I was asked by a pastor recently “what is the secret of church growth?” Expectantly he thought my answer would be prayer evangelism and a whole list of do and don’ts. I must admit so did I. Naturally I would have given him the answers he was looking for. Supernaturally however, my answer is different. Very different. I seriously think we have the Gospel wrong. The Gospel traditional is viewed as an antidote for sin, a cure for human deficiencies and a moral conduct of human improvement. This is the way we share the message. “God hates sin and as such will judge the world and if one doesn’t repent, he will be sent to hell.”
We preach the following:
a) That God hates sins, and thus God hates you;
b) Jesus was sent to die for your sins to satisfy God’s sense of justice, hence God visits his vengeance on his Son so that you will be spared when you believe in his Son;
c) If you reject Jesus God will ensure you will burn in hell;
d) If you receive Jesus, you have to obey the commandments, suffer for Jesus, constantly repent and confess your sins, tithe, go to church on all Sundays, serve and obey your pastors and hope that you don’t sin against the Holy Spirit, otherwise you burn in hell;
e) Few make to heaven but many burn in hell; and finally
f) God loves you.
Everything with the exception of item (f) is utter rubbish. I personally believe we have gotten our gospel wrong. Here is what the Scriptures really teaches.
a) God sees you separately from your sins. God condemns sin and not you. Romans 8 says this, “no condemnation 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you[a] free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] he condemned sin in the flesh 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” God condemns sin already so that you are not condemned. That he did because He loves you and He hates sin. He hates sin because of what it does to you.
b) God did not take vengeance against His Son. What He did was that the Father is in Christ reconciling the world to Him. See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 “18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God.”
c) It is a mistake to think only the Christians’ sins are forgiven. Here is something really shocking. The world’s sins are forgiven. In fact they are taken away once and for all on the cross. Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Yes even the unbelievers. It is the unbeliever who refuses to be reconciled, not God. They still consider God an “enemy in their minds”: Colossians 1:21-22. Thus, they choose their destiny.
d) Further without the Holy Spirit they are unable to be convinced that God has chosen not to remember their sins. “Hebrews 10: 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this…17 Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” Notice the words “testifies to us”. The unbeliever remains unsaved not because he is not forgiven but because he refuses to believe God loves him and hence remains and enemy to God. Hence it is he who refuses to reconcile to God. Hell is full of forgiven people who refuses to be forgiven.
e) If you come to Christ the righteous requirements of the Law is already fully met in you. See above and Romans 8:4. You are not bound by laws and efforts. You act godly because you are already godly. You are saved once and for all. Hebrews 10:4 “14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.”
f) Heaven is filled with some many saved people that no one can count. Revelation 7:9 “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.” The reference to wide gates and roads are directed to Jews and they describe what majority of Jews do which is to try to observe the Law in order to attain righteousness.
The Gospel begins in creation
We often think of our Gospel of us recovering what was lost through sin and how we will reach a nirvana-like heaven where we will live in peace with the Almighty after a long hard life much like Pilgrim’s Progress. To many then the Gospel begins when Jesus became the sacrifice on the cross. I want to today bring you further back. All the way to Genesis 1.
“Amplified Bible (AMP)
In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters.”
It is pertinent to note that the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. This same expression is voiced here when Noah sent forth a dove to see if the waters had receded from the flood.
Living Bible (TLB)
8 Meanwhile he sent out a dove to see if it could find dry ground, 9 but the dove found no place to light, and returned to Noah, for the water was still too high. So Noah held out his hand and drew the dove back into the boat.
This picture of the Holy Spirit hovering over the waters of creation tells us the Spirit was looking for a place to rest. As such the Spirit of God was waiting for God to create a place for it to rest! He was waiting for the Father to create something for it to fill, to possess, to own, to seal and to light. Thus creation begins in 2 sets of triplets. God created:
1st day Light and he separated Light and Darkness.
2nd day The Sky and the Sea.
3rd day The earth and the lower form of life.
Then, he did this:
4th day He made the Sun to fill the Day, Moon and Stars to fill the void of the night.
5th day Birds to fill the Sky and Fishes to fill the Sea
6th day Animals and the highest form of Life, Man.
God filled what he made on the 4th day to fill what he created on the 1st, the 5th day to fill the 2nd and the 6th day to fill what he made on the 3rd.
So you see God always fills the void. You also see God was preparing Man for the Spirit to rest upon. It was always on God’s mind that man be united with God in his Spirit. This is ultimate plan of creation. It is not just that man would enjoy creation and his Creator but that God may enjoy man by resting in man. You then see from creation God was not just interested to stroll with man in a Garden. He wanted to be in man. The ultimate goal of creation is not being with men, that is “Emmanuel” God with us. It was “Immanence” God in us. This was the heart of the Father, that His Spirit would rest in man.
Thus, before he could infuse man with his Spirit, the Father must confer authority onto his creation. He thus gave them the power to co-reign with him. He gave him the power of speech, the medium in which the Father used to create the world. The man became God’s ally and viceroy in creation. Adam was to given dominion over the animals. They will subject themselves unto him.
I sincerely believed that the ultimate union between the man and the Spirit of God would take place at Adam’s consummation of the fruit from the tree of life. I believe that the Spirit of God would finally have rested upon Adam when he took from the tree of life. That is how Adam would live forever, the Spirit in him, the real fruit from the tree of life, the one very thing that sustains him. Yet we see that Adam was never near the trees until Eve was formed. Eve however was constantly hanging around the two trees.
Genesis 1: 9, 16-17, At the center of the garden he placed the Tree of Life, and also the Tree of Conscience, giving knowledge of Good and Bad. But the Lord God gave the man this warning: “You may eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the Tree of Conscience—for its fruit will open your eyes to make you aware of right and wrong, good and bad. If you eat its fruit, you will be doomed to die.”
Then tragedy struck.
We lost our authority
Living Bible (TLB)
3 The serpent was the craftiest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. So the serpent came to the woman. “Really?” he asked. “None of the fruit in the garden? God says you mustn’t eat any of it?”
2-3 “Of course we may eat it,” the woman told him. “It’s only the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden that we are not to eat. God says we mustn’t eat it or even touch it, or we will die.”
4 “That’s a lie!” the serpent hissed. “You’ll not die! 5 God knows very well that the instant you eat it you will become like him, for your eyes will be opened—you will be able to distinguish good from evil!”
6 The woman was convinced. How lovely and fresh looking it was! And it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit and gave some to her husband, and he ate it too. 7 And as they ate it, suddenly they became aware of their nakedness, and were embarrassed. So they strung fig leaves together to cover themselves around the hips.
Mankind lost his authority to reign. He handed it to an outlaw spirit. The Serpent became the god of this world, the god of this age and the prince of the air. He took Adam’s place among the sons of God.
Job 1:6 One day when the sons of God came to stand in front of the Lord, Satan the Accuser came along with them.
Notice that he was not a son of God but he came to be among them.
Hebrews 9:23 tells us that “It was necessary, then, for the copies be purified” It tells us that heaven needed cleansing. Why?
I believe in the book of Job, Satan had taken the place of Adam. He stands in the man’s place and condemns humanity. When Adam fell he took Adam’s place to represent humanity and thus condemns humanity. Many preached Jesus to be the second Adam, I don’t believe so. Jesus was the last Adam. He wasn’t the second. I believe Satan is. He became the representative of man before God. Hence this is where he gains ground to condemn humanity. He stands in man’s place to condemn him.
A new Man
Hence, it was necessary for a man to triumph over the serpent. God must find therefore a champion to represent mankind to restore what he had initially planned. His union with man can only be completed if a man were to defeat the Serpent and wrestle that place which Satan gained ground. That champion appeared in the river Jordan one day.
Again we find the Spirit hovering above the waters. Except this time, the Spirit rested on this one man. The last Adam. He had never been tainted with the sin of Adam. He came full of grace and truth. The eternal Son of God became the Son of Man. “Eternity stepped into time, Manna became man, Light became life”. Mankind has a new champion. God has a new Adam. His plane of creation can finally be completed. The Spirit finally has a place to rest. He does not need to brood over the waters anymore. The Spirit now finally can rest upon a new Adam.
Mark 1:10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
God introduced an intervener into the cosmos of the Serpent. He intervened himself into the jurisdiction of the Serpent. He was restoring creation back to humanity. There was a new kid on the block. His name is Jesus.
He is the very man that God was looking for. He is the completion of creation. He is the first of the many men the Spirit of God would eventually rest on. Creation started when the Spirit of God hovered above the waters. Creation ended when the Spirit of God rested on Jesus when he came out of the waters. In this perfect Adam, he made those in him, New Creations by dying to the old world and resurrecting us to the new. Through him, God seated all of us to the right hand of the Father.
Profoundly we sometimes fail to understand the significance of Jesus calling himself the Son of Man. He was saying that he had come to be Man’s representative. He was here to represent us a man not as God. (I must state here that he is both man and God). His role here was to declare to the world, what Adam could have been and how he should have been.
Firstly Jesus “can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.’ John 5:19. Whatever he did, he did through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
It is pertinent to note what is said of Jesus in Acts 10.
- 36 You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.
- 37 You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—
- 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Note that Peter speaks of him not as God but as man in his role here. He is Lord of all. He is the man that had been given all authority as had Adam. Except while Adam had dominion on earth, Jesus has authority as man in heaven and on earth. Note also the significance of John’s baptism here. How the anointing was recognised, through the descent and the resting of the Holy Spirit on him. Lastly how he as a man not using divine powers but as man in union of the Holy Spirit, healed and did good through the power of the Holy Spirit. On a side note, the way God views works in the Gospel is works done through the power of the Spirit and not your works.
Hence you see Jesus was the ultimate goal of creation.
Matthew 28:18 When Jesus came near, he spoke to them. He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Why also heaven? Remember Hebrews 9? He kicked Satan out of his place when he cleansed heaven with his blood. Now in the place of Adam, it is no longer the Serpent. It is the Son of God!
Living Bible (TLB)
6 No, for in the book of Psalms David says to God, “What is mere man that you are so concerned about him? And who is this Son of Man you honor so highly? 7 For though you made him lower than the angels for a little while, now you have crowned him with glory and honor. 8 And you have put him in complete charge of everything there is. Nothing is left out.”
It is pertinent to note that the term “made him lower than the angels” means he was placed under the administration of the Law of Moses. Dear friends, you would note that this quotation is cited in Hebrews 1 to reflect this verse:
Living Bible (TLB)
For since the messages from angels have always proved true and people have always been punished for disobeying them, what makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation announced by the Lord Jesus himself and passed on to us by those who heard him speak?
The message of the angels was the Law of Moses and Satan’s weapon of this accusation is the Law of Moses. 2nd Corinthians tells us that Satan uses a veil to keep us from seeing the Gospel. What many do not know the veil here is the veil of Moses. It is the Law of Moses, the old covenant.
2 Corinthians 3:13-17
13 We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. 14 But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. 15 Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. 16 But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
So Satan uses the Law to accuse the sons of Adam. Let’s see how Paul deals with this issue here in Colossians 2. Here is how it is read in the NIV:
- 13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you[a] alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,
- 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
- 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.[b]
Let’s look at how it is worded in the Living Bible (TLB):
- 13 You were dead in sins, and your sinful desires were not yet cut away. Then he gave you a share in the very life of Christ, for he forgave all your sins,
- 14 and blotted out the charges proved against you, the list of his commandments which you had not obeyed. He took this list of sins and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.
- 15 In this way God took away Satan’s power to accuse you of sin, and God openly displayed to the whole world Christ’s triumph at the cross where your sins were all taken away.
You see dear friends, I want us to realise something very important here. The right hand of the Father is not a place for God to sit. It is a place for man to sit. Seated there is a man. Our champion. Our High Priest. Our representation. He sits there because he earned, Jesus is the only man who went to heaven by works. He is the only man who went to heaven by merit.
1 Timothy 2:4-6
4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[a] so that we may serve the living God!
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.
See? He is seated there as a man.
3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
He sits at the right hand of God because he worked for us. He sits there on merit. He sits there as a man who had worked for the salvation of his brothers and for you and me. He sits there as our champion.
There are many who claim “O we are awaken as the Holy Spirit is already in us. Everyman is already saved because the Spirit is dormant in us and as such we don’t even need to believe.” I must state this despite what I have written and what has been reveal to me, I am not a universalist and I do not believe the Holy Spirit is in every man.
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[a]
39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.
The Spirit of God had not been given yet. Also note it is conditional upon belief in Jesus.
John 14:17 clearly states “That helper is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it doesn’t see or know him. You know him, because he lives with you and will be in you.”
He was with the disciples and not in the disciples. The only person whom the Spirit was in at that time was Jesus.
A new humanity
It was only in Acts after Jesus’ resurrection the Spirit of God rested upon all who believed in Jesus. The Spirit now finds rest on humanity. However a new humanity. A humanity which was birth from the side of the body of Christ. A new creation. A creation created through the resurrection of the perfect man. While Jesus was the only begotten son before the cross, he became the first born of many brothers.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who[a] have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Notice Jesus is no longer the only child that the Father has now? There are many brothers and sisters!
Here lies the genius of God. Do you know that Jesus was a man who stopped the wind, drove of demons, healed the sick, made loaves and fishes grow, walked on water an raised the dead as a man? He did it with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dear friends, are you a man who is given union of the Holy Spirit? If so if Jesus stopped the wind, drove of demons, healed the sick, made loaves and fishes grow, walked on water an raised the dead as a man, can you not do the same?
- 2 When Pentecost, the fiftieth day after Passover, came, all the believers were together in one place.
- 2 Suddenly, a sound like a violently blowing wind came from the sky and filled the whole house where they were staying.
- 3 Tongues that looked like fire appeared to them. The tongues arranged themselves so that one came to rest on each believer.
- 4 All the believers were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages as the Spirit gave them the ability to speak.
Isn’t this the promise of Jesus?
11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
You know what he said after these words?
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him,because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”
May I submit to you, the Gospel is not about sin and how far we have fallen short of it. It is about righteousness and how much we are full of it. It is not about trying to stop the decay of the old word, it is the public declaration that the new heaven and earth is already in place. It is not about a set of rules governing the moral conduct of man, it is about the potential of what the church can be perfected united with the Spirit of Jesus and the Father.
Today we have a champion who meets all our needs.
Hebrews 7 records for us:
“because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”
You see Jesus is the champion, he is “holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” He is our High Priest. Whatever he is, so is his priests. We too are “is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”
May I just end with this. We are saved by a man. A man who was sent by the Father. A Father who loved us even before we fell. A Father who wanted to be with us so much that he created the world for us to prepare for his Spirit to dwell not only with us but in us. A God who is not satisfied with heaven as his home. He wanted to make you his home. That is why he does NOT live in temples made by human hands. He lives in you. You are his temple. It is there he finds rest. The Son of Man finally found rest on the cross. His Spirit found his rest in you. You are now the man God wanted you to be. You are now no longer a 2nd or 3rd Adam. You are now in the last Adam. You are in Christ.
God loves you. Now love one another as Christ loves you.