Tag Archives: Faith

Faith is patient

Faith is patient. The Bible makes this clear. It encourages us to “be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:12).

Many of us have unfortunately been rather poorly taught regarding faith. We come to think that faith is for things, rather than in someone. Think that way and faith becomes some sort of magic ingredient in the prayer equation guaranteeing the desired outcome. He’s believing for healing, she for finances, or they for a bigger apartment.

I’m not suggesting for a moment that there is anything wrong with trusting God to meet our needs. It’s just that believing for things defaults to faith in faith, which is never a good idea. When this is the case, if things don’t quite work out as anticipated, we end up in all kinds of doubt and insecurity.

Adjust the paradigm and see how things shift for the better. Trust God for healing, finances and accommodation, but place your faith in Him. After all, He is Healer, Provider, Altogether Good, Saviour and Loving Father. Now rest. Be as patient as necessary. Everything will be fine. Your hope is in the Immutability of our God, and not in the strength of your faith.

 

 

 

 

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The Gospel empowers

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31a–39).

“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

More than conquerors! Do all things! The prophet Zechariah declared Christians to be prisoners of hope. Jesus Himself said that we would do even greater things than He did. Christianity’s history is that it often thrives most vibrantly in the face of vehement opposition. Something indomitable is going on here, and the Gospel is the cause of that.

It is right-standing with God that sets Christians up for risk-taking, because although a righteous man may fail, he can never be a failure. Right-standing grants glorious immunity for it is apart from the Law. As such, it is divorced from performance, and is defining, constant, unchanging, irrevocable and inviolable. God says that we are not guilty. He says that we are not guilty even when we are guilty. Even when sinning – literally busy sinning – Christians are still justified (not guilty before God), for they are in Christ.

The Gospel doesn’t just tell people that they are new; it actually makes them new! Sin appeals to the flesh, but it cannot satisfy. Sooner or later, with our righteousness a settled conclusion, the desire to live significant lives arises. And since failing cannot turn us into failures, we have every reason to be bold, risk-taking adventurers in our pilgrimage. Someone with nothing to lose has everything to gain, and with the promises of God factored in, all things are possible! Why pray small prayers when you can pray big ones? Why aim low when you can aim high? If it really is all by grace alone through faith alone (which it is), and if it is all to Christ’s account, and already paid (which it is), and if He really is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we could ask or imagine (which He is), then why not go for it!

The Gospel is clear. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. The freedom and fullness of our salvation are irrevocable gifts. Why then settle at any point, or ever take no for an answer? A squandered inheritance is not irreplaceable, because God does not have to reallocate slices of pie; He simply makes more pie! (The Lord does not have to take from the older brother in order to reinstate a returning prodigal’s inheritance). Christ is as much Healer of the sick Christian as of the healthy one. This never changes, even on one’s death-bed. Christ is as much Provider to rich as to poor, in bull markets and in bear. His riches in glory are the measure of our supply. No matter how much has been squandered, for whatever reason, Zechariah is right – we are prisoners of hope.

The gleanings of recent years have included in their yield four magnificent illustrations that illustrate our point. None is original to me, but I’ve used them all repeatedly. I can’t recall where they came from (best guess Rob Rufus on most), or else I’d give credit where due. They’re just too good to exclude, though, and so if it’s you I’m plagiarising, please forgive.

Life in Christ is like walking on the high-wire, with His perfect work our safety net. We might slip and fall, but are guaranteed to remain safely suspended in the lofty context of His victory. When we lose our footing, there is no devastating plunge to destruction. Instead, all that needs to be done is for us to regain our equilibrium and get walking again. We’re righteous in Christ, and in that all-important regard, nothing’s changed. Consequently, when we walk, we do so confidently, sans anxiety or fear, for no matter how tetchy things might get on the wind-buffeted high-wire of life from time to time, we cannot fall. So let’s go for it!

For those who love the game of cricket, life in Christ is an innings at the crease with an umpire who will never give us out. The bales scatter; we’re not out. Caught playing the shot; not out. Plumb LBW; a shake of the head from the umpire. We can’t even be run out. That’s because every ball that life or devil bowls is effectively a no-ball. The cross has rendered every ball a free hit. Each and every one remains a scoring opportunity, but none can take our wicket. So, spinner or seamer, it matters not. Simply take a stroll down the wicket and have a go!

Our life in Christ is a ride on an up-escalator. The inexorable upward momentum makes it well-nigh impossible for us to lose ground. Serious regression takes concerted, sustained effort, for He wills and works for our salvation at all times. Stumble we might, but as we do, the escalator of His loving-kindness continues to carry us into our preferable future. He works for our good in all things, even if the things themselves are not of Him and not good. We can rest in Christ and enjoy the blessings and privileges that are ours by unmerited favour, for it is He at work to will and to do in and through us. Forwards, upwards, glory to glory – that’s the doing of this Gospel in which we stand. Let’s live large, and go for it!

Ours is the privileged life of the adopted child. (This is Biblical fact. Indeed, we are His four times over. He created us; He redeemed (purchased) us; we are born again of Him; and He has adopted us). He has taken us into His family and given us His name. We are His, and all our stuff is His! He is our protector and provider, wills the best for us, and plans and follows through accordingly. And so, out there on the giant school playground of life, there’s no need to submit to the bullies of anxiety, fear, guilt, manipulation, oppression, condemnation and shame, and no need to inflict their pain on others. On the contrary, there’s every reason to suck the stuffing out of the marrow bone of life – who is your Daddy!

Nothing is more empowering than the inability to fail. Temporary setbacks are inevitable, but in Christ we have been placed out of defeat’s reach. We might yet disappoint ourselves and others, but our relationship with God is disappointment-proof in any ultimate sense. We are in Christ, and the perfection of His performance has been imputed to us. The most natural thing in the world now is for us to embrace the advantage and live well.

The Biblical accounts of Abraham of old illustrate the potential we’ve been presented with magnificently. Read the descriptive account of his life and times in the Old Testament, and it’s the story of a typical human being. There are moments of extraordinary faith, and there are times of sin and unbelief. He reads just like us. Then read Heaven’s record of that same life and times in the New Testament, and what you find is a fully sanitised account. Post the cross, Abraham suddenly presents as a super-saint, who never doubted for a moment, nor put a foot wrong. Can you see it? The same life and the identical events, when viewed through the gift of righteousness, is flawless. It’s failure-proof. Right-standing with God ensures that there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

The righteous live by faith, and that life has every reason to be an abundant one, for there is no other kind of life in Christ!

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

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The Gospel includes

Nothing could be more revolutionary than that which is done to you in the moment that you first put your confidence in Christ. The Gospel believed is the Gospel received, and in that instant of faith, the greatest exchange imaginable is effected – Christ’s life for yours!

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:1–9).

goodbyeoldhellonewThe transformation that occurs is literally out of this world, as in a moment you go from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ”. All of the major metaphors of Scripture apply in that instant – death to life; darkness to light; satan to God, condemned to justified, slave to freeman; enemy to friend – on and on it goes. Many books would be necessary to do justice to the many wonderful facets of this single glorious truth – inclusion in Christ. And that’s the big idea. Believing includes us in Christ. This is not just some sort of transfer of allegiance; it is the all-encompassing transformation of a life. The phrase “in Christ” is ubiquitous in Paul’s letters, for it describes the essence of salvation. “In Christ”; “in Him”; “in Christ Jesus”. Those of us who preach and teach these truths will often refer to this as the believer’s position, placement, status or standing. In Christ!

Christians are saved, but they did not save themselves. They are in Christ, but they did not put themselves there. It is not even their faith that saved them. In the moment that they believed, it was the Holy Spirit who went to work as per the Father’s decree, transferring them from in Adam to in Christ. This was all of grace, and is something that God does to all who believe.

in-christThe enormity of what happens is not faith-sized, but grace-sized. It’s not as if those who have great faith receive a great salvation, and those with less faith receive a lesser salvation. Those with less faith may well appropriate less of the salvation given to them, but a lesser faith does not lessen the work of Christ on our behalf. To think thus is absurdity, for those who believe have not just seen, heard or tasted, but have entered into salvation by the power of God. Tentative faith (a mustard seed’s worth) does not unleash a tentative reaction from heaven. Salvation is a one-size-fits-all proposition – Jesus! Rather, believing thrusts us into the white-water of the new birth, and those who have put their confidence in Christ have been carried along by the power of God, away from the old and right into the new.

It is simply not possible to be a half-Christian or a bad Christian. It is not we, ourselves, who make ourselves Christians. It is a work of God, and all that He does He does well. There is only one kind of Christian on the planet, and that is the perfect kind, for we are of His making. Some of us do live poorly representing our in-Christ-ness, thanks to paucity of faith, or to misbeliefs of one kind or another. But that does not mean that we are lesser Christians, for we are all Christians by the same work of the same Spirit. Understanding this is life-changing. In Christ, is in Christ, is in Christ! We’ve received a faith of equal standing before God, writes the apostle Peter. We might have different gifts and callings, and some might fellowship more intimately with God than others do, but we’ve all received equal access to God, with equal rights and privileges. It is all of grace alone, and all because of Christ alone. We have all received the highest title and the richest commendation imaginable, for in Christ we are all God’s beloved children, in whom Father is well pleased. That is who we are. That is our identity.

inchristlogoIn the moment of faith His story became our story. That’s the Gospel. In an instant, the Holy Spirit united us with Christ, in His crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. We were raised to new life in Him, and are now seated with Him in heavenly places. We are the saved; He is the Saviour. Our salvation has come through our literal immersion into Him, and into His substitutionary, atoning work. Christians have been baptised (immersed) into Christ. It is this to which believers’ baptism testifies most graphically.

The gift of salvation is not extraneous to our person. It is not like an item of clothing or jewelry, or even like any other experience we might have. It is not something that can be received, explored, enjoyed, kept, exploited or discarded. It cannot be lost or misplaced. It is defining. It’s not so much something we possess, as something that possesses us. Being in Christ is far more a matter of Christ having us than our having Him. Those who have believed have been engulfed in Saviour and salvation just as surely as Jonah was swallowed by the big fish. The difference is that we were not ingested, but en-wombed. We were re-created; born again; re-made. Nicodemus puzzled over this because he could not imagine how he would ever get back into his mother’s womb. He understood the point, just not the means, for the womb into which the Spirit thrusts us is the work of Christ, from which we re-emerge altogether new.

col-3-3-hidden-in-christWe would better speak of believing into Jesus, even if it is grammatically awkward. Coming to faith is literally believing into Christ, which is what faith ultimately accomplishes as grace is appropriated by the Spirit. It is also why the whole experience is irrevocable. If we were saved by our faith, then our salvation could well be on-again, off-again. But we are not saved by faith; we are saved through faith. Believing opens the door to the tsunami of God’s power, and that which was wrought for us on the cross, is applied to us by the Holy Spirit. It is a leap forward from which there is no way back. In a moment, we are included in something altogether other, immeasurably bigger than ourselves. We are welcomed into a kingdom, a family, a fellowship, a union. We enter by literal re-creation. The Gospel believed is salvation received; the Gospel believed is inclusion in Christ.

This is one of a series of posts adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox. Go to the first post in the series by clicking here.

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The Gospel imparts

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

7db7f87187eed67e28ffa402a2f759d1This one-liner is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. The misquote declares that faith comes by hearing the word, by which is meant the Bible. In other words, more Bible, more faith; less Bible, less faith. The absurdity of that claim becomes clear in the light of the Bible being an account of seven covenants. Increasing expertise in the now-obsolete Old Covenant, which the Bible itself claims is not of faith, will by no means increase faith. What the verse does say: more Jesus more faith. In other words, more Gospel, more faith. Now that makes sense. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and what Paul is teaching us is that the more grace flooding our hearts and minds, the greater our response of faith will be.

Two illustrations help us here. Both revolve around Jesus. The first is of the woman with the discharge of blood (Matthew 9:20-26 et al). She was ceremonially unclean and should not have been barging through a crowd to get to Jesus, let alone reaching for Him in order actually to touch Him. Yet, as she watched Him from a distance, she became so filled with faith, that in a moment of unselfconscious abandon she did the unthinkable. She knew that if she could just get to Jesus, her problems would be over. When Jesus sensed her touch and turned to her, He did not see a ceremonially unclean woman who had behaved inappropriately. All He could see was her faith. Here the relationship between grace and faith is well illustrated. When we fix our eyes on Jesus (Grace), doing so fills us with faith. And as we unselfconsciously reach out to Him, all that Grace sees is faith!

The second is a point made earlier as we contemplated the Gospel as powerful news. Jesus described the Gospel as a seed. Peter goes one further and tells us that it is in fact imperishable seed. As you know, seeds contain everything necessary for maturity; the whole oak is in the acorn. What we are learning here is that faith is included in the Gospel’s DNA. As the good news of God’s unmerited favour reveals His grace and mercy, it beckons us towards Him, all the while imparting to us the faith necessary to do so.

9791531-the-word-faith-printed-in-red-ink-on-parchment-distressed-destroyed-faded-and-splattered-with-paint-stock-photoOne important point does require clarifying, though, to ensure that we don’t cause confusion. The Gospel imparts faith. It does so to the unbeliever, in order that he or she might believe. It does so to the believer also, not for the new birth per se, but so that the benefits of salvation can be appropriated in that believer’s life. Fortunately, Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice is appropriated by an irrevocable, once-for-ever, action of faith. When we move from in Adam to in Christ, that moment is all-defining. It is not on-again-off-again based on the strength of our faith at any given time (we don’t move into Adam when our faith is weak, and back into Christ when our faith is strong again). The faith that saves in a moment has irrevocable rewards.

Not so the faith that appropriates the benefits of salvation. This is a variable. Its lack was what most exasperated Jesus about the Twelve. Their salvation was not under threat, but again and again, just like ours, their faith was found wanting. And just like us, it was for the same reason – faith in God became faith in faith or faith in self. The disciples panicked as they saw the wind and the waves. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and sank. They thought Jesus was fussed because they didn’t have much food with them, forgetting that He’d twice fed multitudes with little. They found a demon impossible to dislodge because they did not believe. As with us, as Jesus pointed out, anxiety on any level is rooted in unbelief.

39871212-faith-from-bible-word-graphic-vectorThe remedy is simple. Faith is always a gift from God. That is true of the faith that saves, and it is true of the faith that appropriates the benefits of our salvation. He is always the source of faith, and it is always all of grace that we ever have any faith at all. Faith does not stem from our efforts. It is unselfconscious. Its eyes are on Jesus, not on itself. That’s why it so pleases Him. Faith has the main thing as the main thing, always. Perhaps the best way of summarising this is to say that Jesus is faith’s object. Authentic, mountain-moving, water-walking, giant-slaying, sick-healing, dead-raising faith is focused on Him. It’s not looking at the mountain, raging sea, giant, tumour, or corpse. If you ever find yourself wondering whether you’ve got enough faith for something, the answer is no. Asking the question means that your faith is displaced, and you’re relying on yourself rather than on Jesus.

Dynamic, vibrant faith is within reach of all of us. All it requires is for us to break away from crippling self-preoccupation and yield to grace. Just like everything else that comes our way thanks to Jesus, . Faith is by grace. When we lack faith, we need grace. We need Jesus. We need Gospel! Paul clinched the argument when he taught that reigning in life is through the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness (Romans 5:17). Christians walk by faith. They stand in faith. They please God by faith, and they run their race by faith. They even fight the fight of faith. They are believers, and believers believe! But while it is true that every victory is by faith, it is even more true that every victory is by grace. God even does us good when our faith wavers. How much more so when our faith is strong.

Are you in need of more faith? Immerse yourself in the Gospel. That will do it!

faith-comes

Adapted from the e-book “Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever!” by Gavin Cox

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The power of the Gospel

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation!

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Romans 1:16–17)

1This glorious Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection is not passive, but active. It works. It does stuff; it accomplishes things. It’s also not just that the Gospel can be powerful when put to appropriate use, for example by powerful preaching or testimony, or when accompanied by confirming signs and wonders. The Gospel is powerful all on its own without any of these very good things attending it. Stand-alone, the Gospel is powerful! It is the power of God for salvation. It’s glorious to partner with, and it certainly makes good use of our gifts and callings, but the Gospel all on its own is able to save, for saving is its purpose, and save it does.

EarthGlobeAfrica.tif.746x600_q85The creation account helps us to understand. God the Father decreed; He spoke by the Living Word, Jesus; Holy Spirit did the work. Will, Word and Works, and there you have it – the Trinity in glorious synergy bringing something out of nothing. Into the dark, formless void that was, Father decreed, and that which was Spoken was accomplished by the Spirit, who was to be found brooding over the project to do all that was willed. In exactly the same way, salvation in Father’s will, through and in Jesus, and by the Spirit. When the Gospel is proclaimed, the Good News and the Spirit work together in creative synergy – Will, Word and Works – their sublime redemptive poetry, joyfully engulfing, loving, and saving, just as choreographed to do before time began.

GerminationJesus Himself made the same point very simply when He described the Gospel as a seed. Fertile seeds are powerful things, containing everything necessary for maturity, including life, thanks to their ingenuity in design. The whole oak is in the acorn. In the same way, the freedom and fullness secured for us in Christ is in the Gospel. Jesus crucified, died, buried and raised – such a tiny seed – yet therein lies every provision and every victory, sufficient for everyone who believes, and in an abundance befitting eternity. Just as fertile seeds can lie dormant for decades before conducive conditions facilitate germination, in the same way the Gospel shared can patiently await its appointed time. Like any seed, harvest depends upon the soil into which it’s sown, but scant harvest on occasion in no way reflects upon the perfection of this seed. On the contrary, just as we’ve witnessed plants of all kinds breaking through paving or rock, the Gospel produces exceedingly abundantly above expectation, again and again, even in the most adverse of circumstances.

Both Jesus and Paul demonstrated their confidence in the power inherent in the Good News in a rather noteworthy way. Both encountered self-appointed ministries whose motives were questionable, and neither sought to put a stop to them. Both knew that the Gospel was well able to look after itself. Good motive or bad, the power of the seed remained unchanged.

picture1This blog post sets up a series of a further ten posts, each expanding on what the Gospel does. It works wonders; awesome wonders. The Gospel bears fruit; plentiful, abundant, lasting fruit. The Gospel does all that the Lord designed it to do. It is ever so worth our while teasing out the richness of the Gospel’s power, so as to better to understand, admire, appropriate and communicate it. The beauty is that the Gospel doesn’t justify or redeem or reconcile or …; it justifies and redeems and reconciles…. Where one stops and another starts is of little consequence, for the colours, flavours and facets (pick the metaphor you most prefer) work off and into one another in magnificent, enriching, enhancing and compounding splendour.

downloadContemplating the Gospel in this way is comparable to gazing into the night sky. It will always be breathtaking, and there will always be more to see. This is the nature of the infinite. Describe what you see in terms of planets, stars or galaxies, whichever you prefer, for magnificent remains magnificent, even when perspective shifts. My prayer is that this exercise in Gospel-gazing will whet your appetite for a lifetime of exploration. Together we will forage on the fringes of the inexhaustible, exploring the limitless bounds of the revelation of our Lord that will keep us captivated for all eternity.

Adapted from the e-book Why the Gospel is the Best News Ever! by Gavin Cox

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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.

 

 

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Living in the Will of God

Will of God 3D

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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Self transcendence

Sanneh-What-If-Boxing-Were-Run-Like-MMA1-1200The world’s stage has become a boxing ring demanding comment. Perhaps it’s more of a cage fight or a backstreet brawl, but I’m sure you take my point. On one hand we have the liberal left, on the other the fundamentalist right.

The left’s iron fist is in a satin glove. The talk is tolerance and dignity for all, and these are good things. What is flawed is the underlying philosophy of self-actualisation and lawlessness. This is as intolerant as the right as it proffers rights without responsibilities. I buy into the dignity for all, and I think we should make a great deal of space for one another, but I’m against boundary-less-ness, and I don’t want any sinful, demonised fellow becoming the best manifestation of his sinful demonised self possible. Wrong will never be right, and no matter how fine the satin glove, the iron fist it clothes bodes deadly for our future.

The right is no better. The horseshoe strapped across its knuckles is Law – eye for eye and tooth for tooth. That sounds good until we remind ourselves that all are sinners, not unlike that sinful, demonised fellow. The right is as self-obsessed as the left as well, except self-denial replaces self-actualisation. I’m all in favour of the rule of law, but not of legalism, which carves a hard road into the future, littered with judgementalism, condemnation, pride, self-righteousness, idealism, exclusivity, elitism and prejudice.

Cage+Fighting+Held+Wembley+Arena+2Gf3OFQ5HVOlAs we watch these two worldviews slug it out on the world’s stage, the battle reeling from political to economic to religious arenas and back again, let’s remind ourselves of three important facts. Firstly, these opposing worldviews are the best that human wisdom have to offer. Secondly, no matter who wins, nobody wins. And thirdly, the Gospel is divine wisdom and the alternative to both. There we find news of sins forgiven, and of deliverance from the dominion of the same. There we find self-government anchored in God and re-creation, and actioned by the transformational leadership of the indwelling Spirit. There we find hope beyond self-actualisation and self-denial, neither of which have a track record worth perpetuating. For there we find the transcendence of self. Co-crucified with Christ and co-raised with Him, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. In the Gospel we find fullness and freedom within the absolute of the Altogether Good. There we find grace. There we find faith. There we find life. There we find hope. There we find God, who has already done everything necessary to find us.

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Created for Good Works

cropped-Tab-Logo.pngThis author’s pen has been scribbling furiously, and there is a book well under way. Herewith a short excerpt from the first draft addressing a critical aspect of the New Covenant. Enjoy!


Just as there are only two categories of people, in Adam and in Christ, there are similarly only two categories of works. The difference between them is enormous, even if they appear indistinguishable to the natural eye at times.

repentence-from-dead-worksDead works are not always bad things in any obvious way. What they are is those things done in self-reliance. The rebel’s defiant disobedience is therefore most obviously a dead work. But so are the best efforts of the self-righteous. It’s as simple as this – whatever is not of faith is sin. In other words, do it in your own wisdom or your own strength, and it’s a dead work. It’s sin. No matter how many pats of the back you get for doing a remarkable job, if it was not in faith, it was a dead work and it was sin. What that means is that a great deal of prayer, fasting and church attendance are dead works, as is every tithe given in fear, and every act of mercy done for men to see.

Good works are the antithesis of dead works. They are works done depending on God. That’s the defining factor. Whatever does not come from faith is sin. Remember the little old lady who put the two copper coins in the offering plate, and Jesus said that she had given more than everyone else? There she was, doing her good work surrounded by folk whose righteousness didn’t impress Jesus at all much.

Faith-and-Good-WorksThis is such a great example of the way in which the Gospel rearranges our paradigms. We tend to think that the opposite of a good work is a bad one. But deep down inside we all know that there is much more at stake in life than just good and bad behaviour. We’ve all dealt with self-righteous church goers whose attitudes disturb us deeply, even though their behaviour consistently appears impeccable. And we’ve also all met that no-good low-life whose behaviour is typically appalling, but whose heart attitudes have at times stopped us in our tracks as they’ve challenged us to the core of our beings. These anomalies are evidence that we intuitively know that the Lord does not define sin as superficially as it’s convenient to think. His is not just a framework of right and wrong, because He fully understands that good and evil cannot be defined by norms, standards, rules, regulations, patterns and principles, but that it involves the heart. Reduce matters to law and the result is a superficial righteousness, but one which falls far short of the perfections of the Lord in their profound simplicity, depth, richness and beauty.

God’s definition of sin in far more penetrating than transgression. The many words used to describe sin in the Bible bear witness to this. Included are brokenness, distortion, mediocrity, rebellion, insincerity, estrangement, misdirection and indebtedness, to moot just a few. These are not always easily quantified, but they are substantial enough to implode relationships, destroy lives, and even start wars. These are weighty issues, but they are in way complicated, for all sin has its essence in unbelief. Walk, work, say and do in God-reliance, and you’ll please Him. Faith pleases Him. Walk, work, say and do in self-reliance, and you’ll be nothing but a doer of dead works. Pastor, pastry chef, poet or policeman, this remains true.

In fact, nothing could be simpler. Even a little child can understand. Everything we do is either a good work or a dead work. Get the Gospel clear and it all hangs together without quandary or contradiction. There were two trees in the garden. Adam and Eve could have chosen to feast off the tree of life. To have done so would have been to trust God, pleasing Him in faith. Instead, they chose to feed off the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, trusting themselves, and in so doing rendered themselves arrogant unbelieving sinners who were the doers of dead works. There were also two Adams. Stark are they in contrast. First Adam, who did what was right in his own eyes, and Last Adam, who did what was right in His Father’s eyes. We too live either by faith or by sight, just as they did. Either by God’s words or by our own wisdom; relying on Him, or relying on ourselves.

Christians do dead works all the time of course. Some are in rebellious licentiousness, others in religious self-righteousness, but lawless or legalistic, they are dead works all the same. Other folk, not yet Christians, but moving towards faith as the Lord draws them, find themselves doing good works before they fully understand what these are. It could be they show up in a church meeting, drop some money in the offering plate, forgive an enemy, or sign up to serve in a soup kitchen. What is done is from the heart, and although their theology might still be a catastrophe, and their good works unable to save them, they are responding to God as best they’re able. Of these it can be said that they are not far from the kingdom, as was the scribe of old who Jesus commended for answering wisely. That goes to show that “getting it” can be a valuable step on the way to “got it” when it comes to the righteousness that is by faith alone.

hdr-created-for-good-worksThe Good News then is that we Christians, made good by God in the moment we believed, have been re-created for good works. Dead works are an option, but good works are our inheritance. We fit our mission and our mission fits us, and our salvation comes to us fully equipped with ready-fitted good works that have been meticulously prepared just for us. This is good news indeed.

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Where are the nine?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn His way to Jerusalem, somewhere between Samaria and Galilee, Jesus encountered ten lepers on the outskirts of a village. News of who Jesus was had reached these unfortunate souls, and so, staying at a distance as was their lot as outcasts, they cried out to Him for mercy. In response, He instructed them to go and show themselves to the priests. As they did so, all ten of them were healed. How kind is our God, loving indiscriminately, and curing the incurable.

The incident is recorded in a way that uses words economically, yet it is richly nuanced for those with enough background to read between the lines. The only fellow who made the effort to thank Jesus was a Samaritan, and the way in which Luke phrases things strongly implies that the other nine were all Jews. Jews and Gentiles were reluctant bedfellows, but these men had found community in their leprosy. Therein is a parable, for all men regardless are united in their sinfulness, and sin is nothing other than leprosy of the soul.

The ethnic divide in the group infers different priests and different temples – the Samaritan to Samaria; the Jews to Jerusalem. Does this not again speak to the modern church in penetrating ways. We, who were united in our lost-ness, are often divided in our found-ness, as church affiliations define us in polarising ways. This is so disturbing given that our very lives rest in a common salvation. A further noteworthy nuance is the way in which this incident blends into the broader story. Jesus was often rejected by Jews, yet received by the Samaritans and other Gentiles. Self-righteousness is indeed the enemy of faith, and Law is a ministry of death. It is so to those it disqualifies, and in another way it is also so to those who deceive themselves and permit their religiosity to craft and nurture pride within. Nothing quite carries the stench of death like fetid self-righteous arrogance, don’t you think?

10-lepers-slide2But Jesus healed them all! He healed the half-breed Samaritan who flung himself at the feet of Jesus in gratitude. He healed His Jewish brothers, whose testimony remained within the confines of the religious community in Jerusalem; the same community that campaigned vociferously for Jesus’ execution at the hands of the Romans. How ironic. Nevertheless, Jesus healed them all. Is this not an essential lesson for all who love to bless and minister to others? Love them all, no matter how leprous or self righteous they are. Love the grateful and the ingratiate equally. This is grace.

I’m not suggesting that loving and expecting nothing in return is easy. The only way to travel down that path, albeit with stumbling steps, is with the help of the Spirit, and in the recognition of that being the way in which God loves us. Perhaps those who struggle the most with this are church and ministry leaders, for the success of our churches and ministries depends on others being willing to sacrifice alongside of us. For us, giving and giving without substantial return on investment spells vocational disaster, and so we – the professional lovers – are somewhat surprisingly the most likely to resent the “other nine”. When Jesus drew attention to these other nine (the account is in Luke 17:11-19), He was shaping our personal responses to grace. His philosophy of ministry remained unchanged – He healed them all. And so should we. But let’s you and I be like the one, responding to grace in faith and gratitude, and allowing these to move us. In doing so, we will be those who give praise to God in all things.

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