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3. HUMAN IDENTITY:  Paul on New Creation Identity

This is the third of three talks – the notes for the video recording of Talk Three

3. HUMAN IDENTITY:  Paul on New Creation Identity


His earliest letter (AD 48), Galatians, is about identitySON/DAUGHTER OF GOD.

The Galatian believers had been deceived: acceptance in Christ was conditional on one’s ‘works of righteousness’, a return to legalistic Judaism. Paul confronts and corrects them by teaching we are unconditionally accepted and justified in Christ by grace and faith. That comes with a new identity.

Paul’s climactic statement is Galatians 3:26-29, recalling Jesus’ baptism: In our baptism, on confession of faith in Jesus, we are clothed with Christ, i.e., we take on a new identity that transcends previous ‘labels’:

1) Cultural: “neither Jew nor Gentile” – racial reconciliation – neither white nor black.

2) Social: “neither slave nor free” – class reconciliation – neither master nor servant, rich nor poor.

3) Sexual: “neither male nor female” – gender reconciliation; it does not mean that our sexual-gender identity is removed in Christ, and nor does Paul’s statement justify non-binary identity as some use it to mean. Nor is our ethnic identity removed – it is transcended in Christ. People from every language, tribe, and nation will still be identifiable in heaven, as we see in John’s vision of God’s people around the throne (Revelation 7:9).

“Clothed with Christ” means we are heirs with Christ as God’s sons & daughters (Galatians 4:1-7).

THAT is our new identity, no longer a ‘slave’ – to sin, to the Law, to identities – but a ‘child of God’. Because “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts that calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’  So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir” (Galatians 4:6-7).

Paul expanded on this a few years later (AD 52) in his letter to the Corinthian followers of Jesus.
He explains our identity as God’s
NEW CREATION. So, in 2 Corinthians 5:16-21:

“From now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view” – through the above identities.

“We no longer even regard Christ in this way” – as Jewish, male, rabbi – rather as The Messiah.

“Therefore, anyone in Messiah is a new creation, the old has passed, the new has come” – therefore, all the labels/identities we carry, that people gave/give us, that we ourselves choose, are transformed and transcended in Christ. We see ourselves and others as God does in new creation. The old labels through which we see and relate are passing away. The new has come.

God identifies us as his “Beloved” son/daughter… as “a new creation” (v.17), as “reconciled” with God (v.18), as “ambassadors of Christ” (v.20), as “the righteousness of God” (v.21).

Paul expanded on this later (AD 60) in Ephesians 1:3-14:  Our SEVENFOLD IDENTITY ‘IN CHRIST’.

We are “blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ” (v.3). Paul then lists seven spiritual ‘blessings’ in Christ, which constitute our new identity.

  1. I am chosen in Christ (v.4): ‘known and chosen’ by God before the creation of the world.
  2. I am holy and blameless in Christ (v.4): ‘set apart for God’ as his ‘saint’, i.e., made righteous in Christ, without guilt or shame or blame.
  3. I am predestined in Christ (v.5): ‘marked out before-hand’ by God for his eternal purpose.
  4. I am adopted in Christ (v.5): ‘into God’s family… I am God’s son/daughter’, with all the privileges of “grace, which he freely gives us in his Beloved” (v.6, his Agapetos Son).
  5. I am redeemed in Christ (v.7): ‘bought out of slavery with a price’ – the ransom that Jesus paid for our redemption and freedom, through his precious blood.
  6. I am forgiven in Christ (v.7): ‘forgiven & cleansed of all sin’ (but, we keep clean and forgiven by walking in the light and confessing any sin we commit, 1 John 1:4-9).
  7. I am sealed in Christ (v.13-14): ‘marked by the indwelling Holy Spirit’, who is God’s ‘down-payment’ that guarantees my full inheritance as God’s beloved daughter/son. Our full inheritance is the future resurrection of our bodies to rule and reign with Christ.


Decide that it is true. God knows better about you than you do! We hold onto lies about ourselves that we carry since childhood. Jesus said that if you “hold to my teaching, then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:31-32).

Choose to believe it! Faith is a choice. God is more trustworthy that your feelings or what others say about you. He declared you his ‘Be-Loved’… trust him… believe it!

Confess and speak it over you many times a day. This is how, practically, you receive and make it subjectively real. Speak God’s truth over you, over your mind, emotions, body, and relationships. Memorise and learn by heart Paul’s sevenfold identity and repeat it often.

Keep rebuking all internal voices and external messages that come at you in your mind, emotions, body, relationships, encounters with others, social media, etc. Resist anything that challenges your ‘new creation’ identity in Christ as God’s Beloved daughter or son.

Embrace your ‘Be-Loved-ness’! To be ‘Beloved’ is to be loved… to allow yourself to be loved. We don’t easily receive love due to our experience of (conditional) ‘love’ that has hurt us and broke us. We hold people, even God, at arm’s length, for self-protection. Consequently, we don’t know how to receive unconditional love. We fear pain, manipulation, and rejection. We cannot be vulnerable and trust and embrace true love. So, we have to learn to allow God to love us… in the silent whispers of our heart, through our times of prayer and scripture meditation, through caring others God has placed in our lives, and through being with him in creation.

From Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved. Hear these words from God in the centre of your being:

“I have called you by name from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests. I have moulded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace. I look at you with infinite tenderness, and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch over you. You know me as your own, as I know you as my own. You belong to me.”

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1. HUMAN IDENTITY:  Creation Design & The Fall

This is the first of three talks given at Freedom House Church, in Salt Rock, South Africa. These are the notes for the video recording of Talk One.

HUMAN IDENTITY:  Creation Design & The Fall


Definition:  Identity is our sense of self, in relation to others, decided and formed in a mix of beliefs, values, culture, personality, gender, ethnicity, social status, achievements, and even hurt/pain.

Process:  Identity is given, but also formed, and/or chosen, and even imposed (if one accepts it).

The Question is:  Who are you?  Post-modern confusion (dysphoria) is not knowing who we are. We identifying with what we feel/sense about ourselves, what we think others think of us, and so on.

Way of the world:  ‘Self-identifying’ – the basis of ‘expressive individualism’, i.e., to be my authentic self, and thus to be happy, I must self-identify as I choose, as suits me, and be free to live it out.

Biblical view of identity:  God-identifying’ – the basis of ‘fulfilled personhood’, i.e., God identifies us in creation and in new creation, to fulfil our true nature and destiny as God intended for us.

FIRST CREATION – Identified in/through Creation Design – the Genesis Story:

1st Human identity:  Genesis 1:26-27, “let us make ha adam (the human) in our image and likeness”. Human identity is God’s image – to reveal God’s likeness as his image-bearers.

2nd Sexual identity:  Gen 1:27, “male and female created he them” – man or woman image-bearers.

3rd Personal identity:  Gen 2:20,23; 3:20, “he named them…” – names identify the person; they call forth and describe the nature and purpose of the person (“Eve” = “living”, mother of all living).

It has been the same, in the same order, throughout history. The wife first says to husband, “we’re going to have a baby!” Then, “it’s a girl (or boy)!” And then, thirdly, “her (or his) name is….”

That means: “Let US (Trinity) create ha adam in our image” = we’re born and identified in relationship, by relationship, for relationship.  Mom + Dad = me!  Gabriel Marcel said, “The ‘I’ is the child of the ‘We’”, i.e., community defines personhood. The individual (individualism) does not define community.  We are defined by those to whom we belong, by those who love and form us for life.

This is embodied in the Semitic idea of naming and the use of names.

1) “Simon bar Jonah” = Simon the son of Jonah:  we are known by those who whom we belong.

2) Names embody identify and call forth (prophetically) the nature and destiny of the person. “You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21). God changes names of people if needed, ‘Jacob’ to ‘Israel’ (Gen 32:27-28). What does your name mean?

‘THE FALL’ RESULTS IN BROKEN IDENTITY – human rebellion against God:

Man’s identity. Genesis 3:17-19, his ‘bent’ (identity) will be toward work (the earth): he was taken from the earth and ‘in pain’ he will toil the earth to bring forth food. Thus, male identity since ‘The Fall’ of humanity in the garden has traditionally been: Provider, Protector, and Procreator.

Woman’s identity. Genesis 3:16, her ‘bent’ (identity) will be toward man (her husband): she was taken from the man and ‘in pain’ she will bring forth children for the man. Thus, female identity since ‘The Fall’ has traditionally been: Wife, Mother, and Home-maker/keeper.

Creation design identity reversed: now broken and illegitimate identity, not derived from our being (being God’s image), but from our doing (doing work, performing, achieving, etc).Biblically, ‘being’ precedes ‘doing’, which is natural outflow of being. To find our identity in our doing is broken creation, having to be the protector, provider, procreator, etc. It is ‘The Fall’ from “Simon bar Jonah” to “Simon the fisherman”, from “Alexander son of God” to “Pastor Alexander”, or “Apostle…”, “Doctor…”.

To be known (called and identified) by our doing, as in our achievements, position, title, social class, etc, is false identity. To find our identity in our ministry, or work, or in what others say or don’t say about us, is a disaster waiting to happen. Jesus rejected titles, dress codes, preferential treatment, positions of prominence, etc, as a means of identity and honour in his Kingdom (Matthew 23:5-12). That is the way of the world, not the way of Jesus.

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The Big Bang of The New Creation – Part Two

This paper assumes and continues the content of Part One.

John tells the story of Jesus’ resurrection in a way that shows the new creation – new heaven & new earth – began in Jesus. As the sun begins to set on that Friday, after Jesus had died, his young broken body is taken down from the cross by two elderly sages. They tenderly wash and wrap it in cloth, with 30 kilograms of spices (very expensive, only done for kings), and place his body in a new tomb in a nearby garden (John 19:39-41).

Death entered the first garden of creation through human sin. There was no tomb in that garden, because God never intended humans to die (death is an evil invasion into pristine creation, hence the innate human fear of death – it’s our enemy). They were driven out and barred by angels from re-entering that garden. In contrast, death enters the garden near Golgotha, in Jesus’ human body. There was a new tomb in this garden, because God intended to use it to defeat death by resurrecting Jesus’ body – the body that atoned for sin on that ‘Good Friday’: The Sacrificial Lamb of God. That makes this garden a New Eden of New Creation that destroys death, that will empty all tombs (one day), that opens the way for all to enter, regenerating those who do enter with eternal resurrection life.

The Resurrection (John 20:1-18)

“Early on the first day of the week, while it is still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance” (v.1). This is the day after the Sabbath, the first day of the next week, which is the eighth day of creation. For John, that eighth day is the first day of New Creation: The Resurrection of The Last Day that Jesus proclaimed in John 11:24-25, as taught in the Hebrew scriptures (Ezekiel 37:10-12, Daniel 12:2). Many Jews believed in The Resurrection, that it would mark the end of this age and the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom.

It’s no longer Friday, Sunday has come!

The phrase, “while it is still dark”, symbolizes human hopeless, entombed by the power of evil, to be shattered by the dazzling light of this new dawn. So, the story of this new dawn unfolds. Mary comes to the tomb, only to find it empty! Shocked, she runs to tell Peter and the others. They run to the tomb. It’s empty! The strips of linen lying there just as if Jesus’ body had simply come out of them! When the youngest disciple, whom Jesus specially loved, sees it, he believes. Jesus is alive!

But Mary remains outside the tomb weeping (v.10-18). Then looks in and sees two angels, one at the head and one the feet of where Jesus’ body was laid. She was dressed in black, in mourning. They were in white, connoting a different story. The glory of God that rests between the two cherubim on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies, is no longer there behind the curtain, no longer in lockdown in a tomb, but is out and about in the garden, in the home, on the street, in the marketplace. The ‘missing body’ that lay between the angels is the Resurrected Temple, the new Ark of the Presence, giving mercy and forgiveness, “life from above” to all who “receive him” (John 1:12-13). The stone is rolled away, the veil is torn open, heaven breaks out on earth, new creation explodes in broken creation.

The angels ask, “why are you weeping?”
She answers, “they’ve taken my Lord and I don’t know where they’ve put him!”
She then turns to look away from the tomb and sees someone standing there.
He asks, “woman, why are you weeping?”
Thinking he’s the gardener of the garden, she answers, “if you’ve taken his body, tell me where you’ve put him.”
Then Jesus says, “Mary”.
Recognizing his voice calling her by name (John 10:3), she sees him for who he is – risen and alive – and she comes to life.
Surprised and overwhelmed with joy, she turns fully toward him and “clings”, crying out “rabboni!” The warm relational “my teacher”, as opposed to the formal “Rabbi”. He says, “don’t cling to me because I must ascend to my Father and you must go tell my brothers that I’m returning to my Father and your Father.”
She then runs to tell them all she saw and all he said.

In the way John writes this dramatic, tender, eye-witness account, we cannot but pick up its meaning in the symbolic echoes of the first creation story (I have italicized the key words). Jesus, like the first Adam, rose to life in a garden, in spring (northern hemisphere), bursting with blossoms and new life. He is the New Adam in a New Garden of Eden. He is the gardener who tends New Creation in broken first creation, looking for us, calling us by name, “Mary”. She can symbolize the church, all believers, who turn away from the tomb of death and despair – to see Jesus, to hear him identify us by name, and embrace him.  

However, the whole point of this story is not that we hold onto Jesus in a possessive way, for our own comfort and healing, but that he sends us out as witnesses of New Creation! He is the Last Adam who is a “life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), reversing the first Adam’s “death-giving spirit”, which infected humanity with mortality, including creation. We who turn to the Last Adam, who believe and receive, become his sisters and brothers, born again with life from above by the same Father (John 1:12-13, 3:3-8). Nowhere in John’s gospel did Jesus call his disciples “my brothers”, and God “your Father”, till this resurrection day.

New Adams & Eves – New Creation Mandate (John 20:19-23)

Then John says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together…” Technically, he should say “on the second day of the week” – Sunday night was already Monday! His deliberate wording, however, emphasizes that what follows is still the first day in the Garden of Resurrection, the first day of New Creation.

The disciples are in self-imposed lockdown for fear of being arrested by the authorities. Suddenly Jesus walks in through the bolted door. He “came and stood among them”. What a shock! It’s the first time he appears to them, in John’s story, other than to Mary that morning. He greets them with the customary “Shalom alechem”, “peace be with you”. In other words: Hi, it’s me! Don’t fear! I’m here, I’m alive! Then shows them his hands and side, the marks of crucifixion. They are “overjoyed when they saw the Lord”.

He again pronounces God’s Shalom on them. Then commissions them, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you”. With that he does an extraordinary thing: he breathes on them and says, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, and affirms his commission, mandating them with his authority: “if you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven”.

Some explanatory observations arise from this story.

First, Jesus was resurrected in a ‘trans-physical’ body (N.T. Wright’s phrase), a ‘spiritualised’ body renewed and saturated by God’s Spirit (pneumatikon body, Paul’s phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:44-45). He walks through walls, appears, disappears, yet eats food and is fully recognizable as the person they knew. They touch him, feel his wounds, hug him – he’s not a ghost as they initially thought. We will recognize and know each other by name in our resurrection bodies when Jesus returns (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Jesus calls his resurrection body “flesh and bone” (Luke 24:39), different to the regular “flesh and blood” (Hebrews 2:14). “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 15:50), because “the life of the flesh in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). In other words, blood is the principle of life in the mortal body. Spirit is the principle of life in the resurrection body – thus “flesh and bone” – transformed and governed by God’s Spirit, fully suited to eternal life and reign in God’s Kingdom throughout the coming ages.

Second, to show one’s wounds in a court of law, as proof of what took place, was common in those days. This thought as two applications:

a) Jesus chose to first reveal himself to women (in all four gospels) – the first witnesses of his resurrection. Why women? Their testimony was not accepted in Jewish courts as they were ‘unreliable witnesses’ because they ‘deceive and lie’ (male prejudice). Mary earlier told the men apostles she saw, heard and touched the Risen Lord. But only when Jesus gives them the irrefutable evidence of his wounds, do they believe and are “overjoyed”! Can you believe it? Yes, sadly, I can! This was, perhaps, Jesus’ most empowering act for women, and most rebuking act for men – to transform both!

b) Jesus identifies himself by the marks of the cross. There is a nail-pierced resurrected and glorified human body not only in heaven, but in the Godhead. In some sense the Trinity is forever ‘changed’! The Crucified and Resurrected God, bearing the marks for eternity. How do you ‘self-identify’? What identifies you? What marks do you carry? Jesus told us to take up his cross and follow him, meaning, lose your life to find real life. To the extent you die to self you live in resurrection power. It’s not a triumphalist gospel for winners, but a theology of God’s power made perfect in human weakness.

Third, Jesus’ commission and breathing (his) Holy Spirit – fresh from the resurrection – into his disciples, is a direct reference to the Genesis story. Two last explanations:

a) John uses the same words, “he breathed on them”, from the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) in Genesis 2:7 and Ezekiel 37:9-10. Both texts speak of God breathing (new) life into bodies: first, Adam in the garden, then Israel in prophetic renewal. Here the New Adam breathes his Spirit of Resurrection Life into a new humanity of born-again Adams and Eves. Here Israel’s Crucified but Resurrected God breathes his Ruach ha Kodesh into the new Israel, fulfilling Ezekiel’s vision. The new humanity and new Israel are the same – all who experience John 1:12-13 & 3:3-8.
John might also see Jesus’ breathing his Spirit on them as the church’s empowerment of the Spirit – their experience of John 7:37-39 and Jesus’ teaching on the Spirit in John 14 – 16. Empowerment for the New Creation Mandate. Most biblical stories tell of God’s leaders commissioning and empowering their followers before the leader dies. John’s version of Spirit-empowerment is different to Luke’s version of Pentecost. Rather than contradict, they complement each other. It’s both/and, not either/or.

b) Before and after Jesus breathes Holy Spirit into his disciples, he commissions them, sending them as the Father sent him. In the context of this resurrection story, and in the entire context of John’s gospel, this is the renewal of the creation mandate in Genesis 1:28. Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth with Eden, rule over the creation God entrusts to you. In John’s terms, the born again and empowered church of new Adams and Eves are to take God’s Kingdom of New Creation to the ends of the earth: “Go and do what I’ve been doing, forgive sins, do miraculous signs & wonders (greater than what I did, John 14:10), bring light and life by speaking my creative word, re-Shalom the earth!”

The Conclusion (John 20:26-29)

John’s conclusion comes exactly a week later in the same house; in other words, another first day of New Creation. Jesus appears to doubting Thomas and irrefutably reveals himself as resurrected. Thomas’ response is the closing climax of the entire gospel, “My Lord and my God!” (v.28). This takes us back to the beginning, “The Word was God… and became flesh” (John 1:1,14). Jesus is indeed the Enfleshed, Crucified, Resurrected, Glorified God.

Therefore, the death, and more so the resurrection of Jesus is the Big Bang of New Creation that happens in human history. It explodes and exponentially expands God’s eternal life, the coming age, within this age, transforming broken creation. “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And most important, we are called to take that New Creation to the ends of the earth.

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Reflection on Significant Personal Shifts 2019/2020

In January I decided to start a long slow journey to meditatively read the Bible cover to cover. This morning, 30 December 2019, I finished Deuteronomy. The end of Torah/Pentateuch, the five Books of Moses. It’s been rich! I enter 2020 reading the next book in the Bible, Joshua, going into ‘The Promised Land’. How significant is that? Unplanned on my part. End of an era, beginning of a new year, a new decade, a new season to ‘inherit God’s promises’.

What makes this shift more symbolic is that Gill and I came to Johannesburg – independently of one another – in January 1980 (we met in 1984, got married in 1987). And we relocate to Salt Rock on the South African north coast, to a brand new house, on my birthday 14 January 2020! We both, in other words, have lived in Johannesburg exactly 40 years, planting and pastoring churches. Not that they have been a ‘wandering in the wilderness’ like Israel – at least not all of the time! But I do see God’s sovereignty in the timing of things. Has it been ‘training for reigning’, as in Israel’s formation and preparation in the wilderness, to rule with God in the new land?

Briefly, three years ago we started a succession process to hand over our local church. Two years later, on 13 January 2019, we laid hands on a younger couple to lead the church (when I began reading Genesis, ‘new beginnings’). We took the big step of faith to trust God month by month for ministry and finances, making ourselves available to the broader church to travel, consult with leaders, teach conferences, lead spiritual retreats, and write more books. Not that the last one has happened yet! And we decided, with a sense of leading from God, to relocate to the coast – north of Durban, where I was born in 1955. God has encouraged us with prophetic words that speak of a whole new season in our lives. We’ve been stretched in our faith like never before. Without going into detail, here’s one example: due to SA’s economic recession we’ve not yet sold our Johannesburg house, which we really need to sell (if there’s anyone out there who wants to buy it, let me know!)

I have learnt that the longer we faithfully journey with God in life, leadership and ministry, things do not get easier. Faith is further tested and seriously stretched for the finishing work of God in us, and through us, in his preordained plan for us. Jesus’ biggest test was toward the end of his life – Gethsemane – ‘Father, if it’s possible, take this cup from me! Yet not what I will, but what you will’. Greater faith is need for the greater and final things God wants to do in our lives. It’s ultimately training for reigning with Jesus in our resurrected bodies on the new earth, in the coming age(s). God has personally come through for us, reassuring us, providing, making a way, working miracles, keeping promises, being our light in darkness – ‘My God, that’s who you are!’

I conclude by grounding this brief 2019/2020 reflection in my year’s scripture reading. What amazed me is that the five books of Moses are named, in the Hebrew Bible, by the opening phrase of each book. They constitute an overview of headline lessons, a story told backwards from Deuteronomy to Genesis:

  • From ‘the words’
  • That ‘the Lord speaks’
  • Based on ‘the Lord’s calling’ on our lives
  • Calling us ‘by name’ to ‘exodus’ out of slavery to sin into God’s Promised Kingdom
  • Which is ‘the beginning’ of (a new) creation.

Deuteronomy is essentially the repetition of ‘These are the words’ (1:1, the Hebrew name for Deuteronomy) of God’s covenant, to prepare Israel to enter The Promised Land. They are literally “the words” (debarim) from God that give us faith and life (Romans 10:8-17), that equip us to inherit God’s promises, to enter the rule and reign of God’s Kingdom come.

These ‘words’ (Deuteronomy) follow on, and come from ‘The Lord spoke’ – Hebrew name for the book of Numbers (1:1; the Hebrew Bible also uses “in the desert/wilderness”, 1:1). Did you know that ‘the Lord spoke/said’, and its related phrases, occur 150 times in Numbers? Astonishing! In other words, the message of Numbers is that life’s wilderness is all about learning to hear God’s voice again and again in each and every situation – to receive God’s words, to be guided and trained by them for life. For 40 years in the desert, whenever Israel was tested, facing trials and temptations, Moses prayed and listened, heard and obeyed God. Israel, in contrast, moaned and groaned, reacted and rebelled. To the degree we learn to live and lead by listening and obeying, we exercise God’s authority to rule and reign, demonstrating the signs and wonders of the Kingdom, as Moses did.

‘The Lord said’ (Numbers) is based on ‘The Lord called’ (Leviticus 1:1) – the Hebrew name for the book of Leviticus. The Greek Septuagint name, Leviticus, means ‘relating to the Levites’. The Hebrew message of Leviticus is: because God has called us, therefore we hear God’s Word. It’s all about our calling and identity as God’s redeemed and holy people. The Lord’s Word – recorded in scripture, incarnated in Jesus, revealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit in each life situation – equips us to rule and reign with Christ on the basis of God calling and identifying us as his own. God calls us by name, sets us apart, makes us holy by the blood of the Lamb for his Kingdom purposes.

Our calling (Leviticus), in turn, comes from our Exodus – miraculous deliverance, departure, exit – from our life of slavery to sin, sickness, demons and death. The Hebrew name for the book of Exodus is ‘These are the names of” (1:1). God personally calls each of us out from under Satan’s rule by name, as members of his great diverse family, into a (new) covenant of love, in training for reigning to inherit the Kingdom. Exodus is all about God’s personalised love, fighting for us, freeing us from evil.

Lastly, this exodus – in fact, all four above – is based on, and constitutes, ‘the beginning’ (Genesis) of God’s creation. ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (1:1). The book of Genesis is about God bringing order out of chaos, making all things new in a Garden of Delight (the meaning of Eden). God mandated his human image-bearers to take that Garden, that glory and abundance of God’s Shalom-Kingdom, to the ends of the earth.

Therefore, to move from Deuteronomy to Joshua – which I do on 1 January 2020 in my Bible reading; and, symbolically, we will do when we move to Salt Rock after 40 years in Johannesburg – is to come full circle back to the beginning: a new Genesis, a new birth. To move from Deuteronomy to Joshua is to move from Moses to Jesus (Hebrew Yeshuah, Yahweh Saves). Jesus leads us into the Promised Kingdom, to live in and advance God’s new creation – the new heavens and new earth – to the ends of this old, broken, chaotic creation, for the redemption and renewal of all things.

It’s a new year, a new season, a new start.
In Christ, you are a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come. Take heart! Turn to God, listen for his voice, receive his word, hear his call. God calls you by name!
Follow Jesus and he will lead you into the Promised Land.

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Living Resurrection Now

“Live Resurrection Now”

“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do YOU believe this?
(John 11:25-26)

On Thursday night we celebrated the Passover with Jesus and his disciples, and relived his Gethsemane agony in the garden. On Friday morning we re-membered ourselves to the crucified Christ, meditating on his seven sayings from the cross. Now Easter Sunday! We celebrate his bodily resurrection. If Jesus had not physically risen from the dead, our faith would be in vain. And his amazing words above, that he spoke before he raised his good friend, Lazarus, back to life (was dead for four days), would mean nothing. Jesus’ bodily resurrection vindicates him in all his claims, in all he did, and especially in his sacrificial death on the cross for our sin and death. He was indeed the Son of God! God in Jesus defeated death, the grave, sin, sickness and all evil. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘Big Bang’ of God’s new creation, in the midst of the old creation! If you are in Christ, you are not only a new creation, but you participate in it’s exponential expansion to the ends of all (created) reality, to rule & reign with him over his new (and old) creation.

The story of Jesus defeating death in his ministry by raising Lazarus back to life was only possible – in retrospect – due to Jesus’ later bodily resurrection. The story of Lazarus’ raising and of Jesus’ resurrection is the message of LIVE RESURRECTION NOW!

The Text: Jesus The Resurrection

“I AM…” John records seven times Jesus using God’s holy name, “I AM”, from Ex 3:14-15. “I am the bread of life… the light of the world, etc” (John 6:35, 8:12,58, 10:7-8, 11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1,5). Jesus is God in human skin. He is all who and what we need in every way!

“I AM the resurrection and the life… you will live, though you die… you will never die.” The Hebrew understanding of eternal life is embodied life; i.e. not an immortal disembodied spirit/soul set free from the body through death (Greek idea); rather a resurrected bodily person filled with God’s eternal kind of life, to rule and reign with him forever. To receive and to trust Jesus is to receive his resurrection, his eternal kind of life. Though we will physically die, we already have eternal life – we live resurrection now – with the guarantee that our bodies will rise again to enjoy consummated eternal life.

“The one who believes in me… by believing in me… do you believe this?” The key to ‘living resurrection now’ is faith in Jesus. To believe him is to trust, rely, depend on him. As we place our confidence in him in full trust, we discover that what he says he does, he is!

The Reality of Death

We know from the Hebrew scriptures that death is the enemy of humankind. Also from experience: we all instinctively fear death. It was a foreign intrusion into God’s pristine creation due to Adam & Eve’s sinful rebellion against God – trusting evil (the serpent’s word) over God (against God’s word). “Death” in Hebrew & Greek means “to separate”. Physical death separates us from our bodies, from our family and friends, causing great grief and pain, as seen in Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. Spiritual death separates us from God. We go through various psycho-emotional deaths from time to time. There is the extreme pain of marriage sickness and eventual death – called divorce. And dysfunctional and broken family relationships leading to ‘family death’.

The cause(s) of death, in scripture, is sin and consequent sickness. Sickness is a foretaste of death: the mortality and corruption of our bodies. We all struggle with it till death, to await resurrection. Healing is a foretaste of resurrection: a power-surge of our future bodily resurrection made real here and now, a grace from God. But human nature – as with Martha (v. 21) and Mary (v. 32) – is to blame it on God: “if only YOU had been here he would not have died”. Our many “if onlys…” against God. Satan always seeks to separate us from God by blaming him, questioning his integrity. John says Lazarus died because of sickness, not because Jesus was not there! BUT Jesus DOES come to us in our death. He came to Lazarus after he had been dead for four days – the body stank with decay – showing that it’s NEVER too late for God to do the miracle of resurrection!

The Reality of Resurrection… Now!

In Martha’s hopelessness and blaming Jesus for the reality of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” (vv.23f). She responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus replied, “I AM that Last Day, I AM the Resurrection standing here in front of you! Do you believe this?” Jesus raised Lazarus there and then. But specifically how did he do it? And therefore, how do we receive and ‘live resurrection now’ in the death we are currently experiencing, and entombed in? Jesus went to where they laid Lazarus to take his stand before death…


  1. By Jesus’ compassion: He was moved by Mary’s weeping, and those who had come to comfort her and Martha… then “Jesus wept” (v.35, the shortest verse in the Bible!) His compassion on them in their loss, mixed with anger at death taking their beloved brother, moved him to action, to confront death. Jesus weeps with YOU in your death.
  2. By Jesus’ communion: He was in communion with his Father throughout Lazarus’ sickness and then death (vv.41-42). Jesus prayed for him. He prays and intercedes for us continually at the Father’s side (Heb 7:25). Jesus is praying for you right now!
  3. By Jesus’ command: He first asked for the stone in front of the tomb to be removed (v.39). We must remove any obstacle that prevents us from receiving resurrection now. Then he commanded: “Lazarus, come out!” This rebuked death and spoke life. Jesus stands before you in your sickness and death, and calls you by name, “…. come out” from the particular darkness, despair and death, that you’re going through, that entombs you. If you hear his voice (John 5:24-25) respond in faith: step out in trust. Act on his call, his command, as if it is true, and discover it to be so. Memorize Jesus’ words of healing and they will give life to your mortal body (Prov 4:20-22)
  4. By Jesus’ community: When Lazarus came out of the tomb, ALIVE, he was bound in his body and face by the strips of burial linen. Jesus told those present, including Mary and Martha, “take off the grave clothes and set him free” (v.44). Receiving resurrection now is a gift-miracle from Jesus, but living resurrection now involves community to complete the process of wholeness. I.e. you must (further) trust Jesus in and through his people, the local church to which you commit and belong, to complete your journey to healing and freedom. Some of our brothers and sisters, of course, try to take off our bandages rather roughly and insensitively, while others are tender and sensitive, exercising Jesus’ compassion. Either way, our coming out of death into life, and growing wholeness and freedom, involves yielding ourselves to Jesus’ community, trusting him as Head of his Church for his best.
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Act 6 continued: The Gospel Mandate of Reconciliation

To listen to the audio teaching of these notes click on the link

Last week I taught on Act 6 in God’s Drama: The Holy Spirit in & through the Reconciled & Reconciling Church – described in the Book of Acts. Paul called this “the message and ministry of reconciliation” given to us in Messiah (2 Cor 5:18-20), to reconcile people to God, and thus to oneself, others, & creation. This was made real in the Early Church by water baptism. The key to reconciliation and baptism is transformed identity.

Jesus’ Baptism in water

The Early Church got their understanding and practice of water baptism – by Messiah’s Co-Mission in Matt 28:18-20 – from Jesus’ own baptism. The key issue in both baptisms was identity. By choosing to be baptised Jesus identified himself with ALL sinners. As he stood in the water of John’s ‘baptism of repentance’ (Matt 3:13-17) he had no sins of his own to confess – as the only sinless One he confessed our sin on our behalf. Immersed into the waters, he symbolised he would willingly die our death in our place to wash away and bury our life of sin. His coming up out of water symbolised he would rise again. It was Jesus’ public act of obedience of his discipleship to God – that he willingly gave his life in faith to the Father, for HIS purpose. The Father then ‘tore’ the heavens open (Mk 1:10 cf. 15:38) and sent the empowering Spirit of Love on him, and publicly affirmed his identity: “YOU are my Son, my Beloved (Greek Agapetos), with whom I am well pleased” (Mk 1:11). This was Jesus’ identity, Beloved Son of God, from which he lived his life, did his ministry, fulfilling the Father’s call of reconciliation in the world.

Believers Baptism and change of identity

Early Christian baptism was not a ‘baptism of repentance’, but a ‘baptism confirming repentance and faith in Jesus’. When people put their faith in Jesus, saying ‘yes’ to following him, they were asked to express that publicly – to witness to Jesus – by being baptised in water for all to see. Thus baptism is our first act of obedience as a disciple of Christ. Standing in the water, we identify with Messiah (the only Righteous Saviour of the world), symbolising our death in/with him on the cross – we die to our sin (Rom 6:3-14). Immersed beneath the waters, we symbolise our burial with Christ. Or past life of sin is buried, together with whatever identity that defined us in THAT life. Raised up out of the water, we symbolise our resurrection in/with Christ to a new life in God, to a new identity in Messiah. The early Christians then laid hands on the baptised believer to impart the empowering Spirit of Love, affirming them in the new identity, conferred on them by the Father in the open heavens. I’m sure they looked up expecting the heavens to open, a dove to come down, a voice to speak, saying, “Gilli, YOU are my daughter… Alexander, YOU are my son… My Beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” Our new identity is Beloved Child of God, from which we live our new life in Christ, do our ministry with and for him, and fulfil his plan of reconciliation in the world. Continue reading Act 6 continued: The Gospel Mandate of Reconciliation