…..is it true that many Christians believe that ‘Grace’ is an auntie’s name?

Five decades of exposure to ‘religion’, three of them in full time ministry, has persuaded me, that the understanding and recovery of the meaning of God’s grace, both ‘conceptually’ and ‘experientially’ for most ‘good’ religious people, is as difficult as for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle!

 

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…..a perfect recipe for religious frustration!

Many mistakenly assume the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be a call to ‘straighten out your life’ and to become ‘a better you’ with God’s help, and ‘then’ you will automatically become more ‘happy’ with yourself!

On the contrary, this erroneous understanding of the Gospel only leads to deepened frustration, increased unhappiness and disillusionment with yourself.. ..and with ‘that’ Gospel!


…..does God’s Grace require my lousy 1%?

There is something inherent in the human heart, that, although we can clearly see from Scripture that ‘salvation’ cannot be ‘earned’ nor ‘deserved’.

And that Jesus died and rose for the sins all of humanity, that make us to resist, and insist on some kind of human contribution to this Divine act of grace, even if its a lousy 1% contribution!

Strange isn’t it!


…..is our current understanding about Jesus the Christ slightly ‘off-centre’?

Most popular ‘theologizing’ about the mediation  between God and man, by Jesus the  Christ, and its implications for humanity,  seem to be bracketed between, and explained in reference to the Incarnation of the Son of God into humanity, and His subsequent Resurrection from the dead,and usually has its centre of gravity in His Crucifixion! 

I suspect, that it is indeed within the Glorification of the Son of Man, the very fact that one of us, the ‘man’ Jesus Christ was received, absorbed and enthroned within the Holy Trinity, as indeed ‘very’ God Himself, and as yet a human person, that the true centre of gravity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ should be sought …and found.

In so doing, will we not then tilt our slightly off -centre  interpretation of Who Jesus Christ really is, and what the Trinity has accomplished through His mediation, onto its true axes?

 


…are them darn ‘Grace Preachers’ only making the ‘Judgement of God’ cheap?!

The chief criticism by opponents of the ‘grace message’ is that “grace’ makes to little of man’s ‘sinfulness’, and doesn’t stress enough the ‘judgement’ of God, but only sees His ‘loving kindness’.

The very opposite is actually true!

Grace ‘judged’, that man’s ‘sinfulness’ was so totally unacceptable and beyond self-redemption, that a merciful act of ‘Divine intervention’ alone, could ever ‘save’ man from himself!

Understand this…and you will begin to grasp both the judgement and the grace of God!


Hell, Oh Hell….wherfore art thou?

Make no mistake, the so called concept of ‘hell’ is indeed a complex issue to decipher.

It has become over centuries of religious tradition and human speculation very much like  a neglected plot of land that has, over time, become an overgrown jungle of confusion.

The weeds of superstition, the thistles of ignorance and the thorns of religious mythology have gone to seed, and completely taken over, obscuring the truth!

Also totally distorting the original meaning of the words and concept that they contained, and  were conveyed, and the context in which they were used, and what they meant in the ear of the hearers.

The historical fact is that the four original words, Gehenna, Tartarus, Sheol, and Hades were summarily, incorrectly, and arbitrarily translated into the medieval English word ‘hell’ by the early Catholic translators of the Bible.

To blindly assume that the original use of those words as applied in their context imply the prevailing Christian doctrinal construct, understanding and meaning attached to ‘hell’, requires an enormous amount of intellectual dishonesty from us in the Church world today.


……do you know what Jesus is doing?

what would Jesus do‘WWJD’….’What would Jesus do” was a phrase that reached fad proportions in the 1990’s!

Millions of Christians were swept along with this noble idea, and joined the bandwagon!

“What would Jesus do” armbands and jewellery soon became the ‘in thing’ in contemporary Christianity! The distinguishing symbol of the ‘believer’ who was really ‘serious’ about ‘living for the Lord”!

Christian celebrities, sportsmen, ordinary lay believers and everyone from the ‘Who’s Who’ of the Church world, proudly displayed their open commitment, to not only be mere followers of Christ, but indeed even aspiring to, and at the same time inspiring others to also become faithfull  ‘imitators’ of Jesus.

Yet, like all passing fads, the concept had a certain lifespan and then fizzled out and passed into obscurity!

what would Jesus do

I refused to get myself one!

Although I understood perfectly the lofty ideal behind ‘What would Jesus do’, yet for me personally it provoked an intuitive inward resistance.

For me, it had totally the wrong implications!

Why?

Because it invariably suggests that Jesus has stopped doing anything, and that it is basically up to you and I to now do something ‘for’ or ‘instead’ of Jesus.

It further implies that there exists a vast divide between what is ‘secular’ and what is ‘holy’ in everyday life!

It also suggests that some things I do as a Christian, one having ‘eternal life’, would be considered ‘spiritual’, and other actions the mere ‘ordinary’ activities of my life, as though I was simultaneously living two antithetical and mutually counter productive lives, instead of just one live!

And that life was indeed spiritual! Furthermore WWJD empasises the notion of distance, perpetuating the illusion of seperation between Christ and His ‘Body’!

That Chist has not already given us Himself , in order to live out as a reality! However, my Bible tells me that I, Andre had in fact died with Christ at Golgotha, and rose again from the grave in Him, and that therefore, my very life is now ‘hidden with Christ, in God!’

Thus I now no longer live, but, it is indeed Christ Who now lives in me, and in a sense… as me!

This does not mean that I am Christ, no, God forbid!

I am indeed Andre, a mere mortal human being, distinguished from Christ, yet in perfect union and communion with Him in the Spirit! Christ having become my very life, yes indeed, at an essential core level, the only life that I now  have!

Of One Spirit with Him, bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh! And indeed, this incredible spiritual reality is in no way contingent upon my own merit, worthiness or qualification!

It is  borne exclusively and undeservedly in His divine  initiative and grounded purely upon His grace alone.

This is rather deep, spiritual and sounds quite mystical, I admit, yet New Testament Scripture compels me to believe it and confidently state it…. exactly  as it is written!

For me, a much more compelling and potent question, in order to expose the undergirding reality, as well as to express the over- arching motive of our lives as followers of Christ, would be to enquire of ourselves ;

Not …“What ‘would’ Jesus do?”…..but rather ……..“What ‘is’ Jesus doing?”


Calling all Preachers!…..Stop!…Think!

Dear Pastor, as you sit down today, Saturday, and decide what message to preach tomorrow, and especially as you prepare your heart in the moments before you deliver your sermon on Sunday, remember to remind, renew and establish your heart totally on Christ’s indwelling presence within you, and on preaching a pure Christ-centred message!

Remind yourself that that the point of departure of God’s entire relationship with the world is His love and His act of Reconciliation, not Judgement or so called ‘hell’! 

Remember that the decision of the Trinity for the Adoption and Inclusion of Mankind in Christ,through Grace alone preceded the Creation and the subsequent fall of Adam and mankind into sin.Let your knowledge of Christology and not your Anthropology dictate both the framework and content and and set the tone of your message.

Don’t neglect the fact that the same Christ, is both the Creator and Redeemer of every man, woman and child, as proclaimed by the Apostle Paul in Colossians 1, where he speaks of the cosmic Christ who created and reconciled all things (Col. 1:16, 20).

This, Paul tells us, is the gospel “that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven” (Col. 1:23). He claims that this is the Gospel that declares that every person is included in the demise into sin together with the first Adam, but more importantly, also in the ‘Death unto sin’ and ‘Resurrection unto Righteousness’, of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:18). 

Dispel and rid their minds of that old religious lie that they are unworthy and  separate from God, and that they are responsible for creating a relationship with God by what they themselves manage to do successfully, or believe, or by their good works or piety! This erroneous belief will ultimately only serve to drive them deeper into the dark and silent world of spiritual discouragement and religious dispair and  set them up to backslide into unbelief sometime in the future!

Don’t dare to glibly mention typical religious concepts such as ‘original sin’ or the ‘total depravity of man’ unless you carefully and convincingly place them within the greater and eternal framework of man’s ‘original righteousness’ and ‘total redemption’ through Jesus Christ! You don’t want to be strengthening the hand of the enemy!

Don’t throw out traditional ’emotionally loaded’ religious words like ‘hell’, unless you actually know what you are talking about! Most likely, if you are honest, you will admit that your personal  knowledge about so called ‘hell’ is second hand, passed down to you through tradition. Before you do, do the homework! Face your ‘blind spots’ and don’t go beyond the certainty of the ‘revelation knowledge’ that the Holy Spirit produces inside of you…..you were called to proclaim the Gospel, and not the traditions of men!

Rather inform them of the Good News, the truth that entire humanity already belongs to Jesus Christ by virtue of creation and redemption. Help them understand that they have already been gratuitously included in the only perfect relationship that exists in the entire universe, the holy union and communion between the Father and the Son!

Help them to see that  simply acknowledging, and  believing this already existing fact, and whole heartedly receiving and embracing the Father’s free gift of grace in the Son, their complete forgiveness of sin and unconditional acceptance by God, has been freely given  to each of them  as the mere ‘starting point’ , and not their final destination. 


‘bird seed’ theology…..and the spiritually emaciated modern Christian!

“Dad, We in the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements come out of a ‘theologically starved’ background!” This absolutely accurate and profoundly insightful observation hit home to me!

Thomas F. Torrance

My son and I were discussing the rich treasure of  revelation knowledge that is  available, yet obscure to many, insight into the Divine Trinity, about the very Mystery of God; both of the Father and of the Son, Jesus the Christ.

Revelation knowledge largely unknown and rarely visited by the contemporary Church.  A legacy of  knowledge that scholarly, yet Jesus conscious men like Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance, two of the most influential Theologians of this century have masterfully handed down to us……yet most Preachers that I have met in three decades of ministry have never heard of!

Karl Barth

As I reflected upon this, I came to better understand the sadly emaciated spiritual condition of so many Believers and Churches today.

Spiritually hungry and growing Christians, who are being fed and raised on a popular man centered ‘bird seed’ theology, a starvation diet consisting mostly of…. ‘Lord, bless me and mine!’….. ‘give me!’………. and ‘make me!’……………


…on God’s own Testimony …and our own….embracing Life and Love…entering the eye of the storm!

We as as believers in Jesus Christ are not ultimately defined by our circumstances, nor the events , either good or bad, that happen to us, and often shape our experience of life.

Neither does our personal testimony, either positive or negative that arises from our interpretation of those events and setbacks determine the true substance and reality of who we are, and what our life intrinsically consists of.

Only God’s own testimony about us, which fortunately never varies with the changing tides of human life and uncertainty , nor alters even fractionally, despite our seemingly disastrous experiences and sometimes disappointing and even devastating encounters with the realities of this fallen world.

This liberating and saving truth dramatically dawned on me recently when I suffered the loss, through theft, of my faithful laptop computer plus backup memory six containing literally years of study and research and personal and family information, my Black Berry with all my contacts, my Mp3 player with hundreds of hours of audio teaching, my trusted preaching Bible containing all my sermon notes of the last decade !

Literally all the practical tools of my craft and essential methods of communication as a teacher and a preacher of God’s Word vanished from my life overnight!

As I emerged from the shock and realization of the implications of this loss and regained focus, I realized the following; Being merely human, this negative event has the potential to permeate my consciousness, strenuously affect my life and further tempt me to let this trauma influence my personal ‘testimony’ for a long, long time…..it could in fact become ‘the narrative’ around which I act out my future life!

However, a greater truth and reality of life exists, and it is indeed this; that this  ‘serious setback’ and ‘short term frustration’ has in no way affected or caused God to also change His ‘testimony’ concerning me, nor the ministry to which I have been called or my future!

You see, unlike us humans, God does not base His perception and testimony about us on the current ‘story of my life’, nor the appearance of events nor circumstances …no…God’s testimony about you and me is based solely and exclusively on His Son!

And His opinion and testimony is simply this: He has given us His Son….and in Him we have Life! Jesus came so that we may have Life and life abundantly! And…he who has the Son, has The Life!

His testimony is also that nothing, no nothing, no event however traumatic, no circumstance however disappointing, no force or element of nature however violent, or plot spawned from  the evil supernatural or the depravity of fallen human nature enacted against our human person or temporal well being…nothing can ever separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus!

Only we ourselves,  and also only in our own consciousness, not in actuality, can cause this sense of ‘separation’ from the Life and Love of God, when we allow circumstances and events to override the immutable and eternal testimony of God concerning the irretractable gift of Life and Love in the Son!

The ‘Testimony of God’ regarding His Son is always our ‘default’ position as believers when life deals us a blow, causing us to lose our firm footing or when doubt and uncertainty threatens to overtake us! When the volatility of the human condition threatens to become our personal ‘testimony’!

Embracing His testimony in the face of adversity is indeed the embracing of Life and Love……….it is entering into the unusual place of perfect calm….. that strangely prevails within in the very eye of  life’s frequent and unpredictable storms!