Category Archives: Church

Who Does What?

Today I would like to discuss something rather simple, yet something which will no doubt rock many people’s understanding of the Bible. Who does what? Yes, what is God’s job to do, what is our job, and what has God already set in place (like natural or spiritual laws)? I know that there is much to discuss here, so I will try and let you know my thoughts as quickly and as thoroughly as I can.

One of the biggest issues amongst Believers now days (in my opinion) is that we think that God can do what He wants, when He wants. Dare I say a ‘reformed’ view that God’s sovereignty means that He can do anything. Truth is, He can’t. (Shock!). Before you get all angry and start sending me emails, can God lie? Can God forsake us? No. Now I know what you’re thinking. It is not that God CAN’T do it, it is that He said He WOULDN’T do it. That is my point. God can do anything, but there are certain things that He won’t do, because He said He wouldn’t. Those are the bad things though (lying and forsaking). What about some ‘good’ things? Healing the sick, preaching the Gospel, casting out demons. You see God told us to do this, so He won’t. You may say that this doesn’t make a difference, but it does. Why do we pray to God and ask Him to heal? Why do we pray and ask God to get the demons away from us? Why do we pray and ask God to bring people to Him? This is what He told us to do.

If you’re a director of a company, and you delegate some responsibilities to your managers, would you then go and do the exact thing you asked them to do? No, not if you were any good at being a director. Once you delegate, you let them do it. Yes, you may help. Yes, you may want to be part of the plan. Yes, it is your authority that carries weight. Yes, they couldn’t do it without your backing and permission. But you don’t do it. This is the same with God. We need to do what He has called us to to. Yes, the power comes from Him. Yes, we couldn’t do it without God. Yes, we do it in the name of Jesus. But we have to do it.

Stop praying for Jesus to heal the sick. Jesus told us to talk to the mountain, and He gave us authority over sickness. Talk to the sickness and tell the person to be healed in the name of Jesus. Now I know that there is more to healing than the way we say it, but this will change our attitude. It is relatively easy to have faith, when we know we have the authority, and Jesus has already done the healing (by His stripes we are healed). The healing is done, we have the authority to administer it. If you believe this, it is easier to have faith than if we think that we’re trying to ‘twist God’s arm’ to heal someone. Like we care about them more than God. Are you praying for God to give you release from the demonic? Why? God told us to resist the devil, and he will flee. Do you pray that God will lead people to Himself? He told us to preach the Gospel. It is our job to tell people about Jesus. Yes, the Holy Spirit plays a part in calling people, but we have a responsibility.

Does this mean that God won’t help? No, obviously He does. We can pray that God helps us, that is what the Holy Spirit does. We can pray that God gives us the opportunity, or the wisdom, but we still need to do what He has told us to. The things that God has told us to do is in line with His spiritual laws, things that He has set into place. One that we all accept is salvation. If you believe in your heart, and confess with your mouth, you will be saved. That is the law, and if we do it as God has instructed, we will be saved. There is no other way. It is similar with other things too, although our default is to ask God to do everything.

Have a think about this. Do you ask God to do things that He has told you to do? Do you know how to do what God has called you to? Maybe this is the time to rethink how you do things, maybe it is time for change. Stop asking God to do what He has asked you to do, learn how He wants you to do it, and then get out and do it in faith. When we do what God has asked us to do, in the name of Jesus, just see what happens!

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 9

There are some interesting things in today’s passage, some which I don’t fully understand why they happened, and some that stand against what we are often taught in churches today. Let’s take a look. The transfiguration is something which I don’t fully understand. Why did it need to happen? I have looked up some teachings on the topic, but most of them didn’t satisfy me, as they seemed pretty ‘wishy-washy’. Here is what I do know. The vision of Jesus was ‘dazzling white’. This is a hint of what we have become since accepting Jesus, this is a vision of the glory of God. This is the contrast between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

We then move on to one of my favourite passages of scripture, one which I have taught on many times, and will do so again today. This is a passage of scripture that, when understood, could fly in the face of ‘common Christian beliefs’. The disciples are casting out demons and, next thing, they come up against one which they can’t get rid of. Now it is probably safe to say that most Christians either avoid deliverance at best, or completely deny that it can even be done. The disciples were leagues ahead of us – they were actually delivering people – but look at Jesus’ response when they couldn’t get it right once. Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Wow. If that was His reaction to them, what do you think that He would say to most of us today? When last did you even attempt to cast out a demon? I have done it on a few occasions, but if I am honest, I must say that I don’t do it as often as I should. Fear and unbelief seem to be the main issues, although we tend to find all kinds of excuses not to be obedient. In this story, it is unbelief that seems to be the culprit, as the boy’s father asks Jesus to help him overcome it. Most Christians believe that Jesus CAN heal people, and He CAN deliver people, but He doesn’t always do it. We then start to make excuses as to how Jesus is using it for our good. Here is the truth of the matter. The boy’s father asked Jesus if He could heal his son, here is Jesus’ response. “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” Interesting. Do you believe? That seems to be the key here, faith. In fact, Jesus almost takes Himself out of the equation. Now don’t misunderstand me here, I am not saying we don’t need Jesus, I am saying that we can do this in the name of Jesus. In fact, later on in this chapter, Jesus even tells them not to stop others from acting ‘in the name of Jesus’. Most Christians get upset when people do miracles in Jesus’ name, as they say that we should just beg God until He does it. Where actually, Jesus reprimanded them when they couldn’t do it, and brought the boy to Him. See the difference? Without Jesus, we have no power. With Jesus, we have the power symbolised by the transfiguration. We need to have faith and act on that.

There is a warning in the middle of this chapter though. We need to be humble, like a little child, and not think that it is all down to us. I believe that Jesus taught this because the disciples were getting arrogant because of the power. You see they needed this lesson because they were walking in the authority. It is a fine line between walking in the authority and getting too big for your boots. The sad reality is that we don’t really need this lesson to humble ourselves, because we don’t walk in authority. We use this message to be humble, as an excuse not to do anything. How many times have you heard Christians say, “We are nothing, we can do nothing, it is all down to God and what He chooses to do.” Nope. God has given us the authority to act in His name, and He even gets upset when we pass the buck back to Him. Just never get so arrogant that you think that it is you who have earned the right, or that it has nothing to do with God. Do you understand? God’s power, our actions.

One last thing, which I have said before, but I will say again. “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.” I have heard it taught that some demons will only come out if you fast. This is not what Jesus was saying, if it was, then Jesus is a hypocrite. He didn’t pray or fast, He just told the demon to go. So what was Jesus saying? This was a lesson about unbelief. When you pray and fast, it helps you to remove unbelief, which makes your faith more effective. This is what causes the demon to go. Jesus already knew this, because He did pray and fast. If you would like to know more about this, please take a look at my series about unbelief.

Until next time.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 7

The book of Mark has been a bit of a roller-coaster, and today is no exception. Today we see how the Pharisees got it wrong, how Jesus seems to test someone’s faith, and I share some personal ideas, which you may or may not like. Here goes.

Let’s start with the first story. Jesus talks about food, but we as Christians don’t really have any ‘unclean’ foods (or at least I hope we don’t), so I’d like to take it one step further. Jesus says that they skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to their own tradition. Now does that sound more familiar in Christian circles? I have been into so many churches, where traditions, other beliefs, and political correctness outweigh the Word of God. When I hear of practices which I have not seen in the Bible, I ask people why they do that, and the answers are usually less than satisfying. “We’ve always done this”, “The priest or pastor told us to”, “This is regulation from the Government”. Now I am not adversed to doing things the way we have done it, or listening to our pastor or priest, or even obeying the Government, but when it differs from the Word of God, I will oppose it. The other side of this is ‘keeping the outside clean, while the inside rots’. Now I don’t believe that I have a ‘rotten inside’, because I am born again, and I have been made righteous by Jesus’ blood. Yes, I still sin, but I am no longer a sinner. When I was unsaved, any number of righteous acts, would not make me righteous. Now that I am born again, sin does not make me a sinner, I am forgiven. Having said this, sin still gives a foothold to the enemy, and we need to eradicate it. The problem is that most of us are often dishonest. How many times have you seen people who appear ‘holier than thou’ at church, and then you find out that they have been committing horrendous acts? I have seen it many times. Now I don’t believe that they weren’t saved, I just think that they should have spent more time removing the sin, than covering it up. They wanted to appear like they were doing the right thing to others, but surely actually doing it would have been better? The guilt of this when you are ‘caught out’ is immense. Trust me. I have lost two friends to suicide after people found out the truth. Don’t worry about what others think, get yourself right with God, and stop sinning for yourself.

I like the next story, of the woman who comes to ask Jesus to cast out a demon. Now my Bible’s study notes say that the point of this is to show that Jesus doesn’t need to be near the demon to cast it out. Yes, that is true, but I don’t think that is the point of this story. She asks Jesus to cast out a demon, and Jesus challenges her. “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.” Wow, I wouldn’t imaging Jesus saying this. I like her response though, as did Jesus. “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.” Jesus then commends her answer, and casts out the demon. So what is this all about? Be honest, have you ever wished that you could be healed/prospered/delivered/saved but don’t think that you deserve it? I believe that Jesus was testing her, whether to see if she had faith or determination is up to you, but she passed. Now Jesus was talking about the Jews being His children, but we have now all been given that invitation. If you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, you are a child of God. Why would you not deserve that which Jesus died for? Even the ‘dogs’ could get in on the action, why not you? We just need to believe and have faith that we will receive what Jesus did for us.

That leads me nicely to my final point. Now this is my thought, I am not stating this as fact. In fact, I would like to get your ideas on this too. Why did Jesus stick His fingers in the man’s ears, spit on His fingers and stick them on the guys tongue? If I tried that here, I’d be arrested in violation of health and safety rules. Maybe that is why Jesus took Him away from the people. Why do this? Here is my thought, again don’t get upset if you disagree, just comment and let me know what you think. I think that faith is needed to see a miracle. Go and look at every healing in the Bible. Something is done in faith. Either the person comes to Jesus in faith, stops crying in faith, says something in faith, persists in faith, or does an action if faith. Now this man wasn’t coming to Jesus, others asked Jesus to heal him. The man had not heard Jesus (assumed as he was deaf), the man could not speak in faith (assumed as he was mute), so some action of faith needed to be taken. Think of the other man who Jesus ordered to go and was his eyes after Jesus put the mud on them. That was an action of faith, to show that he believed what Jesus had said. This is the rule. This is how the Kingdom of God works, through faith. I think that Jesus couldn’t break His own rule, so He acted in faith when the man couldn’t. That is why He did what he did. What do you think? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Anyhow, what have we learned today. Know the Word, believe what Jesus has said, and have faith to receive and do what Jesus has provided and called us to do.

Amen.

Richard

Make Your Mark – Part 3

I was recently discussing with a friend of mine, who also has a Christian blog, as to how much abuse we take from fellow believers, because of the fact that we teach the truth. I actually almost feel that if I don’t get any abuse, I haven’t spoken the truth. Now I am not saying that we should intentionally upset people, but the truth will upset someone… As it does in the next chapter of Mark. Take a look at Mark 3, and then read my thoughts below.

Jesus is going about His ministry, when he meets a man with a deformed hand. It is a Sabbath, and Jesus knows that it will upset His critics if He heals the man. Now if this were me at this point, I would be thinking twice. You see I am all for healing, but I am also concerned with what people think of me, and sometimes these contradict each other. I live in the UK, but I was born and raised in South Africa, where we say what we mean and we mean what we say. In England, most people are way too polite, and say what they think others wish to hear, rather than what they truly believe. This has already got me into trouble a few times, and it now tries to hinder me from doing what I know is right. Is this something you struggle with? Jesus was faced with this exact predicament, in fact worse, they wanted to kill Him for what he was doing. What does Jesus do? He calls the man in front of everyone. Not only does He not hide it, He shows EVERYONE what He is about to do. Oh man, I could do a series on this, will we ever be that brave? Jesus then throws a spanner in their works, by asking them a question. “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?

What a question. You see they can’t say that it is a day for doing evil, but saying that it is a day for doing good, gives Jesus ‘permission’ to heal. This is why they kept quiet and didn’t say a word. Here is the interesting part: why is leaving a man with a deformed hand ‘evil’? Here is my theory. People think that Jesus just came to bring us salvation, that is not true, let me explain. He came here to bring the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of darkness. He came here to defeat satan once and for all and to bring us back into fellowship with God. Does this include salvation? Yes, most definitely, but it includes other things too – healing and deliverance to name a couple. Now yes, we can argue that salvation is possibly the ‘most important’ as it is for eternity, and illness only lasts during this life time. That may be so, but if all of these things are included in the gift from God, why would you not want all of them? All of these things break into the kingdom of darkness with the Kingdom of God. If Jesus had left the man as he was, the Kingdom of God would have left the kingdom of darkness to prevail in that situation. If we don’t actively bring the Kingdom of God into a situation, the kingdom of darkness prevails. There is no neutral ground here, it is one or the other. Is this the day to save life or destroy it? Was Jesus saving a life, or merely healing a hand? I have already discussed Sodzo, so I believe that they are one and the same, read this post for more on that.

Jesus then goes on to heal some more people, so many in fact, they had to hire a boat so that Jesus would not get crushed by all the people coming for healing. Imagine if your church was overrun by crowds of people because they were all coming to be healed. That would be a sign of things going well. We settle for a few people each Sunday giving their lives to Jesus while all heads are bowed. Now I am not saying that this is not good, we all rejoice that someone else has now been saved, I am just saying that there is more. More of God’s power, more grace, more for us to do if we only had faith. Jesus chooses His 12, and gives them authority over demons (which we still have by the way, demons and the authority over them), so that we can also do what Jesus did. Do we even come close today? I don’t think so. Why? Probably because we are scared of what others may think. As we read the end of this chapter, Jesus was even accused of being ‘possessed by satan’. I have been accused of doing the ‘work of the devil’ because of my blog posts, to which I took a certain amount of comfort to know that Jesus has been accused of worse. You only get accused of such things by stepping out, not by going with the flow and being ‘vanilla’. That is not what the world needs, the world needs more people to bring the Kingdom of God into the kingdom of darkness. Your will on earth as it is in heaven.
Do I do this enough? No. Can I improve? Yes. Let’s do it then, let’s step out in faith, let’s be more concerned with doing what is right, rather than what people may think of us. Let’s be more like Jesus.

I’m all fired up now.

Richard.

Hebrews & Us – Part 5

Today is a day where I would rather not write a post, as the post that I need to write is probably not one which people would like to read. It is one of those uncomfortable ones. I need to be obedient, and I am working through Hebrews, so I will write this post. I encourage you to read it and see the positive in it. Here goes.

Here is Hebrews 4:11 – 14. There is much more we would like to say about this, but it is difficult to explain, especially since you are spiritually dull and don’t seem to listen. You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognise the difference between right and wrong. Ouch. Does this apply to you?

There are so many Christians who fall into this category, many of whom fail to recognise that they are even it in. What I find interesting is what the passage determines as the difference between a mature Christian and a ‘baby’, recognising the difference between right and wrong. I have had a person who has been a Christian for longer than I have, casually mention that they were going to a fortune teller. Really? Now this is just an example, but have you been a Christian for a long time, yet you still don’t really know what is right and wrong? Do you still rely on others to walk you through everything, even though you have been a believer longer than they have? It is time to get yourself organised. Let me explain why.

We are now well into the end times. Look what is happening in Syria, then have a look at what the Bible has to say about Damascus in the end days. We’re in it, make no mistake. The Bible also says that the harvest is ripe for the harvesters. Even though it appears that Christianity is on the decline, let me assure you that ‘true’ Christianity is on the rise. If you’re in a dead church that is not growing, maybe you need to ask yourself why, but that is for another discussion. If you are in a growing, vibrant, Holy Spirit led church, people are ready to be harvested. Now think about it, if your church were to double in size with new believers, who would step up to the plate? Who would lead all of the new life-groups? You would need more leaders. Are you ready? You may already be a leader, you may not be, but this is a question for all of you who are not leaders, but have been believers for a while. Are you ready to take on a leadership role? Are you ready to be responsible? Do you know the difference between right and wrong? The new people can’t lead, and if you can’t either, you just heap more pressure on those already leading.

So here is the bottom line. ALL mature believers will need to be leading others when the harvest arrives. Are you ready? If not, what are you doing about it? Now this may be harsh, but it is a reality. You can either right me a nasty email telling me that I am wrong, or you can take it on the chin and prepare yourself. This is something that I am also dealing with, some of you have assumed that I am a pastor, I am not. I don’t even lead a life-group. Yet. I am preparing myself to do just that, and I wanted to encourage you to do the same. We can’t keep draining the leader’s resources with our immaturity, me need to become leaders ourselves in order to help the newbies. Disciples training disciples.

If you think that this week’s post was controversial or upsetting, you may not want to read next week’s. Take a sneak peek of Hebrews 6 and brace yourselves!

Until next week.

Richard

Name It and Claim It

I have had issues with the term ‘name it and claim it’ and I have finally decided to address them. You see I have issues with the fact that some Christians abuse it, and others want nothing to do with it. I have even heard people say that it is completely unbiblical. It is true that the phrase does not appear in the Bible, but I am going to show you why it is biblical, and why we (Believers) have all done it at least once, but why we shouldn’t abuse it. I hope this clears up any confusion that you may have, and show people in both camps that there is some middle ground here.

Firstly, let’s deal with those of you that have no issue with the term, and possibly abuse it. God is not our genie. He is not just there to give us what we ‘claim’ in His name. We can’t just decide that we would love a Ferrari, name it and claim it, and then expect God to jump and give it to us. If you have used the term and expect God to jump, then you really need to think about who God is and who you are. I have been accused of doing this by people in the second category (I’ll get to you in a minute), but I don’t do this, I’ll show you the middle ground soon.

The second group of people are those that hate ‘name it and claim it’ and say that it is not biblical. Well, it actually is. Change the words slightly, let’s rather call it ‘believe and receive’, now that is biblical. Faith moving a mountain and all that. You see we need to believe to receive. Why is this? Is this not the same as the people in group one? No, you see God never promised us a Ferrari. God does make us promises though. If you don’t believe that you will receive what God has promised you, will you receive it? It is impossible to please God without faith. The other thing that I would like to mention to those who oppose ‘name it and claim it’, you have actually done it. Once, did you not speak out and declare Jesus as your Lord and Saviour? Named it. Then you declared that you were in fact a Christian and had been saved. Claimed it. Was there anything wrong with that? No.

Now before I upset both camps and get a lot of angry responses, let me explain the middle ground. When I speak a biblical promise over my life and declare that it will be so, I am not telling God what to do. I am telling my circumstances to fall in line with what God has promised. I am telling the demonic forces that are preventing God’s will from being done in my life, to get out of the way and release me. I am speaking things into my life, according to the will of God. You see, I have authority over my life, the demons, and my circumstances, I can command them. I don’t have authority over God, I can’t command Him. Fortunately for me, God has already done His part, I just haven’t received all of His promises in my life yet. That is not because He hasn’t done it, it is because they are being prevented from reaching me. This is what I am commanding, not God. In my opinion, naming and claiming things is merely speaking what God has promised into being. If you’re not doing that, you’re missing out. If you’re trying to tell God what to do, you’re asking for trouble.

Think about it this way. If I called you up and said that I had paid £500 (or $ if you’re in the States) into your bank account, but the money didn’t show for weeks, what would you do? Let’s say that I confirmed your bank details and they were OK, but your bank said that they wouldn’t release the funds, what would you do? Would you command me to send it again? No, it was a gift, you wouldn’t do that. Would you command the bank to release the money? Probably. I would do so if it were the other way around. Who are they to stop me sending you money? To command me to send it again would be rude, to leave it would be stupid, but to command the bank to release the money would be the best action to take here. That is what I am doing in the spiritual realm with ‘naming and claiming’ or ‘believing and ‘receiving’.

I hope that this has cleared some confusion. Read the Bible, find out God’s will, and then speak it into your life. Then go and live it.

Be blessed.
Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 10

Today we take a look at Romans 10, after me giving my views on what I believe Romans 9 to mean. Today we will see some confirmation about what I said last week. Read Romans 10, and then take a look at what I get out of it. I hope that God speaks to you through this.

Take a look at verse 3. For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law. Now before we all get excited, I know that this is referring to the Israelites, but are we as Christians guilty of this? I think we often are. We tend to tie all sorts of conditions to salvation. If you don’t sin, if you refrain from that, do this, behave like that, stay away from this, then you can be saved. The Bible doesn’t say this. Now again, don’t get me wrong, I am NOT condoning sin. Not by any means. I know that sin gives the devil a foothold in our lives, and I strongly suggest that you eliminate it from your life, but you don’t need to remove it to be saved. You need to remove it, yes, but your salvation doesn’t depend on it. What do you need to do to be saved? Verses 9 and 10 tell us. If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? Have you openly declared that Jesus is (your) Lord? If you believe, then you are made right with God and if you have declared that He is Lord, you have been saved. It is as simple as that. Is that what we teach in churches? Again, I am not justifying sin, I am merely saying that we need to make it clear why we remove sin from our lives, and we don’t do it to earn our salvation. I often come across people who are questioning their salvation because they have sinned, or struggle to overcome a particular sin. I believe that this is because of demonic attack, and incorrect teaching by churches. Paul was asked if grace meant that we could go on sinning, to which he took the opportunity to teach us why we should avoid sin. If you’re never asked if people can go on sinning, maybe your gospel message isn’t the same as Paul’s. That is all I’m saying.

The passage then goes on to say that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, but it then asks how people will call on the name of the Lord if we don’t tell them. This is the main point which I would like to make. Are we telling them? I’m guilty of getting involved in many facebook debates. People say some stupid things, and I often find myself ‘defending’ Christianity more than I do telling people about the need for a relationship with God. This is something that I need to address. Do you need to rethink your approach too? It is easy to get sucked into a debate, it is hard to preach the gospel. Being a Christian is not always easy, but we can do more than we imagine, in the Name of Jesus.

The chapter then informs us that many people will not accept Jesus. This is something that we need to keep in mind, as we are often driven by success, but we don’t always see success when it comes to sharing the gospel. We need to be driven by our love for others and Jesus, and not by the success that we see. Take it from me, speaking the truth does not always earn you praise. Jesus was killed for speaking the truth, why would you be liked by everyone for doing it? If you’re doing it properly, you may even have people hating you.

I hope that you are clear on salvation, if not, go and figure it out. We all need to be on top of our game now. The world needs Jesus, dare I say more so than before, and we are the ones to tell people about Him. We’re not here to fight, argue, hate or defend our faith. We are here to tell people about what Jesus did for them, so that they too have the opportunity to accept Him as their saviour. Can we do this? If we couldn’t do it in Jesus’ strength, He wouldn’t have asked us to.

Share the Word!

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 9

I’m not going to lie, I have been waiting for this chapter to come up. This chapter of scripture has been used to push an agenda, and I for one have been confused by this, so I’m going to address it. Now just to be clear, I am going to put my view point across, and it may come across as anti-Calvinism, or pro Arminianism. That is not necessarily the case. People often try to get me to take sides, but I won’t. I agree with aspects from both sides, but I don’t agree fully with either. I don’t believe that either extreme is the truth, but I do believe that there is an element of the truth in both camps. The problem that I have with both camps, is that they both seem hell bent on pushing their agenda and putting the other down. I know people who seem more concerned with winning me for Calvinism or Arminianism, then they do winning a non-believer for Jesus. This really concerns me. Peter and Paul did an amazing job with the gospel, long before Arminianism and Calvinism were even thought of. I am a follower of Jesus, I take on the name of someone else’s theory.

Now, I know that has nothing to do with Romans 9, but I wanted to make it clear that I am not taking sides in what seems to be a never ending source of conflict between believers who are actually called to love each other. Romans 9 is often taught to ‘confirm’ Calvinists predestination theory. This is not the case. Allow me to explain.

Romans 9 starts with Paul talking about the Jewish people. He even says that he wishes that they would all be children of God, but they are not. He then goes on to talk about Jacob and Esau as well as Pharaoh. He then talks about the potter making some pots for good and others for bad. Now Jacob, Esau and Pharaoh were all under the Old Testament law. If you have an issue with some people used for good and others used for evil in the Old Testament, you obviously haven’t read it. The Jews were God’s chosen people, the Gentiles were not. Simple as that. But now Paul is telling them that things have changed. Even verse 19 that talks about responding, that is not talking about responding to the gospel it is talking about Old Testament people responding to God. Paul has not talked about grace yet, but it is coming. Paul then goes on to say that there will be Jewish people who won’t be called children of God, and Gentiles who will. This would have confused the people, so Paul goes on to explain. The problem is that most Calvinists stop here, they fail to read or explain the verses from verse 30-32. What does all this mean? Even though the Gentiles were not trying to follow God’s standards, they were made right with God. And it was by faith that this took place. But the people of Israel, who tried so hard to get right with God by keeping the law, never succeeded. Why not? Because they were trying to get right with God by keeping the law instead of by trusting in Him.

This is talking about faith based salvation rather than a works based salvation. What Paul is actually saying throughout this chapter is that God can use people for His purposes. He has done that throughout the Old Testament and now He has chosen to open up salvation to whomever believes, rather than those who follow the law. This was shocking to people then. Now do we choose God or does God choose us? I believe that there is an element of both. I don’t reject reformed theology, I just don’t think that this passage supports an extreme Calvinist view. Don’t read verse by verse, trying to explain each one away, read the chapter as a whole. Then you will see what point Paul is trying to make. In fact, if you read the next chapter (which I will hopefully go through next week), you’ll see that it becomes even more clear.

I hope that this has given you a fresh view of this passage. Please don’t use that as anti-Calvinist material or, if you are a Calvinist, please don’t get angry. In fact, I would like to suggest that we lose the title of Calvinists or Arminians. I would prefer if we could all have the title of Jesus-followers, and we could all be out there making disciples of Jesus, rather that disciples of someone’s theology of the Bible. Romans 9 is a gospel message, it is there to show us the importance on evangelism, it is not there to divide us into theological camps.

We know the truth, let’s spread the Word of God!

Richard

When in Rome (a Look at Romans) – Part 3

Today we take a look at Romans chapter 3, read it and then have a look at my thoughts.

This is one of my favourite chapters of the Bible, as it highlights why my answer is “No” to the question, “Are you religious?”. We as Christians tend to spend so much time trying to do what is right. We spend way more effort to ‘not do what is wrong’ than we spend on doing what Christ has called us to do. Let me explain. Jesus told us to go out, heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. He told us to freely give as freely as we have received! (Matthew 10:8). Now, here is my question, “How much time and effort do you spend on this, and how much time and effort do you spend trying not to sin?”. Ouch. Yes, it hits me too. There are so many discussions about what sin is, we try to justify our sins and point fingers at others who sin. The world is constantly having a go at us because we call something a sin, which they want to do. The bottom line is that we have ALL fallen short. The whole reason for the law, was to show us that we could never fulfil it on our own. The whole reason for the law was to show us that we are all sinners. Why then do we spend so much time trying to live by it?

People get upset with me when I ‘disregard’ scripture because it is in the Old Testament, but I do this because the function of the Old Testament is not to try and follow, but to show us what we have been saved from! Romans 3 sums this up nicely. Most churches spend so much time trying to make people do the right thing, and not do the wrong thing. Most churches are so concerned about whether we are sinning or not. Do you honestly think that the devil is more upset by us ‘refraining from sin’ than he is about us doing what Christ has called us to do? I seriously doubt it. I can honestly say that most Christians (including myself) underestimate what Jesus did on the cross. We underestimate the power and authority that we have in the name of Jesus. We limit the cross to whether or not we will sneak into heaven (if we behave ourselves). It is so much more than this, but that is for another blog post. Today we need to realise that salvation is all about what Jesus did, and whether or not we will accept His gift to us, not how well we behave.

“So does this mean that we can go on sinning?” I am so glad that you asked that question! I heard someone saying that if you never get asked this question, you’re not preaching the gospel correctly. Paul got asked this question a few times, so we’ll get to it at some point, but here is the short answer. No. Sin has its down side, trust me, I’ll go into this in greater detail in the future. The gift of salvation is not based on our sin, it is based on our faith in Jesus. Sin can give the devil a foothold in your life, it can cause us to think that we are outside of God’s love, but it can’t separate us from God. If we have a relationship with Jesus.

Romans 3:27-28. Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. There is is, clear as mud, what else do you need? Here is my challenge to us as believers. Let us spend more time doing what we aught to be doing, and not trying not to do what we aught not to be doing. Does that make sense? Let us do what Jesus has asked us to do, let us concentrate on our relationship with Jesus. If we do this, we will naturally want to avoid sin, we won’t just avoid it out of duty. This also means that we will get a lot more done, than just trying desperately not to sin!

Keep up the good work.

Richard