264. Relationship Replaced

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

A book they didn’t have

If you have spent any time at all in evangelical Christianity, you have probably been taught something like this:

“The Bible is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Timothy 3:16). The human authors wrote exactly what God wanted them to write, and the result was the perfect and holy Word of God (Psalm 12:6; 2 Peter 1:21).” [1]

As we saw last time, the Bible makes no such claims for itself. The verses quoted are not talking about ‘the Bible’ at all. Jesus is the Word of God, so to describe the Bible as the ‘Word of God’ (especially with a capital ‘W’) is little short of idolatry. We can all have an intimate face to face relationship with the Living Word of God – Jesus – today. Sadly, for many believers, knowledge of the Bible has replaced that intimate relationship with God Himself.

“It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have.” – Bill Johnson[2]

The Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit will lead us to Jesus (the Truth and Living Word of God) who leads us to the Father in relationship:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26).

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12-13).

Jesus promised that more revelation would come through the Holy Spirit. There is no end to that revelation, no caveat that says ‘until the Bible is complete’. Is it possible that God never intended to limit revelation of who He is to the books of what we call the Old and New Testaments? Should the Bible ever ‘be complete’? Was that God’s intention? Did He even intend for us to have a Bible? Is it possible that insights today can be progressively added by the Holy Spirit?

Questions

I began to ask some questions of myself. I encourage you to do the same.

  • How much of what I believe came through direct face to face encounter with God Himself?
  • How much of what I currently believe has come through other people’s teaching and preaching?
  • How much of what I currently believe has come through my own study, leaning on my own understanding, and therefore comes through the confirmation-biased filter of my pre-existing knowledge?
  • How many things that I currently believe are different from the understanding that I have previously held? What are those things?
  • What do I now believe that contradicts something I strongly believed in the past?
  • How much of what I currently believe may change in the future if God continues to renew my mind?

Replacements

In my own conversations with the Father, He made some statements to me about some of the replacements we have made. His intention was to challenge any religious mindset in me. I offer them here so that if any of these statements resonate with you, or if they arouse anger, indignation or some other strong emotional response, you can take them back to the Father, ask Him why and ask Him to reveal the truth of His heart.

Relationship has been replaced by religion
The Spirit has been replaced by a book
The Living Word has been replaced by the written word
The Truth as a person has been replaced by theological and doctrinal belief systems
Hearing My voice has been replaced by studying a book

The truth of the cross that has reconciled creation has been distorted into a lie that has excluded creation
The perfect picture of love has been twisted to express penal, retributive punishment and torment
The love so perfectly displayed for My children and My creation in the self-sacrifice and offering of My Son has been distorted into a disgusting image of cosmic child abuse
Love that brings life has been perverted into hateful punishment that brings death

The correction and refining that purifies in fire has been replaced by eternal conscious torment
The Perichoresis of a relational loving God has been replaced by Augustinian theology of an angry God
Loving, substitutionary atonement has been replaced by penal, retributive atonement

Restoration has been replaced by punishment
Testing has been replaced by torment
Repentance has become re-penance instead of the renewal of the mind.
The wages of sin have become eternal punishment instead of death
The cross has become penal instead of restorative

Love has been replaced by anger
The grave has been replaced by Hell
The Spirit has been replaced by the letter
The torn veil of the temple has been replaced by the mediatorial coverings of men

Heaven and earth have been separated
An open heaven has been deceptively made a closed heaven
The literal truth of an open heaven has been replaced by analogy and metaphor
Access to heaven through the Way, Truth and Life of Jesus, the Door, has been replaced by access through death
The new covenant of life has been replaced by the old covenant of death

Grace has been replaced by the law
The faith of Jesus has been replaced by faith in Jesus
Salvation by grace has been replaced by the salvation of works
The heavenly priesthood of Melchizedek has been replaced by the earthly Aaronic priesthood

Future fulfilment has replaced past fulfilment
The end of the old covenant has been replaced by the end of the world
The celebration and joy of love have been replaced by the tribulation of fear
Victory has been replaced by rescue
The restoration of all things has been replaced by the destruction of all things

The new heavens and new earth, representing a new temple wineskin, has been replaced by the literal destruction of the world
Parousia of presence has been replaced by parousia of coming
Inclusion has been replaced by exclusion
Reconciliation has been replaced by separation

Preaching the good news of Jesus in people has been replaced by preaching the bad news of exclusion among people
The priesthood of all believers has been replaced by the priesthood of one believer

The bride has replaced the wife: the marriage has been made future not past
The present New Jerusalem on earth has been replaced by a future New Jerusalem coming out of heaven
The past resurrection has been replaced with a future resurrection
The past judgment of the cross declaring that all are innocent has been replaced with a future judgment of only the guilty

‘All are made alive in Christ’ [inclusive] has been replaced by ‘only those in Christ are made alive’ [exclusive]
‘All will confess Jesus as Lord’ has been replaced by ‘some will confess Jesus as Lord’
Being ‘born from above’ has been replaced with being ‘born again’
Being ‘born from above’ through the resurrection has been replaced by being ‘born again’ by praying a prayer of salvation

Salvation of all by grace through the gift of Jesus’ faith has been replaced by the salvation of some by their own faith

Take it back to Him

I am not asking you whether you agree or disagree. Whatever your response as you read through that list, I encourage you to take it back to the Father.

Ask the Living Word of God, Jesus, to give you a true revelation of Himself as the Truth and to deconstruct any pillar of sola scriptura from your mind.

Invite the Truth, Jesus, to deconstruct any lies you believe about the Bible, God, others and yourself.

[1] source: www . gotquestions.org
[2]When Heaven Invades Earth by Bill Johnson, Destiny Image Publishers 2013.

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251. God’s Original Design and Purpose

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Our minds are constructed from pillars of beliefs and value systems acquired through the experiences of our lives. Those pillars form our worldviews and frame how we interpret the world around us – they are our conscious reality. We see the world through a lens that filters life’s experiences in line with our existing worldview and so perpetuates the status quo. But when we compare them with the Truth, with Jesus, we may well find that those pillars in our minds are lies or false representations of reality.

It is only knowing the Truth by personal experience, and in relationship with God, that will bring us into a new reality in which we can recognise who we are and fulfil our role and position in His kingdom as sons and co-heirs with Jesus.

Pillars removed

I shared with you how God revealed what the pillars were which held up the construct of my mind. Many of them were religious theology or doctrine. Others were from the education system and some from the DIY tree path of self. As you will recall, I asked Him to remove them one at a time; still, when the first one (evangelicalism) was removed, my whole theological belief system began to crumble. Doctrines and theological positions which did not properly reflect God’s love began to be exposed by the light of truth.

I began to see things I never saw before. I am loosely connected to thousands of people on social media, and suddenly I became aware that some of their posts seemed to line up with where God was taking me. It was not that they had only just begun to share those things, but that I had always tuned them out before. I had literally not been able to see them with my previous filters in place. Now I have connected more closely with some of those individuals and we are able to dialogue and share our journey together.

Long held beliefs have been challenged by the experiences of God’s love that encounters with Him brought. My whole relationship with God began to change as more and more of my filters were removed and I started to see everything through the lens of love. God is love. He isn’t anything else. Love always wants the best. So when we see Him do something which does not seem to be love, then our thinking about it must be wrong. Either it is love or it is not God. That will surely begin to defy some of our existing perspectives.

An empty head?

So God was carrying out the deconstruction that I had asked for. I began to wonder, what if I did not have anything there, what would it be like to have an empty head? So I asked “What is going to replace the construct?” This is what He told me:

“Son, let Me form the pathways of the tree of life within the construct of your mind. Let Me reform and connect the ancient paths within your brain so that your consciousness will become unrestricted and your creative potential will not be limited. I must plant new roots within your mind that will be able to flow from the eternal source; let them be entwined as the pathways to truth. As the living word, My relationship with you can now be the first pathway that will become a trunk that supports life.”

So He was promising to develop something in me which was not a construct but something more organic and relational as I engaged with the Source of life Himself. I felt this root system of truth began to form deep in my mind. Something was changing in the way my mind worked so that I would be able to see with a different perspective.

I had already engaged with the tree of life, and some of you may have too.

This picture represents various interconnecting spheres within the tree of life (of course it is not really flat, but multi-dimensional). We will have unique experiences of engaging with it, because the fruit is different for each of us depending on what we need. But I do believe that as you do so it will change the way you perceive and think about everything, right down to the very way your mind functions, just as it has for me.

God’s original design

So why is this deconstruction and renewal so important?

God has given us the power to affect our reality, but that will only be beneficial for us and for others if we are able to affect it from a perspective of truth rather than that of the lies we previously believed. Otherwise we will keep getting more of what we have always got. And that is the problem with thinking – you do not know you are thinking in a particular way, you just do!

“…and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time” (Acts 3:20-21).

God is looking to restore everything back to its original blueprint design. As His sons, co-heirs in the kingdom, we have a part to play in that. But if we were to continue to see things the way we have always seen them, there would be no scope for them to change; restoration to God’s original plan and purpose would be impossible with the restrictions and limitations within which we have been operating.

We are not going to fix the problem with the same DIY methods that created it. There has to be a different way. We are not going to build embassies of heaven on earth in the way they built at Babel, using human construction materials and techniques, to make a name for themselves. It will not be for ourselves at all, but for the whole of creation, and we will have the ability to construct organically using quantum reality. Most technology that you see today is a development of something God has made in creation; God wants us to go beyond, and even beyond beyond, to creatively call things into existence which are not there at the moment.

Creation’s groan

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom 8:19 NASB). Or, as Francois Du Toit puts it in the Mirror Bible: Our lives now represent the one event every creature anticipates with held breath, standing on tip-toe as it were to witness the unveiling of the sons of God. Can you hear the drum-roll?

Creation is still groaning. So we can be sure that what it is witnessing at the present time is not the fullness of our sonship:

All creation knows that the glorious liberty of the sons of God sets the stage for their own release from decay. We sense the universal agony and pain recorded in history until this very moment. We ourselves feel the grief echo of their groaning within us while we are ready to embrace the original blueprint also of our physical stature to the full consequence of sonship. What we already now participate in as first fruits of the spirit will bloom into a full gathering of the harvest. (Rom 8:21-23 MIR).

God loves the whole cosmos but it is waiting for us to mature as sons. He has chosen us, and given us the responsibility. He is not going to do this for us. He is looking for sons who know the truth, the full reality of who our Father is; sons who see Him as He truly is and see ourselves as we truly are, created in His image.

The first stage of the restoration of all things is that we, the sons of God, return to our original design and blueprint. That is why it is so important that the illusions and delusions under which we have been operating are exposed, so that we can be unplugged from this false reality and plugged into the truth. Only the Truth that I know by experience will free me from being tethered to the earth, the physical realm, and from its rule and bondage.

The Truth desires to release us into the glorious freedom of our sonship as co-heirs of His kingdom.

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242. Enjoy The Ride!

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

God is Love. He really is! Having a relationship with Him does not involve trying to please or appease Him. He loves us unconditionally, and there is nothing we can do that would cause Him to love us more (or less). He is Love.

Our view of God has become so distorted that many people, not only outside the church but even within it, believe He is angry with us and only keeps us in line through fear. They are getting Him confused with some other god. Love that is forced, coerced or demanded is not love at all.

“Heresy!”

Ironically, this deep truth that God is love is often seen as heretical by members of the religious institution because they hold to a warped theological image. If anyone dares to challenge doctrinal assumptions and presumptions it always provokes accusation. I have been told myself that I am ‘on the slippery slope away from orthodoxy’ as if that is something I should avoid at all costs. The implication is that backsliding and a complete loss of faith are the inevitable result.

I am not so sure. I believe that God is challenging our preconceived, pre-programmed ideas about Him. Those preconceptions and programming are largely a consequence of our place (and century) of birth, our family traditions and other sociological factors. In another time or place the received truth about God passed along to us would have been different anyway.

All roads lead to…?

God does not want our knowledge of Him to be conditional upon when or where we were born, or the religious tradition we were first introduced to. I do not believe He wants something so important to be based on that sort of accident. Regardless of our religious beliefs (or lack of them) He is reaching out, looking to engage every single one of us in a personal relationship. To that end He pours out His Spirit on all flesh (Acts 2:17).

‘Does that mean,’ said Mack, ‘that all roads lead to you?’
‘Not at all.’ Jesus smiled as he reached for the door handle to the shop. ‘Most roads don’t lead anywhere. What it does mean is that I will travel any road to find you.’ (William Paul YoungThe Shack).

Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy is an interesting concept in itself. The word is defined as ‘an authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine or practice’. With our 20000+ denominations you can easily see how rare ‘generally accepted’ might be! So whose orthodoxy is it that we are in danger of slipping away from? Roman Catholic orthodoxy? Anglican or Presbyterian orthodoxy? Reformed, evangelical or charismatic orthodoxy? Or even Orthodox orthodoxy (take your choice of Greek or Russian)? We cannot slip away from most of those since we never actually subscribed to them in the first place.

Almost all of us, if we are honest, believe something different today to what we believed 10, 20, or 50 years ago. God never changes, but through fresh revelation He is continually unveiling aspects of Himself we have never seen before. We call this ‘progressive revelation’. Any ‘orthodoxy’ can only be a snapshot of someone’s view of God at a particular point in time, which perhaps explains how many versions of it there are.

But The Bible Clearly Says…

Every scripture we read today is a translation into English (or one of dozens of other modern languages) and they all reflect the translator’s particular viewpoint or understanding (those compiled by committee no less than those by individuals).

The Passion Translation and Mirror Bible state their viewpoints front and centre. The translators of the King James version had to adhere to a set of rules drawn up on the King’s behalf by the soon-to-be Archbishop, Richard Bancroft. For example, they were explicitly prohibited from translating ‘ekklesia’ (church) as ‘community’, ‘assembly’ or ‘congregation’, most likely in case people realised it was supposed to have a legislative, governmental role. There is no such thing as an objective, definitive translation (even if you do call it ‘Authorised’).

Those who are able to read the original languages fare little better. We do not have complete manuscripts and where more than one version exists it is clear that alterations to the text have occurred.

Canon of Scripture

Proponents of protestant evangelical orthodoxy would have us believe it is very different from its Roman Catholic counterpart, but in reality much of its theology stems directly from the councils, doctrines and creeds established by the early Roman Catholic and Latin Church.

The very concept of a ‘canon of scripture’ was only introduced in 397 AD at the Council of Carthage. Carthage was the one school (out of six) in the ancient Christian world which held to an angry, retributive view of God, possibly because it was also the only one where Latin, not Greek, was the language in common use. Augustine was from Carthage, and he had no understanding of the Greek in which the gospels and letters were written; if he had, he would never have developed such a distorted view of God.

The Council delegates bartered over what books were to be included. Perhaps they forgot that Jesus warned His disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, of political and religious spirits, but their eventual selection was more politically than divinely motivated. So although all scripture is ‘God-inspired’ (1 Tim 3:16), we may well have differing views about what Paul meant not only by the word translated ‘inspired’ but also by ‘scripture’.

Fear and control

The Emperor Constantine united church and state for his own political ends. Almost 1300 years later King James directed the Bible translators to translate in a way that would ensure there was no conflict between church and state and would maintain his control over all sections of society. In fact, much of the history of the Western church can be summarised as the exercise of fear in order to control people, and the notion of ‘orthodoxy’ is still being used in the same way today, to defend and protect entrenched positions and to suppress valid questions and ideas.

Fairy tales

It is very healthy to doubt what you believe, rather than just accepting it as the truth. There is far more to God than any theology or doctrine can contain. I agree with this statement I heard quoted by Brad Jersak “When doubts appear in me it means that I have outgrown my incomplete idea of God, my imperfect knowledge of Him” (Metropolitan Anthony Bloom: Doubts).

It is only through experience that the nature of God can be known. It can only be subjective, and that is not a bad thing. People will warn us that without something objective to rely on (usually they mean the Bible) we will end up believing fairy tales. Well, I suggest we have been believing fairy tales already and God now wants us to come to the knowledge of the Truth (a person, not a doctrine). Love will always be our plumb line.

Mind-quakes

Many of my experiences have revealed God’s love at a new level I would never have believed possible. They have challenged and unravelled most of my theology and doctrine and I am not looking for new ones; nor am I asking you to do anything but to be open to engage God’s love for yourself and see where that takes you. Where it has taken me is into an experiential relationship in which heaven has opened up.  I have come to know ‘the breadth and length and height and depth’ of that love (Eph 3:18) and how ardently He desires everyone to experience it for themselves. Even death is not enough to stop Him loving us.

My encounters with God created cognitive dissonance within me (that is, they caused me mental stress and discomfort as I tried to hold on to two or more mutually exclusive and contradictory views, ideas or values). I had a choice: I could fight to hold on to what I had thought to be true or I could allow the Truth – Jesus – to renew my mind. I chose the second, and it was not easy. It wobbled my head. It felt like ‘mind-quakes’. Explosions of truth shook loose the belief systems I had.

Conversation

God spoke to me a lot during the process. He told me, “Reveal the Truth, unveil for people your testimony of who I am… Son, reveal Me, the true Me. Let the Joshua generation know the true Me unfettered by the old orders of the theology of intellectual information”.

One day, God said, “Let me show you My mind”. I am not going to describe it visually, but it was like being in the midst of a conversation between Father, Son and Spirit that is continual and is all ‘now’.  I got just a brief glimpse of God’s reality, and saw that He was connected to everyone that had ever lived, is living or will live, all at once (that is 108 billion and counting). He was connected to everyone in the ‘now’, knowing every choice and every decision made every microsecond. His loving desire was to bring good out of every choice, to redeem even the most stupid decisions of every person (and we all make them). This love is not limited to a select group of people but is extended to everyone at all times and in all places.

It was a living experience of what Paul described in Romans 8:28, that ‘the love of God causes everything to mutually contribute to our advantage’ (Mirror Bible). Our view of God influences how we see ourselves and the world that we live in, and this experience changed that for me. Our view of everything has to be aligned with Love. His love won’t relent. God desires us to know Him (Love) by personal experience so we can know ourselves as His children and bring His kingdom of love to the world.

The real slippery slope

I love Chuck Crisco’s acronym for ‘heretic’ (I have tweaked it just a little):

Happy Enlightened Righteous Exploring Truth In Christ.

On those terms, I’m willing to be called one. So for myself, I have joyfully stepped off the slippery slope that for 1800 years has been taking us away from a relational, loving God towards a false image of Him horribly distorted by religion.

I encourage you to do the same: to discover for yourself the true nature and character of God who is Love.

I joyfully jump onto the slope that goes from the pinnacle of modern theology and doctrine back to the beliefs of the apostles and early church fathers who were relationally discipled by Jesus and His disciples in love.

I encourage you to jump onto the same slope – and enjoy the ride!

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239. The Things They Now Believe

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

“Good souls many will one day be horrified at the things they now believe of God” (George Macdonald, 1824-1905).

For me, that day has come. As I have encountered God, He has shown me that more and more of the things I believed about Him were not really true. He has been really considerate and taken me in stages through this process, because it would have been too much for me if He had done it all in one go. Will you let Him do the same for you?

Jesus is the exact representation of the Father, but that is not the picture religion paints at all. A whole host of doctrines widely accepted without question by most believers today do not really line up with a God who looks like Jesus. Since God is love, I am now very suspicious of any image of God that does not look like love.

Penal Substitutionary Atonement

One such doctrine is ‘penal substitutionary atonement’ (PSA): that Jesus died to appease God’s wrath. We will look at God’s wrath, anger, eternal judgment, punishment, eternal conscious torment and hell later in this series of posts, but PSA is the key to all these others. It is a really warped view of God which has Him saying ‘I will kill My Son to show you how good I am’.

Does God’s anger really need to be appeased? Almost all human justice systems come from the DIY tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and are based on retributive justice, making offenders pay for their crimes one way or another. If we are hearing a little more about restorative justice today, it is because people are realising that retributive justice does not work. But God’s justice is and has always been restorative. The fear of punishment is not a good motivator. ‘There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love’ (1 John 4:18). Why would God use fear of punishment to keep us in line?

It was man who came up with a ‘GOD’ who required appeasement (look at any primitive religion). But the truth is that ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire’ (Ps 40:6, quoted in Heb 10:5) and ‘You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering’ (Ps 51:16).

‘Redemptive violence’

“You have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness…” (Matt 23:23).

The Pharisees’ religion was all legalism, missing out truth, justice and mercy altogether, and in the ‘Christian religion’ (itself a contradiction in terms), a belief system of so-called ‘redemptive violence’ will inevitably affect the way we relate to others. We will steward the cosmos from that angry, retributive perspective. That is the ‘GOD’ image we will reflect to a broken world which needs healing, not punishment.

But God is not as we have been led to believe. The corrections of God are always restorative. The judgments of God are pure and bring mercy and life:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face.
(Ps 89:14 NKJV).

Mercy and truth always go before Him. His justice is mercy and love, not punishment and retribution. Even painful truth is revealed only for our good and healing.

“God is a God of fierce judgement. I sense God’s burning judgement falling upon many of you today. He has made up His mind and the verdict is unchangeable. His judgement is: ‘You are forgiven, loved and accepted’. So, enjoy your judgement” (Benjamin David, Facebook post).

The cross

Jesus warned his disciples that He was going to the cross. He did not say He would suffer the just punishment for our sins at the hands of His Father but that He would suffer at the hands of men:

Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men” (Luke 9:44).

“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt 16:21).

For He was teaching His disciples and telling them: “The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And when He has been killed, He will rise three days later.” (Mark 9:31).

“Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up” (Matt 20:18-19).

Look also at Mark 10:33-34, Luke 18:31-33, Luke 24:6-7, John 18:3-6, John 18:12, John 19:14-18, Acts 2:23, Acts 2:36, and Heb 12:2.

Jesus suffered at the hands of ruthless men, Jews and Gentiles, representing the religious and political systems. They agreed to condemn Him to keep their DIY system in control. Men crucified Jesus, and God used our punishment of Him to bring restoration and reconciliation.

He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through by our transgressions, He was crushed by our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed (Isa 53:3-5).

There is simply nothing in scripture to support the idea that Jesus went to the cross to suffer the fiery wrath of His Father so that we could escape it. ‘We ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted’ but that is not how it really was.

The purpose of the cross was to undo the consequence of Adam’s sin, a loss of identity which produced spiritual death. It was a demonstration not of God’s wrath against humanity, but of His love towards humanity. When Jesus took the sin of the whole world upon his shoulders He was showing us the depths of God’s love.

“Our Father never needed a sacrifice; we did. And we, as one man, with one accord damned His Son, and our Father accepted our ‘faith’ and our ‘will,’ and our ‘decision’ to crucify His Son as the means to establish a real and everlasting relationship with us inside our faithless betrayal. This is salvation. This is adoption. This is redeeming genius and love almost beyond our wildest imaginations” – C. Baxter Kruger.

Atonement, propitiation

In the New Testament the Greek word katallagé (reconciliation) is often misleadingly translated ‘atonement’. ‘To atone’ is to make amends, to make reparation for wrongdoing. However, this old covenant word used to describe how a sacrificial animal covered people’s sin is not a word used in the new covenant. And animal sacrifices were not tortured by the priest, they were just killed.

Hilasmos (‘propitiation’) is another word which has been translated in a way which assumes an angry deity who needs to be appeased. It comes from the verb hilaskomai, meaning ‘to conciliate, be merciful, forgive, show favour’. It does not mean ‘atone’.

“But the church has always believed this!”

It hasn’t. Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) may be a commonly held view in evangelical circles today but it was not formulated until the 11th century, by Anselm of Canterbury. Personal encounter with God could never lead us to the conclusion he reached through scholasticism, a method of study that emphasises reason, research and constructive criticism.

PSA is a man-made, demonically inspired doctrine of distortion. It only sounds plausible to us because we have been conditioned to accept that God is angry with us.

Forsaken

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Ps 22, quoted by Jesus on the cross in Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34).

This was Jesus’ cry of true identification with us in our brokenness and in our deepest, darkest pain. It was our separation He felt. Most of those who heard Him would know the rest of the psalm, including v24:

For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from him; but when he cried to Him for help, He heard.

We have seen before that God the Father never left Jesus the Son. Do we really imagine that the Triune God was somehow pulled apart at the cross? Whose side was the Holy Spirit on? The whole concept is preposterous when you know God for yourself. And yet we happily sing:

“One final breath He gave
As heaven looked away…”
(Forever by Brian Johnson, Kari Jobe, Christa Black Gifford, and Gabriel Wilson).

Heaven did no such thing.

The wages of sin

The cross was God showing the world that He was willing to take on flesh and die – for us and as us – not to pay off an angry God who couldn’t stand the sight of us. Jesus did not save us from God, He saved us from death (the wages of sin). The aim of Jesus’ death was to make personal, healing, life-giving, forgiving contact with us sinners, at the root of our sin and alienation.

A battered reed He will not break off, and a smouldering wick He will not put out, until He leads justice to victory (Matt 10:20, quoting Isa 42:3).

God’s justice does not break people; it heals those who are broken.

“God doesn’t need to punish anyone. “Sin is its own punishment.” … No one gets away with anything. There are terrible consequences for our actions, but God is forever with us, weaving grace into our stories to redeem even the worst situations for our good” (Brad Jerzak, ‘Unfundamentalist Parenting in The Shack – Part 1’).

Meet God

But please, don’t believe anything I say. Not without meeting God for yourself.

How much of what we believe has been handed onto us by someone else? Reading books, hearing sermons, just picking it up from being in a particular stream or community… none of that is a valid substitute. Get your revelation direct from Him, otherwise you are just leaning on someone else’s understanding (when, according to Proverbs 3:5, you ought not to even lean on your own). My understanding has come from my own personal experience, but it is no good to you. You need your own experience.

So meet God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Meet Him face to face and find out what He is really like. Let Him reveal Himself as the Truth. And be prepared to lay aside anything which does not line up with Who He is.

This blog post is adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme. Find out more…

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78. Characteristics of the Joshua Generation (#6-10)

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott –

In the previous post we began looking at 40 characteristics of the Joshua Generation, and today we are looking at the next 5.

6. The Joshua Generation will be men and women of faith, who speak and live by the word of God.

That was the difference between the generations: being able to speak – and live – the words of faith.  In spite of opposition, Joshua and Caleb spoke out the promises of God.
Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it” (Num 13:30).

There is going to be plenty of opposition to come. Most of it will be religious opposition, because the institution of the church is out to rob the true church of authority and power. There is going to be warfare. It has taken place before: whenever God starts to do something new and fresh, whenever He starts to pour out His Spirit in a new way, the previous generation opposes it because they do not want to give up control.

But you cannot control this: you have to go with what God is doing. The Joshua generation will not be into control: as we have seen, they will be gentle and humble of heart. We need to be men and women who are willing to live by faith and are unashamed to speak out the truth, challenge people’s understanding, and challenge the doctrines and mindsets which have robbed people of their true inheritance. Almost inevitably this is going to cause trouble, but we have authority, and we are going to see people rescued from those things.

7. The Joshua Generation will have (and operate in) a militant spirit, and will fully follow the Lord.

But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully… (Num 14:24).

If you look at how Caleb entered the Promised Land, he was saying, “Bring it on! Give me the land of the giants, because I’m going to go in and take it”. And even when he was in his eighties, he was still strong to go in and out to battle and to war. He was still overcoming. The Joshua generation may have people in it who are 80, 90, or over 100. It is not about age, it is about attitude. They have a different spirit, a militant spirit – as Jesus said, it is the violent who take the kingdom by force.

It is a breakthrough spirit. These are people who are willing to be breakers, who will break things open so that others can come in and receive. That is what God is calling us to do, and to follow Him fully (not partially). It will take a militant breakthrough spirit to push through into the dimensions to which God is calling us, and we need to be prepared for that.

8.The Joshua Generation will be sensitive to and feel grief over sin.

We do not look back at a previous generation and say, “Well, tough on them, they have missed it”. We look at people and see they are still needing encouragement to come in. Over the church in general we have to have an attitude of intercession, an attitude of standing in the gap. Not an attitude of pride, but of willingness to do what we can to see more and more people drawn in.

And where we see the church as an institution in sin, our spirit needs to be moved to act:

Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes (Num 14:6).

When the others said, “We are not entering in”, they tore their clothes as an expression of sorrow and of intercession for them. That is how we need to be.

9.The Joshua Generation will be men and women of the Spirit

So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit” (Num 27:18).

We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit, to be baptised in the Holy Spirit in fullness, and to be so continually. It is not a one-off experience: we need daily to be filled, to be overflowing, and to be operating in the dimensions of the Spirit. In the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. We need to go up to whole new dimensions of the glory that is manifested through the Holy Spirit.

I did a teaching about the five rivers that are present with us. We can enter into those rivers and be rebaptised into our born-again experience, into our baptism in water experience, into our baptism in the Spirit experience, into our baptism of fire experience, and our baptism of glory experience. We need to continually enter into each of these because our ongoing relationship with the Holy Spirit is going to take us to higher realms. He is willing to reveal things to us, because He is the Spirit of Truth who is ready to disclose those things that are to come.

If you want to discover and understand and enter into that whole realm of the Spirit, you can read and meditate on John chapters 12 to 17. Those chapters are all about being connected to and flowing in the Spirit of God, and there is so much more than we know, waiting for us to uncover and experience.

10. The Joshua Generation will be chosen, anointed and commissioned by God for the task.

It was several years ago now that God just gave me a series of four words: investiture, succession, enthronement and coronation. I shared them with some of you at the time, but I didn’t fully understand them or what God intended by them. As I have kept those words in my heart, He has continued to give me revelation of them and I have prayed over people to receive new and fresh mantles of authority.

In fact I have been to the Mantle Room in heaven and seen row upon row of mantles of authority and power, waiting to be conferred on people. Some are the mantles of saints from previous generations, people like Smith Wigglesworth and Maria Woodworth-Etter, who have carried something of that authority in the supernatural realm. Many of those mantles are about to be released.

Some of the wells of past generations are going to be unblocked and are going to flow again; but also there are be new wells to be dug, and new mantles released, new levels of authority to be taken up. People are going to be exercising authority and doing things that today you might find it hard to even imagine or conceive of. They will need to do so if they are to be victorious in the battles which are going to take place. They will include some of us: because those are battles we may have to fight. We are going to need to be anointed, because we are chosen, and we are going to be commissioned.

Investiture is just the first part of that commissioning process. I remember watching Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales many years ago on TV. But although he has been invested, he is still only the heir to the throne at the moment. He is still the prince: he is not yet King. There is more to come for him. And there is more to come for us: God will give us revelation of what that is.

Lay your hand on Joshua; and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. You shall put some of your authority on him… (Num 27:18-20).

God is going to release more of His authority to His people. We will be commissioned to enter into a further dimension of our inheritance, our Promised Land.

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71. Defeat? Or Victory?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott 

In the past couple of posts we have briefly sketched some of the widely-held views about the Millennium. So what did the early church believe about the scriptures we have been considering? And what has the church believed through the centuries?

Persecution

Up to AD 70 most of the focus of teaching was preparing believers to live in that persecution leading up to Jesus’ coming in judgment upon Jerusalem. Initially, then, the prevailing conditions were persecution by Jews. After AD 70 persecution continued, but it was persecution by the Romans. The church took on a Jewish apocalyptical view of a literal kingdom on earth. Some thought that the kingdom might be before Jesus returned; some thought it might be after. It was still a very difficult time, and they were looking for Jesus to come and do something.

Political control

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“Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin” by I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons (see below)

A major change happened for the church with the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine in 310 AD – and not all of it good. The church was now accepted by the political authorities, and it was OK to be a Christian. But the church was also controlled by those political authorities, so that Greek thinking and Greek influence began to pervade it. At this time the prevailing view was amillennial: the old interpretation (which had made a lot of sense under persecution) seemed not to relate so well to the changed conditions, so people began to interpret things in a less literal way, and say it must all be spiritual. You can see the Greek mindset having its influence in that distinction.

Political control continued into the medieval period, 596-1517 AD, as church and state started to mix together. Politically motivated and powerful popes, the crusades, the Holy Roman Empire, the whole idea of Christendom: all these arose during this time. The church was used by those in power to exercise control. Hardly anybody could read the Bible for themselves because it was available only in a not-very-accurate Latin translation, and that meant the priests had control of the whole system. Postmillennial theology became the norm. Their expectation was that things would get better, that the church would increase to fill the world  – but to achieve that they expected to use the sword, and to compel people to become Christians by killing those who would not comply. The preaching of the gospel was certainly not done in a way we would recognise today.

Reformation and revivals

After that came the Reformation (1517-1648). The truth began to be restored to the church and people began to question both the spiritual and the political authority of the Roman establishment. They continued to hold a postmillennial view, still expected things to get better, and saw the restoration of truth as part of that process.

Charles_g_finneyThen we come to a period where the Holy Spirit was poured out in revivals in both England and America: Wesley and Whitfield and so on in the UK; the First and Second Great Awakenings in the USA with Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney (photo) and others. Those revivalists were predominantly postmillennialists: they believed that Jesus would be coming back after the church had succeeded in its mission. Maybe that was because they saw the church actually succeeding; they saw revivals in which many thousands were saved and the work of the Holy Spirit was very obvious.

Tares sown in

But from 1826-50, so much that was negative began to be sown in, as we have seen. The tares were sown into the world, with the rise of cults and so on; and in the church the leaven of dispensational teaching and false doctrine began to spread and permeate everything.

From 1909, when the Scofield Bible was published and so many people read it and adopted the dispensational premillennialist views it reflected, the predominant mindset became very pessimistic. There was a great deal of scientific and philosophical attack on Christian belief, Darwinism began to become generally accepted, and two World Wars seemed to indicate that far from getting better, things were getting much worse.

A whole generation which had been impacted by the Welsh revival saw its young men wiped out in the First World War. And even after the Second World War, the pessimism continued into Cold War, a period of intense uncertainty in which nuclear destruction looked to be a distinct possibility. So much went into print at that time identifying Russia as the Beast or the Antichrist or whatever – and now those books are completely obsolete.

It didn’t stop the same thing happening with the Common Market in Europe, which was supposed to be the twelve heads of the Beast coming out of the sea in Revelation – and how many nations are there in the EU now? Then it was going to be Saddam Hussein. Well, he is no longer around either. North Korea next…?

All this material was written by authors looking at the prevailing conditions and trying to interpret them using biblical prophecy; looking at events in the world and imposing that onto Scripture, instead of the other way around. When we read biblical prophecy, we want to allow it to tell us what is (or was) going to happen. We do not want to interpret it from looking at the newspapers or the television news.

Renewal

Around 1960 there was a turning point, the charismatic renewal movement, when the Holy Spirit was poured out across the churches. That has led on to the whole prophetic movement, and the restoration of prophetic and apostolic ministry. With that has come fresh revelation – and a fresh challenge. It has caused warfare within the church, because when you challenge a status quo which is dominated by the enemy you get Jezebel spirits and all kinds of demonic activity being stirred up. They do not like the truth being preached when they have had things their own way for so long.

We need to preach the truth. The truth is that the kingdom of God is going to fill the earth. The truth is that Jesus is going to come back for a victorious church. The devil would just love us to believe that we are going to be defeated, because then our faith would be in that defeat.

But our faith is in victory, in overcoming, in seeing God’s kingdom fill the earth.

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Image of the Emperor Constantine
Attribution: “Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin” by I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST.
Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin.jpg

69. Millennium? What Millennium?

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Faith

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb 11:1 NASB).

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

It is really important for us to know what is to come, because if we do not know we cannot have faith in it. Everything we do, we need to do by faith.

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

The mandate we have is to bring God’s kingdom rule from heaven to earth. It is the same mandate as when Jesus came ‘to destroy the works of the evil one’ (1 John 3:8).  We are overcomers; we are conquerors, because we have the authority of God’s kingdom. So in everything that we are going to have to face; in whatever spiritual warfare that is going to take place; in every arena in which we are going to have to defeat the enemy; in all that battle we have an overcomer’s mantle, because we are born again. Our identity is that of an overcomer. But how is that victory going to be won? It is won through our faith.

That means it is really important that we know what our prophetic expectation is, that we know what we believe God is going to do in the future. If we believe it is going to be defeat, then our faith is going to be in seeing and experiencing defeat. If we believe it is going to be victory, then our faith will be in that victory; and it will be possible for that victory to be outworked in us. Our faith is the substance of that victory; our faith is what will bring it into reality.

Victory consists in fulfilling God’s original intention, which is to see His kingdom filling the earth (Gen 1:28). For man to subdue and rule over it, and bring God’s kingdom: as it is in heaven, so it is on earth. That is quite an expectation, and if that is what we actually are to expect, then we really do need to know.

Pre-, A-, Post- or Pan-?

That brings me to the question of the Millennium, the thousand-year reign of Christ.

Now there is a good deal of confusion over this in the body of Christ, many different teachings going around, many different ideas we are likely to hear. If we can get some clarity on it, we will be able to have faith in what is coming. So let me just sum up for you the main strands of teaching and then in coming posts we will begin to look at them in a little more detail:

  • Pre-millennial – ‘before’. Jesus is going to return before a period of time called a millennium (which the Latin word for 1000 years).
  • A-millennial – ‘non-’. There isn’t actually a millennium at all, and the term is normally understood by those who hold this view to be symbolic of the church age.
  • Post-millennial – ‘after’. Jesus is going to come back after a period of His kingdom being on earth.
  • Pan-millennial – ‘all’. Or, “Who cares? It will all work out in the end”. This seems to be the camp of those who are unwilling to nail their colours to the mast. Some are unsure, but maybe some are just unwilling to be honest, because they know that if they come out and say what they really believe about this, they are likely get a lot of flak.

In the USA especially, if church leaders and prominent Christian people come out and say that they don’t actually believe in a premillennial return of Jesus, they are likely to find themselves under attack from other Christians. The internet is full of articles and comments from ‘heresy-hunters’ basically just running them down because they have dared to say what they believe. As we have seen before, that premillennial view has pervaded the church like leaven, and a lot of the church don’t even know there is another way of seeing things, or if they do, they don’t understand how that other way could possibly make any sense.

Whereas in fact the church believed something quite different for centuries. And some of us do so today.

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