The Simplicity That is in Christ: 'Jesus is Simple. The Bible is Not.'

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Simplicity in Christ

Jesus is simple. The Bible isn’t. Jesus is deeply, profoundly, unknowably, unfathomably, costly, and painfully–simple.

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Opinions or Life? What Do We Value?

Would you listen to, or value the opinion, of someone who has memorized a restaurant’s menu, can explain it in flawless detail, can argue why their restaurant preference is better than the restaurant down the street, but who has actually never tasted the food on the menu they are talking about? We do it in Christianity all the time. We think accurate mastery of Bible stuff = life and substance. We think because we can explain the life of Jesus or Paul, that we possess the life of Jesus or Paul. Not necessarily. Just because someone has a strong opinion on a trendy topic based on the latest book they’ve read, or can debate this or that doctrine, or understands the Bible, etc., does not mean he or she is worth listening to . . . even if their stuff is “right.” It is those for whom the word has become flesh, those who are living it, not philosophizing about it, that are worth being listened to. Any fool can have an opinion on the restaurant. Only those who have paid the price to eat a meal there, are worth listening to.



Copyright 2014,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

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Royal Priesthood – Part 3: How Do You Explain a Resurrected God-Man?

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empty-tombAbusive spiritual authority is epidemic. Reactionary responses to abusive authority are also epidemic. My friends Don Atkin, Greg Austin, and myself address what genuine kingdom authority looks like: a serving nation of priests, patterned after the Head, the High Priest of our faith, the resurrected God-man, Jesus, the Messiah. That requires, as Desi used to say to Lucy, “some ‘splainin’.”

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A Blind Man with a Chain Saw – “Good Intentions are Not Enough”

Train_wreck_at_Montparnasse_1895So much interpersonal human damage is done by highly gifted (“anointed’) but relationally dysfunctional people. You can be a water-walking, Bible encyclopedia, “super apostle-prophet” or whatever, full of good intentions, and not truly know God, yourself, or others. You can preach, bring forth “outstanding revelation and insights,” and do wonders and be blind to the trail of human carnage behind you. It need not be so.

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The Supremes Were Right: “You Can’t Hurry Love.”

supIn the natural as well as the kingdom of God, opposites often attract, and opposites often fuss with each other! Theorists (seers/visionaries/dreamers/conceptualists) often fuss with practical implementers (“doers”/teachers/administrators) and vice versa! The “normal” flow of logic is the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of our understanding to what then ought to be lived practically. It is unlikely we will live what we do not understand.

Implementers can accuse theorists of prattling on forever about ideals, but never actually doing anything to realize those ideals—endless, hot-air, philosophizing. Theorists can criticize implementers as being: shallow, “not deep,” ambitious, carnal, or driven to achieve something in one’s own strength and drive—doing a “God-thing,” without God-sanction, energizing, and timing, simply because it seems logical and “right” to do it.

Well, as in all things, we need each other to be complete. Implementers provoke theorists to action, and theorists make sure implementers are motivated correctly. It is not enough to have pure water in the river (theorists), it needs to be moving (implementers)! Sometimes when a fresh understanding of some facet of kingdom life is brought to us by the Holy Spirit, we can either talk about it forever and do nothing, or rush off to make what we “see” happen. Both extremes are a mistake.

Whatever understanding we may have come to, whatever topic—relationship, church, family, justice, poverty, teaching, preaching, worship, gifts, etc., love is, and must be the energizing power  and ultimate measure of all that we believe and do. Not sentimental, philosophic love but real, costly, inconvenient, sacrificial otherness that genuinely considers others more highly than ourselves (Php. 2:3).

We know we have passed from death to life, not by the brilliance of our “revelations,” nor the “depth of our teachings,” nor our “mighty anointing,” nor by how many miracles we do, nor by our passion for social justice nor how “awesome” our praise and worship is, but by our love for the brotherhood–the family of God, one another (1 John 3:14). If there was ever a matter so easy to agree with rhetorically, and so difficult to live practically, love is it, and love cannot be rushed.

The failure to live what we preach is perhaps the biggest stench the ekklesia leaves in the nostrils of an unbelieving world. Whatever we see, whatever we understand, whatever we try to “do,” whatever we preach, truth-wise, must be saturated in love, bathed in love, and love can’t be hurried, and it doesn’t come cheap.

In a metaphorical way, Dianna Ross and the Supremes had it right in 1966 when they sang:

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don’t come easy . . .

You can’t hurry love
No, you just have to wait
You got to trust, give it time
No matter how long it takes

 Copyright 1966 Holland-Dozier-Holland

It is not that implementation isn’t critical. It is. However, merely getting a hold of a God-thing and rushing off to implementation, misses important elements: the motivating power and the in-working of the cross. Whatever the thing we think we see or understand in the kingdom might be, it must become life in us before it becomes life in others, and that only happens one way: by death and resurrection life (John 12:24). I believe it was Watchman Nee who said: “Light in us must become life in us, before it can become light in others.” That happens when the Spirit takes our “insights” and “revelations” into death, and brings them back again in resurrection.

A God-thing implemented merely by vision, strategy, planning, purpose, passion, organization, and administration will inevitably end-up just bringing forth “successful” death. The same God-thing implemented through the in-wrought cross in a human heart, in love, resurrection life, service, and empowerment of others will result in liberating, reproducing, life.  If we miss this, we will inevitably initiate another program, perhaps based on better understanding than the last one, perhaps done in the most sincerity with passion and zeal for God and His ways, perhaps with “better results” than the last one, but it will be just another program none-the-less—”Babylon Lite.”

In the natural every species has a gestation period required for life. It can’t be hurried. If it is hurried it will be born dead or deformed. It is the same spiritually. Even the “revelation” of love itself as the beginning and end of all things, cannot be rushed to application.  Love requires gestation. Love requires incubation in an invisible place where only the one carrying the seed knows that there is life  in the womb. The day will come when everyone will know there is a pregnancy, but in the early goings . . . only Momma knows for sure.

When John Lennon sang, “All you need is love,” he was right. Sure, his understanding of it didn’t align with Christ’s kingdom, but I can’t help but believe that this lyric reflects something so deep in the human psyche, that even an unbeliever knows that love is the cement of perfection, the yearning of every human heart. John’s diagnosis was right. It seems unlikely he ever found the Cure.

Let’s avoid the pitfall of either extreme. Let’s effectively co-labor with the Christ in one another to the full realization of what His body is meant to be, for the benefit of God’s heart for humanity, remembering what Momma said:  . . .  you can’t hurry love.


Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact
This ministry is sustained by the freewill offerings of those who partner with us and believe in the message of a radical grace in a new covenant understanding. If this article has been a blessing to you, would you prayerfully consider making a tax-deductible contribution through our Paypal button to help? Thank you and God bless you.




Everyone Needs a Pharisectomy

The first issue to confront the apostles after Christ’s resurrection, particularly in their interaction with the Jews, was how to relate to the Old Testament scriptures.  The post-resurrection squabbles were all hermeneutical[1] fights. The apostles had the unenviable task of trying to claim continuity with the old order and differentiation from it at the same time. It wasn’t easy then, it’s not easy now.

The Jews took strong objection to how the apostles went about this with nonliteral interpretations and applications of Old Covenant prophetic scripture.  Paul hung the validity of Christianity on a hermeneutical point of grammar: the letter “s.”  If the “seed” of Galatians 3:14-18 is “seeds” (plural/many), then we all should be Jewish. If it’s singular, then our faith is legitimate. This is one highly nuanced interpretation! It’s a spiritual and nonliteral interpretation of the Abrahamic promise.

Saying the issue was controversial is an understatement. Paul’s nonliteral hermeneutics got him lowered over a wall in a basket trying to escape a “hit” that had been ordered on him by the conservative prophetic literalists of his day!  It is not enough to quote and apply various prophetic proof texts literally, as if in so doing, we are de facto, automatically, and unequivocally “being faithful to God’s holy Word,” by mere reason of our commitment to “literalism.”

To this day, there’s a wide spectrum of passionate opinion on this topic. Indeed, everything depends on the answer to this question: How do we interpret and apply the Old Covenant scriptures in the New Covenant era?

The issue is not whether or not the Old Covenant scriptures are equally inspired, valuable, or foundational. The issue is, how are they to be interpreted and applied in the light of what I call—the Christ-Act: Jesus’ birth, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, glorification, Spirit outpouring, and Spirit indwelling (the new creation).  How does the inauguration of the new creation affect our application of the Old Covenant scriptures?

There are some who seem to believe that other than not offering animal blood sacrifices any more, nothing much else has changed. I disagree. The values, thinking, and methodologies of the old economy, the old way of God relating to and with humanity, have been “abolished,” “done away” with.[2] A change has occurred. The scope of the change is the two thousand-year-old debate.

If you shop the scriptures looking for what you want to believe, you will find a supporting proof text for whatever you are looking for. The Old Covenant scriptures cannot be treated like a menu from a Chinese buffet, picking and choosing which scriptures one wants to believe “still apply literally” and which ones don’t. It rises or falls as a unit. We must have a theology of interpretation. I know that in the swamp of Gnosticism common in the church today, “theology” is considered a dirty word along with scholarship and doctrine. Therein is the reason “we is in the mess we is in!” Decontextualized, isolated, and chain-linked proof texts establish nothing.

It is my premise that the Christ-Act, the new creation, changes God’s relationship to humanity, and our relationship to each other, as starkly as light coming from darkness, as dramatically as in the first creation.[3] The Christ-Act is the great interpretive lens/filter of all scripture, including the Old Covenant scripture.

Invariably, our religious nature wants to claim the Old Covenant scriptures that promise us blessing for good behavior, and exempt ourselves from the verses of imprecation, judgment, and doom for failure to behave appropriately. That’s what legalists do: excuse themselves, and accuse others. Those judgment verses are for those “other people”—you know, those terrible ungodly people and sinners who deserve to be judged because their lives, doctrines, behaviors, and knowledge are not as “right” as ours.

Or, we shave the edges on those judgment verses: “Oh, they don’t apply any more, we are under grace.” Or worse (and more commonly) we believe they still apply and we live like Jesus never came and died for our sin—we better behave rightly to avoid God’s judgments that still loom over us for every misstep or sin! We live like criminals released on parole rather than pardoned at the resurrection and our record erased. We are beloved children who, if necessary, will experience faithful and incrementally severe child training for our redemptive good. We are not criminals on parole.[4]

Take for example, those who use innumerable Old Covenant prophetic proof texts to predict great natural cataclysms of end time judgment upon disobedient believers and unbelievers.[5] These individuals seem to claim for themselves the same prerogatives of divine authority to speak as the prophets of the old economy, to make their judgment prophecies, but conveniently excuse themselves from the standards of measurement and judgment upon themselves[6] if they are wrong in their predictions, from the same economy that they want to project on others!

You cannot have it both ways. If we would insist on compliance with all the old law and its values, we must also bear the consequences of failure at any point of the law.[7] It is selective and manipulative exegesis to do otherwise. In spite of all the talk today about “accountability,” there is simply no serious self-governance among many who consider themselves predictive prophets of God’s holiness. There is no public discipline or repentance for “prophecies” that do not come to pass, but rather excuses, rationalizations, and blame.[8]

For those who believe God is going to send natural disasters to punish people and nations for their sins, I ask them to consider the implications of the following:

If in an inferior covenant, based on inferior promises, secured with the blood of goats and sheep, Sodom and Gomorrah would have been spared by the mere presence of ten righteous people who were not doing anything, (Note: not ten intercessors, nor ten prayer warriors, nor ten people seeking God with prayer and fasting, just ten people “being there”) why do we think that in an era of a better covenant, based on better promises, secured with the blood of the dear Son, God is going to punish individuals, cities, and nations with earthquakes, floods, and judgments? Why do we think that in an era of a better covenant, that we need tens of thousands of intercessors begging God not to judge us, or our unbelieving neighbors? There are more than ten righteous in the nations of the world.

In spite of all the accumulated “Bible knowledge” we might possess, deep down in all of us, there is a little religious, legal, Adamic-nature, Pharisee trying to escape. By our “rightness,”[9] we want to earn something from God and thereby set ourselves apart from, and above, others. This is an attempt by the rationalistic tendencies in humanity to neuter or domesticate the radical grace of God, thereby removing its offense to human sensibilities of justice/fairness. We want to be rewarded by God in this life for how “right” we think we are, and we expect Him to punish those in this life who are not as “right” as we believe ourselves to be. This thinking fails the grace of God. God is good to people who do not deserve it.[10] If it were not so, you and I would have no hope.

The Westminster divines coined a phrase that has stood the test of time. I believe it should be applied to end time speculations of naturalistic judgments:

  • In essentials, conformity
  • In nonessentials liberty
  • And in all things, charity (love/kindness)

Apocalyptic prophetic pronunciations of last day[11] naturalistic judgments are not faith essentials. If individuals want to believe in them, fine. That is their “eschatological liberty.” However, do not project those convictions on others, as if the entire future of the faith rises or falls in getting others to agree with those convictions. Doing so will only cause unnecessary divisions in the body of Christ. Those who do not share those convictions are not subversive apostates, unfaithful to God and His Word.

And remember . . . the measure where with you measure others, will be measured unto you.

[1] The science and art of interpretation.

[2] For fuller treatments, please refer to our published materials as well as All Things New by Carl B. Hoch, Jr.

[3] 2. Cor. 4:6.

[4] The Greek word for “punishment” is never used in the New Testament in relationship to God and his children. The word used is “discipline” or “child-training.” Believers are not “punished.” They either receive the logical fruit of what they have sown for violating God’s universal moral laws (sowing and reaping), or child training exercises, from a faithful Father. These exercises can be very circumstantially unpleasant. The presence of these unpleasant circumstances do not indicate divine wrath or judgment, but rather evidence sonship. See Hebrews 12:6-11.

[5] In this brief essay, I am not attempting a full treatment of the subject of judgment, justice, or God’s wrath. I am dealing narrowly with the quid pro quo mindset that believes God dishes out punishment in the form of natural disasters on people who fall short of His glory, and those who “prophesy” such events in a punitive sense.

[6] Capital punishment for inaccurate prophecies.

[7] Dr. Greg Austin.

[8] To often the common practice is to blame the “church” for not praying enough (or some other caveat) to bring the declared prophecy to pass. It is, of course, never the self-proclaimed prophets who are in the wrong. Their “anointing” supposedly inures them from any criticism.

[9] Rightness of doctrine, revelation, knowledge, insight, behavior . . . whatever.

[10] The temporal suffering of the righteous and the temporal prosperity of the wicked, has confounded God’s servants for millennia. A naïve, moralistic, quid pro quo theology of “God rewards the just and punishes the wicked” is not sustainable from the scriptures. It was that kind of thinking that God’s enemies hurled at God’s Son as He hung on the cross: “A good God would not let an innocent man suffer.” Really?

[11] We have been in the last days for 2,000 years. See Hebrews 1.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby This blog is an excerpt  of a 5-article booklet, done by five different authors, on the subject of new covenant prophets and prophecy. The full version can be downloaded at:

Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

The Good Side of the Wrong Tree

God’s purpose in humanity is not behavior conformed to biblical standards. It is transformation into the image of Christ, and the two are not unequivocally the same. Transformation is a faith appropriation process realized in us through death and resurrection, not a behavior modification process realized through the acquisition of layer upon layer of correct biblical information.

Have you ever wondered why sometimes when someone is teaching something biblically true, imparting a “great revelation,” or trying to implement something biblically accurate, that the end result is often spiritual death? It doesn’t matter how “biblical” the topic is—authority, family, marriage, government, finance, honor, submission, leadership, “accountability,” repentance, forgiveness, revival, worship, prayer, etc.—or how great the revelation is. The animating power and spirit behind it makes the difference between life and death. It’s possible to be deeply “revelational” and biblically accurate in one’s doctrine and practice, and touch nothing of the life of Jesus in the process.

There were two trees in the middle of the Garden of Eden: the tree of life, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The promise the serpent made to Adam and Eve was not, “Eat of this tree and it will make you a bad person.” The promise was God-likeness. God is good and you will be like Him, only without God. The serpent wasn’t joking. He delivered on his word. Unbelieving humanity resembles God in human “goodness.”  There is a good side of the wrong tree. The good side of the wrong tree has a striking resemblance to the tree of life.  The only problem is, it is a form of goodness and God-likeness, separated from Life, and the end result is, and always will be, death.

The tree of life and the good side of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil are like identical twins—you have to be close to notice any difference. Imagine two identical quarts of milk in the fridge. Neither has been opened. You cannot tell from a distance and by outward appearance if they are really identical or not. You have to open them, and check the expiration date. Though they look the same, the aroma will tell you which you want on your cereal. So it is with the good side of the wrong tree. It stinks. Biblically conformed behavior, of itself, means nothing.

There are many legitimate principles and precepts in the scripture. However, when any biblical precept is implemented or energized from the good side of the wrong tree, its effect will be death:

Accurate Bible doctrine + good side of the wrong tree = death.
“Prophetic” revelation + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Well meaning intentions + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Passion for Scripture + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Passion for prayer + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Passion for the kingdom + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Passion for soul winning + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Passion for moral purity + good side of the wrong tree = death.
Governmental order + good side of the wrong tree = death

A life built solely upon adherence to biblical principles is designed by God to fail. A life built precept upon precept, line upon line, was the judgment God put on a leadership that was acting like babies, drunken in their own vomit. It is designed to cause those who try to build their life that way, to fall backward, be broken, snared, and taken. Precept upon precept, and line upon line was the punishment God laid upon Israel for refusing Him in His Person and the relational rest that is in Him. (Please read Isaiah 28 in context.)

It is possible, and common, to have one’s outward behaviors morally conformed to a biblical standard, and to be at the same time, relationally alienated from God and humanity. We can be blameless according to the “scriptural standard of behavior,” and be relationally toxic at the same time. According to Paul’s own testimony, his behavior was blameless according to the standard of God’s law. Yet, he was the chief of sinners, alienated from God and humanity, and he counted all that moral conformity as excrement compared to the excellency that is in Christ.

That is why a new convert whose behaviors are . . . well, consistent with being a new convert . . . can experience life-changing transformation into the image of Jesus, and know very little about the Bible. Freshness of love and relationship begets life, not mastery of the Bible. It is a matter of right relationship, not right doctrine. Knowledge puffs up . . . yes, even “Bible” knowledge. I can be “wrong” in my doctrine, and “right” in my relationships, and thus enjoy the manifest life and blessing of God. I can be right in my doctrine, and wrong in my relationships, and enjoy neither.

Since Jesus was explicitly clear that the fulfillment of all the law, and all God’s moral expectations for humanity were relational not behavioral in essence,[i] morally conformed but relationally alienated behavior that is from the good side of the wrong tree is still sin, and the fruit thereof will always be death.

The Adamic nature in us—the propensity to live life without consideration of God and His ways—has a death sentence on it, not a mandate for self-improvement through the exercise of biblical principles. We all would rather “try to live right,” than to die daily and experience His newness of life.

The unredeemed, natural, soulish, Adamic human nature can, from a base of sheer will power, conform itself to the mandates of biblical principles. This is especially true if there is some incentive of esteem or reward that the Adamic nature will receive from being conformed to biblical principles.

The life we have been given in Him is like an artesian well.  We do not have to flail the Adamic pump handle trying to make Christianity “happen.”  It cannot be coerced to manifest through the application of biblical principles.  If yielded to through faith appropriation of Christ’s finished work, and the experiential process of death and resurrection, it flows freely.  It is in the nature and design of an artesian well to flow. It doesn’t need any help.

The problem is, Adam would rather flail than die.   Professional pump-men earn the respect and admiration of others in the Christian community: “Look at how hard Brother Pumps-A-Lot is working for Jesus.”  “Look at his earnestness!” “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were as devoted as Brother Pumps-a-Lot?”

There is just a small problem. Brother Pumps-a-Lot may not be converted.  You cannot tell by his activity what kind of water he is bringing up, just like you cannot tell if the milk in the fridge is good or sour by looking at it from a distance.  Religious activity in the name of Jesus is not the same as having a life-source change.  Adam in a tuxedo and clean fingernails or Adam in grimy rags is still Adam.

Adam would prefer to pump in the noonday sun until the sweat is rolling off His nose like water over Victoria Falls, than to embrace the death sentence he has in Jesus, yield to the Spirit of Christ within, experience unspeakable deaths, and be brought up again in His newness of life.  Adam will always choose the pump handle over the grave.

The yoke that is easy, the burden that is light, is the yoke of His rest. The familiar Psalm 23 states: He makes me to lie down . . . (Not try harder!)

Makes me . . .

 That sounds to me that we are not inclined that way!

The essence of the Christian life, the life we have been promised, is not the arduous acquisition of virtue through human discipline. It is the unfolding of the life that is in us, that has been given in the indwelling Holy Spirit. Through faith—relational trust—learning how to appropriate moment-by-moment, the ever sufficient, eternally emanating life of Christ in resurrection. Through cycles of death and resurrection, all the days of our mortality, you and I will be transformed into the image of Christ: God gets many sons, and Messiah gets the nations!

[i] Please see the Great Commandment and the New Commandment. They are both relational in essence, based on love, not behavioral conformity.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

Quit Praying – Part One

Having a passion for prayer, in and of itself, means nothing.  There is no spiritual virtue inherently associated with a passion for prayer. Jesus said: “Hypocrites love to pray [at length] and in public.”[1] Most of Jesus’ public prayers (that we know of) can be said in five minutes or less.[2] If He really is our example, if we really believe WWJD, we need to give serious reconsideration to some of our prayer beliefs and practices, particularly in “prophetic” communities.

Though emotionally intense and perhaps sincere, a good bit of our prayer belief and practice is rooted in unbelief and a lack of the assurance of sonship.

Any passion for prayer must be grounded in the new creation and a thorough understanding of the New Covenant truths regarding identity, sonship, and the finished work of Christ—risen from the dead. If it is not, it will degenerate into very unhealthy and spiritually unstable practices of bondage and deception.

The Scriptures are the objective element of our faith. They are the more sure word[3] of prophecy that speak to our redeemed rational faculties. Prayer, worship, and communion with God via the Holy Spirit are the subjective elements of Christianity. The voice of the Good Shepherd[4] speaks to our spirit-man, sometimes referred to as our hearts. Vital Christianity requires the presence of both aspects in proper relationship to each other.

For centuries, Fundamental and Evangelical Christianity have emphasized the objective to the near extinction of the subjective. The Charismatic Renewal was (in part) divine remediation for the historical imbalance. However, unbridled, undiscerned, and unrestrained subjectivism is a plague in the church. Objective truth validates subjective and intuitive leadings. Subjective experiences put flesh on objective truth. We must have both.

This is hardly a newsflash. However, this fact is regularly violated and abused by many innocent and well-meaning believers, and others not so innocent nor well-meaning.

We do not need to “pray about” that which God has made clear in Scripture!


It is inappropriate to pray when God is asking for responsive obedience.  I regularly interact with Christians who use a pseudo-spiritual cloak of prayer to cover impenitent self-will, rebellion, and disobedience. It is a particular plague among prophetic believers.  By prophetic I mean Christians who believe, as I do, that the voice of God can still be heard and discerned in the redeemed human spirit. The closed Canon does not render God a mute.

For example, consider an individual hurt in a local church by dictatorial or carnal leadership. He or she usually reacts, withdraws, pours out his or her complaint to others, seeks God, and receives a revelation something like this: “God told me I do not have to follow any man, only Jesus—I must be led by the Holy Spirit and not man.” This has a germ of truth, sounds spiritual and noble but is in open contradiction to explicit Scripture.[5] Dear reader, it doesn’t matter how sincere you may be about this (or something similar in which the Scriptures are explicit)—you may be sincerely wrong.

Believers often engage in a manipulative spirit of control when they say things like: “I have prayed about it, and the Lord told me I must .  .  .”  This is not the language of mutual respect and dialog.  It is the language of spiritual ultimatum—spiritual blackmail—a legitimate truth (hearing God for one’s self, and obeying) energized in the old creation nature and pushed too far.  It is impossible to talk to people who cavalierly use this type of language, without stepping all over their prayer life and self-perceived spirituality. There’s just enough truth contained in it, to ruin relationships when expressed carnally.


Praying for hours to bring revival, save souls, or whatever is useless if God is requiring active repentance and reconciliation. This is particularly true concerning interpersonal relationships. It is easier to talk and pray about unity and “revival” than repent and make right the breaches in relationship that prevent unity and “revival” in the first place!  Most American Christians simply do not have the stomach for biblical interpersonal reality.  They will leave a church rather than resolve relational difficulties. Someone once said: “We resolve our relational difficulties with good-byes.” (Of course, we pray for unity and revival at the next church we bless with our presence!).

The In-Working of the Cross

An individual undergoing the child-training discipline of God, or a crucifixion/resurrection experience, is not helped by the prayers of others for blessing and escape. Believers with an unsanctified mercy or compassion gift frequently err in this regard. Sentimental prayer based on human analysis of circumstances and a soulish desire to spare people from difficulty, often runs counter to God’s redemptive purposes. We must always pray in wisdom with a God-perspective.  If we do not know how to pray, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to pray for us and through us! Get to know Him and let Him pray through you.[6]

                                                                 Faith Response

Endless prayer over the same issue or pending action, can be a cloak for unbelief, passivity, timidity, and faithlessness.  Inappropriate prayer is often a manifestation of the carnal mind in rebellion against God, masquerading in religious garb. When God is calling for faith action, it is inappropriate to keep praying.  Act.  Don’t pray.  When God is calling for responsive action, perpetual prayer can be a deluding spiritual narcotic used to cover disobedience.  Since prayer is normally held in high esteem, we can feel good about ourselves in our disobedience. Moses at the Red Sea is a classic Scriptural example. When faced with an impossibility, he cried out for God to “do something.”  God reproved him for his prayer and exhorted him to use what was in his hand.

Moses’ rod can represent many different things. Simply, it represents what has already been provided and what has proven effective.  For the believer, this is the Word of God, the indwelling Spirit, and our confidence as His sons and daughters.

Vacillation and indecisiveness are not fruits of the Spirit. It’s better to be bold and decisive and have to compensate for mistakes, than to be immobile and right too late!  No decision is a decision.  God’s admonition to Joshua wasn’t: “Be cautious and be careful,” but “be bold and be strong.” Leaders and individuals who insist on “more prayer” may be yielding to a human (or demonic) spirit that requires absolute assurance in every detail before stepping out in faith.  This is a religious manifestation of a perfectionistic, cowardly, and emasculated spirit, not godly virtue. The way of faith always encompasses a degree of uncertainty.

Pragmatism often masquerades in the church as wisdom. Many believers’ minds are deeply impregnated with worldly and culturally conditioned concepts of wisdom, prudence, and caution which impersonate godly virtues.  The world’s wisdom is devilish, and inordinate caution is always the mantra of the fearful.

Godly wisdom and faith are two valid biblical virtues in divine tension.  They are like a kite and string: wisdom is the string that enables the kite of faith to arise and stay in a proper sphere.  The kite of faith keeps the string of wisdom from being earth-bound. Healthy Christianity requires both. However, the overall tenor of the New Testament is that faith is the superior and eternal virtue. Faith is the short-supply commodity the Lord seeks in His people and in the earth.  If we must err, err to the side of bold faith. It is what the Lord is looking for.

The Remedy

The disciples asked the Lord to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1-13).  He promised that the Father would give the Holy Spirit to that very end. We have the same confidence and more because the Teacher is within us. He is the resurrection life remedy of God for ill-advised prayer. He is present in us to teach us to pray. Let’s pray as sons and daughters, as insiders to the throne of heaven, not as outsiders, begging and hoping that an indifferent heavenly potentate will throw us some crumbs if we just beg him long enough. Our Father IS NOT LIKE the reluctant judge in Luke 18. He doesn’t have to be begged. It is an insult to what Christ has done for us to relate to our Father in that way.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact

[1] Matt. 6:5 – paraphrase; length of prayer is implied from what we know of Pharasaic practices at the time.

[2] He would sometimes pray longer privately such as in the selection of the twelve and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

[3] 2 Peter 1:16, 19.

[4] John 10:27.

[5] E.g., 1Ti. 1:16, 1Co. 4:15-16, 1Co. 11:1, Ep. 4:11-13.  The remedy for leadership abuse is not abandonment of leadership. It is healing and genuine relationship with trustworthy fathers and mothers in Christ, who have proven themselves through their laid down lives (not their demand for submission!) that they are worthy to submit to. This is all regardless of any ecclesiastical hierarchal structure, position, title, or lack thereof. We all must submit to Christ in one another in the fear of the Lord. Christianity cannot be lived biblically or effectively in relational isolation and independence.

[6] Romans 8:26-28

Dancing Around the Truth May Pole

It’s interesting to me to observe how sophisticated, self-justifying and rationalizing,  we all can be (especially preachers) in avoiding the conviction of naked truth. Truth, when it is a philosophical abstraction, upheld with a Bible verse, is like a spiritual May pole . . . everyone will sing and dance around it. Truth when delivered with hammer and nails will be dodged and resisted, and the more biblically proficient someone is, the more adept he/she is at dodging and aversion.

The Adamic nature in all of us, loves every accoutrement of Christianity. It loves the Bible,  memory verses, theological speculations,  ministry, praise and worship, serving others,  going to church, praying, debating doctrine . . . but hates the Cross, because it is there it receives a death sentence.

In our faith communities, we will tolerate many things, for many reasons, to maintain the status quo.  The preaching of the cross and resurrection? That will precipitate open war.  There is a Word of the cross that can be attractive, as it speaks of what Jesus has done for us. We will shout and jump the pews for the Word of the Cross. The word FROM the Cross- “this is the way,” – is far less attractive. It shows us our selves as we really are, and it reveals God’s sentiments toward all our spiritual calisthenics that we are so busied with, trying to show God how devoted we are to Him.