Category Archives: Insights

Elevenses

“Jesus: ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’; but I say to you, love your enemies.’ For the 1st century Jews, the effect was the same as if a preacher stood up today and said, ‘The Bible says……but I say to you…..’”
– Brian Zahnd

Deconstructing our faith is letting go of any part of whatever you believe that does NOT tell you that you are absolutely, unconditionally acceptance, included, loved and beloved. It can be scary and feel overwhelming.  But it is one of the most beautiful things you will ever do. What remains is real and pure and celebrates who you are, without condition.
– Susan Cottrell

When a toxic person can no longer control you, they will try and control those around you, and how those around you perceive you
– Sacha DeSouza

If you love, and love well, I don’t really care what you call yourself. You embody my faith, which, so said Paul, counts only when expressing itself through love.
I know a great many people who, in silence and anonymity, better flesh out the faith many claim to have than most (including myself) who insist on labeling what they have.
– Jeff Turner

Religion: You have to understand an ancient Jewish text correctly to have knowledge of God.
Spirit: No, you don’t. Realize it was the story and descriptions of their experiences, centuries ago and create your stories with your own descriptions of your own experiences today.
– Ken Etter

Troll comment [talking about brother Christians who don’t believe the same as she does]: “And they will also be going to hell for their sins against God/Jesus”

Me: “Nah, God says ‘I will remember their sins no more’. It’s right there in your Rulebook, with no conditions attached”
– Me

Everyone fails at being who they’re supposed to be. The important thing is to succeed in being who you really are.
– Sue

Grace does not close your eyes to sin. Grace opens your eyes to your identity as righteous, and behaviour always follows identity.
– Don Keathley

“Love Me or burn”. Put like that, it’s easy to see that God just isn’t like that.
– Me

[commenting on incorrect apostrophe use in a ‘credible’ video] It seems like people put in extra work to look less intelligent
-Anon

Grace teaches that the Father gives gifts, not merit badges.
– Don Keathley

[To a judgmental person on a forum] Is it your entire calling in life to judge others, or is it just something that you do in your spare time?
– Me

I’ve decided to stay up on New Year’s Eve this year. Not to see the New Year in, but to make sure this one leaves…
– Graham

To believe God cannot look at sin is anti-biblical.
Habakkuk states otherwise.
Jesus being with sinners states otherwise.
Jesus becoming human states otherwise.
Jesus becoming sin for us states otherwise.
Be careful what you believe and have been taught.
– Dale

“Christianity is like a swimming-pool. All the noise comes from the shallow end.”
– Quote from a US theologian.

Do you know why old men study the scriptures? it is because they are cramming for final exams.
– Richard Carlin

[In response to a really wise statement] “I am tattooing this to my soul.”
– ‘Lace’

 

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Sovereignty

The question of ‘Sovereignty’; whether God is ‘really in charge’, is a really interesting one, and raises all kinds of questions: some of them comforting; some of them awkward; many of them unanswerable; and just about all of them questions that people have been asking for centuries.

It touches on the concepts of ‘Theodicy’ (If God is all-loving, and all-powerful, why does He allow suffering?) and human free-will; predestination; future-fluidity (is the future fixed?); and many other ideas too.

Of course, I can’t answer those questions; no-one can. As I have mentioned in a previous article, Life’s Big Questions are only answered over the space of years; lifetimes even. But every so often, something comes up that sheds just another smidgen of truth; a piece of the jigsaw if you will[1], that puts into our hearts just another small insight to add to those already there.

Here is just such an item: a short essay by Ken Nichols, whose work I have published on this blog several times.


When you view God’s “sovereignty” as meaning CONTROL, then you miss the whole point and run into all these “conflicts” with man’s free will.

Sovereignty doesn’t mean God CONTROLS everything. It means He has a plan that will ultimately come to pass. He doesn’t HAVE to control it for that to happen.

It’s like shooting an arrow at a target. If you are a good archer, you know once you’ve released the arrow, that it WILL hit the target, though it may take time to get there. You don’t have to course adjust and control it while it’s on the way there.

That is how it is with the plan of God for the universe. He “released” the plan long ago. It’s on it’s way to it’s completion (target). He doesn’t have to micro-manage and course-adjust in order to make sure it gets there. Because He’s the BEST archer that ever was, and never will He ever “miss the mark” (sin).

We, on the other hand, LIVE for micro-managing, and can’t see how God could NOT, while looking through our lens of the desire to control events, need or want to control every element of His creation, either now or at some point in the future. Us, who OFTEN “miss the mark” (sin), do not grasp a God who never can.

Once set in motion, it will come to completion. And all without the violation of any man’s free will.

THAT’S God’s sovereignty.

– Ken Nichols, used with his kind permission

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Footnotes

1 Hence the header picture being one of a jigsaw with several pieces missing.

Thanos

I don’t know how many of my readers have seen the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s epic story arc spanning twenty-three films, and more are in the pipeline.

The main story is that there’s a bad guy called Thanos[1], who wants to collect the ‘Infinity Stones’, which will give him the power to destroy half of the population of the entire Universe, for the purposes of ‘balance’.  My friend Mo Thomas wrote an excellent piece using Thanos as an illustration, which I wanted to share with you here. He followed it up with a quotation from the great A. W. Tozer, too; can’t go wrong! 🙂

Here you go:


Thanos – Compassionate Supervillain?

Did you watch Avengers: Infinity War? Consider the character of Thanos the villain – his “noble” desire was to collect the stones, and then wipe out 1/2 the population for the greater good of the world. Agree? If you haven’t seen it, imagine Hitler wiping out 6 million Jews, and many other evil, sadistic dictators throughout history who kill off portions of humanity in the name of progress.

What would you say, if you had no familiarity with the Bible, and you heard the following about God:

1 He wiped out the ENTIRE world’s population – including women, children, and babies – except for saving 8 people to start over (Noah and family), all for the greater good of the world.

2 He directly caused rape and infants being bashed against rocks. (Isaiah 13)

3 He authorized that virgins should be kept as spoils of war after a victory against another people group.

4 He will sustain most of the world’s population in excruciating torment for billions upon billions of years, without hope of repentance, for NOT loving Him in response to His unconditional love.

As an “unbeliever” hearing this unfiltered truth, what image of God would come to your mind? What is the essential character of God that you’re being asked to believe, and follow???

Is this a biblical case of both terrorist/rescuer residing in the same deity, like…
Jekyll and Hyde?
Thanos and Ironman?
Hitler and MLK?
God the Father and God the Son?

What we need to be saved from is our counterfeit, distorted views of God. Don’t confuse the Abba of Jesus with a Marvel terrorist villain or an evil human dictator, which can easily happen when one reads the Scriptures using the distorted lens of dead-letter literalism without any aid from the Spirit of Christ.

The portrait of God we have in our mind and heart is an important and powerful indicator of one’s perspective towards life, and towards others made in Their image – we become Who we behold.

________________

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. … Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.

We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church.

Always the most revealing thing about the Church is her idea of God, just as her most significant message is what she says about Him or leaves unsaid, for her silence is often more eloquent than her speech…”

A.W. Tozer


– Mo Thomas, used with his kind permission

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Footnotes

1 Header picture shows Marvel’s arch-villain Thanos, played by actor Josh Brolin

The Reign of God

Here’s an insightful little meditation adapted from the work of Richard Rohr:


Jesus announced, lived, and inaugurated for history a new social order. He called it the Reign or Kingdom of God and it became the guiding image of his entire ministry. The Reign of God is the subject of Jesus’ inaugural address (see Mark 1:15, Matthew 4:17, and Luke 4:14–30), his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), and the majority of his parables. Once this guiding vision of God’s will became clear to Jesus, which seems to have happened when he was about thirty and alone in the desert, everything else came into perspective. In fact, Matthew’s Gospel says, “From then onwards” (Mt 4:17), Jesus began to preach.

In order to explain this concept, it may be helpful to first say what it is not: the “Kingdom” is not synonymous with heaven. Many Christians have mistakenly thought that the Reign of God is “eternal life,” or where we go after we die. That idea is disproven by Jesus’ own prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).

“Thy Kingdom come” means very clearly that God’s realm is something that enters into this world, or, as Jesus puts it, “is close at hand” (Matthew 10:7). We shouldn’t project it into another world. What we discover in the New Testament, especially in Matthew’s Gospel, is that the Kingdom of God is a new world order, a new age, a promised hope begun in the teaching and ministry of Jesus—and continued in us.

I think of the Kingdom of God as the Really Real (with two capital Rs). That experience of the Really Real—the “Kingdom” experience—is the heart of Jesus’ teaching. It’s Reality with a capital R, the very bottom line, the pattern-that-connects. It’s the goal of all true religion, the experience of the Absolute, the Eternal, what is.

God gives us just enough tastes of God’s realm to believe in it and to want it more than anything. In the parables, Jesus never says the Kingdom is totally now or totally later. It’s always now-and-not-yet. When we live inside the Really Real, we live in a “threshold space” between this world and the next. We learn how to live between heaven and earth, one foot in both worlds, holding them precious together.

We only have the first fruits of the Kingdom in this world, but we experience enough to know that it’s the only thing that will ever satisfy us. Once we have had the truth, half-truths do not satisfy us anymore. In its light, everything else is relative, even our own life.

— Adapted from Richard Rohr with John Bookser Feister, Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Franciscan Media: 1996), 3–4, 29, 109–110, 111.

(Source: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation)

 

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Le Pique-Nique

Pique – Nique is of course French for ‘Picnic’

Another collection of (hopefully) profound and/or interesting quotes from across the Internet. Oddly, many of them this time around are by anonymous people.

Oh well. Enjoy 🙂 :


People seem to have a tendency to treat their notions about God as though the notions are God.
– Anon

I’ve been struggling to sleep recently, but I got half way through your comment and was out like a light for a solid 8 hours. Thank you so much!
– Anon

The [high-control religious cult] are entitled to their own beliefs, but they are not entitled to their own facts.
– Gordon

A baby bird honors the egg by breaking it, not by remaining inside of it longer than it should and dying. There are some things in your life that you are meant to honor by breaking.
– Jeff Turner

If God desires us to love Him in any serious way, He would be stupid to threaten us with Hell. Or any other punishment. Once punishment is introduced, any action comes from fear, not love.
– Susie

If wrath would be a property of God it would be the 10th fruit of the Spirit. It is not.
– Anon

Do not be concerned so much with what people say and think about you. That only causes you not to believe what God says about you.
– Dave Adams

God Has
More Faith In You
Than
You Have In God
– Mo Thomas

That’s one of the major reasons I left [a well-known Fundamentalist church]; it’s difficult to take a church service seriously when it’s basically Sunday School with bigger words.
– Dane

Probably the number one thing that has given me hope is the idea that I’ve always been good underneath all of the lies; that the truth is for me and not against me.
– Amy

The Bible worshippers think God stopped speaking after the last word in the book of Revelation. Then they limit God to just be a sign poster pointing you back at the Bible.
– Kehinde

We often say that the good is the enemy of the best, and we should add to it that the familiar is the enemy of the possible.
– Jeff Turner

Jesus says in John on one occasion that the Spirit would lead the disciples into all truth. In another, He says no one can come to Him unless the Father draws them. Nowhere does it say the Bible will do either. So when evangelicals put a greater emphasis on the authority of the Bible, they minimize the Spirit’s role in both the incarnation and resurrection. The Bible did not become incarnate nor was it raised from the dead. Jesus was and did.
– Anon

Only love that cannot be changed by our behaviour can actually change our behaviour.
– Dave Griffiths

The only “sinner’s prayer” that will ever matter was not prayed by you, but on your behalf: “Father, forgive them. They have no idea what they’re doing.”
– Jeff Turner

“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom – it’s how we first begin to take God seriously. But if we stay on the road of divine wisdom long enough, we finally discover that God is love and One from whom we have nothing to fear. Indeed, perfect love casts out all fear.”
– Brian Zahnd

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
– Lenny Bruce

It doesn’t matter how beautiful your theory is; it doesn’t matter how smart you are. If it doesn’t agree with experiment, it’s wrong.
– Richard Feynman

Have you learned that you can’t speak butterfly language with caterpillar people?
– Don Keathley

 

 

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The Misinterpretation of Grace

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Grace and the Believer's Freedom

I read a great little piece earlier this year by Jamie Englehart, whose work I have featured before here on my blog.

To conclude my short series of reblogs on the nature of the believer’s freedom under Grace, I thought it good to share his short piece here in order to sort-of sum up.

Be free!


“The litmus test of if what we are preaching and listening to is the Gospel is best summed up by British pastor and theologian D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones ‘There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that understanding, then it is not the gospel.’

“If we are afraid of that [concept], then we will preach a mixture of law and grace which is worse. Paul called that witchcraft in Galatians and taught that is how you fall from grace. When you sin you fall into grace, not from grace, because where sin abounds grace much more abounds (Rom 5:20). Now does that mean we should just run around sinning? Of course not; the grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness (Titus 2:12). Plus there are consequences to sin and we will reap what we sow, but that is why we need to leave the sheriffing of the Kingdom to the Holy Spirit and trust that He that began a work in people will bring it to completion” (Phil 1:6).

– Jamie Englehart, used here with his kind permission. Scripture references inserted by me.

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Licence to Sin – Reblog

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Grace and the Believer's Freedom

As I promised in my last reblogged post – Religion and Faith – there’s a Difference! – here is the second of my expositions of the believer’s freedom under Grace, my classic article ‘Licence to Sin’. This piece explores the claim that critics of Grace make, where they assert that Grace is a ‘Licence to Sin’, even though their own Rulebook is full of the concept of Grace; the unearned favour of God.


Licence to Sin

[Author’s Note: In this article, please bear with the different spellings of the word ‘Licence’ on the graphics. This is because the people who made those graphics spell it differently; the correct use is explained at the end of this post][1]


This is a piece I have wanted to write for quite some time, and I have had to crystallise my thinking on this over a period of months. I hope it was worth it!

I am quite free in declaring my total reliance on God’s Grace under which I live my life. Not that I bring it up as a conversation starter, of course, because that makes people’s eyes glaze over. However, many conversations in a faith context do eventually get round to the subject of Law vs. Grace.

It’s usual that someone will claim that a certain hobby/habit/preference/attitude/word, whatever, is ‘wrong’ or ‘sinful’, ‘because it says so in the Bible’, or because they personally don’t like it (in other words, rules made by men (Mt15:9)). Or, to put this another way, even though they are ‘saved’, there are still certain Rules they must follow (and of course everyone else must follow them too!) – and for some people, not following those rules can (they believe) mean that they can ‘lose their salvation’.

I, however, believe that Grace covers everything. In short, I claim that, for a believer, everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1Cor6:12; 1Cor10:23) . All sin past, present and future, has been forgiven (Is 43:25; Heb 8:12), and I am free to get on with living life in the Spirit without worrying about whether something is sinful or not, because I trust fully in the Spirit of Grace – in Whom I live my life – to steer me away from things that are harmful. Anything goes, essentially, but I don’t go everywhere, if you see what I mean.

It’s not surprising, then, that one of the first claims levelled at a Grace-living person like me is that this is essentially a ‘Licence to Sin’. I get that. Because I am free to do anything I choose, I am naturally going to go off and do loads of ‘sinful’ things, simply because I can.

And nothing could be further from the truth. Nor is it true for others who have been set free by the Spirit of Grace. I read on a Facebook group the other day about the ‘relentless, hard struggle against sin’. But, you know what, Jesus promised ‘rest’ (Mt11:28). And the key to that rest is this: to rest in His finished work, and to live your life of freedom in the Spirit. Being free from sin is not only having the desire to sin be removed, it is also – and especially – being free from the constant worry about whether something is sin or not. Just live life and trust the Spirit to keep you away from that which is harmful! As Paul says, ‘consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 6:11). This isn’t as a Law or a Rule, it’s the natural position of the person who walks in Grace. The whole idea of Life in the Spirit is expounded in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, and if it is read with the Grace filters in place[2], it all stands out so clearly. The problem with Romans, as with most/all other Scriptures, is that for centuries people have read them with their legalism filters in place, to find rules to live by and to impose on others. But Paul, as the Apostle of Grace, can also be read by those looking for Grace to live by.

Having just declared in the preceding verse that ” …[we] are not under Law, but under Grace”, Paul writes in Romans 6:15, “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace?” And this is exactly what the critics of living under Grace ask! Are you going to go ahead and sin because we are under Grace and not Law? And we, along with Paul, answer ‘No! By no means!’ But of course, and especially as Paul subsequently uses the example/illustration of slavery, critics will go on to say that obedience is key, but that’s not what Paul is saying here. He is directly answering those people who would accuse those living under Grace of having a Licence to Sin and he’s saying: NO!! It’s NOT a Licence to sin!

And the reason for that is because we are new creations!

Those in Christ are new creations; the old has gone, the new is come! (2Cor5:17) Those who look for rules to follow and conditions to impose in the Romans passages are missing the point. These people say you have to follow the Rules as written here. But the awesome, magnificent, amazing truth is this: It’s already been done! It’s a “fait accompli”! We are already new creations in Christ. The whole flavour of Paul’s writings is that these things are already in position. He doesn’t say that ‘one day, we will be free of sin’; ‘one day, we will be new creations’ or anything of the sort! No, it’s all been done for us by Jesus. We died with Him; we are also raised up with Him (Rom 6:8). In Colossians 2:9-15, Paul says this:

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off [killed, amputated] when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

“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, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

This is an example of how these ideas are presented as already having been accomplished. How then can we not realise that these things are already true of us? I know I don’t believe that “the Bible clearly says…” all that much at all, but surely if these things are true, as written by Paul, then they are completely liberating, completely freeing? It’s already been done!

When Paul says in Romans 6:14, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace”, he’s not stating a Rule; he is making a statement of the true, actual nature of the believer. Someone might point out that ‘…the human heart is deceitful above all things’ (Jer 17:9) but for those under the New Covenant, this is no problem. I have a new heart; a new motivation for living my life. And so do you. “A new heart will I place in them” (Ezek 36:26). This is the New Creation; the new nature. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17). In fact, the entire chapter of Romans 6 is about Paul handling various objections to people living under Grace, probably objections of ‘religious’ types who want to put people under Law once more. Or at least he’s playing ‘Devil’s Advocate’ while building his argument moving from the ‘religious’ and legalistic point of view (as he himself used to be a part of and indeed endorsed, before meeting Jesus) and progressing into the concept of Life in the Spirit through Grace.

Bear in mind also that Paul says in his letter to Titus, “For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age…” (Titus 2:11-12). Did you see that? It is Grace itself that teaches us to say ‘No’; it is not Law, Rules, our flesh or anything else like that. Those efforts in our own strength are always doomed to failure. This is why Romans 6:14 is so true; it’s that sin shall not be our master because we are not under the rule of the Law, but under that of Grace instead, and it’s Grace that teaches us to say no to sin, not Law.

I also think that those who say that ‘Grace is a Licence to Sin’ don’t understand Grace. We have already seen above that it’s Grace that teaches us to say ‘No’ to sin. Because we are free to choose – we are no longer slaves to sin (Rom 6:6) – we now have the choice; we can choose our way, or we can choose God’s way. And if that means saying ‘No’ so sin, then Grace helps us learn that. Note that it is a learning curve. I’m not saying it’s trial and error that we use to find out what is sin and what is not, but living in the Spirit, following His prompts, doing what we see Father doing, effectively keeps us away from the desire to sin. That’s how Grace teaches us to say ‘No’ to it. The Spirit teaches us all things, including this!

But the other thing about sin is that we get ‘entangled’ by it (Heb 12:1). How, you might ask, can we be entangled by it when I have just said that we are free from it? Well, sin ‘so easily entangles’ us when we are focused on sin; ironically, when we are focused on the task of not sinning! If we are constantly checking to see if we are ‘sinning’ (or, worse, if others are ‘sinning’) then we are focused on the wrong thing, and we have no room in our lives for the freedom of the children of God, which is our birthright. This is also the trap into which the ‘sin police’ fall – those who point out sin in others. Part of being free of sin is that we don’t need to think about it any more – ours, or anyone else’s. We don’t need to worry about it; we just get on with living in the Spirit. And for those ‘sin-police’ who feel it is their duty to point out sin in others, just think: wouldn’t it be amazing, light and free to be rid of that burden? This is not your job! Why bear that burden any longer? Be free from it! Live in the light and freedom of the salvation that Jesus has given you, free of charge and free of obligation!

Granted, some may ‘point out’ Scriptures that appear to contradict these truths, but in reply I would say that these Scriptures I have used here today are true for me, in my experience. All I am doing by quoting Paul is to say, ‘Look, I have found this to be true in my own life, and hey look!, Paul found it to be true for him too!’ I am not finding a Scripture to ‘proof-text’ my ideas, I am saying that this is true for me and Paul found it true for himself too, and he wrote about it. I personally am free of entangling sin. Sure, I ‘sin’ occasionally, and this too is covered by Jesus (1Jn2:1). But my motivation, flowing from my new heart and new life in Christ, is to live life in the Spirit. Galatians 5:16 says that ‘If you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh’. This is what it actually says! Why is it so hard for some people to appreciate that this is actually true? In denying this truth, and the other truths I have expressed here, surely these people are denying the very Scriptures they base their arguments on?

‘But surely’, some may say, ‘you can’t walk in the Spirit all the time?’ To this, I would reply, ‘Why not? Yes, of course you can!’ It’s really easy; you just live your life and trust God to work the Life of the Spirit out in your life as you go about your everyday business. It really is effortless; His yoke is indeed easy and His burden is light (Mt11:29-30). This is why it is often referred to as ‘working from a position of rest’. I rest secure in my Life in the Spirit; nothing and no-one can take it from me, including myself.

As we have seen, many Christians don’t understand this Grace [undeserved acceptance], and they think that this undeserved, unconditional sort of acceptance becomes a ‘licence to sin’. If there is no ‘penalty’ for wrongdoing, they claim, or no Rules to follow, then basically people who believe in Grace can just do what they want and get away with it. Interestingly, in some ways this is true; we can indeed ‘do what we want’ (1Cor10:23). But the consequences of sin are that our lives take damage; we get into destructive habits, thought patterns, behaviour structures and attitudes that are not good for us. So yes, sin has its consequences. And for that reason, not everything is beneficial (1Cor10:23).

There is a certain irony that following the Law is actually, in my view, the biggest ‘sin’ of all, because it is based in our pride in our own self’s ability to follow the Rules. And even then it is pointless, except maybe for making us feel good about ourselves and how ‘well’ we are doing, because no-one will be declared righteous by following the Law. (Rom 3:20) No-one. That’s quite clear to me.

We’ve seen the Scripture that says ‘Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial’ (1Cor6:12) but, well, how are you supposed to know the difference? And I think that even as God’s children, we do not grow as people unless we push the boundaries, like teenagers do. And sure, things are going to hurt us when we get things wrong. But God is there all the time. He’s a much more laid-back parent than evangelicalism gives Him credit for. Whatever happened to ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’? (Deut 33:27) What part of God’s love for us don’t they trust? My own answer is that it’s perfectly acceptable for us to push the boundaries; we are safe as Christians, and to be honest, what’s the worst that can happen? We suffer, we die; but we do that anyway. The very worst thing that could ever happen to me (Job 3:25) has already happened to me, and I am still here rejoicing and walking with the Lord. The only way we find out what is beneficial and what is harmful (or, if you like what is not sin and what is sin respectively) is to push the boundaries. And if God’s really not happy with something we’d like to ‘try’, then He’s perfectly capable of warning us off. And not, I hasten to add, by some set of Rules ripped out of context from the Bible, but as a conversation just like a parent with a child. This is what freedom looks like, and it’s why the controlling priests of evangelicalism don’t like it – because it puts an uncontrollable God back in command. God is perfectly capable of catching us and raising us up again when we fall.

This is not a ‘licence to sin’; it’s more a licence to learn.

Also remember – and this is key – that Jesus Himself is the personification of Grace. In some inexplicable way, being under Grace and being taught by Grace is also being under Jesus, and being taught by Him. Remember John 1:17 – “For the Law was given through Moses; Grace and Truth came through Jesus Christ”.

And I would also say that God is greater than all the ‘bad’ stuff we can do; all is forgiven, God keeps us safe, even should the ‘worst’ happen. This is pretty radical I know but it’s where I am at the moment. Once again, fear is not something that should exist in a Christian’s life, because perfect love drives out all fear (1John 4:18). And when people speak to us of ‘playing with fire’, ‘slippery slope’ and ‘dangerous ground’, they are pandering to fear, not Grace.

There’s a lot more on this subject here in one of my previous posts. I recommend you go and take a look; it’ll be well worth it!

And so, go ahead and LIVE in your freedom. Use the word ‘Freedom’ in my site’s search box to find other articles that I have written on this subject; you will find that the word figures very prominently in my writings. Freedom from sin is not a Licence to Sin. It doesn’t need to be; in fact it’s quite the opposite. Morality and Rules are the low road; Life in the Spirit under Grace is the high road.

God is for you, not against you (Rom 8:31). If what you are hearing, whether from your mind or from a preacher or other Law-based person, makes you feel otherwise, ignore it until you know that God loves you and His Grace empowers you to live the life He wants you to.

This is freedom.

This is your freedom.

Grab this with both hands and your teeth as well!

Take it and run with it!

Let me leave you with a quote from Mike Rough:

“If morality is your way of living, you are living way beneath your privileges. Living by love in the power of the Spirit is true living and there are no rules–there are none needed. The one who lives by love will live a life like Jesus lived which is so far above living by rules, the difference is like night and day!”

Can I also point out to you this excellent article by Paul Ellis, on the same subject. His writing is much clearer than mine 😉


The link to the original article is here

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Footnotes

1 In ‘English’ English, as written in Britain and most other places where English is spoken, ‘Licence’ is the noun and ‘License’ is the verb (although ‘Licence’ is an acceptable variant of the verb spelling). It’s similar to ‘advise’ and ‘advice’, and ‘practice’ and ‘practise’. So, I have a Pilot’s Licence (noun), which means the CAA have licensed (verb) me to fly an aeroplane.

In the USA, however, the spelling ‘License’ is used for both noun and verb, and the spelling ‘Licence’ does not exist.

2 Grace filters: That is, if you read it with the assumption in mind that it’s about Grace, in other words, you are looking for Grace in the text. Hope that makes sense. This is not dishonest reading; it’s something we all do all the time. All our Scripture reading takes place with various filters in place; legalists will look for Rules, people who believe in Hell will interpret the ‘hell’ passages with that assumption in place, nobody lets the Old Testament tell them that bacon sandwiches are unclean, and so on. So long as we realise that we are always looking through filters, we will know that our perceptions are going to be coloured by them. And that’s fine as long as we are aware of that fact.

Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference! – Reblog

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Grace and the Believer's Freedom

A couple of years ago, I posted my most thorough expositions to date on the believer’s freedom under Grace; our freedom from legalism and others’ expectations. I wrote about others’ objections to those living under Grace, and the ‘Licence to Sin’ that some believers still go on about.

Lately, I have been in dialogue with friends who are still in fear; still wondering whether or not God is angry with them, and sadly not being able to see the all-encompassing, all-accomplishing nature of the total victory that Jesus won on the Cross.

And so, in order to bring to the fore once again the fulness of our freedom, as given us by God’s Grace, I would like to reblog those two pieces, one after the other. The first one, ‘Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference!’ I reproduce here; the second, ‘Licence to Sin’, I will post next time.


Religion and Faith – There’s a Difference!

A few days ago someone asked me the question, “Are you religious?” And without thinking, I said. “Yes” – then immediately qualified it by saying, “Well, actually, no – I’m a man of faith. There is a difference”.

Now, call me pedantic if you like. And I know what the lady meant when she asked me the question. But to me there is indeed a difference.

Religion is simply humans trying to ‘do something’ – anything! in order to be acceptable to whatever god(s) they believe in. It seems to be the default setting for that part of humanity who seek after the higher purpose, deeper meaning, the Life Essence of the universe, or even the Creator Himself – whatever they call ‘god’, they feel the need to do something. (In this piece, I am not including those who don’t seek after things like this).

So whatever it is, people try to ‘do’ stuff. This involves rituals, rules/laws, behaviour patterns, conformity to some formula told to people. This can happen with Christians, or indeed any ‘defined’ faith, or it can happen with people of no set belief system. I once found a Pagan altar in the local woods where people had performed certain ‘rituals’ and carved Runes (letters made of straight lines suitable for carving on stone or wood) on the altar. I can read Runes, and they said something like ‘we worship you earth mother’. And so, this is an example of Religion based on ‘doing’.

Faith, however, is different. Faith is described in Hebrews 11:1 as, “…confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. For me, this means that I have confidence in Jesus alone, and an assurance in the complete and total efficacy of His finished work on the Cross (Jn 19:30). It’s not about me, what I ‘do’, but about what He has already ‘done’. I am already acceptable to God by Jesus’s finished work on the Cross, however that works. I say that ‘however it works’ because I am still plumbing the depths of just what Jesus did there, and it’s vaster and more thorough than I think anyone realises. God’s Grace is undeserved, unlimited, extravagant, and indeed completely unfair. In Grace, we really do get something for nothing. It’s free for the taking!

This is poles apart from the constant workload of Religion!

In Christ, we can ‘rest’ in His finished work, knowing there’s nothing more to do, indeed, nothing more we can do, to make our salvation more sure.

This is a different thing from St. Paul’s statement in Colossians 1:24 where he says, “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” This, I believe, refers to the works and actions that proceed naturally, flowing from the life lived in the Spirit. What part of Christ’s afflictions were incomplete? Only that the death of Christ on the Cross does not cater for the ‘practical’ things that the Spirit-led person does; the ‘works’ that are the fruit of faith. So, things like feeding the poor, clothing the naked, that sort of thing. And this is what still needs to be done. And so, this Colossians passage does not mean that for some reason Christ’s work is not ‘finished’, or that it is lacking any efficacy for our acceptance before God. It doesn’t mean that at all.

Sadly, though, even Christians, for whom Jesus said ‘It is finished!’ and for whom St. Paul says that we have freedom from these Rules, can (and usually do) have Religious rule patterns and expectations of their adherents. This is tragic; every time I’ve seen someone propound the vast freedom and benefits of Grace-based faith, there’s been someone else come on and state his ‘cautionary’ case. ‘Be careful of Grace; you don’t know what you might be getting into’. ‘Don’t let Grace be a licence to sin’, and things like that. This is all just the thin end of the wedge for legalism – going back to those Rules again. There’s always something like, ‘Ah, but we have to be careful that we don’t…’, there’s always some cautionary tale. ‘Ah, but…’ in fact has no place in Grace! The Spirit-led life means that we don’t have to worry about Law any more! So many people are sitting on riches they don’t know they have.

This is why St Paul said in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Slavery to Rules. Slavery to Religion.

I personally find that, because I have to get into the Legalism mindset in order to discuss these issues with those still trapped in legalistic systems, I find that I too begin to think in the same way as they do. In some ways, I need to do that, so that a) I can listen to what they are saying, and b) so that I can base my discussions on what Scriptures they are using. And it’s quite stifling, actually. I often feel the need to take time out and recharge my ‘Grace batteries’. Despite my freedom from Law being revealed to me personally by Father, the tendency to slide back into legalism in order to get alongside those still trapped in there is always insidious and present, because I have to think in the same way as they do in order to identify with them. It’s like trying to rescue a drowning man. Maybe I should wait until they cease struggling….

Sadly, many religious people, those dependent on their own works, however disguised or unrealised, tend to view ‘freedom from Law’ with some suspicion. Just like they did in Jesus’s day. The people who were most often on his back about His ‘behaviour’ and that of His disciples (they were feasting and partying instead of fasting like ‘proper’ religious people do) were the religious authorities. And so, people like Rob Bell, Joseph Prince, Jeff Turner, Paul Ellis; Grace preachers like these are constantly denigrated by the religious authorities of this day. Believers are always warned off from their messages of freedom, hope and joy, precisely because the religious authorities want to maintain control[1]. We can’t have believers realising their freedom, because we will lose control. Ok, so let’s ‘warn’ them about the ‘dangers’ of the ‘Grace Movement’ and use scare tactics like telling them that ‘Grace is a licence to sin’ and stuff like that. Actually it’s nothing of the sort; this is just used as a means of keeping people in their cages. Personally, as far as I am concerned they are wasting their time, such is the revelation of Grace I received nineteen years ago. For me, there is no going back into the cage. For others just learning the ways of Grace, my advice would be to trust the Holy Spirit within you. What He says, do (Jn 2:5). Ignore the Gatekeepers of heaven; they are actually nothing of the sort! Your freedom is yours; hold on to it!

Anyway, to sum up: Religion is always ‘do, do, do’ in order to be acceptable to God. Faith, for me, is ‘done, done, done’ and because of this I’m already acceptable to God. Wow!

“It is finished”, says the Lord!

The link to the original article is here

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Footnotes

1 Actually, I am perhaps tarring some leaders with the same brush here – in the UK at least, most church leaders who have this kind of input into their members’ lives do so from a genuine desire to ensure that their members stay pure/clean/’sin-free’ or whatever. I understand that. But firstly, this is putting the cart before the horse; purity is more of a spiritual fruit than a spiritual task. It flows naturally from a life lived in the Spirit, and does not need to be either forced or policed. Secondly, this actually isn’t anyone’s job to do. It is not the job of Church leadership – or indeed any other person – to point out others’ ‘sins’. There are passages in the New Testament which might suggest that, and indeed St. Paul does give some ideas on how to deal with ‘badly-behaved’ church members, for the purpose of maintaining order in the church. But in our day this has been taken entirely out of context and also out of proportion; many people think that these Scriptures give them a licence to criticise and judge others. And this is simply not the case, from any of those Scriptures. Firstly, Jesus’s exhortation to ‘take the plank out of your own eye’ (Mt 7:1-5; Lk 6:41-42) is actually an exhortation to not point out others’ sin at all; secondly, the response of the person being criticised, if indeed any is required, is entirely between them and God. You might well point out someone else’s ‘sin’, but the response is up to them. You are not responsible to point out others’ ‘sins’; you are certainly not responsible for their actions or lack thereof in response to your criticism. Let’s not make any bones about it; you are actually judging and criticising others. Very rarely is it done ‘in love’!

(And how do you define ‘sin’ anyway; what is harmful for one person is not so for another)

Old Heads on Young Shoulders

I’m only 58, but I am already beginning to identify with a lot of what this anonymous writer puts in this piece, where he taks to a 70 – plus – year – old friend. The essay was shared to me by an online friend 😉


I asked one of my friends who has crossed 70 and is heading to 80-years of age what sort of changes he is feeling in himself? He sent me the following very interesting lines, which I would like to share with you.

1. After loving my parents, my siblings, my spouse, my children, my friends, now I have started loving myself.

2. I just realised that I am not Atlas. The world does not rest on my shoulders.

3. I now stopped haggling with vegetables and fruits vendors. A few pennies more is not going to burn a hole in my pocket but it might help the poor fellow pay better for his family or health needs.

4. I pay my waitress a big tip. The extra money might bring a smile to her face. She is working much harder and for longer hours for a living than me

5. I stopped telling the elderly that they’ve already told that story many times. The story is for them not for me. The story makes them walk down the memory lane and relive the past.

6. I have learned not to correct people even when I know they are wrong. The onus of making everyone perfect is not on me. Peace is more precious than perfection.

7. I give compliments freely and generously. Compliments are a mood enhancer not only for the recipient but also for me.

8. I have learned not to bother about a crease or a spot on my shirt. Personality speaks louder than appearances.

9. I walk away from people who don’t value me. They might not know my worth, but I do.

10. I remain cool when someone plays dirty to outrun me in the rat race. I am not a rat and neither am I in any race.

11. I am learning not to be embarrassed by my emotions. It’s my emotions that make me human.

12. I have learned that it’s better to drop the ego than to break a relationship. My ego will keep me aloof, whereas with relationships I will never be alone.

13. I have learned to live each day as if it’s the last because one day it will be my last.

14. I am doing what makes me happy. I am responsible for my happiness, and I owe it to myself. Happiness is a choice. You can be happy at any time, just choose to be.

I decided to send this to all my friends. Why do we have to wait to be 70 or 80, why can’t we practice this at any stage and age?

 – author unknown, but I originally read it as shared on Mike Walsh’s blog here.


Header image shows the ‘spare heads’ of the android Kryten, from the popular science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf episode ‘DNA’, Red Dwarf Series IV Episode 2

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It’s Your Story

Here’s a profound little piece from one of my online friends. Simply let it speak to you whatever it needs to:


It’s your story. You have to pass through the Gethsemane (place of crushing you to extract your pure essence) and endure the accusation of blasphemy as you are put on the cross by the religious establishment. They think they are killing you, but they are actually killing the false idol god of accusation. The one thief on the cross which hurls accusations and contempt.

Now as you grieve, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,” the still small voice of Immanuel, God with us, within us, as us, speaks and says, “I’ve never left nor forsaken you. If you remember this then even here today, you shall be with me in paradise.”

This is the first day of creation as the spirit broods over the abyss you face and whispers “I am the light.”

Because of this your false accusing idol god is dead and entombed where it always belonged, but was foolishly carried around in a heavy graven coffin filled with lifeless dead stones of graven images of burdensome and inflexible rules which accuse you.

Now you are free as you hear the voice of the spirit within you and follow the mind of Christ reborn within you and are now baptized in the image of Christ seeing that all is love and love alone is the power of transformation.

 – R. I. Fiar, shared with his kind permission

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