A Blessed Sinner

In Psalm 32:1, David writes:

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

1,000 or so years later, Paul records this same verse (see Rom. 4:4-8). And it was, is, and always will be a scandal.

“Blessed” and “sinner” are at odds in the economy of a holy/just God. They are like East and West. But here we have a blessing given to one who sins. Of course, the sins must be forgiven in order for the blessing to come.

This is truly only possible in Christ. He was the only one who deserved God’s blessing, but instead took the punishment of a sinner. This alone provided true and ultimate forgiveness of sins. This was so that all of us sinners can be blessed. We don’t deserve it.

Do you see this scandal today? It’s an outrage to the self-righteous. But let it be a healing balm to those who own their sin. Through Christ’s sacrifice alone, our sins can be forgiven. We can be “blessed sinners”!


“Does Jesus Still Love You if You Have Sex out of Wedlock?” – More

I 100% agree with Michael Brown in his article, “Does Jesus Still Love You if You have Sex out of Wedlock?” Please read it for yourself.

However, I felt there was something missing in it that I want to add here.

Consider Jesus’ interactions with:

  • the “loose” Samaritan woman of John 4
  • the “sinful” woman of Luke 7:36-50
  • the adulterous woman of John 8:2-11

Here Jesus deals directly with individuals who have sex outside of wedlock, so we can get a good clue of his response. He shows that such people can be given true revelation of Jesus (see John 4) and can love Jesus at a great level (see Luke 7:47). He also shows love, grace, and forgiveness for them. The Pharisees, on the other hand, counted them out because of their sin, and thus were fuming that Jesus would do this.

However, Jesus also says things like: “sin no more,” (John 8:11). Make no mistake, as Brown says in his article, sex outside of marriage covenant is sin that deserves the crucifixion Jesus took for our sins. It is deeply troubling to the Lord. Even more, looking at others with lustful intent makes us guilty before God of adultery that also must be nailed to the cross (Matt. 5:28). So Jesus’ love toward them does not trivialize this (or any) sin. God forbid!

The people who should feel the sting the most out of these episodes are all the ones who think they have no sin. But Jesus gives GOOD NEWS to all who know they do have sin. Amen!

Both camps (the Pharisees and the promiscuous) must own that they are great sinners in need of a great savior. And the greater the sin, the greater the forgiveness he offers, and the greater our love will grow toward Christ (Luke 7:47). Those who see their sin and forgiveness will have the most gratitude toward Christ and desire to live for Him now. This is great news for all – except those who don’t know they are a sinner in need of a Savior.

Leave Legalism and the Prosperity Gospel

This is taken verbatim from Asia Harvest’s “A Word from Paul and Joy”:

“Since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:1-2).

In our March newsletter we exhorted readers to keep walking in God’s grace and truth, and to beware of the twin pitfalls which all Christians much avoid—legalism on one hand, and the false prosperity Gospel on the other. Having seen the faith of countless believers shipwrecked by these two distortions, we wanted to encourage all who love the Lord Jesus to continue in God’s Word and relationship with Him.

Quite a few people has strong reactions to our message, both positively and negatively. Helen from Australia wrote, “Many thanks for your wonderful message to us in the March newsletter. It was very powerful and it has strengthened me so much. I feel greatly encouraged.”

Stan from Illinois shared: “I couldn’t agree with you more. The Christian life is not about living up to a standard; it is about living under an influence. The influence is the Holy Spirit, of course. Legalists think about living up to the standard. Prosperity gospel people do not think about living under the influence, only about the benefits that the influence is supposedly guaranteed to bring. Hebrews 11 is the chapter that really puts the nails in the coffin of the prosperity gospel. That chapter lists the heroes of the faith, but they fall into two categories—those who get rescued and those who meet horrible deaths (sawn in two, etc.) What strikes me is that BOTH categories are held up side by side as models of genuine faith. There is no hint that the rescued ones had more faith or better faith than the ones who died for Christ. It’s the total opposite of the prosperity gospel explanation of suffering.”

On the other hand, others challenged us for mentioning the Prosperity Gospel in a negative light. One man wrote, “I felt very discouraged after reading Paul and Joy’s message. If our churches are too legalistic and others teach false doctrine, what is the answer? Are we not to continue to invite our neighbors to church even when they never come? Our church is dying in our small community. We are all over the age of 50. What can we do?”

Friends, we believe one of the major problems in the Church today is that much of what is portrayed as faith is actually just humanism with a Christian veneer thrown over the top.

For example, Western culture teaches that from an early age, “You can be whatever you want, and you can do whatever you put your mind to.” Is that true? Certainly not! On the contrary, we can be what God wants us to be and do what He calls and empowers us to do, if we walk in obedience to Him. We meet many Christians who have become disillusioned because they were told they hold the keys to a successful life, if only they strive hard enough, or believe strongly enough. Then as the years pass by and their hopes and dreams fail to materialize like they expect, they grow increasingly despondent and their hope fades. Disappointment sets in—even bitterness towards God—even though He has never once told a person to try to fulfil their own dreams and desires. When the inevitable trials and hardships of life come along their faith crumbles, just as Jesus warned in the Parable of the Sower: “The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away” (Matthew 3:20-21).

Humanism is rampant in many parts of the Church today. In subtle ways it places people in God’s position and attempts to place God in our position. Everything is turned upside-down. In the Bible people were exhorted to believe in God, but these days we’ve heard preachers tell their audiences that God believes in them! We are told to trust ourselves, but Jesus said we should trust in Him. Humanism says people are basically good, but God’s Word declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

In one sense, a Christian is not called to live for Jesus! Rather, our job is to die to ourself and allow Jesus to live through us. We need to get out of the way and humble ourselves. Only when we do this can His glory shine through our lives.

The Prosperity Gospel is not simply about financial matters. It is a broader philosophy that believes if a person follows Christ then things will generally go well for them in this life.

Such a teaching is popular and enticing, but is it Biblical? Did you ever consider that of the 12 men Jesus called to be apostles, ten were murdered for their faith, one (John) died in exile on a small island, while one committed suicide? Was something wrong with the apostles’ faith? How about Christians in China, Iran, North Korea and a host of other nations who are beaten, imprisoned and even killed because of their love for Jesus? We have even heard people say that persecuted believers need to trust God more in order to “experience the victorious life” that the Bible promises!

Dear Christian, don’t be deceived by the false teaching of humanism that is presented as truth in many churches today.

It will not bring you closer to the heart of Jesus, but will only result in heartache and confusion. It’s better to live in truth, humble ourselves and seek God’s glory, than to pump ourselves up into thinking we control our own destiny and well-being, which only ends in bitter disappointment.

The secret to the Chinese revival we have spent many years sharing on is this: The mighty movement did not come about not by human desire and endeavour, but through hardship, sacrifice, and people humbling themselves to obey God’s will in their lives. Nobody will ever understand the revival that has brought as many as 100 million Chinese people into the kingdom of God unless they first understand the role of suffering. Suffering has been the launch-pad for revival, helping the Church in China to walk in obedience to the will of God.

Before any resurrection can occur there must first be death. The Church in China was first called to die before they experienced the miracles and resurrection power of Jesus in their midst. Many believers today desire to experience God’s power like in the Bible, or in China, but the question to ask is this: ‘Are you willing to first die to yourself?’ God will never share His glory with someone who lives for their own desires and reputation.

Such talk is nonsense to anyone who has swallowed the lies of the humanistic ‘Prosperity’ Movement. The Scriptures state that even the Lord Jesus “learned obedience from what he suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). If the sinless Son of God needed such a lesson, how much more do we!

The true Gospel has not changed, and never will.

God’s kingdom always advances through human weakness, not strength;—for when we are weak, He is strong. This is the truth, whether we like it or not. Those who really want to follow Jesus must find the true Jesus of the Scriptures, not the twisted caricature of the Lord that is often portrayed today. Only knowing the true Jesus will set people free to know and obey the will of God.

Whenever God has moved in awesome power throughout history there has been no room for humanism in the Church. Christ alone is exalted, and all people are humbled. May we learn this lesson in our own lives and churches. Any true faith will display the equation shared by John the Baptist: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30).

We would like to conclude by sharing a selection of quotes a reporter wrote about a powerful revival which occured more than a century ago, which resulted in thousands of people coming to Christ. Note the deep humility and self-abasement that is the mark of this and all true moves of God. Humanism cannot exist in such an environment. May we get to a place in our lives where all we desire is for Jesus Christ to be exalted!…

“I came to abhor myself. I begged the Lord to drop a curtain so close behind me on my past that it would hit my heels. He told me to forget every good deed as though it had never occurred, as soon as it was accomplished, and go forward again as though I had never accomplished anything for Him, lest my good works become a snare for me.”

“Men must come to know their own weaknesses before they can hope to know God’s strength. The natural strength and ability of man is always the greatest hindrance to the work of God, and to God’s working. God exalts no man or mission, but rather humbles all in the dust together, that He alone may be glorified.”

“The temptation seemed to be always, toward empty manifestation. This does not require any particular cross, or death to the self-life. Hence it is always popular. But there is only one safe, honest course to pursue with the ‘old man.’ Bury him under six feet of earth, with his face downward. The harder he scratches the deeper he will go.”

Paul and Joy Hattaway

The One Thing

Scripture: Exodus 24:9-18; Job 42:1-6; Psalm 27:4-6; Song of Songs 5:6-6:3; Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 10:38-42; Eph. 1:15-23; Rev. 2:1-7

In Exodus 24:9-18, Moses and the Israelite leaders saw God in a raw and unfiltered way. This was so rare that Moses wrote that God, “did not lay his hand on the chief men…they beheld God, and ate and drank,” (24:11). In other words, they could have been killed for coming so close to such a holy God, but He preserved their life. So they were able to eat and drink and just adore His presence.

Note that this happens before God gives some very specific instructions to Moses (Ex. 25-31). God wanted them to see/know/behold Him before they begin to talk about building a tabernacle for Him.

It also happens before the Israelites reject God by worshipping a golden calf (Ex. 32). In fact, the great tragedy of that story is that Aaron and other leaders were present to see God’s glory in Ex. 24:9-18 and then turn to worship the glory of man (a stupid calf made from gold that God granted to them [c.f. Ex. 12:36]). In other words, they knew better. The glory of this calf paled in comparison to what they saw, but they gave in to the demands of the people and their eyes drifted from the glory they had formerly beheld.

Fast forward a few hundred years when David writes of conflicts and battles all around him (see Psalm 27:1-3). And yet, in the midst of all that, he says, “One thing I have desired of the LORD…That I may dwell in the house of the LORD…to behold the beauty of the LORD…” (Ps. 27:4). It is an odd picture for a man immersed in a battle to think his best recourse is to worship before God’s beauty. He even goes on to say he will “sing,” to this Lord in the temple (Ps. 27:6). How? Why? From this place, he understood, victory would come (see Ps. 27:5).

Or consider the incredibly difficult lot Job had. He lost almost everything he held dear. He asked the toughest questions of God and seemed to have no answer. All seemed hopeless…and then God appears to him. As a result, Job responds, “I have heard of You…But now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). And from here–from a place of seeing God–Job is restored.

We see the same in the bride of the Song of Songs. In ch. 5, she is brought into an anguishing time of separation from her lover. The watchmen who had previously helped her (ch. 3) now mercilessly beat her. The friends who had supported her now ask, “What is your beloved more than another beloved?” (5:9). And from this lonely, desperate place she recalls how truly stunning and beautiful her lover is: pure, handsome, black and wavy hair…you get the picture. And after she recalls his beauty, then she knows how to find him (6:2) and how to labor properly for him (6:3ff). Everything seems matured in the bride from that point of recalling her lover’s beauty.

This theme continues. Turn one book to the right of Song of Songs and you see the marvelous and powerful ministry of the prophet Isaiah. And how did his ministry begin? Isaiah 6 recalls his commissioning. It begins with an awe-inspiring vision of God Almighty. When the prophet sees that, he recognizes his unworthiness (6:5). And when the Lord calls out for someone to help Him in his mission, Isaiah seems to find himself blurting out, “Here am I! Send me,” (6:8). Hallelujah! It all began with a seeing and beholding of the Almighty.

Isaiah’s not alone in this pattern, as Ezekiel also begins his ministry with an awe-inspiring vision of God’s glory.

Move now to the New Testament. Here we have God in the flesh, Emmanuel, Jesus Christ! 2 sisters welcome Him to their home. Both take on noble tasks: Martha is serving Jesus, and Mary is listening and beholding Him. Jesus’ response? “One things is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part…” (Luke 10:42). Like David in Psalm 27, the “one thing” God desires is that we behold, worship, and adore Him. This is even greater than serving Him. In fact, on another occasion, when a woman pours her oil on Jesus, and the disciples rebuke her for not “doing more” with her gift, Jesus rebukes them back. There is nothing greater than what she did! She adored and worshiped Jesus!

Likewise, Paul also, knowing that there are many things for the church in Ephesus to do to serve God (see Eph. 4 and on), first prays a prayer for the Ephesians. He asks that God would open the eyes of their heart to see the magnificence and glory of God (see Eph. 1:17-18). And only from that point would he later tell them, “[Now] walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” (4:1). Do you see the pattern? First behold, gaze, see rightly God. THEN serve Him from that point.

Significantly, this same church (Ephesus) was later warned by Jesus Himself that amidst so many great things they were doing (see Rev. 2:1-7), He has 1 thing against them: “you have left your first love,” (Rev. 2:4). He tells them to immediately repent and go back to their first love, their first place of working for the Lord (2:5). And even though they had multiple things going for them, this one lapse was so significant to the Lord that He threatened to extinguish their entire church if they did not get this right (2:5).

In total:

  • before God’s tabernacle is built,
  • as an antidote to idolatry,
  • in the midst of enemies,
  • in response to our deepest struggles and questions,
  • before we serve the Lord,
  • greater than any other thing we can do for Him…

We are to behold his glory and beauty, we are to kindle our love, awe, admiration, and worship of Him.

If we don’t, we are no better than Pharisees, Muslims, and others who operate out of slavish obedience without a beholding of Christ/God Himself.

This is vital to all of our ministry.