Monday, December 15, 2008

Focus and John the Baptist

One of the advantages of going to two different churches is that each week there are two sermons, which is twice as many as usual to remember something from. A few days ago I wrote about a sermon at my evening church, this time the one I remember is my morning church. My morning church is a very traditional church with a set plan for each week and a common order of service that is followed. It is the advent season and this week in the year is the week when the church remembers John the Baptist.

Now, I've heard quite a few talks on John the Baptist, I've heard he was the forerunner for Jesus, that he lived in the desert, baptised people, baptised Jesus, lived on locusts and honey and was beheaded. All of this is important stuff but wasn't the focus of this sermon, the passage used for the sermon comes from John 1:19-28, its not too long so here it is:

19And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?" 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ." 21And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" And he answered, "No." 22So they said to him, "Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" 23He said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, 'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said."

24(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) 25They asked him, "Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" 26John answered them, "I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie." 28These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

The part the preacher focused on predominantly was how John responded to the questions, first of all John is asked '"Who are you?"', his response is completely out of the ordinary, one would expect him to respond with, his name (and given the time perhaps 'Son of Zechariah'), something that describes himself, what he does or is doing there but he doesn't, he responds with:

'"I am not the Christ"' - immediately John is turning the focus away from himself, he is immediately saying, I'm not important.

They then ask John if he is Elijah, he says he isn't and if he is a prophet, he says no. John is clearly not looking to make himself a big deal. John is not looking on and saying 'Ok, I'm doing this for God but a little credit here and there is nice isn't it? I deserve some praise!'

The priests and Levites still press John for an answer on who he is, they have done what is so easy for us to do, they've missed who John is trying to point them to and got completely and utterly caught up in the man in front of them. Stop and think about this for a minute, do you do this? For one I know I get caught up in situations like this all to often, think about a great speaker you hear, someone you respect a lot, is it not the case that a lot of the time we know (and want to know) more about the people telling us about God than the God they're telling us about? Is it not also the case that we often spend more time talking about the people who talk about God than talking about God himself? - Certainly much of this is for various different reasons but I suspect it isn't only me and the priests and Levites above who sometimes become focused on the man rather than the God.

John's response is to quote the book of Isaiah, again his focus points towards the Lord, he says I am just the preparing the way for the Lord. Still the priests and Levites do not focus on God, still they focus on John with another question about him, they question his authority to baptise, John's response again points away from himself and to the Lord this time in an even stronger way.

"I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, 27even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie."

Now, the statement above doesn't mean as much nowadays as then, sure it is obvious that John is saying the one to come after him (Jesus) is more important than him but he is in fact saying this in much stronger terms, the priests and Levites would have known that not even servants were expected to untie the strap of a sandal, John was using a statement that they would understand clearly, John was saying, 'I'm not even worthy of doing what you wouldn't even expect a servant to do', John wasn't just saying Jesus was more important than him, he was saying that compared to Jesus, he was nothing.

There is the second thing about John that is an eye opener, I will profess that Jesus is all important and I'm nothing, I know this is true, but do I live it? do I practice that? There is still that old man in me that looks on myself as very important, in fact that side of me probably looks on me as the most important. How often will we sulk and moan when things don't go exactly as we want them? How often will we have our plan and our dreams and if we're really honest, a lot of the time we think we know best and what we want, we deserve. John's response above isn't like that, John is really saying I am nothing - even when he has the opportunity to say he's important.

Getting to that position I actually think is a scary prospect, it is really tough to consider a situation where you're in the position where you're saying, it truly is all about Jesus and he is all that matters not me. The old man in us does not like the idea of God being in control, the old man wants us in control, only through God and his Holy Spirit will we ever be able to get anywhere in having a focus that is on God and not ourselves and I pray that regardless of whether its scary or not God would guide me to be who he wants me to be.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just a bit more...

So its been a long time since I last blogged. A little over 7 months in fact, as you can probably tell I'm not very good at regular articles. Every now and then however I feel the urge to write something. Today is one of those days.

I've considered writing a couple of times recently but haven't quite had the topic. Finally I have one, it is my thoughts on a part of a sermon I heard on Sunday evening, a very good one in fact. Those who read this who were at that service may know what I'm talking about from the title but for those who weren't there, weren't listening properly (sometimes a problem for me) or just don't remember (another common problem for me!) the vicar said something along the lines of this (I take creative license here as my wording is likely very wrong):

'We're always searching for a bit more to be happy, if only I got a promotion I'd be happy, if we get a promotion if only I was a manager I'd be happy or if only I was in a relationship I'd be happy, if we are in a relationship, if only I was engaged, or married. If we are married, if only I had kids....'

Every so often there are things that make you sit up and take notice, it was this statement for me, as I sat there and thought 'wait a minute... that's me', I've had an interesting time of things recently, a few things have happened. I won't go into details here but things just haven't quite been right in what has been going on with my relationship with God. I found I was having some issues. I wondered why and at that moment in church I realised why, I realised that during these issues I was saying to myself 'I'd be O.K if I just had....', I was giving myself this get out clause so to speak. In other words I was saying to God in a different way, you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours...

Oddly I knew I was doing it all along but it wasn't until the vicar said the above that I fully comprehended it. Suddenly I knew where I was and that I needed to get properly back on track and stop making excuses for myself.

It is at a moment like this where I realise how amazing God is, what I have been doing is wrong, in fact further what I have been doing is turning my back on God, some would put what I was doing in stronger terms... I am one of them but I won't write how I'd describe it here. If I was God, I would be fuming if this self-loving person was basically saying, 'this is my terms', 'I know better', 'You'll get over it, you'll forgive me' . In fact I reckon I'd turn around when it came back to bite him and say 'There you go, now thats what you deserve, deal with it'... in fact I'd probably sit there smuggly thinking, there you go, told you so.

Not my God. No my God turns around and says 'I love you, I do forgive you, now lets help you out'.

Since then, I have been trying with God's help to count my blessings for what I have. I try now not to focus on those things 'that I'd only be happy if I had' and instead focus on all the great things God has given me. For these and his help with a new outlook I am thankful to God.

Monday, May 05, 2008

How sinful?

I was recently walking to campus, listening to music, when some lyrics stuck out to me. Oddly enough I cannot remember what those lyrics, or the song was, but only that it got me thinking about the depths of sin within our lives.

Ordinarily I do not particularly like focusing on law but instead spend the majority of my time focusing on grace and the gospel. In the sunday school I teach I always try ensure that no matter what passage we are focusing on, we always look to Christ and that our focus is Christ. This, I believe, is how it should be (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) after all Christ is the centre of the Christian message. Perhaps even further, Christ is the Christian message. Having said this however, it is through the law that we know what sin is and hence know our need for Christ (Romans 7:7). To neglect the law is, in fact, to remove much of what Jesus has done. In fact neglecting the law will inevitably lead to us have less to be thankful to God for and will cause us to love both God and others less (Luke 7:47).

For this now, let us take a look at the story of Jesus crucifixion, focusing on particular people:
  • Pilate
  • Those calling for his crucifixion
  • Those mocking him whilst he was on the cross
  • The person or people who whipped him
  • Those who twisted and placed the crown of thorns on to His head
  • Those who nailed him to the cross

So the question to ask then is what would we have done in these situations. Can we look at Pilate and say 'I would never have done that'? What about the crowd of people shouting 'free Barabbas!' could we say that we would have stood up and called for Jesus' release? When He was on that cross, battered and broken, seemingly helpless would we not have hurled the insults at him like the others did. Are we really in a position to say that if it were our job to twist that crown of thorns, whip him or place and pierce his hands and feet with those nails we wouldn't have done it?

It is easy for us to look at those people in this story with an attitude that we are different, that they were especially bad, especially evil. No, if we are to take a good hard look at ourselves, we could be any of them. To say otherwise is to just deny how sinful we really are. It is to look on ourselves with the 'Yes, I'm not perfect, but him over there, he is a lot worse than me' attitude. It is an attitude in itself that is sinful, it is one quite simply puffed up with pride. It leaves us with being forgiven little and hence loving little.

The beauty of the cross is not seen in what is good about us but what is bad. The Christian message is not at its most powerful in our good actions but in the forgiveness we receive thanks to Christ and his sacrifice on the cross. I pray that we will be able, like the Apostle Paul, to acknowledge ourselves as 'the chief of sinners' (1 Timothy 1:15) for then, and only then can we see in all its glory what Christ did for us on that cross at Calvary.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Faith and Works?

After a fairly eventful debate with some friends I said I would write a post relating to how faith cannot be an action, i.e. something we do. The passage given against my argument comes from the book of James, using the ESV translation:

Faith Without Works Is Dead
14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith(S) but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15(T) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16(U) and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and filled," without giving them the things needed for the body, what good[b] is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith(V) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(W) by my works. 19(X) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even(Y) the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21(Z) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that(AA) faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed(AB) by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says,(AC) "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a(AD) friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also(AE) Rahab the prostitute justified by works(AF) when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

An initial reading of this seems to suggest a necessity for works both for salvation and that faith in itself is a work, but it is important that we put the Bible together as a whole, picking out one passage seperate from any other is unwise, lets look at this by an example from Luke 24:

26(A) "If anyone comes to me and(B) does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters,(C) yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

If one were to simply read this verse and not take the Bible as a whole initial reading suggests that one is to hate father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters and their own life! Is this really what Jesus meant? Well no, He was using hyperbole to express his point and if we take the whole of scripture into consideration it is easy to see this, for we are told in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5) that to hate is to murder and we are told in the ten commandments (Exodus 20), thou shalt not murder.... thus the above passage taken on its own could cause us to draw the wrong conclusion. That being that Jesus is encouraging us to sin.

Similarly with the passage from James it is necessary for us to look on it in the light of other scripture, lets take a look at the concept of faith alone in the Bible. We have the following verses:

Romans 3:28 (ESV)
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the

Galatians 2:16 (ESV)
yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but
through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ
Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works
of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

Galatians 3:2 (ESV)
Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the
law or by hearing with faith?

Galatians 3:5 (ESV)
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you
do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—

Galatians 3:10 (ESV)
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is
written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written
in the Book of the Law, and do them."

John 3:16-18 (ESV)
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever
believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God
did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in
order that the world might be saved through him. 18Whoever believes
in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned
already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of

Ephes. 2:8-10 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your
own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no
one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in

Romans 4:1-10 (ESV)
What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather
according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he
has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the
Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as
righteousness." 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted
as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but
trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as
righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one
to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

7"Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
8blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin."

9Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the
uncircumcised? We say that faith was counted to Abraham as
righteousness. 10How then was it counted to him? Was it before or
after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was

So where am I going with this, well it seems that we have a contradiction. The Bible clearly teaches in the above that works are not necessary for salvation but in James it seems to teach that they are necessary! So which is it? Lets go back to the passage in James:

18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith(V) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(W) by my works. 19(X) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even(Y) the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21(Z) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that(AA) faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed(AB) by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says,(AC) "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a(AD) friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also(AE) Rahab the prostitute justified by works(AF) when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

The first thing to note is that James is a book not about justification but sanctification, to put differently Paul is talking about how we are saved, James is talking about after we are saved. Paul talks of justification, James of sanctification. Both justification and sanctification are Biblical concepts, God brings us to salvation and then by the work of the Holy Spirit in us he sanctifies us, i.e. he makes us more Christ like. What James is speaking of in the above is the sanctification process, he is saying something like this 'Woah guys, you say you've been justified but I don't see no santification going on, if you had been justified then fruit (works) would come from it. You can say whatever you like but if you believe there will be fruit!'

If we turn to the opening part of James statement we see that verses 14-17 provide a sort of outline for what follows, in verses 18-20 we see what he is arguing against:

18But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith(V) apart from your works, and I will show you my faith(W) by my works. 19(X) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even(Y) the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

We see here that he is arguing against people who profess to have faith but no works come of it. True faith causes good works. A rejection of sanctification is to reject faith. We must keep in mind what James is arguing against as we proceed as this provides the context for what follows.

Now, lets take a brief look at Abraham and Rahab, beginning with Abraham, the story talked about by James is the (near) sacrifice of Isaac from Genesis 22, lets take a look at the first three verses:

1After these things(A) God tested Abraham and said to him, "Abraham!" And he said, "Here am I." 2He said, "Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to(B) the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you."

Look at the very first verse, it says God tested Abraham. Justification in the sense Paul talks of isn't tested for there is nothing to test, a person without faith will not show faith! In Abrahams case he has faith and God is testing his faith. Putting another way the sacrifice (the work) is a consequence of a faith that Abraham has - not faith itself. If one wishes they can read the rest of the story to see that Isaac is not in the end sacrificed, God provides a ram to be sacrificed in his place.

Now lets turn to Rahab, the story of Rahab is in Joshua 2. To cut a fairly long story short, she hides some spies and hence saves their life. Lets pick out verses 8 and 9, they say the following:

8 Before the men [2] lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you.

So what do we see here? We see that Rahab is already talking of the Lord... in other words she already has faith! Her actions are again a consequence of her faith not a part of it.

It is possible (as we see in the world) for people to have works without faith however, it is not possible to have faith without works, for when we have faith God sanctifies us. This is the point James is trying to make and why he is not in contradiction with Paul. In Pauls case he is using justificiation in terms of our salvation. James is using it in terms of our sanctification.

Does this make faith a work?

Back in some senses to the original question, am I suggesting then that faith is a work? No, for we see the beauty of the cross inEphesians 2:8-10:

Ephes. 2:8-10 (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your
own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no
one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in

If faith is a work and we are saved by faith then the above is contradicted, there is a dependence on us. We have a reason to boast (I did well for I had faith). If we look at this passage in Ephesians it shows the process, we are saved by grace, through faith. It is a working of God and NOT a work of us so we have no reason to boast (Thats justification)... but we are created in Christ Jesus for good works and we should walk in them (That'd be sanctification.)

Final Thought:

It is important to note that our salvation by grace through faith and aside from works is not a reason for us to blindly sin and not do God's will (this is in fact what James is arguing against!) in fact doing so would simply constitute unbelief. The above belief does not change that a Christian should do good works but gives a different motivation for doing them, that being one of gratitude for what God has done rather than necessities for our salvation. Jesus sacrifice was completely sufficient (see my post on the blessing of scrupulosity)

References/ Further Reading:

P.S. Apologies for any typos etc, comments of course welcome!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beauty in Silence

It has been a very long time since I could appreciate silence, for a long time its been a fearful time one where there was always a risk of being overtaken by my (ocd) thoughts. I preferred to keep active, keep busy have music, tv, anything on in the background so that there was some distraction. However I was lying on my bed this afternoon (yes I realise I probably should of been working) and decided that silence was really quite beautiful. Lying there without that distraction in the background held no fear, infact it was fantastic! This might seem like a tiny thing but no this is real progress, this is being comfortable with myself, this is huge.

Having said that, I thought I'd discuss three situations of silence that being 'silent treatment', praying in silence and silence in friendships. I'm not aiming to offer solutions or advice for the most part just thoughts.

Silent Treatment

I have to confess that silent treatment is something I normally cannot stand. To me there is nothing at all worse, when I can see that something is wrong (or even if I can't) I find it extremely uncomfortable and extremely difficult if someone is silent with me. I have always been of the position that not explaining what was wrong leaves both parties in difficulty, the silent one focussing solely on the problem and the one recieving the silent treatment frustrated and confused. Screaming, shouting, arguing, talking etc I can deal with, silence on the other hand destroys me to quote someone called Leroy Brownlow "There are times when silence has the loudest voice" I certainly feel like this in this situation. I wonder perhaps whether the problem here is me, perhaps that silence is beneficial, perhaps it allows things to be resolved without conflict, perhaps it is for the best, or perhaps its not, who knows?

Silent Prayer

This is something that ties in fairly nicely with my opening to this, there is beauty in silence and there is beauty in silent prayer. In fact Biblically speaking it is strongly encouraged to pray in private and so why not silently, first to quote Mother Teresa:

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”

Then to look Biblically we see: Matthew 6:1-6 "Be careful not to parade your uprightness in public to attract attention; otherwise you will lose all reward from your Father in heaven. ... And when you pray, do not imitate the hypocrites; they love to say their prayers standing up in the synagogues and at the street corners for people to see them. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you pray, go to your private room, shut yourself in, and so pray to your Father who is in that secret place, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you."

To add to this we know that God knows our thoughts, see Psalm 139:23 for this and combining we can see that silent prayer can be very effective. Further to this it gives us the opportunity to rest in God's presence and allow him to direct our thoughts rather than us speaking all the time. Sitting in God's presence silently, not even making requests, just putting the time aside I think is a beautiful prayer in itself.

Silence In Friendships

I have to say that the best of friends are probably not those who always have something to say to each other but in fact are those who can comfortably be together silently, I'm hoping that my new found comfort in silence will spread through my friendships too, maybe it'll make them even stronger, who knows.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Blessing of Scrupulosity

An Intro

Scrupulosity in the form I am discussing here is the form of OCD that relates to intrusive thoughts about religion, commonly taking the form of having blasphemous thoughts towards the Holy Spirit, Jesus or the Father and fear of committing the unforgivable sin. Other possibilities are a hyper sensitivity towards whether something is or isn't a sin and a need to confess endlessly. My purpose here is not to discuss in great deal these but to discuss something quite differently, that is my experience with OCD and despite it being perhaps the most difficult thing I've ever had to deal with (and still do have to deal with) how God has used it in the most beautiful of ways.

My Experience

Scrupulosity is the most difficult form of OCD I have ever had to deal with. My thoughts began with me beginning to obsess over whether particular things were sinful, now this was not ordinary healthy concern over not wanting to offend God. This was not is it sinful to have sex outside marriage or more sensible concerns like those, this was concerns over whether ANYTHING that wasn't directly Christian was sinful. That is, was watching TV sinful, how about doing my degree? Seeing my girlfriend (at the time)? Listening to music that wasn't directly christian, talking about things that weren't directly Christian and playing sports and many other things I did enjoy were also up for extreme scrutiny. Obviously the questioning made those enjoyable things of life considerably less enjoyable and also gave me a view of God that He simply wanted me to be miserable all the time. Doing actual Christian activities would be a forced ritual done out of terror rather than love. Done in my own strength rather than thanks to God and the Holy Spirit, it was about what I did and do and not about what Jesus had done for me. Suicide at times seemed like a nice way out, but then again that would be a sin and force me into eternal damnation. I was trapped.

Thanks to some brilliant support people and medication I have managed to learn to understand these thoughts and the problems with them. I have had other forms of Scrupulosity such as the need to confess things to people when it is unneccessary but the purpose of this post isn't for that and the information here should suffice.

The Blessing?!

If you've read up to this point you may be wondering how I can call the most painful experience of my life, one in which suicide seemed like a nice option a blessing. The famous phrase 'The Lord works in mysterious ways' comes to mind. So why do I call it a blessing? I would firstly say this, I thank God for my Scrupulosity, not because I feel like some sort of special person for being a Christian and having it or because I have a difficulty that I manage to deal with reasonably well. No, I thank God because my Scrupulosity corrected my views and opinions of God, it corrected many misconceptions I had, through the pain came Jesus. Through the pain came the cross.

So what exactly did I learn, well thanks to God primarily through the teaching of Pastor Bob Waters and others over at The Scrupe Group I was first directed to Colossians 2, this passage immediately showed me that I could still have fun, that I could go out and do things, that God didn't want me to be miserable. This was a vital first step but was only the beginning, this gave me a foothold against the OCD and some valuable insight but only put me in the position I was before these concerns had crossed my mind.

The most valuable lessons I have ever learnt would be the very core of Christian belief, predominantly to have a view outside of myself a view that looks towards Jesus and not to myself. A view that puts all the emphasis on Jesus and what he does and does not put the emphasis on me and what I do. That when Jesus said 'It is finished' - See John 19:30 - He meant it, that is to say I was saved about 2000 years ago by my God being crucified for me. Did I deserve it? No. Did I do anything to deserve it? No. Did I do anything to receive it? Again no. Stop and think about that for a minute, think about the beauty of this message, that is I did nothing, I do nothing, I deserved nothing (or actually I deserved eternal punishment) but still God came to save me.

Now, the above is not something I hadn't heard before, however it is something I'd never been taught in this way before. Many times people in churches and elsewhere hear that one is saved by Jesus or put another way by Grace alone, through Faith Alone, in Christ alone but are in the next breath told what they must do to receive this grace. We are given analogies such as God holding out his hand just waiting for us to take hold of him, we are asked to pray a 'sinner's prayer' or to 'accept Jesus into our hearts'. One must conclude from this teaching that we are infact saved not by Jesus but by Jesus and our decision. That is to say that somebody who is dead can still make a decision - Ephesians 2:1 and further to say that when Jesus said it is finished he really meant, it is finished...sort of.

So why is this important? What difference does it really make in the mind of a Christian. To me the distinction is vital and the most beautiful thing God taught me through my scrupulosity. My focus now isn't what I do (even in as small a thing as making a decision, as a scrupulous person however this small 'requirement' can easily escalate, if it wasn't ACTUALLY finished when Jesus said it is, why believe now that it is finished when I make a decision aswell?) but is what God has done for me. One of my favourite sayings that Pastor Bob Waters said to me once when I was very confused was this 'It's not about you, It's about Jesus!'

So now my focus is different and this change of focus changed my life, now its not about how strong my belief is but that God's promises are true, I can now have my doubts but simply cling to the promises. I can have my troubles and my problems but remember that what Jesus did was sufficient. Fully sufficient.

That isn't to say that I have free license to go about doing as I please and sinning without care, that would simply constitute unbelief. No the work of the Holy Spirit in me to cause faith in me so that I can be saved by grace thanks to the sacrifice of Jesus causes not a fearful need to do certain 'christian' behaviour but a desire to please God, to serve not out of fear but out of love.

My focus is no longer lealistic, my faith is not predominantly about having good morals (although doing what God wants is consequential) the primary aspect of my faith is now Jesus and his sacrifice. My question is no longer What Would Jesus Do? The emphasis is not predominantly his moral teaching and trying to do the right thing. This is honourable and correct but the world and other religions teach good morals. I'm not saying we don't attempt to be Christ-Like, I'm not suggesting we shun the moral teaching for it is clearly important. What I am saying is it is NOT the primary focus of Christianity, no the primary focus is What Did Jesus Do? The primary focus is Christ and the cross and that is what the world and other religions cannot offer.

Why do I call my Scrupulosity a blessing? Through my scrupulosity I found the perfect sacrifice, I can now be thankful to the God who saves. I can now act out of love thanks to His work. I can now rely not on myself but on Him. Through my scrupulosity I found Christ.