New Wine for New Wineskins February 2013

By , February 1, 2013 7:19 am

2013 – A Year Of Superabundant Grace

I want to begin this month’s message with a statement that you have probably heard many times: Christianity is not a religion – it is a relationship.

Because that statement has become a bit of a Christian cliché it can be something that we simply repeat more than something we experience, and so many of us who would repeat the statement can appear to others who hear what we say and watch what we do to still live out the supposed relationship in a religious way.  As a result, our Christian life and experience often appears much more dogmatic than pragmatic…

These days many of the people I meet who discover that I am a Christian will say something like, “Oh, I’m not religious at all.”  I usually reply with, “Neither am I ” which completely messes with their thinking, and so I follow up with the cliché / statement, “Christianity is not a religion – it’s a relationship…” as if that will instantly resolve all of their issues that have resulted from years of predominantly negative experiences with religious christians (I say predominantly because most will probably / hopefully have had at least one, two, or even a few positive ones).

If it is true – and personally I believe it is – that Christianity is not a religion but a relationship, then how do we demonstrate that in a practical way that causes others to acknowledge the truth of it without having to be fed the cliché?

I guess it would be good to begin with Jesus who is the embodiment and practical demonstration of the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and the way out of every dilemma!  The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion – but to restore a relationship!

John 1: 12 (AMP)

12 But to as many as did receive and welcome Him, He gave the authority (power, privilege, right) to become the children of God, that is, to those who believe in (adhere to, trust in, and rely on) His name…

He was God in the flesh, revealing the glory of God, and the life that was in him was the light of men.  He was full of grace and truth, not full of rules and regulations or law and legislation.

John 1: 16 – 18 (AMP)

16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. 17 For while the Law was given through Moses, grace (unearned, undeserved favor and spiritual blessing) and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No man has ever seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].

Listen to Jesus’ testimony:

John 10: 10 (AMP)

10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).

NLT

10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

So what went wrong?  Why do most Christians define their Christian lives more in a drudgingly dogmatic way by thinking things like “Because I am a Christian I have to…” rather than an exciting and pragmatic way by thinking “Because I am a Christian I get  to…” ?

According to Proverbs 23: 7 your life experience will follow the course set by your thoughts, as your thoughts become your words, your words become your actions, your actions become your habits, your habits become your character, and ultimately your character will determine your destiny.

So how about another statement that has become a Christian cliché?  All religions are about man trying to reach up to God but Christianity is about God reaching down to man.

Well, just because it may have become a cliché doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.  This statement is exactly right.  Religious people believe that there is a gap between them and their god(s) and so it is necessary to engage in religious activity that will appease their particular deity or deities.

However, nowhere in the New Covenant does it say that we as Christians have to appease God.  On the contrary it teaches that God’s justice, wrath, and need for appeasement have been completely satisfied by the sacrificial death of Jesus on the Cross.

Hebrews 10: 11 – 13

11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.

I trust that we are not living our lives in an attempt to appease God, but rather with a desire to please God.  There is a vast difference.  We have only one motivation for our desire to please him and that is that we love him.  So how can we please him?

Hebrews 11: 6

6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Faith accesses the grace (the favour) that is the expression and demonstration of his unconditional love.

The founder of every world religion is dead and buried, but the restorer of the relationship between God and man is very much alive!  Believing this truth and all that it implies, and receiving all it includes, is how we please God!

Romans 10: 8 – 10

8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

That is why true Bible faith is not threatened by, or in competition with, religion in any shape or form.  They have no common ground.  When Christianity is presented as being in competition with other religions it has been misunderstood and has been stripped of its supernatural identity and power.

The enemy of the souls of men has only one mission and that is to destroy man’s relationship with God because that is what he did with his own.  Lucifer fell from a place of right relationship with God into religion and, as satan the adversary, became the author of every expression of religion that has ever existed since.  He knows man’s desire to know God and so he gets between men and God and creates a religious diversion – a diversion that inevitably creates division. First of all, it separates man from God and then it separates men from each other.  He did it in the beginning and he has never changed his tactics because he has had success.  The more religious options there are the more confusing it becomes.  He has even succeeded to a large extent in reducing Christianity to a plethora of religious expressions of what purports to be the same faith, and so its effectiveness is at least limited if not entirely cut off.

The first us and them (Genesis 1: 26) was a positive thing that was designed to work in unity to bring about multiplication and increase in the earth as God’s heavenly kingdom was established and his perfect will was done on earth as it is in heaven.

But all is not lost because God is infinitely good, and so our hope is firmly established in the reality that the restorer of our relationship with God is alive and that we have been raised to live a brand new life with him because the same Spirit that raised him from the dead now lives in us!

Hebrews 11: 1

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things (Greek – pragma) not seen.

A quick study of church history reveals that the church that was established apostolically as a continuation of Jesus’ life and an extension of his works and ministry was soon infiltrated by the usual diversionary tactics resulting in divisions and depletion of supernatural power and the legitimate authority of heaven.

Paul’s letter to the Galatian church gives us a perfect picture of the enemy’s strategy and how to defend against it, and also how to deal with it when it surfaces.

Galatians 3: 1 – 9 (AMP)

O you poor and silly and thoughtless and unreflecting and senseless Galatians! Who has fascinated or bewitched or cast a spell over you, unto whom—right before your very eyes—Jesus Christ (the Messiah) was openly and graphically set forth and portrayed as crucified? 2 Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the [Holy] Spirit as the result of obeying the Law and doing its works, or was it by hearing [the message of the Gospel] and believing [it]? [Was it from observing a law of rituals or from a message of faith?] 3 Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things and experienced so much all for nothing (to no purpose)—if it really is to no purpose and in vain? 5 Then does He Who supplies you with His marvelous [Holy] Spirit and works powerfully and miraculously among you do so on [the grounds of your doing] what the Law demands, or because of your believing in and adhering to and trusting in and relying on the message that you heard? 6 Thus Abraham believed in and adhered to and trusted in and relied on God, and it was reckoned and placed to his account and credited as righteousness (as conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action). 7 Know and understand that it is [really] the people [who live] by faith who are [the true] sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify (declare righteous, put in right standing with Himself) the Gentiles in consequence of faith, proclaimed the Gospel [foretelling the glad tidings of a Savior long beforehand] to Abraham in the promise, saying, In you shall all the nations [of the earth] be blessed. 9 So then, those who are people of faith are blessed and made happy and favored by God [as partners in fellowship] with the believing and trusting Abraham.

Strong stuff, eh?  If the enemy can succeed in reducing a relationship that is lived out by faith in the love of God to a religion that is controlled by the fear that is associated with law, then the supply of the supernatural favour of God is cut off to a great extent from his children. Listen up!

Galatians 5: 1, 4 (AMP)

In [this] freedom Christ has made us free [and completely liberated us]; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery [which you have once put off]…..4 If you seek to be justified and declared righteous and to be given a right standing with God through the Law, you are brought to nothing and so separated (severed) from Christ. You have fallen away from grace (from God’s gracious favor and unmerited blessing)……

This says it all!  We are not here to appease but to please – to allow our heavenly Father the pleasure of blessing his children with every good and every perfect gift so that a light comes on that becomes a beacon of hope and guides all of his lost children home!

Sadly, over a period of hundreds of years from its inception the institutional church had descended to a place of spiritual powerlessness that was upheld by the strong-arm tactics of illegitimate authority.  Then, in the early years of the sixteenth century there was the beginning of a turnaround when there was a return to the revelation that a personal relationship with God was through faith alone.   Faith that is activated and energised and expressed and working through the love that is demonstrated by pouring out blessing and favour.

Galatians 5: 5 – 6 (AMP)

5 For we, [not relying on the Law but] through the [Holy] Spirit’s [help], by faith anticipate and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God [our conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action, causes us] to hope. 6 For [if we are] in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith activated and energized and expressed and working through love.

If those who initially received the renewal of this powerful revelation had been satisfied with this return to simplicity of faith, then there could have been a complete restoration of apostolic ministry and kingdom blessing, but they were diverted and chose instead to have a reformation that resulted in more competition and division.  Supernatural transformation can never be accomplished through the reformation of religion but only through restoration of relationship with God that is lived by faith that accesses the grace (the unmerited favour) that is the expression of his unconditional love.

Galatians 5: 7 – 8

7 You were running the race nobly. Who has interfered in (hindered and stopped you from) your heeding and following the Truth? 8 This [evil] persuasion is not from Him Who called you [Who invited you to freedom in Christ].

Obviously this is a very simplistic overview, but very quickly the new band of reformers split off in various directions and formulated different strains of doctrine, and so the advance of the kingdom of God suffered another setback as those who had been blessed with such a powerful revelation spent a lot of their time taking pot-shots at one another.  The new formulations spread as all new things tend to do, and some good was accomplished, but we still find a splintered and splintering church where people continue to focus on dogma over pragma.

We need to grasp once and for all that this revelation of salvation through faith alone is in and of itself sufficient to create a life that is empowered and equipped to bring forth such a powerful testimony to the saving, healing, and delivering power of God that is wrapped up in the name of Jesus and demonstrated by the Holy Spirit, and that it is no longer necessary to fight or squabble or compete over issues of religion.  The kingdom will come, and we will see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven when we simply take responsibility to exercise our spiritual authority to say stop to the old and ask, seek, and knock until we see the new come into manifestation.  Either all things are possible to those who believe, or they are not.

We have been given the word that 2013 is a year of superabundant grace.  Superabundant grace is the fruit of simple faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ who died and rose again and opened up the citizenship of heaven with all of its accompanying benefits to all those who simply believe that they have been given his authority to exercise power over all the power of the enemy and his stealing, killing, and destroying ways.

Galatians 5: 9 (AMP)

9 A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church].

A slight inclination to error is all it takes for everything to go downhill.

One of the reformation formulations that has limited the ability of many to receive all of the fullness of Christ and his provision is the reformed doctrine of predestination that pretty much says that whatever happens is God’s will and that there is nothing you can do to change that – including choosing salvation over damnation, sickness over healing, deliverance over oppression, etc.

Listen to what the Westminster Confession of Faith says about this:

God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.

By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.

As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected . . . are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power. through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.

The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extendeth or withholdeth mercy, as He pleaseth, for the glory of His Sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonour and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice. (Chap. III — Articles I, III, VI and VII)….

All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased, in His appointed time, effectually to call, by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation, by Jesus Christ; enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone, and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and, by His almighty power, determining them to that which is good, and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ: yet so, as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace. (Chapter X)

Another source states, “Calvinistic predestination is sometimes referred to as “double predestination. This is the view that God has determined the eternal destiny of every human being. He has chosen some to eternal life to be saved through the finished work of Christ, and foreordained others to everlasting punishment for their sin.”

Whether we like it or not these statements have helped to form belief systems over generations that have clouded thinking, and invaded the psyche of even those who have never been in church, leaving people feeling hopeless and helpless under the circumstances that they find themselves in.  The truth is that these statements have more in common with fate than faith, and so it is no wonder that you hear people saying things like, “Whatever will be will be…” or “What’s for you won’t go by you…” or when someone dies prematurely or in tragic circumstances, “Oh well, I guess it was their time…

I didn’t share these excerpts from the Westminster Confesssion so that any of us could think we are better than those who hold to these things, but so that we could know how important it is that we bring forth a testimony to God’s goodness and of his desire to see us change our destiny by faith – by believing in his plans for us that are always for good and never for evil, that are always to prosper us and to give us a future that is filled with hope (Jeremiah 29: 11).  We are here to consistently proclaim a message that speaks over any error and restores the knowledge of God’s unconditional love for all people that has provided salvation for all, healing for all, deliverance for all, prosperity for all, etc, etc This year of superabundant grace shall be realised because a people who were bound by religion – including Christian expressions of religion – have heard a message and seen a manifestation of God’s glory that causes their faith to rise above the places of limitation that have been created and strengthened by error.

Jesus said:

John 8: 32

32 And you will know the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.

2013 – A Year of Superabundant Grace – a year when all attempts at, and diversions of, religion are abandoned and true relationship is restored!.

 

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