Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My AWESOME Christmas Present!!

This Christmas I found myself utterly blessed beyond words at the love and care of my family. We had a wonderful Boxing Day together and I wish it could have been longer only I had to come back to work. However in particular my Mum and Dad came up utterly trumps at the present they blessed me with. It's a Bowen family tradition that we make "wish lists" in the months leading up to Christmas to give my large family a range of ideas about what we would ideally like for Christmas! It's my habit to usually try and put a complete range of ideas - from the ridiculously expensive (that I never expect to get) to the dirt cheap - and one of the ridiculously expensive ideas that I asked for was Jonathan Edwards "Notes on Scripture" book - Volume 15 in the Yale edition.

My mum brought out my final present on Boxing Day and gave it to me. I discerned in the Spirit that it was a glory-filled hardback book - but NEVER dreamed it would be my hearts desire! I was thrilled therefore to open it and find it was! My parents are wonderful! As were all the other kind and generous presents my family gave me. One of the most quirky was probably my lovely sister and brother-in-law's present - a Gollum cookie jar! But back to Edwards.

Some may remember that when Pete and I visited the Evangelical Library last year - I spent the majority of my time reading the "Notes on Scripture" and seeking Edwards opinion particularly on the Song of Solomon and how it compared to C J Mahaney's rather odd views expressed in "Sex, Romance and the Glory of God". I fell in love with the book then and the Bible-saturated thoughts of Jonathan Edwards so it has been an awesome joy to begin reading. Here's some background to what the book actually is about. The Editor wrote;

"A young Jonathan Edwards penned the following private resolution in the closing months of 1722 ... "Resolved: to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently as that I may find and plainly perceive myself to grow in knowledge of the same".

Edwards was honest enough to see through any pride he had and noted at one point in his "Diary";

"... he chided himself for having "lost that relish of the Scriptures" that he had known earlier".

So these three volumes that I am now blessed enough to have - "Notes on Scripture" and the two "Blank Bibles" - are no mere academic volumes. They come from the personal pen of a man who desired to know the Scriptures for through them he would know his God better. They are books that when read - one cannot help but catch something of that passion.

Here is how the Editors describe concisely what "Notes on Scripture";

"Notes on Scripture" (is a) biblical commentary that includes more than five hundred numbered entries ... the last entry in the series - No. 507 - was written approximately two years before his death in 1758 and is a lengthy comparison between Canticles and Psalm 45 ... "Notes on Scripture" is a private working notebook in which Edwards recorded exegetical ideas, took notes on his reading and developed select theological themes ... At first glance "Notes on Scripture" appears to have little organizational coherence or thematic integration. Edwards made no attempt to survey all parts of Scripture; the entries move randomly among the books of the Bible.

"Notes on Scripture" documents his consuming interest in typology, a traditional method of biblical interpretation that links the Old and New Testament ... "Notes on Scripture" represents only a portion of Edwards extensive exegetical writings, for through the years he also wrote entries interpreting the Bible in several other manuscripts".

So there are some more general introductory statements by the editor as to the purpose of "Notes on Scripture". Let me comment on some more specific and direct statements. One of my favourite Books of the Bible (hence the reason why I defend it so vigorously against people such as C J Mahaney) is of course the Song of Solomon. The editoral comment states;

"He (Edwards) rejected the suggestion that Canticles was "an ordinary love song" by treating the affection between the biblical lovers as a "shadow of the love, union and communion" between Christ and the Church (No. 147) and by linking typologically the spouse in the Song of Solomon and the "tents of Kedar" (SoS 1:5) with the Church (No. 458)".

It should be noted of course that Edwards did not compile the "Notes on Scripture" primarily as his own writings alone. He did read widely and used such reading to aid his insights into Scripture. The editorial team at Yale write;

"Edwards' reading was a primary element in his method of study. In "Notes on Scripture" he cited forty different identifiable sources. More than a hundred entries include quoted or paraphrased materials for which Edwards lists a source ... "Notes on Scripture" situates Edwards firmly in the exegetical world of the eighteenth century. The variety of the sources in "Notes on Scripture" is instructive in other ways as well ... the sources Edwards used are impressive for the scope of their subject matter, the variety of ancient references and the sophistication of the linguistic arguments. They are filled with Latin, Greek and Hebrew citations, many of which he entered into "Notes on Scripture".

The picture shows the original manuscripts. As with the "Blank Bible" Edwards constructed them himself. There is an interesting note that he made to himself for future construction;

If I live to make another book of this sort, to observe to cut the gashes for the stitching in deeper and not so near to the joinings of the stitch, that the book may open more freely and fully. And let the sheets be divided into twice so small divisions, and starch no paper in a paper cover for that makes it crack. And if that don't do try next stitching the backs of all the divisions of sheets to a slip of leather and sew the cover over the leather".

The editors conclude that "Notes on Scripture" provides a fresh view of a critical component in the intellectual and theological world view of Edwards. It essentially explains and provides a context to the massive writings of Jonathan Edwards and I hope in the coming days and weeks to provide some quotes! Oh that present pastors and teachers, apostles and prophets would have the same vision - to commit the revelations and anointings to paper thus preserving it for generations to come.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dr Ern Baxter on Jesus' Ultimate Victory

I was listening to a sermon by Dr Ern Baxter while driving back from Brighton last night. It was part of a conference series he gave at Bishop Earl Paulk's church in Atlanta called "The King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit". It's a comment on how we view where Jesus Christ is today as so important to the way we live our lives;

"I don't see Jesus Christ as a baby lying helpless in a manager. I don't see Jesus as walking the land of Israel limited by location. I don't even see Jesus walking on the water or performing miracles. I don't see Jesus broken and bleeding and dying on the Cross - I see the Cross as an event on the way to His ultimate place. I see Jesus crowned with glory and honour - ruling the nations in victory!".

It occured to me that John Bunyan may have a point in how he wrote 'Pilgrims Progress'. Remember that Pilgrim met the Cross early on in his journey towards the Celestial City and it truly was an event. It was there that his burden fell off and rolled down into the open and empty grave. Pilgrims life was indeed changed by his encounter at the Cross but he rose up and walked on. It was at the Celestial City that he would meet the Lord Jesus Christ. And just so with us. Jesus died once and for all - we will never again see Him hanging at Calvary. When we see Him finally on that glorious day we will see Him crowned with glory and honour seated at the right hand of God the Father! Let's pray that the eyes of our hearts be opened to get a glimpse of that now - that the heavens split like Stephen and we see Him!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Emmanuel - God WITH US!!

Most bloggers tend to customarily write something especially on Christmas Day. Some thanks to readers usually. Maybe some plans for the future - to continue to blog or not. Maybe a reflection on the past (although that's often more New Years Day). It's very strange. Some of my parent's generation still can't get their head round blogging and find the words of a post as objective as a published book - but already we are talking about the "customs" of blogging! How quickly does the world develop!

I wasn't going to write anything necessarily unless I really felt inspired to. I don't like following customs very much - and I must confess I don't particularly like Christmas Day because I think a lot of sight has been lost about the true meaning of the day. I heard an early sermon by my former pastor Dr Stanley Jebb and he commented how little Easter Sunday and the celebration of the Resurrection - the most glorious moment of all history - is celebrated compared to Christmas.

But my attention was caught by the sermon Rob Rufus preached in Hong Kong last Sunday:

I must confess I haven't heard the sermon yet. I'm currently taken up with transcribing and rapturing in the previous message to the CCI prayer meeting: "Pulling Heaven Down". Once again Rob reminds me so much of my hero Dr Ern Baxter! It's so thrilling.

But that matter aside - it was just that simple statement: "God WITH US" that has had me thinking all this Christmas Day. The theme of God being with man is present throughout the whole Bible. God walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day in the Garden of Eden. The crowning moment of glory at the Tabernacle was when the cloud of glory filled the Holy of Holies. And again in Solomon's temple - when the preparations were complete, the cloud of glory filled the place so that the priests could not continue ministering! God was with us!

And then in the New Testament - on Christmas Day - the birth of Jesus Christ, He was called "Emmanuel" - God with us! But that wasn't even it - God was not finished pouring out His Presence upon man. On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit was poured out on all flesh and still is poured out to this day! God is WITH us! If I have one wish and one desire as we advance into 2009 is that I will stop thinking like a Christian and live in spiritual schizophrenia that one day God may be pleased with me due to my good works and the next angry with me due to my mistakes and my flaws.

My wish is that rather I will start living like a son and realise that God is with man. God has shown faithfully throughout His Word that despite man's sin - His desire is to walk with man and commune with man and have relationship with man! And to realise that as His son, His heart will never change towards me! I do sincerely thank from the bottom of my heart each and every person who reads this blog and takes time especially to comment and support and encourage me. I feel so blessed and it's my prayer that 2009 sees a greater advance of the Kingdom of God - as a Kingdom of sons than ever before!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

THAT'S The Kind of Pastor I want!!

The last 2 or 3 posts have been related and have spiralled from a Christmas newsletter I read back at my parents house. The comment that prompted this pattern of thought was directed towards Todd Bentley and; "his fall from grace". I hope I dealt adequately with how I do not believe that the term "fall from grace" can be biblically applied to anything or anyone other than individuals who have begun in the Spirit and by grace and have stepped back into law and are attempting to achieve some sort of standing before God by their own works. I just can't see it! My US friend Janelle Phillips has raised the question of church discipline and it is a post that is currently being written by both Pete Day and myself. She rightly noted that I didn't comment on church discipline in the most positive light - and the question therefore remainds - do I believe in it?

Well the Bible does - and therefore I do. But the way that current churches practice discipline does not greatly impress me - it seems to be done in legalism and from a desire to control rather than "gently restore". But before we finish that post - I wanted to make draw attention to Bill Johnson and the way he has made comments about Todd Bentley. It was after-all a comment about Todd Bentley that started this train of thought so it is well within context.

What is no secret is the Todd Bentley-haters who disapprove of the man and his ministry - we all know what they believe. They haven't stopped calling for his blood since he first walked on stage - tattoos and all. I am sad to admit that I think this moral fall was exactly what they were hoping for. A comment about Bill Johnson made by one of his fellow pastors caught my attention. Kris Vallotton said:

"The only trouble I have seen Bill in, in 31 years is when he refuses to treat people the way they deserve and he believes in them the way they don't deserve. And then when they fall, he refuses to treat them the way that their fall requires and he wants to believe in them again".

That impressed me! My first thought was: "THAT is the kind of pastor I want .. and have never had". A kind of spiritual father who acts like God Himself and refuses to treat people the way they deserve and in the style of 1 Corinthians 13:5 takes no record of wrongs. So here is what Bill Johnson said regarding Todd Bentley - it's in 3 parts:

It's well worth watching in entirety. I think the teaching component is awesome for everyone who has some form of responsibility in their churches - this is how a Christian CAN be dealt with. Why do so often we take it so personally if fellow Christians fall? I must admit my first reaction when I heard about Todd Bentley was "Oh no ...". Did that mean I was wrong to be hugely interested in Lakeland and what happened there? Not at all! I've heard and seen enough by way of testimony from personal friends and over the God TV to know that God was most certainly at work!

Todd Bentley certainly isn't the first Christian leader to fall into sin and do so publicly and I am sure he won't be the last. The thing that I am considering is this: what brings more glory to God and His Church? Christians gathering like vultures nodding their sage heads and saying; "Ah well - he had tattoos and piercings - what do you expect?". Or Christians who stand up like Bill Johson and weep over their brothers and sisters falls and yet KEEP on believing in them and are prepared to do WHATEVER it takes to see them restored to full fellowship and encounter with God?

Let me take a moment to comment personally. Pete's recent wonderful post: "Just get over it?" made some reference to my personal experience with church discipline. I haven't made a secret that I still believe that those particular church leaders were wrong and unbiblical to act the way they did. But I think God has brought me on far enough since then to appreciate what they did do - that they were courageous enough to attempt to do something they surely knew would be unpopular but because they believed it was right. I can see now that they did what they did because they were honestly concerned. But genuine motives can't be an excuse forever.

Bill Johnson sets an awesome example of what it is to be a real pastor - a real spiritual father. Let's learn and follow!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dr Lloyd-Jones on Imputed Righteousness

I've been reading this wonderful last volume in Dr Lloyd-Jones series in Romans - that I got for my birthday - and was amazed to read his commentary on Romans 14:7; "The Kingdom of God ... is righteousness, peace and joy". His comments on "righteousness" are right at the end of the volume and they are so similar to Rob Rufus's wonderful teaching on righteousness that one might almost think that they are the same people.

I don't know why but I always feel like Christianity sees Rob Rufus as a bit of an "extrem-ist". That his teaching on New Covenant grace is "dangerous" and nigh-on antinomian. I am sure that Rob himself receives far more vicious attacks than I can even dream of from Christians. But what shouldn't really shock me is that Rob is so careful to unpack his teaching from the New Testament and yet why are those of us who he has persuaded on grace feeling like we have to defend ourselves?

Listen to this selection of quotes from Dr Lloyd-Jones:

"Christians are people who have been declared righteous by God, who know that justification is by faith only, and that God 'justifieth the ungodly' (Romans 4:5). They believe all Paul's arguments in the first five chapters of Romans. This is how Christians think of righteousness; not little details here and there but this whole matter of their standing before God and the declaration of God that He "accounts" them as righteous".

Twice Dr Lloyd-Jones mentions the "declaration" of God. We - formerly sinners - have been "declared" righteous! So why are Christians so generally unaware of this "declaration"? If we had to go through the gruelling experience of being in court but yet hearing the exhilaration of the judge declaring - "Not guilty!". Surely we would remember that moment for the rest of our lives? Yet here God the Just - the ruler of heaven and earth - has declared the same - "Not guilty!". So WHY does most of Christianity act as if we are?

Dr Lloyd-Jones goes on to add that it is not just a "declaration" but that we are "clothed".

"Not only that, Christians believe that they have been clothed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that God has put this "robe of righteousness upon them" (Isaiah 61:10). They know they have been born again, 'born of the Spirit'. They now belong to the realm of righteousness, whereas before they did not".

So when God looks at us - He sees us as clothed in Jesus Christ's righteousness and there is none more perfect or acceptable than the Son of God! Now most Christians would say they do not have a problem with the justification issue. Most will accept and admit that we are justified by faith and when we accept Christ as our Saviour, we are indeed clothed in His righteousness. It seems to me that the problem comes when we talk about sanctification.

That's when the law seems to creep in along with discussions about spiritual disciplines, attempts to be "more righteous", the whole issue of indwelling sin and the "old man". Dr Lloyd-Jones makes an excellent point on this matter:

"Here is a man who has a conception of righteousness; he wants to be rid of everything that is wrong; he wants to be wholly right, he is interested in holiness".

That is Rob Rufus's key point when it comes to sanctification and it seems to me that's where the issue of divide comes. Many Christians who criticise Rob Rufus and the danger of "a license to sin" seem to be of the opinion that Christians by and large want to sin. Or more often - "My old man wants to sin". But Dr Lloyd-Jones insists that a man who has a conception of righteousness "wants" to be rid of everything that is wrong! He "wants" to be wholly right!

I have to say for myself - I am by far from being perfect. I sin and fall and make mistakes pretty regularly. I've been a first-class legalist and tried all manner of things to "stop sinning" - even to the extent of cutting myself (rather like the priests of Baal), going to self-help Christian groups and talking about how hard it is. But nothing has worked! Yet despite all that - I have always, ALWAYS had the deep agony that I want to be rid of everything that is wrong. I WANT to be right! So this quote of Dr Lloyd-Jones is a huge encouragement to me. I am clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ because I want to be rid of sin!

I find Lloyd-Jones final comment quite interesting and am not quite sure what to make of it:

"Do you see the point? The righteous are unconcious of their righteousness. That is the glory of their whole position. I trust I am making this clear to you. Christians are righteous in themselves because they have been brought into the kingdom of God and the realm of righteousness".

I'm thinking aloud here. If we went and spoke to non-Christians and asked; "Are you aware that you are unrighteous?" - I wonder what they would say. Unrighteousness of course is a Christian term. But if we explained the concept as clearly as Christians seek to understand righteousness - would they really be "concious" of the daily experience of being unrighteous and far from God? I doubt it. So does it make sense that we too as Christians are unaware of our righteousness? Thinking of the Old Covenant foresights - the blood on the outside of the house in the land of Egypt - was on the OUTSIDE. I am sure the Israelites wondered if the blood would suffice as the angel of death passed over. But the blood was on the outside - just as the righteousness we are clothed in, is on the OUTSIDE.

I hope that these quotes bring a degree of amazing authenticity to what Rob Rufus is saying and preaching. He isn't just some radical who is trying to bring license to sin. Rob is a serious man with a serious heart for the Church world-wide. And his vision is that if we would understand our true standing clothed in the righteousness of God then we would see it as a dramatic step. Rob said this in a recent sermon:

"The devil is not attacking us for the grace message - he's attacking us for where the grace message will take us. He understands that the revelation of grace is the access into the 10/10 glory. Out of the control spirit. Out of guilt. Out of condemnation, fear, rejection and into a constant sense of God is for us, no matter what".

Let's make every effort to be Berean-like and not dismiss teaching just because it disagrees with our experience of the past. Our one unifying heart - across the world - is that we become more like God. Surely our interest must be the best and most biblical way to do that! And while I know that Dr Lloyd-Jones and Rob Rufus may disagree on many issues - I am so thrilled that here on this most important of issues, they stand as one!

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Greatest Motivation for Sanctification - A Smack? Or a Tear?

Following on from yesterdays post - I was driving back up to Birmingham (about an hour and a half drive for those friends who don't live in the UK!) from my parents and was thinking quite a lot about this question: "Fallen from grace" and particularly Todd Bentley as he was mentioned in this Christmas newsletter as apparantly "falling from grace". I have no doubt that some will accuse me of suggesting that what Todd has done is acceptable. I never said that - and have no intention of ever suggesting that sin is still sin.

What I am interested in is not discussing the men and women who have fallen morally and how "dreadful" it is. My sins of pride, arrogance, hate, legalism, lying and so on are just as grieving to God as Todd Bentley's sin. What I AM interested in is this: what is the most EFFECTIVE way of following the verse in Galatians and "restoring such a one gently"?

The question was in part answered as I had the wonderful Stoneleigh album: "Covenant of Grace" - live worship from Stoneleigh Bible Week 1999 - blasting out as I drove up in the dark! There's a wonderful song on it that the fantastically talented Kate Simmonds was leading the gathered thousands in called: "Jesus loves the Church (Can you hear Him singing?)" and the one line that answered my question went like this:

"Not rejected, not forgotten, not abandoned in sin! Can you hear Him singing? I love you - I love you - Can you hear Him calling? I want you - I have chosen you to be Mine".

It reminded me of my experience growing up as a child with my earthly father. My parents believed in and were taught by Stanley Jebb at our church that corporal discipline was a godly practice to do. We were spanked as children - quite vigorously. Speaking as a child who was spanked I can't say that I disagree with it. It taught me respect for authority. Where I do perhaps differ from my parents and the church is that they delegated the authority to spank a child to the teachers in the Christian school I went to - and so I also experienced that from the teachers. That I DO disagree with. I had a profoundly negative relationship especially with the deputy headmaster and I believe it was linked to the fact that I felt he was doing things that only my parents should such as corporal discipline. But that's an aside.

But despite being spanked numerous times by my father (yes - I was a wild child!) and by the school, the one experience that sticks in my mind was when I had a disagreement with my father about something and I actually saw him cry and state his love for me. It is that experience that spoke to me far more strongly than the amount of times I was spanked. Because I realised through those tears how much my father did love me.

Christians who use the term "fallen from grace" - I am certain - would see Christians who have fallen morally as in need of severe discipline. I know that the person who wrote the Christmas letter mentioning Todd Bentley is of the view that once Christian leaders have fallen morally just once - they are "disqualified" for ministry ever again. It's a very similar view to my experience of church discipline. Rather than ever hearing talk of "restoring such a one gently" - I heard the term "disfellowshipped" being used regularly.

My point is this: I think that it is an experience of hearing the Father singing: "I love you - I love you - I have chosen you to be Mine - you are NOT abandoned in sin" will work far more powerfully than the discipline and the disfellowshipping and the disqualification that Christians seek to apply to their fellow brothers and sisters.

Or as Sheila commented so rightly in my last post - surely this is "falling into grace" when you sin morally. I may not be able to testify much in my experience to "falling into grace" because my background has been far more characterised by legalism. But I CAN speak about how it feels to be struggling with sinful practices and have the Church apply the sanctions that they do. And I can tell you honestly - it doesn't work. I've been spanked as a child and yes it hurts. But sin is far more fun. I've been told off and spanked by teachers and church elders and it hurts - but it just made me bitter and angry and resentful.

But seeing my earthly father cry and tell me he loved me? That broke my heart. And I imagine if I could get a sense of my heavenly Father singing that He loves me and has chosen me and has not abandoned me in sin - then that would even more powerfully surely even break the hardest of hearts! Look at the Cross - that historical moment in time when the Son of God was hung up. The wrath of God was poured out upon HIM! And was there any anger in His eyes? Was there any vengance in Him against us for causing Him to have to suffer the agonies of Calvary? No. Rather He cried:

"Father - forgive them for they know not what they do".

As one of my favourite songs says; "God the just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon ME!". So why would He change His mind? And why if He is satisfied to look on His Son and pardon us - who does the Church think they are by passing judgements on who and who has not "fallen from grace"? I remember hearing somewhere (I can't remember where) the saying:

"Be careful how you speak to My Bride".

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Deception and Discernment or Misery and Morality?

I came home today to visit my family for a belated birthday celebration and had an absolutely lovely time with them. I was thrilled to receive two Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones books that I can't wait to get reading. His final book in his Romans series: "Life in Two Kingdoms" and also his fifth volume in his series on the Book of Acts entitled: "Authentic Christianity - Acts 7". My family know me so well!

However while I've been socialising with my parents we have had some very interesting chats mainly centered around the gospel of grace and legalism. One such conversation was provoked by a Christmas newsletter I was rather distressed to find, pick up and read from someone. The individual wrote:

"The recent debacle of the so-called "Lakeland Revival" under Todd Bentley and his subsequent fall from grace should have jolted some Christians into thinking seriously".

The writer then went on to recommend two books - one of which was edited by C J Mahaney entitled; "Worldliness: Resisting the Seduction of a Fallen World". So the question that I put and we discussed at some length was this phrase: "Fallen from grace". What does it mean? Christianity traditionally uses it against Christians who have sinned morally in some way. But as Rob Rufus among others shows quite clearly - to use the phrase in such a way is totally unbiblical and misleading.

"Fallen from grace" is found when Paul writes his letter to Galatians in Galatians 5:4 and he writes:

"You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace".

Paul is writing - as is well known - to the Galatian church who began in the true gospel of grace and ended up in a gospel of works. He did not have any commendation for them and was extremely angry. So the apostle Paul does not apply the term; "Fallen from grace" to Christians (such as the Corinthians as one might think) who have fallen morally. Rather he sees legalistic Christians who are seeking to be justified by law - THEY are the ones who have fallen from grace.

In writing to the Corinthian church (who had fallen morally as is well known) Paul at the start of both letters (1 Corinthians 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 1:2) actually uses the phrase: "Grace ... to you"! A well-known old hymn speaks of the wonder of what happened at the Cross of Christ to our sin:

"My sin, 0 the bliss of this glorious thought - My sin, not in part but in whole - Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more - Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, 0 my soul!"

So has Todd Bentley "fallen from grace"? By no means - rather I hope and pray that at this moment he has found that underneath are the "everlasting arms of grace" and that his beloved Father will not let him rest until he is back in God's will for his already remarkable life. May Todd Bentley know this Christmas that "grace and peace" is coming to him and the question from heaven is: "Don't you know that you are light?".

The question is rather - are such legalists aware that by attempting to gain approval with God through the keeping of the law that THEY are the ones who have fallen from grace? May they too re-find the wonder of their first love when they realised that it: "Is BY GRACE you are saved - THROUGH FAITH and that NOT OF YOURSELVES - it is the GIFT of God".

I can't resist ending this post without quoting from my new Dr Lloyd-Jones book: "Authentic Christianity - Acts 7". A lot of the discussion that I've so enjoyed and benefited from was about how we work through sanctification now we are justified. We discussed the pros and cons of "accountability groups". We talked about the Puritan view of "Mortifying sin" and generally the whole question - how do we grow more like Jesus Christ? Should I be going out and buying these books on "Worldliness" that teach me about modesty and what clothes I should wear? About music and what singles I should listen to and buy? Dr Lloyd-Jones presents a powerful and refreshing alternative:

"What does Christianity offer? Is it an exhortation to you to live a better life? Is it the business of preaching to tell you; "Stop drinking. Stop committing adultery. Don't do this and that. Try to pull yourself together. Read good books. Get a little moral uplift. Gradually make yourself a better person"? A thousand times - no! That is no message: we cannot do it!".

The thing I love about Dr Lloyd-Jones - like any expert clinician - is that he does not tell you what not to do and leave you floundering. He presents the correct view.

"What is it then? Well, as you saw, our Lord puts it so plainly to Nicodemus: "You must be born again". That is the message and it is about a miracle. We cannot be improved. We need the miracle of a rebirth, a regeneration, a new nature, a new creation. The God who created us all at the beginning is going to create us anew, make new people of us and here is the hope and the only hope.

The gospel is not the proclamation of a moral reformation".

Or as Rob Rufus puts it - "The Gospel is not about right living but right believing".

"But of regeneration and life in the Spirit. It offers us a new start, a new beginning; it offers us a new power, which is the 'power of God unto salvation'. It offers us power to live the remainder of our lives in this world and at the end it promises us a like conquest over death, a glorious resurrection and an eternity in the Presence of God. It is not ... a moral, ethical scheme; it is not a political scheme; it is nothing less than the re-creating work of the almighty God. It is a miracle. It is supernatural. It is divine action from beginning to end.

THIS is the message of the Christian gospel of salvation!".

Let's never forget that. We all aim I am sure - legalists and non alike - to become more like Jesus Christ. But the fact is that the Bible is very clear in how that can most effectually be accomplished. So people of the Word (if that's what we claim to be) let's be truthful to the Word of God and realise that there is nothing more abhorent to God Himself that attempting to gain a standing with Him by our own works of the flesh.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Huge Encouragements for those Who Aren't Academics!

Rob Rufus said in his latest sermon: "Sonship" versus "Christianity":

"It is His pleasure to hide the revelation of the Father's love to the wise and learned, the arrogant and self-righteous - those keeping the law. But it is his joy and His pleasure to reveal the love of the Father to those who come down in humility and believe that He has not called you to be a Christian but a son who the Father loves!
What is the revelation of the Father's love?. Rest. Why? "Come to Me all you that are laiden and heavy-burdened and I will give you rest ... My yoke is easy and My burden is light! Christians talk about "God's given me a burden". Now if you mean by that that God has given you a calling and is showing you what He wants you to do along with Him then fine. But if your idea of a burden is moaning and groaning then that is not rest and that is not a yoke that is easy or a burden that is light".

Just awesome! I've been drinking in this sermon this week so far as well as scribbling frantically and have heard some incredible insights that the Holy Spirit has shown will potentially mend what doctors, psychologists and medicine cannot in my life! The whole revelation of sonship is one that I am only now struggling to learn as I missed it in my formative years growing up in church life. Regretfully I grew up as a Christian not as a son. But I am sensing this week that the Holy Spirit is saying that NOW are my formative years and the best IS yet to come!

I will be sharing more on that very very soon!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ern Baxter with William Branham

Just couldn't resist a final quick post and a link to a site I discovered set up I think by supporters of the late William Branham. It's called: "Believe the Sign" and there is a seperate page devoted to Ern Baxter and his involvement with William Branham. They very kindly link to the website that is hopefully being still developed with Pete Day - "Ern Baxter dot com" and make reference to an interview with Ern that I published about Branham.

The photo that they published was also of great interest to me - it is Ern Baxter standing deep in thought in front of a ministry car for William Branham. The website very honestly makes note of the fact that in his later years Ern Baxter seperated himself from Branham's doctrines yet never, ever (a point I had to argue and battle with some of the elders at my home church in Dunstable who were trying to claim that Ern Baxter didn't support Branham) argued with the verifiable and authentic miracles that he witnessed while travelling with Branham.

Here's a video that I published some time ago - of an interview with Ern where he was discussing William Branham:

Why do I make mention of this? I mentioned yesterday that Rob Rufus provokes me by his relationship and continual encounters with the manifest Presence of God and the resulting signs and wonders that follow the message of grace that marks his ministry. I have found a video on You-Tube of testimonies from Kings Church in Eastbourne following Rob's visit that we were able to be at (Pete, Scott and myself along with Nick and Malcolm):

The difference to me - the unfolding revelation that is clear to me marking us out as different from the days of William Branham and the other healers of the 1950's is that in those days people flocked to those men and women seeking a miracle from them. And God blessed them graciously! But what I feel passionately now is that Rob Rufus among many others have opened up the truths of the Scripture to us to show that we ALL are responsible for seeing signs, wonders and miracles following OUR ministry and OUR witness.

The question is - will we accept that we are the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ and as such are equipped by God the Holy Spirit to go out and make His Name famous among the nations!?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Get Thee Up into the High Mountain!!

Well once again God shows His wonderful grace through some awesome friends I've got. I'm being taken away tomorrow for a week's surprise holiday for my birthday! (It's on the 8th December). It was felt that I would benefit from some winter sun. I can tell I'm a workaholic when I don't want to go away because I will miss the chance to work! But I am going because I think it will be a good break - and hopefully a chance to re-boot, rest and make some major decision choices.

But most importantly of all - I pray again its a chance to just do "nothing" and encounter God in powerful ways. I love this clip where Rob was speaking to the Mobilise thousands last Brighton conference when we were there and he urges that getting away with God is so important.

I love the way that Rob's example is so grace-filled. My life has been full of great men and women of God who have testified to an awesome relationship with Him. But somehow I have always felt condemned and guilty because I couldn't quite match up to their walk with God. Yet Rob Rufus is a different story and I am not quite sure how he does it. He testifies to encounters with God that I can only dream of - yet this motivates me rather than condemns me! I think because his teaching is so undergirded with New Covenant grace - no one can be left with the impression that it's thanks to great scholar-ship or great study or great prayer and fasting but GRACE!!

So I've got great hopes for this week - I hope to return refreshed and full of revelation and new vision for the end of this difficult year and a new year full of hope and promise! Loadsa love to everyone - hope you have a great week. I will try and get to an internet cafe if I can but if not - see you when I get back!