Tag Archive: Paul

A fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.

We’ve all heard that one. Well, you have at least now.

It is King David speaking and you can find the quote in Psalm chapter 14 verse 1.

You can also find it in psalm 53 which I just realised is pretty much the same psalm – strange.

Anyways, that’s not really the point of this post. I was thinking about that line on the bus the other day when I came up with this:

A fool says, “In his heart there is no God.”

The idea that we can look at someone else and judge whether or not God is at work or living in their heart.

It has been said before that many people might be surprised one day not so much by who is not in heaven, but by who is.

[This, of course, excludes the Universalists who will just be surprised if anyone is not there]

The church has for too long focused too much energy on the whole “who is in and who is out” vibe.

And this is nothing new. The disciples were at it in Mark 9:

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

Whoever is not against us is for us. I’m sure many theologians have had many issues with this one.

And it is at times like these that I am reminded of the two foundational rules of life:

I. There is only one God.

II. It is NOT me. 

Get that one right and you’ll be golden. Because you know what, it is God who is going to take a look at our lives and our commitments and how we spent out time and energy and money one day and He is going to make a call on it.

I am fairly confident that the sole provision for ‘making it’ into heaven one day is not going to be ‘Did you raise your hand and say a prayer at some holiday meeting when you were a child?’ Beyond that, well I’m happy for it to be up to God.

I do think Jesus spoke quite strongly and clearly about it [take a read of Matthew 7 for example] and I think there can be a lot of evidence in play that might suggest that someone is not following [active] God.

But sometimes we just can’t tell. Sometimes the Jesus followers look a little rough around the edges like a fisherman Peter or a tent-maker Paul [you know? the guy who went around killing them]. And we should take absolute joy in the fact that it is going to be God who makes the choice.

We’d be foolish to spend our time judging the unjudgeable surely?

A fool says, “In his heart there is no God.”

What we can do in the meantime is focus on our life, our walk, our talk, the consistency with which we live and follow and bring in the kingdom. [There’s usually a lot of work to be done there]


And then lead others towards Jesus. Point them towards God or else grab their hands and say, “Hey, let’s go check this thing out!” and walk and lead and direct and wrestle and give them opportunity to doubt and disbelieve and question and be angry or incredulous or skeptical.

Just don’t let them not be loved.

what came to mind and this is really just to get people thinking more than making any point cos i think i naturally would have gone with the ‘gently pull aside’ approach is a bunch of incidents when that didn’t seem to happen:

in matthew 16.23 Peter starts to rebuke Jesus for speaking about His death and Jesus responds by saying, “Get behind me, satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of man.”

in matthew 23 Jesus goes off at the pharisees and sadducees (the religious leaders) and publically tells them off including such lines as “woe to you blind guides”, “you make him twice the son of hell as you are”, “you blind fools”, “you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead man’s bones and everything unclean”, “you hypocrites” and “you snakes! you brood of vipers!”

in mark 11 Jesus publically drives the people out of the temple grounds who are buying and selling there in quite an aggressive show of force and then teaches them that “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations?’ But you have made it ‘a den of robbers’.”

and other times when His disciples are bickering about who is going to be the most important in the kingdom of heaven, He addresses them publically in the group and corrects them

then there is the time in paul’s blog to the galatians when he speaks about confronting peter for his hypocracy in separating himself from hanging out with the gentiles when certain jews were in town – a public sin which receives a public challenge…

continue to part iii here

[laughed the boy]

a friend of mine from the Malaysian Younger Leaders Gathering i attended in 2006 asked me the question and so i did my best to answer it, or to at least look at some of the aspects of the question – thort it was worth posting my thorts here…

hey Debbie

greetings in the amazing name of Jesus!

thankx for the email and the encouragement and hopefully this gets to you in time altho not sure how much help it will be…

i like your ‘out of the box but still in line with scripture thinking’ line – thankx – will do my best:

“I am involved in a Bible Study and we had a very great debate last week about whether it is actually possible for Christians to get to a point in their relationship with God where they no longer sin. On one side, we had those who believe that we are never free from the sinful nature while we are on earth, so there is always the possibility that we might ‘fall into sin’. On the other side, of which I am the ringleader, we believe that “if you live by the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature – Gal 5:16″ and this means that you will not sin: not that you will not be tempted to sin, but you will not give in to it because your desire to please God is greater than your desire to please yourself. But the others believe that only God is capable of being without sin.”

i would imagine this is a question that not so many people here have asked as generally we christians accept the fact that we are sinful as something that goes without saying and so because we are SO sinful just assume it must be the norm, but in fact i have asked this very question – i remember clearly when i was on my Youth With A Mission DTS (Discipleship training school) in Holland i wrote a thort for the week on it that i don’t think went down very well (wish i could go back and find it but not even sure if it is in the yahoo archive cos might have been still when i sent TFTW via hotmail) and sadly i don’t really have a clear answer but perhaps i can give some of my thorts… on the plus side it does seem as if there are some statements that back up the idea – there is one at the beginning of one of the peters that says we have been given everything we need for righteous and holiness or something like that – maybe it should stop being so lazy and get my Bible – one sec –

ah here – 2 peter 1.3 – His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.” – then it goes on to talk about participating in the divine nature and a little further down gives a list of add to your faith goodness and to your goodness knowledge and self-control and perseverance and so on – so for me (in maybe a frustrating kind of way) it seems to back up both sides of the answer – we have been given everything we need for godliness but keep adding this and this and this – so the potential for perfection is in our hands, but it’s a journey and there is always adding to be done… make sense?

i think Jesus came to demonstrate that it is potentially possibly to live a sinless life – if He only achieved sinlessness because He was God then does it count as being able to be representative of man? and would it be fair for God to say ‘walk perfectly but oh you can’t sorry’ – i think the Bible definitely calls us to walk in perfection in terms of what we are meant to be aiming at but then you see the example of Paul in Corinthians i think it is where he says what i want to do i dont do and what i dont want to do i do and so even he seems to be caught up in the sinful life – we see Peter after he is filled with the Spirit and doing amazing things having to be rebuked by Paul for living hypocracy in a situation with the jews and gentiles (galatians 2.11) and we see king David a man after God’s own heart sinning horrendously and losing a son because of it – so it seems as if those who walked before us didn’t manage that easily which increases the likelihood of us being the same – and i can testify from my life that i still completely mess it up in terms of priority and time usage and a lot of not doing what i should be doing and still a bunch of doing what i should not be doing – so my mind says it is possible or should be but my body and experience keeps testifying that it is still far away for me at least

i think for me the basic premise was this – if it is possible for me not to sin for 5 seconds then the 5 seconds before i die i can be said to have been living sinlessly and if i can manage 5 seconds then surely i can manage ten and then maybe 30 and then maybe two minutes and so unless i sin every moment of my life there has to be some short period where i am sinless in thort and deed – and so can’t we extend that to an hour, a number of hours, a day? etc etc – that was where i started my dts thort and so surely we can get to a place where for an x period of time we don’t sin at all and surely for some people that is days and maybe months and years – but ja there is no way of testing that and it is a bit of a silly theory i guess – the one thing i was thinking in the car last nite after reading your email and driving to vals folks house where we slept over was that maybe the moment you reach that perfection and are aware of it then pride naturally steps in cos the moment you take joy in how sinless you are (even by just realising it and smiling quietly to yourself) then that is the moment when sin has already struck? i don’t know…

i think at the end of the day it is not for us to look at ourselves and go ‘ooh look i have no sin’ or to look at others and go ‘ooh look no sin’ but it is for us to strive towards sinlessness by submitting to God and the Holy Spirit and continuing on the journey of adding to your faith goodnessand knowledge and love and perseverance etc and loving God, loving people and looking after those who need help and so at the end of the day the question of whether we can or cannot achieve it becomes largely if not completely irrelevant because it is the direction in which our compass is always aimed and that is what matters most…

hope there is some help in there – maybe just more questions than answers
much love and all the best for cell – if either side of the argument starts loving the other side of the argument less or getting heated then i think that will just prove the lack of perfection so argue nice, fight well, love harder

God bless you my friend
love brett fish

Excerpt from Erwin McManus ‘an unstoppable force’ (available from Loot – http://www.loot.co.za/refer.html?referrer=85894849355 – for R170)



Why are there so many levels of Christian calling in our contemporary Christian community? Where are they found in the Biblical text? I have a strange suspicion that the nuances of these “callings” have less to do with theology and more to do with the condition of the church.

Paul seemed to think that there was one calling. He writes to Timothy, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace.” (2 Timothy 1.8-9a)

The Scriptures seem to simplify the process of calling. The one call is to lay your life at the feet of Jesus and to do whatever He asks. It is a calling that says “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1.21). It is a calling that declares, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the  body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2.20) It is the calling that challenges us to make ourselves a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, that we may know and do His will.

An honest evaluation of the dramatic number of callings that the church has created would reveal that we have found extraordinary ways of describing the overwhelming amount of Christless living in the church. If we got the first calling right, would any of these other callings be necessary?

Jesus said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” He did not say, “Believe in Me so that you can go to heaven.” In fact, He lays down extraordinary criteria. He said, “Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Me.” He expands by saying, “Unless you hate your father and mother, your brother and sisters, your wife and children, yes even your own life, you cannot be my disciple.” He is emphatic in the condition that unless we deny ourselves, we cannot be His disciples. He describes the response to His calling as the end of ourselves. If we try to save our lives, we will lose them. But if we lose our lives for His sake, we will find life.


What we now consider to be the highest level of calling in the Christian community was, for Jesus, the basic entry point. It was to the whole church that Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything” (Matthew 28.19-20a). It was to the whole church that Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1.8).

In the process of creating a theology that accommodates apathy, disinterest, compromise, and even rebellion, we have lost the essence of the movement for which Jesus died. We made a mistake of making heroes out of those who were simply living a normal Christian life. There may be no more significant ingredient to the apostolic ethos than establishing a radical minimum standard. The gatekeepers for our culture are not the heroes or supermen, but the common person. The individuals who represent the ideal inspire masses to pursue the values and virtues of their people; but it is the common person within each society who establishes the boundaries that are required to remain a part of the clan. It is not the extraordinary standard but the minimum standard that is the critical boundary in shaping a culture. To unleash an apostolic ethos, it is essential to establish a radical minimum standard.

It’s easy to confuse the minimum with the extraordinary. We do it all the time. In fact, organisations continuously face that crisis. Whenever someone fails to live up to an understood expectation, we are forced to make some kind of re-evaluation. Either our standard should change or our actions have to change.

When we live below a standard, it is simply human nature to redefine the standard as unreasonable and establish standards which that our patterns are already accomplishing. We keep lowering the bar until we clear it…

[to be continued]