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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’s Word – The Seed of His Blessing (Andrew Wommack)

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A true revelation of God’s Word is the single most important element of a victorious Christian life. The Word of God often refers to itself as a seed. There are a total of forty-four verses in the New Testament where the Greek word “sperma” was translated “seed.” This is the same word from which we derive our English word “sperm.”

To conceive and give birth to the miracles you need, you must first plant God’s Word like a seed in your heart. Conception cannot take place without first planting the seed. There has only been one virgin birth, and the birth of you’re miracle won’t be the second. I constantly meet Christians who pray and believe for God’s intervention in their lives, but remain frustrated with the results.

It’s because they are missing the seeds of conception; they just don’t know God’s Word. In Mark 4, the Lord taught three parables which illustrate that the Word is to the kingdom of God what a natural seed is to a harvest.

The first of these parables, the story of the sower, is the key to unlocking all the Word of God (Mark 4:13). If we don’t understand these truths, Jesus said we won’t understand any of His other parables. There are many life-changing truths in these parables, but one fact must be understood to get the full benefit of this teaching.

The Lord used the comparison of His Word to a law of nature that is unchangeable, not an institution of man. Here’s what I mean. You can cheat or manipulate nearly all systems that men have created. The legal system can be beaten, letting the guilty go free. Our educational system can be beaten, passing students who haven’t really learned the material. But you can’t change seedtime and harvest.

What if a farmer waited until he saw his neighbors reaping their crops before he sowed for his crop? Regardless of how sincere he was, or the justification for not sowing his seed at the proper time, he would not reap a crop overnight. The law of seedtime and harvest cannot be violated.

This is why our Lord chose to compare the way His Word works to a seed. There is a germination process of the Word of God in your life that takes time and can’t be avoided. In the second parable of Mark 4, Jesus said in verses 26-29, “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come.”

The seed is the Word of God (verse 14), and the ground is our hearts (verse 15). Our hearts were created by God to bring forth fruit when His Word is planted in them. Just as a seed has to remain in the ground over time to germinate, so the Word of God has to abide in us.

Jesus said in John 15:7, “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” What would happen if you planted a seed in your garden and then dug it up each morning to see if anything was happening? It would die and never produce fruit. You have to have faith that the seed is doing what God created it to do.

Some people put God’s Word in their hearts for a day or two, but if they don’t see fruit almost immediately, they dig up the seed through their words and actions and wonder why it didn’t work. You have to leave it in the ground over time. Then, there are also different stages of growth. Mark 4:28 says, “First the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.”

Many people are impatient, wanting to bypass the growth cycle and get the full ear right now. I’ve actually had to tell people that what they were believing God for was not going to happen, not because the vision wasn’t good, but because they were expecting a complete ear of corn immediately.

For example, one of our Charis Bible College students came to me who had never held a job, had been in a mental hospital, and had lived on welfare his whole life. When he heard the teaching on prosperity and vision, he started dreaming big. He had a plan to buy and renovate an old hotel. The total cost would be over four million dollars. It really was a grand plan. I complimented him for the fact that he was dreaming and told him to keep dreaming big.

Then I told him that it might work for someone but it wouldn’t work for him. Why? Because this person had never believed for a dime before. There has to be “first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear.” You may think that’s not so.

It’s possible that he could have won the lottery or the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes. It’s possible, but that wouldn’t have been God. God’s kingdom operates on laws, like the laws that govern the fruit-bearing process of a seed. God will not give you the full ear of corn if you haven’t seen the first blade.

That’s the way God’s kingdom works. And this is precisely the reason most people don’t see God’s best come to pass in their lives. They think that since God loves them, He will just grant their request regardless of whether they put the miracle of the seed to work or not.

Look at what happened after Jesus taught His disciples these principles of the seed. Mark 4:35 says, “And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.” In a sense, Jesus was giving them a test. On the same day that He taught them the principles of God’s Word as a seed, He gave them a seed. He said, “Let us pass over unto the other side.” He didn’t say, “Let us go halfway across and drown.” The disciples had a seed from the lips of the Creator that gave them authority over the creation.

What happened? A two-hour trip turned into a fight for the disciples’ lives. Instead of using the seed the Lord had given them, they did all they knew to do in the natural and then got put out with the Lord. They said in verse 38, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” This wasn’t a cabin cruiser. Jesus was in an open boat full of water (verse 37) sloshing all around Him. He was well aware of their plight and yet was trying to sleep. They wanted Him to pick up a bucket and bail or row or do something.

How did Jesus respond? Did He apologize and say, “I’m sorry guys. I was really tired”? No! Instead He said, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (verse 40). Jesus was telling them that they should have stilled the storm.

If they would have operated in faith instead of fear, that’s exactly what they could have done. The Lord did His job by giving them the seed of His Word. Their job was to take the seed and make it work. Instead, they doubted Jesus’ love for them and thought He wasn’t pulling His weight. Likewise, we often complain to the Lord, “Don’t You love me? Why aren’t You healing me or prospering me, etc.?”

God has done His part; He has given us the Word. For example, the Lord doesn’t give us money directly.

Deuteronomy 8:18 says that the Lord gives us the power to get wealth. The power is in His promises, His Word. As we plant those promises in our hearts, the truth of His Word germinates and prosperity comes. Healing operates the same way.

There are numerous scriptures that get the point across that God’s Word is health to all our flesh. Here’s two: “For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh” (Prov. 4:22). “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions” (Ps. 107:20). Yes, a person can get healed without planting God’s Word in their heart. It comes through the prayers of others with the gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:9), but it is not God’s best.

We should never be too proud to ask for help, but the proper way to get healed is to take God’s promises of healing and plant them in our hearts until they release their life-giving power into our physical bodies.

This law of seedtime and harvest operates in every area of our lives. If we will plant God’s Word in our hearts, then allow the seed to germinate and the plant to grow to maturity, we will reap the fruit of a harvest. That is God’s best!

I cannot tell you strongly enough how important it is that you know God’s Word and that you plant the seed of His Word in your heart long before you need the fruit of the harvest. It could mean the difference between prosperity and poverty, or even life and death. I believe this is so important that it’s the very first class I teach to new students at CBC every year.

Benjamin is a Ravenous Wolf

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Well, that is what the book of Genesis says – it says Benjamin is a ravenous wolf.  Jacob, the great patriarch is prophesying over his sons on his death bed and he prophesies over Benjamin that he would be a ravenous wolf.

The context is that Benjamin was given 5 times as much food as his brothers, and the Lord spoke this to me in a prophetic word when I was only 20 years old.  The Lord told me that He was going to open up His Word to me and show me many things as long as my attitude was always that of a ravenous wolf to His Word.  The prophecy was given to me by an old and trusted friend, who was the person who laid hands on me when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues for the first time.

Many times when I have been tired of the battle, or haven’t felt like reading the Word, I have remembered that prophecy, and like Paul told Timothy to do, I have waged war with the prophecies that I have been given.  I have confessed that I am a wolf towards the Word of God: hungry and ravenous for it, and that I feed on it ravenously.  I then would pick up my Bible and start to read it, confess it, meditate on it and study it, picking every piece of meat up that I could get.  Thinking about wolves for me has always been a positive experience based on a powerful prophetic word that has beat in my heart for many many years.

Imagine my surprise last month to be called a wolf in a negative way by a blogger who I thought was trying to have a debate on healing in the atonement.

I always thought that the point of a debate is to have a healthy discussion of what the Word of God teaches.  It amazed me to see Christians put forth their ideas and opinions based on tradition, based on experience, based on what a certain preacher said and not based on the Word of God.  I would try and bring the discussion back to what the Word of God teaches which is that Jesus Christ on the cross completely redeemed us from all sickness (Gal. 3.13, Deut. 28.15-68, Isaiah 53.4-5, 1 Peter 2.24), but people wanted to talk about all sorts of things other than the Word of God!

People are quite prepared to call you names, but not deal with the Word of God!

Eventually two of my posts were actually moderated and not put up in the debate.  Then someone had posted a genuine question for me, which I wanted to answer, but I could not.  But the person running the blog, well she left the question to me up on the blog, but never allowed me to reply, which to me made it look like I wasn’t answering a genuine question or could not answer the genuine question.

I send a post to the lady running the blog saying could she either politely explain publicly that she was moderating my posts and that is why no answer was appearing to the question, or could she at least remove the question and pass on my contact details to the person who asked if she did not feel that she wanted her debate on healing to continue.

Now this is where it gets interesting: she then, directly because I asked her to be honest in the way she moderated her blog – and bear in mind we are talking about someone who is supposed to be a Christian,  sent me a post (which is public and I can direct you to it if you are interested!) in which she called me a heretic, a supporter of evil, a mocker and a total disgrace.  She then closed her rant with the comment: You are a wolf Ben.

As I read the last 5 words of this rant, which clearly did not come from the Spirit of the living God, I was reminded again of something I haven’t really thought about for a while, probably not since moving to London and starting Tree of Life Church: Benjamin is a ravenous wolf.

Since that moment, I have had such a hunger for the Word of God like I have not had for years – and I have been a Word person for 11 years now, ever since the 1997 International Believer’s Convention in Birmingham, England.

You see people who argue for this, that and the other and don’t talk about the Word – I don’t hate people like that, I feel compassion for them.  They have to fight feelings of shame, guilt, and rejection without the Word.  They have to fight rejection without the Word.  They have to fight sickness without the Word.  They have to fight poverty without the Word.

When every wind of doctrine and heresy comes through the church, they cannot stand because they don’t know the Word.  And I have committed to God what I committed to Him many, many years ago when He first called me to plant a church: Tree of Life Church will always be a Word based Church.  Every doctrine we teach, every practise we indulge in will be based on one question: WHAT SCRIPTURE DO YOU HAVE FOR THAT.

Tree of Life Church is a word of God based, word-faith, charismatic cell-church.  I promise I will never forget that.  And if you listen to the Word as we preach it and blog it and podcast it, and however we get it out there, then your marriage will be restored, your body will be healed, you will get out of debt.  Your life will be changed.  You will be able to stand before God without fear of shame or fear of embarrassment.

Jesus is Lord!

Blessings,

Ben

Run Through Romans (5.6-11)

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6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

This emphasises the point of the law: to show you that you have no strength.  To show you that you could never achieve righteousness on your own.  Because you could never achieve it on your own, Christ died for you.  He died in your place, becoming your sin, taking your death, bearing the punishment that should be on you.  How wonderful!

7For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

8But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Before you ever tried to do anything good, before you ever prayed, before you ever fasted, before you ever read your Bible, before you tried to walk in love, Christ died for you because God loves you.  Never, ever doubt the love of God for you: while you were still unrighteous and while you were cursing His name and disrespecting His people, He sent Christ to die for you.  He loves you.  He loved you when you were a rebel.  Now you have tried and failed, do you honestly think he doesn’t love you anymore?  He loves you.  He adores you.

You determine God’s love for you not by your feelings or experiences.  If you try that you will be a yo-yo Christian up and down with your moods and your feelings.  You determine God’s love for you on whether Jesus died or not. 

You commit a sin.  You don’t feel loved by God.  Did Jesus die for you? Yes – then God loves you.

You do something great.  You feel loved by God.  Did Jesus die for you? Yes – then God loves you.

You try to do something and make a mistake.  You feel unloved.  Did Jesus die for you?  Yes – then God loves you.

You have a row with someone.  You disobey the Holy Spirit.  You let everyone down.  You lose control.  Did Jesus die for you?  Yes – then God loves you!

9Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Follow Paul’s argument here because it is so powerful and will bring you so much confidence and peace.  Paul is saying that when you were a sinner and a rebel and there was nothing good in you, God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to take your sin and swap it for His righteousness. 

Now you have believed in the love of God and the death and resurrection of Jesus you are righteous.  If God loved you when you were a sinner, how much MORE – now you are justified (made righteous) by Jesus’ blood – are you saved from His wrath.  God will never punish you for sin.

Do you understand that: God will NEVER punish you for your sin.  You could go out and sin right now and God will not punish you for it.  You are righteous because of what Jesus did and are completely free from the wrath of God.

The wrath of God is the element of God’s justice and goodness that demands God punish sin.  Now when you were unrighteous, you were what Ephesians 2 calls “a child of wrath”.  Your whole nature was unrighteous and you deserved the judgment of God.  You lied, you stole, you blasphemed.  You were selfish.  When you died and were judged by God you would have gone to hell.

Now, because of your faith in Jesus you have been given a new nature.  You are not unrighteous anymore, but righteous: this change in your spirit is so monumental that Jesus Himself calls it being “born again”.  God punished Jesus for all your sins and He died on a cross taking your death.  He descended to hell, suffering your punishment.  Now you are now made righteous when you believe in Jesus.

Because you are righteous, you are not under the wrath of God.  In fact, it would be wrong of God to punish you for your sin.  God has already punished Jesus fully for every sin you have committed or ever will commit.  If God punished you for your sin, He would be unjust.   If Jesus has legally taken all the punishment for every sin you have ever committed you are not under the wrath of God.

Put in simple English: God is never going to punish you.  He is not mad with you.  He is not angry with you.  You are righteous.  The Lord God loves you.

Isaiah 54.9 says: For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.

Ask any Christian: do you believe that one day there will be another worldwide flood?  They will tell you not a chance – God has promised He will not judge the world with water again.   Ask any Christian: do you believe that God will ever be angry with you or rebuke you again?  They will most likely say: probably lots of times. 

Why? They are basing God’s love for them on their performance and not on the work of the cross and the grace of God.  Read Isa. 54.9 again carefully: as surely as God has promised that there will be no more worldwide floods, He will NOT be angry with you or rebuke you.  Ever.  That is what the Bible says.

You are righteous.  You are right with God.  You are at peace with God.  God is not angry at you.  Stop running away from God, He loves you.  He is not judging you for your sin, He is not holding your sin against you – He already held it against Jesus.  You are free and delivered and safe from the punishment of God.

This is the good news of the gospel!10For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

11And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

If you realize this, you would joy in God too.  When you were God’s enemy and you hated God, He didn’t wipe you out: He sent His Son to die for you.  Now you are God’s friend, you shall be saved by the life of Jesus.  Jesus lives in you, and God loves you as much as He loves Jesus.  You should be shouting about now if this is sinking in.

We have now received the atonement.  Atonement is a terrible translation of the Greek word katallagē. It should be translated: exchange or reconciliation. 

You have received the exchange: Jesus took your sin and gave you His righteousness.  Say it out loud.  Get used to thinking that you are righteous with the righteousness of God.  That is the truth.  God is not angry with you, God is not going to punish you because you have received the exchange – the greatest exchange in history.  His righteousness for your sin.  God will never, ever deal with you according to your sin.  Most Christians don’t believe that, many ministers don’t preach that but it is the message of the gospel.

You have received the reconciliation: you and God are no longer at war.  The sin issue has been dealt with by Jesus.  You and God are at peace.  God is not about to punish you or rebuke you and that is sealed in the blood of Jesus.

So start to joy in God.  The word for joy here in verse 11 means to boast gladly about.  Boast gladly that you are saved, not because of yourself, but because of Jesus.  Boast gladly that God will never punish you, not because of yourself, but because of Jesus’ blood.

Praise His name forever,

Ben

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