02/08/2011

Evangelical Christians - good news or bad?

Yes, I know I haven't written a blog for a very long time, but today I read something that I knew I had to share.

Last week, we had the sad, but joyous news that John Stott has left this earth and is now in glory. There have been many amazing tributes from Christians all over the world. Yet, in some ways more amazing, has been the response of the world. The next day, the BBC published an article on their website.

Then, today, my Google+ stream had a post referring to a New York Times article.

This is the world writing about an evangelical Christian leader! Sadly most of what we hear about on the "secular" news is about nutters like Pastor Terry Jones. Yet, not only do we have a message of amazing grace that transforms lives, the grace of God is so glorious and transforming that we also can lead lives that leave a lasting legacy on earth.

The famous "footprints" story has footprints in the sand. But after a while the sea comes in and washes the footprints away. I believe that our purpose is to leave footprints in the rock... footprints that years ahead will still leave their mark in lives that follow on after us.

John Stott, in his passing into glory, is good news story - even the world. How about us?

26/06/2009

What do we have to do to get the glory back?

1 Samuel 4 ends with one of the most tragic events in the history of Israel before the exile. The ark of the covenant was taken by the Philistines and the final sentence of the chapter (v22) says, "The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured."

The ark represented the tangible presence of God. He had promised (Ex 25v22), "I will speak with you from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are on the ark of the Testimony." In 1 Samuel 4, all this had gone. Today, if we are honest about the condition of the church in general, then the glory has departed... there are glimpses yes, but the manifest, weighty glory of God is not seen in most churches. In the New Covenant, we see even more what that glory means... it means thousands swept into the kingdom, it means the demonised delivered with a word, it means the multitudes healed and the dead raised, and it means a church on fire, united, and passionate about the Lord of glory. These are things that generally we are not seeing.

Many church leaders recognise this, and various activities are launched around the world to seek God for revival. The impression is given that if we pray, fast, and get holy enough then somehow the glory will return.

Today I was reading in 1 Samuel 6... In it there is the account of the return of the ark to Israel. Basically God had dealt so severely with the Philistines that they returned the ark of their own free will. They set the ark on a cart let by cows and they even said, "And watch: if it goes up the road to its own territory, to Beth Shemesh, then He has done us this great evil. But if not, then we shall now that it is not His hand that struck us- it happened to us by chance." (1 Sam 6v9).

The record continues: "Then the cows headed straight for the road to Beth Shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went [I like that - even the cows were praising God], and did not turn aside to the right hand or the left." (1 Sam 6v12).

When the ark arrives in Israel, do we find them seeking God, preparing armies to go and get the ark? No - "Now the people of Beth Shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley..." (1 Sam 6v13). Yes, they were delighted to see the ark, but they weren't seeking.

Had Israel sought God? No. Had they fasted enough to get the blessing of the ark returning? No - they were gathering the harvest! Were they holy enough? No - 1 Samuel 7 tells us that Samuel told them to put their idols away - they were still worshipping other gods.

And yet still God allowed the glory to return!!

And this is the point:

God needed no help to bring the glory back to Israel. The glory returned completely unmerited.

While I myself seek God, I want His glory, I want to see His power sweep this globe... I believe we have to get out of our thinking any hint that our merit or performance or praying or anything will bring the glory back.

Now, let's be totally clear, I'm not saying that we shouldn't pray or be holy; I am saying that we must stop right now putting our trust in these things and start believing that God brings His glory because He is God and He is good, not because of any merit we have. I would go further and suggest that the more we actually believe God and stop offering him our pathetic efforts, the greater the weight of His glory will be upon us. He says in Isaiah that He will not share His glory with another. He will not, He cannot, share His glory with this or that church leader who has organised this or that rally. He cannot allow us to say "it was because of our prayer meetings, our faithfulness that the glory has come."

There is no barrier to the glory coming!!! Do you keep stumbling and falling? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you keep failing? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you feel 'I don't pray enough'? That is no barrier to the glory coming. Do you you feel that your heart is too cold? That is no barrier to the glory coming.

A few weeks I had this revelation:

"Under the old covenant we had to chase after God; under the new covenant grace God chases after us."

And all that is required to connect with this glory is faith... in the finished work of Jesus and the perfect gift of righteousness.

In 1 Samuel 6v19 the people looked into the ark and many were struck down. The legalists look at that verse and say "see, they weren't holy enough to look in the ark and so God struck them." They go on to say "ah well God doesn't send the glory because we are not holy enough and we couldn't handle it." Rubbish!

The people weren't struck down because they weren't holy enough, they were struck down because they were looking unprotectected upon the law of God. They were judged as sinners by the law and received the just punishment of the law. They could have been holier than every church member in the world and they would have still been struck down because the law demands perfection.

But when Jesus was nailed to the cross, every written requirement against us was nailed to the cross and taken out of the way (Col 2v14). There is no record against us, there is no finger of accusation - perfection has been given freely as gift in the righteousness of Christ.

As soon as we stop looking at the list of accusations against us and stop trying to grab the glory through our performance, then I believe we will see the glory coming at His initiative... maybe through unusual means (the moo-ing cows in 1 Sam 6 weren't expected).

When we stop trying to contribute our glory, then He is free to send the tidal wave of His glory.

02/04/2009

How long should we bear our guilt?

I was reading Numbers 14 this evening, the tragic history of Israel's unbelief and failure to enter the promised land. They were condemned to spend 40 years in the wilderness. God said, "According to the number of the days in which. You spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection." (Num 14v34).

I felt prompted to ask God a simple question, "Under the new covenant, for how long should we bear our guilt?" God gave me a simple reply, "For NO TIME AT ALL."

Many believers sadly live under mindset which means that after they have sinned, they live under a sense of condemnation and God's displeasure until enough time has passed for the sting of guilt to fade a little. I've been there! In the past, I have spent days and days after each and every failure, bearing my guilt! I need to say, that such a mindset is old covenant and, since Jesus has borne ALL our guilt for ALL our sins - we do not need to bear guilt even for a moment - even for a nanosecond!

To be brutally blunt, the mixed law/grace culture across the church grades sin, so we are used to feeling guilty for different periods depending on our sin. So if we lose our temper we might feel bad for half a day, or a day if it was a really bad blow-up. If we used bad language when we lost our temper, the guilt time might be a bit longer - two days perhaps, or a week if another Christian heard our bad language.

If we tell a little lie, then we feel bad for a day (or more if it is worse). If we gossip, we might feel bad for an hour. If we look with lust at someone, we might feel guilty for an hour or so; if we fantasise overmuch, we can feel guilty for a day or so. If we glance at porn, then the guilt is two days, if we masturbate then it's a week. Why are we wasting our time, burning ourselves out, punishing ourselves, when Jesus has already borne our guilt and our punishment?

Later on this evening, in our men's meeting, I felt the Holy Spirit whisper to my heart, "there are people who are backslidden today because they have borne their guilt for over forty years." This is tragedy, and the cause is legalism. Think about your own experience for a moment - under law when you fall, guilt comes, guilt causes you to lose sight of the Lord, you no longer feel His tangible presence. After a while the guilt does pass, and you feel you can approach God again. That was the reality for the first 18 years of my Christian life. I believe that for many, if this becomes the norm, discouragement grows, sin grows, guilt grows, and the sense of distance from God grows, and backsliding is only a matter of time. Why go to church and have guilt reinforced week by week, line by line, precept by precept?

And I believe there are many people who once were in the church and are outside now, not because they are "great sinners", but because they have borne the accumulated guilt of years of condemnation.

Every single believer needs to be able to answer this - whether you are walking actively with God today or whether it is years since you have been in His presence - how long should you bear your guilt? NEVER! NEVER! NEVER!

Why waste time carrying something that Jesus carried for you? Declare war on guilt, revel in grace, and drink deeply of His presence. God's not looking for you to jump through hoops to impress Him - He's already totally impressed and delighted with you, and will be forever.

07/03/2009

What do you wish?

This post has its origins in a prophetic text I received from Dan in mid-January. This was what he said:

"What do you wish queen esther? What is ur request? It shall be given to u, upto half my kingdom!! What do u wish peter day? What is ur request? It shall be given u! Ask of me and ì will give the nations to u! Ask - becuz u are most dearly loved! Ask becuz i am besotted wiv u! U have asked, wept and prayed - now wait. Wait as the eagle poised on the edge of the cliff waiting to soar, waiting for that gust of air! Be still, soak, now that i am ur father, ur daddy. Know my love!!"
This was so timely. Firstly, in our church 2008 was a year of great blessing mixed with great battle. On the one hand, in July 2008 we had our first baptism service in three years. They were long and dark years for me personally until, during my illness of 2007, God began to break through into my life with the message of grace.

Light began to shine at the beginning of 2008 as I began to preach grace, and it was with great joy that three people were baptised in July - all of whom had been in church for a while, but God had taken hold of them in a mighty way. Then, in September 2008, seven more were baptised - glory to God!! And then two more in January 2009.

But... At the same time as this, we were losing key people. Some, sadly, because we were preaching the amazing grace of God, the free gift of His righteousness and that nothing, absolutely nothing, can remove us from our standing with Him. I've blogged a bit about grace too, here.

So, Dan's text was a real word of encouragement for me personally. Then, secondly, the text came on the day of our first elders' meeting of 2009. So I shared it with them and that stirred us up to prayer and brought real encouragement after all that had gone before.

Thirdly, God began to stir up a message in my heart from Esther 5. I shared my notes with Dan and he encouraged me to publish these notes (after my very long silence in the blogging world). So here they are:

Esther 5

This passage a real historical thing, but also an illustration. The book tells how Esther, a Jewish young woman becomes queen of the Persian Empire. Esther is an orphan who is cared for by her uncle Mordecai. But the king has an evil prime minister, Haman, who struts around and is annoyed because Mordecai won't bow down to him. So he tricks the king into signing an order for all the Jews to be killed on a certain day. Mordecai pleads with Esther to go into the king in order to plead for her people, but Esther knows that anyone who goes into the king's presence without first being invited risks death.

We have urgent needs, personal, as a church, national, international, but you only need to read the Law of Moses to see that no-one can go into the presence of God at any time. The holiness of God would burn up anyone who tried to draw near. Only once a year the high priest could go with the blood of a lamb.

Our problem is that many believers still deep down have that view of God - we can't approach Him, He is so holy, especially if we have not been very spiritual or we have sinned. But this historical record is a glorious picture that you CAN draw near, and you CAN ask for great and mighty things.


I) Fully attired

Clothed. "Esther put on her royal robes"(v1). We can imagine they were beautiful, made her attractive, so the king would notice her. Didn't go in her rags but as royalty.

But where did these robes come from? Did Esther work for them, make them with her own effort? They were the king's robes, given by the king to her. And so it is with us. We don't enter presenting our deeds and performances, we enter because HE has provided for us robes of righteousness (Isaiah 61v10, contrast Isaiah 64v6). What are they like? As those on their wedding day - spotless, radiant, beautiful.

Why put on? Not a perfect illustration because the robes are always on! But, if we are not aware of them, and do not remind ourselves of them, then we will be under condemnation, and will not draw near boldly and will have no confidence that we will receive anything.

But we ARE fully attired, fitted for His awesome presence.


II) Fully accepted

The king was facing the doorway (v1). Anyone who came in would be seen. Remember the legal position - no-one could not enter unless summoned. The king was waiting to judge, to punish anyone who drew near. And that is the view many have of God - many live with a continual sense that God is waiting to punish every misdead. Not a reverential fear, but a terror of God. That was the legal position - against the law of Moses for anyone to come into the presence of God. Certain judgement was the result for anyone who did not come in rightly.

But now in Christ, it is completely different. You are clothed in robes provided by the King. And He is waiting for your call, approach. He is eager to see you, for you to approach Him.

The king sees Esther (v2). When he saw her, she found favour in His eyes. At that moment of seeing, there was favour. He didn't have to think about it and wonder if He would accept her, rather, His acceptance and welcome was instant. You do not have to convince God of your worth to stand in His presence. You only have to convince yourself. The devil knows it, God knows it, but we tend to stay at a distance because we don't fully know it. This passage says "when" the king saw, she found favour. When the King of grace looks at you, you find favour in His sight. You haven't got to do anything, you have that favour because of being in Christ. That is the reality.

The OT priest had to go in with the sacrifice, the sacrifice had to be perfect and without spot or blemish. There was that question that would have been in the mind of every priest - will God accept the sacrifice? There is no question when you go into the presence of God - the full and complete sacrifice had already been made.


III) Fully authorised

The sceptre (v2). This is further indication of acceptance. It is the symbol of His kingly authority. He is holding out to say "come in", and what I have I give to you, you are welcome here. She would have come in and touched it, maybe even kissed it, and so indicating "yes, I accept your welcome, I receive your authority". You don't crawl into the presence of God saying "please accept me." You come in boldly because you are a son of God already, you are accepted already - Jn 1v12 (right = authority).

Not only correctly clothed, and found favour, but fully authorised to stand in His presence and that authority lasts for all eternity...

And she is authorised to ask for anything. What do you wish?

"Half the Kingdom."(v3) The king used a phrase to Esther which was saying, "I offer you the maximum." I'm giving you all I can, I'm willing to give you anything.

The maximum this king could give was "up to half the kingdom." But with God there is no limitation. He owns it all, the nations are His (Ps 2v8), the earth is His and all its fulness (Ps 24v1). So there is no limit to what He can give you.


So....

So what are you going to ask for? Healing, provision, encouragement, refreshing, for your family members that are not saved, for your neighbours. What are we going to ask for as a church? For the transformation of the community, for the filling of these buildings with people who are being delivered? Lives being turned around? For the glory of God to be seen? What is your wish? What do you desire?

And this is the promise of the new covenant - Rom 8v32. The Lord is better than this king. This king is just a shadow. The substance, reality is in Christ - and far far better. He is infinitely more desirous to bless, infinitely more accepting, allow infinitely greater intimacy with Himself. This is God.

What is the hindrance? You can go in there even without asking anything, just to be and enjoy His presence. You are accepted, you have His favour, He is pleased with you, He likes you, He loves you. And as He is pleased with you, you can ask Him things, because His whole heart for you is "what do you wish?"

"Call to Me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things which you do not know." (Jer 33v3)

11/04/2008

Revenge against the spirit of accusation

I have recently finished listening to Rob Rufus teaching from Dubai on grace from 2006.

Towards the end of the message, Rob, in applying the parable of the prodigal son, spoke with passion about how actively standing in the truth of the finished work of Christ sets us totally and completely free from the spirit of accusation and condemnation. Condemnation locks up, grace sets free - not to carry on sinning, but to live in freedom from guilt and freedom to be holy.

I am about to go on holiday (for a week), so I thought I would leave this quote behind, and I encourage you to let the truth impact you and liberate you. Blessings in abundance to you. Over to Rob:

"Satan hates for us to find out about grace, but the Father has prepared a table for us in the presence of our enemies, and the best thing you can do to take redemptive revenge against the evil one is to enjoy the feast; dance, celebrate.

The day you feel least worthy to praise God, that's the day to come like a prodigal into the Father's arms with the first robe, the ring on the finger, the sandals on your feet, and say, 'I'm going to glorify the mighty work of God at the finished work of the cross, where He triumphed over principalities and powers and disarmed them openly at the cross, took away the rules and the regulations at the cross and cancelled them, and forgave all my sins past, present and future. And even though I haven't been perfect this week, I'm going to eat of the table of blessing in the presence of my enemies cos my Father gave me this robe, my Father put His arms around me, my Father ran to me; I didn't run to Him, He ran to me, He sought me out, He gave me the grace, it was His initiative!'

If God is for you, who can be against you? It is God who justifies, who is it that condemns? We're gonna celebrate, we're gonna praise, we're gonna dance because it is God the Father who initiated this feast in the presence of my enemies.

Revenge against the spirit of accusation."
Before moving on in his message, Rob concludes with this sobering challenge:
"And friends, if you do not maintain and sustain an agressive attitude to the spirit of the older brother; unless you sustain an agressive attitude against the spirit of accusation, a move of grace will dwindle within weeks."
Let's not allow grace to dissipate into accusation and condemnation. We do sadly fall, but we don't have to allow accusation to keep us down - be it accusation from our own thinking, from others who would want to draw us back to some form of law and regulation, or from the enemy and his hosts of hell.

Let's stand, without giving in even for a moment, in grace. Please don't read this and start saying "that's a licence to sin". It's not! It's simply a licence to be free from guilt and condemnation, and in that freedom to enjoy God, to bask in His presence, to encounter His glory, to be changed, and to walk in fruitfulness.

08/04/2008

What Happens If We Sin?

At the moment over on Life on Wings, a couple of posts have led to some important discussion in the comments, about both the source of holiness, and also about whether our experience of the power of God is linked to our purity.

I don't really like quoting my own sermons at length - there is plenty of quality teaching available on blogs and sermon downloads - but I feel prompted just to copy into this post my notes from a message I preached back in February entitled "what happens if we sin?" It's a far from perfect message and I am still learning loads about grace - every time I open the scripture, fresh things are hitting me about the extravagant grace of God - but this message is a start, and I hope some find it helpful.

Anyway - here goes (please excuse the note form!):

Text 1 John 1:5-2v1

Last time we looked at propitiation as part of our series on building the kingdom. Looked particularly at two verses: 2 Cor 5v21, Heb 10v14. Established that we have been made perfect forever. But does that mean that, for example, upsetting another person (and grieving God) doesn’t in fact matter? Does it mean that sin doesn't matter?

Does it make us less perfect in God's sight? No! Does it matter? Yes? Why?


I) Why sin matters

  • God saved us to be like Jesus (1 Jn 3v2-3). So if we don’t, we are missing out.

  • It is part of the old life (Rom 6v1-7). We don’t do the things that we are formerly ashamed of. It is very interesting the way Paul argues. He says, that is what you were (1 Cor 6v10-11). Or because of these things His wrath is coming upon (not you) but the disobedient (Eph 5v5-7). Why does sin matter, because it is living as if you have not been transformed. You have been transformed, you are saved and you are perfect, but sin is living like the world from which you have been gloriously delivered.

  • Continual sin can lead to bondage (Eph 4v25-7). Anger and bitterness, and habits can become strongholds.

  • We have been given the Holy Spirit. We are told “do not grieve Him.” (Eph 4v30). It doesn’t say “do not anger him”, because His wrath is satisfied. But we can grieve Him. Not breaking His law, but His heart.

  • As we grow in love for Him, sin becomes more and more unacceptable because He is our Father, and we want to please Him (Rom 5v5, 2 Cor 5v14). You are in a relationship, so you feel His grief. That is the gracious work of the Spirit in us.
Remember, nothing changes our standing, reduces His love, or makes us less righteous in Him, nothing can banish us from His presence, from serving, from praying, from being fruitful – because we are the righteousness of God in Him. Yes that sounds outrageously too good to be true; it almost sounds like a licence to do what we want. But actually, that is the logical conclusion of the gospel. Rom 6v1. Commenting on this verse, Lloyd-Jones says that if our preaching does not lead to this question being asked, then we are probably not preaching the gospel properly.

But Paul’s response is not – of course you shouldn’t sin, remember that God will judge you if you break the commandments. Instead he says – of course not, don’t you know that you have died to that old way of life?

So sin matters. I don’t want to sin, because I have been saved for better than that. I don’t want to sin, because I love Him. I don’t want to sin because it grieves the Holy Spirit.

It’s also important to see to see that the Bible warns us that we will sin. If we say we do not sin then we make Him a liar. On the other hand, the passage says “if you sin.” It’s not contradicting, it is simply expressing a paradox. A paradox is two things that can both be true even though they seem to contradict. It is true that we sin, but sin should be diminishing. So he says “you are not without sin” on the other hand our expectation is not “when we sin”, but “if we sin.” And if we do sin, we have an advocate who speaks in our defence. Who declares over every single sin – “not guilty”. Not “father have mercy” upon them and be kind to them, but “Not guilty” because of the finished work. Because He is a propitiation, He is the One who has turned aside the wrath of God, and satisfied it fully.

In OT, at the Passover, the angel of death examined the blood, not the performance of the occupants in the house. When someone brought a sacrifice, the priest examined the lamb, not the person bringing the lamb. Our Lamb is perfect!

Nothing changes your standing, but I’m writing so you will sin less, and less and less. But if you do, take courage. Nothing changes your standing.

That’s the foundation. But what does happen if we do sin? What do we do? Do we just ignore it and carry on, or do we need to respond, to change, to repent?

But actually there is another question we need to ask first:


II) How do we know what sin is?

  • God’s word. A sword. Double-edged (Heb 4v12-13) – to bring on the one hand challenge, and on the other hope. It is that which exposes the intents and attitudes of the heart. It is the light of God, and as we read it, and meditate upon it, we are shining the light on our heart. A lack of the word can de-sensitise us to sin. We haven’t got the light on. We are fumbling and lost and just simply floundering around. And if we hide it in our heart, we will sin less (Ps 119v11)!

  • The Holy Spirit. Sense His grief. Walking by the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal 5v16). So, as we walk with God, the Spirit will be our guide. His gracious voice, whether we hear it audibly, or simply a touch in the heart, a check, a sense of being unsettled, a lack of peace (Col 3v15). You know. You are no longer walking in agreement (Amos 3v3). He hasn’t left you, but there is a lack of agreement. Feelings that He has left you, are of the devil. He cannot leave us. We are the righteousness of God in Him. If we start thinking He has left us we have moved out of grace into works. We have moved to a place of saying well I need to do something to get the presence of God back. Do something? Jesus was asked “what must we do”. Paul was asked “what must I do?” And the answer in both times was “believe”. No, we do not have to do anything to have His presence in our lives, we are not saved, nor are we kept by our works. But when we sin, we have grieved Him, we are out of step with Him. He is still there, He still loves, He is still a friend that sticks closer than a brother. But we have stepped out of agreement, and so we know that things are not right.
So we know sin, by the Word and by the Spirit, and usually both. God has highlighted sin in our lives. Not to condemn us – the Bible says there is now no condemnation. And how can there be any when the handwriting has been wiped away? No, the work of the Spirit in the believer is to sanctify us. He is changing us, and so He is highlighting the sin in order to bring about that change.


III) So what do we do?

1. Confess

1 Jn 1v9. “To forgive” does not mean eternally forgive, because what happens if we sin and then fall under a bus. It is not eternal forgiveness, but a removal of the grief of the Spirit. So the Spirit is grieved, but the moment we confess, then the grief is GONE.

Confess means “to agree”, to acknowledge “God you are right”. Not a long speech. This is another trick of the enemy – “have I confessed enough?” It’s not a long speech or a written confession, but simply agreeing with God. It’s a heart thing, more than anything, simply to say from the heart “God. I agree! You are right, I am wrong. I have got angry, I have spoken badly, I have hurt someone.” Confession is not a work, it is simply agreement.

Often struggle because we don’t really confess. We say “I am so sorry, I am terrible, I am such a sinner, how can you accept me.” So the focus becomes us! And we end up with a great cloud of guilt.

But it says here “confess”. Tell God HE is right and you are wrong, without excuses. That’s enough and that moment the Spirit’s grief is gone. The grief has gone because you are now in agreement. So you are walking together. You haven’t necessarily got everything right, but you are in agreement. You have confessed.

If after that there is any sense of guilt, conviction, darkness, unsettledness, replay of the sin – it is the enemy. And you have the sword of the Spirit. “I am the righteousness of God in Him… He has made me perfect forever through His sacrifice.”

Is 54v7-10 – a new covenant promise. The purchase of Ch 53 is shown here.

2. Repentance

Rev 2v5 – do the works you did at first. Change your mind. Seek to walk in the Spirit. It is not walking in perfection, but having confessed, getting back to doing what you should be doing.

Also means getting right with the person you have grieved. Yes, we have sinned against God but we may have hurt others. If we wrong others the word says we need to put it right. Live at peace with all men (Rom 12v18). Paul says “if he wronged you, put to me.”(Philemon 18) He was putting right what Philemon couldn’t. The Lord blesses unity, as far as it depends on us we are to leave at peace.

And you know that if we have confessed to God, it makes apologising easier. Confession says “God you are right”, not “God I’m sorry, but did you see what he did, hear what he said, I was provoked Lord.” That is simply stirring ourselves up to bitterness. But to declare to God that He is right (without any excuses on our part), prepares us to get right with the other person – again without any excuses on our part.

And that is a major step in the healing process. If our apology is rejected, then we have done our part, we must leave it with Him. Then we must stand on who we are --- the righteousness of God, been perfected forever, with the garments of salvation.

Because our advocate is our propitiation, there is no wrath, all is turned away. No matter how great the sin, how frequent the sin, nothing changes our standing. There’s no height in the Father’s glory and the Father’s love that you cannot ascend to because there was no depth into darkness and depravity that Jesus didn't descend to on your behalf. And at the cross Jesus identified with you at your worst so that you could be identified with Him at His best.

So you are free to confess without fear of rejection, or God saying “not again.” You are free to confess and step back into the joy and peace in the Spirit, and continue an unhindered walk.

I had a picture in last home group when praying, just for a moment –everyone clothed in radiant, dazzling garments – and my thought if we could only see ourselves as God see us, we would never be condemned, but also would also not want to sin. You are clothed in spotless garments. Garments that guarantee your standing before God forever, clothing that marks you out as His, and clothing that doesn’t belong with sin. If we sin, we have an advocate with the Father – all is covered, all is clean – but our garments have fitted us, not for sin, but for the throne room of God’s presence.

And that is why we stand on the finished work of Christ. That is the foundation for personal and corporate growth.

20/03/2008

Some quotes on Romans 7

There have been a number of comments on my previous post, concerning the nature of Romans 7. I realise that that I will be disagreeing with many learned people, and so I do not want to present a "final answer" to debate on Romans 7 - rather I just want to share some quotes from good commentators.

"Whatever else, this passage does not describe a struggle within the believer between his or her flesh and the Spirit but rather describes what it is like to be under the Law and in the clutches of sin and the flesh... The absence of the Spirit in this picture affirms that Paul is not describing life under the New Covenant." (Gorden Fee, God's Empowering Presence, p513)

"I do not then deny that Christians struggle with sin - I deny only that this passage describes that struggle. For while the believer continues to be influenced by both 'realms', Paul makes it clear he belongs to the new realm." (Douglas Moo, Romans, p449)

"My own view is that Paul's purpose in the text is not to delineate whether believers or unbelievers are the subject of the discussion. His purpose is to communicate the inability of the law to transform human beings." (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, quoted in Terry Virgo, God's Lavish Grace, p56)

"The argument supporting a reference to Christian experience is exegetical but existential... I agree with those who detect a future deliverance from sin in 7:24 but this should not exclude present victory as well. Believers experience substantial, significant and observable victory over sin." (Thomas Schreiner, Romans, p384)

"I am about to make a statement which is almost certainly to be misunderstood. I make it in order to expand the passage. I shall be 'slanderously reported' for having said it even as the Apostle himself was. I put it like this: it doesn't matter how deeply, how violently you may sin as a believer, you should never again come under condemnation. If you do it is because you have not understood your relationship to the law and have put yourself back 'under law' again... I say again that however much you may sin and whatever the charactter of the sin you must never put yourself back 'under the law': you must never have that sense of condemnation again." (Lloyd-Jones, Romans 7, p10)