'On the pulse' covers our thoughts on everything from God to Church, Forgiveness to Hell.
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Abba - Not the pop group but daddy God!
In the film 'Bruce Almighty', Jim Carrey's character takes on God's power and, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, discovers that the job is not all it's cracked up to be. He discovers that people's hearts cannot be changed by force; you cannot make a person love you.
God does not rate being God. The truth is, he functioned in that role reluctantly. What he wants to be to us is ’Abba’, meaning Daddy! We find that in the Old Testament scriptures there were many names that expressed the ‘almighty-ness’ of God, but the idea of him being a loving father was totally unthinkable. In fact, the Hebrews were so in awe that they would not even speak his name.
So, imagine the horror of the devout Jews when Jesus comes on the scene: he starts talking about God being his father and also being our father in Heaven. A father who just wants to love us and be loved in return. What a scandal!
He is not some powerful despot in the sky watching over our every move waiting for his time to make us pay. No! He looks upon all of us with a loving gaze. He’s truly the best dad in the world. It was mind blowing then; it’s still mind blowing now!
Beyond all the arguments about whether it’s a book written by men or God, or God through men, or men presuming themselves to be God, or whether it is infallible (totally without error), or inerrant (without mistakes), it is a marvellous piece of literature charting the human story in a unique way.
I love the fact that all of the heroes are villains of one sort or another, who certainly did not qualify for the honour they received by their genetics, ethnicity or human effort!
It’s the story of fallen, failing people (just regular human beings) made good.
If the Bible is the record of God's interaction with humanity in all its diversity and complexity, then it’s still being written, not on sheets of rice paper between leather covers, but in and through the hearts and lives and experiences of people journeying through life and bumping into God (though many don’t know it yet!).
It's one of those commodities that people strive for, whether it be in a religious belief or be it about life in general. There's a sense of security, especially in an unpredictable world, that comes from feeling we've got things buttoned down.
Certainty can be divisive though. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who's certain about something?
It's no fun, is it? Certainty says, 'I'm right, you're wrong!' It stops listening and refuses to hear any other perspective but its own.
When any of us feel certain about God, we tend to pull away from those who do not see things our way and, in all honesty, become the epitome of cockiness! Christianity has been guilty of proclaiming its certainty about so much.
If you think you are certain about who God is, then God is no bigger than your limitations. In fact, what happens is that this 'god' that's been created is usually a reflection of your own personal values: he hates what you hate, loves what you love. Suddenly, God ends up loving fewer and fewer people. We then build institutions where those who agree with our truth can belong. Sadly, these institutions have to endure, so we reject anyone who tries to rock the boat!
With certainty, you don't need faith. Faith is what says 'yes' to that which cannot ordinarily be grasped. Jesus didn't offer to us certainty as such, but he did offer freedom. He wanted us to be always open to the ever unfolding mystery of himself and his kingdom.
Coming to grips with uncertainty is hard as it brings about a kind of death. Just remember though, nothing grows out of concrete! Expose yourself to the unknown.
Church - It's purpose
Many people are turned off by the attitudes they have seen spewing from the global institution called the 'church'. Ghandi is said to have said, 'I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians'! You may feel the same ,and justifiably so! The church for so many appears to have become a club for self righteous hypocrites, and acts as though the rest of the world is damned unless it joins it! Hardly!
The church’s primary business was never to teach morality. It was to proclaim grace, forgiveness and a free party to all! Its job is to announce the reconciling relationship of God through Christ to EVERYBODY and to invite them to simply believe it and to celebrate it!
Morality, law, rules, prescriptions, these are the world’s business and the world keeps up a steady drum beat on these subjects: you must do this and you mustn't do that; you’re ‘out’ until you prove yourself worthy to be ‘in’. Sadly, on this basis, no-one is ever going to be ‘in’ for long – if ever at all!
The 'church' is really only a visible sign of a presently invisible mystery'. We can't see God, but we can see his kingdom at work in each other's lives. The church should never be the judge of how people live, but the proclaimer of the good news of inclusivity; that we're all in the same boat, but regardless we are all accepted. So, when you or I attend church, we are only a sign, to all those who might look on with criticism, that what God did through Christ on the cross, truly worked. Every representation of every wrong every committed may sit in the seats of church buildings al over the world. But. they sit there, humbly made right by the amazing gift of grace that has been given to us all.
Church - What's the point?
The translation of a Greek word that is NOT IN THE BIBLE meaning a RELIGIOUS MEETING PLACE.
First recorded use 1556 by Presbyterian follower of John Calvin, Theodore Beza.
It described what the church had become NOT what it was meant to be. The Greek word wrongly translated “church” is the word EKKLESIA. This word had no religious connotation and can be traced back at least 5 centuries before Christ. It was A GATHERING OF ORDINARY PEOPLE called together in one place to form a legislative body empowered to make legally binding decisions on just about anything! It had no global connotation but was entirely personal and relational. They were people who facing a common challenge and gripped by a cause, came together to change their world! We are trying to be those kind of people!
The Hebrew word 'olam' means in the far distance. When looking off in the far distance it is difficult to make out any details, and what is beyond that horizon cannot be seen. This concept is the olam. The word olam is also used for time, for the distant past or the distant future as a time that is difficult to know or perceive. This word is frequently translated as eternity or forever, but in the English language it is misunderstood to mean a continual span of time that never ends. In the Hebrew mind, it is simply what is at or beyond the horizon, a very distant time.
In the ancient story of Jonah in the Bible, he spent an “olam” in the belly of a fish. Here’s what it says: “to the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever (Olam)….”, which in this case turned out to be three days!
Now, let’s look at two Greek words used together in the New Testament: aion of kolazo (this is a phrase used in Jesus story of the sheep and the goats). It is translated as “eternal punishment”, meaning punishment that is never going to end. But, forever is not really a category the biblical writers used, as in the use of the word “olam”.
Aion has several meanings – one is “age” or “period of time”; another refers to intensity of experience.
Kolazo is a term from horticulture referring to the pruning and trimming of the branches of a plant so it can flourish.
Therefore, an aion of kolazo can mean “a period of pruning” or “a time of trimming” or an intense experience of correction.
In secular Greek literature, kolazo is never used for anything but remedial punishment!
So, when we read “eternal punishment”, it’s important we do not read categories and concepts within a phrase that are not there. Jesus probably isn’t talking about forever as we think of forever. Jesus may be talking about something else, which has all sorts of implications for our understanding of what happens after this.
Forgiveness as a concept wouldn’t be needed if we didn’t regularly experience the hurt and offence that comes from words and actions said and done by those we love or just by people in general. When human beings don’t live up to our expectations, a debt is created and with it those feelings that come from a relationship being irreparably damaged.
How forgiveness works is that the one who is the forgiver literally ‘dies’, drops dead as it were, to his desire for justice for the offence that took place, so at the very least, he can rise to the possibility of a restored relationship. If he is unwilling, the only alternative is to kill the culprit for his offence and, with it, any hope of reconciliation.
The desire for justice can be a killer as there’ll always be someone out there who’ll do you wrong. The likelihood is you’ll end up having to bump everyone off (including yourself) as sooner or later you will realise that nobody’s perfect! We have all been the victim, but also the villain!
Forgiving isn’t easy, but it’s essential. Even God forgives. He says to us all: ‘your sins and unrighteous acts I will remember no more’!
God chooses to drop the subject when it comes to the ways in which we’ve hurt and offended him, and he is willing to lay down his life to restore the relationship that has been broken by every one of us.
If God refuses to keep a record of wrongs, we shouldn’t keep count either.
God - what's he really like?
What if you were to be told that GOD NEVER WANTED TO BE GOD? That, at best, he is a RELUCTANT GOD?
We tend to view God and the Bible through a Greco-Roman mind-set. Therefore, among competing ‘gods’ he must be bigger, greater, stronger, be everywhere at the same time, know everything etc.. It also causes us to see Him through an authoritarian, legal framework.
However, the Bible calls Adam “the son of God”. It also calls Jesus “the son of God”. It records Jesus exclusively referring to this divine being as “father” (except for one occasion). It refers to us as “sons of God”? Could it be that this being we call “God” only ever wanted to be a father to people and, therefore, was simply looking for the most amazing and enriching son/daughter relationship with humanity?
Could it be that he rather relationally appeals to us and not legally demands from us?
Could it be that he is really ALL LOVE to his core and GRACE is the sole expression of that love?
If you ask anyone claiming to be a Christian what ‘Gospel” means, they will probably respond instantly with “good news!". Well, if that’s what it means, why has the church invented a word to use instead of “good news”? Could it be that if they use an alternative word, they can get away with saying stuff that is not good news?
If the “gospel” is “good news”, it must have two ingredients:
it must be good,
and it must be news!
Sadly, much of what is passed off as “the gospel” is neither good nor news, presenting God as a miserable, moralising, book-keeping accountant with a “sue you as soon as look at you approach” to humanity, who is loving and forgiving, provided you do the right things and pray the right words to avoid his wrath! That is certainly not good and a cursory glance at the Old Testament will reveal it’s not news either!
The true gospel revealed in Jesus is both good and news!
Grace - Can You Stand It?
Grace is the vehicle by which something is given which could never be otherwise earned.
There is a lot of fuss among control freak type church leaders who talk about 'cheap' grace and 'hyper' grace. Both are crazy statements: the use of the word 'cheap' immediately suggests that it's not free; 'hyper' suggests that there can be too much grace. Sadly, religious people are always looking for someone or something that grace can't reach. And just how is that helpful to humanity?
There are people in church who are afraid of the message of grace. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that they fear that it will give people permission to sin. What's silly about this idea is that in reality people have always had the permission to do what the hell they liked! It wasn't grace that enabled this scenario.
It already existed.
Secondly, some, having lived good lives, denying themselves the pleasures of sin,
just can't stomach the fact that God just might treat a murderer or child molester the same way as he does them! Could it be they resent the righteous lifestyle they forced themselves into and need everyone to be as miserable as they are?
As one writer puts it so well:
'Grace is outrageously unfair, ridiculously extravagant and unashamedly the centre of the gospel. It gives second chances, third chances and never stops giving chances. Grace has Jesus written all over it. Grace makes people worried that someone will take advantage of it! But that's what's so amazing about Grace. You can take advantage of it!.'
If the grace you are presented with is not totally too good to be true, scandalous in it's reach, unbelievable in the level of its acceptance, then it's not the grace of God talked about in the Bible that comes to us in the form of Jesus. That grace is truly amazing!'
Guilt is the voice of our conscience, that weird feeling that catches our attention that something’s not right. Everyone feels guilty at some point as we negotiate life’s dilemmas because we all fail to live up to the standards that we have set for ourselves, whatever those standards may be.
Sadly, the ‘church’ doesn't help. It generally adds to people’s troubles rather than offering a solution; it compounds the problem rather than reducing it. When God is represented as a mean-minded debt collector, our guilt thermometer goes through the roof. Religion aids our view of a horrible judgmental God, but this could not be further from the truth.
Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son is a great antidote to the image of a judgmental God. The son, who’d gone away and made a right royal mess of his life, returns to the father with well-rehearsed words of repentance, knowing that he’d been a complete dick! But before he had the chance to speak them out, the Father takes over in his excitement, calling for new clothes, a ring for his finger, and arranges a party thrown in his honour. The lad needed no forgiveness from his father. That was a done deal long ago. He just needed to come home.
Isn’t this too good to be true?
God’s love is unconditional.
We are loved beyond measure and nothing we do will cause us to forfeit that love. God does not expect perfection from us. Even in our most monumental screw-ups, all that’s required is that we journey home to the loving arms of the Father. Forgiving yourself is not a way of excusing what you have done, but rather acknowledging the fact that you have been forgiven by God. When we understand this, we are able to ditch the guilt trip and enjoy the radical love of God. What God did through his Son on the cross closed the guilt department for good.
You don’t have to shop there anymore!
Hell - what the...
What is the central message of the good news that the Church has been entrusted to shout about loud and proud?
Is it that you will be saved from the eternal torment of hell if you believe the right thing, say the right thing, do the right thing?
What if the message of hell has, at best, been an exaggeration? What if the ideas we have heard hold little truth at all? What if we have fallen for a lie passed on through so many generations of genuine God-fearing folk who did not knowingly deceive themselves or others, but were sucker-punched (like Eve) to believe that God said something that he never actually said? As you can see, we are willing to ask those questions because we are not going to promote a historical message if the truth is something else.
There are giant question marks to consider, if you dare.
In the Old Testament, there is not a single Hebrew word that refers to hell as we have come to understand it. The word ‘hell’ is only mentioned fourteen times in the Gospels and seven of those are repeats!
Hmmm. Maybe it’s not as central as we have been led to believe.
The hell that Jesus talked about was a place called Gehenna. An actual place. A rubbish dump. A place for trash. A place where trash was burned. Burned? Interesting that the references for hell are to do with burning. You can see where the ideas began to form. You can see how the message was passed on, embellished. How the story started as one thing and evolved over time, as stories do.
Jesus knows that our lives feel like they are on the rubbish tip sometimes. He had something to say about this. Something practical to his audience that still resonates within us now. Has the message been sabotaged by those who feel the threat of punishment is the only motivator for right living? Would a God who loves us want to make us pay infinitely for finite choices?
To the religious, who want there to be a clear-cut system where those who fail must pay, grace is scandalous. But to us, it was and always will be amazing!
Oh and incidentally, the word ‘forever’ did not mean what we understand it to mean now either. But that’s for another page! Interested?
Included - who's in?
The ‘church’ community of Jesus’ day thought they had all this figured out. The Pharisees were sticklers for making sure that everyone lived right and everything was done right. It was their job to protect the religious ‘club’ that they oversaw. It was important that they did not let anyone in who could not live up to their meticulous standards. Sadly, this meant that many were excluded, including Jesus himself. He was a definite ‘no entry’. In their opinion, he was bonkers, a drunk, in cahoots with the devil and friends with all the wrong people. He certainly could not belong to their gang.
We too can become certain of how things are: who's in and who's out, who believes the right things and behaves the right way. But then of course, when we've about got it sussed, the Bible throws us a massive curve ball and records all those who got it wrong but were still counted ‘in’! Jesus said, to the anger of his religious audience, 'prostitutes and bar owners are getting into the Kingdom ahead of you'! Now there's a thought to keep one humble.
Jesus never wrote a book, never started a church and never intended to start a new religion. He simply demonstrated the heart of his Father in a lifestyle of love and invited people to join him in what he was doing. He didn't want people being part of an organisation, but part of a journey, a way of life. Jesus wasn't a Christian! Yes! He was the Christ, but Christianity was the religion that man constructed based on their interpretation of his teachings.
Jesus continually de-constructed the prevailing views that the religious cling to and he still does today. Jesus is radically different than what we expect or even dare to believe. Jesus was a friend of sinners. He spent time with all the wrong people, didn't attend church, went to all the wrong dinner parties, was polite to whores but rude to the religious authorities; would you want your kids taught by this man?
Jesus did not come to save us from God!
The truth is, he came to change our view of God not God's view of us. The Jesus of the Bible is neither house trained or domesticated but rather revolutionary, radical, mind-blowingly challenging and quite literally, down to earth!
Turn your love up as loud as possible!
Mystery - the Certainty of Doubt!
God is mysterious, transcendent and beyond our comprehension, yet we seek to find a container in which to hold him. We try to express him in words, songs, feelings, thoughts, images and practices, yet these will only ever serve as symbols and sadly, be inadequate in our attempt to grasp the ungraspable! If we're not careful, these symbols, over time, can become idols, as they subtlety become rituals and replace the reality we once genuinely sort . Both God and ourselves become lost in the deception that we have constructed. Augustine is said to have said, 'If you think you have found God, then it is not God you've found!'
The Pharisees in Jesus' day were devoted to particular ideas about God and were so attached to them that, even though Jesus stood right in front of them, they couldn't see him. Hindered by their understanding, they couldn't recognise God in the flesh.
There are times when God has to intervene and deliver us from our own ideas about him and ourselves and this can be a painful experience. Sometimes people interpret this as a loss of faith when in reality, it is probably more akin to being stripped of all the tangible things that we had put our trust in, and we are left only with a mystery!
We want programmes, labels, categories, everything buttoned down so we have a degree of certainty. We don't like messy unpredictability as it is far too uncomfortable.
Forming a faith is a bit like falling in love. Sooner or later we find that what we've constructed needs to be dismantled as it was way too small to contain the immensity of what we originally let ourselves in for!
The New Covenant is by far the most exciting element of the Good News! It has become a major theme in the teaching at the Rock. A covenant is a binding agreement, an unbreakable commitment. The new covenant is, in essence, the constitution or the functioning reality of the gospel. The fact that this covenant is new implies it is replacing an old covenant. That old covenant consisted of the 10 commandments and 613 other commands and regulations. It could only ever have one outcome: condemnation and failure. The full extent of the radical replacement of the old system is clearly laid out in Jeremiah 31:31-34 in the Old Testament and Hebrews 8:7-13 in the new. Its power for humanity rests in the fact it is a one-law covenant, but that one law is not a law that we keep, but a law that God keeps! Its foundational truth is that God says, “your sins and unrighteous acts I will remember no more”. What a place to start! Hear more in our archive. All is grace!
The characteristics of the Kingdom of God that Jesus came to reveal are paradoxical, and the one thing you can’t do with a paradox is solve it.
Over the centuries, the ‘church’ has desperately tried to straighten the wiggly lines, clarify the mystical and neatly box the unbox-able in an effort to make common sense of Christianity. The problem is, you can’t and won’t ever make sense of a mystery!
Everything that humanity seems to rely on for their equilibrium, the Gospel certainly isn’t.
Nothing we hear with our human ears or think with our human brains makes the concept palatable. All of it is absurd! Everything that Jesus was represented an offence to someone. From his conception in a teenager’s womb, to the way he lived out his Jewish life, to his death as a criminal on a Roman Cross, nothing about him said that he was somebody you should put your trust in, and certainly he could not be the Son of God. In fact, he was everything that reasonable people would reject. And the same applies today: that’s why God’s currency was always faith and still is.
Nothing about the Gospel makes sense.
The last are first, bad people are in, good people are out; there seems to be a dynamic at work that is alien to our human understanding.
So what are we to do?
Stop trying to draw up some neat little intellectual package that makes God fit into some frame work that is logical. It isn’t gonna happen! How about you just shut up, believe in something way beyond your comprehension and see what happens?
Pulse - the heartbeat
Pulse means a regular or rhythmical beating, a single beat or rhythm. We are confident that the Rock of York has been called to make a unique and incredible sound in this generation.
This sound is being heard across the world.
We have been influenced by many streams, from our own Pentecostal heritage to the perhaps more controversial views of the Emergent Church movement. We embrace some things and we let other things go, but we continue to celebrate the richness of all that we are becoming as a result of our developing understanding. We are not afraid of any of it! All we are doing is trying to figure out what it means to be a Christ follower in the 21st Century and make a difference.
There is a common expression that refers to a person or group of people who have their finger ‘on the pulse’. They are perceptive, alive, engaged with what’s happening. Our identity is not one that is removed in an out-of-touch hyper-spiritual bubble. We are neither static nor rigid in our approach to life or faith.
Who we are is constantly evolving.
Therefore, we cannot label ourselves as some would like.
We are prepared to tackle those questions that most ‘Christians’ avoid in order to be a relevant voice to the world that we live in. This is our contribution to the conversation that has gone on for centuries and we humbly remain open to the ever unfolding mystery.
And perhaps tomorrow, given some further revelation, our views may change.
We have no problem with that.
There is a brutal tension between something real and something very wrong in the Christian faith.
Something isn't working anymore in the way we're doing Christianity.
Some people see the Christian faith as an old woman, past her prime, closer to a nursing home than to nursing new life.
From the outside, the church is accused of losing touch with normal people; it's forgotten how to speak their language and doesn't understand their questions, doubts and concerns.
From the inside, some are just as disillusioned: they themselves have lost sight of what the church is supposed to be about. They have remained faithful to the faith they inherited yet carry questions to which they have never received a satisfactory answer. An answer like, 'God said it, I believe it and that settles it' doesn't settle it with many people anymore.
This reservoir of unanswered questions and unsatisfactory answers has taken the Rock on a kind of spiritual quest, a quest for honesty, for authenticity and for a faith that makes more sense. A faith that runs deeper than mere beliefs, more a new way of believing.
Our quest for a new kind of Christianity began following a period of deep personal crisis and the humility to recognise that what we had held onto for many years was tantamount to a bucket full of holes. We knew God had way more light and truth to reveal, so we embarked on our quest.
This quest is shared by millions of lifelong Christians around the world.
The first era of Christianity was very different to what we know now. The version of Christianity that most Christians hold today is a fusion of Greek philosophy and Roman ideals. Emperor Constantine gathered together bishops to develop creeds so that he could anchor his crumbling empire and claim validation by the God of the Christians. This was not a healthy fusion from the beginning, and in its first 250 years, these bishops participated in the executions of about 25,000 people as heretics.
Now, the word 'heresy' comes from the Greek word for choice. Early on, before the bishops had crafted a central confession of the Christian faith, people understood the Christ in a wide variety of ways. Suddenly, those who were believed to have strayed away from this centrally held ethos were labelled heretics. Why? Because they saw things they were not supposed to see, or said things they were not supposed to say. They wondered about things they were not supposed to wonder about, and when 'Mother Church' told them to stop, they did not obey her.
The Christian faith had changed from a dynamic faith that moved mountains to a static belief that burned heretics. Faith that made a difference in the world was replaced by a list of rules that controlled people's every move, and sadly that kind of belief is what has remained to this day.
Over the centuries there are many who have joined the quest and asked those serious questions that have helped bring down this paradigm that has been in place for over a thousand years.
Men like Martin Luther dared to question rituals in the church with his ninety five statements that he posted on the now famous Wittenberg Door. This sparked off a debate that would move the movement from its medieval practices and push the church into a new era.
Brian Mclaren, in his book A New Kind of Christianity, puts it this way..
'What the church has done to Christianity sometimes makes believers not want to associate with anything named Christian. It's no wonder that Jesus and his way has become unappealing to the masses, not because of what he did, but because of how it's been marketed by the institution called the church.
New statements inspire debates which bring us to a new state. But new questions can inspire new conversations that can launch us on a new quest. It's time for a new quest, launched by new questions - a quest across denominations and around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith'
It's is said that the difference between a Christian and a disciple of Jesus is as follows:
Christians are people who have entered a certain sedentary membership or arrived at a status validated by some group or institution, while disciples are those who have started on a rigorous unending journey or quest in relation to Jesus Christ.'
The Rock has joined this quest.
Questions? Let's ask some of you!
Is Christ the centre of your life or is religion?
Has your life been reduced to a set of rules and moral commands?
Have you become 'churchified' rather than transformed?
Are you living out a type of godliness that is fear based and guilt ridden?
Do you have to live right and perform well in order to get God's approval?
Do you believe in the same God as Jesus or the one you've been handed down by religious people?
Do you have to be a better person to be in right relationship with God?
Are you trusting your good works, rather than Christ, for your righteousness?
Are you aware you are forgiven before you repent?
Are you ready to receive God's gift of righteousness?
Religion tries to offer a solution to the problem of death and the crisis of meaning!
Religion consists of all the things (believing, behaving, worshipping, sacrificing.. to name but a few..) human beings have ever thought they had to do to get right with God, but none of these ever could fix the problem.
What Jesus came to do was precisely what religion couldn't do: take away sin! Everything that religion tried and failed to do was perfectly done once and for all in Jesus.
'There is a big difference between the power and purpose of Jesus and the religion that bears its name. We must not confuse Christ with Christianity. One is the river and the other is like a merchant that sells water by the river.' The Christian religion attempts to package and provide access to water that is readily available to anyone at any time. Often the merchant gets in the way of the the water it wants to provide. Ironically, the religion that proclaims Jesus sometimes builds the biggest barriers to Him. Christianity seems to serve as a gate keeper for something that does not have or even need a gate. The river was here before the merchant, the river is available with or without the merchant and it will be here long after the merchant is gone. The river gives water to all that are thirsty. According to Jesus, there is nothing that stands between us and it. We already have what we are looking for and Jesus came to show us how to experience it.
It's not in eternity when we die. We don't have to search all our lives to get it. We don't have to behave in certain ways. We don't have to renounce all our worldly possessions. We don't have to hold certain beliefs.. these are the currency of the merchant - RELIGION!
All we have to be is thirsty and trust the one who said that if we take a good long drink of him, we would never thirst again.
Righteousness is to be in right standing before one to whom it matters. Biblical righteousness, you may be surprised to hear, is nothing to do with moral perfection or sinless behaviour!
Sadly, much of the church has made it that so it becomes about how you behave towards God rather than how he behaves toward you. The Bible talks about "... a righteousness revealed which is by faith from first to last…”. Righteousness is not the reward of good behaviour but a revelation of God's activity to reconcile you beyond and in spite of your behaviour. It is a gift for which the only qualification is a state of unrighteousness!
In fact, righteousness and sinlessness are not the same thing.
You are declared righteous by a unilateral declaration of God himself. If you become sinless (good luck!), it will not be because you were able to, but because the thing that said you were sinful has been declared null and void!
There is nothing we can do in ourselves to make us acceptable to God. Whether we like it or not, we've all sinned, fallen short of our own standards let alone God'. We have this idea that if only we could do better, God would look upon us with happier eyes! But here's the truth: sinlessness on our part was never in God's head as a condition for his grace. Instead, he figured a way to deal with the whole sin issue regardless of what sinners might or might not do about it. God's love and forgiveness is available to everyone whether a villain or victim.
All our messes were/are fixed in Jesus, even before we make them! He didn't come for the righteous but for sinners, badly bent, broken, screwed up types like you and me. Jesus didn't come to turn sinners into none sinners, He JUST CAME TO SAVE THEM. What's more, you're not asked to get your life together (cos maybe you can't) and neither is your repentance a pre-requisite for God's forgiveness. Forgiveness is a gift given to a world full of sinners, and its given to them WHILE they are sinning and DESPITE of their sinning.
You may say if it's as easy as that, won't that let everybody think they have permission to 'sin'? NEWSFLASH! Everybody already has the permission to do whatever he or she can get away with. In fact, God made it that way by insisting we were created free beings.
But aren't we supposed to to try and do what's right? Yes, but it doesn't change what exists in the Good News of the gospel - Free Grace. God is not in the sin prevention business, he's in the sin forgiveness business. There is no sin that God hasn't already forgiven. If we really believe the gospel, our 'sin' (whatever it is) can't condemn us, but just as important, our sinning can't save us either!' '..While we were yet sinners Christ died for us'. If this is not the Good News you're hearing, then it's not the Gospel!
The Hebrew Old Testament has no general word for "time" in the abstract sense at all. Neither does it have special terms for past, present, and future.
One could characterize the difference between how the Hebrews understood time and how we do by saying that time for us is “LINEAR” and “QUANTITATIVE”, whereas time for them was “CYCLICAL” and "QUALITATIVE”. Instead of beginnings and endings, it screamed out resurrection, new beginnings, dead things can live again and live life in all its fullness!
In the Old Testament, events and persons were differentiated and arranged not by their position in chronological sequence to each other, but according to the impact of their occurrence. In other words, people mattered in the context of time rather than time mattered in the context of people. It messes up their records of genealogical order, but expresses their recognition of what truly matters!
The Hebrews were impressed by the weightiness or significance of things and people, not by how many ticks on a clock went by while doing something.
The wonderful benefit of this was that the worshipper experienced acts of salvation as contemporary and happening right then, even if the act occurred in the past! That’s how we see things at the Rock!
Unconventional By Design
Jesus is an outstanding example of someone who is totally unconventional, not by freakishness, not by accident, but by design. He threw everyone around him into a tailspin regarding all the stuff they thought they had down and dusted. We’re not so sure he was misunderstood, but rather that he disturbed the current understanding of those around him in a way that made them decidedly uncomfortable.
It is the discomfort of the unfamiliar, often contradictory and decidedly controversial challenge that comes with the Jesus of the Bible that most want to trade in for a more domesticated version. Not us though!
Our desire to be unconventional by design here at the Rock has nothing to do with style or structure, but more to do with how we challenge conventionally held conclusions on God, religion and life.
It is impossible to change the future without disturbing the present.
Unforgiveable.. Am I?
But surely, if we keep on sinning, wouldn't that be unforgiveable?
Your sin will never cut you off from the forgiveness offered to you from God through Christ. There is only one thing that causes a major problem to God: one's unwillingness to be forgiven. The reason for this? It leaves us with nowhere to go!
Welcome to Our House!
Everyone is looking for a convincing story that gives them a sense of purpose.
We have one.
People are precious.
Your life counts.
You can thrive.
When we know who we are, we know what to do.
We believe in new beginnings and second chances,
In a joy that overcomes,
In a love that endures.
We are participating in the restoration of all things.
God is love.
God is on your side.
God keeps no record of wrongs.
God is in you.
Jesus reveals God’s heart.
Jesus offers us a revolutionary way of living that we are choosing to follow.
￼We enter this sacred space through faith, hope and love.
Faith is your decision to place your belief and trust in the goodness and faithfulness of God.
Hope is the confident expectation that the last word has not been spoken.
Love is felt, received and done.
We have been to hell and back and found it’s not there and discovered heaven is where we begin.