No flags

flagpole-49506_640“No flags.” Another one-liner from the Lord, and this one as pithy as they come. As usual, I knew exactly what He meant. Since gaining numerical significance, the people of God have always carried tribal overtones within their unity. Jacob’s sons became the heads of twelve tribes, each with distinctives in character and calling. Benjamin, Levi, Judah – these are names with a great deal of meaning to anyone who has a handle on Old Testament history.

But problems arise when unity begins to fracture along these tribal lines. It is but a small step in the heart from Benjamin, Levi and Judah to “I’m of Apollos”, “I’m of Cephas”, and “I’m of Paul”. As Paul pointed out to the fragmented community in Corinth, we’re actually all of Christ, and this polarising stuff is counterproductive. The lesson is this: while we cannot avoid having distinctives, these should not define us. Christ alone does that. Some of our distinctives are primal, like skin colour and gender; others are nuanced, like doctrine and calling. No matter which, our carnal tendency is to quantify and categorise, define and delineate, and then associate and/or disassociate accordingly. The result is Christ divided; a house that crumbles. A fundamental error repeated over and over again.

So, no flags! No flags marking our allegiance to any faction of the church above another. And no flag calling for allegiance to this part of the church above another. Autonomous, inter-dependent local church – nothing more; nothing less – under the responsible government of it’s Biblically appointed eldership, and relationally connected to the important trans-local gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher. Nothing could be simpler or clearer.

b9317967944z-1_20150704151929_000_gohb8pva9-1-0Yet walking in this has been challenging in the utmost. The reason is not that other church leaders don’t understand or disagree with the position. Rather, it’s regarded as some sort of lofty idealism. Consequently, the Lord’s church is so divided along the lines of it’s respective distinctives, that it has often become the purveyor of a its respective brand of Christianity, more so than of the Gospel. Just gather with other leaders. The first question typically goes to who you’re “under”. For me this question raises something of a red flag (excuse the pun), because you soon discover that you’re welcome everywhere on a superficial level, but nowhere on a significant level. Unless of course you subscribe to the finer points of the distinctives of the brand in question.

To state this is to state the obvious: The New Testament church was one congregation, many apostles; not one apostle with his many congregations. Again, to state the obvious: Paul’s reference to some who he had raised up as sons was descriptive, not prescriptive. If the shoe fits, wear it, but let’s not insist that everyone dons our preferred brogues. All that does is corrupts and weakens the gene pool by incestuous inbreeding. Why should everyone we invest in undergo some sort of DNA transfusion in order to become just like us?

The flag issue ultimately addresses ownership. It is my strong conviction that the church, and by that I mean the local church, belongs to Christ. The Scriptures are clear on local church structures – elders and deacons; with elements of episcopal, presbyterian and congregational approaches, dependent on context. Any structures that emerge between these autonomous local churches and the glorious eternal church are man-engineered. They may facilitate health and mission, but they arise out of pragmatism (us) rather than Perfection (Him). Let’s hold onto them lightly. And when they begin to define us in ways that supersede our identity in Christ, let’s jettison them in haste.

Every local church has distinctives. These is nothing wrong with that. But so strong is our need to define ourselves by association that even a flagless local church runs the risk of becoming part of some no-flag movement, where flaglessness becomes the defining characteristic, and where like good teenagers, we all non-conform together in identical ways. See above, and count us out.

downloadOne last thought, and I include it simply because I encounter it so often. My resistance to defining alignment within the wider body of Christ is not because I’m hurt, bent and buckled. It seems there are those who resist relationships of depth and accountability because they are wounded, and it is true that living rogue doesn’t produce much by the way of good fruit. But I’m not rogue. Neither are many others who share these convictions. And we are walking in, and healthily desirous of, trans-local relationships of depth and accountability. We’re just not prepared to become card-carrying movement members, for doing so would have us perpetuating an exclusivity and elitism that needs to be flushed out from amongst the people of God, and not reinforced and entrenched.

imagesSo it is that the proverbial flagpole rises high above the roof of the building in which our local church gathers on Sunday mornings. Around us, any number of believers, and more commonly leaders, eye its vacant tip with considerable perplexity, and at times more than a little disdain. We know this because they agitate about it, and subtly raise the matter with us again and again; and at times not so subtly. But long may it so remain, and soon may those whom it bothers come to see that it really is OK. For a flagless flagpole does not default to a Jolly Roger (the skull-and-crossbones, and pirates ahoy!), or half-mast (another failed church and perhaps a building for sale). If it defaults anywhere, it’s to a white flag, and this part of the body of Christ unwilling to be at war with the rest of itself.

Don’t fence the waterhole

“Why are your standards higher than mine?”

I have a long, rich history of one-liners from the Lord. They are inevitably paradigm shifting, and often come as questions to which I somehow know the (wrong) answer. In other words, they always cut to the quick of a matter in an instant. This one was no different. I had grown sufficiently in insight into the realities of the New Covenant to know exactly what He was alluding to.

david-bucklow-landscape-fenced-windmill-303278Membership of our church required submitting to a process described as Basic Foundations. It was a series of weekly gatherings for prospective members, including a camp-style weekend away, which had a clearly defined exit point. That exit point included baptism in water and baptism in the Holy Spirit. In other words, speaking in tongues was a requirement for membership. It also included clarity regarding the doctrine, vision, values and ethos of the church. That in turn required prospective members to be in a small group, be signed up to serve in one department or another, and to be faithful in attendance at the worship service. It involved subscribing to a ten-percent-of-gross financial commitment with offerings over and above, although we never policed this in any way. Participation in the prayer meeting was also preferable. With this list of criteria in place, and with both parties considering the fit good, the prospective member moved into membership via a public affirmation of covenant, which was an extra-biblical pledge which we had gleaned from Moravian and Wesleyan traditions.

That’s what it took to be a member of our church. Jesus’ church required considerably less: Believe! Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone and because of Christ alone. The thief on the cross had no problem achieving full, eternal membership in Jesus’ church. He’d have had no chance with us.

What followed was the dismantling of our formal membership roll. At the time it felt like a radical step; now it seems the most natural thought process in the world. What an accurate Gospel does is turn the volume down on the local church, it’s demands and distinctives, and the volume up on the universal, eternal, catholic church, where all who are in Christ belong to Him and to one another. The local church, we now understand, is simply a manifestation in time and space of that glorious church universal.

I had long defended our rigid membership rituals by arguing for the need for like-mindedness in vision and values, and by insisting that any leadership serious about giving account to God for their flock would need clarity regarding who was in and who was not. I now see that it was a means of manipulation and control, fundamentally divisive in the context of the broader church, and a keystone of our practice of exclusivity. If the windows and the doors of the house were to be open, then elaborate membership procedures would have to cease.

imagesThe Lord reassured our hearts by encouraging us to not fence the waterhole. Fences, after all, keep things out and keep things in; it just depends on which side of them you’re on. Our intention was to become more a game reserve and less a typical farming operation. He made it clear that the sheep were His, not ours. He taught us that as His under-shepherds, we elders remained accountable to Him for oversight of the corporate expression, while not being responsible for managing the freedoms of the individual sheep. Slowly our paradigms moved towards free-ranging, and we were able to open our hands and release our membership into following Him. By the way, they’re so much more secure now, because their security is in Him, and no longer in the church they attend.

To change the analogy yet reiterate the point: It is my conviction that should a Martian beam down into our parking lot and ask any church member, “who is your shepherd?”, the answer should be “Jesus”. Change the question and ask them to identify the leaders of the church, and they should point to the elders. This is no semantic difference; it is foundational to how we understand the local church. The people of God belong to Jesus. He is their shepherd and they are by definition Spirit-led. Leaders have no right to make church or personal loyalties a point of accountability. Our role is to help them discern and obey the will of God. Nothing more; nothing less. And then to be grateful for the degree to which that has them faithful to the local church.

This in turn has enormous implications for the funding and otherwise resourcing of local churches. Things must be done differently. This is not only possible; it is preferable. Thinking in this way has rendered me bi-vocational, and has positioned us to preach the Gospel of God’s unconditional love without strings attached. There is simply no mechanism in place to embroil anyone in our brand. Those who settle amongst us do so because the Lord Himself settles them. That thief on the cross would fit in amongst us just fine now. Week after week we enjoy gathering at the well of Living Water, celebrating Jesus and all that He has done, and watching His people gather to drink, just as we would enjoy an evening at the waterhole in the game reserve, watching His magnificent creation draw near to be refreshed and replenished.

You’re welcome, any Sunday morning, 09h30.

Preach the New Covenant

“Preach the New Covenant”, said Jesus. This one-liner reverberated through my being with absolute authority and audible-voice clarity, answering what had been the cry of my heart for many months.

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It was a one-liner I didn’t see coming. I knew that I had to open the windows and doors of the church to the many, but what I didn’t know was that I was in for Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition. (For the backstory in more detail, click here).

What followed was as extended period under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit in a special and unusual way. It sounds arrogant to claim as Paul did that I received the Gospel from the Lord, but that’s exactly what happened. Amidst very difficult times in ministry and local church, the Spirit opened the Scriptures to me in a fresh way, and it was as if I was “born again” again. The parallel discovery was the degree to which my belief system had been a mixture of Old and New Covenants, of Law and Grace.

1345804-inlineMy Extreme Makeover: Belief System Edition can be likened to a theological world tour, with numerous significant stopovers. I spent time in Romans 8:1, discovering that every aspect of my life was condemnation-ridden. My self-speak, my marriage, parenting, relationships, preaching and ministry all oozed condemnation, disqualification, and the demand for increased effort. From there it was across to Hebrews 4 and the discovery that salvation is rest from one’s own work and complete reliance on the work of another. This was quite a revelation for a permanently exhausted individual living and laboring in a burnout-conducive culture. Then came the visit to Security, where I discovered that most of us Christians are desperately and unnecessarily insecure. There were also notable stopovers in Peace and Joy, which are gifts accompanying salvation. Time was also well spent in New Nature (just like Jesus), in Holy Spirit (an indwelling Helper who will never leave us, and is an enabler in righteousness), and in Bible (an account of seven covenants, only one of which applies). Through it all I discovered that Jesus is God’s message (and perfect theology), that God is Good (and only good), and that God has made up His mind about us in Christ. If I had to identify a single highlight, it would have to be what I now regard as my favourite passage of Scripture: “For by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:14 ESV). Our justification is absolute, and we who are in Christ are therefore irrevocably righteous!

the-gospel-changes-everythingYears on, I continue to grow in the revelation and application of the New Covenant, but it is no exaggeration to say that everything has changed: My understanding of the Lord, salvation, myself, others, our world and His church. Every Sunday, I now enjoy the privilege of proclaiming a salvation that is by grace alone, through faith alone, because of Christ alone. This puts salvation within reach of everyone, and recognises that the grace that saves is the grace that sustains, empowers, and sanctifies. What was a Churchianity has become Christianity. It really is all about Him after all!

Following on has been progressively unfolding revelation of what it means to serve, lead and govern the local church from within New Covenant paradigms. Again, the Gospel has changed everything. What was at times a manipulative, controlling, stressful and exhausting environment has become one of peace, joy, freedom and fullness. The New Covenant is literally so much Good News as to be out of this world. Day by day we enter into greater measures of the benefits of this New Covenant, in which we have been included in Christ Jesus. And to top it all, no one is excluded. The windows and doors of the house are open, and the beauty of the local church accessible to all. The Gospel is for the whosoever will, and so it is with His church. What grace. What mercy. What goodness. What kindness. What love. Praise be to our God!

Open the windows and doors

This is the first of a series of posts documenting the paradigm-altering revelation that has fashioned my understanding of the local church, and of the Gospel that shapes her. We are a very long way from where we once were, and the story is certainly worth the telling.

s-l400In fact, I write for three reasons. Firstly, to remember. Recall and reflection are helpful in keeping the main thing as the main thing. Secondly, to reiterate. Telling of the Lord’s dealings will help those connected to us in some way to understand where we’re coming from. And thirdly, I write to record. To provide a backstory for those who do and will benefit from our pioneering. So, here goes.

The most profound of all the paradigm-shifters was a God-encounter a decade or so ago. It took place during a time of corporate worship. In a moment I was caught up into an open vision. The experience was dramatic to say the least. I have no idea how long it lasted, but understand how Paul could be unsure as to whether he remained in his body or not. The vision was all-consuming, and not conscious of any other reality as it unfolded.

In the vision I was putting the finishing touches to the housework in a typical domestic home. The Lord was present, and it was unmistakably clear that the home I was tending represented the local church. The Lord commended me on the way in which I had kept His house. I felt so proud. After all, my labour in ministry was for Him, and this was a “well done, good and faithful servant” moment.

He followed up with a simple question, “Why are the curtains closed?” As happens in encounter, I knew, and responded accordingly. “Lord, the windows and curtains are closed because of where your house is built.” I moved to a window and opened the curtain, revealing that His house was built on a rubbish dump. The windows and curtains were kept closed because of the rotten smell and to hide repulsive view. Point made, I let the curtain fall back into place.

The Lord’s response was gentle. “Gavin, the problem is not with where my house is built; the problem is with your perspective. Open the curtain.” I drew the curtain aside and was overwhelmed by what I saw. Gone was the rubbish dump, replaced by a dense sea of people. People of all races, cultures, ages, shapes and sizes – an innumerable multitude incomprehensibly vast!  As I attempted to absorb what I saw, the Lord said, “Gavin, I want you to open the windows and doors of my house. My house is for them also!”

I was completely undone by the implications of it all. In a moment the Lord had adjusted my perspective of humanity to align with His, and had set into motion what would become a total rebuilding of my now-shattered belief system. I wept and wept and wept. Just as suddenly as it had begun, so the encounter ended, and I found myself on the floor, sobbing my heart out. The repentance precipitated within was overwhelming, and it rendered me so raw that many months passed before I could talk about it without dissolving in tears.

The encounter bestowed a fresh mandate: Open the windows and doors of the church! Not knowing why they were closed meant having no clue as to where to begin in remedying the situation. All I knew was that they were indeed closed, and that something was profoundly amiss as this was so. Unwittingly, instantaneously, I’d gone from being zealously committed to Christianity as I knew it, to being deeply challenged to the core. It compelled me to question anything and everything. Those around me could see that I’d been with the Lord, and all agreed that opening the windows and the doors was a great idea (after all, we all want more church members), but few seemed willing or able to grasp that there was something fundamentally wrong. What I later came to understand is that open windows and doors have nothing to do with church membership, but everything to do with the very foundations of our faith and practice. My fresh mandate would call for shifts of seismic proportions, and a great shaking was at hand.

What followed at first was many, many months of unsettled vagary. I sought to pursue my mandate by encouraging evangelism and nudging things towards seeker-sensitivity and community involvement. Yet I knew, even as I did so, that I was completely missing the point. Then, suddenly, another encounter. This one was nothing like the previous one. This time it was a single sentence that reverberated through my being with such clarity that had anyone been with me, I’m sure they would have heard it also. It was the definitive answer to my persistent “how, Lord?” “Preach the New Covenant”, said Jesus.

 

Good News

downloadThe Gospel is news. It’s news about Jesus – about who He is, what He did, and why He did it.

His story goes right back to before the beginning, when He partnered with the other members of the Godhead in formulating their creative and redemptive plans, agreeing on their respective roles. He was then so successful in His mission that its impact is comprehensively retroactive and will be never-ending. The cross spans time and space, for by it God was reconciling all things to Himself – things on earth, and things in heaven.

Throughout the ages, this story has been told by those who saw, heard and experienced it unfold and develop. It is so well attested to all along the way that it comes to us as eye-witness news, with many of those witnesses having been martyred for their unwillingness to waver in testimony. Yet, in contemplating its enormous scope, let’s not imagine that the Gospel story is a complicated one, for this is not so. The poignant facts are all to be found condensed within the life of a single individual, Jesus Christ. The Gospel is short and simple, easily remembered, and easily told. Even little children can understand it.

imagesWhen this news – Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – first broke on the streets of Jerusalem on Pentecost morning a little more than two millennia ago, it did so empowered by the Spirit, and immediately went viral. The believing community of a hundred and twenty soon gained three thousand more, and from there it snowballed. Confirmed by miracles, signs and wonders through the centuries, today the worldwide community of believers numbers hundreds of millions, and the forward momentum of this message gives no indication whatsoever of slowing down.

Wherever the news about Jesus has gone, it’s been just as controversial as Jesus Himself was. This has been a good thing, for it means that this news has been interrogated and tested every step of the way. The first major think-tank – and there have been many since – took place as the key role-players in the believing community gathered at what we today refer to as the Council of Jerusalem. This was necessary because the news was leaping across ethnic divides, and they wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the facts, and not some culturally distorted version of the facts. This Council was presided over by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Like him, many of those present had seen first-hand what Jesus had done, and heard what Jesus had said with their own ears. This gathering therefore constituted the ideal forum for crystallising the Gospel, paring it down to its essentials. What was then viral is now global, and those early leaders served us well, as did many others through the years. Much has happened, but the facts remain, and today the Gospel is as clear as it has ever been. What we learn through it all is that truth remains true, and ceaseless attention simply polishes the diamond all the more. The news, as proclaimed by Peter on the streets of Jerusalem, is the news we herald today.

download (1)Jesus lived the sinless life no descendant of Adam could. Every one of Adam’s line is a sinner, due sin’s wages, but sinless Jesus received these on our behalf. He died for our sins. Three days later, God raised Him from the dead, thereby vindicating His claims, and establishing His vicarious death as redemption for sinners for all time. All who believe this, in so doing appropriate His substitution personally, and thereby enter into a glorious exchange – their sin for His righteousness. All of it, for all of it! He received what sinners deserve, and in believing, sinners become saints as they enter into all that He deserves. The Gospel believed is salvation received, and it is by faith alone that men and women are put right with God. The Holy Spirit makes them alive and anew. In the moment of faith, those who believe are instantly transported from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being in first Adam to being in Christ (last Adam). God Himself, who made this possible for them, does it to them. We believe; He works! This is the Gospel!


Best News Ever 3D

From Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! Available for download from a broad selection of e-book platforms. Click on the image to go to the book’s page and select the version that best suits you.

 

 

The Gospel (by Ross Penniall)

The Gospel is more than just scandalous. It’s an offense to almost every culture, and will continue to be so for many centuries to come. But say what you must, it is incredibly good news to the people who have come to the end of themselves.

John wrote what is arguably the most famous verse in the Bible: John 3:16. It is so because it captures the heart of the Author, and His love letter, in one easy-to-understand sentence. It doesn’t need a professor to interpret it or a scholar to to unpack its truth. It’s simple: God loved. Jesus came. Men believe. Eternal life is given. John expresses the ease with which one is rescued from eternal condemnation: Believe in God’s one and only Son.

But that should cause one to stop and ask: What does it mean to believe in Jesus? What exactly are we to believe about Jesus that will grant the gift of eternal life to the one who believes?

Allow me to answer these all-important questions for you …

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GOD

Many don’t like the idea, But God is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-present. He gives and sustains life,  and without Him nothing would exist. He is righteous and holy, perfect in every way. He exists outside of time. He sees all, and knows everything about everyone. Like it or not, He is Lord of all, including us.

MAN

We are unholy. We are unable to save ourselves, even though many don’t even believe there is an actual afterlife. We are rebels to the core. We are lost in our sins. We are worshipers of ourselves and live to please ourselves. We are unable to please Him or know Him. We don’t desire Him on any level. We are lost. Our destination is damnation. And truth is, that’s a just sentence, and we are in desperate need of a savior.

Side note: A good doctor doesn’t just give a sick man medicine. A good doctor whips out the x-rays. He displays pictures of the disease. He doesn’t hold back. He calls a spade a spade and gives the sick man a blunt, open and honest diagnosis of how bad it really is, to the point that the sick man is virtually begging for the remedy. One of the reasons why men don’t desire God’s remedy (Jesus) is because they aren’t aware of how sick they really are.

REMEDY

Jesus is God’s remedy for a sick and dying world. He came to seek and save the lost. Jesus paid the penalty for every lost man’s sin, and this for all time. He died for me and He died for you! He took the full brunt of God’s wrath at sin upon Himself. He reconciled God to the world. On the cross, He who knew no sin became sin, so that through Him many would become righteousness. He is the only way to God. He is the only remedy for a lost and dying world.

RESPONSE

God is holy. I am unholy. I need saving. Jesus made it possible for me to be saved. That’s the message. The invitation is simple: BELIEVE! Church attendance is not a prerequisite. Neither is obeying the commandments or praying every day. “Quit smoking!” “Stop using foul language!” “Stop watching Internet porn!” “All good advice, but not the Good News. Jesus is the Good News. He lived the life we couldn’t live. He died the death we all deserved to die. He then gives us a salvation we could never earn. Grace is given to those who don’t deserve it. That’s you and me, my friend! And so, man’s response is so simple: just believe. Unwrap the gift and say thanks.

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That’s why the Gospel is an affront to just about every culture. Lost men don’t like to be told they are sustained by a loving Creator even if they don’t know or acknowledge it. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they are not good enough, no matter how hard they try. Lost men don’t like the idea of being told that they need help. Even those who believe in a God up there somewhere don’t always like the idea that Jesus is the only way to Him. And having crossed that bridge, the thought that we owe no debt or payment in return is scandal all the more. It sounds too good to be true. But it is so good because it is true!

I will never stop enjoying these truths. In fact, we’ve only scratched the surface in understanding how glorious the Gospel really is.


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A guest post for SMGN by Ross Penniall – lover of Jesus, lover of life, and lover of SoMuchGoodNews.

 

Quintessential phariseeism

Spiritual-arrogance-ahead-signJesus described quintessential phariseeism as He spoke out against self-righteousness in the most direct of ways, as recorded in Matthew 23. An exhaustive exegesis of the chapter would render a more comprehensive version, but His seven pithy “woe to you” statements give us the essentials in synopsis.

  1. Legalism is an exercise in unbelief, excluding people from a salvation that is by grace alone through faith alone.
  2. Legalism is zealous for its brand, and demands conformity to itself rather than true discipleship.
  3. Legalism consumes itself with technicalities at the expense of truth.
  4. Legalism majors on minors and neglects matters of first importance.
  5. Legalism deals in externals and ignores the matters of the heart.
  6. Legalism nurtures hypocrisy as it concerns itself more with appearances than realities.
  7. Legalism results in delusional denial of its own dismal inadequacy.

Do the exercise yourself and you might phrase things a little differently, but you’ll inevitably reach the same conclusions. Call it what you will – self-righteousness; phariseeism; legalism; dead religion; fundamentalism; self-effort – our best attempts are in such contradiction to the heart of God as to be futile exercises in unrighteousness all. Little wonder that Isaiah described them as filthy rags (literally used menstrual cloths) and Paul as dung (literally excrement).

humilityThe caution to all of us is that self-righteous people don’t recognise themselves as self-righteous. They measure themselves by themselves, and make good grades. It requires an intervention of the Lord to break the delusion. Hence my prayer is that any pride we take in our own particular version of Christianity may so come to appall us that we can never boast in it ever again. Without Jesus we are nothing, even if we’re able to so craft a veneer that we fool even ourselves, and perhaps only ourselves at that. It is by grace that we have been saved, through faith, and not of ourselves. We have nothing to boast about or place confidence in, other than Him. Our church, our obedience, our gifts and callings – these all count for nought! His church, His obedience, His perfect and finished work – these are everything!

Nothing is more freeing than discovering that Jesus counts for everything, and that everything else counts for nothing. This big idea is what ushers us into an authenticity of faith which is secure, peaceful, joyful and loving. It has nothing to prove and nothing to strive for. It is content, not contentious, and gifts salvation to everyone, irrespective of circumstance.

Much to celebrate

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There is much to celebrate in our neck of the woods. The Lord’s Presence and Provision are magnificent always, and although we’ve been busier than is customary, it’s been with a spring in our step and a a song in our hearts.

We’re delighted at the steady increase in downloads of all three of the books in the NOT CONFUSED series. They are proving to be helpful to many, and we are grateful to the Lord to be used in establishing others in the Gospel of grace in this way.

Enjoy the updated look and feel of the the website, and be blessed!

Living in the Will of God

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Living in the will of God is the application of the New Covenant in our day to day lives. This book is full of well illustrated and very practical instruction on how to do just that. The will of God is the will of God for all of His children, and you too can confidently live in it.

What Beta Readers have to say about the book

The story goes that a visitor to New York hailed a cab and asked, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The cabby’s reply was short and to the point: “Practise, practise, practise!” This was clearly not what the tourist expected. Whereas he was requesting directions to a destination, he received instructions on how to achieve success. This is so true of Christians who are trying to find a way to live in the will of God. We are given lists of instructions comprising a series of do’s and don’ts and told to practise, practise, practise. The truth is that we can practise until we die and still never achieve any degree of success. This is because thinking in this way makes it all about US and our performance. Receiving direction is entirely another matter. While it’s possible to receive both accurate and inaccurate directions on the subject, accurate directions always point to the finished work of the cross and what JESUS has already done. There is a sense that we do need to practise, but it has nothing to do with improving performance. The more we “practise” Jesus as the Author and Perfecter of our faith, the more likely it is that this will become our default position and the assurance that we are in His will, a lifestyle.

This little book is an excellent departure from the hundreds of self-help manuals and books on shelves around the world. In it Gavin does a superb job of showing us how to live in the will of God and avoid embarking on a journey that leads nowhere. Because the Gospel is all about Jesus, the road always leads to Him. Read it for yourselves to discover how uncomplicated this “how” really is. I give it five stars.

This is the third in the “Not Confused” series. Do yourselves a favour and read the first two as well.

Who should read this book and why?

LIVING IN THE WILL OF GOD is not difficult or complicated. As a matter of common sense, living in God’s will is God’s will. Surely? Why then would our Heavenly Father put it beyond the reach of any of His children? Rather, simple logic dictates that it cannot possibly be the preserve of the spiritual elite, but that living in the will of God is for everyone.

This book is for anyone who has wrestled with these matters. What you’ll discover is that the only real obstacles to living in the will of God are between our ears. This must be so if the grace of God is always sufficient. Obeying Him doesn’t rely on our own resources or abilities. Neither is it dependent on any particular situation or circumstance. The Lord always supplies what He later requires. What obstructs is an amalgam of misinformation, misunderstanding and misbelief. Lodged in our thinking and reinforced by those around us, these keep us bogged down in a veritable quagmire of unbelief. Fortunately there is Good News at hand. The Lord has provided a way out of that swamp. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It brings light and life, imparts faith and releases the power of the Spirit. Hence the Bible’s confident assertion that those who know the truth are set free by it. The Gospel is not information, but revelation that enables transformation. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, and it delivers.

This little book is unashamedly a Gospel “how to”, with the emphasis on Gospel, because Jesus has already put in the hard yards. Living in the will of God relies on His efforts, and not our own. As the truths of the Gospel are applied, faith arises in hearts and minds are renewed. God is the initiator; we are the responders. He loved first. We love in return because we are loved.

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Sure Foundation

foundationEvery building requires a solid foundation. Paul used this common-sense metaphor when writing to the Corinthians. His application was unequivocal: There is only one foundation, and it is the one already laid. That foundation is Jesus.

Notice what he didn’t say. He didn’t say that Jesus is a preferred foundation, the best available. He was emphatic. Jesus is the only foundation. In other words, nothing else is a foundation in any ultimate sense at all. Other passages of Scripture attest to this. All things were created by and for Jesus, and all things find their place in Him. In the broadest sense, when all is said and done, everything that can be shaken will have been shaken. Only that built on the unshakable foundation of Christ’s perfect work will remain. Christ and His redemptive work alone will stand.

“In righteousness you shall be established”, promised Isaiah as he expounded on the benefits of the New Covenant. The righteousness in question is not our own, but Christ’s. It is His right standing with God in which we are established. That is the unshakable foundation into which the Holy Spirit embedded us when we believed. This truth lies at the heart of the Gospel, for in it a righteousness is revealed that is by grace alone, through faith alone, and because of Christ alone.

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This is Christianity’s bottom line, no ifs or buts. In the instant that we placed our trust in Jesus, a cluster of extraordinary things happened. His story became our story as Holy Spirit united us with Him in His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. From that moment onward we were no longer dead, entombed in our trespasses and sins. From then on we’ve been alive to God and in Christ, and seated in heavenly places in Him. In that same instant we were also born again of the Spirit of God, and Holy Spirit literally took up residence in us. This was possible because our unrighteousness had been removed from us, and Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us. Right then and there our lives were immovably and irrevocably secured into that one unshakable foundation. This is true of every single Christian. There are no exceptions.

Let’s say it again. Each and every believer is in irrevocable right standing with God. We are all righteous with the perfect right standing of Jesus Himself. That is the Gospel, and deserves belabouring at every opportunity. Enlist your imagination and look down using the eyes of your spirit. What do you see beneath your feet? More solid than rock, the right standing of Jesus, unshakable beneath your feet.


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Extract from “Living in the Will of God”. Coming soon to a computer near you!