Blog Posts

Mar 22

March 2017 sees the release of "The Father we never knew" (The unbinding of the Lazarus Church by the restoration of the Gospel) published by Westbow Press, which is the self-publishing house of Thomas Nelson and Zondervan press in USA. There has been a great response to this publication and it is in many ways the testimony to what the Holy Spirit has been doing in River City Church over recent years. We pray that it will impact the lives of mulitudes of elder brothers and prodigal sons, seeking to impress the Father they never knew.  

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"The gospel of God's grace announces nothing less than the abolition of religion. But we have taken a supernatural message and turned it into a mere natural one, and the result is a spiritually immature church that sees strength primarily in natural terms, and church growth as being about congregation sizes and resources rather than revelation. When the glitter of religious performance-what we can achieve for God-is peddled in the church as real gold for long enough, then we raise a generation of believers who know how to do things for God, but not how to be the children of a joyful Father! We raise a nation of holy orphans who, not knowing their Father's righteousness as their spiritual DNA, live constantly trying to prove their parentage through their performance. The result is a church so sin-conscious and self-conscious that she is like a bride so insecure in her identity that she has buried the likeness of her Father beneath layers of makeup. In this book the author begins to peel back that makeup to reveal the simple beauty of the gospel: Christ in us."

Jan 23

“The Father I never knew. 2017.”

Friday 24th–Sunday 26th February

www.graceriver.org

 

Friday 24th February 8pm at River City Church

Fellowship Meal runs from 8 till 8.45 followed by testimonies.

Making a name for myself in the world” (The prodigal son).

Searching for identity and worth through achievement.

The journey of the prodigal son.

 

Saturday 25th Seminars held at River City Church, 87-89 Irish St, Derry/Londonderry BT472DA. www.graceriver.org

 

         10am: Seminar 1: The Unveiling of the Church.

Why can’t the new wine of His grace be held in the old wineskin of our religious performance? An examination of the differences between an Old Testament and New Testament mind-set, the danger of mixing the two and the paradigm shift in thinking and experience that the Gospel brings.

                                          

Coffee Break

 

         11am: Seminar 2: From milk to meat.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness.” Hebrews 5:13.

What is the teaching on righteousness that brings believers into maturity and fruitfulness? Why did Paul describe the revelation of “the righteousness of God” as the power of God unto salvation?

                                        

Coffee Break

 

        12am: Seminar 3: Grace, faith and revival.

What is the dynamic between grace and faith that brings us into rest and effortless change? What is faith and what or who is it meant for? How to recognise when biblical faith has been replaced by faith in my performance (faith in my faith). Is a restoration of New Covenant realities a foundation for revival in the Church?

 

12.45—1.30pm      Lunch (Tea/coffee/light bites)

 

         1.30pm: Seminar 4: Healing and Grace 1. How to receive.

Testimonies of Healing through the revelation of Healing in the atonement. “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” 1Peter4:10

                                      

Coffee Break

 

       2.30pm Seminar 5: Healing and Grace 2. How to give.

How to minister healing in the power of His grace. Teaching and testimony of believers growing in their experience and expectation of the manifold grace of God, to bring physical healing from disease and point a nation to the Cross.

 

3.15pm Close

 

Saturday 25th 7pm at The Glassworks, 33 Great James St. Derry. BT48 7DF.

“Making a name for myself in the church” (The elder brother).

Searching for identity and worth through sacrifice.

The journey of the elder brother.

 

Sunday 26th 7pm at The Glassworks, 33 Great James St. Derry. BT48 7DF.

Receiving the name He has given me,” (The good Father)

Finding identity and worth through the gift of sonship in Christ.

Coming home by grace to the Good Father.

Jan 16

“If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we’re given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, “Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.”  Romans 4:1-3

We were not made, we were not designed, to live apart from God. The original lie remains a lie; we cannot be like God by merely taking the knowledge of what good is and trying to be good. No matter how hard I try, I cannot be good as God is good. I cannot make myself “as good as new”. This may come as a shock, but God doesn’t try to be good, He just is! God is good because God is love. Goodness is His nature and in Him there is no evil at all. The apostle John declared God to be “full of light and in Him there is no darkness at all” (1John 1:5). God’s nature never changes and this unchanging goodness of God is described as His “Immutability”. This means that God’s character cannot have changed between the Old Testament and the New. The God of the New Testament; the God of Peter and John, was the same God as that of the Old Testament; the God of Moses and Elijah. Yet it was precisely this belief, that God does not change, that was used by Jesus’ opponents again and again as the reason they would not believe in Him. To them, the God of Moses was a God who brought death and destruction, sickness and disease, on those disobedient to His commands. (Deut.28:21,22) Even to Jesus’ own disciples it seemed obvious that those afflicted with disease or poverty must have done something to deserve it (John 9:2) It also appeared obvious in that day, that if someone was caught in the very act of adultery then God wanted them stoned to death. They could point to the very scripture to prove it (Lev.20:10). Yet Jesus appeared to go out of His way to show mercy and grace to the very people the religious saw as the enemies of God. He healed all the sick who came to Him, without exception and declared God’s forgiveness for notorious sinners and did all this not from a respectable distance, but living His life in the midst of them, in genuine love. Again and again both from Jesus’ own lips (John. 5:19, 14:9) and from the writings of the apostles (John 1:18, Col.1:15, Heb.1:3), Jesus was declared to be God incarnate. Now if God is immutable and doesn’t change, how do we explain this? Is He angry at sinners or full of compassion for them? Does He bless some and curse others, based on their obedience to His commands, or does He bless all who come to Him, irrespective of their righteousness? (Matt.15:30, Luke 4:40, 6:19) You see if God really is immutable, unchanging, then His thinking and His character has not ‘evolved’ from one attitude into another. His nature, His heart, His character, His judgement, view and opinion (glory) has always been the same and always will be. So which is it? Does God inspect our righteousness, our prayer life, the level of sin in our lives or some other aspect of our performance and decide whether He will bless or heal us based on that? Or did Jesus really do what the Gospel declares that He did; reveal the way God has always felt about us, from even before the world was made? (2Tim.1:9). Did He not reveal that God is a God who never wanted the limits of our obedience to be the limits of His blessing, no more than we ever wanted our children to think that we only care for them for the obedience that we can get out of them? Is He a Father who cares about us, or one who only cares about our behaviour?  Is He not the God who came and set us right with Himself, by freely giving us His Spirit, His life, because He knew that apart from giving Himself to us, there was no way we could ever be good like Him, new like Him? Is it true that all we have to do, like Abraham, is enter into what God has done for us and trust that He has set us right with Himself, rather than trying to be right on our own? Can we really trust in Jesus’s life as the only reason why we can receive freely from God (Eph 2:8,9), or should we keep trying to add our righteousness to His?

The more we are hoping that our lives are holy enough for God to bless or heal us, the more we will have difficulty receiving from God (James 1:6-8), for we have not yet made up our mind that Jesus is our new life before God (Col.3:4). The reason many of us have struggled for years to receive from God is that we have not grown in the Spirit to see ourselves as God sees us, to see that our old “try harder” life died (Col.3:2,3) and has been replaced by an entirely new life (2Cor.5;17) The Spirit leads us into this life by showing us just how much God has already given to us; everything in Christ! (Rom.8:32, Eph.1:3). This revelation leads us into rest and peace with God. It enables me to keep both eyes on His finished work, not one eye on His work and one on mine. That’s a recipe for going around in circles! Do we have a God who waits to see what we are like before He gives, or do we have a God who revealed His true nature by giving us everything when we didn’t deserve anything (Rom.5:8). Am I still spending my Christian life waiting for God to bless me because He is a God who has yet to make up His mind whether to give, or because I have yet to make up my mind that He has given?

Don’t wait till another year to receive what God has done. Make your life a story about God’s generosity, not your religiosity. Let the Gospel of God’s grace make up your mind, once and for all, about who this God is. Let Him be the God that came, the God that set you right. Don’t live as if Christ never came and God is waiting for you to be right, be good, be new, on your own. Rather let the generosity of God lead you to change your thinking (repent) of trying to impress God.

Christian, how much of your life you spend trying to impress God, is the measure of how little impression you think Christ made on your behalf. God is immutable, unchanging. Don’t waste another day of your life trying to change His mind about you. Instead hear the Gospel and let the Holy Spirit change your mind, so that your days of waiting, your days of living merely by your natural senses can end and your days of living in the Spirit can begin (1Cor.2:12 I believe the Holy Spirit comes to change our mind and give us God’s mind, to lead us into the truth of how much God has shared His life with us. I don’t believe God has given us His life, half-heartedly, hesitantly or conditionally, but fully, freely and unconditionally. But I have had a problem down the years in learning to receive freely. I have lived double-minded, one moment thanking God that things are going well, the next wondering what I have done to deserve all my troubles. One moment living as if Jesus’ life and God’s Spirit, has been given to me unreservedly, the next wondering what I have to do to get more out of Him. I believe such double-mindedness about God’s character hinders my ability to freely receive, for He has given on the basis of Jesus life and I am attempting to receive on the basis of my life. What is the postman to do when confronted with a man who only has to sign his name to receive, but insists on paying for what has already been paid for? Why do we struggle so much to receive freely? Because we have been conformed to this world and the elementary principle of this world, which is that everyone gets what they deserve, so get busy deserving (Col.2:20). Through the revelation of the true immutable character of God, revealed in Jesus, my thinking is being renewed and my life transformed, from anxiety to peace, from self-centredness to generosity, from self-life to Christ-life. Jesus said to His disciples, “Freely you have received, freely give.” In terms of being able to fully freely receive the forgiveness and healing that is in Christ, I am not there yet. I still struggle at times to receive. As a result I am not fully able to minister (give) what has been placed in me to give; the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead. But this one thing I know; I am not where I was. My thinking is being changed and I am growing in the revelation that the immutable unchanging nature of God means that I can stop striving to impress a God whose love and good purpose for my life never will change. I can learn to enter more fully into what God has done for me (sonship in Christ), rather than continue to try and be right on my own (religion). The Holy Spirit is teaching us to daily sign our name, to freely receive the parcel of sonship that is being presented to us, so that we may open up the real story of our lives, the story of His life given to me, not my life given for Him! 

May 6

Pentecost Sunday 15th May

2pm at the Guildhall.

 

A celebration for all, of the gift given for all;

The Holy Spirit.

Hear the most radical message in the world;

what religion can never do, Jesus has done.

God is no longer counting your sins against you and wants you to receive His life, His Spirit and all the healing that comes with His life.

 

Music, Message and Ministry of healing

The speaker will be Phelim Doherty with music led by Allan Bruce and Elidh Patterson

The service will last for approximately one hour and tea/coffee will be served afterwards with a team available to minister healing.

This event is being organised by River City Church Derry/Londonderry with support from Charis Bible College, Belfast. 

 

The Grace of God is Cross-community.

All welcome.

This is a free event.

 

www.graceriver.org.    Tel: 07977410467.

 

Feb 14

The Unveiling of the Church.

“You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News”. “                                                                      Colossians 1:21-23

 

For as long as most of us can remember, our desire as Christians has been for the Church in our generation to experience the same explosive growth that the first century Church knew. In looking for a reason why we have not seen what we have long desired, we appear to return constantly to the conclusion that it must be because we are woefully inferior in our purity of life and devotion to God. This conclusion has led to one message being constantly presented as the solution to all our problems. This message is preached in churches every week the length and breadth of the nation. It comes in a thousand different forms, with ten thousand different titles and illustrations and a multitude of scripture verses are called upon to justify it. What is this great message, that the Church is pinning her hopes upon? This message, running through every one of those thousands of sermons can be summed up in just two words; Try harder!

It comes as a surprise then, to discover that the early Church wasn’t as different to us as we think. In its early years, the Church was in the main made up of Jews, not Gentiles. They were a New Covenant people, brought up on stories of Old Covenant heroes. They too in their thinking, were a mixture of Old and New covenants, of Law and Grace. They were as mixed up as we are today!

These Jewish Christians carried over into their new life, the old time religion; a deep reverence for Moses and the Law. That mixture of Law and Grace, many Christians today call “balance”. The apostle Paul had quite another name for the belief that the old wineskin can hold the new wine. He simply called it a perversion of the Gospel (Galatians 1:6,7) and recognised immediately that this ‘balanced’ message was undermining the pure foundation of Christ alone, that he had laid in his churches. He saw the seductive appeal of the “try harder to be holier for God” message and repeatedly warned believers not to “drift away” from the Gospel of God’s grace that he had preached to them (Gal.5:1-9). He recognised how it appealed to the pride of man, the idea that we can move God by our piety (Rom.10:1-4). He saw it begin to infect the body of Christ and the division that inevitably resulted and in his letter to the Galatians he attacked the “try harder” message with the same zeal that a surgeon takes a knife to a cancer growing on the body. His scalpel was the Gospel of Grace and with it he set about to unbind a people who were alive, yet wrapped up so tight in their own performance that they were blind to the fullness of what had been gifted to them; a totally new life, dead to sin, dead to the Law and alive to God (Gal.2:19. Rom.7:4). They were very much like Lazarus; risen from the dead but not aware of his new life because he was still bound by grave clothes. Lazarus though bound and blinded, was not half dead or half alive. He was fully alive. He was just wearing the wrong clothes for someone fully alive! Jesus instruction was “Loose Him and let him go!” For those who loved him, the first part of Lazarus they would surely have unveiled would have been his eyes.

That is a report of what is happening across the body of Christ, in every place where the Holy Spirit is opening the eyes of Christians to reckon themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). The veil is being taken away, the veil of guilt and condemnation that lies over the hearts and minds of believers who have not seen themselves as righteous in Christ, but still as sinners under the Law (2.Cor.3:9, 2.Peter.1:9). That veil has been a hindrance to believers boldly drawing near their Father, in full assurance of His love for them and for the world (Hebrews 10:19-22). The result has been a church full of elder brothers, who have sought to impress their distant father by the strength of their devotion to Him. When sons live for so long like slaves, the danger is they will end up resisting the message of their father’s generosity, for it appears to take no account of their sacrifices (Luke 15:29,30, Romans 10:1-4).

The angel did not ask Mary to produce Christ, but to bear Christ (Luke1:31). To not understand the difference between producing and bearing, will condemn you to a life of misery, as you strive to produce holiness through church life, rather than bear holiness through Christ life. The gospel of grace is the revelation of that difference

The basis for receiving and experiencing the wholeness of life in Christ, is Jesus’s life. The work of the Holy Spirit is to unveil this life in every believer, and the effect of this unveiling is transformational (2.Cor.3:18).

This year, let us continue to allow the Holy Spirit to reveal to us the greatest and most profound mystery, that in Christ, we stand before God holy and blameless, without a single fault (Col.1:21-23). Let us allow Him to root us and ground us so deeply into this truth, His life, that Christ is manifested in our lives as never before, to the glory of God and the salvation of this generation (John 15:4,5)

Oct 13

Matthew 11:28,29

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 

The Gospel has the power to bring God’s life to people because it is a supernatural message. It is a message about God has done for all people. It is not a message about what people need to do for God. Messages about what people should be doing for God, may sound very good, because we all value good advice. But they don’t bring life, because they don’t point you to God and say “Isn’t He good?” They point you to yourself and say “Why aren’t you better?” Many of us as believers, have been fed in church for years a diet of good advice.

Jesus did not die, so that you would have access to good advice. He died so that you and I could have access to His table. He died so that we could take our seats at His table and partake of the richest food in the world, communion with God (Eph.2:6)

I have spoken recently of a family birthday tradition that Nicola has followed for years with each of our children. On the morning of their birthday they find the kitchen and breakfast table covered in balloons and decorations, with sweets and presents on the table. She only asks one thing of each of them; that they take a seat and enjoy the generous provision that she has lovingly and freely provided. Her joy is to see their faces when they see the table, for they are the faces of children who know that what they see is already theirs, who know that they have absolutely nothing to do to earn this feast, only sit down and enjoy it. How our Father in heaven must yearn to see that look of joy on the faces of the men and women for whom He provided the greatest and most precious gift ever; a seat at His table, a share in His life.

What would you think as a parent, if you prepared and laid out a feast like that for your child, only to watch them day after day, spend so long washing their hands before they come to the table, that every morning, they run out of time and never make it to the feast? Now you have some idea of how the Father must feel over His Church, His children, trying so hard, for years to clean themselves up, that they have yet to know what it is to sit down at His table. What do you think our Father in heaven feels like, when the Church teaches a message that keeps His children trying to clean themselves up for so long, that although they have been Christian for years, yet they have still not partaken of the joy and liberty and extravagant abundance of the life prepared and laid out before them; a life free from fear, guilt and shame?

Here is the Gospel. Through Christ, the Father “brought you to the banqueting house and His banner over you is love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)

Any teaching that places your hope of union with God, on your life, on how clean your life is, (let’s call that religion), will effectively separate you in your mind from God. Religion separates people from God and then makes a living on charging them to draw near. The moment you as a believer, start to think that the state of your life, separates you from God’s Spirit, then you have just given away the gift of His rest and opened yourself up to believe every strange teaching blowing through the church, that will tell you something you should be doing, or praying, or giving to get closer to God.

The reason many of us as Christians struggle to know the rest and peace of God, in the midst of this world of trouble, is that in our minds we have become separated from God. Someone has directed us away from the table of His presence and back to the sink to wash ourselves for the umpteenth time.

When Jesus speaks of coming to Him for rest in Matthew 11:28, why does He start to talk about giving us a yoke? Because a yoke is the means by which two lives become one. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, were the means by which two lives could become one; yours and His. To come to Him, is to accept His yoke, to accept union with Him. Now what God has joined together, let not man put asunder.

Rest for your soul is only found when you will accept union with Christ, accept that

“He who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit with Him” (1 Cor. 6:17)

Jesus left water baptism to help the renewal of the mind, the thinking of all believers. You were water baptised to help you get rid of the idea that you could live the life of union with God, while at the same time live a life separate from God. That old ‘separated from God’ life, that ‘trying to clean myself up’ life, died and was buried.

The day I married Nicola, my old separated life, single life, apart from her life, ended. Two became one. This is a mystery, but it is a reality that I live in every day. Because my heart was fully persuaded of the truth of our union, then my mind became totally renewed to this reality. I don’t have to try hard every day to be married to Nicola, I just am. It is totally effortless, because the substance, the nature of our union is LOVE, a shared love that yokes us together as one.

Jesus promised, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. If you have to try hard to be a Christian every day, that is just a sign that your mind is not renewed yet to the truth that….Your life for Him, does not make you a Christian. His life in you makes you a Christian! 

Is there discipline and effort in my life as a Christian? Yes, but not to earn the rest of God, but to enter into the rest of God. “Make every effort to enter that rest”, the Lord declares (Hebrews 4:11). It is an effort to enter into the rest, of union with Christ, because the foundation of that rest is a truth that the ego struggles to receive; your old single life died. As the spirit of this world lifts up you and your ego and as that spirit of performance is also at work in the church, then it requires an effort to enter the rest of God because the world and most of the Church are flowing in the other direction. They are not pointing to God and saying “Isn’t He good?” but pointing to you and saying “Why aren’t you better?”

A mother does not have to produce a child, she only bears a child. Christian, God is not asking you to produce the life of Christ, only bear the life of Christ. That is why Jesus sent His disciples out into the world with these words…“Freely you have received, freely give” (Matt. 10:8), because He knew that none of us can give without a revelation of what we have already received.

God never asks us to do anything, that His life in us doesn’t want to do or isn’t able to do. In truth He never asks us to do anything but what His life in us can do, for He is convinced and wants us to be too, that we are a totally new creation, joined to Him in spirit and have within us the same miracle working spirit that rose Christ from the dead. If I want my children to be convinced of their worth in my eyes, then I refuse point blank to address them in any other way, but in the truth of their worth. Even if they feel badly about themselves, I refuse to speak to them in agreement with the way they feel, but want my words to lift them up into the truth of their great worth.

Please listen carefully. Even though you and I may struggle to see ourselves as one with God in Spirit, supernatural children of a supernatural God, our Father cannot agree to speak to us according to how we feel. He cannot speak a lie. This is why the things the Holy Spirit says to His Church will appear to natural soulish thinking as foolishness, whereas the things that a mere religious spirit would teach appear quite reasonable. Have you never noticed that religion only asks of you what is possible? It will tell you; pray more, do more, give more, all of which are possible and appeal to the “me” life, what I can do for God. But the Holy Spirit does not speak to believers of the possible, but of the impossible. He says “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”(Matt.10:8)

Why? Why does the Holy Spirit ask of believers, things which, apart from God’s Spirit, are impossible to do? Because He can see clearly what we have not yet seen. As believers, we are NOT apart from the Spirit of God, but are one spirit with Him. The life He has called us to is NOT a natural “do you best for God” life. It is “God’s best IN you” life. The Holy Spirit does not speak to the “me” life. He speaks to the “us” life (1Cor.6:19). When we teach Christians that rather than pray to God for the sick, that they should heal the sick, many actually get offended that we are asking of them the impossible! The ironic thing is, that when I look across the body of Christ, what I see is Christians getting burnt out, not by trying to do the impossible, but by trying to do nothing but the possible and striving to do it better! God asks of us the impossible, for that is who He insists we now are; people yoked to the God of the impossible, a people who have ceased from their ‘possible’ works and found the rest of allowing His life in us, the impossibly good life, to be our life. 

May 21

School of Grace.

May 13th 2015

New Wineskin for New Wine.

Galatians5:1-9


1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

The word “therefore relates to what Paul has just stated in the previous chapter. There he clearly speaks of the two covenants, old and new, as like two mothers, Hagar and Sarah. The first giving birth to slavery, the second to freedom and the offspring of these two mothers, Ishmael and Isaac, cannot mix together in the same house. Those born of the flesh always persecute those born of the Spirit (Gal.4:29)

The recurrent theme throughout this letter to the Galatians is Paul’s warning of the dangers of trying to mix the two covenants.

 

Still today, most of the disagreements in the modern church stem from confusion about the difference between the old and the new. Without a clear understanding of what Jesus accomplished, we end up living in guilt when we should be living in joy. We see in the scriptures that there are three main covenants referred to.

1.     God’s covenant with Abraham. Under the Abrahamic covenant, God’s people were blessed simply by virtue of being a descendant of Abraham. What brought the blessing of God was their Pedigree, the fact that they were a natural member of Abraham’s family.

2.     God’s covenant with Moses. Under the Mosaic covenant, God’s people were blessed by virtue of their obedience to the Law. (Obey and you will be blessed, disobey and you will be cursed). What brought the blessing of God was their Performamce.

3.     God’s covenant with Jesus. Under the New Covenant. God’s people are blessed by virtue of their acceptance of the free gift of Christ’s life as their life. We are blessed not because of our natural pedigree, or our performance, but simply by our Position in Christ.

To understand this more fully, please go to http://www.freewebs.com/graceandfaith/thenewcovenant.htm

 

“Stand fast” is an expression of the Greek word “steko.” (“to hold one’s ground”). The fact that Paul gives this instruction, shows that our freedom in Christ will be challenged and one of the enemy’s greatest weapons is legalism. We must resist every temptation to be drawn back into self-effort.

The liberty we are to stand fast in, is liberty from the oppression of the Old Covenant.

Even a little of the Old mixed in with the New, results in the liberty of the New being stolen from us, which is why Paul warns in v9 “A little leaven, leavens the whole lump”. Jesus declared this truth in Luke 5:36-39, when He warned that it is not possible to patch a new piece of cloth unto an old garment, nor put new wine in an old wineskin. In both cases the incompatibility of the Old with the New will lead to damage. We cannot mix our performance with Christ’s and think that “I will do my best and Christ will do the rest”. The work of Christ is not to patch up our old try our best life, but to gift us with a perfect life; His life.

The Old and New Covenants cannot be mixed because they are opposites.

·       The message about the Law is ALL about you and your performance (Deuteronomy 28:1,15).

·       The message of the Gospel is ALL about Christ and His complete and finished performance on our behalf (Rom.10:4).

 

Under the New Covenant, we are blessed through simple faith in Christ’s finished work. But in Galatians 3:12 Paul declared that the law is not of faith. That means that the Law and the Gospel (Old and New covenants) work by totally different principles.

If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, you cannot also be trusting in yourself and your ability to keep the law. If you are trusting in your ability to keep the law, then you are not trusting in Christ. It’s one or the other, not a combination (mixture) of both!

The Old Covenant fulfilled its purpose. It revealed the perfection of God and man’s inability to be perfect as God is (Rom.3:19). Jesus did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfil it (Matt.5:17). As a man, representing mankind, He totally fulfilled the requirements of the Law. He merited for us all the blessings of the Old Covenant and He took upon Himself all the curses of the Old Covenant (Gal.3:13), so as far as the Old is concerned it has run its course.  Jesus, by His blood has established a New Covenant that rendered the Old one obsolete (Hebrews 8:13), just as the moment you sign a new will for your estate, any old one becomes redundant.

 

Stop trying to move God. He moved!

We cannot enjoy the New Covenant if we still have an Old Covenant mind-set.

Under the Old Covenant, the blessings of God were a wage earned. Under the New they are a gift given.

·       Under the Old Covenant, God is the one who responds to us. A wage is the response of the employer to the work of the employee. With an Old Covenant mind-set, believers are waiting for God to respond to their work (prayer, sacrifices, church attendance, financial giving). They are trying to ‘motivate’ God to act.

·       Under the New Covenant, we are the ones who respond to God, for the one receiving a gift is the one who responds. God has already given the gift, (John 3:16) and our response is to receive by faith what has already been given.

 

Faith does not move the hand of God; the hand of God has already moved and faith simply receives what God now offers as a gift. It is knowing God as so generous that He has already given us all we need, that enables us to pray in faith in order to receive what has been freely provided (Mark.11:24). We cannot be double-minded about the willingness of God to give (James1:7,8) The good news of the true loving nature of God (Gospel of God’s grace) causes faith to arise in our hearts, faith to stop believing that we have to move Him and start receiving the move that He has already provided.

If a sinner asked you, “When is God going to save me?” what would you tell them?

It is not up to God to save sinners, it is up to sinners to receive the salvation that God has already freely provided. At the Cross our salvation (wholeness) was won by Jesus in its entirety. Through the Cross salvation and healing has been made available to all to receive by faith (Gal.3:13, 1Peter.2:24) It is not up to God to heal the sick, it is up to the sick to receive their healing. What Paul was warning the Galatians is that the greatest hindrance to receiving all that God has provided for us in Christ, is the “wage” mind-set, the Old Covenant thinking that we have to earn the blessing of God. Such attempts to ‘move’ God estrange us from the very grace of God (Gal.5:4). Trying to patch the grace of God onto an Old Covenant belief tradition that says we need to move God, results in a tearing in our minds of the union between us and God in Christ.

 

Time to grow up.

Why do so many believers remain in spiritual infancy and struggle to mature into the victorious life of Christ? Why do so many look back to their salvation experience as the best time of their Christian life?

The reason is our reluctance to believe that we can live a life pleasing before God without the Schoolmaster of the Law looking over our shoulder (Gal.3:24) Many Christians are uncomfortable and disturbed by scriptures that declare truths such as the Law is now obsolete and God is not imputing their sins against them. They are disturbed because they cannot see, without the Ten Commandments and the threat of God’s judgement hanging over them to restrain them, what will stop them from becoming lawless?

What they fail to see is that Grace is not merely the absence of Judgement, it is the presence of God’s divine influence in our lives. God has not done away with sin and the Law and stopped there, He has replaced the external law with an internal law; the law of the Spirit who gives life (Rom.8:2). He has replaced laws designed to point out our fallen nature with a nature that has no desire to sin. Hebrews 8:10 declares God’s confidence, “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts…” A Christian has no need for an external law because he now has an internal nature that needs no law to restrain it; Christ’s nature (unless you believe that Christ needed the Law to keep His behaviour under control)

God always planned to give us a nature that did not need the Law or threats of punishment to restrain it. This is what the prophet Ezekiel spoke of;

“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:26,27.

 

God has placed within believers a new spirit; the Spirit of Christ and it is because of His Spirit in our lives that we live a life pleasing to God. All glory goes to Him and not to our performance.

Why should we attempt to live a life apart from God’s life in us, yet that is what we are doing when we attempt to return to a life of seeking to move God to bless our lives. We are separating ourselves from the truth that in Christ, we now only have one life and it is a perfect one (1Cor.6:17,1John 4:17). Let us not fall away from the grace that we have been given; the new sinless life that is within us. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to convince us of our righteousness, our union with God, that as faith in the enormity of Christ’s work rises in us, we find ourselves experiencing the joy of those who know, that where sin abounds grace does much more abound. Let us stand fast and remain in that truth and allow the fruit of this new life to abound in our lives (John 15:5). Let the Holy Spirit renew our thinking so we can take hold of the enormity of the love of God (Eph.3:17-19). Let us agree with Jesus; if we are to hold the new wine, we require a new wineskin! The mind of Christ in us is that new wineskin. Let us believe His Word and think His thoughts about us and others will see His life in us, they will see a people growing up into Christ. (Eph.4:11-24)

Jan 22

To see full program click on https://www.scribd.com/doc/256023179/The-Father-I-never-knew

River City Church has known a great season of change in recent years and in the midst of that has come a revelation and a restoration. The revelation has been that which the apostle Paul shared with his church in Galatia, that any addition of Old Covenant based requirements to the Gospel, effectively strips the message of its power. The revelation that empowers us to live the Christ life is that the righteousness, the right life, we have been seeking to live for God, is not something we have to attain through our performance. There is no required level of prayer to reach, or right confession to speak, or resources to give, before God will reward our efforts by blessing us. The reason is that one man took our place and prayed and confessed and gave all that had to be given, even His own life, so that we might stand today complete in HIm, holy and blameless in God's sight, with God's own Holy Spirit filling our lives with His contentment and joy over us. The revelation of this truth, that righteousness, the blessed life of God, is not a state to be working towards (self-righteousness), but a gift to be freely received (the righteousness of God), is the very power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16,17)

The result of being persuaded of this truth is the restoration of rest and joy to the soul. It was St Augustine who famously pointed out that in being made for God, our souls would not find rest until they found their rest in Him. The almost too good to be true news (gospel) is that Jesus who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him (2Cor.5:21) We do not become righteous progressively, we were made righteous when we accepted Christ's righteous life as our own. We cannot even boast of having the faith to believe, as even that faith is "not of ourselves but is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast." (Eph 2:8,9) In other words our complete salvation (justification and sanctification) is by Christ's work from first to last (Hebrews 12:2) 

To all this we might be forgiven for asking, "Then what exactly do we have to do, if God has done it all for us?" To this question Jesus replied "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent."(John 6:29) At first sight this appears too simple, too easy. But if it is so easy, how did we manage to mess it up and end up with thousands of different groupings and denominations, each claiming to have the truth? The answer brings us back to Paul's letter to those Galatians, for truly when it comes to making mistakes, there are no new ones! How did they and we, manage to get entangled again in religion when it was for freedom from slavery (to performance) that Christ set us free? (Galatians5:1) The problem is our pride. The Gospel of Grace leaves no room for boasting and if we do not let the truth, that grace is unmerited, that the Father is that generous, have full reign in our hearts, then we will  seek to add our tuppence worth (just to be sure) and for each tempting performance target we pride ourselves in seeking to reach, we further estrange ourselves from the power of His grace and from those we have now started to compare ourselves with (Gal.5:4)

The story that most beautifully communicates our struggle to receive grace, the life God offers us and how we have succumbed instead to the temptation to make a life for ourselves, is Jesus' parable of the Prodigal son in Luke 15. Two sons both hungering to be someone, to find the good life and both seeking the answer to their restless hearts through what they could achieve. One leaves home, after demanding the father give him the inheritance he should only receive on the death of his father. In effect he is saying, "I want to live as if you are dead. I want to make a life for myself." He proceeds to do all the things that he thinks will bring him the good life he seeks, but is left empty and alone. The big shock of the story however, is that the elder son, the one who sought to find the good life by staying at home and doing all the right things, also ends up empty and alone and very angry. Despite what you may have heard in church all your life, doing all the right things is not the way into the right life. Such a message only leaves people empty and angry because their faith has actually been in themselves, in what they are doing for God, instead of in what He has done for them. At the end of the story, the father stands pleading with the elder son to lay down his attempts to earn the blessing of the father by declaring to him the beautiful truth that the Holy Spirit is communicating to the Church in this hour; "Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours." (Luke 15:31)

Our upcoming event in February is an opportunity to communicate this liberating truth, to those like the younger son who have walked away from God and those like the elder son, who stayed in 'church' but have worked themselves away from the grace and joy of the 'In Christ' life. The meetings each evening in the Verbal Arts Centre will seek not only to communicate this message through teaching and testimonies, but also to minister grace through prayer ministry for the sick each evening. There will be ample time and space for conversation and sharing in the venue at the end of each meeting. For those who would like more in-depth teaching on the issues raised there will be seminars taking place on the Saturday 28th from 10am till early afternoon at River City Church in Irish St involving those speaking at the event. Topics will include "Old Covenant versus New". "How can we be righteous?" and "Healing by Grace"   Refreshments will be provided and the event is open to all. If you would like to put your name down to attend the day seminars, just send an email to info@rivercityapostolic.org . We are blessed as a church to enjoy the friendship and support of the Charis Bible college in Belfast and ministers and students from the college will be participating throughout the event. It is our prayer and expectation that in beholding afresh the face of Jesus, many will see clearly the father they never knew 

"Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us." Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? John 14:8,9.

Nov 10

 

Metanoia to Metamorphosis

 

The word “gospel” (old English God-spell) is a translation of the Greek word euangelion (eu-‘good’, -angelion ‘message’)

The good news that the Gospel proclaims, is the revelation of a truth that runs contrary to the religious traditions of men and “the basic principles of the world”. (Colossians 2:8) A basic principle of man’s religious logic is that God blesses those who deserve to be blessed and so religion across the world, in its multitude of forms, presents man with various requirements/works that he must fulfil to attain God’s blessing.

We could say the common feature of man’s logic is that God blesses ‘good’ people and good people are those who do good things (as opposed to bad/evil people who do bad things). Notice two things about this principle.

1.    People are defined by what they do. They have a works-based identity.

2.    God is defined as someone who agrees with our view of good and bad.

 

This belief system however is built on a lie; that man is able to make himself good. (doing to become)

 

God in His mercy, through the giving of the Law (Old Covenant), has dealt a fatal blow to this lie.

 “So it is clear that no one can be made right with God by trying to keep the law. For the Scriptures say, "It is through faith that a righteous person has life."  (Galatians 3:11)

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.”             (Romans 3:20)

 

Man in his self-reliance and pride believed what we could call the ‘original lie’; that he, by himself, is capable of doing something to earn godliness.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”             (Genesis 3:4,5)

The lie here is that man can be like God through what he does. But God had already breathed His Spirit into Adam and shared His life with Him. God was the source of Adam’s life and identity. In believing the lie that he could source life and identity for himself, through his own efforts, Adam turned away from looking to God for his life and turned to look at himself for life.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.”     (Genesis 3:7)

If man-made religion is man attempting to cover over his own falling short of the glory of God (Romans3:23), then man has continued sewing fig leaves together ever since!

·         Religion’s solution to restoring man to God’s presence is always to look to man’s ability. (Romans 10:3)

·         God’s immediate answer to Adam’s nakedness; to provide a covering from an animal skin (Genesis 3:21) declares that God always saw Himself and not man, as the solution to restoring man to God’s presence. Man would ultimately be restored to the covering of God’s glory; by the shedding of blood. In fact a lamb had been chosen (Jesus) as the solution, even before the problem appeared (1Peter1:20)

 

Man-made religion in all its multitude of shapes and forms, continues to point man to the wrong tree. It says in effect, “This is good and this is evil and now that you know this, you should do good, that you may become good.” The lie in this statement is that man can become like God merely by doing.

The Law, “Thou shalt not…” was given to man to show him that it is impossible for any man to become good apart from God. No man can be made righteous by his own efforts. (Romans 3:20).

 

The Gospel is the good news that God did what man could not do and what he did not deserve.

“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son…”  Romans 8:3

God reconciled man to Himself by the shedding of His own blood and gifted him the righteousness that he could not attain himself by doing good things.

“For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God's wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.”    (Romans 5:17)

This message, that man’s salvation comes by God’s “wonderful grace” and not by man’s doing good (religion), runs contrary to both this world’s religious traditions and man-made philosophies.

“So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it's all nonsense.” (1Cor.1:23 NLT)

This message of Grace sounds the death knell for all religion, which is why the Pharisees persecuted He who was full of grace and truth (Jesus) and why the religious spirit of man (pride) has opposed the message of grace ever since. (Matt.20:1-16, Galatians 4:21-31)

 

Down the centuries man in his pride has struggled to accept His total dependence on the grace of God. Men from the beginning of the Church age, have sought to mix back in religious tradition and the basic philosophy of this world; that we become by doing, into the Gospel of Grace.

Paul warned the Galatians that to even mix a little ‘doing to become’ with grace, would change the gospel (good news) into no gospel at all. In Paul’s eyes the message of grace was the Gospel.

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel.” (Galatians 1:6)

“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.”  (Acts 20:24)

Paul also warned them that to mix man’s performance (Law) into the message of grace would result in the gospel becoming powerless to change a man from the inside out. He would be left merely trying to change from the outside in (behaviour modification). (Gal.3:5)

Those of strong enough will power to manage to keep rules and regulations (doing to become) can give the appearance of ‘holiness’, but Jesus was scathing of this ‘cleaning the outside of the cup while leaving the inside dirty’ (Luke 11:39). He pointed out that this type of ‘repentance’ produced men who were like the white-washed tombs of the day; clean on the outside but full of corruption and death inside (Matt.23:27)

The pure, undiluted, unmixed Gospel of Grace is a radical message and only a radical message can produce the radical change (heart change) that religion (outer behaviour modification) cannot produce. This is one way we can tell if the Gospel being preached is the Gospel or another; is it producing completely new men and women or merely religious men and women? (2Cor.5:17)

 

Jesus knew that a man’s outer actions are only changed when his heart (what he believes) is changed (Luke 6:45). Because He did not define men as ‘good’ or ‘evil’ merely by their performance, but saw all men as equally in need of the grace of God, He gave Himself freely to all men and for all men. His love for those whom the religious defined as ‘sinners’, was and continues to scandalise man’s religious pride.

The true Gospel is good news not just for the Church but for the world!

 

The gospel of the grace of God is the good news of the finished work of Jesus Christ. It is good news to the world precisely because the finished work of Jesus included the sin of the whole world. All sin has been paid for. 

“And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

“But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God,”  (Hebrews 10:12)

God has reconciled the world to Himself through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2Cor.4:19)

 

This message of reconciliation; that God through Christ, has now finished all the work that is necessary for everyone who wants to, to be reconciled to God, is good news for everyone in the world. This is why at the birth of Jesus, the angels declared that the news of His birth would be good news for all people (Luke 2:10).

It is good news precisely because it is not news of God demanding something of man, but news of what God has done for man.

Good news is either good news or it is not.

Other ‘news’ such as the trials and tribulations that befell the Israelites under the Old Covenant is also true ‘news’ but it is not ‘the good news’, not the Gospel. News that anyone who refuses the grace of God, His offer of eternal life through Christ, is choosing to remain apart from God for eternity, is also true news but not ‘good news’.

The good news is that God has provided a way for anyone who wants to be with Him, to be with Him today, as soon as they believe in what He has done for them. (Romans 10:9)

Grace is freely given to all men, but faith is needed for men to receive the wonderful truth, the love of God, His very nature, His Spirit, His life. But even this faith is itself a gift of God, for the Gospel itself carries the power to enable men to believe.

“So belief comes from hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ”. (Romans 10:17. ESV)

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)

 

What God has done for man is a past event. The Gospel is not “If you will do something for God (repent), only then will He do something for you.”

To infer that anything else is required of you but faith is not good news. That is the manmade religion that Paul declared to the Galatians that they were slipping back under.

“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:5)

 

We saw in our School of Grace study on ‘true repentance’ that the very word ‘repentance’ itself is not an accurate translation of the original Greek word ‘Metanoia’ used to describe the ‘change’ that the Gospel brings (Matthew 4:17). Unfortunately the poor translation of this Greek word into English as ‘repent’ has led to a diminished understanding of what true metanoia means.

Our common understanding of the word repent and repentance is that it means to feel sorrow or contrition for ones actions, with this remorse leading to a change of action. There is nothing wrong in itself with feeling regret/remorse over sin and a desire to change, but this does not constitute true metanoia, for we can feel guilt and remorse over sin and attempt to change our actions without any revelation of the true character of God, without a revelation of Christ.

Unfortunately this attempt to change ourselves by being ‘sorry enough’ to change, has led many into a hopeless cycle of ‘repenting’ again and again but never finding victory over besetting sin. The problem with this definition of ‘repentance’ is that it focuses on a change of action, but the truth is that our actions are only the fruit. The root is our belief system, what we are believing about God and ourselves.

What Jesus’ ministry and teaching brought about was a change of belief (heart), which led to a change in actions. Without the power of the Gospel to bring true metanoia, the best man can do, is his own willpower and self-discipline. He tries to change his actions, without a change of beliefs and the result is men who have only, as Jesus pointed out to the religious, “cleaned the outside of the cup” (Luke 11:37-40)            

 

Because sinful thoughts and actions are the fruit of wrong belief, you can try your hardest to do good and not evil, but even if by some miracle you stopped ‘sinning’, you would still not have the life of God within you, for what is needed is not a change of action but an exchange of natures (a heart transplant). The root of man’s problem is not what he does, but what he believes, for we are designed to be born of (to become) what we have believed. (Prov.23:7) You can prune a thorn bush back as much as you like but it will never become a fig tree because its roots are thorn bush! So it is equally fruitless to tell a man to be holy, if his whole life is being formed from a root belief that holy is something he is not. The answer to his problem is to change the root of his nature; to gift him a new heart, a new spirit. The prophet Ezekiel was given a vision of this exchange which took place at the Cross; man’s sin for God’s righteousness.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”   (Ezekiel 36:26 27)

 

Yes true faith is seen by its actions (James 2:18), but those actions are the fruit of a changed heart, a changed way of thinking about God and oneself, a paradigm shift in thinking, not just a greater effort to change oneself fuelled by guilt and willpower.

The Gospel of Grace is that God has already done everything necessary for man to share His life and when a person hears and believes what God has done, they will find their belief system (heart) so changed, that God’s way of living life (fruit of the Spirit) becomes theirs, for when the root in a man is a mind led by the Spirit, the life he lives will be a fruit of the same Spirit.

“So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.”  (Romans 8:6)

 

In other words the truth itself, about how much God has already done for us, is powerful enough to change the way we believe and so live.

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17)

 

What the Gospel of Grace reveals is something radically different to what every religion and philosophy of the world has imagined, so radical that our natural religious mind cannot grasp it apart from a revelation of the Holy Spirit.

“However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”[c] 10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.”   (1Cor.2:6-10)

 

What truth is revealed in the Gospel of Grace that has the power to change a person’s heart? Look again at Romans 1.v17.

“For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The startling revelation is that God is not requiring man to become righteous through what he does (doing to become/works righteousness). The Old Covenant pattern of man trying to become holy enough through his own obedience and discipline (the law of righteousness) to merit the blessings of God has been abolished. Our righteousness, a righteousness that is ‘of the law’ is no longer acceptable, as God’s gift of His own righteousness through faith in Christ, is ‘the end of the law for righteousness’.

“For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:2-4)

You can’t have it both ways. Either we are made righteous by faith alone in what Christ alone has done (Grace), or we are made righteous by the things we do (Law).

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” (Romans 11:6)

 

If you are trying harder to ‘do’ better’ to ‘become’ a better Christian, then you have not submitted to the power of the Gospel, the gifted righteousness of God. You may look holy and zealous in your efforts to overcome sin, but your very efforts to become holy are rooted in the same old lie, that you need to ‘do to become’, the lie that God has not united Himself with your spirit and remains aloof and apart from you. But what does the Gospel have to say?

It speaks of what God has done, not of what we are to do, that on hearing of the enormity of what God has done for us, our lives would become rooted in His love and being rooted and established in the love of God, His Spirit of love within us would produce the fruit of His life; His holiness, something that our best efforts can never produce.

“…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what isthe width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

 

The Gospel of Grace declares that our hope is not that we would ‘do to become’ but our hope is nothing less than the living presence of Christ in us. In other words we are saved not by attempting to do something for God, but by resting in (believing), what God has done for us.

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins”.  (1John 4:10)

·         Religion says “Get your life cleaned up for God”

·         Grace says “Jesus IS our life.”

“For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” Colossians 3:3,4.

 

To see Grace through hearing the Gospel, is to see the radically generous nature of God and as our way of thinking about God changes (Metanoia) then we find our very lives are being changed (Metamorphosis) into the likeness of Christ.

“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed (metamorphosis) into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Cor.3:18)

 

So let us keep looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) that we may continue this journey of ever-increasing glory. Do not let any preacher pull the veil over your eyes again (tell you to do if you want to become) but keep your faces unveiled (don’t mix law with grace) so that you may contemplate the truth about the Lord’s glory; that Jesus has now done what He told His father He would; He has shared God’s glory with you.

 

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22)

 

·         How would you answer someone who asked you “What is the Gospel?”

·         How much has your Christian life become about “doing to become”?

·         What is the power of the Gospel?

 

 

“If you want to know why there are so many downtrodden, defeated Christians, just look at the message they are being taught; saved by grace, transformed by will-powered performance modification.”  (Ted Nelson)

 

 

 

 

 

Aug 26

“You shall be just as your father is.”

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[c] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[d] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.                           Matt 5:43-48

 

In that last verse Jesus was declaring a principle of replication that applies to both the natural and spiritual realms; you shall be just as your father is!

From the beginning scripture declares that seed can only replicate after its own kind. (Genesis 1:11). People can see me in my children (and frequently tell them so!). So too in the spiritual realm as Jesus said to Nicodemus “Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Jesus immediately related this truth to the necessity of every man to not only have a natural father but to be ‘born again’ of God who is Spirit. Knowing the truth about the existence and love for us of our heavenly Father and how we have been reconciled to Him in Christ (the Gospel), enables a man to find his primary identity, his life, not from this natural realm but from above. This is a work of the Holy Spirit for the Gospel is such unbelievably good news that we need the Holy Spirit to constantly reveal to us and assure us that we are indeed through Christ “children of God” (Romans 8:16) and as Jesus promised we have not been left to live as fatherless “orphans” (John 14:18).

Why do we need such assurance? Why is it so important that our hearts are persuaded of the fatherhood of God? Why are we spending so much time exhorting believers to see and grasp the revelation of our sonship in Christ, that we are new creations in Him?

Because in our thinking, whom we believe our father to be, we will become like! You shall be just as your father is. Proverbs.23:7 confirms that “…whatever a man thinks in His heart so he is…” He who has your heart, has you. Each of us will become like the God we worship, the Father we have given our hearts to. If you honestly believe that God, the God your heart believes in, is a mean-spirited legalist who tolerates you but is secretly disgusted at you, then guess what sort of person you are going to turn out like?

That is why Jesus told the Pharisees “Your Father is the devil” (John 8:44). To understand what He meant by that we have to remember that Jesus called the devil “the father of lies”. So He was saying to them in effect, “Your life has become a lie, because in your heart, you have believed a lie and each man is born out of, is becoming, that which his heart has believed in. You have believed a lie about who God is.”

The religious of that day, even though they read the Scriptures and prayed every day and gave to God’s work, ended up crucifying Christ. Why? Because He did not look like, in fact nothing like, the image they had of God, the image of God they believed in, which they themselves had become like. The God they believed in hated sinners and withdrew from them, so their lives expressed such behaviour.

Jesus declared this truth; you shall be as your father is. The image of God that you believe in, whom you believe Him to be, you will come to look like.

This world will try and convince you that you are what you do or that you are what you have and so you can become bigger and better by doing more and having more. But the Bible is quite clear….You don’t become what you do, you become what you believe, (in fact whom you believe.) This is such an important principle about the way we are designed that the first commandment given to the Israelites was a warning not to have a false image of God and worship it, for God knew that they would become as the god/s they worshiped. (Exodus 20:3,4)

What we think God is like, whom we believe Him to be is critical. So what do you believe God is like? Let’s ask Jesus. What does He say the Father is like, this God we claim to know?

Listen once more to what He tells His disciples

love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;

Jesus cannot be telling His disciples to be more righteous than God Himself. If He is telling them to be like this, it is because He is revealing who the Father really is, what He is really like; He is the God of grace towards all His enemies.

So if the God whom your heart believes in, is the God who love His enemies, blesses those who curse Him, does good to those who hate Him, and prays for those who spitefully use Him and persecutes Him, if He is the God who makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good alike, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, if that is what He is like, then believing in such a God will set you free from religion. Religion teaches that if only you were good to God, He would be good to you, if only you gave more to God, then He would give more to you. To think that, is to have made a god in your own image. Believing in such a god will only make you more like you! Our Father is not religious for the Father is full of grace and truth, for we have seen His exact image in Jesus (Hebrews 1:3, Col.1:15)

So as we start this new season of church life, if you are busy promising God that you are going to try harder to do better and sacrifice more to be like Him, please stop and look up and see Jesus and see what this God we claim to worship is really like.

He is the one who declares that there is now no more sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:14). He is the one who declares that all that needs to be done about your sin has been done (2Cor.5:21). He is the one who says You are complete in me, so go and be who I say you are, not who you feel yourself to be (Col.2:10). If you are trying to be perfect, stop trying to be who you already are in God’s sight; that is unbelief. Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect. Start believing in Christ’s finished perfect work of reconciling you to your Father, not your own unfinished efforts at reconciling yourself and you will find yourself becoming more like Him, not more like you, for you shall be just as your Father is!

 

May 30

Pastors Message. “The unveiling of the Church”

 

But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. 16 Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.17 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.    2Corinthians 3:15-18

 

That is a report of what is happening in River City Church and right across the body of Christ, in every place where Christians are reckoning themselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ (Romans 6:3-11). The Veil is being taken away, the veil of guilt and condemnation that lies over the hearts and minds of all believers who have not seen themselves as righteous but still as sinners.

Why does this veil need to be taken away? Because a veil is a hindrance to intimacy.

When a man and woman are married, the moment the words are spoken, “I now declare you husband and wife” what is the very next thing that happens? The Groom desires to kiss His bride. Traditionally that is the moment when her face must be unveiled for the veil is a barrier to intimacy.

The Lord wants intimacy with His Church. He didn’t die to gain church-goers. He didn’t die to start a new religion, but a new creation, a Spirit-filled body. The work of the Holy Spirit is to draw back any veil that lies over our hearts that is preventing us from boldly drawing near into the fullness of the intimacy, the sharing of the Father’s love that Jesus died that we would know (Jn. 17:23)

The moment Jesus died on the Cross, the curtain/veil in the temple was torn in two, signifying that the way was open for man to live in the presence of God, for union with God to be a reality. This is so incredible that the Spirit of God has to exhort believers to draw near with boldness through the veil (Hebrews 10:19-22) We have to be exhorted to draw near, to go through the veil, because something is holding us back and to understand what that is we must remember why the Hebrews had to be exhorted to draw near to God (Hebrews 10:19-22).

For generations they had lived with guilt in their hearts over sin and the belief that if they could only become more obedient to God’s commands, then they could know the presence and the blessing of God in their lives to a greater degree (Deuteronomy 28.v1,2). The beginning of Hebrews 10 describes the system these people had been living under for years. It was a system based on sacrifices atoning for sin, but crucially not dealing with sin consciousness and the guilt and condemnation that goes with sin (Hebrews 10:1-4) No matter how many sacrifices were made, a veil of sin consciousness remained between them and the presence of God.

How many of us in the Church too have been making sacrifices for God for years and still haven’t found the intimacy with Him that our hearts are searching for? A veil of condemnation remains that causes us not to enter fully into the liberty that Christ won for us (2Cor.3:17), for any life whose hope is based on their own sacrifices for God cannot be freed from sin consciousness.

The Jews retained a consciousness of sin. They retained guilt and condemnation over their sin, because they knew that under their sacrificial Law system their sins may have been covered over by the blood of sheep and cattle but they still weren’t getting through that curtain into the holy of holies. There would be no communion with God in His presence for them, rather all the continual sacrifices did was to constantly remind them of their sin (Hebrews 10:3)

Old time religion, the belief that it is the sacrifices we make for God that gain us His presence, His blessing, may make us feel good/righteous temporarily, but they cannot take away the veil, the consciousness of our own sin that prevents us from “drawing near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

That condemnation, that feeling that no matter how hard you try you still aren’t good enough for communion with God is a killer. It kills intimacy with God which is why Paul declared to the Corinthians that “the Law Kills” (2Cor.3:6) Under a Law mind-set the Bible says that people live with this veil between them and God that they can’t break through. This belief in their hearts that they are not good enough for God, effectively acts as a barrier to them drawing near Him and knowing intimacy with Him.

When we recognise sin consciousness in the believer as a barrier to intimacy with God, we can see that far from accusing the brethren and continually reminding them of their sin, the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church is to lift up the power of the Cross to unveil to believers that they have been made righteous in God’s sight. To see what Christ has done in you is a life changing experience. It is to see as in a mirror that your primary identity is no longer the first Adam (sinner) but the last Adam (righteous). As the Spirit continues to draw our attention away from the sin in us and onto Christ in us (Romans 8:16, Ephesians 1:18, Colossians 1:27) we are being transformed into His image from glory to glory (2 Cor.3:18)

So River City Church, let the Holy Spirit pull back the veil. Reckon yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11), so that we can look with unveiled faces as in a mirror the glory of God and so this generation will see the image of Christ shining from His Church.

Aug 28

“You shall be just as your father is.”

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[c] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[d] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.                           Matt 5:43-48

 

In that last verse Jesus was declaring a principle of replication that applies to both the natural and spiritual realms; you shall be just as your father is!

From the beginning scripture declares that seed can only replicate after its own kind. (Genesis 1:11). People can see me in my children (and frequently tell them so!). So too in the spiritual realm as Jesus said to Nicodemus “Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6). Jesus immediately related this truth to the necessity of every man to not only have a natural father but to be ‘born again’ of God who is Spirit. Knowing the truth about the existence and love for us of our heavenly Father and how we have been reconciled to Him in Christ (the Gospel), enables a man to find his primary identity, his life, not from this natural realm but from above. This is a work of the Holy Spirit for the Gospel is such unbelievably good news that we need the Holy Spirit to constantly reveal to us and assure us that we are indeed through Christ “children of God” (Romans 8:16) and as Jesus promised we have not been left to live as fatherless “orphans” (John 14:18).

Why do we need such assurance? Why is it so important that our hearts are persuaded of the fatherhood of God? Why are we spending so much time exhorting believers to see and grasp the revelation of our sonship in Christ, that we are new creations in Him?

Because in our thinking, whom we believe our father to be, we will become like! You shall be just as your father is. Proverbs.23:7 confirms that “…whatever a man thinks in His heart so he is…” He who has your heart, has you. Each of us will become like the God we worship, the Father we have given our hearts to. If you honestly believe that God, the God your heart believes in, is a mean-spirited legalist who tolerates you but is secretly disgusted at you, then guess what sort of person you are going to turn out like?

That is why Jesus told the Pharisees “Your Father is the devil” (John 8:44). To understand what He meant by that we have to remember that Jesus called the devil “the father of lies”. So He was saying to them in effect, “Your life has become a lie, because in your heart, you have believed a lie and each man is born out of, is becoming, that which his heart has believed in. You have believed a lie about who God is.”

The religious of that day, even though they read the Scriptures and prayed every day and gave to God’s work, ended up crucifying Christ. Why? Because He did not look like, in fact nothing like, the image they had of God, the image of God they believed in, which they themselves had become like. The God they believed in hated sinners and withdrew from them, so their lives expressed such behaviour.

Jesus declared this truth; you shall be as your father is. The image of God that you believe in, whom you believe Him to be, you will come to look like.

This world will try and convince you that you are what you do or that you are what you have and so you can become bigger and better by doing more and having more. But the Bible is quite clear….You don’t become what you do, you become what you believe, (in fact whom you believe.) This is such an important principle about the way we are designed that the first commandment given to the Israelites was a warning not to have a false image of God and worship it, for God knew that they would become as the god/s they worshiped. (Exodus 20:3,4)

What we think God is like, whom we believe Him to be is critical. So what do you believe God is like? Let’s ask Jesus. What does He say the Father is like, this God we claim to know?

Listen once more to what He tells His disciples

love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[b]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;

Jesus cannot be telling His disciples to be more righteous than God Himself. If He is telling them to be like this, it is because He is revealing who the Father really is, what He is really like; He is the God of grace towards all His enemies.

So if the God whom your heart believes in, is the God who love His enemies, blesses those who curse Him, does good to those who hate Him, and prays for those who spitefully use Him and persecutes Him, if He is the God who makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good alike, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust, if that is what He is like, then believing in such a God will set you free from religion. Religion teaches that if only you were good to God, He would be good to you, if only you gave more to God, then He would give more to you. To think that, is to have made a god in your own image. Believing in such a god will only make you more like you! Our Father is not religious for the Father is full of grace and truth, for we have seen His exact image in Jesus (Hebrews 1:3, Col.1:15)

So as we start this new season of church life, if you are busy promising God that you are going to try harder to do better and sacrifice more to be like Him, please stop and look up and see Jesus and see what this God we claim to worship is really like.

He is the one who declares that there is now no more sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:14). He is the one who declares that all that needs to be done about your sin has been done (2Cor.5:21). He is the one who says You are complete in me, so go and be who I say you are, not who you feel yourself to be (Col.2:10). If you are trying to be perfect, stop trying to be who you already are in God’s sight; that is unbelief. Be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect. Start believing in Christ’s finished perfect work of reconciling you to your Father, not your own unfinished efforts at reconciling yourself and you will find yourself becoming more like Him, not more like you, for you shall be just as your Father is!

 

 

 

Jun 26

River City School of Grace

September 2013.

We are in the process of gathering resources from across the body of Christ to enable us as a local church to provide a weekly teaching resource that will equip local believers to rise up into their calling by “growing up” (Eph.4:15,16). Once begun, these sessions will run each Thursday night in the church in the form of DVD teachings (1 Hour) followed by

 group discussion. You will need your bible and a notebook!

 

The following topics will be covered in the first term up to Christmas.

Subject matter for this term: “Basics of Righteousness”.

First four weekly sessions will cover the subject of “Spirit, Soul and Body.”

Session 1: What happened to your spirit?

Session 2: Our spirit is righteous.

Session 3: Eternal redemption.

Session 4: Security of the believer.

The second series of sessions will cover the subject of “Identity in Christ”.

Session 1: The faith of God.

Session 2: Identity in Christ.

Session 3: The fruit of the Spirit.

Session 4: Spirit v Flesh.

The time you invest now will save you years of frustration, for you will learn to stop wasting your time by….

  1. Asking God to give you what He has already given you and
  2. Asking Him to do what He has equipped you to do.

River City Church, if you are ready….it’s time to grow up!

 

 
Jun 26

                             ‘The Rising Church’

 

“For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”                                                                             Romans 5.v17

 

We think of death as an end of life, but when we understand death as separation, then we can see how death can reign in a life, for a life that is separated from the life and the truth of God, is a life in which death reigns. For an unbeliever, death reigns because their sin separates them from a holy God, until by grace, through faith they accept God’s solution to their sin separation problem; Jesus Christ as Saviour.

But we also are painfully aware that as believers, those who have accepted the presence of God into our spirits, we can also live in defeat, live a life where the Spirit of God, the life of God, is not seen or heard through us, but rather we live looking and sounding much like the world around us. Believers too can live as if separated from the Spirit of God. In fact, if we want to know why the gospel has not had more of an effect in this nation or others, we have to come to the conclusion that the messengers (the Church) are not living lives that demonstrate that the message is true. The Bible confirms that as believers we can either be conformed to this world, or be transformed into the likeness of Christ (Rom.12:2). So separation from the life of God can still affect a believer, in that the life of God, His Spirit, can dwell in their spirit, but not flow out into the realm of their soul (mind, will, emotions), nor their physical body, to a degree that is going to transform them and the people around them. The result is a believer, who does not manifest/display the life of Christ, the life of faith, the life of the Spirit, but lives the natural life in the natural realm, living more in fear than in faith, more aware of what they don’t have, rather than what they do.

So how separated does much of the body of Christ feel from the presence, the power, the Spirit of God? The answer can be heard in our prayers and songs which for years have cried out for God to ‘pour out His Spirit’, ‘send His fire’, ‘pour water on dry ground’ or ‘send revival’. We love to tell Him how thirsty we are for Him and how this land would change if only He would do something more, and send more of His Spirit to us. The problem is that much of this language and imagery comes from the Old Testament, from the cry of a people under a different covenant to us, a people who had not the Spirit of God indwelling them. It has been well said that there are two things we cannot ask of God. We cannot ask Him to do what He has already done, nor ask Him to do what He has told us to do.

We may be impressed by our zeal in crying out to God to ‘send His fire’, but the prophets of Baal also looked quite zealous as they sang the same tune (1Kings18:27-29). If the truth is that God has already sent His fire 2000 years ago (1Cor.6:19) then our prayers are likely to be as fruitful as theirs. The early Church did not pray for revival to come to an area, rather the Holy Spirit directed them to send a revived man into an area and the Spirit arrived in him! (Acts 8:5, Acts 13:2, Acts 15:12). The New Covenant way to bring a move of God to an area was to either send a believer full of the Spirit into that area (Luke10:2) or tell the one who was already there to stir up what is already in them (2Tim.1:6, Hebrews 10:24, 2Peter.1:13, 2Peter.3:1)

The Old Testament is full of images of God’s people crying out to Him to do something but New Testament epistles written to born-again believers tell us something radically different. They declare that we now have been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Eph.1:3), that we are now complete in Him (Col.2:10), that the same Spirit that rose Christ from the dead now lives in us (Rom.8:11), that we are now one spirit with Him (1Cor.6:17), that His divine power has already given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness (2Peter1:3), that we even now have the mind of Christ (1Cor.2:16). We are told in fact that we are now seated in heavenly realms with Him (Eph.2:6) and that as He is, so are we in this life (1John.4:17). As Paul had to declare to the Corinthians, so it appears the Holy Spirit still has to declare to the modern Church who cry out for God to send His Spirit, “..do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God?”

1Cor.2:12 tells us of two spirits; ‘the spirit of the world’ and ‘the Spirit that comes from God’ and that the work of God’s Spirit is to convince us of how much God has freely given to us. In contrast, to be led by the spirit of the world, is never to be satisfied and continually looking for the next new thing (Acts 17:21). It is to live with a sense of lack that our thirst has yet to be satisfied. If that is what our confession is, through prayer or song, then we need to examine what water we have been drinking, for Jesus clearly told the Samaritan woman at the well that if she drank the living water that He would give her, then she would never be thirsty again for it would become in her a fountain welling up to eternal life (John 4:14, John 6:35). Is that not the same fountain of His Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of when He described the work of the Spirit in us as ‘rivers of living water that would flow from our inner-most bellies’ (John 7:38)

So what breaks the barrier that is separating, that is holding back the power of the Spirit from flooding out of our spirits into our souls and into the world around us? What is powerful enough to cut through the barrier between soul and spirit? Hebrews 4:12 declares that the living powerful Word of God is able to pierce through the division of soul and spirit. Jesus said that the truth would set us free, so those who have an ear to hear, hear now what the Spirit is saying to the Church. You have already been gifted an abundance of grace and the gift of His righteousness for this purpose, that you could freely avail of all the resources of His Kingdom which He has already given to you (Luke12:32). Up to this point you have been more conscious of your sin than of your righteousness, because you have lived more conscious of your soul that thirsts, than of your spirit who rejoices. Let the Church now awake as a giant who has been sleeping. Awake to righteousness and sin not. Awake to the riches of the glory of the gospel of grace, that Christ now lives in you (Col.1:27) and let the fountain of His life burst forth to flood your souls and this land. This is the rising Church, the righteousness conscious church, the church in the spirit, renewed and transformed, who have boldness on the day of judgment for they have come to know that ‘as He is, so are we in this world’ (1John 4:17)

 

 

 
Mar 30

 

Gal 3.v5,6

Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?— 6just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Paul was saying here “Galatians, there is a supply of the Spirit, a supply of the life of God, a divine flow, a river of life, the anointing to work miracles

Think Galatians, how did that river begin to flow in your midst?

  • Did you work for it, did it come because of your obedience to the Law?,

or

  • Did the Spirit flow in power in your midst because you believed the gospel, because you received by faith the promises of the New Covenant?

 

Can I put that question in another way, for I believe that this is a question we as a church need to hear and have the right answer to, if we too are to know a free flow of the life of the Spirit in the midst of us.

 

  • Did you make the Spirit move because of your performance, your obedience to the commands of God?

Or

  • Did you let the Spirit move because of your faith in His promises?

 

I think that is such an important question; how does the Spirit operate in the Church, in response to what, religious activity or faith, that it would be good to remind ourselves of what Jesus said.

.  John 7.v37-39.

7On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38“He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 39But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

 

Notice here a great truth that Jesus declares about the flow of the Spirit in the life of a believer.

How does someone receive the flow of the Spirit, the river of life from God?

John writes “He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive.”                      We receive the Spirit by believing, not by doing.

Jesus did not say, He who works for me, out of His heart will flow rivers of living water, but He who believes in me.

What I want to show you this morning is the great truth that Paul declared to the Galatians and the Colossians and all His churches; that

The way the Spirit flows in the life of a believer does not change from the way He flowed on the day you got saved.

He always flows by the grace of God, through faith.

 

. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.

What I am going to show you today is the Spirit moves in the church, in your life and mine, from first to last (your first day to your last) by the grace of God……

and the moment we turn away from believing that our salvation, from first to last, is all by grace, we will find that we have turned away from the supernatural power of God and back to the natural efforts of men.

The river of miracles dries up.

So the river of the Spirit flows by the grace of God through faith.

 

 

River City Church, we are not called to make the river flow, but to let the river flow.

Today we are going to be talking again about a subject that you are going to get very familiar with this year; the difference between the Old covenant of the Law and the New Covenant of Grace.

Difference between Old and New Covenant is the difference between doing and simply being.

You don’t do sonship, you simply be a son.

I don’t do anything to be a son of God, through faith in Christ, every believer has been made by His grace, by His gift, a child of God

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.     John 1.v12.13.

 

The Old Covenant and the New Covenant are worlds apart.

Which world are you living in?

Biggest difference is the difference between Law and Grace.

This difference centres around the issue of performance.

. Whose performance are you relying on; ………………….Yours or Jesus’?

 

Believers like you and I have been robbed of the joy and the peace of our salvation, robbed of strength, because we have repeatedly attempted to try and hold the New Wine (the life of the Spirit in us) in an old wineskin called ‘My Performance.’ X2

What did Jesus say would happen when we try and put new wine in an old wineskin?

 

Matt2.v22

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

 

The New covenant of Grace does not fit into the Old Covenant of the Law.

You cannot mix Law and Grace, because like that fermenting new wine, Grace is too powerful to be held, to be ministered through the medium of your or my performance.

If you could earn grace by your obedience to commands it would not be grace, for grace is unmerited favour.

 

I think that most of us have no problem understanding grace in terms of our salvation experience, when we got born again.

We understand that as stated in Ephesians 2.v8

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.

 

We clearly understand that our justification in God’s sight, the forgiveness of all our sins, was an act of grace on God’s part that we did nothing to deserve.

It is a gift.

 

We all learned as children what you do with a gift, you simply receive it and we did that by believing.

For by grace you have been saved through faith…..it is the gift of God.

 

Gifts have the most wonderful effect on us…..they produce joy.

When we were children, receiving a gift was an occasion of great joy.

Now that many of us are parents, we have come to see that the giving of the gift, gives as much joy to the giver as to the receiver.

This holds true for the gift of grace.

The Lord spoke of the joy in heaven when one person receives the gift of the grace of salvation.

And so for many of us who have received this gift of grace, our most joyful experiences as believers were at the time of our salvation.

 

If we can see a connection between a believer’s joy and their experience of grace, then it comes as no surprise for us to hear so many talk of those days after they were first saved as a time of great joy and peace and indeed liberty.

Often the prayer of David can be heard on believer’s lips.

“Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.”

 

What I want us to ask ourselves is…..why do so many believers in the church have to pray that prayer, asking God to restore their joy of salvation?

What happened to the joy of our salvation?

The question I am asking is….

Who or what is robbing us of our joy? (and by implication our liberty)

 

Now that is an important question to ask, for when you rob an individual or a church of their joy, you rob them of their strength and their witness.

Ask yourself why is it that the ordinary person in the street, if they were thinking they would like to go somewhere to have a great experience of joy during this year of culture, how many of them would have visiting a church at the top of their list?

How many of them would put church at the bottom of their list?

The sad truth is that for most folk who go nowhere on a Sunday morning, a church would be the last place they would consider going to find joy.

 

Time for another question…

 

Where does the joy go?

How is it that subsequent to salvation, for so many folk, our joy appears to leak out of us and so out of the church?

 

The answer I want to present to you is very simple.

 

Burst wineskins always leak.

The reason why so many of us, as individuals and churches, cannot hold our joy, is that we keep trying to hold the new wine of the life of Grace in an old wineskin called Performance.

 

We embrace grace at the hour of our salvation and for grace read joy.

But then ever so subtly we buy into the belief that now that we have been saved by grace, we have to complete the job of salvation ourselves by all the works a good Christian is supposed to do.

After all everybody knows that good Christians

  • read their bible every day,
  • pray for hours,
  • go to all the church meetings they are free for,
  • give generously and generally live exemplary lives as a witness to others.

 

In other words for many of us, we have believed that our justification was by grace and faith, we just believed the truth of it and the Holy Spirit did the rest, but our lives since then, our sanctification, the setting aside of our lives unto God, living holy lives, we have come to believe is something that is down to our best efforts.

 

The moment we start to believe that; that somehow we can improve our standing with God by our own efforts, that we can wrestle out of Him more blessings through disciplining ourselves to pray harder or fast longer or give more, then we have stepped back from the New Covenant of grace and gone back to the Old covenant of the Law.

 

Now we are back in the waiting room of religion, waiting for God to relent and give us what we need, rather than standing in faith, rejoicing that we already have, in Christ, all we need , as Paul declared to the Ephesians,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,

 We have been graced with what we need and it will manifest in God’s good time and in the meantime I am not going to grumble and complain but I going to sing and rejoice by faith, because by the grace of God it is my privilege to live a supernatural life and it is supernatural for an apparently barren person to sing.

It is the sweetest most powerful song in the world, the song of the Lord, the song of faith is a song of victory. It is the song of heaven and the devil must flee when he hears it, for He can’t stand the sound of heaven, the sound of the presence of the anointing…joy.

 

 listen again

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast.

 

If we cannot boast about our justification, about Jesus dying for all our sins, then neither can we boast about our sanctification, about living the life of Christ, a life set apart unto God.

No man can boast in any part of His salvation.

 

The only way that boasting can be ruled out entirely then, is if our sanctification, our earthly lives being made holy, is also a work of grace that we receive by faith, that it too is not “of ourselves” but of the Spirit of God.

In other words that we don’t take the new way of being justified before God, by grace and faith and try and carry it in the old way of being sanctified before God, by the offering of the sacrifices of our hands. (our best efforts, our performance)

 

If we want to know why our experience has appeared at times so dry, where the leak is, that keeps draining away all our joy, then we only need to remember that the giving of the gift; (grace) and joy go together and so we need to ask ourselves, …..

 

Are we still receiving the gift, the grace of God, as much today as we were on the day of our salvation, or is the truth that after some time in church, we picked up the idea that God expects us to finish the job that He started, that we are expected to now make ourselves holy, by prayer/fasting and any other work that will discipline our flesh.

 

Is that what has happened?

Have we turned away from

  • simply receiving, back to earning.
  • simply being, back to doing.

Have we backed away from grace and so backed into the Law?

 

Well we have already mentioned two ways we can tell.

  1. Loss of joy.

To give a new believer the idea that God is judging them by their performance and so is withholding some blessing from them that they could receive by trying harder, is the surest way to burst their wineskin of joy. For the source of our joy is His flow of grace into our lives by His Spirit and to take our eyes of faith off His grace and fix them on our performance is to cut off our supply of joy.

Why do we need to keep receiving grace?

7. The Grace of God is the power of God to live the life of God.

 

  1. Boasting.

If you today are comparing yourself with other believers and considering that you are doing better than them in some area, then in that area you have come back under the Law, for you cannot avail of grace and boast at the same time.

 

The apostle Paul warned His churches repeatedly about falling back under the law, under the idea that we can earn some reward from God through bettering our Christian performance.

He called it “putting confidence in the flesh”.

We call this legalism and Paul had to keep warning them because often after he had left a place, some legalistic Christians, (Judaziers) would come in amongst his new converts and tell them that they weren’t complete Christians unless they did something more than simply continue to put their faith in the grace of God.

There was no end of things people were starting to do to add to their salvation, to try and complete by works of the flesh what had begun by a work of the Spirit; from

  • getting circumcised,
  • to avoiding certain foods,
  • to avoiding or keeping certain days or fasts or feasts.

 

Paul was absolutely unequivocal in his condemnation of any attempt by anyone to add any work to the grace that God continued to minister through His Holy Spirit, because He knew that the grace of God is the power of God to live the life of God.

·         To the Philippians He declared that they didn’t need to get circumcised because  “we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh”

·         To the Galatians “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? ….

He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Present tense; Keeps on supplying. Why would we turn to our performance, when there is still today a constant supply by grace of God’s Holy Spirit.

But I want to finish by showing you what Paul declared to the Colossians, about how they were to carry, walk in the life of the Spirit

  • To the Colossians.

Turn to Col 2.

Paul describes himself as in conflict. He is in agony over them as in the pains of childbirth. He knows that as young believers they are vulnerable to false teaching.

What is he so concerned about?

He is concerned that someone would come in and burst their wineskin, and so rob them of their joy and strength by telling them that they were not complete as Christians unless they added to the work of the Spirit some work of their own.

 Col 2.

V6

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. 8Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

 

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him

Your walking in Him, your sanctification, your life as a believer, must be lived on exactly the same basis/principle as how you were justified, how you first received Him; nothing of you, all of grace.

He gives you by His Spirit everything you need, to be who He has called you to be.

You receive it by faith, by believing that you already have what you need, that in Him you are complete, for in Him is an endless supply of grace, of power to live the life of God and we receive that enabling, that life today in the same way we did originally; …by faith, by simply believing that our Father in heaven is as good and generous as He says He is.

 

  • Here is the truth that protects you against anyone deceiving you and stealing your joy and your strength.
  • Here is the truth that sets you free Christian, if you have been lured back into believing that God is withholding something from you because there is something more you have to do;
    • some fast that you have not yet fasted,
    • some season of prayer that you have not yet prayed,
    •  some feast that you have not yet kept or not yet avoided.

 

The truth is that the grace of God is so generous, that you received everything of Him at your salvation. He has withheld nothing from you.

Don’t you know….You are always with me and everything I have is yours.

This is the truth that sets you free from performance, from the old mindset of the law, that if I obey more I will get more of a reward.

 

Last Important question.

Why do we do it?

Why do we slip back into thinking that we need to work harder as believers if we are to receive more blessing from God?

Answer: Because we have failed to understand that ..

 under the New Covenant, the blessings of God are no longer a reward, they are an inheritance.

You don’t earn an inheritance….you simply receive it.

 

During the week I heard a news report that an old lady had died in Dublin and left 500000 euros to an animal charity in Limerick.

I used to look after a lot of little old ladies cats.

Think how I would feel if I got a letter in the post this week that said that a little old lady whose cat I used to treat had died and left me 500,000 pounds in her will.

What would happen to my joy level?

Until I read some small print further down the letter….I inherit the money on my 99th birthday………. if I am still alive.

Now what has happened to my joy level?

Now all I can see before me is a lifetime of effort to be strong enough to win that reward.

 

That’s what has happened to many of us in the church.

We got saved and full of joy at the grace of God and then some well meaning brother or sister introduced us to some fine print about the need to complete what God had begun, fine print about doing your best if you really wanted to receive God’s best

And ever since then many of us have slipped out of the party/the joy of God’s grace and delight in us and gone back into the fields of religion to try and earn from Him what He has already freely given.

If you stay there, you are in for as miserable a time as the elder brother.

You will spend years expecting God to give you this or that in response to all your years of good service to Him, but your experience will be that you don’t get so much from Him as an old goat.

Because how can he give you again, what is already yours in Christ?

Let me declare to you again the words of the Spirit to River City Church in this hour.

Don’t you know Church, you are always with me and everything I have is yours!

Therefore River City Church, He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Is it by grace, through faith or by our works that the river of His Spirit flows?

 

Then let us rest from our religious works and let us go back into the party of our salvation, the grace of God, from which we slipped out the back door.

There is an endless supply of the grace of God to meet every need in this place and all we have to do to see the river flow is to start singing the song of faith, the song of victory and it is a song about the grace of God.

 

I fully believe in the laying on of hands for impartation and healing…..but to receive the truth that sets you free, you need only believe.

 

 

 

Sep 25

Rossnowlagh 2012 0001 from River City Church on Vimeo.

 

 

Into the West 2012.

Friday September 21st-Sunday 23rd

 

Thy Kingdom Come!

This is our theme for this year’s conference. Jesus and the early church ministered on 'The Kingdom of Heaven' and the manifestations of the Kingdom that they saw were a confirmation of the message they brought and lived. How are we in this generation to live in submission to this reality of the Kingdom and what should we see as a result?

 

Venue.

CEF Oceanview Centre. Rossnowlagh.

For directions and facilities see http://www.cefireland.com/controller.php?function=view&id=142

The complex is located within walking distance of Rossnowlagh Blue Flag beach. Besides accommodation dorms, and lecture and meeting rooms there

are pool tables, table tennis, uni hoc etc and then there is a tuck shop and craft room as well as an outdoor football pitch to use when the weather is good.

There are 8 dorms holding 10 people each. So a maximum of 80 can avail of the accommodation on site. Husbands and wives who would prefer to stay together have found accommodation in many of the nearby houses to let for the weekend or B & Bs in the area. See www.discoverireland.ie

 

Cost.

 

Staying on Site,

(Includes Accommodation and All meals Friday—Sunday Lunch)

Adults: £80

Children: £70

Under 3’s: Free.

Bookings may be secured through a £20 non refundable deposit per person going, with the balance to be paid before the weekend.

 

Day visitors (Meals provided)

Saturday: £30

Friday or Sunday: £15.

 

Program.

 

FRIDAY

6-7pm: Arrival and Registration.

7.30pm: Evening Meal.

8.15pm: Welcome Service. Speaker Ps Jim Vance.

9.30pm: Tea/Coffee.

 

SATURDAY

8.45-9am: Breakfast.

10am: Seminar 1. Ps Jim Vance

11am: Coffee Break.

11.30am: Seminar 2. Ps Roddy Gallagher

1pm:  Lunch.

Afternoon: Free for Beach etc…

6pm Tea

7pm Evening Service. Speaker. Ps John Scott.

9.30pm Supper.

 

SUNDAY

8.30am: Breakfast.

10am: Sunday Service. Speaker. Ps John Scott

1pm: Lunch

Afternoon: Free

 

Speakers.

Pastor Jim and Margaret Vance are currently pastoring the Lisburn Apostolic Church which is in the process of moving to a larger venue. Jim has ministered to many different groups throughout Ireland and has a heart to see unity in the body and the functioning of the gifts of the Spirit. His clear teaching style is accompanied with a strong prophetic gifting.

                                 

Pastor John and Sandra Scott have also been in pastoral ministry for many years. John has travelled extensively ministering the gospel and is the Irish coordinator of the work of International Gospel Outeach (IGO). He is a dynamic speaker and teacher who has worked for many years to see the Irish Church rise up into the fullness of it’s call to transform our nation for Christ.

 

For more information see www.rivercityapostolic.org

or e mail info@rivercityapostolic.org

 

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Adults: (£80) _________________________

 

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