with Jeremy Westcott
In a world where what passes for ‘love’ often comes with strings attached, showing unconditional love can make a real impact. A while ago, someone sent me a link to a testimony that highlights the incredible result of demonstrating unconditional love in a real-world setting.
In a radio interview, Riaan Swiegelaar, the co-founder of the South African Satanic Church, said he did not believe that Jesus Christ existed. Afterwards, a lady from the radio station went up to him and just gave him a hug. He did not know it at the time, but she was a Christian. A week later, while he was doing a ritual with the SASC council, Jesus appeared before him. Riaan challenged Him to prove He was Jesus, and was flooded with the most beautiful love and energy, which he recognised from the hug he had received the week before.
Now Riaan has a relationship with Jesus, converses with Him every day, and has resigned from his position in the Satanic Church. “I have for a long time believed that I am not worthy of God’s grace because I am gay. But the Kingdom of God is not a gated community, the kingdom of God is open to everybody,” he says.
Unconditional love has the power to break down barriers and transform even the most hardened hearts. Sadly, some reaction to this story has not been so accepting: Did he truly repent? Did he actually confess? Is he really a believer? Is he ‘saved’?
Grace and works
Most of us would agree that salvation is not dependent on our works, but on the unconditional love and limitless grace of God. Yet the evangelical view of salvation I was brought up with is not grace-based at all, however much it claims to be: it requires our works. You have to believe in your heart and confess with your mouth to be saved. I tried to believe and confess but I was never sure it was good enough to please God.
We have had it the wrong way around: in reality, believing is the consequence of our experiencing God’s love and grace. Evangelical theology makes forgiveness and salvation totally dependent on what man does. But all man’s religious works are dead: they can produce no life independently of God’s grace.
Another religious misconception is the idea that we must confess our sins in order to be forgiven. Jesus did not wait for those who were crucifying Him to be sorry or ‘confess’ their sin: He asked the Father to forgive them. He had taught His disciples the importance of forgiving from the heart and now He demonstrated it for them.
This understanding of ‘confession’ is heavily influenced by Catholic doctrine and can leave us feeling sin-conscious and burdened by guilt. However, the true meaning of ‘confession’ is not dwelling on our wrongdoings, but declaring and agreeing with what God says about us. We confess our righteousness, our forgiveness, and our new identity in Christ, rather than confessing our unrighteousness as perpetual sinners. Understanding this truth releases us from the cycle of guilt and allows us to fully embrace the forgiveness and grace which is lavished upon us.
Licence to sin?
Critics of limitless grace argue that it gives us the licence to sin, suggesting that if we are forgiven regardless of our actions, then we can just go ahead and do whatever we want. This is a misunderstanding of the purpose and power of grace. It is not a free pass to continue living according to our old nature: no, instead it is receiving God’s grace that enables us to walk in the freedom of our new nature. And sin, in its true definition, refers to lost identity, not wrong actions. Wrong actions do carry consequences, but they are not God’s punishment. Jesus has already defeated sin and its wages (which Paul says are death – not eternal torment), so His mercy always triumphs and His grace is always sufficient.
Metanoia, not repentance
We have seen before how ‘repentance’ (Greek metanoia) is often portrayed as remorse, with its accompanying guilt and shame, and doing penance. However, the true essence of metanoia is about returning to our true identity and restoring our relationship with the Father. It is a transformative change of mind that aligns us with how God sees us and enables us to live in the fullness of who we were created to be. Rather than attempting to change our behaviour to earn acceptance, metanoia invites us to agree with God’s mind and embrace the truth of our identity as forgiven, righteous children of God. This shift in perspective empowers us to live a life that reflects our true nature in Christ.
Living loved is accepting the truth of being unconditionally forgiven, celebrating it in joy and rejoicing in love. If we live in the truth that we are loved and forgiven unconditionally, we do not have to fear admitting we sometimes mess up, as we are still having our minds renewed. We can be real with the Father if we are struggling with something. We do not have to run away in fear and hide from our Father as Adam did, we can run to Him. We can come boldly to the throne of grace and receive limitless grace and triumphant mercy. We are only alienated in our own minds – that is why we need deep religious deprogramming.
Riaan Swiegelaar’s transformation from a leader of the Satanic Church to a follower of Jesus serves as a powerful testament to the life-changing power of unconditional love. It is through God’s grace, not our works, that we are saved. Understanding the true meaning of confession, repentance, and grace liberates us from guilt and empowers us to live in the fullness of who we are in Christ.
Let’s embrace the truth of God’s unconditional love, extend it to others, and live in the freedom and joy of our salvation.
You can watch Riaan’s testimony and a sequel on YouTube.
Each of this series of blog posts is adapted from Mike’s latest FREE video series on ‘Unconditional Love’.
Why not become a patron and join us live for the next recording – they are normally on the second Sunday of each month at 6pm UK time.