285. God is Love… BUT

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

God is Love

God is love and that love is unconditional. The ministry entrusted to us is to share the good news of the unconditional love, inclusion and reconciliation that God has already brought about in Jesus! That message will enable people to come into a reality in which they experience that love and grasp the fact that they are already reconciled to God; that God loves them and He holds nothing against them.

Yet much of our preaching of the ‘gospel’, particularly in an evangelical setting, has been the opposite of that. It has been a message of exclusion and very much works-based, in fear of avoiding punishment rather than entering into love.  And what I have understood and experienced is that love can only be unconditional. That means that for God to love you, there are no conditions that you have to fulfil. None.

For a moment, stop and embrace that. If you can just grasp that one truth in an experiential way, it will transform your life as it has transformed mine.

God is unconditional love and therefore He loves all his children equally. No matter what you have done, where you have come from, or what has happened to you, God loves you. He is not angry with you, or disappointed with you. He loves you.

But…

Many people obviously accept that God is love because the Bible says so, but there is always a ‘but’. Why is that ‘but’ there? Because it is too good to be true for an independent, alienated mind to accept – and many of us have been alienated or separated from God within our own minds because of our religious programming.

“Yes, God is love, but He is also holy.” How many times have I heard that? As if His holiness contradicts His love!
“Yes, God is love, but He is also righteous.” As if His righteousness contradicts His love!
“Yes, God is love, but He is also just.” As if His justice contradicts His love!

All these are all religiously-programmed statements that I used to believe, because I had never experienced the contrary. I had never experienced the truth, so that made it easy to believe the lies.

“Yes, God is love, but He is also a judge.” As if that makes Him what? A bad judge? A judge who is going to find us guilty? Love never finds us guilty because love keeps no record of wrongs (I Corinthians 13:5), so how can He find us guilty?

“Yes, God is love, but He cannot look upon sin.” By ‘sin’ they normally mean certain behaviours, but in reality, sin is lost identity. Well, if God cannot look upon sin, if God cannot look at a lost world, how could Jesus ever have come? And God is not just looking at this world, He is engaged within each and every person to bring us all into the reality of our relationship and inclusion in Christ. So the fact is that we have already been reconciled in Christ, we have already been made righteous in Christ, we have already been made holy in Christ. We didn’t need to do anything, He did it all!

Religion always adds a ‘but’, but none of those ‘buts’ contradicts the fact that God is love, other than in the false religious doctrines that create a god who seems to be two-faced, a god who in the Old Testament seems to be angry and needs to be appeased in some way but in the New Testament seems to be loving – though even in the New Testament there seems to be wrath and anger.

In reality, the word translated ‘wrath’ can equally well be rendered as ‘passion.’ God is passionate about anything that hinders our coming into relationship with Him. He is passionate about making available that relationship for us and therefore His wrath is going to be poured out on anything that hinders our coming into relationship; not the kind of ‘wrath’ that we have tended to believe, but rather God passionately outworking His love to bring about change and transformation for our good.

Religion twists

So that religious deception alters and denigrates God’s character and makes love able and willing to punish us – not to discipline or correct us, but to bring retribution upon us. What loving Father would ever eternally punish His children like that! These religious concepts have created a god that people find it difficult to trust, a god who says he loves us and yet threatens to torment us forever if we don’t do things the way he wants us to do them.

None of that is the reality of who God is. Religion twists God’s holiness and righteousness through a wrong understanding of the concepts of judgment and justice. This deception is what creates this false ‘hell’ narrative in which such a god would torture his children eternally. No, God will love His children eternally, and will never stop and never give up until they experience that love. Yes, His love is a purifying, refining fire, a consuming fire: it will consume every hindrance and objection and anything that comes in the way of us entering into the depth of unconditional love.

So holiness, righteousness, judgment and justice do not contradict unconditional love:

Holiness expresses it
Righteousness reveals it
Judgment is its result
And justice enforces it.

Justice brings about the judgment – and the judgment that has been made by God on behalf of the whole of humanity, the whole of mankind, the whole of creation, is…

“Not guilty!”

This series of blog posts on ‘Unconditional Love’ are adapted excerpts from Mike’s teaching in our monthly Patreon Group Zooms. Scroll down to watch the video of the talk it comes from.
Become a patron and join us live for the next one – they are normally on the second Sunday of each month.

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284. His Love Never Fails

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott

We saw last time that love wins. If love does not win in the end then it cannot be love; but love can never be forced, just continually demonstrated again and again, until it eventually overcomes every obstacle, objection, excuse and reason.

That is why I believe in the restoration of all things. God’s love will never stop because He cannot stop being Him: He can never deny Himself and who He is, so He continues to love. And because He is an eternal being, that means He will never stop, so God and love will never fail.

His love never fails, never gives up and can never be escaped because it is filled with age-enduring grace and mercy. That grace and mercy will never cease to be a vehicle for love to be expressed and demonstrated abundantly, lavishly and with extreme desire and intent, without limits. God’s love has no limits: if you put a condition on it, then you have limited it. If love is limited, it is not love. Love must be extreme or it is not love. Love must seem wasteful and undeserved or it is not love.

His love cannot be thwarted by sin, rejection or death – it has experienced all there is and yet has conquered and overcome all things, so that all things can be restored to love’s face-to-face, relational innocence. That is really the nature of what God has done: He has made us innocent. That is how He sees us. Do we feel it? Or do we feel ‘less than’ because we struggle with the concept of unconditional love?

Nothing can separate

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35, 37-39).

That really leaves nothing out. That is the nature of that love: there is nothing we can do – or anyone or anything else can do – that can separate us from the love of God. Religion, even though it will probably have you read that Bible verse, will tell you the opposite, that there is something that can separate you from the love of God: your choice. But your choice can only separate you in your own head, it cannot separate you from a God who loves you unconditionally. And that is really what we need to understand and engage.

If you still think you can separate yourselves, or feel separated because of your past life, or things you might do, or thoughts you might have, remember this: God takes no notice of what you – or others – think, He just takes notice of who He is. And He is unconditional love.

Discover who we are

So to know our true identity as sons of God, which is who we are, it is imperative that we know unconditional love by personal, intimate experience and not just in an intellectual way. I would have always said that I believed that God is love but my understanding of that love is very different now that I know it by experience. I have had so many experiences of the nature of that unconditional love, both towards myself and how God has expressed and shown His love to others, that I am absolutely convinced that this is the key, that everyone needs to know. All of us ‘know’ that God is love because the Bible tells us; but the question is, have we all experienced that love as unconditional or do we just know it as a concept or a theory? God wants it to be very practical.

As sons of God, we need to have our lives built on a solid foundation: that foundation is the nature, character and essence of who God is as I AM. I AM is a constant, never changing. He is unconditional love, He is limitless grace and He is triumphant mercy: put all those three together and they make a totally solid foundation on which to build our lives, to grow and mature. All these attributes have to be experienced: that is what God is working to do in our lives constantly, to enable us to experience the reality of who He is and so discover who we are.

Limitless grace, triumphant mercy

Never stop living in the reality of unconditional love, limitless grace and triumphant mercy. A few years ago there was a huge fuss over so-called ‘hyper-grace’. Well, His grace goes way beyond ‘hyper’: it is limitless! There is nothing that limitless grace cannot deal with or overcome.

And His mercy is triumphant, which means no matter what obstacle or hindrance might get in the way of us experiencing unconditional love, His mercy has already triumphed over it! So if we live in that reality, then we can abide, dwell, and remain at rest in that state of conscious awareness that we are loved. We do not have to do anything, it is completely free and unconditional. That may not be easy to accept, because of the way we have been conditioned to think about love and about God. That state of being, immersed in that unconditional love, limitless grace and triumphant mercy, is an expanded state of consciousness, an awareness that forms the foundation of everything we think, feel and do. Therefore we can just be.

Our true identity and our consciousness of that identity is about being, not doing. If we can really get hold of that reality then it will free us up so much to discover just how powerful we are and how amazing our sonship is. Yet it is so hard to just be when we are conditioned to do. All of us have been programmed by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, programmed into independence, so that we believe we have to do something.

Religious systems

Probably all of us have been involved in some religious system or other and those systems tend to require performance or adherence to a set of behavioural norms so that we will be accepted. When those norms are projected onto God, as they often are, it leads us to believe that God requires certain things of us, which contradicts the truth of His unconditional love. But Paul wrote:

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. (Romans 12:2).

Or, ‘do not be pressed into a religious or political mould, shaped or formed by the political and religious systems you live under, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’ We cannot renew our own minds, however hard we try. I used to try to renew my mind by confessing Bible verses over and over again, making confessions and declarations and decrees so that I would believe what I was declaring. I learned a lot of Bible verses that way but it never renewed my mind: the only thing that renewed my mind was an experience of God that changed my mind because now I knew the truth (and that truth was different from what I thought before) and now I agree with Him, which is what metanoia (usually misleadingly translated as ‘repentance’) actually means.

Blameless innocence

God’s good, acceptable and perfect will is proven or known when we experience it – but we have taught people that you can only know it by faith. Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen, but I want to live in the reality of experiencing everything that God intends for me, not to die never having received it (as happened to all those heroes of faith listed  in Hebrews 11).

… just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will… (Ephesians 1:4-5).

That is His will: that we would be before Him in love. In the Mirror Bible it says:

He associated us in Christ before the fall of the world. Jesus is God’s mind made up about us. He always knew in his love that he would present us again face to face before him in blameless innocence… (Ephesians 1:4 Mirror).

That is such an amazing statement! Perhaps if we look at our life we would say we are far from blameless; but God is not looking at what we have done, He is looking at what He has done, at what Jesus has done. We are who He says we are, so His love enables us to be face to face with Him without fear (because perfect love casts out fear). His love, expressed as His will, chose us to be restored to face to face, blameless innocence. And when we have been face to face with Him, then we can begin to realise how blamelessly innocent we are.

In God’s heart we are already restored: we just need to catch up with what is already true rather than trying to make it true. He is much more patient than we are, and His patience means that His love will never fail. And His limitless grace and triumphant mercy ensure that we will all know his love unconditionally, one way or another, however long it takes.

This series of blog posts on ‘Unconditional Love’ are excerpted from Mike’s teaching in our monthly Patreon Group Zooms. Scroll down to watch the video of the talk it comes from.
Become a patron and join us live for the next one – they are normally on the second Sunday of each month.

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218. Principles and Blessings – Redemptive Gifts (2)

Mike Parsons
with Jeremy Westcott – 

We saw in the last post that every redemptive gift has a particular principle that operates with it, and a blessing or birthright that goes with it as well.

The ‘principle’ is simply how things are designed to work, or (if you are looking for something more technical) it can be defined as a universal, non-optional, cause-and-effect relationship. The ‘birthright’ or ‘blessing’ is how creation and people are supposed to benefit from our gifts.

Let’s look at the principles and birthrights of each gift in more detail:

Prophet

  • Principle: Design – the art of weaving principles together in order to produce change.

God speaks to prophets before He does anything (Amos 3:7), because prophets are wired to bring about change. The principle of design is foundational to all the other principles. God has called the prophet to study principles (to look at problems and opportunities) and assemble them into sets that produce results.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

The passion of the prophet is to take themselves and others to the outer limits of excellence with God, to explore the boundaries of what is possible (and nothing is impossible with God). The prophet wants to demolish barriers and expand our understanding so that we can go further.

The prophet will display a picture of God so dynamic and real that it moves people out of their comfort zones (which can become prisons) and into a journey that will bring them to fulfilment of all God created them to be.

Servant

  • Principle: Authority.

God gives more spiritual authority to servants than to other gifts precisely because they will not use it for their own ends. They are not infected with the empire-building germ like the other gifts. The servant’s prayers for leaders carry more weight than other gifts.

The servant has the highest level of authority over the Death Spirit in spiritual warfare because God desires to set people free and servants serve the needs of others. God trusts the servant to do only what He has asked them to do.

Authority over land (restoration of ecology) comes naturally to those with a servant gift.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

The servant walks in holiness in their own life. They are willing to embrace a high calling of holiness and bring a sense of purity and cleanliness.

When the servant hears truth spoken it resonates deeply.

The servant has the tenacity to reach out to the wounded and hurting (not limited to, but especially in, family situations).

The servant finds fulfilment in being a life-giver to enable others to do their work.

They provide cleansing and authority to others.

There is a deep desire to empower others to achieve their best.

Teacher

  • Principle: Responsibility

The teacher is to walk in responsibility in every area of their life.

Their highest responsibility is to worship God. They must make worship a lifestyle, that they would anticipate and enjoy being with God.

If the teacher is carnal they will be selectively responsible and unwilling to impose responsibility on others.

The teacher would prefer to work hard at persuading people to change, rather than confronting them (or their behaviour) head-on.

A teacher must realise that their relationship with God is of primary importance, because otherwise they will just be bringing theory. There is no value in expounding theoretical principles to others without having worked them out yourself.

  • Birthright/Blessing: Intimacy

The teacher must know who they are as they walk out God’s will and then reveal the manifest presence of God to the rest of the body of Christ. Again, this must come out of personal experience and not just study. The Lord wants to be present in the life of the teacher, having them experience and celebrate Him.

Exhorter

  • Principle: Sowing and Reaping

Exhorters will use their life experiences to help others: therefore they must embrace pain and suffering. The most difficult area for the exhorter is to suffer rejection. But they must confront sin and be willing to face rejection from within the community without becoming disheartened or taking it personally.

Exhorters must incarnate truth, must live it out, through the authority they receive via their own personal experience. An exhorter who has gone through pain and suffering is well placed to use their own testimony to help others who are experiencing the same.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

Know God personally and experientially, which involves taking some time away from people in order to truly know God and have His authority.

The body of Christ is dependent upon the exhorter becoming all God created them to be; God has called the exhorter to be a world changer!

Giver

  • Principle: Stewardship

The giver knows that God doesn’t want 10% of their finance/assets; He wants everything the giver is and has. This is about establishing relationship so that they are able to release blessing. Money is not the issue, it’s about their relationship with God.

Example: in Job 31:16, Job had an incredible relationship with God, and was a good steward of his money and assets. He walked in high justice, holiness and ethical behaviour in all that he did.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

The blessing for the giver is to release a generational anointing. The giver has the authority to release a generational blessing into their family line and community and be a life-giver through blessing (and again, this is not just about money). Givers have a desire to see others succeed and prosper in fulfilling their destiny; they give to enable others.

The giver is to have a generational worldview – to think long-term.

Example: Abraham received authority from God and passed it on. He changed the world and was considered a friend of God.

Ruler

  • Principle: Freedom

The ruler is to go from bondage to obedience to freedom. But rulers have the tendency to be focused on task and do what’s required – and not walk in freedom. The ruler must learn to walk in spiritual freedom.

Like the giver, they are good at making things happen in the natural, but God wants this to be in the context of total dependence upon Him. The ruler is to be first of all righteous.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

Generational freedom from sin.

The ruler is to release generational blessings into the world and the spiritual realm. The ruler who honours God and goes beyond obedience will possess a high level of spiritual authority. The ruler is called to express that immense authority in the heavens and release it to the generations.

Examples: David, a man after God’s own heart, and Noah.

The ruler must seek God to find out what He has called them to do and then honour Him in walking it out.

No other gift has the spiritual dominion that the ruler has.

Mercy

  • Principle: Fulfilment

By design, the mercy is able to engage spirit to Spirit with God. This is the highest fulfilment for the mercy, who loves intimacy with God. In Hebrew thought, every end is a new beginning, so the mercy needs to find fulfilment – if things are partially done, they struggle.

  • Birthright/Blessing:

The mercy finds fulfilment in God and imparts blessing to others.

As the mercy is sanctified they sanctify their environment (time, people, place) and are able to transform the sinful into the holy.

Where do I fit?

In going through these characteristics, I encourage you to ask ‘Where do I fit?’, ‘What is it that I resonate with when I read these things?’ so that you begin to see how God has made you to be. Some of us may need to stop fighting against these characteristics and embrace them, especially if the way we have been brought up, or other people’s opinions, have caused us to undervalue or even reject them.

Here is a link to a PDF ‘Redemptive Gifts Survey‘ which you can use to help you identify your primary and secondary gifts: http://bit.ly/2gOFX8i.

If you would like more detailed questionnaires which open as Excel spreadsheets and do the calculations for you, you can find examples of those here (#1)  and here (#2).

Please note that Arthur Burk, an acknowledged expert in the field, says that even the best tests he has seen are only about 60% accurate and he declines to use them! So do bear in mind that all of these are only indicators and may give different results. We will look at some of the reasons for this inaccuracy next time.

Appreciate the other gifts

Let’s learn to appreciate our own gifting. And the reciprocal argument is also valid: let’s acknowledge that people with different gifts to us will think and operate in ways we just don’t understand. We need to learn not to be frustrated, but to appreciate them too! This is part of a culture of honour. We will more readily live in harmony if we recognise that God has hard-wired each one of us to respond to Him in a unique fashion. In music, harmony is created when a number of different but related notes are played together to create a really pleasing sound. We are not all the same, but God has called us to relate together.

Getting a handle on this can be really helpful if we are working in a team on any kind of project because we can assign tasks to individuals in line with their gifting – and avoid asking people to carry out tasks for which their gift is not suited. Let’s learn to honour the different gifts in one another and receive the blessing and benefits which those gifts confer.

Yet how many of our churches function in ways that reward those who conform and marginalise those who don’t? How would it be if we were to learn instead to prize distinctiveness rather than uniformity, as God does, and to see how beautiful diversity can be in making us a ‘whole church’?

Related articles from Freedom ARC
Other resources from Freedom ARC
Recommended resources from Arthur Burk
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Redemptive gifts harmony

Header meme created using background image ‘Ever Present’  by JD Hancock. Used under Creative Commons licence.
Original image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdhancock/5545810212

Vision Destiny 2016

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Seven messages by Mike Parsons delivered at Freedom Church in January and February 2016. A review of 2015 and what to expect in 2016.

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