Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Freedom in Christ Session 8: Handling emotions well


This morning we are continuing our Freedom in Christ study, looking at the important issue of how to handle our emotions well.

We can’t directly control how we feel

How do our emotions work?

If you think for a moment about the way in which you brain controls your body, there are some things you can and you cannot control. For example, when you choose to speak, or move part of your body, you are in control of that action. But the brain is also in control of things which you do not have direct control over, like for example causing your heart to beat or to regulate breathing. As you sit there listening to me, you do not have to consciously think about breathing, it just happens.

The same is true when it comes to our emotions, there are some things we can control and other things we cannot control. For example, if I told you to like someone you simply detest, you cannot simply change your emotions in an instance, it doesn’t happen that way.

So how do we handle our emotions well? Although we are not able to will ourselves to change how we feel, we can change our emotions over time, by choosing to change what we can control, by how we believe and behave.

Our feelings reveal what we really believe

Your emotions are to your soul what your ability to feel pain is to your body.

Suppose someone had the power to take away the sensation of pain. Would this be something you’d like?

It would be tempting wouldn’t it, especially if you suffer from chronic pain. But it would be dangerous. For instance, leprosy is not a disease of the flesh but a disease of the nervous system. People who suffer leprosy loose feeling, and so they don’t sense pain when they burn themselves or cut themselves, and this is why the damage is caused. Pain actually acts as a warning to us when we’ve hurt ourselves.

Our emotions can operate in the same way. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you never felt depressed, or anxious or angry? But these emotions give us important feedback to warn us that something is not right.

Feelings are a result of what we choose to believe

Although we can’t control our emotions directly, what we feel is in a general sense the result of what we believe or choose to think.

The trouble is that, if what you believe does not reflect truth, then what you feel will not reflect reality.

Suppose you work for a company that is ‘downsizing’, and people are being laid off. On your desk on Monday morning is a note from your boss. He wants to see you at 10.30 on Friday morning. If you think you are going to be laid off, you will probably get angry. If you are uncertain, you may feel anxious. By Thursday you are depressed because you have convinced yourself that you are going to lose your job. By Friday morning you are an emotional mess – all because of what you were thinking, and none of it was based on reality. At the meeting your boss surprises you by giving you a pay rise. Now how would you feel? You spent all week feeling bad because you did not know the truth.

Lamentations 3 illustrates well the relationship between beliefs and emotions. Jeremiah is having a bad day – he is utter despair because he believes, quite wrongly, that God is the cause of all his physical problems.

I am the man who has seen affliction, by the rod of his wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me… He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones.

Jeremiah’s conclusion in verse 18 is: So I say “My splendour is gone and all that I hoped from the Lord.”

What was Jeremiah’s problem? Simply that what he believed about God wasn’t actually true! God had not afflicted him.

Then Jeremiah has a change in perspective.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion therefore I will wait for him.” (Lamentations 3:19-24)

What changed for Jeremiah? Was it his circumstances? No! The only thing that changed was in his mind: how he looked at his circumstances.

Life’s events don’t determine who you are or what you feel – it’s your perception of those events.

If what you believe does not reflect the truth, then what you feel will not reflect reality.

The more we commit ourselves to the truth and choose to believe what God says is true, the more we will see our circumstances from God’s perspective and the less our feelings will run away with us.

Changing how we feel

So the big question: if we are overwhelmed by difficult circumstances from the past or the present, which cause us to be plagued by negative emotions, what can we do about it?

Let’s look at a situation in the Bible which appeared to be overwhelming: the Israelite army versus Goliath and the Philistine army (1 Samuel 17). For the Israelite army the situation seemed impossible, how could they defeat this army, particularly when they had Goliath.

But then David comes along, pulls out his sling and says, “How dare you challenge the armies of the living God?” and he kills Goliath.

Both David and the Israelite army were confronted by the same situation. One group saw the giant in relationship to themselves, but David saw the giant in relationship to God. Which saw the situation as it really was?

You are not affected so much by your environment and circumstances as by how you see your environment and circumstances.

Can faith in God make that kind of difference in our lives? Absolutely! And it’s not just blind faith – it’s simply recognising what is actually true.

When you are confronted with a situation and feel overwhelmed, where does the stress come from? From the stressful situation? No – not directly. The main cause of stress comes from the way in which your mind interprets what is happening.

The main cause of stress is that we have come to believe through past experiences or failures that we can’t do anything about the difficult situation – we have learned a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. But as a Christian we are not helpless or hopeless. Healing comes by changing that sense of helplessness and hopelessness, by changing the way we think, what the Bible calls renewing your mind, understanding what is really true about God rather than what you experiences have caused you to believe, and committing yourself to believe that what God says is true even if it doesn’t feel true.

The principle in the Bible is: believe the truth and live the truth by faith, and when we do this our emotions respond accordingly. Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13:17). You don’t feel your way into good behaviour. You behave your way into good feelings.

We start by choosing to believe the truth, which works itself out in our behaviour, and this over time leads to a change in our feelings.

Learning to handle emotions well

Your emotions are like the red warning light on the dashboard of your car. They are there to alert you to a potentially serious problem under the bonnet.

There are essentially three ways to reacting when the light comes on. You could ignore the warning light – that is suppression, you could explode in anger & smash the light – this is indiscriminate expression, or you could look under the bonnet – that is acknowledgement

Cover it up (suppression)

Suppression is when we consciously ignore our feelings or choose not to deal with them. The trouble with this is that if we try to bottle up our feelings too long, they can come to dominate our life, and this is an unhealthy way to deal with our emotions.

Feelings don’t die when you bury them, they are buried alive and they surface in some unhealthy way. It’s like trying to bury a mole – it will just burrow it’s way up to the surface again. Suppressing our emotions is physically unhealthy.

Explode (indiscriminate expression)

Another unhealthy way of responding to emotions is thoughtlessly to express everything you feel.

The problem with indiscriminate expression is that it is not healthy for those around us. It may temporarily feel good to you to ‘get things off your chest’, but it could be hurtful to other people like you spouse, children or friends.

James teaches that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” (James 1:19-20

Be Honest

So what should we do when the red light comes on? When we feel angry, anxious or depressed? The healthy response is to be honest and acknowledge how we feel, and this begins with acknowledging our emotions with God. God knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, and so we can be entirely open and honest with him, we can even express our anger with him, because nothing will take his love from us.

When we open up with God, just as when we open up with others, when we pour out our pain and feelings, it acts as an emotional catharsis.

Jesus was emotionally honest. He wept over the city of Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus. In the Garden of Gethsemane he said, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” (Mark 14:34). Now if the Lord of the universe needs to be expressive and honest like that, what about you and me.

We need to be honest with God, if we are to have an open relationship with him.

Handing past traumas

We have been talking about managing day to day emotions, but what about major traumas from the past?

All of us have had traumatic experiences that have scarred us emotionally and left us with emotional baggage – a fearful experience, loss of a loved one, some form or abuse. These experiences are often deeply buried in our memories, but surface when triggered by some event in the present. People simply try to avoid present events that trigger those kinds of feeling. “I am not going there if so and so is there.” “I don’t want to talk about that subject right now.” But God doesn’t want emotional pain from our past to influence us negatively today.

When you suffered negative experiences – violence, abuse, rejection or whatever – you mentally processed it at the time it happened. It almost certainly caused you to believe some things about God and yourself. “I couldn’t resist the abuse – I’m powerless, I’m a victim.” “Those bullies told me I was rubbish – I guess I am.” “My dad never has time for me – I’m not important.”

Mental strongholds distort our understanding of who we are and who God is. We remain in bondage to the past, not because of the trauma itself, but because of the lies we believed at the time. It’s like a Land Rover driving across a muddy field day after day making deep ruts. Those lies become like deep ruts in our minds. If we don’t actively steer out of them by choosing truth, we will continue to live according to the same old patterns.

As children of God, we are not primarily products of our past. We are products of Christ’s work on the cross and his resurrection. Nobody can fix our past, but we can be free from it. We can re-evaluate our past from the perspective of who we are now in Christ. From this truth perspective, God sets us free as we forgive from our hearts those people who have offended us.

We all carry around within us emotions of hurt and pain, things in our lives that we would like to be rid off. And God speaks to us, saying, “I want to give you beauty for your ashes, oil for joy for your mourning, a garment of praise for your spirit of heaviness.” We can give God the ashes in our lives, and in exchange God gives us his beauty.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Grace of Giving: 2 Corinthians 8:1-15


A little boy wanted £100 badly and prayed for one week but nothing happened. Then he decided to write God a letter requesting £100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to GOD UK, they decided to send it to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister was so impressed, touched and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a £5 note. The Prime Minister thought this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The boy was delighted with the £5 and sat down to write a thank you note to God, which read: “Dear God, thank you very much for sending the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through to Downing Street and, as usual, they took most of it.”

This morning I want to talk about the subject of giving. It is an extremely important subject. As Christians we are called to give generously, with joy, as part of the outworking of the Holy Spirit’s life within us.

Of the 29 parables Jesus told, 16 deal with the subject of money, and in Matthew, Mark and Luke 1 out of ever 6 verses deals with the subject of money. It is something that as Christians we cannot ignore.

In our reading from 2 Corinthians 8, Paul writes about arrangements for an offering from the churches in Macedonia in northern Greece to the impoverished churches of Judea. We see from this passage that Paul did not see giving as a mundane matter. He saw the grace of giving as a core part of what it means for us to be members of Christ’s Church.

I want to draw out some of the principles in relation to giving, that Paul writes about in this letter.

Christian giving is an expression of the grace of God (2 Corinthians 8:1-6)

Paul does not begin by referring to the generosity of the churches of Macedonia. He starts instead with ‘the grace which God has given to the Macedonian churches’ (v1). Grace is another word for generosity. In other words, behind the generosity of the Christians in Macedonia, Paul saw the generosity of God. Our gracious God is a generous God, and he is at work in his people to make them generous too.

The church in Macedonia was not wealthy, far from it. Paul writes, “Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity.” They gave generously and with joy, because of what God had given them. And as Christians we give, not because we have to, but because we want to, it is part of our outpouring of praise and gratitude for God’s love and mercy. God has not withheld anything from us, he has given us his all, and so we should desire to give in return to God.

Paul in verse 8 writes, “I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. “ Paul is not commanding the Corinthians to give generously, but he is putting the sincerity of their love for God to the test, by comparing it with others, and to their response to God, reminding them of what Christ gave up for them and for us.

So our Christian giving should be in response to the grace that we have already received from God.

Christian giving can be a spiritual gift (8:7)

In verse 7 Paul writes, “But just as you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us--see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

Paul clearly sees Christian giving as a spiritual gift. Many of God’s gifts are bestowed in some measure on all believers. For example all Christians are called to share the gospel with others, but some have the gift of an evangelist. All Christians are called to exercise pastoral care for others, but some are called to be pastors. Just so, all Christians are called to be generous, but some are given the particular ‘gift of giving’. Those who have been entrusted with significant financial resources have a special responsibility to be good stewards of those resources.

In the story of the parable of the Talents, three servants are given talents (a sum of money) according to their abilities, to look after whilst their master is away. Two of the servants invest the money and are able to give the money back to their master with interest. Whereas one of the servants buries the talent in the ground, so that it doesn’t earn any interest. The response of the master to this lazy servant is one of anger. Because the understanding of the master was these talents were given for a specific purpose, to be used and multiplied. And likewise we are called to be good stewards of the resources God has given to us. The question we need to ask ourselves is not “How much of my money shall I use for God?” but “How much of God’s money shall I use for myself?”

Christian giving is proportionate giving (8:10-12)

The third thing we learn from this passage is that Christian giving is proportionate giving. Paul in verses 11 and 12 makes it clear that we should each give according to our means.

How much we give, will very much depend upon our different circumstances. But the Bible does challenge us to be generous givers. It is often the case that the most generous givers are those who seem to have the least. Think of the story of the poor widow in Mark’s Gospel, who puts in two small copper pieces into the Temple Treasury. In monetary value it was not worth much, but she gave all that she had. She gave sacrificially. Mother Teresa said that “If you give what you do not need, it isn't giving.”

We need to prayerfully consider what we can afford to give, and to consider what are our main priorities. For example, how much do we spend on hobbies, or holidays each year, or going out to for meals, or to the cinema or theatre, or buying a daily newspaper? And how does this compare to what we give to God?

Many Christians tithe. The word ‘Tithe’ means ‘tenth’ and to tithe means to give 10% of your income or goods back to God, supporting the work of the church, Christian organizations and other charities. The principal of tithing helps us to remember ‘All things comes from God, and of his own do we give him’. (1 Chronicles 29:14) So when we give to God, we give back to him, what he has given us. In the Bible when people tithed they gave the best and first fruits back to God. There is a principle here for us to follow which is that giving should be something that is planned and thought through. When was the last time you sat down and assessed how much you are giving back to God? As Christians every area of our lives must be open to God, this includes what we do with our money. All of us need to sit down and consider what can we afford to give. That will change depending upon our circumstances, whether we are in employment or retired, whether we are supporting children through education or not, and so forth.

Paul makes it clear, we should give according to our means, and that our giving should never be less than proportionate to our income. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 he writes, “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each person should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”

The joy of giving

God wants us to be cheerful givers. We should give not because we have to, but because we want to. God has lavished on us good gifts, and in gratitude we should desire to give some of these gifts back to God, to be used for the benefit of others. There should be a joy in giving.

I came across some interesting statistics the other day. One in five Britons suffers from financial phobia, a psychological condition which prevents them sort out their personal finances. According to research by Egg, the online bank, and a senior lecturer at Cambridge University, half the population show some symptoms of this condition. Symptoms include, feeling anxious, guilty, bored or out of control when managing their money. But I believe that if we develop a healthy attitude towards giving, it can actually help free us from an unhealthy obsession with money and material possessions.

Jesus said, it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). There is real grace in being able to give. Giving is not intended to be a heavy burden, although we are challenged to give generously. Julian of Norwich said, “A cheerful giver does not count the cost of what he gives. His heart is set on pleasing and cheering him to whom the gift is given.” We can fill up our lives with material possessions, but I have found that there is something incredibly liberating about giving money back to God. I came across this quote which goes: “The world says, the more you take, the more you have. Christ says, the more you give, the more you are.”


There is real joy in being able to give, and as Christians it we have an awesome privilege in being able to help others through our giving. We need to take a very responsible and prayerful attitude towards giving. The question we need to ask ourselves is, do we give what is right… or what is left?

Hearing God Speak

Based on an article by Roger Harper, published in 'Christianity' Magazine.

How often have you thought to yourself, wouldn’t it be good if God could speak directly to me? As you read the Bible, it seems that down through the ages God has spoken to people in very clear ways, so why is it that we don’t feel he communicates with us?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we too could hear God talking to us? Many of us believe that God speaks today through the Bible and through the Holy Spirit. We accept that there is the gift of prophecy which is given to some people. But we don’t often hear Jesus speaking to us personally, except in occasional inklings. I myself have on different occasions encouraged people to listen to God, but how do we actually do it?

Over the last few months, with the help and guidance of my spiritual director I have been discovering that God does in fact talk to us, and that it is possible to hear his voice, and for me it has been a journey of real discovery, which I will share with you.

So how does God speak to us?

Drawing examples from the Bible

Well first of all, lets begin with the Bible. Thinking of the people who heard God speaking to them. Some of the people that come to mind include Moses at the burning bush, Samuel in the Temple, Elijah on Mount Horeb, but there are others.

Now think: ‘Where were these people’? (Pause for responses)

Moses was on the far side of the wilderness, Samuel was in the Temple in the evening. The lamps were lit but the work was all done. Elijah was at the end of a long journey running away from likely retaliation, after defeating the prophets of Baal. The important thing to note was that each was away from home, away from the routine of the day, in an out of way place or an out of the busyness time. And if you examine the Bible, you will notice that the same is true of most of the Bible characters who heard God.

So what about us? How do we listen to God.

1 Be still, relaxed, mentally away from everyday worries.

Just think of these Bible characters. What was in their mind just before God spoke? Moses was looking at a bush burning, or more accurately not burning, and probably thinking “Wow! What?” Samuel was resting, looking at the Temple furniture gleaming gold, with the smoky incense rising in the lamplight. He too probably was thinking a gentler “Wow, that’s so lovely!” Elijah had just seen the dust and stones stampeded by a fierce wind, seen the whole earth ripple before him, seen an impossible fire come out of nowhere. “Wow! What?” was probably the thing he was thinking. Seeing something of the glory of God is common to people in the Bible just before they hear God.

2 Focus on a picture of the glory of God – who is Jesus.

We know that in Jesus we see God’s glory perfectly, the glory of the only Son, full of grace and truth. We relax and look to see Jesus in our imagination. It is easier first to imagine we are relaxing in an out of the way place, and then look round to see Jesus with us there. Or we imagine ourselves in a Gospel story with Jesus.

When God speaks to us, He speaks from the Holy Spirit within us, and not usually from outside us. Flowing as a stream of living water from our heart, thoughts, impressions, pictures come into our minds. (Give illustration of my own experiences).

In James 3:17 it says, “the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” We don’t need to work; instead we receive in faith what comes to us by grace. This gives us the third key.

3 Welcome the Holy Spirit flowing from within in impressions, pictures & words

Faith is important. We need to believe that what comes is from the Holy Spirit. But faith without works is dead or barren (James 2:20). It is important to do something which expresses our faith. In listening to God, voicing or writing down what comes to us is the expression of our faith in action.

4 Write out or speak out what comes

Once we have written or spoken what comes to us, we can then examine it. We can check if it is consistent with Scripture. We can ask other people if they think it is from God. This examination is necessary and important. But if we examine too quickly, we interrupt the flow of the Holy Spirit. First we have to receive in faith. Then we examine, and weigh what has come.

The Scriptural Basis for this technique

The basis for this technique of learning to listen to God, is based on Scripture. In the book of Habakkuk 2:1-2 in the Old Testament it says: “I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what He will say to me, and what He will answer concerning my complaint. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it.”

You will notice that Habakkuk did four things:
He went to an out of the way place
He looked to see
He expected God to speak
He wrote down what came to him

Habakkuk followed the four keys, and by doing this we can learn to hear God’s voice.

The Questions This Approach Creates

Of course one of the big questions that arises out of this approach, is how can we be certain it is God who is speaking to us, and not just our own inner projections?

This is why testing and discerning what we feel God may be saying to us, is so important. Our primary source is Scripture, God will not say or do anything contrary to what we know of him in Scripture. It is also helpful, when we try to hear God, to have two or three Christians you can trust, who you can share what you feel God may be saying, so they can confirm whether what you have heard is from God or not.

The important thing to remember, is that God only ever wills good for us, and not evil, and therefore when we feel God speaks to us, it will be to build up and encourage.

Listening to God using the four keys is like riding a motorbike. Learning to ride on two wheels means practicing a few simple movements, but doing them all together, while keeping alert. Motorbikes can be dangerous if ridden without care. The four keys are each simple, but it takes practice to learn to do them all together.

Our listening, however, is never to replace our following what the Bible says. Nowhere does Jesus tell us in so many words, to listen to Him like this, whereas He does tell us to obey all that He has commanded. Reading the commands of Jesus and following what He says in the Gospels is more fundamental to our discipleship.

However, having said this, listening to Him today, comforts us, encourages us and strengthens us in this discipleship. And prompts us constantly to wonder at His nearness to us and our dearness to Him.

Forgiving Ourselves

Adapted from an article published in 'Christianity' Magazine in September 2007, based on the new book by R T Kendal.


As Christians we know that we are meant to forgive other people. For example, when Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, he taught them these words, “Father, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” As I have talked about in the past, this is the only conditional clause in the Lord’s prayer. Our own forgiveness depends in part upon our willingness to forgive others.

In Matthew’s Gospel the question of forgiveness is raised by Peter when he asks Jesus, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Here Peter is trying to be clever, because the Jewish religious leaders said that you had to forgive someone three times, so Peter thinks he is going one better. But Jesus’ response is "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22) In other words forgiveness is a continual act.

Of course, we have to acknowledge that forgiving someone who has hurt us, is not always easy. In fact it can be very difficult, but at least as Christians we know that this is what we are meant to do.
But today, I want to look at the issue of forgiveness from a different perspective. I said a moment ago that sometimes we find forgiving others difficult, one of the reasons for this is that very often we struggle to accept that we ourselves have been forgiven.

Very often we carry around with us a deep sense of guilt about things we may have said or done in the past. And even if we have confessed this sin to God, very often we still feel a sense of guilt and shame. We do not live as though we are truly forgiven people.

There is a true story of a priest in the Philippines, a much- loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God's forgiveness.

In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was sceptical. To test her he said, "The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed. A few days later the priest asked, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?" "Yes, he did," she replied. "And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?" "Yes." "Well, what did he say?" "He said, 'I don't remember'" What God forgives, He forgets.
So this evening I want to look at the reasons why we should totally forgive ourselves.

1 It is what God wants you to do
This is what many of us have difficulty in believing, that God really wants to forgive us. But sometimes we feel it is simply too good to be true that God would totally forgive us all our sins because Jesus died on the cross for us.

Paul in Ephesians 4:31 writes, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Just as it is wrong to be bitter, to hold a grudge and not to forgive others, so it is a sin to be bitter towards ourselves, to hold a grudge against ourselves and not to forgive ourselves.

God loves us, and wants us to be secure in that love. He did not create us to hate ourselves. It should be one of the most natural things in the world to love ourselves. This is why we are commanded to love our neighbour as we love ourselves (Matthew 19:19). As I was saying this morning
o We are loved
o We are God’s masterpiece
o We are Significant
o We are Holy
o We are Beautiful
o We are Forgiven
o We are Unique
o We are Accepted
o We are Free

God wants us to know and understand this. Jesus was given a mandate to “release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18). There is nothing more oppressive than guilt. God does not oppress us and is not the author of fear. Fear is of the devil. The devil wants you to be afraid and he certainly does not want you to forgive yourself.

2 Satan does not want you to forgive yourself
The CEV translates 2 Corinthians 5:10-11 like this: “I will forgive anyone you forgive. Yes, for your sake and with Christ as my witness, I have forgiven whatever needed to be forgiven. I have done this to keep Satan from getting the better of us. We all know what goes on in his mind.”
Why does Paul refer to forgiveness in connection with the devil’s schemes? Because when we refuse to forgive others, or refuse to forgive ourselves, it makes us more vulnerable to the Devil’s attacks. The devil is the accuser, whereas God wants to build us up and encourage us, the devil wants to attack us and drag us down. Satan does not want you to forgive yourself. He loves your misery. Whereas Christ came to see us free from guilt and sin, the Satan wants to bind us to it. You are no threat to Satan when you are punishing yourself and living in torment over what happened yesterday, or years ago.

What Satan attempts, is to keep your paralysed and living in a pit of near despair over what is in the past. He is the one who whispers lies into your heart, saying “what you did was so terrible that not even God could forgive you.” “You don’t deserve to be forgiven” “You’re worthless.” This is how Satan tries to drag us down, but God speaks to us through Scripture and through his Holy Spirit, saying “You are my child. You are precious. You are loved. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. I sent my son Jesus into the world to die for you, so that you may experience my forgiveness.”

The apostle James encourages us by saying: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:9)

3 You will have inner peace and freedom from the bondage of guilt
The third reason God wants you to forgive yourself is so that you can experience his inner peace and freedom. There was one occasion about 9 years ago, when I did something I felt deeply ashamed of, and as I went to bed that night to poured my heart out to God was genuinely repentant, and asked for God to come and forgive me. And that night as I slept, I heard God speak to me in my dream, and all he said, over and over, was “I forgive you, I forgive you…” When I woke up the following morning, I knew God had forgiven me, and all the worry and anxiety I had been feeling melted away and was replaced by a deep sense of inner peace.

Maybe you also need to experience God’s peace and forgiveness. In the freedom in Christ course that we’ve been looking at over the last few weeks in church, we’ve been learning about the importance of trusting in God’s word. And God promises us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

4 It will help you love people more
One of the reasons people find it hard to forgive themselves totally, is because they don’t like themselves. How often have you stood in front of the mirror and not liked the person you see staring back at you? Maybe there are things that we physically do not like about ourselves, or maybe it is things to do with our personality, and as I was talking about this morning, these thought patterns can produce strongholds in our lives.

But this is not the way God wants us to think of behave. God loves us unconditionally, and wants us to love ourselves.

Totally forgiving ourselves helps us to love people more. The apostle John writes “If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” We could reinterpret this verse by saying If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates himself, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love himself, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” We cannot be in a position to think about loving others when we cannot love ourselves.

This is not a call to unbridled individualism and selfishness, we are called to put God first in our lives, others second and ourselves last, but this is not the same as hating ourselves. We are to have a proper understanding and respect for who we are as people made and loved by God.

5 It will enable you to fulfil all God has in mind for you and keep you from being paralysed by the past.
God does not want us to be paralysed by the past, he wants us to know true freedom. Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 13, says that the greatest gift that we can have as Christians is love. And one aspect of love is not pointing the finger, in other words, keeping no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). God grants us true freedom and forgiveness, but if we do not believe we’re truly forgiven, we are missing out of the God’s loving reassurance and mercy. When we have totally forgive ourselves and accepted God’s forgiveness it shows in the way we live.

6 Your own physical health could be at stake
It has been proved by medical research that holding a grudge can injure your health. Studies have shown that unforgivness can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, arthritis and other ailments. It is reasonable to assume that if anger and bitterness are bad for your physical health, so not forgiving yourself is bad for your health too, because you’re holding a grudge against yourself.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus puts our physical needs before the spiritual. First came ‘give us this day our daily bread’ then came ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us’. Jesus placing the physical before the spiritual demonstrates that God cares about our health and our well being.

7 Our mental & emotion health could be at stake
When we are unwilling to receive God’s forgiveness, it is often because we carry a deep sense of guilt for something we’ve said or done, or maybe failed to do. Again, one of the things God wants to do is to free us from this guilt which can be like a strangle hold on our lives.

8 Our spiritual state is at stake
If we carry around within us feelings or hurt, or grudges, bitterness or rage, and when we refuse to accept God’s forgiveness, it prevents the fruits of the spirit from growing in our lives, the fruits of love, joy, peace, self control and gentleness.
How do we forgive ourselves?

A Sunday School teacher had just concluded her lesson and wanted to make sure she had made her point. She said, "Can anyone tell me what you must do before you can obtain forgiveness of sin?" There was a short pause and then, from the back of the room, a small boy spoke up. "Sin," he said.

To receive God’s forgiveness, all we need to do is confess our sins and turn from the wrong we have done. And if we do this, and genuinely mean it, then God will forgive us, because through the cross of Christ God has open the door of forgiveness to us. The blood of Jesus has washed our sins away. And the least I can do, therefore, in the light of God forgiving me, is to forgive myself.
I want to finish with this final story. In 1880, James Garfield was elected president of the United States, but after only six months in office, he was shot in the back with a revolver. He never lost consciousness. At the hospital, the doctor probed the wound with his little finger to seek the bullet, but he couldn't find it.

They took Garfield back to Washington, D.C. Despite the summer heat, they tried to keep him comfortable. He was growing very weak. Teams of doctors tried to locate the bullet, probing the wound over and over. The president hung on through July, through August, but in September he finally died-not from the wound, but from infection. The repeated probing, which the physicians thought would help the man, eventually, killed him. So it is with us when we dwell too long on our sin and refuse to release it to God. As Christians we are wonderfully privileged, because through God we can be forgiven.

Forgiving ourselves is not merely an option, it is something God wants us all to do. Let’s pray.

Freedom in Christ Session 7: The battle for our minds

The following sermon is taken from the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course by Neil Anderson & Steve Goss.

Today the title for our talk is ‘The Battle For Our Minds’. And I want to look this morning at one particular aspect of the way our minds our thinking is challenged and influenced.

In Ephesians 6:10, Paul writes, Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.

I suspect that all of us here want to be the best Christian possible; we want to live the best life possible. Paul says, if you want to be that person, if you want to be strong in the Lord, then you’ll need to understand what it means to put on the full armour of God. Why? Because in verse 11 Paul writes: “so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”

I don’t know how you react to that statement? I suspect if I was to ask you what are you struggling with at the moment, people would talk about financial issues they are having to face, or issues at work, health concerns, or difficulties in relationships. I don’t think many people would say, “Well Simon, I’m really struggling against the dark powers that are at work in the world.”

But Paul says behind the physical world that you can see, there is another world you cannot see, and that is a spiritual world. And this spiritual world which we cannot see, affects the physical world we do see.

The tendency of those of us brought up with a Western worldview is to dismiss the reality of the spiritual world. But running throughout the Bible, we read that there is a struggle going on, a spiritual battle. It is a battle between kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. A struggle between lies and the truth, it’s a struggle between what’s wrong and what is right. And it reaches its great climax in the book of Revelation when there is a big show down between the Christ and the Antichrist, between good and evil.

We may think that as Christian’s we are immune from this struggle, but we’re not. We’re in the very middle of it, this is why Paul says as Christians ‘we need to put on the armour of God’.

So we need to understand who it is we are struggling against, and what it means to put on the armour of God.

Satan the Deceiver

When we start talking about the Devil, it is one of those topics that make people very uneasy, after all it is not a topic we hear about much in church. But I believe that as Christians we need to take the Devil seriously, because Jesus did, referring to the Devil as the prince (ruler) of this world.” (John 12:31).

So, who is Satan and how does he work?

With our way of looking at the world, we tend to divide the world into “natural” and “supernatural”, with God and Satan being part of the “supernatural”. The Bible, however, divides it differently and makes the distinction between “Creator” and “created”. Like us, Satan is a created being, whereas God is the Creator. There is no comparison between the two. They are not equal and opposite powers or anything remotely like that, though Satan would like you to think that they are. In fact, it has been said to compare Satan to God is like comparing an ant to an atomic bomb.

Because of this Satan’s power and authority cannot even begin to compare to God’s. In fact Satan has been completely disarmed and defeated, through the cross of Christ.

How Satan Works

Jesus described the devil as a theif. He said, ‘The thief comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy.” The devil’s ultimate aim is to destroy our lives. “But” Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and life in all its fullness.” Jesus wants therefore to protect us from going the wrong way.

One of the ways in which Satan works is by putting thoughts or doubts into our minds. For example, in Genesis 3, we see how the Devil tempts Adam and Eve. The first thing he does, is to plant seeds of doubt into Eve’s mind. In Genesis chapter 2, God gives permission to Adam and Eve to eat from any tree from the garden of Eden, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But the devil in the form of a serpent, says to Eve, ‘Did God really say ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’ Doubt is always the devil’s starting point, because the thing he doesn’t want us to have is faith. The devil is always trying to make us doubt God, and to undermine us. The Devil whispers to us, “If you are a Christian why did x, y or z just happen?” He attempts to sow seeds of doubt within us, because he want us to doubt who we are in Christ, because then it is so much easier to accuse us and tempt us. And when we are full of doubt, and uncertainty, it becomes much easier for us to give in, to throw in the towel, we pray less, we drop out of home groups, and we don’t go to church as often.

What Satan is trying to do, is to take our focus away from God. For example, in 1 Chronicles 21:1 we read “Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel.” You may ask, well what is wrong with that? But what the Devil was doing, was tempting David to take his confidence away from God and put it in his own resources, counting how many troops he had. What the Devil was doing was drawing David’s focus away from God. So David’s decision about going to war, would be based on how many people he had in his army, not on whether God was going to give him the victory or not. Satan encourages David to take his eyes off God, “Go on David, stop trusting in God, count your army to make sure you’ve got enough men to win the battle.” And so David’s gaze began to slip from the Creator down. And did David realise that it was Satan who was playing a trick on him? No! Because if he had, he would have been wise to his schemes and told him to get lost, because David was a godly man most of the time. David thought the idea was his own, and that is why he embraced it. And we need to be careful that some of the ideas that come into our mind, that we harbour as our own are in line with the truth.

When it comes to temptation, the Devil is again very subtle, he knows where the areas of weakness are in our lives, and that is where he attacks us. For example, think about one of the ways the Devil tempted Jesus whilst in the wildness. After a long fast, lasting forty days, when Jesus was weak and hungry, the Devil tempts him to turn stones into bread. The Devil knew that Jesus was hungry, and at that tempts him with that very basic physical need. The Devil will try and tempt us with the things that we struggle with the most. It might be with food, or drink, unhealthy or inapproriate relationships, the opposite sex, money, etc., etc. He whispers things into our mind, saying “Go on, no one will know, you deserve it, it will make you feel good, it doesn’t matter.” But as soon as we give into these temptations, Satan accuses us, because he is also the accuser. “How can you call yourself a Christian, and do that” And he can plant thoughts into our minds like “I’m stupid”, “I’m no good”, “I’ll never change”, “God doesn’t love me”.

And what he is attempting is to get us caught in a spiral of temptation and accusation. The Devil is trying to do, is get a foot hold in our lives. The Greek word for “foothold” is topos, which literally means “place.” So for example, in Ephesians 4:26 Paul writes, In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anger itself is not sinful – it’s just an emotion, but if we don’t deal with it properly it can turn to bitterness and we give the Devil a “place” a “foothold” in our lives.

What the Devil seeks to do, is to lead us into sin, so he can gain a point of influence in our lives.

The good news is that these footholds can be overcome in Christ. So how do we stand up against the Devil.

Our Defence

Jesus came to destroy the works of Satan, he has defeated Satan at the cross and disarmed him. Christ’s crucifixion, resurrection and ascension ensure that all authority on earth and heaven has been given to Him.

What is Jesus’ position now?

Ephesians 1:19-22 tells us that Jesus is seated at God’s right hand, the ultimate seat of power and authority, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion.” God has placed all things under His feet and we are told that Jesus is now “head over everything.” Why, because he is part of the Creator, not the created. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-3, 14)

So what is our position?

Ephesians 2:6 “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”

We are seated with Jesus, far above Satan, and as Christians we have been given authority over the kingdom of darkness, because of our position in Christ. Jesus says, “All authority, in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:18-19)

We have God’s power as long as we are filled (controlled) by the Holy Spirit, which is why Paul wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.” (Ephesians 6:10). When we live in God’s power, and rely upon his resources, Satan has no control over us, he cannot touch us, but if we rely upon our own resources or power then we open a door to allow him to attack us.

Even though Satan is defated, he still “prowls around, like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” as 1 Peter 5:8 puts it. Therefore Paul tells us to put on the armour of God and stand firm. You put on armour when you go into battle, to protect yourself. We are to put on the belt of truth, that is to know that we are in Christ. We’re not to listen to the Devil’s lies or deception, we listen to God’s word. We are to put on the breastplate of rightousness, so that when Satan flings accusations at us, they do not stick, because we are in a right relationship with God. We put on the shield of faith, so that we can stand against Satan’s assualt on our minds.

James 4:7 says, “Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” As long as you are submitting to God, then the devil will have no choice but to flee. This applies to every Christian no matter how weak and feeble you feel or how short a time you have been a Christian. Every believer has the same authority and power in Christ over the spiritual world, because we have been raised up with Christ to the heavenly realms.

Do not be frightened

Therefore we are not to be frightened. Satan wants you to be frightened of him because he wants to be worshipped above God. But the truth is that as Christians we have absolutely no cause to fear him, because we’re in Christ, and nothing can separate us from him.

On the contrary, the reason Satan flees from us when we resist him, is because he knows that the extent of the power and authority that we have in Christ.

Turn on the Light

Satan has no power over us, unless he can deceive us into believing that he does – and we only give him that power when we fail to believe the truth.

We are to set our minds on Christ, because when we do this, we expose Satan’s lies and deceipts. Satan’s lies cannot withstand God’s truth any more than night can withstand the rising sun. When you go into a dark room, and you don’t want it to be dark anymore, you don’t shoo the darkness away, you put the light on. And in our minds, we ask God to turn on the light, so that we can know the truth and see the truth, so that my heart and mind can be set free, and focused on Jesus.

Jesus says. “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31) “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6) When you put on the armour of God, the first thing you do is put on the belt of truth.

Knowing the truth of who we are in Christ, enables us know the difference between God’s truth and the Devil’s lies.

The way bank tellers are trained to recognise counterfeit currency is by carefully studying over and over again the real thing. They get to know what genuine notes are like so intimately that they are able to spot fakes when they come along. In the same way, our defenence against the Devil’s lies and deceptions is to acquiant ourselves intimately with the truth. To turn on the light in our minds, to focus on what is good, trustworthy and true.

I want to finish with Paul’s words to the Philippians (4:6-8).
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Freedom in Christ Session 6: Demolishing strongholds

The following sermon is taken from the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course by Neil Anderson & Steve Goss.


Over the past couple of months, as part of our Freedom in Christ preaching series, we have been thinking about the important question of who we are in Christ.

Get Volunteer and put on t-shirt

This is who we are in Christ. You probably can’t read what’s on the t-shirt so I’ll read it to you.

o We are God’s child, we belong to God, we are his family
o We are loved
o We are God’s masterpiece
o We are Significant
o We are Holy
o We are Beautiful
o We are Forgiven
o We are Unique
o We are Accepted
o We are Free

We are all of these things. Isn’t this incredible!

But I have a question for you when you woke up this morning and stood in front of the bathroom mirror, did you feel like God’s masterpiece?

Ladies, when you go shopping, and try on a pair of trousers or a new dress, and turn round and look in the mirror, do you think ‘beautiful!’

Men, when you are passed over for a promotion again, perhaps again, do you feel significant? These are all the things that the Bible says we are in Christ. But today we are going to think about something a bit different.

I have another t-shirt that ?????? will probably not enjoy wearing quite as much.

This is a different t-shirt, and I wonder if you can relate to some of the words written on here.

o Alone
o Rejected
o Useless
o Smelly
o A waste of space
o Unlovable
o Too quiet
o Too loud
o Ugly
o Stupid
o Worthless
o Fat

These are all things that perhaps you can relate to. They do something that the t-shirt illustrates quite well, they cover up all of the things that God says about us. Can you for example see that ????? is loved? No, because it’s covered by the word ‘Unlovable’. The Bible says that we’re all beautiful, but that is covered up, because some how, by some way we can think that we’re not beautiful.

Thank volunteer, ask them to sit down, but keep the t-shirt on.

Just think for a moment what is the most horrible thing someone has ever said to you? There are all kinds of things in our lives that have been said about us, most of which is untrue. We are all that first t-shirt, that’s what the Bible says: we are loved, fearfully and wonderfully made, God’s masterpiece, we are not what the second t-shirt says. But most of our lives we walk around believing what the second t-shirt says rather than what the first t-shirt says. And in fact that covers up everything that we are in Christ. So rather than believing we’re loved, we believe we’re unlovable. And that is what the first reading from Corinthians was about, it says that these things are strongholds.

This is a definition of a stronghold: “A mind-set impregnated with hopelessness that causes us to accept as unchangeable situations that we know are contrary to the will of God.” That is what that t-shirt illustration demonstrates. We believe the things that are on the outside t-shirt rather than the things on the inside t-shirt.

One of the reasons this happens, is that rather than believing what God says about us, we believe what others say about us. So for example, maybe as children someone said something negative about us, like “You’re useless”, “You’re a failure”, “You’re ugly”, and we go about believing that untruth.

Neil Anderson puts it like this: Strongholds are mental habit patterns of thought that are not consistent with God’s word. They are all the things we believe that just don’t match with the things God says about us. What God wants is for us to believe who we really are, he wants us to believe in the truth, and walk in the freedom he has given us. But all these strongholds, the things written on the outside t-shirt hide the truth.

I think for many of us, our self image of who we are, has been shaped by wrong information. These things the Bible calls strongholds.

How Strongholds Are Established

Our Environment

We can develop ways of thinking from our environment, our family, community, schools and friends, all have an effect upon us. In our early years of life, we learn all sorts of things. I find it fascinating watching Tomek & Adam growing up as they explore the world, and learn about who they are and the environment in which they live. The people we meet, the friends we make, our first job, all these things shape who we are and teach us things, but not always positive things. Our families and communities can make a huge difference in our patterns of behaviour.

Just to give you an example, I want to tell you the story of a family of three boys, whose father is an alcoholic and is violent towards them. When their father comes home drunk these three children develop different ways of coping. The eldest one feels he can stand up to his dad: “lay one hand on me and you’ll regret it!” The middle one accommodates: “Hi dad, can I get you something?” The third runs away and hides in the wardrobe. Twenty years later, their father is long gone and these three children are adults. When they are confronted by a hostile situation, how do they respond? The chances are that the eldest one will fight, the middle one will accommodate and the youngest one will run away.

The environment will live in and grow up in can create the strongholds in our lives.

Traumatic Experiences

Traumatic experiences can also set up strongholds because of their intensity: for example death in a home or a divorce, and so forth.

These traumatic experiences in themselves don’t produce strongholds, but the lies we believe as a result of it.

These traumatic experiences can really make these strongholds take hold of our lives.

For example, if someone is in an abusive relationship, they can end up believing the lies that they are helpless, useless, and always the victim. None of these things are true about that person, but they believe that they are, and they shape not only the present but also the future, their personality, how they cope with life.

A mental stronghold is a lie based on past experiences that can be torn down in Christ.

The problem with strongholds is that if what you believe does not reflect truth, then what you feel will not reflect reality. You may feel rejection when you are not rejected. You may feel helpless to change when actually you’re not.


Strongholds are also formed or reinforced when we repeatedly give into temptation. Every temptation is an attempt to get you to live your life that is not relying on God. Temptations come from different kinds of places, but ultimately the Bible tells us very clearly that Satan is a tempter. The thing about Satan is that he has observed us, and he knows those weak areas of our lives where we are most tempted, whatever that may be. We are all vulnerable in different places. But the Bible says this, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So where is that way of escape when we are tempted? The answer is right at the beginning.- when the tempting thought first comes into your mind, that is when we should say no to it. In our reading from 2 Corinthians 10:5 Paul writes that we are to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ,” in other words, to ask God when thoughts come into our head, Lord is this true?

To give an example, suppose you area of weakness was pornography. And as you are sitting at home at night, you remember you don’t have any milk for your cereal tomorrow morning. There are two places you could go: a corner shop or a petrol station that sells milk and pornography. Which one are you going to go to? Your chance to make the right choice comes right at the beginning. As soon as you decide to go to the garage rather than the corner shop, you are on a slippery slope. Take every thought captive, that’s what the Bible says. But if you start not doing that, it becomes much harder to break the temptation, God always gives us a way of escape.

You mind is like an airport and you are the air traffic controller. A lot of thoughts ask for permission to land. But you have complete control over which will land and which will be turned away. You have to decide right at the outset. The moment you give a tempting thought permission to land, the chances of your being able to turn it away reduce significantly. Take every thought captive and turn it over to God.

Tempting thoughts that are not dealt with straight away lead on to actions. Repeating the action will result in a habit. Exercising the habit long enough produces a stronghold.

Effects of strongholds

Faulty view of reality

Strongholds affect the way we view the world. Things become not what we know to be true but how we feel they should be. But that’s not what the Bible wants us to do. For example in Isaiah 55:9 the Lord declares, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than you ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

God really knows better than we do, he knows infinitely more than we do. And his view on reality is much clearer than our view on reality. And therefore we need to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) We don’t lean on our own understanding because it is false, we are always tempted to do this, and try and live life the way we think God wants us to. But actually we need to know the reality God wants us to live.

Bad Choices

Strongholds also affect the choices we make. How we live. If we are trying to make decisions, how do we make them? Do we make them in the light of what God says about who we are and the way we should live, or do we make them in the light of the way we perceive life?

Strongholds often push us to make bad choices, because they are always based on false information. A stronghold will predispose us to ignore the “Danger” signs that God has posted, making us think that we know best what choices to make.

Every day we have an opportunity to live the way God wants us to, but often we ignore than because of the affect strongholds have on our lives.

So what do we do about these strongholds? If they are affecting our view of reality and our choices what can we do about them?

Demolishing Strongholds

The truth is that we don’t have to put up with strongholds in our lives. Paul writes, “For though we live in the world we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

The world we are living in is waging war at us, and usually it is our own strongholds that are waging war at us. The Bible gives us a few clear ways we can sort this out.

If you have a computer, chances are you also have a virus checker on the computer. One of the first things my computer does when I start it up, is that it checks for viruses. We need to do that too – we need to uncover and deal with any footholds the enemy may have in our lives. We need to open up ourselves to the Lord, and ask him to show us what strongholds there are in our lives, and to ask for the Holy Spirit to bring these things before God, so that he can deal with these corrupting influences in our lives, and so we can see life his way.

The Holy Spirit helps us to realise that the things that have happened to us in our lives, do not have to shape us in the way that they have been. The Holy Spirit helps us to check these viruses, to realise why these strongholds exist, and what they are.

The next thing we need to do is re-programme our mind. Once we have checked for viruses, we need to live in the way that we know is true, rather than the way we often feel. So instead of believing that we are useless, we have to believe that we are God’s workmanship, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Re-programming our minds may mean dealing with some habits, having to face things that have always been temptations for us.

Finally, we need to take every thought captive. When we are tempted to believe a lie, we need to confront it with the truth. When we are tempted to believe I am unloved, we need to believe that we are loved. When we are tempted to feel angry, we need to ask, “God fill me with peace.” When we are tempted to do something that we know is wrong, we need to ask for God’s help in that moment.

The reality is that we all have strongholds in our lives. Invite person with t-shirt to front of church.

What God wants us to do, through checking for viruses, reprogramming our minds, and taking every thought captive, is he wants us to get rid of the outside t-shirt, and he wants us to believe the things on the first t-shirt. This is the way you were created, this is who you really are. Are we going to believe those things, or the other things, because if we believe the truth of God our lives become very, very different.

Freedom in Christ Session 5: Our daily choice

The following sermon is taken from the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course by Neil Anderson & Steve Goss.


How often have you heard someone describe a Christian as a ‘good person’. But as I hope we all realise, there is much more to being a Christian than simply being a good person, after all as Christians we don’t have the monopoly on being good! But there is a perception that many people have, that once you become a Christian you automatically become a much better person, and do everything right. But, as I am sure we all know, it doesn’t work like that. We want to please God, but we often fail to live the Christian life as we want to, and often when we become Christians we don’t necessarily feel that different. For example, some of our bad habits don’t instantly disappear. In fact our struggle with sin may even seem to intensify. Why?

We need to understand what happened when we become Christians, what did not happen, and how to live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What did happen

The moment we become Christians, some dramatic changes take place.

We have a new heart and a new Spirit within us

We have a new heart whose desires are oriented towards God, rather than self or sin. Of course, this doesn’t automatically stop us from sinning, but when we do sin we become much more aware of it because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

We have new life “in Christ”

When we become a Christian, we become a new creation, we become alive in Christ.

We have a new master

Our new spiritual authority becomes God, he is the one who now guides and directs our life.

What Did Not Happen

Our “flesh” was not taken away

When we become Christians how we think and react to situations doesn’t change straight away, it takes time, as we train ourselves to think in a way that is in line with what God would want us to think and do. This is a process that the Bible calls “renewing our minds” (Romans 12:2), choosing to throw out the old ways of thinking and behaving, which have no reference to God, and replacing them with God’s ways.

Sin did not die

As Christians we are still faced with the temptation of sin. When we become a Christian, sin does not die – far from it. In fact, it is still enormously appealing, and it tempts us every day to meet our legitimate needs for significance, security and acceptance through things other than God.

So how do we defeat the power of sin? The bad news is that we ourselves can do nothing to defeat sin. BUT, the good news is that Christ has already done it for us! The key to freedom, is knowing the truth about sin.

Paul in Romans, makes the point before we became Christians we were slaves to sin, but now as Christians, sin has no power over us any more. We therefore are to consider ourselves to be alive to God and dead to sin (Romans 6:11). Paul is helping us to grasp the truth that we died with Christ and that His death ended our relationship with sin.

But, just like Paul, we find that whenever we want to do good, evil rears its ugly head and tries to throw us off course – Paul describes this as the “law of sin” (Romans 7:23).

So, if the law of sin is still effective, how do we overcome it? By a greater law: “Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2)

For example, there’s no way I can fly because every time I try, the law of gravity keeps me stuck to the earth and I haven’t found a way to stop it working. What can I do? Well, I can get into an aeroplane and I can fly! I overcome the law of gravity by the laws of aerodynamics and the power of the engine. It’s not as if the law of gravity has stopped working but simply that I have taken advantage of a more powerful law to overcome it.

The law that is now at work in you as a child of God is the law of the Spirit of life and it is far greater than the law of sin and death. Whereas before we had no choice but to stay on the ground in my sin, now we can choose to fly above the law of sin and death!

Our Choices

It’s becoming clear that we face some very real choices:
Even though we no longer have to think and react according to our flesh, we can choose to do so
Even though sin has no power over us, we can choose to give in to it

So, although nothing can change the fact of who we now are, and God’s love for us, the outcome of that in our day to day lives is very much down to our individual choice.

Although, through God’s grace and mercy, when we become Christians we become new people, we can very often continue to live in a way more akin to a non Christian. In other words, through the choices we make we try to live independently from God following the prompting of our own hearts desires, rather than of God’s Spirit. But when we do this, rather than experience the peace, joy and love knowing that we are accepted and loved by God, and realising our worth in Christ, we can be plagued by feelings of inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, guilt, worry and doubt.

Barriers to Growth

But the wonderful truth is that God has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases Him (2 Peter 1:3). Therefore we simply need to learn to use what we already have to deal with the barriers to growth in our lives. Here are some of those barriers:

Very often Christians are not aware of who they are in Christ.

In order to grow we need to be firmly rooted in Christ. As Paul writes in Colossians 2:6-7, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

Paul goes on to warn us saying: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

It is easy for us to be led astray by deceptive ways of thinking. Common areas of deception include thoughts like:
- “this might work for others, but my case is different and it won’t work for me.”
- “I could never have faith like so and so.”
- “God could never use me”

Unresolved personal and spiritual conflicts
For many, the reason that we do not move on is that we simply have too many unresolved personal and spiritual conflicts in our lives. May be something has happened in our lives, for example we’ve been hurt or let down by others, and if not dealt with, this can hold us back from growing and maturing as Christians.

Choosing to Walk by the Spirit Every Day

Once we have committed ourselves to believe truth no matter what we feel, and we have dealt with any unresolved spiritual conflicts, we are genuinely free to make a choice every day. We can choose to obey either the promptings of the flesh or the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The two are in direct opposition to each other.

There was a man who had a very difficult childhood in which he was largely ignored by his parents and sometimes abused by them. He became a Christian and later a church leader, but the pain from his past did not go away and he turned to alcohol to try to escape from it. It destroyed his marriage and his ministry. After years of alcoholism he got hold of the truth that the power of sin was broken in his life because of who he is as a child of God, and he walked away from the alcoholism, resolved his spiritual conflicts and found his freedom in Christ. Yet, he says that there is not a day in his life when his flesh does not tell him that he is “a useless waste of space.” His fleshy thought patterns have not gone away. But he has learned to make a choice every day simply not to listen to them – no matter how strongly they might come over – because they are based on lies. Instead he makes a daily choice to listen to the promptings of the Spirit, and walk according to what is actually true.

So What Does Walking By The Spirit Actually Mean?

Walking by the Spirit is Not:

Just a good feeling
Sometimes the Holy Spirit comes upon us in such a way that we feel full of joy. That’s a lovely gift from God when it happens, but being filled with the Spirit day by day is much more than that. If we base our life on having a good feeling, we’ll be continually looking for “the key” to feel better and we’ll be chasing God continually for a new experience – whereas He wants us to take hold of what He has already done and live accordingly.

A licence to do whatever we want
Some think that freedom means being able to do whatever we want, as if we can cast off all the guidelines God has given to help us lead responsible lives. But actually that leads to bondage. Walking by the Spirit prevents you from doing whatever you please: “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other.” (Galatians 5:17)

Legalism (slavishly obeying a set of rules)
The Old Testament law revealed the moral nature of God but nobody could live up to it. The point of the law was to lead us to Christ by teaching us our need for Him (Galatians 3:24). Yet so many of us, even as Christians, tend to live as if we still have to obey certain rules in order to be accepted by God or to be a “good Christian”. But Paul writes in Galatians (5:18) “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Walking by the Spirit enables us to live a righteous life by faith.

Walking By The Spirit Is:

True freedom
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

We have the freedom to be the people God created us to be and to make the choice to live by faith in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Being led
In the West we drive our sheep or use sheep dogs to chase them. In Israel the shepherd leads from the front. The sheep recognise his voice and follow him. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Walking at God’s pace in the right direction
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Nothing will get done if we expect God to do it all, and neither can we accomplish anything lasting for eternity by ourselves. Being yoked to Jesus doesn’t work if only one is pulling. Only Jesus knows the right pace and the right direction to walk. When we walk with Him we learn that His ways are not hard and we will find rest for our souls.

How Can We Tell If We Are Walking By The Spirit

Just as you can tell a tree by its fruit, you can tell whether you are walking by the Spirit by the fruit of your life. If you’re being led by the Spirit, your life will be increasingly marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.

If you are living according to your flesh, that too will become evident in your life.

If you have become aware that you are living by the flesh, what is the appropriate response? Simply to confess it and to invite the Holy Spirit to fill you, and to start living according to your new identity in Christ.

Walking by the Spirit is a moment by moment, day by day, experience, you can choose every moment of every day either to walk by the Spirit or walk by the flesh.

But once you’ve understood the truth of who God is and who you are, why ever would you want to walk by the flesh any more?

Freedom in Christ Session 3: Choosing to believe the truth

The following sermon is taken from the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course by Neil Anderson & Steve Goss.

Without Faith We Cannot Please God

A man fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued:
"Is anyone up there?" "I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?" "Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer." "That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch." A moment of pause, then: "Is anyone else up there?"
This man, was being challenged to put his faith in God, and it is this theme of faith which is the focus of our sermon today. Because if we are to grow and mature as Christians, we need to have faith in God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Faith is the crucial issue. The Bible is clear that as Christians we are to walk by faith. But what is faith?

Faith Is Simply Believing What Is Already True

One little boy put it like this: “Faith is trying hard to believe what you know isn’t true!” Actually he’s wrong, it’s the very opposite. Faith is believing what is already true. Our responsibility is to believe in God’s truth, whether it feels true or not.

But it is not always that easy, as highlighted in The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass:

Monday January 6
Bought a really good book about faith. It’s called “Goodness Gracious – in God’s Name, what on Earth are we Doing for Heaven’s Sake?” A very witty title I feel. It’s all about how Christians should be able to move mountains by faith, if they are really tuned into God. Very inspiring.

Waited until there was no one around, then practised with a paper clip. Put it on my desk and stared at it, willing it to move. Nothing! Tried commanding it in a loud voice.

Tuesday January 7
Hand another go with the paper clip tonight. Really took authority over it. Couldn’t get it to budge. Told God I’d give up anything He wanted, if He would just make it move half an inch. Nothing! All rather worrying really. If you only need faith the size of a mustard seed to move a mountain, what hope is there for me when I can’t even get a paper clip to do what it’s told!

Saturday January 11
Got up early today to have a last go at that blasted paper clip. Ended up hissing viciously at it, trying not to wake everybody up. When I gave up and opened the door, I found Anne and Gerald listening outside in their night clothes looking quite anxious. Anne said, “Darling, why did you tell that paper clip you’d straighten it out if it didn’t soon get its damned act together?”

If as Christians we choose to believe the truth, to put our complete faith in God, it will transform our lives.

Whether Faith is Effective Depends On What Or Whom You Believe In

Everyone Lives and Operates By Faith

Everyone believes in something or someone – we all have a way of looking at reality that we believe is true and we make decisions accordingly. Every decision you make and practically every action you do demonstrate your faith in something.

Last time you were driving your car and you came to a junction and saw a green traffic light, what did you do? You probably drove right on through. By faith! You couldn’t even see that the traffic in the other direction had a red light. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) If you didn’t believe that there was a red light, that the drivers saw the red light and that they would stop, what would you do? You would probably stop, look around very carefully and creep across the junction. But you believed that there was a red light, that they saw it and that they would stop.

The Only Difference Between Christian & Non Christian Faith is What We Believe In

It’s what or whom we believe in (the object of our faith) that determines whether our faith will be effective. It’s not so much that we believe but what we believe.

Take Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Both set up a pyre with bulls on it to be sacrificed and both believed that their god would send down fire from heaven to burn it up. But only Elijah had a valid faith object – Baal did not exist but the living God was real – so his was the only one that was burned up.

That’s why Jesus said we only need faith as small as a tiny mustard seed to move a mountain (Matthew 17:20) – it doesn’t depend so much on the amount of faith but on whom we put our faith in. It’s not our power that moves the mountain – it’s God’s.

Jesus Christ Is The Ultimate Faith Object

Traffic lights can malfunction of course. Other faith objects can let us down, parents, the church, friends. There is just one faith object that will never fail us: Jesus Christ. Why? Because He never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He cannot change, and He is truth. He has never yet failed to be and do all He said He would be and do. He is eternally faithful.

Everyone Can Grow In Faith

How Much Faith We Have Is Determined By How Well We Know The One We Put Our Faith In

Christian faith is about making the choice to believe what God says is true and living our lives accordingly.

The depth of our faith is determined by one thing: how well you know the one you put your faith in.

So there is a limit to your faith. But God’s not controlling it - you are! Our faith particularly grows when we act on what God says is true.

To give an example, imagine you have a two year old, and you put her on a table, stand back a little bit and say, “Come on, jump into my arms.” She may waver a little bit but then jump and you would catch her. What do you do next? Go a little further back and say, “Come on, jump into my arms.” Let’s say she does and you catch her and you go even further back. She will continue to jump provided you continue to catch her.

As you get to know the object of your faith really can be trusted with absolutely anything, you will trust Him for bigger and bigger steps.

Have you ever wondered how Abraham could contemplate sacrificing his son Isaac? He had come to learn through experience that God was loving and could be trusted.

Belief is a choice that we can all make. You start with what God has said is true and you choose to believe it. This then works out into your behaviour and finally into your feelings.

George Muller ran an orphanage at Ashley Down in Bristol. One day, the orphanage ran out of food. A small girl whose father was a close friend of Muller was visiting the home. Muller took her hand and said, “Come and see what our Heavenly Father will do.”

In the dining room, long tables were set with empty plates and empty mugs. Not only was there no food in the kitchen, but there was no money in the home’s account. Muller prayed, “Dear Father, we thank you for what you are going to give us to eat.” Immediately, they heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, there stood the local baker. “Mr Muller,” he said, “I couldn’t sleep last night. Somehow I felt you had no bread for breakfast, so I got up at two o’clock and baked fresh bread. Here it is.”

Muller thanked him and gave praise to God. Soon, a second knock was heard. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. He said he would like to give the children the milk so he could empty the cart and repair it. What this story illustrates is faith in action.

Faith Grows in Difficult Times

Most of us can probably think of times when God did not do what we wanted him to do. Sometimes we simply have to admit that our understanding of God and what we expect Him to do is simply too limited for us to know whether we are praying in accordance with his character or His will.

Because the question of faith is so crucial, one of God’s prime focuses in your life is to help you develop a real living faith that gets deeper and deeper. He will, therefore often put you in a situation where you can choose whether to put your faith in Him or something else.

A health scare, financial concerns, an uncertain future.

God’s role is to be truth, to declare what is true. Our responsibility is to believe and living according to what is true.

Faith Leads To Action

The words “faith”, “trust” and “believe” in the Bible are all the same word in the original Greek. That’s important to know because in English when you say that you believe something, it doesn’t carry the same connotation as to trust in something. But faith is not simply agreeing with something. It’s a reliance that you demonstrate by actions. No matter what we say, it’s what we do that shows what we really believe. If you want to know what you really believe, look at your actions.

“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith: I have deeds.’ Show me your faith without deeds, and I’ll show you my faith by what I do.” (James 2:17-18) In other words, what you believe in will affect what you do and what you say.

People don’t always live according to what they say they believe, but they will always live according to what they actually believe.

The good news is that there’s no one here who could not become a mature and fruitful Christian. There is no one here who cannot resist temptation, get out of hopelessness, leave behind negative behaviour and past influences and move on. You don’t need some special anointing from God or others. You just need to know what is already true, choose to believe it and act on it.

Freedom in Christ: Session 2 Who am I now?

The following sermon is taken from the Freedom in Christ Discipleship Course by Neil Anderson & Steve Goss.

Last week, I began this series on Freedom in Christ with the question: who are you deep down inside? I want to continue to think about this question today.

The moment you became a Christian was the defining moment of your life. Everything changed for you. The language the Bible uses is very dramatic.

“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Can you be partly old creation and partly new?

“For you were once darkness, but now you a light in the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8)
Can you be both light and darkness?

“He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the son he loves.” (Colossians 1:13)
Can you still be in both kingdoms?

A Saint- Not a Sinner

In Romans 5:8 Paul writes, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse seems to imply that we are no longer sinners.

We certainly were sinners, and we were saved by God’s grace. So if we’re no longer a sinner, who or what are we?

In the New Testament, unbelievers are identified as “sinners”. Believers on the other hand are identified as “holy ones” or “righteous ones” or “saints” – and never the other way round. If you have received Jesus as your Lord, you are not a forgiven sinner, but a redeemed saint!

You are a saint! That’s not just a title. It reflects the fact that at the moment you became a Christian – even if you’re not absolutely sure when that moment was – you became a new creation in Christ. Your very nature – who you really are deep down inside – changed to become someone who is accepted, sure and significant in Christ.

In Christ

We are saints because of our new identity and position “in Christ”. In the book of Ephesians alone, in just six chapters we find this phrase “in Christ” no fewer than 40 times. It means that we have a completely new identity –we now share in God’s nature (2 Peter 1:4)

Not Just Forgiven But A Whole New Person

Changed Behaviour Comes from Realising You Are A Whole New Person

Realising that we are a completely new person, brings changes to our behaviour. Very often in our understanding of the gospel we have tended to focus on the fact that Christ died for our sins. But the trouble with that is it leaves us believing that we’re not very different from who we were before. We’re forgiven, but we’re still sinners. But the truth is more wonderful than that.

Last week we saw that we were born spiritually dead because of sin. (SLIDE) Suppose you came across a dead man and you wanted to save him. What would you have to do? Two things:

1. Find a cure for the disease that caused him to die. Paul says: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) In our case the disease was sin. To cure it Jesus went to the cross. He died for our sins.
2. But there’s more. It’s all very well finding a cure for, say, AIDS, but that does not help those who have died of it already. To save them, we need to give them life again. If we finish that verse we see that Jesus not only cured the disease that caused us to die (sin): “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

If we only knew the truth that Jesus died to cure the problem of sin that would make us forgiven sinners. But because we have also received back the life that Adam lost, means we have become saints.

That fact that you and I are saints doesn’t, of course, give us any right to boast – we didn’t earn this, it was a free gift.

Defeat Comes From Not Realising You Are A Whole New Person

Many of us have never fully got hold of the fact that we are forgiven once and for all and that God will never, ever condemn us. He welcomes us into His presence because he loves us.

Some might say:
“You don’t know what’s been done to me.”
It doesn’t change who you are in Christ.

“You don’t know how bad I’ve been.”
It doesn’t change who you are in Christ.

“You don’t know what failures I’ve had as a Christian.”
It doesn’t change who you are in Christ. Christ loved you when you were still a sinner. That hasn’t stopped now that you’re a saint.

Our new identity in Christ is not something we’ve earned. It’s a free gift. It’s by the grace of God alone.

You are not saved by how you behave, but by how you believe.

Being Pleasing to God

What happens when I sin?

The problem we have with seeing ourselves as saints rather than sinners, is that we are painfully aware that we do sometimes sin. We therefore conclude that we must be sinners. The issue is who we are deep down inside and, if you are a Christian, it’s a settled matter. At the very core of your being you now share God’s divine nature. You have become someone completely new.

It’s not inevitable – but we do sometimes go wrong.

Being a saint means that we have the capacity to choose not to sin. Indeed we have ended our relationship with sin because we have died to sin (Romans 6:2) and its power over us.

Being a saint does not mean, however that we are living in a state of sinless perfection. “If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8) We are fooling ourselves if we claim that we never go wrong – the truth is that we are saints who sometimes sin.

We no longer have to live in constant fear of God’s judgement, because Jesus has already dealt with it on the cross. You are not a sinner in the hands of an angry God. You are a saint in the hands of a loving God. He’s called you to come into His presence with your heart sprinkled clean with confidence, with boldness.

Our fundamental relationship with our heavenly Father does not change when we sin

Going wrong changes nothing in terms of our fundamental relationship with God: 1 John 2:1 says “If anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defence – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 John 2:1) Your eternal destiny is secure – Jesus has paid the penalty for your sin.

Can anything change the fact that you are your parents’ child? No – nothing you can do can alter your DNA. You can disown your parents, or do all sorts of things that displease them. But whether they are alive or not, nothing can change the fact that you are their child.

When you become a Christian, you become God’s child. In a way you received his DNA – God’s own Spirit lives in you (Romans 8:9) and you now share his very nature (2 Peter 1:4) Nothing can separate you from God’s love (Romans 8:39). No one can snatch you out of His hand (John 10:28).
We restore harmony by turning back to him and away from our sin

But you can disrupt the harmony of that relationship by doing something that does not please God. A harmonious relationship is based on trust and obedience – when either is lacking it affects the quality of the relationship.

So what happens when we do something that we’re ashamed of, that we know is wrong? What is the appropriate thing to do?

We simply need to come to our loving Father, agree with Him that we are wrong (confess) and then turn away from our sin (repent), knowing that it is already forgiven because of Christ’s death.

God does not condemn us

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) We can always be honest with God because we are already forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

God is not a finger wagging, “inspecting” kind of God. We don’t have to earn our way into his good books, we’re already in them because of what Jesus has done. Realising that you can come straight back to God in repentance when you have done wrong and know that you are forgiven is a key to becoming a mature Christian.

We don’t have to try to become what we already are

So now, let’s come to a crucial question: “what can I do to be accepted by God?”

The short answer is: “nothing at all!” The truth is that you are already completely accepted by God simply because what Christ has done.

If we don’t understand the grace of God and our spiritual inheritance we will keep trying to becoming somebody we already are!

It is not what we do that determines who we are. It’s who we are that determines what we do.

The gospel is not about becoming someone different – it starts with recognising that you actually became someone different the moment you received Christ, you are a child of God.

You are already accepted by God! He delights in you. He is the Good Shepherd. He is intimately concerned with every details of your life. Nothing can change that.

He is love – which means that He couldn’t not love you, not matter what you did. Nothing you could do could make God love you more – more love you less. If you had been the only person in the whole history that needed Christ to die, He would have done it just for you. That’s how special you are!

The key to your growth in Christ in your understanding of whom you are now, recognising your status before God.

A lot of confusion in this area comes from not understanding who God is and what He is like, and so as you came into church you will have received a sheet of paper, which I invite you later to read, and take on board the truths of who you are and what God has done for you.