Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sam Storms on Resisting Temptations

I was just sorting through my bookshelves and found some prayer journals when I used to rather legalistically read the Bible and pray and fast in an attempt to gain some blessing from God. It was sobering to read the endless cycle of despair, hope, despair and hope. It made me realise how much grace has freed me from burdens! But I found this excellent quote of Sam Storms on Friday 2nd March 2001;

"The decision to say "No" to sin must itself be energised by the assurance of delight in an alternative "Yes" - the only way to fight the seductive power of one pleasure is with a greater pleasure - a more pleasing pleasure, the pleasure that comes from falling in love with Jesus!".

I think it was from his marvellous book; "Pleasures Evermore: Life-Changing Power of Enjoying God". Surely again here is the great connection with the Song of Solomon and the amazing truths it has to teach us about the passionate love of the Father for us. How can we ever even hope to find that superior pleasure that will triumph over sin if we will not receive His love?

Resurrection of "Spirit of God" blog!!

I had a chat with Pete Day yesterday and we've agreed that it's time to get this too-neglected blog up and running again. I've given it a face-lift as well which I hope is helpful. The reason is that I've begun having an increased amount of very interested and maybe significant dreams. Now instantly the mention of "dreams" I am sure flags up orthodoxy alerts in some reformed Christians! But we cannot escape the fact that not only did the prophet Joel predict the coming of dreams in New Covenant life but Peter also spoke of it after the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost;

Acts 2:17; "And it shall be in the last days' God says, 'That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; ... your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams".

The Bible is full of dreams! So why are we ignoring them? I was fascinated to find a book on exorcism recently brought out by the Roman Catholic church. It seems that they have recently set up a college for priests because they are recognising that the need to deal with the demonic. Where are evangelical Christians and what are we doing to respond to this need? But in terms of dreams it is not acceptable to ignore any dreams God may give simply because some dreams may be thanks to an over-indulgence of cheese!

Chuck Pierce defines dreams as;

"A dream is a release of revelation (whether natural or spiritual) that comes at a time when your body is at peace and you are settled".

So my hope in resurrecting the "Spirit of God!" blog is to document dreams and visions that I get. I would love anyone who also has dreams to write in and I will try and post them. It would be great to see this neglected area of God's gifts restored and see how He is speaking to us - His Church. Keep your eyes peeled on the blog - hopefully more dreams to come!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Truth and Transparency!!

Charismatics are sometimes rather infamous for excitedly exaggerating the truth about miracles, signs and wonders. We are also rather infamous for prophesying and then forgetting to say when they don't come true. I don't think it's out of a malicious desire to lie. I think it is more because we are so desperate for God's manifest Presence to break through that we sometimes see things when they do not exist or maybe are not quite as obvious as we first thought. Maybe it does destroy the credibility of charismatics especially in the eyes of those "open but cautious" and it certainly gives fuel to the hyper-anti charismatics such as John MacArthur, Peter Masters and co.

I wanted to write a post to correct something I said. And it's rather painful. But I hope that by correcting it, I can show that we don't all pretend to forget. But I hope also it makes a statement that my belief and faith in the goodness of God hasn't changed. I STILL believe!

I wrote a post last month called "My Miracle!" - I got a surprise amount of money that I rejoiced over and I really thought it was a tax rebate. Or a gift from heaven! Unfortunately I recieved a letter this week stating that it was in fact an overpayment in error from the Children's Hospital and I will indeed have to re-pay it. On top of the overpayment from my previous job in Bristol. It seems quite a few finance departments are making costly mistakes at the moment! I know I gave a lot of that money away because I wanted to bless others with what I thought was God's gifts and I don't regret that a bit. I just see it as a loan that I'll have to repay but boy am I glad people got blessed from a finance department error!

It's been a pretty awful week for me to be honest. The saga at Acorns is dragging on and looks set to drag on for the next 6 to 12 months. I had an extremely unpleasant confrontation with a client in my current job that lead to me not being able to go back to work there. I went to see my G.P yesterday in a bit of a mess and he did my blood pressure - 160/110 - oops! Rob Rufus's sermon on "Stress-Free Living" couldn't have come at a better time!

But I was watching the video I posted on the blog post; "My Miracle!". It still stands. He is still the King! He is still worthy of all my worship and adoration! He is still for me 100% and He doesn't judge me! Despite all the accusations and gossip circulating about me at the moment, there is just ONE opinion that matters. His. And His opinion is this;

"You are righteous - today, now and forever - because I am more than satisfied with the sacrifice of My Son. You are accepted and beloved on high".

So here's the video again! It's hard to worship when my heart's breaking - but the message of grace makes it so possible and I STILL believe in the blessing of Abraham! You lose devil! I am not going to get bitter! My God is awesome, abundant, lavish, loving and just awesome and worthy of eternity's praises!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Interview with Terry Virgo on the Church

I have a great love for interviews with Ephesians 4 Ministries. It's a great chance to hear them speak more spontaneously and from the heart rather than the more prepared preached word. I was fascinated therefore to see that UCCF got the chance to interview Terry Virgo at New Word Alive last month and found the 45 minute interview fascinating and stimulating. Terry's passion for the Church came at a much-needed time for me. So I thought I'd type it up for those who don't have the time to listen. It was so good to hear Terry speak passionately about his vision and passion of a victorious and glorious end-day church!

Mike Reeves: Hi and welcome to another "Tabletalk". I am Mike Reeves - UCCF's theological advisor and we have got a special treat which is that wonderfully (perhaps foolishly) Terry Virgo has agreed to come and sit back round the table again. Terry thanks so much for coming back after having endured one session.

Terry: Thanks Mike. I enjoyed it so much - I am looking forward to it.

Mike Reeves: Thank you Terry. We are going to be thinking about the subject of the Church now - which is a subject I would have thought quite a few people would be thinking "Oh". We looked at grace last time and that was exciting. But Church? That's not so exciting. Well I have got a promise for the listeners. Terry is going to change that! Terry may be feeling nervous as I say that - but I am going to promise that confidently on his behalf. We want to share your passion, Terry for the Church.

Now Terry, a little bird has told me - an anonymous little bird has told me - that if we were to cut you open you would bleed local church. Now is that true? What is going on there?

Terry: Yes I think local church is very big for me - I think that is biblical. I think it is interesting to note that from the beginning in Acts 2 when the first church sermon is preached or the first gospel proclamation by the church - that the word that is used in connection with the conversion of the 3,000 is; "3,000 were 'added' that day". It is an interesting word and we tend to emphasise the individual these days and sometimes when we do evangelism we can even say to someone; "Well you have joined Christ and added to the number of those saved and it would be good for you to try and find a church now".

This time they were "added" to the community - that is how they expressed conversion. So to become part of a community where Jesus is manifestly present is a wonderful part of becoming a Christian. You get added to where He is - where He is among the people. The community of God is a wonderful thing.

Mike Reeves: So how about if we flip that on it's head - what if someone comes to know the Lord but they think that can be done individualistically. It's me and Jesus but they never really "got" the local church. It has never been a part of their Christianity. What is going to be the effect there?

Terry: I think they will lose out terribly. I think they are avoiding what is God's means and method of maturation. I don't think you can become a mature Christian without being part of a local church. I think for myself I was converted out of a non-Christian background and mixed with people who didn't think about God and time together was mostly sinning in one way or another. I became a Christian and just carried on with that. So for 5 years I was a bit of a hypocrite because I went to church on a Sunday but my community of life was still the same group of guys. So I didn't come out from that community. I needed to! When I really had that crisis in church when one day the preacher really captivated me and I felt God spoke to me deeply and I realised that I must come out from the lifestyle I was living.

In those days to be honest church was not a lot of fun. It was very formal and we didn't speak to each other "in the sanctuary" (as it said on the wall!). So to become part of a community was quite difficult because prior to my conversion I would say that my group of friends were actually something of a loving community. We would talk and share about all sorts of things and we were a very good group of friends. So for me the Church had to become a community of friends! Initially I just threw myself into whatever programme was there. I thought; "No I must get into church". My parents were not Christians so I had no model at all and I think we are going to see more and more in this generation people getting saved who are on their own. That for me meant to stop sinning and live the godly life I needed the community of believers.

I needed also to catch the heart of people who knew Jesus far better than I did and to draw on the resources of all generations. So when I actually became part of the church it was great to have older fathers and mothers and uncles and auntys who loved Jesus - as well as contemporaries who could fire the passion in my heart. So I think it is really vital for us to come right into the friendships which the church provides. I think it is really the way you come to know God. It is interesting there are over 40 "one-another" verses in the New Testament. "Love one another, pray for one another, confess your faults to one another". It is saying that the way you grow is with one another - and without those factors and without pressing into close enough friendships so that someone can love you, pray for you, admonish you - you have to be close to people and need to spend time with people for that kind of friendship to happen.

I thank God for church life and friendships now in the body of Christ where that can happen. I really do lean on other people's love, correction, encouragement. It is a wonderful part of being a believer.

Mike Reeves: As you say that, it strikes me that not only is that a wonderful thing but how desperately important that is. Because there are for many people who are just becoming a Christian - they are finding they are already part of a community of friendship. Whatever it is - the sports club, whatever. Which can be quite a tight collection of friends. The problem is that the local church isn't and doesn't offer a serious alternative which is a desperate situation. When that is the case how do we remedy that?

Terry: For me I went to a really good Baptist church where the pastor was a really godly man and preached the Bible brilliantly. He was a man of prayer. I went to the church prayer meeting and learnt a lot about prayer from him. Much I learnt from him. The church was a 600 member and very few people knew one another! It was quite formal in those days! And as I mentioned earlier, the sign on the wall was; "Don't speak in the sanctuary". So you were silent! It was very hard to get to know someone like that. So when we started the church that I became a pastor of - my first church - quite early on back in the 1970's - we started small house fellowships which was hugely important for getting people to know one another in their homes outside of the Sunday meetings.

We had our Sunday meetings with preaching etc but you need fellowship where you can be yourself around the Scripture. So small groups were hugely important. I found many years ago I stumbled on a book that John Stott wrote called; "One People". He talks about small groups and he must have been very early on in the forming of small groups at All Souls. That book must have come out in the 1960's so it must have been one of the earliest on the value of small groups even a big church.

Mike Reeves: Especially in a big church where you could be anonymous and not known.

Terry: Yes well said - I think that is very important. You just need that intimacy and somewhere where you can be yourself. When we are talking about fellowship we are not talking about purposeless being together and whatever happens - there has got to be purpose. It has got to be centred around Scripture and centred in purpose and honesty and integrity. I was in this Baptist church and met a zealous young evangelist who lived in Brighton and he said; "I am going to start a house fellowship" and he said would I like to come and he said let's read the book of Acts and obey every command and believe every promise.

I had never been to a small group before and in my naivety I said "Yes that would be good" - not realising what I was saying! And in small group fellowship with an open Bible you can say; "What does that mean to you and what do you think?" and we share our different views about what a verse might mean and think we have done a Bible study! When all we have really done is throw in some ideas. Instead of really letting the Bible really speak to us and having some weight in our lives. As a result of being in that group within a short time I was doing personal evangelism and went with my friend going house to house.

Mike Reeves: So it didn't make you more introvert and more of a Christian clone but made you more efficient as an evangelist?

Terry: I think it was because the guy leading the group had the intention of doing it. His goal was to make disciples! He wrote a little booklet called; "Making Apprentices" and he very much apprenticed us through an open Bible, friendship, lots of laughter and we prayed a lot. And it affected my life.

Mike Reeves: So how is real Christian fellowship deeper and better than just Christians hanging out together and just friendship?

Terry: I heard Don Carson at New Word Alive here and he was doing his studies on John and he picked up this word "fellowship" and said how we can debase it into having a cup of tea after the meeting! But he said the word really means "partnership". It is not really a religious word - it is to do with a relationship that you are in with purpose, with responsibility - they were partners! When the other's nets broke - they were in this together.

Mike Reeves: And that is at the heart of the Gospel really - relationship! That is what God has called us to.

Terry: Yes. A real carrying and partnership together. So when Paul writes and says; "Our partnership is with you" he was elevating the value of that word "partnership". I found it helpful. So Jesus saves us one by one but sends us two by two - and very quickly we are put into a relationship that strengthens us and helps us.

Mike Reeves: It sounds like from what you are saying that the idea of church as family is really driving practically how you work out what it means to be church. Is that right?

Terry: I would actually take it back to Trinity - which is community on a mission. And as Christopher Wright's book ...

Mike Reeves: Oh I love that description! Say that again!

Terry: It is family on a mission - community on a mission. It is God's mission! And when the Father sent the Son, the Son came in beautiful obedience to the Father and showed us how sons should live with the Father. He came a planet and we were all children of disobedience and Jesus showed us how to live as sons with the Father. That beautiful passage in Galatians tells us we are no longer under the Law because Jesus redeemed us from the Law that we might be sons - and being sons we have the Spirit in our hearts and we cry "Abba Father!" and live as sons! Jesus modelled sonship and extended the family - if I can put it in those terms.

Our invitation is to come into a circle of love that defies analysis - it is breath-taking! The Father to the Son - the Son to the Father. "As the Father has loved Me so I love you" - come into this relational circle, this loving context where you can enjoy the love of God!

Later when Paul sends Timothy to the Corinthians he doesn't say "I am sending you my latest article" - he says I am sending my "beloved son" and he actually says "My faithful and beloved son" - just as God did. So the family of God is extended.

So to come into the family of God is a breath-taking experience and it is not just a doctrine. It is an experience! We have dear brothers!

It is my joy to travel and I have just come back from South Africa where I have dear brothers and sisters and some are black and some white and they love Jesus and we are one family and celebrate that reality!

There is neither Jew nor Greek, black nor white, slave nor free - the family of God breaks through those barriers and draws people into a relationship that is awesome and breathtaking!

Mike Reeves: What I love about how you describe that is you are very clear that it is not just "Terry Virgo quite likes the idea of family so that controls his understanding of church but someone else might like another model". No - no relationship is built into the very foundation because God is relational! God is these three Persons in loving relationship! Family on a mission. I think that is wonderful and so including all different sorts.

Terry: I think the atmosphere of the New Testament is intensely personal. So Paul writes very tenderly to Timothy, Titus - and he writes commending Timothy. Even his great Roman epistle he greets many people by name personally. The whole atmosphere is intensely personal and sometimes with authority. "I am coming to you and you have many teachers but not many fathers". This is tender but not soft in the wrong sense. He is tender and loving and sometimes admonishing - but it is family. It never institutional. I am sorry but it is not democratic, it is not autocratic - it really is family!

Mike Reeves: Within the Trinity it is not democratic either! There is an equality in relationship. The Father loving the Son and that is replicated in the Son loving the Church. The Son is the Lover - it is not an equal relationship between Christ and the Church - He is the Lover! And that is a good thing to rejoice in!

Terry: It is wonderful. I have been studying the Trinity recently with Bruce Ware's book; "The Father, Son and Holy Spirit" and some other literature and I have been stirred by the eternal nature of that submissive role that the Son has towards the Father and that it wasn't only for the purpose of incarnation or redemption but in eternity past the Father sent the Son and the Son was already in submission to the Father. Equal in value but different in role and Person - and that is an eternal perspective!

Sometimes we are shaped by democratic principles and demanding equality in a way that if we force it back into Trinity then we miss the biblical teaching of Trinity whereas if we honour the Biblical teaching of Trinity then we will see that the Father has ultimate authority, the Son delights in submission! It is not irksome! "To always do what pleases Him". "I have meat to eat that you don't know anything about - My meat is to do the will". He gets nourishment from doing that work and although He trembled in the Garden; "Can this cup pass from Me - nevertheless what You want Me to do". So there is an absolute delight in doing the Father's will even on the Cross and on the Cross I believe His shout was; "It is accomplished!". Not just it is finished - I have done the work of the Father that I was sent to do. That is His joy!

And that is modelling sonship for us when we become Christians! So church should never be just "doing your duty" and keeping the rules but a company of people who delight in God and know that God delights in them. And that is where we perhaps overlap with the grace we talked about - knowing His grace sets me free to be a son and when we are sons and daughters of God then we can relate as such as dear friends. I struggle perhaps hearing the language that comes out of the USA; "We hired him - and then we fired him". Speaking of pastors and I think; "That is so far removed".

Mike Reeves: It is very legal language.

Terry: Yes. I love the title of John Piper's book; "Brothers, we are not professionals!". It is a classic title! And of course you are not in a family as professionals. Even on the Cross you will find Jesus saying to John; "Behold your mother". Just that caring family atmosphere. I love it in Philippians where Paul says; "My beloved, my brothers, my longed-for, my joy and my crown". That is the relational atmosphere in the Church. Not strangers - or clergymen. It is brothers and beloved!

Mike Reeves: I would love to push in a bit more Terry into the fact that we rejoice that the Church is not democratic. I remember I once tried to look at the Father's love for the Son and the Son's love for the Father and it was so un-equal.

Again and again the Father says He loves the Son and I think I can only find two instances of the Son saying He loves the Father.

Very, very limited but which is wonderful when that inequality is at work and the Son is the beloved One - it gets mapped out to Christ's relationship with the Church.

I see in such a liberating way that my love for Jesus is nowhere near as important as His love for me! What is really important is that He loves me and of course I love Him dearly - but what is really important is that He loves me.

I would love to trace that into what that looks like in the Church. What does it mean for you to be a father in Christ's family? What does being a good church leader in Christ's family mean?

Terry: I think to follow the way that God is leading our conversation is to emphasise so much that we are the beloved of God and that is hugely important for me as a pastor/teacher and also having the privilidge of overseeing and encouraging a number of leaders - I will always say to them at questions and answers when asked; "What is your most important verse if you could say?" and I will always say it is hugely important to; "Keep yourselves in the love of God".

I think yesterday I was walking on the campsite and this time of the year it is cold in the shade but pleasantly warm in the sun. I said to my wife Wendy; "Let's walk in the sun" and we joke because that is the way I think about this. "Just keep yourself in the love of God". It is not like how do I climb Everest. No the love of God is there for us! We need to keep ourselves there! You can walk in the shade and get colder and colder but just across the road you have the sun. To be in the sunshine of God's love and conciously drink it in and receive it and know as a preacher I don't earn points with God for doing well - my reason for living is not my ministry. I don't need to be needed.

If a leader needs leadership to justify his existance then he is a dangerous man and the church suffers.

So for us all there is nothing greater than being able to say with John that; "Even now we are the sons of God". There is nothing more important. So to be a church leader is a wonderful privilidge but primarily to be a son of God is breathtaking and eternity changing and wonderfully fulfilling! So every aspect of service is secondary to delighting in God. If we can bring churches together to that delight and express it in corporate expressions of worship and love to God - then Paul says in 1 Timothy 1 that the goal of our instruction is love. He could have said; "Timothy the goal of our instruction is orthodoxy" or "the goal of our instruction is radicalism" or all sorts of goals people have! I have observed that - to some people orthodoxy is everything!

Mike Reeves: Which is not a relational thing.

Terry: No! And none of those things are unimportant. Orthodoxy is hugely important and to be radical is hugely important! Other things like money and growth become the absolute goal but Paul says my goal is to build a community of love and I am doing that by instruction. So his instruction has a goal - not just preaching - but I have a goal and my goal is a method of approaching - teaching and instructing looking to produce a community of love. And then that lovely list; from a good heart, a pure conscience, sincere faith - and if we can help pastors produce a community like that - to love God and one another - love the sinner - love the enemies then we have a community.

Mike Reeves: That is so helpful Terry what you were saying. Thank you so much. It leads me into a question I have been longing to ask you - which is; what is preaching?

Terry: I think preaching is a huge privilidge and;

Preaching is the declaration of God's purpose to God's people in the main.

We can talk about evangelistic preaching but in terms of the context in which we are speaking to the people of God. The preacher with an open Bible in his hand has responsibility to genuinely submit himself to what it says. It is not our goal to have a pet idea and find a verse that will fit it. We really want to submit ourselves to Scripture and I feel one of the best forms of preaching if you are a local pastor is probably to do a series and work through maybe a passage of Scripture so we are seeing what the Bible says, what light is it shedding on subjects and if you work through an Epistle you will cover all sorts of ground and if you go through the Epistle you will find yourself handling stuff that you didn't want to handle and you must work hard to find out what it means.

It has also got to be motivational, interesting and lively and relevant to today's culture so people can make sense of it and not just get to know Philippians better - but really are hearing God speak to us through the Scripture. So for me it is teaching what God says is true, making sure we are being faithful to the Scripture, making it relevant and bringing application to people. I try to reach the heart and preach something that will bring change - inspirational change - lifting people's hopes. Sometimes yes - correctional change but we are expounding God's wonderful truth to bring about change in people's lives and sometimes that is to set forth Christ or to set forth the Trinity or objective doctrine that helps inform them. But whatever it is should be applied to their lives.

Mike Reeves: And a heart change in them. So what sort of things are going through your mind as you are getting yourself ready to preach - what sort of things are driving you as you stand up to preach?

Terry: Well I think again so much depends on the context so to answer broadly - if I was going to be in a local church (I am on the road so much these days) but if I were in a local church I would be very prayerful about what is the next series that you want me to do Lord? I am looking to see if God says "You must feed the Church" - like the steward who wants to keep the house running or the housewife who wants to nourish the family and making sure that the menu is broad-based. So we are asking what the Church needs now and you may feel they are vague about this and need instruction on that. So I am looking for "What are You saying to us Father?" - because sometimes you set yourself up for a series and be in Galatians for maybe six months. So you want to know you are getting it from God!

Then I think I remember we did a series on the life of Moses many years ago in the church where I am based and really just followed the story. We turned to the next page to see what happened next and how to apply that to the modern world. So I am prayerfully saying what is the main point of this passage and what are you wanting to say here - that would be very different if one is working through the life of Moses where I might look at the whole chapter. Or if I were working through Galatians I might look at a few verses. It depends on the Scripture.

And then I would be hoping to see what God has spoken to me - has something there really captured my heart and stirred me first? I am looking - always looking for that! I am disappointed if I don't find that. I hate to preach something that hasn't stirred me first.

Certainly when you say what is it like just before I preach really one is trying always to live in an atmosphere of saying "Lord I know You called me to do this and I know I didn't choose this - You chose me to do this. Lord I am still scared and need Your help". I think one should always be thinking that - Lord I know You want me to preach, I know You are with me and I always know that vulnerability.

Mike Reeves: A sort of confident weakness?

Terry: Yes it's a strange mixture isn't it. I think one feels vulnerable but I know I mustn't stay there. I know I am called. I know I am commissioned and I know I would fail if I stayed feeling ultimately vulnerable because no, no God said "Go and preach" so I need to feel His all-sufficiency.

Mike Reeves: Terry I am going to sneakily try to get you to do a mini-preach now. I have got one Bible verse that I want to ask you about which is one that you will know very well. It is Ephesians 3:10 that Paul writes; "God who created all things" wanting through the church to make known the manifold wisdom of God to to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places". What does that mean? Why is it that God chooses to make His manifold wisdom to the rulers and authorities through the church? Why is the church such a perfect God-chosen medium for the proclamation of the gospel?

Terry: I think that the mystery of God being revealed through the church is an amazing concept. It is plainly there in the Scripture. I think God has chosen - and I always think this is strange. That Christ has a Bride made up of people to be put together again and I always feel if I was God I would like something pure and not reconstructed. In God's incredible purpose He has chosen to reconstruct people and it is an amazing display of His grace so through the church is a revelation of the grace of God - that God can take spoiled goods and throughly transform them to such a degree that in all honesty He can say; "My delight is in her". He delights in us and we are a demonstration of His breathtaking grace. We are (as it says in Ephesians 2) "one new man" and we come from enormous diversity and racism, tribalism is so deeply rooted in the human culture and human nature and only Jesus can bring together that which is impossible to dwell naturally together.

So I was with our international Newfrontiers team two or three weeks ago and we have Indians and Pakistanis together worshipping God and we are planting churches in West Africa and the guy who oversees that is a fellow who was doing a Phd at Sussex University and is going back to be a professor of zoology at Accra University and he got so fired with the church when he was with us and so loved it that he went back to West Africa and found it very difficult to find a church that was not legalistic and very forceful and sadly pastors often were quite harsh there and would take the offering and send it back and say that isn't enough! Give more! He found church so ugly compared with what he had enjoyed for four years while he was at Sussex and so he said "We are going to start a church" and he has done brilliantly.

He has many hundreds in his church and is overflowing into Benin and Nigeria and that West African coast. And he has written a book called "God's New Tribe" and he means the church. And he said sadly in West Africa churches are often built along tribal lines and so tribes are often aloof from one another and think they are uniquely the best tribe around and church life flows along those channels. People are not encouraged to marry outside their tribe etc so he has started saying "No! We are proclaiming God's new tribe" and he has worked so hard at preaching and teaching the New Testament concept of the church where there is neither barbarian nor Greek, Jew nor Gentile and he has really worked at it not just as a theological concept but working it in life. The hard work of getting it into people's family lives and encourage them to see what the church is in all it's beauty. Recently there has been an election in Ghana and I was in Kenya last year and elections bring tribal forces to the surface again. As was in Kenya and people got killed on an election because people vote for their tribe. And John has started a weekly broadcast preaching even to the world about God's new tribe and had a tremendous response!

The church is not just meant to be beautiful for herself life stain glass windows but is the answer to the world's deep need! And only Jesus can unite tribes who hate one another. Only Jesus can do that miracle. So the church is resplendent with glory because the church is a display of Jesus power to totally transform an individual. You may say Mother Teresa was an amazing lady and a saintly person - but God wants not just a saintly individual but He wants a community who corporately demonstrate Jesus power to save at depth culturally in such a way that we are on display and cause the world to take note!

I feel when it says in Isaiah 2 that in the last days the mountain of the house of the Lord shall rise above all the nations and all the nations shall flow to it - that is my hope and prayer that we shall the church that is the mountain of the house of the Lord and there are many other mountains! Communism came and went. Secular humanism. There are many mountains. But the promise is the mountain of the house of the Lord is above them all and all the nations will flow to it. And as Moyter says in his commentary on Isaiah - that is supernatural for rivers to flow upwards! God will do that!

God will draw from all the nations and glorify His house and the glory of the latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former! I think we can live with a verse like that! I know it is an Old Testament prophecy but I am wanting to believe for a glorious church where love and harmony and the Presence of Jesus and worship and love for our enemies even in the midst of hostility as it was in the book of Acts - but the church (it says in Acts 2) that no one dared joined themselves to them. But the Lord was adding daily those who were being saved.

They were held in honour and there was reverence towards the church. No one was laughing at the church. To me it is a matter of heartache when the church is regarded as foolish when the church should be a in a place of real respect. There may sometimes kill us as we know is happening around the world today. But there should be a fear of God because of the church. So there is a long way to go but God is committed to His church and we want to keep believing that He is going to have a glorious church.

Mike Reeves: Terry that is a magnificent glorious vision of the church and what I love is how you have got a vision of the church that is rooted in the very being of God and is attractive to how we are made, attractive to our hearts and what a challenge to the whole world and designed as such. Terry could you give us some thoughts on what has helped your thinking on this? Are there some resources that people can get hold of to help to think through the church more whether that be more of the doctrine of church or pragmatically? Anything that has helped you?

Terry: I think my love for the church has grown over I guess many decades now. When I was converted I didn't think this way and I was so grateful to find what I thought was a good church where people were truly born again and we had the Bible preached every week. But I hadn't any biblical awareness of the glory of the church at the beginning. I think I was an individualist and we were taught to do personal evangelism and personal devotions and everything was personal. But I think specially in these post-modern days where everything is so fragmented the church as a corporate community is a wonderful answer to the desert conditions out there. I think it has grown over years. I think when I first read John Stott's BST on Ephesians that was a real introductory helpful book where he does lift up the church in that commentary. Over the years more and more if I see a good book on the church I will grab it, read it and feed myself on it because I really feel we need to start from a good theology. I don't want to start merely pragmatically. There is so much on the church today that is telling you how to build it bigger.

Mike Reeves: I think you have shown that is something built theologically.

Terry: Yes I am constantly having to work on that because I think we live in an amazing generation of developed skills and over the years the way a pastor is seen has changed somewhat reflecting the culture. So historically he was in the culture of a doctor or a squire. Then later with the development of education he had to have a degree so he could be in that world and then a psychologist and add some therapy. It's almost a reflection of culture. Today it is that you need to be a manager or a CEO - can you direct? What is your five year goal and talk the language of growth and being smart.

These things are all very helpful but I am much more motivated to be stirred theologically and rooted from what God wants. That keeps my heart warm and saves me from being shaped by the latest fad - seeker sensative and all that kind of stuff. I am not unmindful of trying to be a good fisherman and trying to catch fish well and there are people who can help us with practical things. But I much rather come from a biblical root and help to fire the guys I work with with theological reasons. Because I think that is like throwing coal on the fire instead of twigs. I think a twig may give you a quick flame and then it is gone but if I can throw some coal on the fire then that will keep the fire burning in guys hearts. So yes I want to have a love for the church and I have been encouraged along the way and I am not quite sure I can immediately come up with this, this and this because it has been a growing experience.

Also not only from helpful material sometimes in books but also the practice of being involved in church planting for (I guess) 20 years and seing good communities working. Leadership is fundemental. Jesus said those famous words; "It shall not be so with you". Some lord it over them but that is not the way we do it - so to keep encouraging leaders to be servant leaders and care for the flock and model something worth joining and attractive. I think it has been a process over time. Even here just looking round the bookshop I saw a book by Edward Clowney on the Church so I quickly brought it because I have been blessed by listening to Tim Keller quite a lot recently and I noticed he quoted Edward Clowney. So I am always trying to feed myself with good books on the church.

Mike Reeves: Terry thanks so much for your time and sharing your heart - very grateful for it and everything you are doing.

Terry: Thanks so much Mike.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Ever Wished You Were a Robot?

I know that's a very odd question. Hear me out! I've been enjoying one of the features on my Ipod Touch - which is the ability to watch TV programmes in high definition and one of them is the "Sarah Connor Chronicles". One of the key characters is a female robot (pictured) and I found myself musing on the benefits of having absolute control over emotions. Being able to make clinical judgements and not being affected by emotions or affections. Funnily enough another film I quite enjoy focuses on a world that has alienated emotions called "Equilibrium". The intentions of such alienation are that emotions are dangerous and create war - which of course is true. But the film graphically highlights how boring and dull a world is without the benefits of emotions - love, romance, joy, tears.

I have been having a rubbish week to put it mildly. Maybe some of you remember I hinted at some serious problems with my former employers - Acorns Children's Hospice. I had to leave due to homophobia among the staff and am currently enduring an extremely prolonged grievance process which inevitably is looking like it will have to be followed by an employment tribunal. It's particularly difficult because as a Christian (still struggling with Old Covenant legalism) I feel guilty for having those feelings anyway and in some strange sense - almost like the homophobic members of staff are justified in treating me as they did. Those set free 100% by grace won't understand a word I just said there - but maybe those still struggling like me will!

Anyhow the first part of the internal investigation arrived earlier this week and a key piece of evidence was based on the final meeting I had with the Head Nurse (my line manager) back in January. She tried to persuade me that this meeting was an "informal, nice" meeting and one that was designed to get me back to work after I had been off ill. Fortunately I took along representation but the meeting was not minuted. As she had no strategies or ideas to deal with my difficulties at Acorns and due to some other information she gave me I felt I had no alternative but to resign. I told the grievance hearing this.

I found to my dismay and shock that the Head Nurse had blatently lied in her meeting and said that she had said something totally different and this could be "substantiated by minutes". Minutes I should add most certainly were not taken during the meeting! So my only conclusion is that she wrote these minutes sometime after my meeting and to which I was never sent a copy. Sadly the so-called Investigating Officer didn't bother to interview my representation to verify the difference of opinion and took the Head Nurse's word for it. So a decision has been made against me - based on a lie.

My point in all this - I have been scared once again by the anger and the rage that I got consumed with by the fact that this woman (a manager allegedly responsible for her staff) lied to protect her own back. I understood why Jesus said in the New Testament that if you felt anger towards someone that much (under Old Covenant law) you as good as murdered them already.

And here's the point where I truly wished that I could be a robot and switch that anger off! It reminded me unhappily of a few years ago when I felt the same anger and rage towards my parent's SGM pastors for the lies and the behaviour they exhibited.

So where does the message of grace fit into all this? How does allowing the gospel of grace to reign in my life change this? As regular followers of my blog know it took me 2-3 years to even come close to forgiving the SGM pastors (and I still won't go near that church). That can't be God's ultimate design or His best surely! To be consumed by anger! This time I want to learn! I texted Pete Day this morning and said pretty much the same thing. I can't and won't afford another 2-3 years of hating Acorns and the lying management there. I have got better things to do with my life!

So here's a few reflections on how grace changes utterly EVERYTHING!

1. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (!!!).

So I shouldn't feel guilty and condemned for feeling angry whatsoever. God sees me as 100% ++ clothed, robed and in the righteousness of His one and only Son so therefore He does not hold my anger against me! I have not murdered anyone because of my rage - I am free, innocent, loved and accepted!

2. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (!!!).

So it doesn't matter that the Acorns management lied to make themselves look better and myself look worse. The only opinion that matters is God. He knew the truth while I was an employee there. He knows the truth now. I won't try and pretend that I have "forgiven and forgotten" when I haven't - because even though I may deceive you the readers of this blog - I am typing it in the Presence of the Holy Spirit! I live for the Audience of One!

It was being accused by a so-called friend of immoral behaviour that made me realise that actually there is no benefit to trying to make myself look good in the eyes of Christians. It was that accusation that actually made me write my testimony thus far! So I am not about to change now and pretend I am not angry! Because God knows and accepts me despite!

3. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (!!!).

It is the very fact that I am seated on high with Jesus Christ that gives me hope that I do not have to resign myself to another 2-3 years of trying to swallow bitterness and pretend that everything is "fine" when it is not. No! The very awesome truth and revelation that I am totally 100% accepted in heaven and the unfolding revelation and realisation of what that actually means is going to change me and is going to transform me without me having to lift a finger!

I used to be very much in the Puritan tradition of "mortifying sin" - but clearly I wasn't very good at it. Because I don't think anyone actually really knows "how-to" mortify sin! And now I realise that actually there's a far better way.

"Holiness has got NOTHING to do with sinning or not sinning! If that is what we think, then we think WE are the cause of our holiness and I am telling you there is only ONE Person who is the cause of our holiness and His Name is Jesus Christ!

If you are in Him, then YOU ARE HOLY! You don't have to try and be holy or get holy - you ARE holy!"

Once we start realising that fact - that we are holy, we are accepted and can come boldly into the throne room of heaven then suddenly EVERYTHING changes! Not only did I feel guilty before that I had this uncontrollable rage against these people but I felt doubly guilty that I was doing such a bad job of mortifying that rage! And then I felt angry that I was so useless at mortifying anger and felt guilty at that anger against that anger! And so on! The perils of living under law!

Now I can release them. And even as I type this I feel actually quite sorry for these individuals. This woman who felt she had to lie to protect herself, her reputation runs in fear clearly. Because she knows that the truth will come out one day.

4. I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (!!!).

And lastly because I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus I can feel angry at what they have done just as it was okay to feel angry at the SGM pastors for what they did. They were all individuals in places of responsibility and were responsible for people and they all abused that trust. And that was wrong! But that's where my anger can finish and I can let it go! Because as Rob Rufus said in his sermon last Sunday;

"Don't give these people the power over your life to make you angry!".

They aren't worth it! To be angry is to admit that these people matter whereas indifference is surely the more appropriate response! And (I may be wrong here) but I also feel that because I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus I should not feel guilty for allowing the employment tribunal process to go ahead. It doesn't matter what the issue was - employers don't have the right to treat any employees as they did and that should be addressed. Externally if they will not admit it internally.

So I praise God for my emotions! I praise God for joy and laughter and angry and crying and sadness. They are God-given and given for a purpose for His glory and for His praise! And because I am clothed and robed in His righteousness I can sit and rest absolutely secure this morning that He will mould and form and make my life into what He wants in His timing. There is no ridiculous talk of "just get over it" from Heaven this morning! Just love and acceptance!

Do I want to be a robot? I did last night - but now? No way!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Andrew Wommack!!

I'm always keeping my ears peeled for new heroes of the faith - essentially those who are teaching as near a 100% grace message as possible. During his "Established in the Gift of Righteousness" series Rob Rufus mentioned an "Andrew Wommack" who I hadn't heard of before. But I happened to be on one of my weekly Christian bookshop searches and found one of his books; "The War is Over!". I was massively impressed!

Since then I've brought another book that I am reading at the moment on prayer. Prayer is an area I am really trying to gain a new perspective on. I've done it legalistically most of my life and seen very few answers to prayer. Now is the day to see how it's done through grace! So I am also reading a book on prayer by Bill Johnson's wife Beni called "The Happy Intercessor". Back to Andrew Wommack - he has a very useful and helpful website. The one feature I really like on it is his Bible commentary.

Andrew has worked carefully through verses in the New Testament offering commentary on them from a grace perspective. It is my hope that after time the "Rob Rufus Grace and Glory Bible" will reflect something of this! An example of Andrew's commentary is from Romans 5:13; "For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law". He comments;

"Paul said that until the time that the law was given, sin was not imputed unto men. As explained in note 6 at Romans 4:3, p. 762, the most used Greek word for impute is "logizomai" which is an accounting term meaning that God was not entering men's sins in the account book ... Most people have interpreted God's dealings with man after the sin of Adam to be immediate rejection and banishment from His presence. In other words, an immediate imputing of man's sins. However, Paul is stating just the opposite. God was not holding men's sins against them until the time that the law of Moses was given.

With this in mind, it should change the way we think about God's dealings with man between the fall and the giving of the law. Adam and Eve were not driven from the Garden of Eden because God could not stand them in His presence anymore. God's dealings with Adam and Eve and their children in Genesis 4 prove His presence was still with them. The reason He drove them from Eden is clearly stated in Genesis 3:22- 23. It was to keep them from eating of the tree of life and living forever. Instead of this being a punitive act, it was actually an act of mercy. It would have been terrible for man to live forever in a sinful body, subject to all the emotions and diseases that sin brings. God had a better plan through Jesus.

So, for the first 2,000 years after man's fall (approximate time between fall and the giving of the law) God was not holding man's sins against them. That is why Abram was not killed for marrying his half sister and Jacob for marrying his wife's sister (see note 3 at Rom. 4:15, p. 765).

Therefore, we can see that God's immediate reaction to man's sin was mercy and not judgment. It was over 2,000 years before God began to impute man's sins unto them and according to Galatians 3:19 ,23-24, that was only a temporary way of dealing with sin until Jesus could come. Through Jesus, God is once again reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing men's sins unto them (2 Cor. 5:19)".

And that's just an example of one verse from one chapter from one book!

Here are the links to all the books of the New Testament;

It's so exciting to have another awesome resource to help explain and unpack the true glories of the Word of God. There are no verses we need to be "afraid" of anymore - no exegetical fallacies! It's all good and it's all God!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The REAL Problem with Grace? Pride

One of the most tedious arguments that you get against the grace message goes something like this;

"Oh you are just giving people a license to sin - you are saying that holy living doesn't matter!".

Rubbish. Politely. Sin is happening in churches everywhere whether they have a "license" (whatever that would look like) or not. Public legalistic ministries are falling into moral sin - sometimes the same sin they have preached against and judged publicly. I've been puzzling what the real root problem with the grace message is and I found a quote that I think answers it. It's by R C Sproul (not Rob Rufus before you pre-judge me!);

"Perhaps the most difficult task for us to perform is to rely on God's grace and God's grace alone for our salvation. It is difficult for pride to rest on grace. Grace is for other people - for beggars. We don't want to live by a heavenly welfare system. We want to earn our own way and atone for our own sins. We like to think that we will go to heaven because we deserve to be there".

I know if I am honest I can testify that is exactly my problem. We live in a culture where you work for what you want. You earn what you "deserve" and if you don't work or earn then you get nothing. We resent people on social service support who don't bother getting jobs and just ride the system! We call them "free-loaders" and get especially mad if they have more lavish material possessions that we do! In a sense we are proud when we have worked for something and earned it - that is life's culture.

And that somehow transposes into our relationship with God. We are insulted in a sense to be told clearly by Scripture that there is NOTHING that we can do to earn or deserve our salvation by justification through faith and NOTHING that God wants from us to "repay" Him for the grace He has poured out on us! He wants absolutely NOTHING from us and is in fact insulted when we try and match our spiritual disciplines to "repay" somehow what He has done for us at the Cross. That's why the Bible calls them "dirty rags" or "dung" or "poo"!

Jerry Bridges commented on why more Christians do not experience the full blessings of God's grace and said;

"Perhaps the larger reason why we do not experience more of God's grace is our misconception that, having been saved by grace, we must now at least to some degree, "pay our own way" and earn God's blessings in our daily lives ... In fact this misconception that we must pay our own way is more than a mistaken theological notion. It actually springs from the perverse disposition of our hearts - the disposition of pride".

For goodness sake. We've got nothing to lose because we've got nothing anyway! So let's just give up on this ridiculous notion that we have to "earn" this and just sit back and let the blessing flow! God came to Abraham and said; "I want to bless you". Abraham said; "Okay". God said; "Right - that acceptance I see as righteousness! Right standing with Me!". Let's copy Abraham!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

You've Got Every Right to Be Angry With Us ...

I've been really impressed recently with church leaders who have the courage to stand up and apologise to people who have been wronged throughout history. One such leader was Fini de Gersigny at "Glory and Grace 2009" - I had tears running down my face as he apologised to women for the way that men have mis-treated them. That act of Fini's kind of prompted me post; "Speak Tenderly to My Bride". I may tentatively be a "complimentarian" but I am increasingly becoming a proponent of the fact that men have got no right whatsoever expecting wives to submit to them until they are loving them as Christ loved the church.

Today I want to address men and women with a homosexual orientation everywhere. You've been on my heart for ages. Two recent events in the media brought this subject to a head for me. You may have seen them and read them and "tutted" or shook your head. Hear me out - here they are for those who have missed them;

Essentially here's what happened. Mr and Mrs Bull run a Christian guesthouse in Cornwall and have a policy that only married couples may share a double room. Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy (who are civil partners - and therefore legally married - whatever Christians may think of gay marriage) arrived having booked in for a weekend. Mr and Mrs Bull seemed to think that Martyn Hall would be arriving with his wife and when it became clear it was two men, they were refused entry. They are suing under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007 Act and the Christian couple are defending themselves saying that the Equality Act infringes their religious rights as Christians.

So the lines of battle are drawn again. The homosexual community are angry with the Bull's who say; "I have had people clearly involved in affairs and under-age people who have tried to book in here for sex, and I have refused them the same as I refused these gentlemen because I won’t be a party to anything which is an affront to my faith under my roof". The Christian community is angry with the homosexual community who they feel are further trying to darken the name of religion.

Sandown Free Presbyterian Church in Belfast in Northern Ireland are under fire from the Advertising Standards Authority. Apparantly they produced leaflets entitled "The Word of God Against Sodomy" and encouraged their members to attend the Gay Mardi Gras in Belfast and protest. I haven't been able to read the document in question but those who complained to the A.S.A felt that the church was using homophobic language suggesting homosexuals are "perverted".

The Rev David McIlveen justified himself and his church saying; "We take great exception to the council's conclusion that the advertisement implied that homosexual people were perverted and an abomination. The council clearly fails to appreciate that it was the act of sodomy in which our opposition was directed." His defence seemed to be centred around the fact that the biblical texts used (Leviticus 18:22 and Romans 1) have existed for centuries.

So again the lines of battle have been drawn - the church is angry because the A.S.A upheld the complaints against their "offensive" advertisement and the homosexual community is angry because yet again religion has spoken out against their lifestyle. Who's got it right here? The church would say they do. But as Terry Virgo says; "There are no points for getting it right". The gay community would say they've got it right and they are just trying to live their lives. Why are the church interfering?

The issue to my mind is this: God said as surely as He lives - ALL the earth WILL be filled with the glory of the Lord. Therefore as commendable as it is to send missionaries to the farthest reaches of the earth, if no one is prepared to go to the gay community and take the love and passion of God to them - then we are failing in the Great Commission and not going to every part of the earth.

I got an email shortly after I shared my story from a gay guy within SGM who like me kept his struggles a secret because of fear. He felt that only gay Christians have the right to speak to the gay community because only they understand. I'm not sure I quite agree - the power of the Gospel by the Holy Spirit can come through anyone set free by grace. But I saw his point. It's quite hard to listen to someone like Al Mohler tell me what I should and should not do when he is happily married and presumably shares his bed every night. I on the other hand sleep alone and feel so utterly lonely sometimes.

So this is what I wanted to say to gay men and women everywhere;

1. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've made out that we're better than you (even if we say we're not).

2. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've made out your sins are worse than others (mainly ours).

3. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've not told you the full truth and glory and wonder of what Jesus Christ accomplished at the Cross.

4. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've made out that you must get saved and commit to a life of miserable celibacy and all you've got to look forward to is heaven when you die.

5. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've told you the only thing that matters is that you become "straight" if you get saved - not that the only thing that matters is you building a relationship of intimacy and love with the One that loved you so much He died for you.

6. You've got every right to be angry with us because we haven't come out to you and told you this message. We've sat behind passages in Leviticus and Romans and pointed the finger from afar - because we're afraid of what we don't know.

7. You've got every right to be angry with us because we've behaved utterly un-Christlike in our attitudes to you. We've stood at the side of gay Mardi Gras marches tutting or worse screaming "Sodom and Gomorrah!" while Jesus Christ would be walking and marching with you dispensing signs and wonders and miracles - healing you of AIDS or any other disorder that you may be suffering with.

There are many other things I could say - and could expand on each of the points above. But I hope it conveys my heart. Until we start owning up to our mistakes and where we have allowed prejudice and biogtry to cloud "what Jesus would do" - then we're never truly going to see the lost coming in. No matter how missional we may be. And I should point out that my friend Ursula and I discussed how the gay community is just one of many the church has problems accepting. What about prostitutes? What about pagans and witches? What about paedophiles?

Jesus went and sat in the homes and ate and fellowshipped with such people in Israel (tax collectors and prostitutes were a Jewish equivalent). What are we doing? I think people such as Dave Bish and others who work with students have an utterly key role in reaching and taking the Gospel to those who need it before they leave university and get swallowed up into normal working life. I can't help but wonder what would happen if there was a revival among the gay community. Where would they go? What churches would lovingly welcome them and accept them with open arms?

Something's got to CHANGE!

By the way - as always all comments are allowed and welcome - but comments from legalists that even smack of homophobia will be deleted. You've had your say - for 2000 years. It's grace's turn!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chatting About Sin?

I'm not quite sure how to post a quote from Twitter - but here's my best shot. Pete Day told me about this excellent quote when we chatted on the phone today. It's my conviction that Christians like talking about sin. In a way I think it alleviates guilt. "A problem shared is a problem halved". One of Satan's tools (and only one) is to persuade you that your sin is unique and you are the worst sinner that you know. But once you get into Christian circles where there is a degree of "honesty" and "accountability" it does become quite deliriously freeing to "share sins".

I found this particularly apt when I sought help for a time from True Freedom Trust - a Christian group believing that celibacy is the only way for those dealing with homosexual orientations. Groups would meet around the country and would essentially talk about what kind of a week they had. Whether it be "good" (not having fallen morally in some way) or "bad" (having fallen morally in some way). It was initially exhilarating to find I wasn't alone - but then extremely depressing. Most weeks just seem to be depressed men and women talking about a life of celibacy with no hope of victory, breakthrough or end. Honest yes - hopeful no.

Then of course there was Sovereign Grace Ministries accountability groups. I've said before that having only just joined the church - I had absolutely no intention of sharing the skeletons in my closet. Those familiar with my story will know that my fears were justified. So most of the weekly discussions in the accountability group revolved around quite "acceptable" sins (as defined by Jerry Bridges) such as impatience with children, spouse, parents, church pastor (me) or other. Honest - not so. Emphasis on the Cross and Christ's imputed righteousness? Lacking.

So here's the quote from "First Importance";

"Don't mistake accountability for fellowship. Satan doesn't mind you talking about sin if you forget about Jesus".

I once heard someone say that we should take 10 looks at Jesus Christ for every 1 look at self. I wonder if we really started doing that whether we would actually start seeing victory over areas of life. REALLY started looking at Jesus. And what He did triumphing over principalities and powers by disarming them by removing the written code - the law.

Ryan Rufus writes in his latest book;

"Sanctification is where your earthly current condition starts to become more and more like your eternal heavenly position. The means by which this happens is not by will power, self-effort or law but through regular encounters with the God of glory and being established in His word of grace".

Monday, May 11, 2009

The 10 Ugly Faces of the Grace-Hating Spirit!!

I recently heard about someone talking about legalists and they were saying how we should be "gentle" with them. Yes in a sense there is a degree to which our actions towards everyone should be filled with love and mercy. But the key question is - how did our great role model behave? How did Jesus treat legalists - such as the Pharisees and Sadducees? One of the latest teaching messages available from Rob Rufus deals with this; "10 Ugly Faces Of The Grace Hating Spirit" on the 23rd March 2009. I think this was some teaching he gave at the Island Getaway (It turned out to be about 7 Ugly Faces because he ran out of time!).

Here it is;

"This feels like military training where you have been going for days and days and you think "We need to stop and have a break and fellowship!". And someone else says; "Nah push on!". I just want to finish this session so we can finish and go and have lunch. We need to finish at 12pm and I don't like working within schedules. The Holy Spirit seems to work a lot better when there are no schedules. I don't know many miracle ministries that don't have hours of meetings. This is what I believe. When we bring the whole church into grace - miracles will start breaking out in the opening of the service. The reason these meetings take so long to get miracles is because you have got to clear the unbelief away - the condemnation - the confusion and it takes 2-3 hours to get that off God's people. That's why I love local church! I have preached on platforms of multiple thousands and it is an incredible privilidge and an amazing honour but I don't find it flattering at all to my ego. I am enjoying this little church in Hong Kong - small little church at this stage! I believe we will grow into the thousands but I am enjoying this little church because it is the feedback of seeing lives changed through this message of grace. It is just so wonderful.

For me apostles don't go for a weekend here and a weekend there and a weekend there. I don't see that! I think the shortest trip may have been 3 weeks to the Thessalonians but other places - 2 years here, 3 years here. In Ephesus Paul preached every single day. He didn't fly out here and there but preached and stayed every single day for 2 years in the hall of Tyranus. Apostles are not just goers. They are sent ones. But they are not butterflies. I was sent to Australia and I stayed there for 12 years. I was sent to Hong Kong and am staying here! Paul stayed and he shared the grace of God with them and said don't get carried away by this and this - it is the grace of God that can give you an inheritance amongst those being sanctified.

That's what he was doing - preaching grace for 2 years! That is a man caught up in the 3rd heaven and got his message of grace from the Father and he took 3 years to unpack it. In that space of time it says the Gospel went throughout all Asia Minor but Paul didn't go. The fallout of this message gave an inheritance. You can't go - "Well I preached six weeks on grace!". All you did was introduce people to the shallows. "I didn't have anything else to preach - I did everything I knew on grace". Well start at the beginning and preach it all again. You are dealing with more than 1500 years of Dark Ages. The Reformation has only been 500 years but even top evangelical theologians are going back to a Roman Catholic understanding of justification by faith. Top evangelicals! Just read John Piper's books! Justification by faith is under attack again. And Christians are very shallow on their understanding of this.

You don't bring the church out of 1500 years of Dark Ages by a six-part series on grace! It takes years to transition people out!

Just to throw in something here for questions and answers. Abraham got grace. Galatians 3 says that God preached the Gospel in advance to Abraham. Then it was ratified in Christ. It says that the law came 430 years after Abraham but it says when the law covenant came it did not nullify or set aside the covenant of promise that God made with Abraham. So when Jesus arrived on the earth the covenant of grace and the covenant of law were there available for Israel. At any point Israel could have said; "We repent of saying give us the law - we will do what it says! We want what Abraham had!" and they could have come straight back into that. So when people repented and saw grace Jesus called them "sons and daughters of Abraham" and He only said that to two people.

Who were the people who had the greatest faith in all of Israel? Those who had never been under law! The Syro-Phonecian woman and the centurion.

So you have got to understand that by the time Jesus arrived to Israel - grace and the revelation to Abraham was almost completely gone. Abraham brought the key to knowledge - which is the nature of God.

What is the key to knowledge? I believe personally it is the nature of God. When the nature of God is revealed as goodness and grace - that is the key to knowledge!

I do have a history degree although that doesn't mean much because it was so long ago. It's history! This has fascinated me how civilisations have formed and secular historians will say that it was the Reinaissance that brought an acceleration of knowledge, inventions, arts, science and political freedoms. No - if you study Francis Schaeffers book on; "How Then Shall We Live?" - it is the Reformation - the revelation of the nature of God. Justification by faith that God is a good God that justifies the wicked and accepts them and loves them. That's where knowledge is! The nature of God and the revelation of God's nature is the key to knowledge. So once justification by faith came, that is when the church came out of the Dark Ages and you can trace from the Reformation advancements in science - because the religious church was wanting to put to death people that advanced in science! When Galileo was trying to say "No the whole universe isn't rotating around the sun" - the church under law said "We will kill you!". So science was surpressed because they had taken away the key to knowledge which is the nature of God.

Arts began to increase and everything began to explode. Human rights began to increase and civilisation came! That is why Europe was the cradle of civilisation because of the gospel - human rights etc - and now they have got a flimsy frame because they have taken away the foundation! They have taken away the key to knowledge. The church! Not the secular world!

The secular world almost seems to understand more about grace than the average fundementalist Christian.

So we are on about something more than just feeling secure - personal peace and prosperity. "I want to have a happy little church where we all feel happy and praise and worship". No! It is about transformation of the way society thinks. We are meant to have the key of knowledge which is the revelation that Abraham got. Let look here - I am going to look at 10 Ugly Faces of the Grace-Hating Spirit. If you do not understand what I am going to give to you now - if you go into this as a cute, sweet little pastor - then don't even start! Because you will be eaten for breakfast by the grace-hating spirit. You will be so confused and come under such demonic confusion that you won't know whether you are coming or going. You have got to know that Martin Luther nearly lost his mind many times and he was depressed for a long time! Can you imagine when one man stepped out and said "No!" to centuries! There was always a line who believed in justification by faith - but a small little thread here and there. So here is one man that stood out and took the whole thing on. It is not against the Catholic church but against a SPIRIT! I love Roman Catholics, I love Muslims and Hinduis.

2 Corinthians 5:9; "God was in Christ reconciling the WORLD to Himself - NOT counting MEN'S sins against them!". It didn't just say "the church's" sins against them. The world!

So we are involved with more than just sweet little churches that are happy because they are in grace. This is something that changes the globe. It is because of legalism that we have international wars, ethnic violence, religious wars.

Legalism makes people angry, harsh, mean, judgemental, full of selfish ambition, gossip, slander - you cannot trust legalists!

One of the mistakes the devil made when he began to attack us was that he overshot - some of the Chinese people in our church when I began to first preach freedom from the law were completely shocked! They just said "Oh my God he has gone made! If we are not under law what are we under?!". The Holy Spirit! "You mean there's no 10 Commandments anymore!?". I am not blaming them! I love them! I am blaming their teachers.

So those of you who have already started transitioning your churches will know that there are some things that happen. Sometimes it is not even through people - it is an invisible hatred that comes on your mind - an invisible hostility.

I remember I was in Hong Kong for at least a year and then I preached on the finished work of the Cross and got the devil so by surprise that it just flowed and everyone received it and it was wonderful. I stepped out the pulpit and went home and was so happy and then suddenly bang! The heavens closed! Without one second reprive it was a spirit of heaviness! Hong Kong wasn't used to hearing this message! There came a reaction! Please don't be confused. Don't think of human beings - think of a spirit behind human beings. Love the human beings - show mercy and kindness and don't react - that is exactly what part of the tactic is that you get bitter against the opposition and start fighting the opposition and start preaching to prove they are wrong and you are right. No Jesus preached very strongly at the Pharisees and warned them. You need to have those kind of guts and get up and warn and rebuke to their face people who preach the opposite in your church. Peter came to Paul's church in Antioch and Paul had the right to confront Peter to his face.

Shepherds you need to safeguard the church from legalism! That is your main responsibility to keep the church free from the law! You can't rely on apostles to do that because many of them aren't! They are under the law themselves - I am sorry to say that but it is the truth.

I was under the law and I preached law and grace mixed together in Australia and South Africa. I am doing my best to not preach any mixture anymore. When you start that - this is the way that Paul described some of the grace-hating spirit. "Spies, bewitchers, fearmongers, agitators, dogs, evil men, mutilators of the flesh, deceitful schemers". That is what you are dealing with! It can be a face that smiles at you because the legalist face is a nice face and it is sweet when it smiles as it cuts you. Please don't think most legalists to their face are these mean-hearted people. They are sweet and disarming! But they will disarm you from grace into law. It is cunning and clever and deliberate and intentional. Be aware!

What I learnt in the military was if you are going to succeed then know your enemy and know his strengths and weaknesses otherwise he will take you out. Do not try to transition into grace naively thinking "This is such a wonderful message and everyone is going to be happy!".

There is a way to transition without hardly losing anyone. I believe good leadership can transition a church without hardly having to lose anyone. Look quickly at Luke chapter 11. Jesus had just read "How to win friends and influence people" so He starts with "Woe to you!". (v52); "Woe to you experts in the law because you have taken away the key to knowledge". What Abraham saw - they took away. "You yourselves have not entered". In other words you haven't stepped into the glory - you haven't stepped into the power and the favour and blessing of God the way Abraham did. You yourselves have not entered and; "You have hindered those who were entering". That is what is happening in the earth. There are leaders who are hindering their people entering because they themselves don't enter and they are preachers of a mixture of law and grace. (v53); "When Jesus left there the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Him".

1. Ugly Face No. 1: Opposition to Grace.

Jesus is grace! The law was given through Moses. Grace and truth came in Jesus Christ. The law is impersonal. It was given through a mediation of angels through Moses but Jesus who is grace came personally to the earth. Grace is not a doctrine - it is a Person. His Name is Jesus! That is His Nature! That is the key to knowledge; God is a God of grace. God never intended to bring the law and never wanted to bring the law. If you study Galatians 3 and other passages of Scripture like Hebrews 10:8 you will see that He brought the law because of Israel's unbelief.

2. Ugly Face No. 2: Fiercly.

"Oppose Him fiercly". There is a grace-hating spirit that really is fierce!

If you have not yet felt it then you have not yet been preaching grace the way that Paul preached it.

They began to oppose Him fiercly.

3. Ugly Face No. 3: Beseige.

They will set up siege against your ministry. A siege is when an opposing army camps around your city and tries to stop supplies coming in and things going out.

Stop people listening to your website. You won't get invited to our camp. This will close doors to you. I think they are doors that should be closed! They beseiged Him. "Well if we were politically correct then those doors would be open". You shouldn't be going through some doors through the power of political correctness because you are not coming with the gospel anymore! "Besiege Him with questions". Questions are good but questions within questions are not good. (v53). That's why when people ask Jesus questions sometimes He answers them beautifully and sensatively and graciously and sometimes He answered with a baseball bat and smashed the living daylights out of them! He was not going to be a politically correct diplomat because this was too important. (v54);

4. Ugly Face No. 4: Waits to Catch You.

The Pharisees caught that woman in adultery. It wasn't something they stumbled on. I believe they set it up. I personally think one of the Pharisees or indeed they may have paid someone to have adultery with her. They paid him to set it up and they caught her! When you start preaching this grace message you think "I could be caught - I could fail - I could get into serious sin and if they caught me what is going to happen to me?". Then they really can control me! I wonder if it would have been different for Jimmy Swaggert if he was in a community of grace.

Legalism makes sin go underground and then they catch you. Grace makes sin come out into the open because there is an environment of safety, accountability and kindness and there is an openness.

Who could Jimmy Swaggert really have gone to? He is preaching grace now but it took going through hell. He was preaching law back then and judging everything.

You will preach more and more law when you feel more and more guilt and the more guilt you feel the more law you feel. You see how happy the grace people are and you are jealous of their happiness and you don't want them to be so happy because you are trying to do things to earn God's love. They are waiting to catch you. Grace communities should have this attitude - we are not looking to catch people or be suspicious. "Ooh there is probably sin in their lives". Well there probably is! Look at yourself! Catch yourself!

That thing about logs and eyes and specks has some relevance. We ought not to be trying to catch people in sin. And if we do - then Galatians 5 says you that are spiritual should restore them gently. So we should have this attitude that if someone does fall then they are not "caught" - they are a comrade. They are together. There are certain sins you don't need to go public with! You just go to the Father. It does say confess your sins to one another but only if you have done something against the other! On a horizontal level. To the Father it is all gone and forgiven anyway!

Paul never speaks about confessing sins - once! They are already gone! But on the horizontal I need to confess my faults or apologise to people I do wrong. I find it so easy to say sorry when I know that he accepts me. The grace-hating spirit is trying to catch you, trying to besiege you, oppose you and is doing it and when you first start transitioning your church into full grace it will intensify for a while. Eventually when your church gets more and more established in grace then tyranny becomes far from you, no weapon formed against you can prosper and no tongue raised up - God will start giving you a legacy that your righteousness is from Him and God starts fulfilling those conditions of a people established in grace.

Let's have a look at the next one;

5. Ugly Face No. 5: Spies.

I could just say these things but let's look at them. This is not a preaching on a platform to produce miracles - this is teaching.

Spies are secretive. They hide. They move from a place of duplictity. They are double faced and come amongst you for a reason - to hide their real agenda and look for faults. To exploit any opportunity where you are vulnerable and make you a slave to the law and to their control.

Paul went around releasing people from religious handcuffs and spies came right behind Paul and put the handcuffs straight back on again. They brought "balance". You cannot balance grace with law! They neutralise one another! There is no middle ground! It is either all law or all grace and no middle ground! "This is a radical message!". Yes of course. "Rob's preaching a radical message" - no Paul did!

Have you ever thought how radical the law is? These people who preach law and grace are actually just compromisers - they are like the Pharisees and don't preach it at it's full power. If you are going to preach the law then do it properly. Then try and balance it with grace and see where you get. The law means cut your hand off! When guys drive planes into towers in the name of their god - they are being absolutely faithful to the law! Under the law - kill anyone who doesn't keep it! In fact if you go read the law properly if you kids don't keep the law then you must stone your own children. Grace is radical?! The reason why people say grace is radical is because the law is not being taught properly.

God gave me two years to go study the law about seven years ago. I used to sweat every day! Guys use it in evangelism as a schoolmaster to lead people to Christ but I tell you - the law is frightening! It is extreme! That is why Christians shoot people at abortion clinics! They are being consistent to what they believe. They are being faithful to what they believe! The rest who preach law and grace are all compromisers and all backsliders of the law. They just preach partial law! You cannot preach the law in all it's fullness and then balance it with grace! The answer is they water down law and water down grace so people don't know the difference. Preach the law properly and then preach the fullness of grace and see what your people will do! They will say "I am out of here - this is a schizophrenic". These things are so radical that they cannot meet! Because the church for centuries has watered down law and watered down grace - the people sit there like frogs in water slowly heating up.

A few fools for Jesus are going to have to stand up and address this grace-hating spirit. Like Martin Luther took it on, I am taking it on! There are many times that Glenda and I have fallen into each others arms and wept. There are times when Glenda has said; "Oh Rob please stop you are calling fire on our heads". I said; "I don't want to!".

Martin Luther didn't have a choice. Once he saw it, he was finished. Once you see this - you are finished. You are ruined forever.

I have been to law conferences and have heard law preachers and I sit there and think "I am so sorry but I am getting angry - I repent, I repent - look at all these people getting under confusion!". I can't sit there anymore! Either I have to go to the leaders and say "Look guys - do you know what you are doing?" or don't go back again! I pray that all law-preaching and preaching a mixture of law and grace will see this revelation and repent to their people.

Otherwise I pray that God will pull the finances right out of their systems and let them go under. I know that's harsh but I mean it.

(Galatians 2:4); "Some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves". That is their goal and their agenda! Spy on our freedom and make you slaves. Isn't that beautiful? Notice the apostolic passion of those days. "We did not give in to them for a moment!". Why? "So that the truth of the gospel might remain in you". Why mustn't you give in even for a moment? So this gospel will keep on remaining. I preached in Cape Town to 2000 people a night last year in July and there were hundreds and hundreds of hungry people there but there were spies in the camp. Spies coming to check me out. I said to the brothers to whom I was accountable; "Don't let me get naughty on this platform because when I find spies out there ... you know those destroyers that send down depth charges and it goes "ping" ... when I am preaching prophets feel this all the time. They nearly go mad because they can feel where the submarines are - the spies and can feel them out there. Jesus could! He said "Knowing what they were thinking, He said ...". So I could feel the spies there and some of them shouldn't have been spies! God even shows me who they are sometimes!

I am not talking about people sitting there exposed for the first time to the message of grace and are sitting there analysing and trying to work out. That is fine! I am talking about them sitting there trying to catch you and waiting for you to say something that they can twist and distort. Those are spies! So I said to the brothers I was with; "Now listen if I preach in Hong Kong then I can be as naughty as I like - that is my turf and my jurisdiction". But when I am on someone else's platform I am responsible to those leaders and I can't do anything I want to. I hope you understand that authority is exercised differently in different contexts. "If I start getting naughty because of spies out there then show me by code signals. I want to cross every T and dot every I theologically and leave no gap for these spies to seize". Bonnie came to me afterwards and said "Dad you are so tame - what's wrong? You are so nice!". So I said; "No - this is a different context". So I went to the team I was with - and teams form and de-form - they are dynamic and fluid - and said; "Guys is there anything I should have done better?". They said; "Rob we have never heard it so clear - faultless and clear". The elders at the church had problems with some of the grace message and said "That is it - we can't argue".

Some spies came out of that and went back to their home churches and said "Rob is preaching that you don't have to submit to leaders and you can sin as much as you like". Then I realised that this is not a rational thing but a grace-hating spirit. They don't know what they are doing to their congregations. Members of those congregations who had known me for years emailed me and said; "Our pastor is saying this - is it true?". We wrote back and clarified and they said; "We always believed that what our pastor said wasn't true but we just wanted to check with you". These leaders that are fighting this message don't know that they are fighting God. They are not fighting us - they are fighting God. We must be accountable - we can be in error! I say to my local leaders in this church; "If I am getting too harsh ..." - I asked that after the first session. I am an accountable man. I want to be! But you have to be bold.

6. Ugly Face No. 6: A Bewitching Spirit.

Galatians 3:1; "You foolish Galatians - who has bewitched you?". That word there can be elaborated into; "With occultic power". That is witchcraft! Witchcraft is being preached in our churches around the world. Hopefully not in our churches but maybe still. Witchcraft is like the sin of rebellion.

Christ died to remove the law forever and when you preach law the Holy Spirit is not empowering you to preach something that Christ has removed. Another spirit is - a spirit of witchcraft.

The disciples wanted to call fire down on the Samaritans and Jesus said; "You are of the wrong spirit". The legalists will call fire down on the world and will say God is killing and judging and smashing. He isn't! There is a day of judgement coming but "in the last days I will pour out My Spirit - for salvation - on all flesh!". He goes on and speaks about miracles, signs and wonders happening because you believe the message of grace and not observing the law. You are dealing with occultic powers here that are in the church. The devil doesn't dabble much with those on broomsticks etc - that is his hobby. Witchcraft in the church to come back under law is the main agenda. He is the accuser of the brethren. And if he accuses you enough - if you are under a little bit of law he will condemn you enough then think you must come under more law to improve and so condemnation will go. It's called witchcraft.

Let's do one more and then we will close.

7. Ugly Face No. 7: Fear.

Go to Galatians 2. The next one is fear. I have been enjoying grace and then someone maybe I respect or know who preaches a Pentecostal/Holiness (which is not real holiness at all - it is still law dressed up as holiness) and you are going along happily and the power of God is flowing and there is joy and then someone comes among you and you think they are holy because they don't go to movies or don't drink wine. And you feel fear! And start agreeing with them and their standards! And you start becoming a hypocrite and you start rebuilding the law over your life and then you make out that Christ is the one rebuilding the law over your life and that Christ is causing the sin of the law and you become a hypocrite and confuse those in freedom because you change your behaviour when certain people are in your midst. Certain leaders that are respected.

If Peter who had visions of heaven and revelation could go back under law and be afraid of the legalists then we ought to know that we are dealing with a fear spirit. A bewitching spirit, a fear spirit, a control spirit. (v11); "When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face". Peter was one of the big boys! "He was clearly in the wrong!". (v12); "Because he was afraid of those who belonged to the Jewish group ... so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabus was led astray .. in front of them all I said; "How is it that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs"?".

He isn't just talking about the way you come into the kingdom but the way you live! Don't let people tell you it is all about justification.

(v18); "I prove I am a law-breaker .. might live for God". In the next session we will talk about the other things and transitioning through.

"We ask that you will establish righteousness as a revelation in our hearts and we will discern what we are dealing with and we won't be naive or cute or politically correct or diplomatic but truly apostolic, discerning legalism from a mile away and protecting the church. We ask the Holy Spirit to brood over us. Help us to ask the question why every movement that has started in grace and freedom ended in law and institution and control? Because the leaders were naive about what they were up against. The Ugly Face of a Grace-Hating Spirit that took them out because they were unaware and not protected by a true apostolic ministry. We pray across the planet as we see grace revolution gathering momentum for more apostles to emerge that will be faithful to the gospel that Paul was faithful too and will be willing to confront those who preach a mixture. Deliver us from this niceness that Jesus never had. Help us to be willing to die to personal reputation - no matter how many doors are closed! They should be closed! We thank You for the multitudes waiting to hear this message!"