247. Limitless Grace and Mercy

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott –  

And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor 4:3-4).

…for their minds have been blinded by the god of this age, leaving them in unbelief. Their blindness keeps them from seeing the dayspring light of the wonderful news of the glory of Jesus Christ, who is the divine image of God (2 Cor 4:4 TPT).

The ‘god of this age’ refers to the religious systems, governing structures and self-help solutions of this world. A religious veil has blinded many to God who is love, light, spirit and fire. The true image of God has been veiled, with the result that some people, perhaps ourselves included, have not been able to see the reality of who He truly is. Does our ‘God’ look exactly like Jesus? Does our ‘God’ look exactly like love?

The DIY tree path

This veil began to be drawn over the truth when Adam and Eve chose to follow the wrong path, the path of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, what I have called the DIY tree path. In losing sight of God they also lost sight of themselves and the true image of their sonship. They became slaves to their own do-it-yourself efforts to restore what they already had: love, acceptance, approval, affirmation, significance and purpose in relationship.

Mankind has been doing the same ever since.

We have tried many solutions, including power, position, money, materialism, religion and other relationships. All that DIY has done is cause us more pain, leading to more unsuccessful self-medication. All our religious systems are DIY attempts to please or appease God, hoping to get back what was lost. Sadly, if we do not know the relational truth about God and ourselves, we are actually helping to keep the veils in place:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt 5:14).

We are supposed to be the light that enables people to see God but that light will be dimmed or distorted if we are hidden behind a mask or a veil of religious deception ourselves.

False reality

Our own minds are inevitably veiled by the things we already believe. Our mindsets, world-views and strongholds can all be veils or filters over our minds that obstruct and filter how we process reality. These constructs within our minds and consciousness frame our world, what we believe and how we interact. We see the world – and God –  through the lens of our own understanding. It is a distorted view, a false reality, but while it persists it is real to us.

Confirmation bias

To make matters worse, we often have confirmation bias operating. Defined as ‘the tendency to interpret new evidence as a confirmation of one’s existing beliefs or theories’, confirmation bias is particularly prevalent in the area of religious beliefs. Our theology and doctrines tend to cause us to interpret everything through their filters. It takes a significant experience, often almost a trauma, to shake us loose from the limitations of what we already believe.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding (Prov 3:5).

God is wooing us into a deeper level of intimacy with Him in relationship. When we encounter God we want to make sure that we are not relying on our existing understanding but only on continual living relationship (so we must beware of replacing our existing understanding with a new, equally flawed one). There is a new level of experiential relationship with God (Father, Son and Spirit) that is being unveiled to us, a new level of communication with God (the ability to hear and see what God is revealing); a new mind, the mind of Christ, continually flowing from our relationship with Him rather than just new theology or doctrines (a new DIY construct).

When we are able to behold God (Father, Son and Spirit) as He really is, then we can become conformed to the image of sonship that we see within Him.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Rom 12:2).

In the past, I believed I could renew my mind by memorising Bible verses and confessing them trying to believe them. I have come to understand that we are renewed from within, not from the outside, as we relate to God who is Father, Son and Spirit in us (and we are in Him).

Beyond all expectations

This is my testimony of how this came about for me. Early in 2016 I heard God say:

The mists around the closed and clouded minds must be dissipated. The hindrances and entanglements must be removed so that the limitations of minds that are stuck in what has been can become free to embrace what can be so that it can become what will be. The veils must be removed and restrictions lifted to embrace the limitless potential of My reality. The Way, Truth and Life are to be experienced not conceptualised and contained.

The limits of what is possible must be removed for My purpose to be achieved. You must begin to entertain limitless grace and mercy to be able to grasp what is true reality, beyond all expectations. New dimensions of everything can be yours if you are willing to let go of the old and embrace the challenge of the new.

A radical shift

In order to know God who is Father, Son and Spirit, and to know our identity in sonship in Him, we need our minds deconstructed from the wrong frameworks, from all our limited, restricting belief systems.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to metanoia? (Rom 2:4).

We need a metanoia, a radical shift of thinking, to enable a relationship with the Truth to reveal true reality. Most Bible versions translate the word as ‘repentance’, but metanoia has nothing to do with saying sorry or doing penance for our past: Jesus dealt with that on the cross and made us righteous once and for all.

Conversations with God

He called me to make some laws and legislative decrees on the basis of what He had told me. As I did, I expected Him to use them to free others from their worldly and religious mindsets. I had no idea that He was instead going to use my own words to iconoclastically deconstruct my conscious, subconscious and unconscious mind!

It began with Brexit, the vote about whether the UK should remain within the European Union or leave it. I was pondering how to vote when He asked me “Why do you normally vote the way you do?”

In the conversation that followed, I realised that I had made huge assumptions about which party He would want me to support, not only over this issue but more generally. I had always voted on principle, but God showed me that the principles I was voting on were my own, not His.

So I asked Him which way the Brexit vote would go. He told me, and asked me which way I was going to vote. “Leave,” I replied, “because You have told me that is the way the vote is going to go.” Another assumption! It turned out that God wanted me to vote the opposite way so that He could teach me how to respond when my choice was defeated.

This series of conversations with God (and I will write about them in more detail elsewhere) opened the door to the possibility that I had many more assumptions and presumptions about God, the Bible, theology and doctrine than I thought, and they were acting as veils and filters in my mind.

So the process of my deconstruction and renewal began in earnest.

Cognitive dissonance

It is impossible to see Him as He is when our minds are confused with our own distorted ideas about Him. Every time a stronghold in the mind is broken down, it makes way for a resurrection of fresh revelation. This is not an easy process; there is a lot of eating humble pie to do. And some of those strongholds are beliefs deeply cherished by ourselves and by others; one reason I initially held back was that I knew this was going to cause trouble.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort we experience when we realise that we hold two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values simultaneously. This often happens when new information manages to get through the filter of confirmation bias and threatens to disrupt the balancing act in our minds.

The encounters I had with God challenged what I believed about Him. This put a stress on my brain that felt like a restrictive band around my head. The pressure was only released when I gave in and stopped trying to hold on to my old way of thinking.

‘The Great Iconoclast’

Andre Rabe writes, “Jesus comes to make you an atheist to the god of your own making. He comes to bring an end to your way of subjecting God to your own understanding”. John Crowder says, “It is only at this place where our ideas and our faith are completely devastated that we have an opportunity to meet the God who transcends all our ideas about God.”

Jesus Himself constantly challenged the accepted thinking of His day: “You have heard it said (rabbinical tradition) but I say to you…” He turned their religion on its head; love replaced religious duty and obligation.

C.S. Lewis called God ‘the Great Iconoclast’ and wrote, “There are three images in my mind which I must continually forsake and replace by better ones: the false image of God, the false image of my neighbours, and the false image of myself.” (The Great Divorce).

Are we ready to let God renew and transform our thinking? He will not be confined to our limited, static perceptions of Him. We cannot keep an infinite God in a box made by the finite capacities of our understanding. God does not dwell in manmade temples, theological constructs or ideologies. God dwells in our spirits and in our hearts.

We need a transformation, a revolutionary change of mind. We need the veils of our understanding exploded and stripped away. We have a relationship with the Living Word, the ultimate source of revelation who searches the deep things of God and makes them known to us. We must not let our current understanding keep us in bondage to the limitations of our past experience.

Everything we receive must come through personal encounters with God. Our encounters will never contradict scripture but may not be directly found in it. They will definitely challenge the religious belief systems which reduce everything to a set of rules or doctrines.

Our old mindsets, thinking patterns and religious world views will keep us in old trusted ways of behaviour and will limit our abilities to engage in the heavenly spiritual realities that are being unveiled in our day. Are we prepared to embrace and spread the revolution? Some of the doctrines and beliefs we once deemed foundational may turn out to be just the skewed projections of our own fearful, fallen assumptions about God. He is about to explode the DIY myths we have invented; myths which actually obscure who He really is from our view.

Love bombs

I saw angels with light wands marking us out, and others, for laser-guided love bombs. God wants to explode those love bombs over you, penetrating your mind, your heart, your whole being with His love for you, revealing your true identity as a beloved son.

Live loved, love living and live loving.

Invite Him to release those love bombs over you. Let your heart and mind be cocooned in love. Let Jesus reveal His love for you. Let the Father reveal His love for you. Let the Spirit explode His love in you. Let the love of God touch your mind. Let Him encounter you with love that will explode and destroy any wrong image of Him. Let Him remove the veils that obscure and distort Him.

Let Him explode your limited reality.



Join us for our final Sons Arise! intensive of the year which is on this very subject. Expanding Our Reality – Deconstruction and Restoring Consciousness runs from October 30th to November 1st 2018.
Click here or on the image above for more information (via Eventbrite).
Find all our Sons Arise! events at freedomarc.org/sonsarise


Recent articles from Freedom ARC
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Image: Thank you to Johannes Plenio for the fabulous nature image used as a background for our header. Find more images from jplenio on Pixabay.

246. Gnashing Teeth and Goats

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

Recent posts on ‘hell’ have prompted questioning among our readers. That was their purpose – not to stir up controversy for the sake of it but to encourage us all to examine our beliefs about this subject and where those beliefs have come from.

We have looked at the occasions on which the actual word appears in English translations of the Bible, and then in the last post I shared with you the series of encounters with God which led me down this route in the first place. But we promised that before we move on we would also examine the passages where the word itself does not appear, but ‘the Bible clearly says’ that some people go to a place of eternal torture when they die.

Weeping, Gnashing of Teeth and Outer Darkness

“Weeping and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness! That is obviously a reference to suffering eternal physical torture in hell.”

Is that so?

Look at what happened leading up to Stephen being martyred in Acts 7:54: his accusers (members of the Sanhedrin) became furious and gnashed their teeth at him. Weeping and gnashing of teeth was an expression not of tormented pain and anguish, but of rage.

When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them (Matt 21:45). The only reason they did not seize Jesus then and there was because they were afraid of the public outcry.

It was not the general mass of humanity that Jesus was speaking of when He talked about gnashing of teeth and the outer darkness in Matt 8:12, 13:42, 13:50, 22:13, 24:51, 25:30 and Luke 13:28. It was this group of self-righteous individuals who would find themselves outside the covenant they were so sure was their birthright. In that ‘outer darkness’, having failed to heed Jesus’ warnings, they would respond with defiant anger.

Sheep and goats

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life (Matt 25:46).

To be fair, you can understand why people tell us ‘the Bible clearly says…’. Our English Bibles certainly seem to. But we need to look at the Greek words used by the original writers of the New Testament books.

Firstly, what do we understand by ‘punishment’? Kolasis is the word used here, and it means ‘correction’, not ‘retribution’. Greek had a word for retributive punishment, timoria, which is never used of God in the New Testament. God’s discipline is always restorative.

Secondly, the Greek language had no word for ‘eternal’. They could have invented one if they had wished to: the language was exceptionally well-suited to building new words from component parts. They did not need the word because they did not have the concept. The root of the word used here, aionios, is ‘age’. For Greek speakers, an aion could mean a lifetime, a generation, or a longer period of time – but always of finite length. So not never-ending, not forever and ever, not eternal.

“Ah, but the same word appears in both halves of this sentence, and since ‘eternal life’ is everlasting, then the punishment must be, too.”

That depends on what aspect of the life we focus on when we read ‘eternal’. Surely it is not primarily the length, but the quality. The life being promised is the-God-kind-of-life: and the punishment therefore is the-God-kind-of-punishment: restorative and corrective, not retributive.

There are other reasons to treat this passage with caution, too. The sheep and goats in the parable are nations, not individuals. The criterion for escaping ‘eternal punishment’ is good works, not faith in Jesus. So if you are prepared to assert that whole nations will be sent to heaven or hell – based on their works, not on faith – then you can reasonably use this passage to argue your case for an ‘eternal hell’. So far I have not come across anyone in any theological stream who is prepared to do so.

“The eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels? That’s clear enough.”

The more I consider this phrase, the more I am inclined to Chuck Crisco’s view that it refers to ‘the accuser and his messengers’, which is a perfectly valid translation of the Greek words used. The Law, the religious system and those who fought to preserve it were heading for the fires of the Temple Mount and Gehenna at the end of the Old Covenant age (aion) in the destruction of Jerusalem by the armies of Rome (AD70).

But if that is a step too far for some, let’s consider the purpose of fire. The Greek word is pur, from which we get words like ‘pure’ and ‘purify’. Jesus came baptising with the Holy Spirit and with fire and Paul said that everyone’s work will be tested with fire. I believe we will all go through the fires of purification to restore us to our original design and identity as sons by removing anything that distorts that image. We can engage with that fire now, or wait until we die (I advise option 1). There is a fire which awaits everyone who has not gone through it already but it is for purifying and correcting, not for destroying. It is the consuming fire of God’s passionate love. And my testimony is that even those who did not accept Jesus while alive will still get to choose when they experience that fire after death.

So what was Jesus’ point in this story of sheep and goats? ‘Brothers’ was a term used by Jews to refer exclusively to other Jews. Again (as throughout these chapters of Matthew’s gospel) I would suggest that in His love He was setting out a warning to the religious-yet-unbelieving Jews, especially the leaders, who instead of serving ‘the least of these my brothers’ (the believing Jews) would imprison and kill them instead.

Lazarus and the rich man

We touched on this before, and for an in-depth look into this parable we recommend Brad Jersak’s analysis in Hell in a Handbasket.

The context of Luke 16 is all about wealth and true riches. In the verses immediately preceding this parable Luke tells us that the Pharisees were lovers of money. Jesus is not offering a treatise on the afterlife, but a warning about putting your trust in riches and failing to help the poor. Jesus quite literally means that the rich and poor of that age will see a reversal of fortunes in the next.  Losing your soul for temporal gain is the cost of materialism and the results of living a DIY self-righteous life (Matt 16:26).

Abraham’s bosom is not a biblical phrase but a mythological or cultural one found in the Babylonian Talmud. Jesus is using a culturally accepted idea as the background for his story.

Aspects of the story make a crass literalism awkward: how does the rich man communicate with Abraham across the chasm? Does everyone there have a direct line to the patriarch? Does someone being incinerated in a furnace care about thirst? Are these literal flames? And since hades precedes the resurrection of the body, do we have literal tongues with which to feel thirst? Is this also the literal Abraham? Do the millions in his care take turns snuggling with him? Or is his bosom big enough to contain us all at once? How big he must be! And so on into implausibility. Taking the parable seriously means we mustn’t take it so literally. (Brad Jerzak – Why The Lake of Fire, Tormented Lazarus & Gnashing Teeth Can’t Conjure Up Eternal Torture).

Do we think that when we are in heaven we will be able to see our loved ones in ‘hell’, talk to them but offer them no hope, yet be happy with that?

Eternal destruction, away from the presence

… when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess 1:7b-9).

If you believe in hell as eternal conscious torment, the word ‘destruction’ does not work for you. If you believe in the annihilation of the wicked, the combination of ‘eternal’ and ‘destruction’ makes no sense. However you look at it, we need to delve deeper.

The words in bold are all poor translations: diké (translated penalty) means justice, judicial hearing, legal decision; the related word ekdikesis (translated retribution) means that which arises out of justice; aionion (eternal) we know means pertaining to the age; olethros (destruction) means the state of being lost, lostness; apo (translated away from and from) does indeed mean from, but in the sense of coming out of or coming from and not separated from. Matthew DiStefano points out that the phrase Eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord (olethron aionion apo prosopou tou Kyriou) in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 mirrors exactly that in Acts 3:19: Times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord (kairoi anapsyxeos apo prosopou tou Kyriou). No one translates that ‘times of refreshing away from the presence of the Lord’.

So Paul was encouraging the Thessalonians that there was a judicial decision about to come from the Presence of the Lord which would have a consequence for those who were persecuting them: it would involve a state of lostness pertaining to the age. Or you can read it as God’s consuming-fire-presence delivering a justice that totally ruins their lostness.

This is not about some future end of the world event or afterlife experience but what Jesus prophesied would occur in that generation (and did occur in AD70) – but even then, God’s justice is always restorative for everyone.

The Lake of Fire

Four verses mention the lake of fire in the Bible, all in Revelation 19 and 20. Revelation is an apocalyptic book, symbolic and cryptic in nature, the only one of its kind in the New Testament but very common in Jewish and Greek literature. Only those ‘in the know’ and immersed in the culture in which it is written will fully understand the symbolism. Symbols can represent multiple concepts. One thing is certain: apocalyptic literature is never intended to be read literally.

We can get clues about some of the symbols because they also appear in the book of Daniel, including the beast being cast into the blazing fire (Dan 7:11). Just as Daniel’s beasts were figurative, representing various nations, so too is the lake of burning sulphur figurative. The book of Revelation is not a prophecy for the far distant future but was an immediate warning to first-century Israel that just as Sodom and Gomorrah fell in fiery destruction, so too the Jewish religious system was in danger of ending in the same manner.

The ‘book of life‘ mentioned is a commonly understood concept in the Jewish tradition and refers back to the law where according to the Talmud this book is opened every Jewish new year on Rosh Hashanah.

In Revelation 20:14, we see Death and Hades thrown into the lake of fire. Here the lake of fire may well represent God’s (completed) triumph over evil, sin, the grave and death through the power of the cross. Many of the early church Fathers saw the lake of fire as a spiritual place where everyone in humanity was purged of their unbelief and sins so that they could eventually believe in God. I believe it is fed by the river of fire which flows from God’s throne.

And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (Rev 20:10).

Forever and ever is a poor translation of to the ages of ages. Brimstone (Greek: theios, closely related to the word for ‘God’) was regarded as having power to heal and purify. Basanizo (translated torment) is ‘testing with a touchstone’ (in other scriptures it is translated as tossed or battered by waves, straining at the oars of a boat, and being in labour while giving birth).

Conclusion

Enough! No matter how many objections we address, how many scriptures we dig into, we know that some will not be persuaded. These posts are really not intended for them but for those who discover that God is already on their case – and even they will probably come up with other verses or passages not included in this brief survey. There are far more comprehensive treatments of the subject elsewhere; we have referenced some of them in the text and below. But ultimately all of us are going to need to go to God, in whatever way we know how, and hear what He has to say to us about the questions we have.

Fire and passion

We can all experience the fire and passion of God’s love today for ourselves. Let’s not hide from it or try to avoid it.

Son, it is time for everyone to embrace the fire
to experience deeper love
and the purification that My consuming fiery love brings.

Son, call on Me to stoke the fires
and increase the intensity of the heat
to reveal hearts, minds and motives. 

So I call for the purification of fire.
I call for the fire of love to penetrate the hardest, darkest areas of our hearts.
I call for the refiner’s fire to burn away the dross of self.
I call for the light to shine, to expose the things hidden because of shame.
I call for love’s overcoming power to reveal and break every chain tethering God’s people to the DIY path.
I call for the passion of God’s heart to be revealed in His wrath directed towards all brokenness and lost identity.

Let the consuming fire of God’s love burn in our hearts and minds to restore us to true sonship.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts
Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

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245. What Jesus Did

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

In the last two posts I have quickly outlined what the Bible really says about ‘hell’. That has caused a certain amount of controversy (to put it mildly). But I am not trying to invent a new theology or doctrine, or even ask you to believe what I believe, and this time I am simply going to share my testimony with you.

Renewing my mind

In recent years, God has given me experiences that demonstrate the strength of His love, profoundly challenging my beliefs and what I used to think the Bible was saying. This all happened as part of the removal of the manmade constructs of my mind, and it was not an easy process for me as those mindsets, doctrines and theological frameworks of my thinking were very strong.

For 3 weeks I felt severe pressure around my mind, almost like a physical pain. God was challenging me to reconsider the issue of ‘hell’ but my long-held belief systems discouraged me from doing so. You see, I had even been to the fire. I had had visions of people in anguish in what I called ‘hell’. So I purposely held back, even though frequent love-encounters were making it increasingly difficult to deny what I now believe. That is, until Jesus actually took me back to the fire to see.

Satan’s trophy room

Wisdom’s heights was my entrance.

Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice? On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out (Prov 8:1-3).

Some years ago, I was a given a seal and staff and went through a door on Wisdom’s heights. It was a tunnel of fire which opened into a place of extreme restriction and sadness: satan’s trophy room. There I saw 3 things:

  • The sparkling diamond trophies of the destinies of those living and dead who had not believed the good news
  • Stolen mantles and crowns
  • An area of the heritage of my generational family lines

Now Jesus took me back there. He showed me the heritage area and I looked at the family line of my father’s father.

Jesus said to me, “Do you want to see this restored?”

I asked “How?”

Into the fire

Then He showed me a door I had not seen when I came before. He explained that the door had been there all along, but my framework of beliefs would not allow me to see it. Then He gave me a silver heralding trumpet and we went through the door into the fire. There were thousands of people there from that part of my family line, not talking to one another; isolated individuals who appeared to be in anguish of soul. They were not being tormented; there was no devil there with a pitchfork or anything like that. They were there, on their own, in a place of consuming fire.

So I looked to Jesus, hoping He was going to do something. He just stood there looking right back at me. So eventually I preached the good news to them, though not very well! I felt rather tongue-tied and overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with love, actually, and of course completely unprepared. But at least I told them that they could accept Jesus and come out.

I figured Jesus must have given me the trumpet for a reason, so I blew it. He turned to walk out, and there was no way I was going to stay in there on my own, so I followed Him back through the tunnel of fire. I went through the door back to Wisdom’s heights and this time I saw that the door was like a fiery sword (I knew that a fiery sword guards the way to the Tree of Life).

I looked back and a few hundred people had followed us to the door. As they approached I saw them kneel, I heard them confess Jesus as Lord and they walked out and through the gates into Zion.

Authority

I turned to Jesus. “What have you done to me? I’m in trouble now! How do I explain this?”

Jesus said “Just tell people that you are doing what I did – and I told you to do what I did, and greater things. This is just the beginning”.

I asked Jesus why so few of them had followed us out of the fire. If it was me and someone offered me a way out, I would have been out of there as fast as I could. This is what He told me:

“You can only preach with authority to the degree that the fire has consumed generational things in you. That is why not everyone responded. Keep presenting yourself to the fire of the altar and you will be able to reach more of your generational lines. Embrace the coals to touch areas of your life that have come from your generations; that will give you authority.”

So I present myself as a living sacrifice on the altar in the temple every day.

Back again… and again

Since that first time, I have been back to engage each of my 4 generational family lines and preached the good news to them. When I was in China in 2017 someone gave me a silver heralding trumpet just like the one Jesus had given me. One morning while I was there I woke at 3am and felt a strong desire to engage the altar and ask for the fiery coals to touch a specific area of behaviour, the area of divorce.

As I did, I began to feel intensely loving towards everyone in my generations who had been divorced, not angry or resentful, and I began forgiving them and blessing them. Once I finished I went to the fiery place again. I preached to all my generational lines with boldness, blew the silver trumpet and this time many more responded. They followed me out, came to the door, confessed Jesus as Lord and went through.

Later, on a Sunday morning here at Freedom as I was embracing the fire another area surfaced. I again went back and preached with renewed boldness and once again many more responded. Another time, I wondered what it might be like if I took communion down into the fire. So I went back there and offered communion, the body and blood of Jesus, to those who were in the fire. Yet again, many responded!

More recently I became aware that there were many in that place with fractured souls, what we sometimes call ‘stuck parts’, mostly caused by trauma in their lives. They were double-minded, triple-minded or worse and were unable to make a decision to follow Jesus. So I asked Jesus to come with me and I told them they could come to the Prince of Peace (shalom means ‘wholeness’) and be made whole. Vast numbers of them did so.

My strong desire is to empty that place, but for that to happen I need to embrace the fire myself. I need to be good news and demonstrate that good news in my own life.

I have now had many experiences of going into the place of fire both for personal refining and on rescue missions. The fire of God is for purifying and refining and removing all the dross in people’s lives. They are waiting for someone to come and share the good news with them.

Testimony

One day, before I even mentioned this publicly, a friend I meet with online said he had something to share with me. He had been engaging in heaven when some of his family members came up to him. He was surprised and said “I didn’t know you were believers in Jesus!” And they said, “We weren’t. But we remembered that you said your whole household would be saved, and Jesus came and preached the good news to us, and that’s why we are here.” This really did not fit my friend’s theological box, as he put it. He was encouraged when I then shared my experiences too.

Since then (and especially after this topic cropped up in several of my regular online mentoring groups) I have had conversations with others and I have heard many testimonies of people who have gone into the fire and preached the good news as Jesus did. After I shared this in the Vision Destiny 2017 series I had a number of emails from people thanking me for opening up the discussion as they had been afraid of sharing their experiences because of the reaction they knew it would cause (a reaction I have experienced for myself).

Labels

This view of the fire as purification and a place from which people could be rescued is not some strange new doctrine. This was the position of many of the early Church Fathers and others across the church spectrum through the last 2000 years: Clement of Alexandria, St. Macrina, St Gregory Nyssen, St Isaac of Nineveh (and many other Fathers), and moderns including Fr. Sergei Bulgakov, St. Silouan the Athonite, Fr. Alexandre Turincev, Metropolitans Kallistos Ware and Hilarion Alfeyev.

There are many accusations people throw at you if you start talking like this. You will be called a heretic, and a Universalist (I am neither). I do not believe that all roads lead to God. I am not even a Christian Universalist because I do not believe that it is guaranteed. I believe that Jesus gives people the choice. I like what the article Hell in a hand basket says about hopeful inclusivism: “We cannot presume that all will be saved or that even one will be damned. Rather, we put our hope in the final victory and verdict of Jesus Christ.” But I do not accept any of these labels  – as soon as you accept a label you

  1. immediately narrow your options to the views espoused by those who carry that label.
  2. are assumed by others to believe everything they think that an [insert label here] believes.

Objections and accusations

Some will say “If people are going to be saved anyway, then what is the point of preaching the gospel?” Is that not a rather selfish view? Do we not want people to know and enjoy relationship with God now? Or to find and fulfil their destiny in this life? And I certainly do not want anyone to go into the consuming fire of God’s presence without knowing Him. It is not a pleasant place to be if you don’t know Him. If anything, I find I want to preach the good news more than ever.

They will also say, “Well, if there are no consequences to my behaviour then I might as well just keep on sinning.” If that is true, then they are only behaving as they do out of fear. They are living under the law, not grace (whilst they sadly shake their heads and accuse us of promoting ‘another gospel’). Why on earth would we want to keep on sinning, when sin messes up our relationship with God and everything else in our lives and its wages are death?

Embrace the fire

It is best not to argue with people. We can share our testimony, and just love them whether they agree with us or not. We are not looking to provoke controversy, enter into fruitless disputes or draw people into making accusations. These posts are not intended for those who only want to fight their corner and prove that they are right. They are for those who are open to lay down their own presumptions and assumptions, to engage with God for themselves and allow Him to reveal the truth about His love for them and for all His creation; for those who will embrace that truth and be part of the ‘restoration of all things’ (Acts 3:21).

Jesus told me to release this message and encourage the Joshua Generation to arise and be bold, to come to Him and He will open the gates to reveal the consuming fire and show them the way just as He has shown me. I believe we all have the ability to engage the fiery place and do what Jesus did, to preach the good news to those spheres that we are mandated to engage.

The refining fire of the altar is where the authority to preach will be given. As we embrace the fire with urgent desire, great authority will be released to us. I believe we get to choose when we go to the place of fire. We can go now, or later, but God is a consuming fire and we cannot escape His love. That love is an unquenchable fire, intended to refine and purify us.

Let’s choose to embrace the fire now.

Related articles from Freedom ARC

“Three views of hell: burn forever, annihilation, restoration… How did you come to yours?” – Mike answers George’s question here on YouTube: Supernatural Mentoring Monday 12th March 2018 Washington or scroll down to view the video in full on this page.

Resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

Image attribution: the image used at the head of this post is by 7trumpetsmusicband [CC BY-SA 4.0
(https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Supernatural Mentoring Monday 12th March 2018 Washington

243. Not Counting Their Trespasses

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott – 

Good News?

As I have chronicled in these posts, God has personally started to walk me through encounters that continually challenge my perception of who He is.  I am on a journey of discovering the true nature of God as love and as a result I find myself questioning and often rejecting the established doctrines and theological positions of the modern-day evangelical church.

God has shown me that I (and the church, and the world) have been badly deceived by ‘do-it-yourself’ religion. Nowhere does this deception show up more clearly than in our approach to evangelism.

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

This is the message of reconciliation at the heart of the gospel we are called to preach. And the word translated ‘world’ is actually the Greek word ‘kosmos‘, which is even wider than we might have thought. Yet when I looked closely at how we have done evangelism, even here at Freedom, I uncovered a fear-based system which originates from a wrong perception of God as angry, vindictive and cruel.

Religion has hijacked the gospel, made ‘escaping hell’ its focus and used the threat of eternal damnation to scare people into the kingdom. “Good news! (But first, the bad news…)”. My own conversion experience was like that. I heard sermons about hell and judgment week after week and decided I needed ‘fire insurance’.

Hell? Not going there…

For most Christians, hell is a given, an unquestioned doctrine. Hell fits their doctrinal system. God is love but He is also just. He must punish sin. Hell is the punishment for sin. Simple.

Or is it?

I knew it would take a while to address this issue properly, and I resisted broaching the question of ‘hell’ for some time, as if it were some kind of ‘no-go’ area, but God would not let me be. It just kept resurfacing, both in my encounters and as I prepared the ‘new versus old’ teaching module in the Engaging God programme. It is a concept that is generally accepted in most (if not all) religions and in wider society, but I knew deep down that something in what I had been taught was not consistent with the Father’s love.

Think again

This is where we come back to the scripture from 2 Corinthians which says that God is not counting their trespasses against anyone:

Namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them (2 Cor 5:19).

The whole cosmos has already been reconciled and no-one’s trespasses are counted against them. So from God’s perspective what need is there for a ‘hell’?

And, despite the limitations of the translations we use which I touched on in the last post, there are plenty of other familiar passages which might prompt us to think again too:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet
sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).
Who is the us that Christ died for, a select few or everyone?
For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all… (2 Cor 5:14).

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Rom 5:10).
God is not angry, even with those who may feel like His enemies.

When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having cancelled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Col 2:13-14).

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor 15:22).
In each part of this statement, all refers to the same people… all, as Peter confirms:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God… (1 Peter 3:18).

Angry forever?

Pitying and merciful is the Lord; lenient and full of mercy. Not unto the end shall He be provoked to anger, nor into the eon (age) will He cherish wrath. Not according to our lawless deeds did He deal with us; nor according to our sins did He recompense to us (Psa 103:8-10, Septuagint).

“I shall not punish you into the eon (age), nor shall I be provoked to anger with you perpetually” (Isaiah 57:16)

“I will heal their apostasy (unbelief), I will love them freely, for My anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).

My own experiences of God are characterised by love, grace and mercy, not anger and fear. God does not stay angry forever, so why would He punish people forever? His love is more powerful than all our sin put together. It is far stronger than the lies and deception designed to keep us separated from Him:

“Put me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, jealousy is as severe as Sheol; its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, nor will rivers overflow it” (Song of Solomon 8:6-7).

Rather than meaning torment and punishment, in this passage fire is a depiction of passion and unrelenting love: God’s love is a flame that can never be quenched or extinguished and He is unrelenting in pursuing us for relationship.

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).

How can God punish people if He is love? The two are incompatible. He cannot and He does not. God’s justice is always restorative.

Perpetual Conscious Torment

The idea of ‘hell’ as a place of perpetual torment is so prevalent in the world’s religions and cultures that if you mention ‘hell’, most people have a pretty clear image of what you are talking about: it probably includes fire, demons with pitchforks and people in torment. This image has been propagated by literature through the ages and more recently by films and TV shows but it was not the view of the early church.

The writings of the Old Testament and Jewish literature throw up various different views of the afterlife, including annihilation or sleep until judgment, but eternal torment after death was not a Hebrew concept at all. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible comments, “Nowhere in the Old Testament is the abode of the dead regarded as a place of punishment or torment. The concept of an infernal ‘hell’ developed in Israel only during the Hellenistic [Greek] period” (i.e. beginning in the fourth century B.C.).

There are even some people today who teach that at the resurrection, God will give unbelievers new bodies specifically designed to withstand eternal torture. What kind of a god is that? Is that really the God who was perfectly revealed in Jesus?

But what about…?

By now, you may be thinking of passages of scripture, even of Jesus’ own teaching, which seem to contradict what I am saying. What about the sheep and the goats, or the rich man and Lazarus, or the outer darkness where their worm does not die and their fire is not quenched and there is weeping and gnashing of teeth? I promise we will look closely at each of those passages (and others) in coming posts.

Jesus never warned anyone about ‘hell’, nor did Paul or any of the other New Testament writers, nor did God tell Adam that he and his descendants would go to ‘hell’ as a result of the fall. There is no word for ‘hell’ in the Greek or Hebrew language. It is not a biblical concept at all.

Four separate words have been translated into the single English word ‘hell’ and in reality each word has a different meaning:

  • Sheol (Hebrew) grave or place of dead
  • Hades (Greek) unseen world, grave, underworld
  • Tartarus (Greek) prison for angels
  • Gehenna (Greek) name of a valley outside Jerusalem used as a fiery rubbish dump.
  • In English, the word ‘hell’ comes from Proto-Germanic ‘haljo’, whose root ‘halija’ means ‘a concealed or covered place’.
  • The Norse god Hel is Loki’s daughter, and in that mythology she rules over the evil dead.

Yet our most popular English translations are full of the word – including some you might be surprised at:

The Message=56
King James Version (Authorised Version)=54
New King James=32
New Living Translation=19
New Century Version=15
English Standard Version=14
New International Version=14
Amplified Bible=13
New American Standard=13

On each occasion that the translators have used the word ‘hell’ in these versions, they have only done so because they already believed the passage was about ‘hell’. Instead of translating what was there, they have read back into the text their preconceived notions of what it meant. Other versions do not include the word at all:

LXX (Septuagint)=0
Young’s Literal=0
Concordant Literal=0
Complete Jewish Bible=0
World English Bible=0

Orthodoxy

The religious institution and its supporters will insist that if you question the doctrine of ‘hell’, you are rejecting what has always been agreed upon by the Church. It is not so. Orthodoxy is a myth, and it is high time to rethink this subject.

Because if God is love, if God is good, if God is not angry, if God does not require appeasement or sacrifice, if God does not punish us then what is the purpose of ‘hell’?

Does ‘hell’ as we know it even exist?

We will look at this again.

Note: In these posts I can help you clear away some of your false preconceptions and assumptions (if you are willing) but I am not going to attempt to convince you to see things the way I do; if you really want to know where people go after they die, you will need to ask God to show you.

Free resources on the topic of ‘hell’

These publications and websites raise issues we believe God is drawing to our attention today. The fact that they are listed here should not be taken to imply that we agree with all the doctrinal positions, conclusions or opinions of the authors.

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts

Engaging The Father conference

  • Do you want to go deeper? Deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into God Himself, deeper into the Truth (Jesus), deeper into revelation?
  • Do you want to go higher? Higher into the creative light realms, into the heart and mind of God outside of time and space, to engage with who He created you to be?
  • Then join us from March 8th to 10th, either in person (£65 GBP) or via the livestream (£30 GBP), for Engaging The Father, the first of our Sons Arise! conferences for 2018.
  • For full details and to book, please go to https://freedomarc.org/engagingfather

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 ‘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!

Soundtrack: You Won’t Relent (Jesus Culture) via YouTube

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

Recent articles from Freedom ARC
Older related posts
Resources from others

Engaging The Father conference

  • Do you want to go deeper? Deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into God Himself, deeper into the Truth (Jesus), deeper into revelation?
  • Do you want to go higher? Higher into the creative light realms, into the heart and mind of God outside of time and space, to engage with who He created you to be?
  • Then join us from March 8th to 10th, either in person (£65 GBP) or via the livestream (£30 GBP), for Engaging The Father, the first of our Sons Arise! conferences for 2018.
  • For full details and to book, please go to https://freedomarc.org/engagingfather

 

241. You Have Not Desired

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott   

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Modern evangelical religion sees the Father punishing and forsaking his own Son on the cross. Yet the early Church Fathers (who were discipled by those that Jesus discipled in love) did not believe that God punished Jesus. The cross is not about abandonment but quite the opposite: healing and reconciliation.

Relationship sees the death of Jesus as the communion, oneness and togetherness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit breaking into our separation.  It sees the love of God breaking into our alienation and darkness with light. The purpose of Jesus’ death is to find us, to establish relationship with us, in our sin, in our death, in our bondage; and to recreate us or to make us alive, to bring us from death into life. That has been His desire all along.

If God is not ‘counting their trespasses against them’, then there is no reason for Him to punish anyone. And fear of punishment is absolutely not the way Perfect Love operates in any case: instead, His kindness leads us to repentance:

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? (Rom 2:4 NIV).

What is wrong with this picture?

So if we look at the Old Testament law and the sacrificial system and see an angry God needing appeasement, something is very wrong with this picture.

Cain and Abel were the first people we know of who brought God an offering:

So it came about in the course of time that Cain brought an offering to the Lord of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions (Gen 4:3-4).

God had not asked them for anything. So I wonder who told them that God required offerings or sacrifices. I would suggest that it was the same satanic DIY religion whose lies inspired Adam and Eve to make coverings and hide in the bushes.

Since then, and throughout mankind’s history, making sacrifices (including child sacrifices) to appease angry do-it-yourself gods has been integral to religion. Sacrifices are made to ensure fertility, bountiful harvests, security and victory. Abraham was told to leave his idol-making family behind but he didn’t (Gen 12:1). Jacob’s wife Rachel stole her family idols when she was leaving home (Gen 31:19). Israel sacrificed to idols while they were in Egypt, and even took them with them into the wilderness (Acts 7:43), where they got Aaron to make a golden calf (Ex 32:1-4).

Delight in sacrifice?

It was anger at the sight of the golden calf that caused Moses to break the original tablets God had given him (Ex 32:28), God’s own handiwork which according to the original Hebrew were actually sapphire cubes of heavenly revelation.

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

Moses wrote the law from His own interpretation on the replacement tablets he cut out of stone. He gave the sacrificial law to stop Israel sacrificing (including child sacrifice) to idols such as the golden calf, Baal, Molech and countless others. God allowed Moses to introduce the law to limit sacrifices that could be made, not to endorse them. He neither wanted nor needed the sacrifice of animals to appease His wrath.

At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands… as it is written in the book of the prophets, “It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel? You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship” (Acts 7:41-43).

God really did not want their sacrifices.

For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices (Jer 7:22).

Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says “Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for Me; In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have taken no pleasure” (Heb 10:5-6).

King David, even after committing murder and adultery, knew that appeasement was not what God required:

For You do not delight in sacrifice,
otherwise I would give it;
You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise

(Psa 51:16-17).

Justice, not sacrifices

“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats… Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from My sight. Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow” (Isa 1:11, 16-17).

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings… But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:21-22, 24).

“…and to love one’s neighbour as himself, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:33-34).

A change of heart, righteousness or justice could only come from relationship with God, not out of the self-righteousness associated with our own DIY religion, or with the Law. In fact the Law only served to demonstrate to those who were under it that they could not have a relationship with God through their own DIY efforts.

A living sacrifice

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

Paul is not writing here about trying to appease God by serving Him. It is very easy to slip back into the mindset that we need to do something to make us more acceptable to Him. Political and religious spirits constantly seek to subvert the gospel. Jesus warned his disciples about this:

“Watch out! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod” (Mark 8:15).

So let us consider, are we in any way still living a DIY religious lifestyle?

  • Are we praying and reading our Bibles more out of fear than faith?
  • Are we doing good works to earn forgiveness, or brownie points?
  • Are we paying our tithes and giving our offerings out of obligation?
  • Are we sacrificing our children on the idol of ministry?

There’s nothing I could do
That would ever make You
Love me more
There’s nothing I could do
That would ever make You
Love me less
(Outrageous Love by Jonathan David Helser and Ed Cash).

Nothing we can do could possibly make Him love us any more than He already does. Nothing we can do can make Him love us any less. He loves us consistently, perfectly, passionately. Once we recognise this fact, the idol of ‘GOD’ as the distant, angry, punishing deity begins to be demolished in our lives.

What if?

  • What if God was ACTUALLY good?
  • What if God was ONLY good?
  • What if God was ALWAYS good?
  • What if there was NO dark side to God – at all?
  • What if God was FOR us, not against us?
  • What if God doesn’t allow evil, but rather seeks to DISALLOW it by applying His curative energies to both victim and offender?
  • What if God cares deeply, tenderly and intensely for the wellbeing of everyone at all times and in all places?

A.W. Tozer famously said that “by a secret law of the soul, we grow to resemble our image of God.” We become like who we behold; so we need to know the true God if we are to be like Him and represent Him on the earth.

Once again, let me say, I am not trying to invent or convert anyone to a new theology or belief system but I am encouraging us all to meet God face to face and find out what He is really like. Instead of agreeing or disagreeing with me about these things, why not ask God for personal revelation and let Him reveal Himself as the Truth?

SoundTrack: Outrageous Love by Jonathan and Melissa Helser via YouTube

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

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  • Do you want to go deeper? Deeper into intimacy with God, deeper into God Himself, deeper into the Truth (Jesus), deeper into revelation?
  • Do you want to go higher? Higher into the creative light realms, into the heart and mind of God outside of time and space, to engage with who He created you to be?
  • Then join us from March 8th to 10th, either in person or via the livestream, for Engaging The Father, the first of our Sons Arise! conferences for 2018.
  • For full details and to book, please go to https://freedomarc.org/engagingfather

240. Loving Instruction and Correction

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

Love, the very essence of His Being

If we continually engage with God in a relational way we will continually find new things. We certainly cannot contain Him in a box – or even in a book. We need a relationship with Him and then, just as in any relationship, we will gradually (or sometimes in a flash of revelation) get to know what He is really like.

As the Joshua Generation, we are called to engage our inheritance, to cross over into the realms of heaven. In that, whether we are engaging God in the realms of heaven or engaging Him in our own heart, or in the spirit, or outside of time and space in the heart of God Himself, God is revealing His precepts, His character and His nature. When we meet God face to face, it begins to change our view of Him, and for the better. You can take it from me: we honestly have no idea just how good He is!

When I have engaged face to face with Him, what I have found is that God is Love. That is not only His predominant characteristic, but the very essence of His being. That Love poses a challenge to many of the ways we have thought about God because of our religious upbringing or traditions. If we are to live as the sons of God we truly are, if we are to love one another and to love the world as He does, then we need to have an authentic experience and testimony of God as a loving Father. After all, we are His representatives, His ambassadors, and we are to play our part in bringing the whole of creation back into a relationship with Him, to be reconciled to Him. Notice that it is not that He needs to be reconciled to us, the world or creation: He has chosen to maintain relationship with us from eternity past and unambiguously demonstrated that once and for all through the cross.

Father, Son and Spirit

The word ‘God’ has all kinds of different meanings to different people. When I write or speak about ‘God’, what I mean is Father, Son and Spirit; there is a relationship there, eternally expressed between the members of the Trinity, and this is the relationship into which we are now invited. As we experience the true reality of who God is, false doctrines and theologies will be exposed as lies, distortions and misrepresentations when compared with the Truth (the person, Jesus, rather than an impersonal set of beliefs, tenets or ideas).

Jesus is the exact representation of the Father. He said, “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”. We may think we ‘know’ this, but right there is a potential bombshell of cognitive dissonance waiting to explode. What do I mean by that? When we read the Old Testament and the New Testament, there is a danger that we see two different ‘Gods’. The New Testament ‘God’ looks like Jesus, whilst the Old Testament ‘God’ is vengeful, vindictive, unpredictable, and downright scary. It should be no surprise if we struggle to hold these two incompatible views of God in our minds at the same time, yet that is exactly what many of us have done ever since we became Christians. We have looked at this through our own filters and through our own preconceived ideas. If we will look through the lens of Jesus we will realise that any dichotomy is not real, it is just a perception.

Not God at all

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow (James 1:17).

“For I, the Lord, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6).

Everything that is good in our lives has come from God. Conversely, we can know that everything that is bad has not come from Him. He is, has been, and will always be the same. And His unchangeableness is the reason we are not consumed, and do not have to fear being consumed. It is because He is Love, that perfect Love who drives out all fear. He is good, all the time.

God (who is Father, Son and Spirit) is always smiling at us and is always in a good mood with us; always, even when we mess up. His countenance does not change. He does not get angry with us. Everything He does towards us is for our good, not to harm or punish us. And every time I have used the words ‘we’ and ‘us’ in this paragraph, that does not only include Christians: God so loved ‘the world’ [Greek: kosmos] that He gave… but we will pick up that particular hot potato another time.

The reason we might find it hard to trust God is because the god we have been taught to trust is not God at all. That “GOD” is an imaginary construct of DIY religion, a distant, angry disciplinarian, a two-faced deity with a dark side which is to be feared. That anger, or perhaps you may have heard it called ‘wrath’, could be poured out in extreme punishment on anyone at any time.

That was who Adam and Eve wanted to avoid by hiding in the bushes. But God did not come lashing out at them in anger, roaring “What have you done?” He came seeking them out in love, asking, “Where are you?”. He was saddened by the loss of relationship (and was ready to restore it, if only they were willing).

Discipline, not punishment

Last time we saw that the cross had nothing to do with ‘penal substitution’, nothing to do with God punishing Jesus. But that whole doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement has so perverted our view of God that we often try to avoid His discipline because of fear of punishment (because if He would punish Jesus, for sure He would punish us). Can we really trust a god who would punish his own son so cruelly? It is very difficult to see how anyone could trust in a god like that. The world does not, and votes with its feet.

However, God’s discipline has nothing to do with punishment:

Embrace correction. His instruction confirms your true sonship, just as a father would take natural responsibility for the education of his children. Discipline is not punishment but loving instruction and correction to bring out the best in us (Heb 12:7 Mirror Bible).

God disciplines us to bring us back to the image He created us in. The Greek word translated ‘discipline’ is paidian, which means ‘the training and education of children’ or ‘instruction that trains someone to reach full development (maturity)’. That is what God does with us. But we have a tendency to read into the word all kinds of experiences we may have had in our own childhood and customs and practices we may have adopted in bringing up our own children or observed in others. But God’s discipline is not flawed like ours. If His discipline seems harsh at the time, it is often because we do not like being caught out, or do not like the learning process necessary to get us back on track.

The perception of an angry, punishing, retributive “GOD” is reflected in our society. Western civilisation may be built on a Judeo-Christian ethical foundation, but if the Judeo-Christian understanding of the nature and character of God is flawed, then so too will be the society built on that foundation. The evidence is clear: angry, punishing parenting styles, support for corporal and even capital punishment, wars, jihads and crusades. This kind of institutionalised violence and retaliation has not solved the problems the world faces and it never will. Only love will solve the problem. Only relationship with God will deal with these issues. Our DIY methods only make things worse.

Spare the rod and spoil the child?

Many of us were told (and have believed ourselves) that corporal punishment is clearly taught in scripture. Christians in some countries have fought for the right to smack their children when their governments have sought to bring in laws to forbid the practice. Here is the scripture which is often quoted:

He who withholds his rod hates his son,
But he who loves him disciplines him diligently

(Prov 13:24).

Does this mean that we should beat our children to discipline them? It does not. When you understand what the rod is, you realise it is not a cane to beat someone with.

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Ps 23:4)

The shepherd uses his rod to guide, to keep the sheep from stepping off the correct path, not to punish them.

God does not beat us. He corrects us, He puts us back on the right path in a loving way. His discipline is not an angry parent taking out their frustration on their child, as sometimes happens in human society. His discipline is parental love in action and nothing else. Nothing that harms and nothing that maims, shames or blames: only a love that empowers us to fulfil our destiny, a love that strengthens us to know our true identity and to express who we really are.

That is why we can embrace His correction, understanding that it demonstrates how much He loves us and that He cares deeply about us.

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

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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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234. Revolution of Love

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Turning the law on its head

Whenever God does something new, it challenges what already exists, because we are so familiar with the old ways of thinking and doing things.

When Jesus came defying all the religious norms, He was rejected by the religious people and institutions of His time. He brought a radical new perspective, completely reinterpreting Old Testament scripture and revealing the truth behind it. He said things like “the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”, turning the external law on its head, making it into something that was to be used for people rather than to control or restrict them. Religion is all about keeping people restricted and under control, so this was never going to go down well with the religious elite. They quickly decided to do away with Him because they realised that the future of the whole religious system they depended on was under threat.

In the Sermon on the Mount, again and again He said “You have heard that it was said… but I say to you…”, shifting the focus from external religious observance to what really goes on in our hearts. True, He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, He came to fulfil them – but in a totally unexpected way, in the context of relationship – love – rather than in legalism and religious duty. For religious people, brought up to keep every little rule and regulation, to be told that the most important thing was to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength cut to the heart of everything they had ever known.

His new values and new ideals of the kingdom challenged all those external legalistic perspectives. This was a revolution of love, where the King came to serve and not be served, demonstrating an entirely new model of leadership and authority which had nothing to do with hierarchy and control.

Jesus gave the Pharisees, Sadducees and Teachers of the Law every opportunity to lay their preconceived notions aside and follow Him, yet most of them could not get past being offended and threatened by His demolition of the foundations of their world. Ultimately, those religious structures were swept away in AD70, and those who were determined to defend them met with a violent end at the hands of the Roman army. It cost them their lives, whilst those who had embraced the new and become disciples heeded Jesus’ warning and left the city.

New wineskins for new wine

But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved (Matt 9:16-17).

The old order was coming to an end. There was to be something new, something different from the old religious ritual of bringing sacrifices into the Temple. This issue of new wineskins for new wine is one we have touched on before and need to be continually aware of because in the religious mindset there is a deep-seated tendency to revert to the old wineskin.

The Old Covenant wineskin was one temple, in one city, in one nation; one king, one earthly priesthood from one tribe (Levites) and one High Priest from one family (Aaron’s).

Such a mediatorial system prevents people accessing God for themselves: only the priests could enter the tabernacle and only the High Priest could go into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year. It encourages a ‘top-down’ model of leadership which is the exact opposite of Jesus’ own servant-hearted example. This is still operating today wherever we see division into clergy and laity, and in a more subtle form where family members inherit religious positions from generation to generation. If people are artificially restricted, it will hinder them from fulfilling their destiny.

David’s tabernacle

One person in the Old Testament caught a glimpse of the new, and as a forerunner he adopted it ahead of time, at least for a while. In David’s tabernacle there was open access to the arc of the covenant and the Presence of God in worship, and when you read what they did in those days it is an amazing thing when you consider what the Law prescribed. I have never really understood how they could go back to putting God in a box – perhaps it is proof of the strength of that religious mindset again – but the fact is, they soon reverted to the cycle of sacrifice and ritual in a brand new temple.

Heavenly royal priests

In the new covenant, we are all heavenly royal priests. Every individual one of us is a new wineskin, a house of God and a gateway of heaven. We operate from heaven, and we are the nation, city and temple. God is in us and we are in Him. In the old covenant the Holy Spirit came upon prophets, priests and kings but now He dwells within us. We all have access as priests of the heavenly order of Melchizedek, not of an earthly Aaronic order: when the old covenant was made obsolete all the former priestly functions and roles came to an end with it.

Each of us has a destiny, an earthly and a heavenly outworking of God’s kingdom and His government. Every one of us is a reflection of the four faces of God, the kingly, prophetic, priestly and apostolic, expressed and outworked in the proportions appropriate to fulfilling that destiny.

A heavenly blueprint

We are a new wineskin in a corporate sense too. Individuals can come together around a heavenly blueprint as living stones, being built up together on a foundation that reflects heaven’s government: foundational servant leadership which releases people into their destiny rather than imposing mediatorial coverings, restricting access to God and to the realms of heaven.

…having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the capstone (Eph 2:20).

Ekklesia

“I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church [ekklesia]; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven” (Matt 16:18-19).

I increasingly use the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ because the English word ‘church’ carries so much baggage in our thinking. The structures and institutions of what is known as ‘church’ are mainly man-made constructions based on old wineskins. They tend to look like the old covenant rather than the new. And this is not just a side-swipe at established denominations and streams – even in independent churches like Freedom we have done the same in the past: none of us knew any better.

Today Jesus is building His ekklesia with living stones of all shapes and sizes. Therefore all local ekklesias will be different, depending on the living stones built into it using the blueprint God gives. We cannot produce a formula or a template which we just duplicate. In the next post we will look at the characteristics of a new order ekklesia, but for now let’s just agree on this: anything which does not have a foundation which is a reflection of what is in heaven is an old wineskin.

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

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233. Wider, Deeper, Longer, Higher

Mike Parsons
and Jeremy Westcott

Face to face

From the beginning we were created to have an intimate relationship with God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-38 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” and in John 14:6 that the only way we can come to the Father is through Him. Face to face engagement reveals the reality of who God truly is – Love – and exposes the untruths we may have assimilated over the years. Jesus is the ultimate expression of that Love, so if it doesn’t look like Jesus then it probably isn’t Love.

God wants us to know the truth of who He is and who we are as His children. It is the tactic of the accuser to get us to think wrongly about God and about ourselves. As long as we see God as having a dark side, we will never trust him completely. There will always be a slight fear that contradicts love.

Quantum physics 1.01

For example, somehow we have come to believe that God cannot look upon sin, and that He has to turn His face away. If it were true that He could not look upon sin, we would not be here! Quantum physics 1.01 tells us that if He were to stop observing us, we would cease to exist.

On the cross, when Jesus quoted the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was drawing people’s attention to the content of the whole psalm and its relevance to the events playing out before them. But He had previously told his disciples:

“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).

We can clearly see that the hour He was referring to was His crucifixion. According to Jesus, the Father never turned His face away from Him. He was right there with Him.

God’s justice

How could we have got this wrong? The answer is, because we have got something even more fundamental wrong too. We think that on the cross Jesus was taking our punishment for us, suffering the wrath of a vengeful God in judgment that should have fallen upon us. We are used to our human justice system which requires retributive justice – payback – but the truth is that God’s justice is always restorative. We will look at this whole subject of the atonement in detail in another post, but for now let’s consider what the cross was about, if not punishment.

The sin

The original Greek word for ‘sin’ used most often in the New Testament is ‘hamartia’. It is a noun (the sin) not a verb (to sin). ‘The sin’ is the sin of Adam, choosing to follow the DIY pathway of the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than the pathway of the tree of life. From Adam we all inherited spiritual death (which is a lost relationship with God and lost personal identity), so like Adam we are living in something less than God’s original blueprint or design for us, not recognising our true identity as a person made in His image.

So the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 NASB), but God has a solution ready: for as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). ‘The sin’ did not need to be punished, as religion would have us believe, but forgiven, corrected, dealt with and removed. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness by doing ‘good’ things (that is the DIY tree again): forgiveness is God’s gift to each of us in Christ.

The word of reconciliation

God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19).

The Greek word for ‘the world’ in that verse is ‘cosmos’: it certainly includes the whole planet, and much more besides. Jesus came to reconcile and restore absolutely everything and everyone in the whole of creation back into relationship with God. That is exactly what He accomplished through his death and resurrection, and now we all share in the victory of the cross and resurrection life. In relationship with God we all have a restored identity, knowing we are accepted, forgiven, blessed, and made righteous.

Since we now have the same ministry of reconciliation that Jesus had, we choose to show love and mercy to others just as He has shown love and mercy to us. What is more, the more we engage with the real God, the wider, deeper, longer and higher we perceive that love and mercy to be.

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

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