But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
This is what I needed to hear after 10 years in ministry. I'd been born again in 1969, in Australia, then moved back to my home country, Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia, in Africa. I moved into Christianity with all the dedication to make it work that I'd applied to my cotton growing career. God's Word absolutely enthralled and excited me. I devoured it, studied it, went anywhere I could to hear bible teaching. I knew I was called to full time ministry and knew that the Word of God was the remedy to all Life's situations. But first God needed to release me from farming, have my wife agree to the change in direction in our lives and establish us in a more politically stable country.
Church friends labeled me "radical" and "extreme," some were advised not to fellowship with me at all. But God had a plan for my life and I had no idea the roads this plan would take.. Firstly He moved my family from Africa to the Outback of Australia, a stable environment but I still continued cotton farming. I worked long hours 6 days a week, far from any church, and became like a hermit. I studied the Word daily waiting for God to release me into ministry. About 9 years later the day came; God worked a series of miraculously timed events so that I was appointed by the Assembly of God denomination to start a "home mission" church in the Outback. I studied the faith movement, I fasted for 40 days, I did everything I knew how to get God to use me, anoint me to do His mighty works and produce a good church. Nothing was too much, too painful as I searched for Him.
The Outback church grew, we commenced a Christian school and people were amazed how God blessed what I, a farm boy, did. However my heart was not satisfied, inside I was discontent, so 5 years later when I was invited to preach in New York City and Niagara Falls, in the US, I eagerly excepted the month’s ministry opportunity, especially as God spoke to a person in the church to give me $3,000 to pay my fare.
It was during this trip, while flying into Newark airport, that God again spoke to me, telling me to return to Australia, sell our home and move my wife and 4 children, aged between 9-14 years to New York City, to pioneer another church and school, in a very poor area. Again nothing was too much if this was what God wanted us to do. Amidst my family's huge sadness at leaving relatives we set off on another great adventure. God had shown me very clearly where He wanted us to establish a church. Finally we were able to rent a facility just over the NYC line, in Yonkers.
Once more my wife and I threw ourselves into ministering to addicts, alcoholics, homeless and needy people in this downtown area. He brought wonderfully Godly and faithful people to minister along side us. People's lives were changing, the church was growing, BUT inside me there was a hollow. I tried to fill it with longer hours of prayer, ministry trips to India, Africa, more self-denial, fasts and long hours of bible reading. More than life itself I wanted to "make it" with God. I was burned out, exhausted and wanting to leave the ministry.
Then one day God sent a man to meet me. This man shared with me that God already loved me, with a love that was totally unconditional. Not based on how long I fasted or denied myself. God, through Jesus Christ had made me, at salvation, as righteous as I was ever going to be. I didn't have to search for Him, He was there inside me. He'd done it all. I could do nothing to make God more pleased with me. My success in ministry was not dependant on me working for it. It was dependant on me living Matthew 11:29. Jesus had paid the price; His righteousness had become my righteousness, as I believed it. God's undeserved grace had been given to me in Christ. I was a new creature, a part of God's vine. Not my own planting, not my own works.
Recognizing His unconditional love began to change my life, and I definitely became a nicer person to live with. I didn't have to strive, feel condemned, and be judgmental of others and myself. God accepted me as perfect, because of Jesus' perfect work of redemption I had the fullness of the Godhead dwelling within me and I am complete in Him. That meant my works didn't count for anything. I looked at myself differently, I wasn't a "going to be" I "was" already.
All God's promises are mine and they are true about me. The areas of condemnation, sin-consciousness and being driven were gone. I began to see myself as God sees me, "holy, blameless and unreproveable." My heart became seeped in these truths. I began to "know" that I can do all things through Christ. Instead of long lists of prayer requests, I began to thank Him in delight and anticipation because my heart was convinced that this heavenly Father loved me so much. I knew that His promises in His Word were true for me. I simply had to believe what He said, knowing that His desire was to promote and bless me in every area of my life. Not only in ministry but also in all my relationships, activities, health and provision.
These promises caused faith to leap in my heart. I had confidence in Him like I'd never had before. I loved Him because He had first shown His great love for me. I was unashamed, fully encouraged as He began to express His life through me.
Walking in His righteousness and grace has taken all the burden off me doing things, My qualification for all that Christ has done for me is simply understanding the truth that I could never have qualified myself by good works or self-effort. My trust is in His grace, His free gift of salvation. Salvation, not only to be born-again, but to be risen in Christ, a brand new creature, the old life nailed to the cross. His new life bursting forth.
After 14 years and raising our 4 children in New York, my wife and I traveled the world preaching this message for about four years. Then God moved my wife and I to California. In the last several years, we have been blessed to have a church family in Moorpark, where we are enjoying teaching the truths of righteousness and grace, and seeing others walk in this life.