What Does the Lord
Require of You?
What Does the Lord Require of You?
by Les Sherlock, March 2021, but originally posted 2012-2013
...And what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
I shall not refer to this verse again, simply using a phrase from it as a convenient title. However, ‘to walk humbly with your God’ is really the overriding theme throughout this piece, which was actually born out of a personal experience at the beginning of 2012. So it is mostly a look at what the Bible teaches on the subject, along with related issues, delving into such topics as: what God expects of us and how we achieve it; the work and presence of the Holy Spirit; and a brief look at sexuality.
In his book Sovereign Grace, D L Moody quotes three things a man in a meeting he attended said it had taken him 42 years to learn:
He could do nothing towards his own salvation.
God did not require him to do anything.
The Lord Jesus Christ has done it all, salvation is finished and all I have to do is take it.
I’ve beaten him by 20 years: it took me 62 years to discover the same thing (having given my life to the Lord sometime in 1950, age six). Some facts about God were key to what came next:
God is always here and knows my thoughts
Am I a God who is only close at hand?" says the LORD. "No, I am far away at the same time. Can anyone hide from Me in a secret place? Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?" says the LORD.
O LORD, You have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I'm far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. You go before me and follow me. I can never escape from Your Spirit! I can never get away from Your presence! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the grave, You are there. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from You. To You the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to You.
Psalm 139:1–5, 7–8, 11–12
...the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.
1 Chronicles 28:9
Three things God can’t do
I am the LORD, and I do not change.
God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act? Has He ever promised and not carried it through?
And He who is the Glory of Israel will not lie, nor will He change his mind, for He is not human that He should change his mind!"
1 Samuel 15:29
This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.
…that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. So, as it is impossible for God to lie and He has said He does not change, it is impossible for Him to change either!
…God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else.
James 1:13 (NLT)
Ask most people what they think the Christian God looks like, and they are likely to talk in terms of an old man with a long white beard, sitting on a throne somewhere ‘up there’. Some kind of ancient ‘superman’ character. There may be some justification for this, bearing in mind such scriptures as:
I watched till thrones were put in place, And the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, And the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, Its wheels a burning fire…
However, in order to have an accurate description, one must look at everything the Bible tells us: for example verses like Jeremiah 23:23–24 and Psalm 139:1–5, 7–8, 11–12 quoted earlier. In fact it could be closer to reality to think of God as being something more like ‘the force’ in the film Star Wars, remembering there is no ‘dark side’ with God - unless one was to describe God’s nature of justice and wrathful judgement on sin as His ‘dark side’, of course; in which case His ‘light side’ would be His nature of passionate love for His creation. However since God lives in ‘ unapproachable light’ and there is no darkness in Him at all, talking of a ‘dark side’ would hardly be correct! Two sides of the same coin, perhaps?
…who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.
1 Timothy 6:16
This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.
1 John 1:5
Unlike ‘the force’ in Star Wars He has intellect, emotion, wisdom, will, etc. Like ‘the force’, though, He is everywhere – completely surrounding and filling us, just like the air on our planet.
…for in Him we live and move and have our being.
Like ‘the force’, He always responds in the same way and cannot change; so sin will always be met with His fiery judgement. The only reason Old Testament people were not slain by God is that, living outside of time, He had already poured His judgement on Jesus –
…the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
Those who accept Jesus as Saviour and Lord will always be met with Love.
I can’t do it
I absolutely and completely know I am incapable of living the life God wants. When I originally wrote this page I had once again been confronted by my inability to overcome my weaknesses. I wrote:
"After 62 years of failure there is no doubt in my mind – I can no more be obedient to Him than I can jump up to the moon. I thought that as a Christian I should obey God and follow Him: I have realised that I am totally incapable of doing so. I thought I should by faith receive His power enabling me to obey Him: I now know I do not have the faith to do this. I am no more capable of pleasing God now as I was before I became a Christian in 1950, age six. Isaiah 64 is as true after salvation as it is before."
We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags…
Isaiah 64:6 (NLT)
There have been several occasions during my life when I have been at this point of desperation, and for days, weeks or even months pleaded with God to intervene and do for me what I knew I could not do for myself. Nothing ever seemed to happen and eventually life would return to, what was for me, normal. The things I am writing here are what has made this time different.
God expects me to obey Him. His standard is perfection.
For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.
1 Corinthians 1:30 (NLT)
My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin… Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him… Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God… We know that whoever is born of God does not sin;
1 John 2:1; 3:6, 9; 5:18
Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did… And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face Him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world.
1 John 2:6; 4:17(NLT)
How did Jesus live?
“We live like Jesus here in this world” - how did Jesus live?
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Everyone tried to touch Him, because healing power went out from Him, and He healed everyone.
Luke 6:19 (NLT)
So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.”
John 5:19 (NLT)
And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him." …“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
John 8:29; 14:12
And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Acts 10:38 (NLT)
This is very important because we reap what we sow
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.
In the above verse we see the two sides of God’s nature: the fear of the Lord (His judgement against sin) and the comfort of the Holy Spirit (His overwhelming love for us). Both are true and without both we have an unbalanced notion of who God is.
The word ‘fear’ is defined as:
Φόβος, phobos, fob'-os. From a primary φέβομαι phebomai (to be put in fear); alarm or fright: – be afraid, + exceedingly, fear, terror” (Strong’s New Testament Dictionary).
Many people today translate this as ‘awe of God’, but elsewhere in the NT the word clearly means terror. E.g.:
men's hearts failing them from fear (phobos ) and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth…
...Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear (phobos ) came upon all those who heard these things... So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Acts 5:5, 11
And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (phobos );
1 Peter 1:17 (Written to Christians!)
And do not fear (phobos ) those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear (phobos ) Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Matthew 10:28 (The words of Jesus.)
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror (phobos) of the Lord, we persuade men…
2 Corinthians 5:10–11 (Written to Christians!)
"And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away (therefore he is speaking to Christians here). For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect (make light of, be negligent) so great a salvation…
And you,... yet now He has reconciled... to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard.
So it is essential we do not neglect our salvation, but continue in the faith.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
Rom 11:22 (Written to Christians.)
It is God’s nature to judge sin and He cannot change.
For I proclaim the name of the LORD: ascribe greatness to our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.
Because of His nature of love (goodness), His judgement (severity) fell on Jesus, leaving us free from receiving sin’s penalty when we accept His Lordship, but not free to carry on sinning with no regard to the consequences. Think of what the God who does not change has said:
When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, he shall die because of it. But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and does what is lawful and right, he shall live because of it. Yet you say, 'The way of the LORD is not fair.' O house of Israel, I will judge every one of you according to his own ways."
Salvation is not so we can continue to mess up and be forgiven at the end so it won’t matter. It is in order for us to be changed now, so at the end there will only be good things to receive back:
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
According to 2 Corinthians 5:10 (quoted earlier), written to Christians, we are going to reap on judgement day what we are sowing now. Our salvation is not in doubt, but perhaps the “receive… bad” has something to do with:
each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one's work, of what sort it is. If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:13–15
…we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear (eulabeia). For our God is a consuming fire.
ευλάβεια; eulabeia; yoo–lab'–i–ah. From G2126; properly caution, that is, (religiously) reverence (piety); by implication dread (concretely): – fear (–ed) (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).
Fire burns every inflammable thing it touches: God consumes in judgement every sin He contacts. It is His nature, which cannot change. During this life all mankind is protected by Jesus’ sacrifice, but afterwards everything that conflicts with God’s nature will be burned up by it and everything that is in tune with His nature will be swamped in His love.
Acts 10:38 (quoted earlier) not only tells us what Jesus did, but how He did it – the power of the Holy Spirit.
"And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven."
Luke 24:49 (NLT)
“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
People sometimes interpret this to mean we receive power to witness, but it doesn’t actually say that! We receive power for whatever we need to do (i.e. live like Jesus) and the result is that we will be witnesses wherever we are.
What does God want?
Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “The two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
1 Corinthians 6:16–17
As the Scriptures say, "A man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one." This is a great mystery, but it is an illustration of the way Christ and the church are one.
Ephesians 5:31–32 (NLT)
The most intimate act of love of a man and woman is called ‘one flesh’: the most intimate act of love of a human and God is one spirit. It is the same thing, apart from one being union of the body and the other union of the spirit; but of the two this is far more intimate and real. God is passionately in love with us and wants to be our lover. The hymn ‘Jesus lover of my soul, let me to Thy bosom fly’ scandalised some sections of the Church when it was first written!
After all, the Song of Solomon is not an erotic diversion from the serious stuff in the Old Testament, but a description of the relationship God intends to have with his people. Throughout the Old Testament starting at the time the ten commandments were given, when Israel turned to other gods God called this ‘prostitution’. The whole of chapter 16 of Ezekiel describes Israel as having been created to be a beautiful bride for God, but who had turned to prostitution with foreign nations.
(for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God), lest you make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, and they play the harlot with their gods and make sacrifice to their gods, and one of them invites you and you eat of his sacrifice, and you take of his daughters for your sons, and his daughters play the harlot with their gods and make your sons play the harlot with their gods.
But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God...
The word ‘known’ is γινώσκω, ginosko, the same word used to refer to ‘one flesh’ in:
Then Joseph... took to him his wife, and did not know (ginosko) her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son.
The word ginosko is also used in the modern sense of ‘know’ in the NT, but clearly it can mean the physical union of husband and wife. How can the pure Holy Spirit be one spirit with people who continue to defile themselves with the thing He hates most – sin? Surely, His holiness would kill us as it did Uzza when he touched the ark and could have done to Israel (see next reference)? He loves us too much to risk that happening:
Then the anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.
1 Chronicles 13:10
…But I will not travel among you, for you are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I did, I would surely destroy you along the way… For the LORD had told Moses to tell them, "You are a stubborn and rebellious people. If I were to travel with you for even a moment, I would destroy you.”
Exodus 33:3,5 (NLT)
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.
And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts…
It is impossible to be a child of God without the Holy Spirit dwelling within, but He can’t stand sin’s presence. Perhaps, then, the answer to this conflict is ‘the second blessing’ or ‘the baptism of the Holy Spirit’? (See comments later on the baptism.) At salvation we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the intimate act of becoming ‘one spirit’ with Him, baptised with/in Him, or, as I prefer to call it, being swamped by Him (not only in our spirit but also in our soul and body), can only fully take place after sanctification. Thus:
And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.
Catch 22! Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can we obey God, but He is only given to those who obey Him! So how can we ever qualify? The good news is that God knows we are too weak to do it – it’s the way He made us. It is not just our salvation that is totally by grace, but every part of our lives. We can’t do it; He can. It’s only by accessing His strength that it can happen in us. How do we do it, though?
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
This is why God has made us ‘weak’: so that we are in the perfect position to be filled with His strength. In any area where we think we are self-sufficient, we are unable to rely on His power, which in fact means we end up weaker than we could be otherwise! This is why Paul could say,
“When I am weak, then I am strong”
2 Cor 12:10
This Good News tells us how God makes us right in His sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith.
Romans 1:17 (NLT)
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
1 John 5:4
But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth...
2 Thessalonians 2:13
Salvation here is defined as sanctification by the Spirit: therefore unless sanctification is the result of our salvation, then salvation has not taken place at all! This, of course, is an on-going process; one that never ends during this lifetime. However, if some kind of change is not seen in a person who professes salvation, there is some justification in questioning the reality of their experience.
Salvation is through sanctification: we are saved from God’s wrath to come by the sanctification the Spirit gives us – by being made righteous through His grace. So since we are righteous, there is no wrath or punishment for past sins to come on the day of judgement because they no longer exist. All this comes through belief in the truth: in other words through faith.
I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with Himself depends on faith.
Philippians 3:7–9 (NLT)
(“Through obeying the law: i.e. things I do.) Notice the things Paul now counts as garbage - i.e. they are useless when it comes to reaching God’s standard:
though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day (religious ritual undergone as a baby), of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews (family and national background); concerning the law, a Pharisee (intellect and education); concerning zeal, persecuting the church (sincerity and total dedication to one’s beliefs): concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (obedience to Old Testament requirements). But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.
Paul emphasises this point in his letter to the Galatians:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? 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? Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
We have just seen what is meant by trusting the flesh in Philippians 3; now we are told in Galatians 3 that every part of our Christian life works in the same way as it began.
At salvation the Holy Spirit comes to live in us in order to enable us to become obedient to God, and, intimately united, become one spirit with us. This is by God’s grace, not our works, because we cannot be obedient to Him in our own strength: He has to do it for us and does so in response to our faith – in other words, if we don’t believe He is doing it, it won’t happen.
...imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises... And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
Hebrews 6:12, 15
So we have to maintain faith with patience, and endure until we inherit the promises.
So then there remains a rest to the people of God. For he who has entered into his rest, he also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Therefore let us labour to enter into that rest…
Hebrews 4:9–11 (MKJV)
Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
These are the only two NT verses containing both words ‘labour’ and ‘rest’, and both verses can mean the same thing: it is only by labouring that we can enter the rest of Jesus; but what is this labour? It is most certainly not any kind of works we can do (from which we must cease according to Hebrews, quoted above): i.e. systems; programmes; strength of will; prayer; fasting; or copying what other people do or have done. This is what the seven sons of Sceva did (Acts 19:14–16) and the result was disaster!
Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.
No matter how spiritual these things appear to be, they will always be the works of the flesh because the source is not solely God. For someone else to do something in a particular way, if it is Spirit led, it will be spiritual and successful, but it won’t work for me because God wants me to be totally dependent on Him for absolutely everything. So, for example, the New Testament answer to ‘sin issues’ is not counselling, Christian courses or prayer ministry.
Some people may point to bad past experiences that caused such a problem they were unable to function normally until they were dealt with; but surely here is a case for turning to God for His deliverance rather than looking to psychological methods? The notion that everyone should be delving into the past, trying to find things to be sorted out, is moving away from dependence on God and looking to methods not found in scripture for the solution. There is no example of anyone receiving ministry for past hurts (for example) anywhere in the New Testament. Paul’s solution is not to rake up the past to deal with it, but:
...forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
Counselling, prayer ministry, etc., may well deal with a particular problem, and if someone is unable to move forward without this kind of help then it would be beneficial. However, the heart of the issue is our total inability to do anything apart from God...
John 15:5 ...for without Me you can do nothing.
...and trying to deal with problems by these methods can mask this fact. Instead of trying to remove addictions (for example), we should use them as a ‘thermometer’ to test our relationship with God. If they try to return and are a problem for us, this shows we have moved away from believing what God says...
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (i.e. the things we do ourselves) avails anything, but a new creation.
...and are trusting in our own strength of will or actions instead of Him.
When it comes to the matter of prayer, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking we need to keep speaking out our prayers over and over again in order for them to be effective. But this is the opposite of how Jesus taught His disciples to pray. He said, in Matthew 6:7,
"When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. (NLT)
And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (NKJ)
Indeed, when He then gave them what we know as ‘The Lord’s Prayer’, this wasn’t something to be memorised and repeated, but an example prayer to be used as a pattern, demonstrating the point He was making that God knows what we need, so we should not keep saying the same thing over and over again:
Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him! Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may Your name be kept holy. May Your Kingdom come soon. May Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Matthew 6:8–13 (NLT)
To keep making the same request over and over again is going back into ‘the works of the flesh’ and assuming we can achieve things by our efforts, when in fact it is God who does it all, from start to finish. Our part is to trust Him to do what He has promised to do; to obey Jesus by resisting the urge to keep on and on asking the same thing over and over again; and at the same time not to give up, thinking nothing is going to happen - this is the persistence referred to in Luke 11:9–10:
And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. (NLT)
Isn’t this a contradiction, though? How can it be right not to continually repeat the same thing over and over and at the same time ‘keep on asking’? Note Strong’s definition of the word ‘ask’:
αἰτέω, aiteō, ahee-teh'-o. Of uncertain derivation; to ask (in generally): - ask, beg, call for, crave, desire, require. Compare G4441.
(Strong’s Hebrew and Greek dictionaries.)
Notice the three final possible translations of this word: crave, desire, require. Surely it is a case of not constantly repeating the request over and over again, but rather remaining in a state of expectation, thanking God for being true to His word and answering in the way He has promised to do in His word, and trusting Him to do it regardless of how circumstances appear?
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
While you are asking for something, you are believing that you do not have it: obviously, once you have it you stop asking! But Jesus said that in order to receive you have to believe you have it. So for this to happen the point has to be reached where you are no longer asking for the thing you are praying about.
How does this work? Someone may give to you a box with your birthday present in it, saying,
“Don’t open it until it’s your birthday!”
All the time it is in the box you are no better off than you were before you had it: you can’t see it, use it or enjoy it. Nevertheless, you have it and you thank your friend for giving it to you. Likewise, when we ask God for something that is in line with His will, our persistence in prayer is in thanking Him for giving it to us and standing in faith until ‘the box is opened’. I say ‘in line with His will’ because obviously this is not an open cheque to pander to our every whim and fancy - God will not act contrary to His own character.
Returning to what God wants, for a moment: if a single young man had the ability to create his own partner, how would he make her? What would she look like? What would be her personality? What abilities would she have? Her likes and dislikes? God is Almighty and had the power to create anything He liked, and because His nature is love, He created the perfect lover for Himself – the thing that would ‘turn Him on’ the most – humans. He created us ‘weak’ – totally dependent on Him for everything, because that is how He can express His love to His lovers: by constantly supplying everything we need. In contrast, Adam’s sin was to choose to move away from dependence on God to possess his own independent knowledge of good and evil.
The way we express our love to Him is by being dependent on Him and accepting His supply, doing His will in His strength and worshipping Him. So the labour we go through to enter His rest is not works (anything we can do) but the fight of faith:
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life,
1 Timothy 6:12
The fight of faith is believing that He will do what we cannot do ourselves (in other words, everything).
…but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
Hebrews 10:38–39 (RSV)
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God…
Those two are linked here: repentance from dead works (i.e. the things we do in our own strength) and faith toward God (i.e. the things we do in His strength). It is either one or the other, and the writer to the Hebrews says this is elementary!
A little boy asks his mother if he can have a drink of Coke. She says yes and tells him to go and help himself. Five minutes later she comes back to find him in tears, because the top on the bottle is too tight and he can’t get it off. She says,
“Oh, come here. Let me do it for you,”
He now has two choices. He either continues to struggle with a top that is too much for him and be miserable and thirsty; or he can let his mother take the bottle and do it for him. He lets her do it. How much has he done toward getting his drink? Absolutely nothing; but it’s the only way he could have it. In every area of our lives, God says,
“Come here. Let me do it for you.”
Like the boy, there is absolutely nothing we can do for it; but when we let Him take ‘the bottle’ we enter into the life He, and we, want for us.
However, I don’t even have the faith necessary to be able to trust Him to do it. This is no problem! Even that is a gift from Him, given to me.
And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.
…measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.
Romans 12:3 (NLT)
For by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God;
Ephesians 2:8 (MKJV)
“The words for ‘grace’ (chariti) and ‘faith’ (piste–os) are feminine in the original Greek. The word for ‘this’ (touto) is neuter. Some have used this lack of agreement to say that the gift here is not faith. But this ignores the implication of verse 5: “Even when we were dead.” Grace is grace because it saved us even when we were dead. But it saves “through faith.” How does it save the dead through faith? By awakening the dead into the life of faith. That is why faith is a gift in Ephesians 2:5–8. This refers to the whole event of salvation by grace through faith and therefore does include faith as a gift. (Cf. Acts 18:27: “When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed.”)”
Quote from John Piper, Desiring God, page 67
Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:
2 Peter 1:1
The Good News Bible translates ‘obtained’ in this verse as ‘have been given’. They haven’t worked it up for themselves, but have been given faith as a gift.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith…
Hebrews 12:2 (NLT)
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Not sure exactly what that last verse means, but the starting point is God’s Word and the end is faith: therefore immersing oneself in God’s word is choosing to receive His faith.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit... For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Romans 8:1, 5
One way of setting the mind on the things of the Spirit is by reading His word.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
How do we sow to the Spirit if nothing is achieved through works? If it is all by faith and faith comes through God’s word, then one way is by exposing ourselves to His word, which puts us in the place where He can give us faith, through which we can receive all we need by His grace. However, knowing this, if I ignore His word I am then choosing not to receive His gift of faith. See here for a study on the impact God’s word has on us. If you have not read this, I urge you to do so before continuing to read this page, as it describes the way by which we are changed into what God wants us to be.
I can’t do anything myself, not even to know right from wrong.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.
Proverbs 3:5 (NLT)
Our salvation puts us in same position as Adam and Eve with a choice between two trees – contrary to them we must choose to be dependent on God for right and wrong, which is to choose fruit from the tree of life; don’t try to be independent of God, which is to take the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.
I don’t even have the faith to trust God to do it for me. But what I do have is a choice, as Adam and Eve had: having asked God to do everything for me, if I then go on to do what I know He does not want, I choose not to receive from Him the things I asked for. If instead I step out and choose to do what He does want (on the basis that He cannot change and cannot lie and He has promised to do it in me, therefore He must have done it), even though I know I can’t do it, immediately His faith fills me and His power enables me to do it. In exactly the same way, Peter knew he couldn’t walk on water; but at Jesus’ word he got out of the boat and God’s ability enabled him to do the impossible. If he had waited for the ability to walk on water before getting out of the boat, it would never have come. Peter then failed because he looked away from Jesus and started to sink. I will always fail if I look at my circumstances or try to do things in my own strength.
If I think I can please God by my obedience, then sooner or later I will fail. Many churches and people refer to the ‘The Ten Commandments’ (TTC) as though they still apply today; but Paul makes clear in Romans chapters six to eight that they are part of the law and we are dead to the law:
Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
Evidence that TTC is included in this is the example he gives: “you shall not covet,” which is the tenth commandment.
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "YOU SHALL NOT COVET."
This does not mean we are free to covet, steal, kill, etc., of course: God’s requirements for mankind remain the same; but it means we do not have a set of rules to follow. Rather they are a description of a life filled with God’s Spirit and empowered by Him, and someone like this automatically lives according to His will. As Paul said,
“…for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments… are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." …therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.
If I acknowledge my total inability to do anything remotely close to pleasing Him, but choose to do it trusting in Him to empower me, He has to do it in me. He has no other choice, because He has committed Himself in His word to reward those who seek Him, and He can’t change or lie. It’s nothing to do with whether I deserve it or not; or how hard I try. It is His word and the universe would cease to exist before that fails:
Heaven and earth will disappear, but My words will never disappear.
Matthew 24:35 (NLT)
Anyone living contrary to this is, by definition, not filled by, and pleasing to, God’s Spirit. Such a one may be able to minister in power, because God does not change and He will always act in response to faith; but Jesus said that even to those who say
…'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'
He has provided a new covenant because the old one failed due to man being unable to obey.
"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
Note the relationship – God was Israel’s husband!
This new covenant is only dependent on His work, not mine.
"This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," then he adds, "their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."
In ‘My Utmost for His Highest’, Oswald Chambers says,
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us . . . sanctification . . .
1 Corinthians 1:30
The mystery of sanctification is that the perfect qualities of Jesus Christ are imparted as a gift to me, not gradually, but instantly once I enter by faith into the realization that He “became for [me] . . . sanctification . . . .” Sanctification means nothing less than the holiness of Jesus becoming mine and being exhibited in my life.
The most wonderful secret of living a holy life does not lie in imitating Jesus, but in letting the perfect qualities of Jesus exhibit themselves in my human flesh. Sanctification is “Christ in you . . .” (Colossians 1:27). It is His wonderful life that is imparted to me in sanctification— imparted by faith as a sovereign gift of God’s grace. Am I willing for God to make sanctification as real in me as it is in His Word?
Sanctification means the impartation of the holy qualities of Jesus Christ to me. It is the gift of His patience, love, holiness, faith, purity, and godliness that is exhibited in and through every sanctified soul. Sanctification is not drawing from Jesus the power to be holy— it is drawing from Jesus the very holiness that was exhibited in Him, and that He now exhibits in me. Sanctification is an impartation, not an imitation. Imitation is something altogether different. The perfection of everything is in Jesus Christ, and the mystery of sanctification is that all the perfect qualities of Jesus are at my disposal. Consequently, I slowly but surely begin to live a life of inexpressible order, soundness, and holiness— “. . . kept by the power of God . . .” (1 Peter 1:5).
. . . unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven —Matthew 5:20
The characteristic of a disciple is not that he does good things, but that he is good in his motives, having been made good by the supernatural grace of God. The only thing that exceeds right-doing is right-being. Jesus Christ came to place within anyone who would let Him a new heredity that would have a righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus is saying, “If you are My disciple, you must be right not only in your actions, but also in your motives, your aspirations, and in the deep recesses of the thoughts of your mind.” Your motives must be so pure that God Almighty can see nothing to rebuke. Who can stand in the eternal light of God and have nothing for Him to rebuke? Only the Son of God, and Jesus Christ claims that through His redemption He can place within anyone His own nature and make that person as pure and as simple as a child. The purity that God demands is impossible unless I can be remade within, and that is exactly what Jesus has undertaken to do through His redemption.
No one can make himself pure by obeying laws. Jesus Christ does not give us rules and regulations— He gives us His teachings which are truths that can only be interpreted by His nature which He places within us. The great wonder of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He changes our heredity. He does not change human nature— He changes its source, and thereby its motives as well.
August 4th. We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends (see 1 Corinthians 1:26–31). God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all— we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same. We do not know what God’s compelling purpose is, but whatever happens, we must maintain our relationship with Him. We must never allow anything to damage our relationship with God, but if something does damage it, we must take the time to make it right again. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.
See here for the website giving Oswald Chambers’ daily thoughts from this book.
All I have to do is to believe God
How do I do this?
God is always here.
He knows my thoughts and the desire of my heart.
He knows that I know that He knows that I know I cannot do it (important because I have to agree with His word that says I cannot and only He can).
I ask Him to do it in me.
He has promised to do it and He cannot lie or change and is always with me.
He must therefore have done it.
So I believe it and act the way I would if He had (faith without works is dead James 2:17, 20, 26).
I find His strength doing it in me as I act on it, depending on Him.
I constantly remind myself I cannot do this, so it is Him doing it in me.
If I start failing it’s because I’ve returned to me doing it, so go back to number one and start again!
Like Luke Skywalker in his final run to drop his bomb at the critical point of the enemy’s ultimate death–star weapon in the Star Wars film, when I stop trusting in my abilities and put my trust in Him who is always ‘here’ and knows all my thoughts, He will enable me to do the impossible.
Watchman Nee said in The Release of the Spirit:
“When God brings us into a new position with Him, He first gives us a foretaste, but this is not the whole thing”
We must continue in faith to receive the fullness. As I begin to enter His promised life by faith, I begin to experience His presence, but the full baptism of The Holy Spirit will only follow if I continue and do not turn back.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit
Is anyone really baptised in the Holy Spirit in the Church in Great Britain today? For example, the words ‘miracle/miracles’ appear twelve times in the New Testament* applying once to Jesus (although He obviously performed many miracles) and eleven times to His followers.
* (For the sake of space I am not putting them here, but the references are these: Acts 2:22; 4:16, 22; 8:6, 13; 15:12; 19:11; 1 Corinthians 12:10, 28, 29; Galatians 3:5; Hebrews 2:4)
Where is there anyone doing miracles of this quality today? Where is the power the disciples were told to wait for before going out into the world? Our experience of the Holy Spirit is but a shadow of the early Church (but see later for two examples of this taking place):
Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high."
NOTE: the thing they are told they are waiting for is POWER!
But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you
And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.
in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God
And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power… But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us… But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up, but the power. For the kingdom of God is not in word but in power.
1 Corinthians 2:4, 4:7, 19-20
Paul’s test of authenticity was not the way people preach, but the power they wield. What form would this power take?
And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
2 Corinthians 12:9
and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power... Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
Ephesians 1:19; 6:10
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit
1 Thessalonians 1:5
Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you
2 Thessalonians 1:11–12
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind… having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
2 Timothy 1:7; 3:5
There is a very interesting episode in the life of Jesus, summed up in two verses:
Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief…
I suspect there are very few churches in existence who could claim they see ‘a few sick people’ healed in each of their services; and for the vast majority of churches, if they experienced this just once it would be the first time ever and considered a major breakthrough in the demonstration of God’s power. Yet in the ministry of Jesus, only seeing a few sick people healed was evidence of unbelief.
There are two points about this that must be made:
1. It cannot be claimed that the miracles of Jesus took place because of His divinity.
Jesus emptied Himself of what He had previously been with the Father when He was born as a baby and was fully human:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
This position was only restored to Him after His crucifixion and resurrection:
And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
The only difference between Jesus and us during His time on Earth was that He had never experienced sin through committing sin Himself. Of course, while on the cross He certainly experienced sin, being made sin with all the sin of the world in order to set us free from it, but this is radically different: at that time He was taking the legal consequences of sin for which He was not morally responsible.
However, the good news of salvation is that we are set free from sin, made righteous with His righteousness, and, with a right relationship with the Holy Spirit, kept free from sin:
And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness... But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
Romans 6:18, 22
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
2 Corinthians 5:21
and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin...
1 John 3:9
This raises a subject that is too long to cover fully here. It must be pointed out, however, that the problem of sin in the Christian is very real and universal. If we sin it does not therefore mean we are not Christians, or have lost our salvation. Nevertheless, victory over sin is clearly promised to the believer, and the way to enter this victory is what this page is all about.
So when we have fully entered into everything Jesus won for us, we are brought into the same position that Jesus had, and there is therefore no case for claiming that He had advantages we do not. It is noticeable that apart from the wisdom He displayed at the age of 12, there is no record of anything miraculous in what He did until after He was baptised in the Holy Spirit. From this we can see clearly that everything Jesus did in His ministry on earth was done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Indeed, He said:
I can of Myself do nothing...
As I have tried to show on this page, it is only things we do in the power of the Holy Spirit that have any eternal value. Just as Jesus was perfectly filled with the Holy Spirit and totally followed the leading of the Father,* we are expected to do the same.
(*Once again, I only give the references for the sake of space: Matthew 3:16–4:1; Luke 3:22; 4:1; John 5:19, 36; 8:16, 28, 38; 10:32, 37, 38; 14:10; 15:15)
Of course, there are different ministry gifts, so we all do not have gifts of healing, prophecy, etc.; but we all do have the Creator of the universe living within us and if we are truly filled, or baptised, by the Holy Spirit, we should therefore expect to see the same quality of spiritual life He displayed.
2. ‘Unbelief’ does not mean ‘believing nothing’.
It means ‘believing the wrong thing’. The reason so little happened in Mark 6:5–6 is not because the people didn’t believe anything, but because they believed either Jesus was not who He said He was, or that He could not perform these miracles.
Let me stress, I am not writing this in order to criticise anyone; I am looking around at what I see and have seen, over a number of decades, in churches all around me, and asking,
“Why are they not like the churches we see in the New Testament?”
There must be a reason. Why would God start the Church off differently from what He wanted it to be throughout almost all of the centuries of its existence? Why would He want to see signs, wonders and healings in the Church during its first few decades, but not want them for the rest of the 2000 years it was on the Earth?
I mostly refer to healing in this piece, but only because it is the simplest and most obvious example of the supernatural we need to see. There are numerous other miraculous events recorded in the New Testament, and reported occasionally today, just as healings are reported occasionally today. The case I am making is not that these things never happen, but that they are far less frequent and widespread than they should be.
There is no logical, or theological reason for us not to see these things: the human condition is exactly the same now as it was then. While modern medical knowledge has alleviated many sicknesses and disabilities that previously were untreatable, no one in their right mind would claim that they can be totally eradicated and people fully restored to what they were before they became ill or injured, by this means.
Having said that, it must surely be admitted that there are many Christians and a large number of Churches believing that ‘the New Testament experience’ is not for today: that what we presently see is all that is possible. Some would even go so far as to believe that the miraculous events in the New Testament are nothing more than myth and did not actually happen the way reported in scripture. Or reinterpret passages of scripture to be parable rather than factual on the basis that because we don’t see these things now, they couldn’t have seen them then. Or claim that passages like Genesis 1 & 2 are poetic because God couldn’t or wouldn’t do in six days what scientists claim would take 13.7 billion years to do by naturalistic processes.
I would submit that this is unbelief as defined in the first paragraph of this section. In other words it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the effect of believing these things cannot happen prevents them from taking place, and by denying the literal truth of the whole of scripture, faith in any of it is undermined.
Others would say they believe God can heal, but then justify the fact that many people are not healed by saying that their illness must be God’s will for them. I would submit that we cannot take our theology from what we see around us: it is only God’s Word that tells us the truth and there is overwhelming evidence for healing from cover to cover. I examine this much more comprehensively here. Therefore this too is unbelief.
Obviously, the miraculous is outside of our ability to perform. This is another reason for people to disbelieve it can occur today:
“I can’t do it, therefore it cannot be done.”
However, as I tried to show earlier, every aspect of our Christian lives is outside of our ability, and anything we think we can do ourselves really amounts to the ‘dead works’ the Bible condemns.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God… how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 6:1; 9:14
On the other hand there certainly are Christians who do believe God can and will heal today, and there is much talk about ‘positive confession’: in other words, what you say will enable or hinder your healing. It is quite true that, as with every aspect of Christian life, faith is a significant factor; and what we say demonstrates whether faith is there or not.
However, I would submit that this is only true up to a point. Saying, “I am healed” is a powerful and necessary stage in healing; but saying “I am healed” when I am not healed will not, of itself, make it happen. This is no more than wishful or positive thinking, and while it does have a significant effect on one’s body, as the medical profession will readily concur, it is not ‘divine healing’. Indeed, it relies as much, or more, on our own ‘works’ (our confession) than the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Of course, a step of faith may well be necessary and one may have to confess to receiving it before the healing can be seen. This is not the point being made here, however. The difference between faith and wishful thinking can be seen in the result!
Watchman Nee says:
Even faith and trust and obedience, if we regard them as virtues by which we attain, will prove ineffective. It is not that I trust His Word, therefore I can be longsuffering. It is that Christ is long suffering, and, praise God, Christ is in me!
Watchman Nee. Changed into His Likeness (Kindle Locations 1174-1175).
In Paul's letter to the Romans he makes it clear that the sinner depends on grace for his salvation. In these chapters of Galatians he shows us that the believer depends equally upon grace for his continuation in the Christian life. We never did anything, or gave God anything, for our salvation. Now we are to go on in the same way, not making even faith something that we do but looking trustfully to His grace and continuing to receive.
Watchman Nee. Changed into His Likeness (Kindle Locations 1061-1063). Emphasis mine.
Another aspect of ‘unbelief’ is the capitulation of many Churches and Christians to the theory of evolution, with such passages as Genesis chapter one being manipulated in order to make it fit. A large section of this site covers this subject, so I will only make one point here: since God Himself made an unequivocal statement about how He did it and how long it took in Exodus 20:11, twisting His words to fit a transitory ‘scientific’ theory is effectively ‘unbelief’.
Transitory because how many scientific theories are there that were held 200 years ago and have survived unchanged or unmodified ever since? Very few, if any! Why then should today’s theories be able to survive the test of time? A modern example is the lie, promoted for 40 years as definitive evidence for evolution, that 95% of human DNA is ‘junk’. This was exposed as error by the ENCODE project findings, published in 2012.
This compromise with evolution is believing something that is contrary to what God has said. While this clearly has nothing to do with our salvation, it is hardly surprising if it produces the same result as that seen in Mark 6:5–6 quoted earlier.
The things we choose to do, or the way we do them, may well be a major factor in the absence of the miraculous in today’s Church. If we do things ‘our way’, when ‘our way’ is not found in scripture, we are effectively saying we know better than God, and that we must do things ourselves in order for God’s will to be ‘done on Earth as it is in Heaven’. In other words we have left the life of faith and total dependence on the Holy Spirit and come to rely on our own efforts. This will automatically be a major hindrance to the Holy Spirit and will result in churches seeing the best that man can do, but little of what God can and will do if we will only swallow our pride, accept our limitations, and fully turn to Him.
A clear example of this is in local church leadership, which in the vast majority of churches is significantly different from plain Bible teaching. A fairly comprehensive study of this is here, so I will not say any more about it on this page. Other examples could be the use of emotion-stirring techniques by worship leaders or preachers to create an ‘atmosphere’ and stir a congregation toward a desired response. If mind, will and emotion are attributes of the soul, one asks how much of what takes place in church services is soulish, rather than spiritual? While our soul is an integral part of what we are as humans, if the source of our work for God is not the spirit (Spirit), there is a real danger it will be man-made rather than empowered by God, and therefore an obstacle to the work of the Holy Spirit. Praying to God to ask Him to bless what we do, or even guide us in what we do, will not prevent it from being soulish if we then go on to do our own thing our own way.
Perhaps the point also ought to be made to which James refers when he explains why things do not happen:
...you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
If churches do not believe God ‘supernaturally’ heals people today, they are not going to ask; so they will not receive it according to James. However he also says that they will not receive it even if they do ask, if they are going to spend it on their pleasures. We cannot ignore the claims and expectations God has for our lives, and expect Him to put our bodies right when they go wrong so we can continue to live for our own pleasure. The only pleasure of any importance is God’s pleasure, not ours. See later for more on this.
When I look around me I do wonder sometimes if the ‘gospel’ has not been diluted to giving people a ticket for heaven when they die, leaving them free to continue to be taken up with the same pastimes and interests they had before they heard it. This is not to say we cannot have any ‘outside interests’. It is a question of balance, priorities and, as Paul said:
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any... All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.
1 Corinthians 6:12; 10:23
We cannot earn healing, or anything else, from God by anything we do, or don’t do; but according to James, and other New Testament scriptures, we can certainly hinder God’s work in our lives by the choices we make.
Indeed, this is another aspect of ‘unbelief’ (i.e. believing something different from God’s revelation): assuming God is our benevolent Father who will gives us everything we want to make our lives comfortable, regardless of our thoughts, words or actions. He certainly is our Father, who loves us passionately: indeed, He loves us far too much to leave us to drift away on the wrong path by fulfilling our every whim whether He is first in our lives or not. He designed us to be inhabited by Himself, and regardless of what we sometimes think or feel, the only way for us to know the maximum amount of joy, fulfilment and satisfaction is to be totally filled with His presence, doing what He wants, the way He wants, when He wants. This is why David could say:
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Having covered those two points (at much greater length than I anticipated when I started writing this section! Sorry about that!), I would suggest that since only the Holy Spirit can perform ‘the miraculous’ and the Bible makes it clear this is indeed His will, but at best all we can see is the equivalent of ‘a few sick people healed’, then surely the only reason must be that He is being hindered from functioning in much the same way He was hindered in Mark 6:5–6. So what is hindering Him? We’ve considered unbelief; is there anything else?
As we saw earlier, the Bible makes it clear that He indwells every Christian. So I return to where I started: while His presence within us is life-changing and indeed enables us to live and walk by His power in ways that previously were impossible, could it be there is more? There are many people, myself included, who can point to a moment when they were ‘filled’ or ‘baptised’ with the Holy Spirit and from that time have experienced God’s power moving through them in truly miraculous ways. So have we reached the pinnacle and can now live the rest of our lives happy in the assurance that there is nothing more to be reached, other than ‘growing in grace’? I think not, but rather that this is the missing ingredient. Let me explain a personal experience to continue this point.
When I was ‘baptised in the Holy Spirit’ in 1958 it was amongst a people who taught that the initial evidence was speaking in tongues. Well, perhaps the experience of the Holy Spirit described in Acts 2 has such a dramatic impact on a person that speaking in tongues is the only way to cope with it! However, perhaps the fact that all God’s children are indwelt by the Holy Spirit means it is possible for them to receive and use the gifts of the Spirit without being ‘baptised’. Whether this is true or not, the fact remains, at the time of my experience, the assumption was that anyone speaking in tongues was therefore baptised in the Spirit. This does not logically follow, though: the phrase ‘everyone baptised speaks in tongues’ is not the same as ‘everyone who speaks in tongues is baptised’, any more than ‘everyone who sees perfectly has two eyes’ is the same as ‘everyone who has two eyes sees perfectly’! They are two different things.
Anyway, after falteringly speaking in tongues I was deemed to be baptised in the Spirit, and there certainly was a change in my life at that time; but not of the quality I see in the New Testament. This is why I now feel that while I have had various experiences of the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, they are not of sufficient quality of power and intimacy with God to be a ‘New Testament baptism’. I suspect this may be the case with a lot of other people too, although I am in no position to judge and do not wish to do so.
I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Matthew 3:11 (Also Luke 3:16)
Certainly there have been a handful of people healed when I prayed for them: but a great many more who weren’t. There are some people who have become Christians through some kind of encounter with me, but a vast number more who have not.
Perhaps there are people baptised in the Spirit. Perhaps there are places where miracles and evidences of ‘great power’ are being shown. That’s wonderful if it is true, and it probably is; but I have no personal experience of it! God is working through His Church, as He always has; but what I see everywhere and experience myself is but a dribble in comparison with the flood tide we should be seeing.
Great Britain is in desperate need for God’s people to be producing “speech and preaching not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor 2:4) more now than ever in its history. It is surely because this has been lacking in the Church that the tidal wave of atheism, evolutionism, false religions, anti–God legislation, etc., has swept over the nation and threatens to obliterate Christian influence from every public place and organisation.
So how should things be?
Paul said, “God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” How many churches are there that can point to signs, wonders, miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit as evidence of the truth they are proclaiming? Now I can hear, in my mind, a number of people replying, “But these things are happening today!” At the time of writing this paragraph, news has recently emerged of a powerful move of God in Wales. Victory Church in Cwmbran began in January 2010, and in July 2013, after 100 days of ‘revival’ their website reported:
“Crowds continue to flock to Cwmbran, hungry to experience the manifest presence of God. We have seen well over 900 people come to Christ and have hundreds of reported healings. Well over 50000 people have been through the doors since April 10th!”
Elsewhere, David Hathaway reports incredible news from his meetings across Europe, with large numbers of people turning to Jesus Christ as their Saviour and experiencing physical healing from the most serious ailments. The confirmed sceptic may decry the events reported by these two very different sources, but it is difficult to see how any unbiased observer could fail to be impressed by the experiences of these people whose lives have been turned around as a result of them.
There are a few other people and places I could mention, past (i.e. over the past one or two centuries) and present. However, these things do not undermine the main thrust of what I have been saying here. Far from it: they confirm it for the following two reasons:
It proves that the day of these things occurring is not ended. Even if it was conceded that some of the miracles may be explained by ‘hype’ or the placebo effect, some clearly cannot. Additionally, for large numbers of people to make a life-changing decision to follow Christ, it is equally clear that something has happened not usually seen.
Why do large numbers of people attend these events, often travelling considerable distances to do so? Obviously, because they do not see these things taking place closer to home! Therefore the point I have been making is validated.
So why do these things happen rarely, rather than regularly? My immediate answer is that I do not know! However, one thing that must be obvious is, as I have been pointing out, the miraculous is beyond our ability to perform: only the Holy Spirit can do this. So if it is not happening, it is because He is not doing it. Why is He not doing it in most places? Or, perhaps we would be better to ask, why is He doing it in the few places we know about?
To tackle the second question first: I am unaware of anything being done by or in any of these people or places, different from what is done by many other people and places. It is almost as though God cannot restrain His longing to intervene in human affairs and sovereignly chooses a person or place to demonstrate His power and His willingness to change our lives for the better.
So why not elsewhere? God is no respecter of persons and treats us all alike, so why not? Once again, I have no answer, other than to repeat the point I made earlier. We cannot earn anything from God by our performance - it is all by grace. However, when we chose to do things our own way instead of the way He has revealed in His word, we are effectively declaring that we know better than Him and we can achieve these things by what we do. Perhaps, at the very least, if the areas I identified earlier were addressed, more churches and individuals would be in the place where God’s Spirit could do what only He can do, and the United Kingdom be brought back from the brink, as it has been through revivals of the past.
Well, this is not about me looking at others and working out what their experience is – I am totally incapable of doing so. This is trying to work out what is happening to me. This page was written in 2012, although since then I have been tinkering with it and adding bits as verses in my Bible readings stood out to me and as thoughts occurred to me, resulting in it doubling in size as it evolved.
If what I have experienced this year is real and from God, then two things are clear:
The reason for the lack of power in my life is because I have been doing it wrong because I didn’t understand how to trust God for everything in my life
The massive turn–around that has taken place in my life is but a foretaste (according to Watchman Nee) and the fullness of His power will be released in me when He has changed me enough to make it possible. I have no idea what form this will take:
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?
1 Corinthians 12:29–30
It may well be none of the above: I do not care what it will be like, as long as it is what He wants and I am filled with His presence. I know a big change has taken place in me since I was broken on 4th January 2012. Before, I really used to enjoy watching films on TV, game shows, sport, etc. and listening to the radio while driving around. Now that has completely disappeared – not because I wanted it to, or tried to change my desires. It just happened! While the intensity of this experience receded after a few months, it marked a permanent change in my relationship with God. I await the final outcome with considerable interest!
All I want to do is be in His presence, and worship Him. In fact it has even changed from the desire to live the way I know I should and to be able to minister to people in New Testament power: all that matters to me now is to have the most vibrant, intimate, real experience of perpetually loving God, and knowing Him completely filling every part of me, that it is possible to have. I was created for God’s pleasure:
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 4:11 (AV)
for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Other scriptures referring to God’s pleasure:
So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord—how he may please the Lord.
1 Corinthians 7:32
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.
2 Corinthians 5:9
having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,
Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God...
1 Thessalonians 4:1
Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.
“Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, my soul has no pleasure in him."
By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "And was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him… But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased… make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Heb 11:5–6, 16, 21
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
1 John 3:22
More than anything else I want Him to have from me the maximum amount of pleasure He can from a single human being. Other things are important, but they fade into insignificance against this. Perhaps for the first time I can genuinely echo David’s words:
...My soul thirsts for You; my whole body longs for You...
Psalm 63:1 (NLT)
In fact what it feels like is that I am at the beginning of a courtship of a new love affair with the vast, all–powerful Creator of the Universe, who is madly and passionately in love with me (of course He is equally in love with everyone else!). In fact at one point, I had temporarily forgotten the lessons I spelled out earlier and started struggling again, and was thinking to myself,
“Oh why bother? This is hopeless. There’s no point in trying anymore!”
From deep inside of me, suddenly emerged the words,
“I love you more than you could ever possibly imagine. Please don’t give up!”
The Holy Spirit has been living within me for the past 62 years (written in 2012), waiting for me to wake up to reality; and now I have just begun to do so, He is romancing me and there is nothing in all the world that can compare to this. All I want to do is to read or listen to His Word, and sit or lie in His presence, either quietly or listening to worship songs. As soon as I do His presence comes on me and my face tingles with it, sometimes getting so hot I look in the mirror to see if it is red (it never is!) and I am sure this is just the preliminary courtship: when He has changed me sufficiently the real romance will begin, when the Holy Spirit will flood through my spirit, soul and body.
Interestingly, I happened to read Wendy Alec’s book, Journal of the Unknown Prophet while this was taking place, which seems to confirm the validity of this love affair.
“...those who have truly loved Me, those who love My presence more than they have loved their own ambitions, those who have loved My presence more than they have loved their ministry, to those who have loved to be with Me more than they love to be used by Me. It is to these that the Father shall reveal His majesty and His consuming passion for His creation.”
I probably appear little or no different on the outside to people around when they look at me: but inside I have changed beyond recognition. Probably much greater changes still need to take place. That, however, is out of my hands – it is entirely His work not mine. All I can do is continue to ask Him to make whatever changes are needed in me, cooperate with what He is doing and try not to get in the way! My prayer for me is that it will take place quickly – I do not have another 62 years to wait for it to happen! My prayer for the Churches is that they will very soon enter into their ‘Acts 2’ experience, with large numbers of His children baptised, filled, swamped, overwhelmed and possessed by the Holy Spirit, resulting in the Church looking more like it did when it began than the shadow it has been for far too long.
Added March 2021:
It is interesting that just over one year after the experience I have been describing, I had a heart attack, and then the year after that my experience of a horrible pit. Six years after that came the second horrible pit. Both experiences can be seen here. What does all this mean? I do not know. However, what I do know is that God has brought me through those experiences and whatever lies ahead, my greatest desire still is to be pleasing to Him first and foremost. I know absolutely that I can trust Him, on the basis of everything I have experienced; and I long for others too to be able to enter into the same wonderful relationship He has given to me. This is the reason for this website.
Sexuality and the Bible
Of all the functions of the human body, perhaps sexuality is one of the strongest urges we experience, as evidenced by the vast pornography industry on the Internet and the amount of sexually motivated crime one hears about, amongst other things. It is also one that produces problems, much as everything else in our nature does, and since the topic on this page is mostly about dealing with issues in ourselves that do not line up with God’s clearly revealed will, it is a useful example to see how it all works in practice. One aspect that has become a ‘hot’ issue today is homosexuality, so let’s see what the Bible says about it.
In what follows, for convenience I include LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) under the general name of ‘homosexual’.
The Bible says “God so loved the world,” (John 3:16) which therefore includes homosexual people as much as anyone else. This means, whatever view we take on the subject, the Christian’s attitude toward homosexuals must be the same as toward anyone else – love. We are all people loved by God, who need a Saviour in order to be freed from what our sinful nature has done in and to us, and from the resulting wrath of God that would otherwise fall upon us at the end of our lives on Earth.
…Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.
1 Thessalonians 1:10
He loves everyone with a passion and in a way that we cannot possibly imagine. He wants to spend eternity with us, loving us and being loved by us. This is why Jesus came to take the penalty our sins deserved, so that both sides of God’s nature – His justice and His love – can be fulfilled. God cannot change, and His nature is always consistent. He hates sin with as much passion as He loves us. This means any sin in us is going to be met with His fiery wrath. This wrath and that sin was placed on Jesus, meaning there is no longer any wrath for us to experience, thus freeing Him to love us without restriction. However, those who reject Jesus also therefore reject His substitutionary sacrifice, leaving no other alternative but for them to receive God’s wrath in themselves. This, then, cuts them off from His love and leaves them eternally estranged from Him.
So in this respect the entire human race is identical: we are all born with a sinful nature, and need a Saviour who can both give us forgiveness for the sins we have committed and change our nature back into what He originally made when He created Adam and Eve. It must be emphasised that Christian heterosexuals have no right to persecute, or ill-treat in any way, those who are homosexuals on the basis of their sexual orientation. They must be met with the same degree of love and care as any other member of society.
However, the key question is this: who determines what human behaviour should be? On the whole, the homosexual community would say that it is they themselves: they have been born this way, it is their nature, and therefore they should be free to follow it. Of course, this is one of the contentious issues – is it nature or nurture? Are people born homosexual, or is it the result of their experiences (particularly in childhood)?
I do not wish to enter this particular debate, not being qualified to say. However, it would appear to me that there are certainly some people who may have been born with a homosexual nature and there are certainly others who were not but became such as a result of their experiences. Whatever the cause, this is largely irrelevant to the key points being made here.
The Christian response, though, must surely be very obvious: we do not form our understanding of correct human behaviour by looking at ourselves, but by accepting what our Maker says. The reason for this is very clear: according to the Bible our human nature is faulty; it is no longer what God originally made – it is sinful.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
So Isaiah tells us that going our own way is both going ‘astray’ and ‘iniquity’: in other words it is following our sinful nature. One complaint God had against Israel was that everyone was doing what was right in their own eyes:
You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes.
I have written out 21 scriptures saying this at the end of the page. If you wish you can jump there now and then RETURN TO TEXT here.
And it shall be, when you show this people all these words, and they say to you, 'Why has the LORD pronounced all this great disaster against us? Or what is our iniquity? Or what is our sin that we have committed against the LORD our God?' then you shall say to them, 'Because your fathers have forsaken Me,' says the LORD; 'they have walked after other gods and have served them and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and not kept My law. And you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, each one follows the dictates of his own evil heart, so that no one listens to Me.
Jeremiah 16:10–12 (Emphasis mine)
So in God’s eyes, following our own inclination when it is contrary to what He has said is a worse sin than idolatry.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?
The implied answer to Jeremiah’s question, of course, is that no–one can know their own heart is deceitful, because by definition they are being deceived by it! So it is impossible to determine what correct behaviour is by looking at ourselves, because the thing we are looking at is defective. This is right at the heart of Bible teaching and Christianity, and indeed, the following verse goes on to say:
I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.
Only God can tell us what is right and what is wrong; what is correct behaviour and what is not. He made us. He knows how He designed us. He knows what is now wrong with us. Therefore it is never – never – valid to say that because my nature is so and so, therefore it must be right to follow its desires. My nature is messed up – distorted by the sin that I inherited from previous generations going all the way back to Adam – and can never be relied upon to give me a true picture of right and wrong. I have been created for God’s pleasure…
Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 4:11 (AV)
…and it is my responsibility to turn to Him for the help and power I need in order to be restored into what He wants – what will give Him the most pleasure.
Today’s attitude seems to be,
“It’s my life: I can do what I like with it.”
No it isn’t!
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.
1 Corinthians 6:20
Certainly, if the theory of evolution was true, and many people believe it is, then there could be validity in that attitude. If there is no God, then there is no absolute standard for morality or anything else: anyone can do whatever they like, regardless of the effect on others, because there will be no lasting consequences. Let us eat, drink, be merry and do anything we fancy regardless of the effect on others, for tomorrow we all cease to exist! A parody of Luke, and Isaiah of course.
And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry." ' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'
But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"
However, the fact that evolution conflicts with the observable laws of science in key areas, as can be seen in The Challenge, demonstrates it is totally flawed.
The air you breathe, the food you eat, the body you possess, the world you walk on, everything was created by God, for His purposes. He gave you the freedom of choice certainly: but choice brings with it consequences. I can choose to put my hand in the fire. It’s my choice; but the consequence will be that my hand will be damaged. I can choose to smoke heavily; but if later in life I suffer ill health for months or years and die a very unpleasant death from lung cancer or heart disease, this is directly the result of my choice.
God has made the most incredible opportunity available to the human race – to be wrapped in His love for eternity – and He has every right to be angry (‘the wrath to come’) at those who choose to throw it back in His face. Only a fool would insist on hanging on to a handful of dirt when he could drop it in order to pick up a handful of gold; but this is the choice we have here and now. We can either insist on clinging to what our faulty human natures crave, or turn to God to receive from Him all we need in order to live the way He wants and therefore receive ‘pleasures for evermore’:
You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Clearly, though, the only route to those pleasures is the ‘path of life’ that God will show us. Going on the path our nature demands leads to death:
There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
So: when it comes to homosexuality, what does God think about it? What is the correct ‘path’?
In the Old Testament the answer is very clear and unambiguous:
If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
The homosexual response to Old Testament scriptures is that Christians do not conform to all the commands found there and therefore it is inconsistent to use them to forbid homosexual acts. For example:
Dear Dr. Laura:
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination… end of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s Laws and how to follow them.
1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness – Lev. 15: 19–24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.
4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev. 1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
5. I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2. clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination – Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there ‘degrees’ of abomination?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle–room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6–8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really
necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Lev. 24:10–16. Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in–laws? (Lev. 20:14)
I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.
Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.
Your adoring fan,
James M. Kauffman, Ed. D.
Professor Emeritus Dept. of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education
University of Virginia
The above parody was first posted on the Internet in May 2000, purporting to be written to Dr. Laura Schlesinger by James Kauffman, who has since denied writing it. See here. However, while it may be amusing, it is certainly not valid, for the following two reasons:
1. Theology. It ignores the two covenants. The old covenant (Old Testament) given to Israel has been replaced by the new covenant (New Testament).
In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Therefore Hebrews teaches us that at the time God made the promise about the new covenant, the old started to become obsolete and was ready to vanish away. It did so when the new covenant became operative as a result of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
Therefore commands given to Israel thousands of years ago do not apply to today’s Church. This one fact alone obliterates the implied criticism of inconsistency in the letter mentioned above. It was obviously written by someone with little knowledge of the Bible and no understanding about the two covenants.
2. Logic. It is a fact that there are some commands in the Old Testament not followed by the Church today. If this means we can ignore all the other commands of the Old Testament, then to be consistent it is now valid to lie, steal, kill, etc. Even the so–called gay church would not accept this, I think. The fact that some commandments are not observed now is not a valid reason for ignoring others. We need to turn to the new covenant (the New Testament) to see what is relevant to us today.
In doing this, one might think Paul’s letter to the Romans is as unambiguous as Leviticus:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
However, the counter–claim here is that ‘the natural use of the woman’ refers to those for whom sexual activity with a woman is natural: i.e. heterosexual men. Therefore it does not apply to homosexuals, for whom ‘natural’ sexual activity is men with men, women with women. So ‘what is shameful’ would be a heterosexual person taking part in homosexual activity, or, presumably, vice versa.
Another interpretation of the Romans passage is that in the culture of the day, Paul did not understand what we now know as sexual orientation, so couldn't have been referring to those whose nature is for same-sex activity. A quote from Matthew Vine’s book is an example:
Paul’s description of same-sex behavior in this passage is indisputably negative. But he also explicitly described the behavior he condemned as lustful. He made no mention of love, fidelity, monogamy, or commitment. So how should we understand Paul’s words? Do they apply to all same-sex relationships? Or only to lustful, fleeting ones?
Of course, the above is a distortion of the passage, which quite clearly tells us that same-sex activity is a (quote) ‘vile passion’, regardless of the relationship in which it is performed.
In April 2014, Matthew Vines, an American author, published ‘God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships’, which was his attempt to make the Bible support a homosexual lifestyle. I was unaware of the existence of this book when I wrote this page, but I think there is little I need to add as the points I have made adequately cover it. However, if you would like a specific critique of the book then look here. There is also a free PDF download of a 95-page book called ‘God and the Gay Christian? A Response to Matthew Vines’ here, being a combined effort from the following five Christian scholars, presenting the same case I have given here, but of course in a much more scholarly manner:
R. Albert Mohler Jr. the ninth president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary;
James M. Hamilton Jr. professor of biblical theology at Southern Seminary;
Denny Burk, professor of biblical studies at Boyce College;
Owen Strachan, assistant professor of Christian theology and church history at Boyce College;
Heath Lambert, assistant professor of biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College.
Surely, though, the important point is what the writer, Paul, had in mind when writing it: what he was intending us to understand. There are websites on the Internet claiming the ‘gay church’ interpretation is exactly what he had in mind, delving into the Greek words in the text in order to try to prove their point. However, the fact is that Paul was a trained Pharisee, well versed in Old Testament law.
I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
…circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
Even as a Christian, he still acted as an observant Jew in regard to the law:
Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the law… Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification
Acts 21:24, 26
He summed up his beliefs as follows:
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.
Therefore it is inconceivable he could possibly have had in his mind, while writing to the Romans, that sexual activity, expressly condemned in the law as an abomination, could be considered ‘natural’. However, in regard to other matters of the law, he and the leaders of the Church clearly taught that Gentiles had no requirement to follow them:
...some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law"—to whom we gave no such commandment… For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.
Acts 15:24, 28–29
It is possible, by taking a single verse of scripture in isolation from the rest of the Bible, and manipulating words, to prove almost any kind of wrong teaching. However, everything else that is mentioned in the Bible on the subject proves that Romans 1:26–27 means exactly what the plain interpretation of the text says: homosexual acts are a distortion of God’s perfect plan of sexual union between a man and a woman. The ‘natural use’ refers to the use God originally created, not what seems to be natural to a person whose nature has been messed up, which, as mentioned previously, applies to all of us.
Other relevant New Testament scripture include:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites…
1 Corinthians 6:9
The authorised version translates the final four words of this verse in the above translation,
“abusers of themselves with mankind.”
The Greek word is: αρσενοκοίτης; arsenokoites; ar–sen–ok–oy'–tace; From G730 and G2845; a sodomite: – abuser of (that defile) self with mankind.
(Strong’s Greek Dictionary)
The same word appears in 1 Timothy where it is included in a list of those living contrary to the law, which also includes fornicators and liars (therefore putting fornication, lying and homosexual acts on the same level).
…knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine,
1 Timothy 1:9–10
It is also the case that there is no example of homosexual activity taking place anywhere in the Bible – Old or New Testament – where it is condoned. Some may try to cite the love David and Jonathon had for each other; but this would be incorrect. The number of wives David had gives the lie to him being homosexual; and since he lived at a time when the Levitical law was most certainly in force, it is inconceivable that God would have called him ‘a man after His own heart’ if he was indulging in an activity He considered an abomination! Indeed, after David’s life was over, God said of him:
But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…
1 Samuel 13:14 (spoken to King Saul)
For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the LORD his God, as was the heart of his father David …walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David… David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes… keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did…
1 Kings 11:4, 33,34, 38
While it is true that David did disobey God’s law on occasions, he also repented of those things, accepting that what he had done was sin and asking for forgiveness: this is very different from doing something God said was wrong and claiming it was not wrong! Furthermore, as King he had the power to do whatever he wanted. If he had desired bi–sexual activity he could have got it and the fact would have been recorded in the Bible.
For anyone to claim that the relationship of love between Jesus and the apostle John was sexual would equally be clutching at straws. The notion that love between two males must therefore include sexual activity is ludicrous: if a man loves his son, does this mean he is going to have sex with him? Of course not!
The only sexual activity shown as legitimate anywhere in the Bible is that between a man and a woman in a marriage relationship. Indeed, when answering a question about divorce, Jesus spelled out exactly what God intended when he created us:
But from the beginning of the creation, God 'made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'; so then they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.
It could not be clearer: God’s design for humans, having created them in two different sexes, is for one from each sex to be joined together in marriage, physically united by sexual intercourse into ‘one flesh’. According to Mark, the very reason God made them male and female was so that, when they become adults, they can leave their natural family and become a new family together – one male and one female. Anything other than this has moved away from His original design and is something different from what He intended.
Of course, one of the main reasons for Christians not accepting clear Bible teaching on this subject is that the thin end of the wedge appeared when theistic evolution made its appearance. This had two effects:
1. It introduced the idea that it is valid to twist scripture into an interpretation different from, or opposite to, its plain meaning on the basis of outside influences. Regarding evolution, therefore, it is presumed to be right to interpret the six days of Exodus 20:11 as billions of years on the basis of the opinions of some scientists; and regarding homosexuality, Rom 1:27 is presumed to mean it is valid for a man to have a sexual relationship with another man on the basis of the desires of some men: both interpretations obviously being the opposite of what the writers intended.
2. If God created everything by means of evolution, then the way everything ended up is the way He intended it. Therefore those with homosexual desires are the way He designed them to be. However, theistic evolution is not only contrary to good science, it is contrary to basic Christian doctrine, which teaches that God’s perfect design has been marred because of sin and will only be restored to His original intention when He creates the new heavens and earth as described at the end of the book of Revelation. The claim that we are all in the image of God is incorrect: only three people have been perfectly in God’s image - Adam, Eve and Jesus. While His image can be seen in the entire human race, it is seen imperfectly because of the distortion of the sinful nature we all inherited.
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
So anything other than the Biblical union of a husband and his wife distorts the picture of the relationship between Christ and the Church. The Church’s union with Christ is mirrored by the husband’s union with his wife: in fact the entire passage in Ephesians 5:22–33 relates Christ and the Church to man and woman. So man and man, or woman and woman is something very different from God’s intention.
We should not be surprised that some people find themselves different sexually from this: after all, we all find other things in our bodies or natural inclinations that are different from God’s original intention. Indeed, when looking at the entire human race, it is possible to find distortion of the original design in every single aspect of our being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. Every part of the human body can be found to be faulty in someone, somewhere in the world. So why should sexuality be isolated from problems? All of these problems are the combined result of sin entering our world and Satan’s attacks on the human race.
For a person born blind, or deaf, or physically or mentally disabled in some way, their condition may be ‘normal’ for them, but I’m sure they would not consider it to be desirable. It is neither their fault nor sinful that they were born this way, just as it is not anyone’s fault or sinful if they were born with sexual desires different from God’s design. However, God does hold us accountable for our behaviour, and acting in any way different from the standard He has laid out for us in His word, this He does call, “Sin.”
The problem with promoting the idea that homosexuality is valid, normal and desirable creates an atmosphere in society that can wreak havoc on impressionable children and young people as they develop through the stages of growing up, with hormones whirling around to which they have been unaccustomed, and push them into ending up with sexual desires and orientation that would not have been the case had they not been influenced in this way.
The General Synod clergy who, in February 2017, voted against the bishops’ recommendation that the church’s scriptural position on sexuality ought to be maintained, should bear in mind the words of Jesus:
But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.
It would appear that homosexuals, who claim their sexual orientation is what God has designed for them, are demanding special treatment. For example, if a married couple’s ‘natural’ desire for sex was such that they both craved many sexual partners and were happy for each other so to indulge, would the Church of England agree it is therefore be valid for them to do so? Of course not! The Bible expressly forbids it. Such activity is declared to be sinful. So this couple must restrain their ‘natural’ desire in order to be obedient to God. What about the paedophile, whose nature is to engage in sexual activity with children? Since it is what his nature demands, is he right in indulging in it? Of course not! He must deny his natural inclination.
However, the ‘homosexual Christian’ demands that while the ‘natural desires’ of the married couple and the paedophile of the previous paragraph must be resisted, indeed to do otherwise would be sin, his own natural desire must be followed. This is inconsistent. There is a very balanced Christian perspective on this here, written by three men pulled by sexual desires they know are contrary to God’s will for them.
For a short time I had organ lessons from a brilliant organist. One thing he said has always stayed with me:
“There’s no such thing as difficult music: it is either easy or impossible.”
Of course, what he meant was that all music is either within a musician’s capability or beyond it. If it is within his ability, then it should be practised enough for the fingers to go ‘automatically’ where they should, when they should, in the way they should. Thus, no matter how difficult it was at the start, once mastered it becomes easy. If the music is beyond a musician’s ability, then no matter how much practice he does, he will never be able to play it, so it is impossible.
The Christian life is like this. The requirements of God are such that it is absolutely impossible for any human to fulfil them. However, in His great love for us He offers to us His own power and ability to do it. If we try to do it on our own it is impossible: if He is doing it for us, it is easy. For the homosexual person, the thought that this nature should be contained or resisted may be overwhelming; but it is no more difficult than for a heterosexual person who is either hooked on pornography or prostitution, or, for whatever reason, obliged to live an unmarried life. Or for the paedophile or the inveterate liar, or the selfish person, or the bully or anyone struggling with a nature that pushes them in the opposite direction to that required by God – which actually means all of us! Alone, none of us can meet God’s demands. With Him, the impossible standards can become second nature.
Of course, this does not mean the Christian life is always going to be comfortable or pleasant. There are many millions of Christians around the world suffering the most terrible persecution for their faith. But the power of God within us makes the impossible possible, and many who could not have withstood such terrible treatment alone have done so with the supernatural power God’s presence brings.
It is also the case that reaching the point where one can access God’s power to do what we cannot do ourselves is not easy:
“Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
The one thing we cannot do is to claim we are the way God made us and therefore our nature is what He intends and is valid. None of us is the way He made us: sin has distorted the perfection He created. He does not hold us morally responsible for the way we were born, because clearly this was beyond our control. He has made the way of escape for us though, and certainly holds us responsible for the choice we make whether to accept it or not.
And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
There are no ‘special cases’. We are all in the same boat with natures and inclinations that run contrary to God’s will, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike. Now, what I think about this subject is totally unimportant. What God thinks is of supreme importance, because we all will have to stand before Him at the end of our lives and answer for what we have done. The one excuse He will not accept is,
“It was the way You made me.”
I think His reply will be along the lines of,
“The perfect creation I made was distorted by sin. I made a way of escape for you in the person of Jesus. Why did you choose to ignore Him by pretending that what I said is wrong behaviour was legitimate, and not come to Him for deliverance?”
In February 2013 the UK Prime Minister forced a bill through parliament, against the wishes of almost half of his Conservative party, but with the support of Labour and Liberal Democrat MP's, making ‘homosexual marriage’ legitimate. During the time of my generation, we have seen, bit by bit, Christian principles and values eroded by successive governments. The result has been to change British society from a largely Christian one to something that is not merely neutral, but diametrically opposed to that expressed by our Creator.
Emboldened by this, shortly afterwards the ‘gay lobby’ tried to put pressure on David Attenborough to portray animals exhibiting homosexual behaviour in his documentaries on wildlife. Of course, all this would achieve would be to demonstrate that when humans do the same they are acting like animals! I do not make this comment lightly. Humans are unique amongst all living things in that they have a conscience, can think abstractly and therefore are able to choose to act in accordance with their reasoning rather than their physical desires. All animals can do is to follow their instincts, and when those instincts go awry (in the same way that everything else has done in this damaged, broken world) then acting contrary to their original design is behaviour that is to be expected. Acting from one’s natural instincts regardless of any other criteria is exactly what animals do; humans have the option, indeed the responsibility, to do otherwise. When they do not do so, then, as the Bible says:
But these people scoff at things they do not understand. Like unthinking animals, they do whatever their instincts tell them, and so they bring about their own destruction.
Of course, the ‘gay lobby’ would say that because animals act in this way, it proves the behaviour is normal. This, of course, is based on the assumption that animals were our ancestors and is founded on the religious faith that God does not exist, everything created itself through evolution, and that there are no ‘absolutes’ so we choose for ourselves what is acceptable behaviour. As can be seen throughout this website, evolution is totally impossible, therefore a Creator must exist, who would therefore ensure we had the means to discover His intention for His creation. It is imperative that we follow everything He has so clearly revealed.
Rachmaninov C# Minor Prelude
I offer this as a musical explanation of the way we acheive what the Lord requires of us.
Right in their own eyes
And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,
"You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
An oracle within my heart concerning the transgression of the wicked: there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes, when he finds out his iniquity and when he hates. The words of his mouth are wickedness and deceit; he has ceased to be wise and to do good. He devises wickedness on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he does not abhor evil.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and depart from evil.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirits.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.
Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.
The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but the poor who has understanding searches him out.
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not washed from its filthiness.
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
"If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, and shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; and I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."
"He who kills a bull is as if he slays a man; he who sacrifices a lamb, as if he breaks a dog's neck; he who offers a grain offering, as if he offers swine's blood; he who burns incense, as if he blesses an idol. Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight."
But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.' Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.
but they have walked according to the dictates of their own hearts and after the Baals, which their fathers taught them,"
Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but everyone followed the dictates of his evil heart; therefore I will bring upon them all the words of this covenant, which I commanded them to do, but which they have not done.'"
And they said, "That is hopeless! So we will walk according to our own plans, and we will every one obey the dictates of his evil heart."
Scripture taken from the New King James Version.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations labelled NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation,
copyright ©1996, 2004. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream,, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations labelled AV are from The Authorized (King James) Version.
Rights in the Authorized Version in the United Kingdom are vested in the Crown.
Reproduced by permission of the Crown’s patentee, Cambridge University Press.
Quotations labelled MKJV is scripture taken from the Holy Bible, Modern King James Version
Copyright © 1962 - 1998 by Jay P. Green, Sr. Used by permission of the copyright holder
Quotations labelled RSV is scripture taken from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible,
copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Page picture free image from here.