Monday, February 20, 2006

Begin the Week Revelling in Grace!

The Monday morning blues ... especially on a February rainy day. I urge - I implore - I beseech you to begin this week by basking in the awesome teaching of Terry Virgo on "God's Lavish Grace". I have referred to these sermons being available - but for the record - here they are again. This was the Bristol conference last month, and in particuar - Saturday night was the message which certainly marked a "God Breaking Out" moment. I don't know how long City Church, Bristol will keep them online - so do make the most of them. Download them but above all listen to them! Grace has to do with our POSITION! Not our PRACTICE!

For those who may consider going to hear Terry live - the "God's Lavish Grace" tour hasn't finished yet! He is off next here:

17-18 March 2006 Manchester
Tel: 0161 789 7700

24-25 March 2006 Teesside
Tel: 01642 807089

5-6 May 2006 Birmingham
Tel: 0121 442 6350

And the book of the conference is available to buy for a mere £7.99! A bargain! Probably the best news you'll ever ever hear ... for £7.99! No ... I'm not getting paid royalties or advertising I promise ... I'm just a very excitable person ... :)


Ollie said...

Up at 3:50am!!!?!? You ARE excited!!

jul said...

I got my Dad that book for Christmas and he loves it. I think God is really using it to answer some of our prayers for him. But I still don't have it. I've been listening to the sermons though, and I've already burned one and given it away. They are excellent.

Baxter's Boy said...

I was going to be naughty and say that I have started up the "3:50" club but that would be bad, so I was actually on a night shift ... So glad that God is using the book for your Dad, Jul - awesome stuff!! I've actually given it away to a few non-Christians and have been amazed at how receptive they are. A message that remarkably new to most of them!

jul said...

I just had "No Well Worn Paths" sent to him for his birthday. I'm interested to see how he likes it, I've never read that one either. Newfrontiers stuff is so hard to get over here. I know what I will be doing next time I go home to visit though!

Don said...

Thanks so much for the links to Terry's talks, Dan, and for your last post on Restoration. I've downloaded all those talks and can't wait to hear them. And, it's great to learn how closely Terry has stuck to the same Restoration theme that I heard presented in such detail from the late 70s through early 80s.

SJ said...

Yes Terry is indeed one of the spiritual giants of the 1970's-80's still holding passionately to Restorationist beliefs. Thank God for him!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. Not wanting to sound dramatic, but this link and post pretty much saved my life. Have just had a horrid weekend, I'm drained and fed up with my church. God seems so so far away and its hard to get enthusiastic when everyone else around seems to go on and on about religious things.

I have never heard Terry Virgo before on the grace of God and it was just like soothing oil to my wounds. He doesn't judge - he doesn't demand, he just so gently talked of the grace and goodness and delight of God.

Thank you again.

SGM Pastor's Wife - (I left a comment when we were talking about getting up in the morning).

jul said...

I'll be praying for you (SGM pastor's wife) Please let me know if I can pray for anything specifically . I'll be praying that you would not be afraid to be honest with your husband or anyone else. Legalism and fear of man go hand and hand. Once you understand that God is for you, you too will joyfully say who can be against me?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jul. x

Don said...

I agree with Jul. There's *talk* of "grace," then there's REAL grace that is not just words but revelation.

When I joined a small church six years ago after being in CLC/PDI for 20 years, I was struck by the emphasis at that time on "freedom" in Christ. We were singing Darrell Evans's song a lot: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom!" One godly young man talked all the time about "freedom." I thought he was a bit pushy about it.

Then I looked up the verses Evans used in that song (2 Cor 3:17 & Gal 5:1), and realized that in the previous 20 years I'd never heard a teaching on that concept of FREEDOM in Christ! I'd heard a lot of talk about God's grace, but almost nothing about how that grace intends to deliver me completely from ALL bondage to the world, the flesh, the devil *and* the fear of man. In saying this I'm not blaming anyone for not teaching it - and it's possible it was taught but I wasn't hearing it - but imagine my surprise and delight when the Spirit opened this up for me.

Over the next several months, the Lord had this little congregation do some silly things in freedom, during worship: dance exuberantly, do a conga-line throughout the building, blow the shofar, etc. It was wonderfully healing for me, and brought such great joy. It delivered me from a lot of lingering fears of doing the "wrong thing" if I sensed the Lord was leading me to say or do something unusual.

I pray I will continue to move into even greater freedom in Christ. These days I'm embarrassing my teenagers regularly with my antics, so I must be on the right track. ;-D

Baxter's Boy said...

I think that Don has hit on something that has been a real suspicion of mine ... and this is my concern with varying emphases on the Cross and the Resurrection. Some of the quotes I found about the resurrection do suggest that an undue emphasis on the Cross can lead to an interest in "Mortifying sin" and "accountability" etc etc - all quite introspective issues related to dealing with rather negative issues. Even phrases that I have heard C J Mahaney come out with do sound extremely humble; "Better than I deserve" ... but I just wonder whether they are representative of the freedom that we are meant to be experiencing in Christ?

Now this isnt meant to be a slag-off PDI session ... thats not my concern at all. My interest and concern is in our how DOCTRINE affects our PRACTICE. That I totally agree with Don here ... "It was for freedom that Christ has set us free". I referred to a prophecy of Terry Virgo's that totally revolutionised my view of freedom - that basically the finished work of Christ has cleared the ground ... to dance upon! To celebrate upon!! To revel in! Because according to the Song of Solomon that's what He does about us!! His delight is in us!!

So I am just wondering and thinking through whether there is a missed and hidden aspect of true freedom in Christ that we are in danger of missing but emphasising various aspects of the work of Christ to the exclusion of others?

jul said...

Around these parts, people are always trying to turn every conversation to talking about sin, or 'application', or accountability. While there is a time and a place for these things, I'm beginning to see that it's mostly a hoax. It's been made the mark of humility and spirituality here, so everyone is doing it trying to impress each other. And what are we really doing anyway? We are spending hours talking about ourselves. True humility is more about self-forgetfulness, not self-abasement. Let's talk about God and what he's done and take every opportunity to be a witness of his power and love and goodness and grace and sovereingty. Then he will get the glory he deserves, and we will find there is far more joy when we fix our eyes on him, not on ourselves and our sin or weaknesses. When are we going to remember he chose us because we are weak and foolish? We are usually spending all our time trying to fill in the cracks in our jars of clay so we can impress everybody, instead of letting his glory shine out through our brokeness.

Don said...

Preach it, Jul! I have to agree with you. And now I'm really worked up about this. I have to say a few things.

I was confused and disappointed, in the late 90s, when people I had known for a long time stopped talking confidently about things God was doing in and through them, and started moping around, focused on "dealing with my (indwelling) sin." Our small-group meetings stopped being places where we celebrated and discussed our victories and forward progress in Christ, and instead became sad places where we made head-dropping admissions of continuing sins, of the most ordinary kind.

This transformation occurred after a hefty and purposeful injection of Reformed theology and emphasis on "nothing but The Cross"; emotional Sunday-morning messages replete with a weeping pastor dragging out the process of tissue eye-dabbing for several minutes (rather than just sitting down and letting someone else complete the message!), then rehearsing yet again how heinous is our sin that put Jesus on The Cross (I thought He'd forgotten my sin at my moment of salvation, and raised me up with Jesus in baptism???); and assigned readings of Puritan writers focusing on the need to identify and mortify indwelling sin. (I thought it was the insane Lady Macbeth, not the redeemed and glorified-in-Christ children of God, who cried in despair, "Out, damned spot!")

These messages were delivered to people who previously sang, and believed, scripture-filled worship songs about being a glorious Church, victorious in Him and being called by Him to do great things in the Earth!

This same group of leaders and people, at one time, used to sing confidently and joyously from 1 Peter 2:9:

"We are A CHOSEN RACE, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a HOLY NATION, a PEOPLE FOR GOD'S OWN POSSESSION!/That we might proclaim His excellencies!/He has called us OUT of darkness, INTO His marvelous light/That we might PROCLAIM His excellencies!"

How could they so easily exchange this glorious inheritance of *acceptance* by Him through the blood of Christ, and being placed on the throne of God with Christ through His resurrection and ascension -- and being given a glorious mission -- for a "mess of pottage:" focusing on the unsurprising reality that we still, indeed, do sin in these mortal bodies, and need forgiveness from the blood that is ever-flowing for us in eternity??

I'll never forget the Sunday morning during that period, when one respected pastor at that church confessed to us that he had sinned a number of times between getting out of bed that morning and beginning to speak to us from the pulpit.

I was astounded! This guy had been a solid believer for 25 years or more, a seemingly successful pastor, husband and father for nearly 25 years. Based on his admission, he either
1) had made so *little* progress as a believer that he was unqualified to lead a new-believers' Bible study (let alone teach us on Sunday morning!) , or
2) had developed such an overactive conscience -- through a morbid introspection and focusing on his *sin,* rather than on the instant availability of *forgiveness* and the untiring desire of the Spirit to transform him into the likeness of Christ -- that he was now incapable of moving past a New Believers 101 truth, and was practically paralyzed with remorse!

Now, it's not his admission of sin that was astounding to me -- indeed, there are many churches whose members would love to hear their leaders admit to *any* sin whatsoever, and give them some hope of their own progress in Christ -- but rather the scriptural *amnesia* that the Reformed/Cross Alone theology had produced in this godly man, leaving him "at the foot of the Cross" and unable to move beyond this point in victory.

This same man was present in the room with me in the 1970s, when we sang together these very truths from Galatians 2 & Colossians 3:

"I've been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live
Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me
And the life which I now live,I live by the faith of the Son of God
Who loved me, and gave himself for me
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above
Where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth
For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

How can anyone develop a morbid, self-ish message of focusing on "indwelling sin" from those words? Is there no comfort available from the knowledge that we are "hid with Christ in God?" No comfort from trusting "Christ in [me], the hope of glory?" (Col 1:27)

But wait, there's more! Here's the opinion of the Apostle Paul about *his* "indwelling sin," as he wrote to his friends in Philippi:

"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

CJ Mahaney once taught publicly from this scripture, that there will be a prize given to us by God, and that it is not wrong to trust God and expect a prize for obeying and serving Christ.

Where from this teaching of Paul's can one get the idea that we should be looking to The Cross every day (even though we "take it up" as a symbol of dying to our own desires) and bemoaning our "besetting sin," instead of
1)identifying and rebuking the *satanic* source of all sinful temptation (which no one was doing), and

Here's how I see the gospel, based on how the disciples of Jesus behaved:
1. The cross without the resurrection leads to confusion and despair.
2. The cross with the resurrection leads to joyful assurance that our sins have been forgiven by God, through Jesus, who is now alive.
3. The cross with the resurrection and the ascension leads to hope in a glorious future with Jesus, who has gone ahead to make a dwelling place for us with His Father, and will one day return to destroy evil forever and take us to live with Him as He is now.
4. The cross with the resurrection, the ascension and the infilling of the Holy Spirit leads to a triumphant Body of Christ on Earth; moving with the mind and power of Christ to become ever more like Him and tell others of what we've learned and experienced with Him; and, united with Him not just through His written Word, but also through His moment-by-moment presence with us in our *redeemed* inner man. Members of this Body have complete access to *everything* that is His (Jn 16:14-15), including the experience of sonship in His Father!

With these unsearchable riches available to us through the *whole* process of the glorification of Jesus Christ, why would any Christian want to teach "nothing but The Cross?"

If I now have been given the mind of Christ, shouldn't I be thinking the thoughts of Christ? What does Jesus think about? Is Christ pondering His sin? Or is He filled with holy thoughts of faith, hope and love?

I could go on, but will not.

ollie said...

Amen guys!! Wow thank you for sharing so honestly. You have just mirrored the passions and crys of my heart, and I am so thrilled that I am not alone in longing for these thoughts and doctrines!

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes thank you so so much!! All I can utter is a big AMEN ... lets start living in victory - not mindless triumphalism, but a grace released, outrageous living secure in the knowledge that our High Priest and King is interceding for us NOW!! And we are acceptable before the Father!! Thanks again!

APWD said...

I do earnestly think this is HUGELY important stuff that we are discussing here. Mainly because this kind of Cross-centred mentality is affecting lives!! And that people are being locked into this attention to "indwelling sin" that is affecting them overly legalistically! I think its urgent that we start to formulate a clear "Whole Counsel of God" view of the gospel - building on the FANTASTIC 4 point statement that Don has made and that we start to explore issues such as why - with this whole counsel mentality in mind - why anyone would want to abandon that and focus solely on the Cross?

Now NOONE doubts the sincerity of these people. They mean so utterly well. Anyone can see that. But if legalistic practices are developing and people are struggling and falling at the hurdle then that is concerning and wrong and it needs to be addressed. And we cannot CANNOT simply not discuss it just because people are popular or "Nice"!!

Don said...

I agree with the statement that these people are sincere and well-meaning. And, that "The Cross Only" theology, as I experienced it and saw its impact during the late 90s, certainly can lead to discouragement, loss of focus on Jesus, and amnesia of our redeemed and exalted position IN JESUS, even in otherwise mature Christians. (These,to me, are fruits of legalism per Galatians).

What would be beneficial is for someone to read the "best" Restoration-focused book (Bryn Jones's?) and compare it against Mahaney's latest (Jan 2006), "Living the Cross Centered Life : Keeping the Gospel the Main Thing," and note areas of real difference.

I haven't read Mahaney's book, so perhaps in this latest development of his thinking, he does include as "the Gospel" some of the ideas I developed above. There may indeed be some agreement/overlap with what Restoration authors have advanced and continue to advance. That would be a Good Thing to discover.

I'm eagerly awaiting the delivery of Bryn Jones's book, but would appreciate someone else reading/evaluating Mahaney's. Perhaps Dan could serve as editor for combining, commenting on, and posting here the findings?

Baxter's Boy said...

Yes that sounds like an excellent project to get cracking on. As I mentioned in my lastest blog I am currently half way through John Owen's Volume on Temptation and Sin and have found some interesting insights that I think will surprise.

I don't think that Owen would actually condone endless "accountabilty" groups that focus continually on indwelling sin, and I have actually found a series of quotations that read VERY similar to John Piper's Christian hedonism!! I.e - triumphing over sin by glorying in something or Someone far greater!