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)

06/03/2008

The mirror


I believe today that the Lord his given me an illustration of the apparent tension between our righteous standing as children of God (2 Cor 5v17) and our sanctification (that is the living out of His righteousness). While every child of God is a saint, a holy one, set apart for Him (we are NOT sinners anymore - the old has gone, all things have become new, 2 Cor 5v17), we do still sin (hence John reminds us "if we sin we have an advocate with the Father", 1 John 2v1).

But what about this sin? While I am beginning to get into my heart the reality that nothing changes my standing before God, I still get disappointed with myself, and I still get disappointed that the testimony of my life (before others) is not as good as it could be.

But today a picture dropped into my heart - of a mirror. We have all stood in front of a mirror. Sometimes you might have been to a fun fair or carnival where they had a "hall of mirrors" with different kinds of mirrors that distorted your reflection. The real you is still the same, unchanged, but the reflected you is distorted.

The moment you became a Christian, the real you became a brand new person. Your old self and ALL your sin, past, present and future, was crucified with Christ (Gal 2v20). You died and your life is now hidden with Christ (Col 3v3) - the real you is clothed with Jesus is all His perfection and glory. A sacrifice was made that made you, once and for all perfect forever (Heb 10v14). You have been justified, declared righteous so that there is NO condemndation (Rom 8v1). The real you now is now the righteousness of God, and you can't get more righteous than He.

But just as 2 Cor 3v18 says we behold Him as in a mirror, so in 1 Cor 13v12 we are told that "now we see in a mirror dimly." But what is Paul talking about - part of what he is saying is to do with himself -

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall now just as I also am known."

The picture is this - the real you is in Christ - but the way you see yourself, and the way others see you, is like through a mirror. And because we are growing and we still do sin, the mirror is dirty. So people see a weak reflection of the real you - and you yourself see a weak reflection of the real you.

So if you sin, it is important not to look at the reflection and see the failure and attack yourself "look at how bad I am, I look terrible". Remember that the mirror is not perfect yet. The reflection is distorted, it is imperfect - BUT the real you is still 100% righteous.

The good news is that we are being changed from glory to glory. I believe that day by day, the Lord is washing the mirror. He is not washing you - you are already clean - but He is washing the mirror. His glory that is untainted and totally righteous, that is in your heart, that is upon you, is gradually day by day being reflected more and more clearly. The mirror is getting cleaner.

And if we fall, some dirt does end up on the mirror. And we can beat ourselves up and say "well, I've ruined my testimony now, people will never believe now." But God keeps on washing the mirror. Day by day. And we can have confidence that the mirror will become more clean. God is faithful; He has begun a good work and will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ (Phil 1v6).

The real you - equal to God in righteousness - is being manifest more and more. You haven't got to strive to keep the mirror clean, but to rest in who you are. Don't keep looking in the mirror, stand as the real you. And God will clean the mirror. You will see His glory and holiness more and more worked out in your day to day life; people around will see His glory more and more visibly in your day to day life.

This is liberty. This sets free from self-righteousness. This sets us free from people looking at us and seeing a "holier than thou" attitude. Its not "holier than thou" but the holiness of heaven itself, which is already yours as a free gift, being seen more clearly - because God is cleaning the mirror.

So no more striving, no more condemnation, no more looking at the dirt on the mirror. You are in Christ and the righteousness of God, and praise God that more and more that glory is being, and will be, manifest, because God is cleaning the mirror that displays your life to this world.

Life in the Spirit messages

A week or so ago, I published a short post from one of Sam Storms' messages from Life in the Spirit.

Someone asked if the messages were recorded. The answer is "yes"!

The messages were all recorded and sold in support of the charity Teamwork, which supports local churches and aid projects, mainly in Kenya. If you would like to purchase any of the CDs, then please contact them directly by e-mail.

To help your chose, here is an outline of the messages:

Session 1 - Sam Storms - Don't Quench the Spirit! A wonderful exposition of 1 Thess 5v19-22.

Session 2 - Clive Calver - Understanding the Times 1. A challenge not to look back, but to move forward. This is not a time for looking back, or standing still.

Session 3 - Dave Campbell - Prophetic Anointing 1. Looked at 1 Sam 16-17, and how the anointing of God enabled David to fulfil his destiny.

Session 4 - Bernard Thompson - Moving in the Prophetic. Some excellent practical teaching on the importance of the prophetic. The headings of this message were: The prophetic is a Holy Spirit Production, a Holy Spirit Provision, needs Holy Spirit Prompting, Holy Spirit Propulsion, and Holy Spirit Penetration.

Session 5 - Clive Calver - Disappointed with Jesus? This was an honest exposition of the the road to Emmaus account, including personal testimony from Clive. He expressed the reality that we do get disappointed, but how Jesus came alongside, brought the scripture, and revealed Himself.

Session 6 - Sam Storms - A Prophetic Church Now and at the End of Time. A truly masterly exposition of Rev 11v1-13.

Session 7 - Dave Campbell - Prophetic Anointing 2. Practical and challenging teaching concerning what the prophetic is. I have posted some quotes here.

Session 8 - Q & A on the Prophetic. Sam Storms answers lots of questions on prophecy and some on eschatology.

Session 9 - Dave Campbell - Impartation of the Anointing. A really powerful explanation of what happens when we are filled with the Spirit, including some hilarious disarming of many of the arguments against physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit. After this message God moved in power and I was just overwhelmed with His goodness.

Session 10 - Clive Calver - Understanding the Times 2. What is this the time for? From Acts 28v17-28 - it is a time for expansion, retaining hope, when the church will be spoken against, and for witnessing. We were challenged to build into the next generation, and not to stop witnessing. He wants to take us beyond renewal. If God sets fire to the church, we can set fire to the community and then to the nation. Don't let it stop with us.

So, if you would like to hear more, do get in touch with Teamwork. If you have Outlook, then this link should put "Life in the Spirit CDs" in the subject line; if not you will have to put it in manually. Happy listening!

Indescribable

This amazing video was shown at the Life in the Spirit conference. Just let your heart be free and worship Him who is indescribable.



{HT: Already Not Yet.}

27/02/2008

An answer to cessationists

This morning at the Life in the Spirit Conference, Sam Storms gave a masterly outline of Revelation 11. He said some amazing stuff, which I will publish in another post, but there was one application to the "debate" with cessationists that Sam shared almost as a parenthesis to the rest of the message.

One of the main objections given to the idea that the gift of prophecy operates today is that it adds to the Word of God. So, goes the argument, when the canon of scripture was completed, there was no need for prophecy, because the revelation was complete.

But Revelation 11 tells us that the "two witnesses" will prophesy!!! Whatever your view of this passage, whether it represents a literal two people in Jerusalem, or the church as a whole, there is no question that this passage uses the term "prophesy", and that it also speaks of miraculous signs and wonders.

While our view of eschatology might determine when these events take place (either in the future, or in the present church), these events are taking (or will take) place after the completion of the canon of scripture.

So the Bible clearly shows that miraculous signs and prophecy occur after the death of the original apostles, and after the completion of the canon of scripture. So there is no argument that can say "these things have ceased."

These gifts are very much for this age!

07/02/2008

Passion for His presence

It seems that almost every time I post here, I am apologising for the long time since the last post! But this time, I have searched my Bible and I can't find any commandment which says "thou shalt blog at least once a week"! Praise God!! Although I am grateful for those of you who take time to visit and I don't want you to be wasting your time checking and finding nothing, I plead for your patience!

Allow me to explain! I am certainly not lacking anything to post! It is simply time!! I could happily sit and post here all day, but as I am responsible for the church here in South East London, that has to be my priority. So I haven't forgotten the blog, there is much I am bursting to say (three more draft posts, and one over at the new blog After God's Own Heart) and it will come out as time permits!

Anyway, last week in my reading through the scriptures, I came to Psalm 84. Verse 4 says (in the NKJV), "Blessed are those who dwell in Your house; they will still be praising You."

There was a real mistake I made in previous years as a pastor. I was so desperate for passionate worship in the church that I must admit I put pressure on people. Of course, there is a place for exhorting people to draw near to God, but the exhortations had become heavy handed; I was almost looking for a charismatic "form" of worship (hands raised, dancing etc, etc) and (although I didn't realise it at the time) people were crushed. Many were feeling that if they didn't "perform" then they weren't accepted. The horrors of legalism!!
:-(

My problem was passion for a "form" of worship, rather than a passion for His presence. This verse is so key - those who dwell in His house (are tangibly in His presence), will still (other versions say "always", "ever") be praising. Presence leads to praise! Presence leads to passion and delight in God.

Dwelling in His presence leads to effortless praise. Of course we still have to choose to declare His praise, but His presence releases something in us. How can we be silent with such tangible power and glory around us? How can we ignored the beauty of the Lord?

His presence is everything! Ruth Heflin said, "The glory is not in a song - the glory is in His Presence".

Rob Rufus said, "God said to me when I moved to Hong Kong; 'Son, if you will live not to fill buildings with people but will live to fill people with My Presence then I will fill buildings with people full of My Presence'".

This is also a vital promise for our own personal walk. The key word is "dwell". What a wonderful word!! Not "visit" but "dwell". Most of us visit God's presence. We visit in corporate worship, or in our regular "devotions". But this verse says "dwell". And this is the norm of new covenant life. The curtain is torn in two and so we meet God on the basis of His finished work!! There is no work to be done to get in His presence!! We haven't got to be kneeling or bowing or talking in hushed tones. We haven't got to have our eyes closed. We haven't got to be in a church building.

The curtain is open, we can dwell in the house of the Lord. You can be in the house of the Lord at your desk at work, on a building site, fixing a computer, playing with the children, washing up, cleaning the house, digging the garden, walking the dog, going for a run, lying in bed, having a shower, painting a wall, driving a car, anywhere!

And the result of being in His presence - we will still be praising!! Always, anywhere, anytime. Praising in His presence!