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Grace People or Gracious People?

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Kenneth Hagin said the derailing of the faith movement would happen if the people with strong faith did not love the people with weak faith. I believe the derailing of the grace movement will happen if grace people never become gracious people.

Grace can easily be just head knowledge to a series of doctrines, making you a policeman to those who you feel are too condemning and too judgmental, and blinding you to the condemnation you throw back at them, and the judgement you pronounce on them for not dotting their theological “i”s and crossing their ecclesiastical “t”s the way you do.

“I’m a grace person” can easily degenerate into our shibboleth, instead of being a foundation for which we build our lives and a way to learn how to love how we have been loved, it becomes a standard for deciding who is in our club and who is not in our club.  The very grace that should level us and bring unity is then used as a tool to divide!

People who are graciously serving the people of God, teaching, training, laying down their lives, are rejected and ignored because they don’t fit our image of grace.  Because they don’t do things the way we do, because they were too busy working for God to sit down and spend a year or two learning all your great revelations which you have kept to yourself or just shared with those you deem to be religious.

Healthy churches are rejected and criticized for not fitting the framework, while the grace people meet in their holy huddle, not even filling a living room because so few fit their rigid “grace” lens which doesn’t lead to loving the world, which doesn’t lead to serving and loving the church, which doesn’t lead to work of love and grace, but leads to a wicked judgmentalism and an arrogant us vs them mentality.

Grace is not supposed to be the mirror you hold up to the world to see if they are good enough to join your world.

It is supposed to be the mirror you hold up to your self to reveal your true identity and nature in Him. It is supposed to make you secure enough to take your place in the body of Christ – not leading for you to go through life not going to any church because “none of them are good enough for my high level of doctrinal purity” or rejecting people because they don’t look like us. It is supposed to be the mirror we gaze into to see His glory – His true glory is stepping into a broken, religious, hate-filled world and showing it love. His glory was never supposed to be kept hidden, never supposed to be shone onto the world exposing them for being outside of His pure, accurate doctrine of God and rejecting them for not grasping what He knew about His Father.

We are supposed to gaze into His glory – not just the friend of sinners, but the one who patiently endured Nicodemus’ ignorance, as the one who had a habit of going to synagogue even though they were mangling the book His Father penned to make points He never intended to make, as the one who even when the religious leaders nailed Him to a cross still died for them as well, crying “Father, forgive THEM for they know what they do”.

Then we are supposed to reflect His glory to the world. Is it your custom to be where the people of God are, even if they don’t get you or understand the true nature of your Father? Are you forgiving not just in word but in action, are you committed to His body on planet earth?

If not, get back to gazing at His glory. Stop using grace to divide and start being gracious.

God is YOUR FATHER!

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God is Your FATHER!

http://treeoflifelondon.weebly.com/the-father-and-his-family.html

God loves you. It doesn’t matter what you have done, it doesn’t matter what you do, God loves you. It is a lie that God’s love for you depends on your performance.

In this bold, uncompromising sermon Benjamin preaches the truth about a God who is not a harsh God looking to get you, but a tender Father looking to get stuff to you. This is a foundational message that every Christian needs to build into their life – it will set you free from worry, fear and sadness for EVER!

Melvin Banks Healing Crusade

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People got out of wheelchairs, people laid down their walking sticks, and people got born again!

Praise the Lord!

Despite a room with some terrible acoustics (we will never hire that hall again!) and despite some of our regulars being away for family reasons, we still had 81 people on Saturday night and over 50 on Sunday morning (9.30am!).    Tree of Life Church is on the move!

23 people on the Saturday were either born again or re-dedicated.  All good!

Imagine a Church…

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Romans 2.10

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Romans 2.10

but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Do you want to know what heaven will be like? Do you want to know how good it is going to be?

Firstly, as a Christian the Lord has removed your sins from you as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103.12). Our judgment day will never include judgment for any of our sins (Isaiah 54.7-8) because Jesus was made sin so we could be made righteous (2 Cor. 5.21).

However, we will be paid for what we have done in this body. Every time we serve God, every time we give someone a glass of water, every time we tell someone the gospel, every time we pray for a friend, every time we say something encouraging, every tongues message, every prophecy, every time you lay hands on someone – God rewards you for that. And all those rewards are being stocked up in heaven for you for when you get there.

In Romans 2.10 Paul sums up this heavenly reward with three beautiful words: glory, honour and peace.

Heaven for the Christian is a place for glory, honour and peace.

Glory means brightness, and specifically the brightness of God. Have you ever been in prayer, or maybe listening to a powerful sermon and you have in your spirit simply sensed the brightness and the beauty and the weight of God? That is the glory of God. Some people have seen it as a cloud, but it is actually invisible – the cloud is simply the manifestation of the glory. You can have the glory in the room and there be nothing to see in the natural, but if you are spiritually in tune you will know it is there.

That is what heaven is going to be like for us, but a million times more. It is going to literally be glorious. You will be bathed in the presence of God and His brightness and intensity. And the more works you do on earth, the brighter that glory will be when you get to heaven.

Honour is your rank. This is not a popular teaching at the moment in our nations which are leaning towards socialism (remember Animal Farm? all men are equal?) but the fact is God operates a kingdom not a democracy. Within the kingdom, some people are of a higher rank than others. They are not more valuable, but they have a different and more important role. In heaven when you meet people who have done mighty exploits on earth – people who have endured torture, people who have changed nations, people who have faithfully put out flowers in their church week after week – you will naturally through your redeemed and non-self-seeking heart show them the respect and reverence they are due. And when people meet you they will show you the respect you are due.

One of the most beautiful things about heaven is that we will all receive the respect and honour for what we have done. On earth, we are not respected for what we do – in fact, by the world we are despised and persecuted. I read an article recently about a Christan couple whose daughter was raped. They told a journalist that they forgave the rapist and he tore strips off them for daring to say such a thing. Yet in heaven when we meet this couple we will show them respect as the honour for their action will be on them and around them. As we perceive it, we will naturally show them their due respect. What a wonderful place! What a wonderful time!

Peace is the Greek word eirene. I am just going to let you see Strong’s definition of this word as I doubt anything I say could improve on this:

1) a state of national tranquillity
a) exemption from the rage and havoc of war
2) peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
3) security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
4) of the Messiah’s peace
a) the way that leads to peace (salvation)
5) of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
6) the blessed state of devout and upright men after death

In heaven you will have total tranquility, no rage, no war. There will be no one in heaven you are in disharmony with, that you owe something to, that you feel uncomfortable around. You will be secure, safe and prosperous.

Now think on this: all you have to do is one good deed today and when you die you will enter an eternity with more glory, honour and peace than what it would otherwise be. If that does not inspire you to go and do something wonderful for someone, I do not know what will.

Romans 1.23

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And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

In the last verse we found out that a man as soon as he steps away from God and His grace and mercy starts to exalt himself and his achievements and his popularity and his attributes.

In this verse we find out what happens next. And this happens in EVERY individual and every community and society that rejects God and His ways and His truth.

As soon as mankind rejects God as His source of worship, gratitude, strength and truth – he immediately has to create another god to take the real God’s place.

This is a universal principle and it is always true.

The NIV translates this verse as:

and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

Exchanged is a better translation of the Greek allaso than the KJV changed. It means to swap (or swop for the transatlantic readers of this!) one thing for another thing.

Whenever you give up on God and His goodness, you cannot leave that gap empty! You have to generate something or someone else to be your god. You exchange the glory of God for the image of:

1) man
2) birds
3) animals (four footed things)
4) reptiles (creeping things)

Now, in our contemporary culture idoltary is not as blatant as it was 4000 years ago say, with genuine false gods with names and statues and so on. There is not too much of this around today in Western culture. Certainly in Hinduism for example this idolatry is maintained.

Just as an aside the gods of Hinduism are totally false gods. We have a lady in our church who was a Hindu and she is clear: none of those gods have ever done anything for her, and none of them have ever answered a single prayer.

In our culture though, false gods are not so noticeable, so let’s first define what an idol is.

1. An idol is something that you give unconditional emotional investiture into.

2. An idol is something that you spend disproportionate time, money and effort on.

3. An idol is something that you value its ideas and ideals without question.

4. An idol is something that without which life would not seem worth living.

So, when Hindus worship Ganesh, they unconditionally love him and worship him whether he answers their prayers or not.

They spend time and money and effort feeding and clothing and caring for what is essentially a statue of a man with an elephant head.

They value his ideals, such as being in business, overcoming obstacles and unity. I am not saying they are not good ideals, but it is the idea of not questioning that makes him an idol.

Finally, having access to Ganesh makes life worth living for many Hindus and Jains across the world.

This identifies him as an idol. Now to us the idea of doing all this for the statue of a man with an elephant head seems bizarre, but we have our idols too!

Let’s put the same first test to let’s say the televsion:

Some people put unconditional emotion into the television. I remember once being in a church as a preacher and an elder rebuked me for being too exuberant during the worship. I said to him: “maybe I should be telling you off for being too wooden”, trying to build a rapport with him and help him see the nature of worship.

He said that he just did not get emotional about things and it was not his nature. I told him that I did get emotional about Jesus, so the conversation was left there. A few weeks later I had reason to visit this elder at his house while the football was on (soccer for you Americans!). This was a revelation as the same man who worshipped like he had left the ironing board inside his shirt on the Sunday was screaming and yelling and was very mobile indeed in front of the television on Saturday.

You see he did express strong emotions visibly – he just did not have strong emotions for Jesus. Unfortunately, he is now divorced and not in the church anymore.

Do you laugh more and cry more due to secular TV than you do with Jesus and with real people? Do you watch programmes that make you feel scared because you enjoy the rush, but wouldn’t dare putting 10% of your pay check in the church and enjoying the rush of wondering how God is going to keep His promises to you as a tither?

What about the second test? Do you spend disproportionate time, energy and money on anything? Sometimes I am preaching in an evening service and it might get late and people get edgy and some people might leave because it is 9pm. Listen – 9pm is not late when you are in the world. But people would give hours of time to the nightclub and only a little bit of time to the church!

What about money? Before I became a Christian my gods were music, alcohol and whatever girl I happened to be seeing at the time. No-one ever had to take up an offering to persuade me to give far more than 10% of my income to these false gods every single paycheck!

What about the third test? An idol is something whose values you imbibe without questioning. So many Christians have a favourite preacher (and there is NOTHING wrong with that, I have my favourite) – but it is the unquestioning nature.

I honestly believe that some of the big name charismatic stars could go on TV and say that Jesus wants us all to dress up as oak trees to be saved and Christians would be down the costume shop the next morning. I have no problems with people with big ministries, I have a problem with anyone receiving what someone has to say without question. I have a problem if you receive what I have to say without question! That is idolatry.

And finally, an idol is something you could not live without. Could you live without TV, the radio, your favourite Christian rock star?

Idolatry is the natural state of man without God. As soon as someone rejects the glory and goodness of God and fails to glorify and thank God, they need to find someone else to fill that void. That is why idolatry is utterly universal within humanity – false religions, personality cults, false ideological concepts have always thrived – because a person rejecting God’s goodness and glory and the gospel always exchanges that for a false god.

Now as a Christian, is there an area where you have an idol, a false god? Do you give unwarranted affection or unquestioning loyalty to any thing or anyone?

So why do people serve false gods? Because the truth of the good news of God forces them to strip off their own confidence in their self. As I said when talking about the previous verse, you cannot serve God and hold onto valuing your deeds and your attitudes.

You can worship a false god without letting go of these things. That is why so many people do.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Word of Faith Month – October 2009

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This month (October 2009) is Word of Faith month in Tree of Life Church.  On Sundays we are talking about what is faith.  We have discussed that faith is an anchor and that faith is the stuff dreams are made of.

On Thursday night teaching service we are looking at the power of Words and how you can have what you say.

These messages are all available on our website at:

http://treeoflifelondon.weebly.com/word-of-faith-month-october-2009.html

Enjoy listening.  Any testimonies on how these messages have blessed, encouraged and transformed you, please leave in the comments section!
Glory and freedom,

Benjamin

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