will not show this. I sometimes wonder if this is simple insecurity; they feel threatened to see someone operating out of freedom instead of Law. And I get that.

But, Legalist, you too can be free, if you just let Jesus take over. There is no place for both Law and Grace in a believer; the Law has fulfilled its purpose in that it has brought you to the point – probably some years ago – where you realised the futility of trying to impress God in your own strength. So just let go. Don’t strive; just relax in Him and all that He has already done! It was for you that Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 (Message), “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (MSG translation) There is complete security, and indeed Divine permission, in your freedom; you do not have to be afraid of it!

For those looking for Biblical support for the exercise of their freedom, well, the Bible is full of it. Begin by reading the entire book of Galatians, in the light of freedom rather than that of legalism. It’s set out there more plainly than in any other book of the Bible. And in Jesus’s declaration in Luke 4:18, He said He was here to ‘proclaim release for the captives’. Freedom is what the Kingdom is all about; it is your birthright as a child of God – which means you are entitled to it – and you are missing out on the whole point of the Gospel if you don’t grab your freedom with both hands! Liberty is huge, it’s free, it’s amazing, and it’s yours for the taking if you’ll just let go and trust God. What are you afraid of? God will uphold you no matter what. I know it’s hard to let go. It’s like you’re clinging to the side of the swimming pool; the water is deep and there’s people out there where they can’t touch the bottom, enjoying themselves. And you want to tell them it’s not safe – you want to exhort them to come back to the side and hang on where they’ll know what they’re holding on to. Isn’t it dangerous out there in the deep water? No, it’s not. Because Jesus is the Lifeguard on duty, and He will not let any harm befall any of His own.

So relax, let go, and let God!


I heartily recommend that you get the whole picture by following the links in red in this article. In those links, I explain more about the background for my thinking on these points. You may well find in those links the keys to your freedom.

Be free!

2
0