Monday, December 31, 2012

Your Empowered Inheritance... NOW!!!

If I were to see this book in a Christian bookstore, I would probably avoid it.  I would do so because my initial impression would be that this is yet another me-centered religious book passed off as Christian.
Fortunately, because I know the author, I have opened the book and eagerly devoured its contents.   And once again I find it explains so much of what's wrong with today's so-called "Christian Church", and more importantly, how to put things in order.

Frankly, it begins with what we call the gospel message.   I'm convinced that most of today's professing Christians have bought into a counterfeit gospel.  It has been gutted of any real substance or power.  I also believe this is the major reason we have to resort to Madison Avenue methodology to "market" "churches".  The essence of what we profess is missing.

I'll share a penetrating quote from "Your Empowered Inheritance..."

"Our faith is called Christianity after Jesus of Nazareth, not Paulianity after Paul, nor Churchianity after the church. The church is not the pattern for the church. Christ is the pattern. We are conformed to His image, not the church's.  If He is not the pattern our faith would be better called Biblianity: the worship of a book and adherence to its principles.

Much of the angst caused by searching for patterns in Scripture is contrary to the spirit of the gospel. The New Testament is neither a rulebook nor a guidebook. It is a revelation of a Person.

Human religious inclinations are always toward finding a law, rule, or pattern that spells things out for us so we can "do them". The New Testament is about finding a life and losing our own. Therefore, searching the scriptures for patterns is fundamentally incorrect. The Scriptures do not reveal patterns. They reveal Him."

My primary prayer for the coming year would be that the Spirit of God would stir up a people who will claim and walk in their full inheritance.  Its not about perfection, but the pursuit together in Him.   I would encourage you to read "Your Empowered Inheritance...NOW!" and share it with your friends and family members.

You can order the book at this link:

Happy New Year!


Saturday, September 22, 2012


3 years ago, I came across a book with a life changing message.  "Identity Theft" covered the alternative and dysfunctional ways we relate to our Father when we fail to grasp the reality of sonship.   That book was written by Wes Boldt and Kevin Avram.  

In the past week I was intrigued to receive a new work by Kevin.  The title is "Limitations", The Prism Through Which We See and Understand Church.   

This is probably the most effective publication I've read that helps us understand the distinction between "ekklesia", church and corporation.   

Though I have been walking with the Lord for 33 years, it wasn't until 3 years ago that I started to realize how I was caught in the bondage of "corporate" religion and, for too long, was unable to distinguish between His Church and a religious enterprise controlled by men.   "Limitations" further sharpens that understanding.

After providing some critical definitions, Kevin Avram goes on to discuss the implications of viewing church through a prism of corporation.  He says the consequence is " Commitment, Passion and Purpose Take the Stage".   In fact Avram argues that these are the only ways to have a relationship with a corporation.   In contrast to a relationship with God or others, which "is characterized by two-way communication and, depending on the depth of the relationship, humility, and self-disclosure (transparency).  

The case is made that a relationship with a corporation, even a church corporation is actually imaginary rather than real.   Avram gives an example of Walmart. There is no such person: 

"Likewise, no man or woman can have a personal relationship with  an actual church, for in the same way that there is no real  person named Walmart, neither is there a real person called Beacon Hills Community Church , Second Street Church, or Pine City Christian Center."  

Kevin Avram's footnote to this section is even more revealing. I'll bet many of you can relate:

"In many instances when a person ceases to work for a particular business corporation, any "relationship" he or she may have had with other individuals within the corporation will also cease.  This happens because the "glue" that holds the "relationships" together tends to be the functions of the corporation.  Once these are removed, the relationships no longer have any basis for continuing.  In essence, the perceived relationships one might have had with others were dependent on corporate functions rather than humility, communication and relational transparency.  The same thing holds true in churches that maintain a corporation-like culture.  When the functions (programs) of the church corporation are removed, the relationships implode, and in most instances, cease to exist.  This is the reason a Christian can attend a church for such a long period of time, and then seemingly see so many perceived relationships abruptly end, if that "church" ceases to exist, of if he or she moves to a different "church".  

And in another insightful section, Avram calls us to "Imagine the Response of the Pharisees If Jesus' Teaching Had Focused on Commitment":

To put the concept of commitment into a clearer context, and thereby understand why it is not a measure of spiritual virtue, imagine what would have happened if Jesus had gone about the Judean countryside telling people they needed to make a "commitment" to God, a "commitment" to attend temple, or a "commitment" to to the "principles" of Scripture.  If He had, the Pharisees would have been among his most ardent supporters.    Instead they saw Jesus as a threat.  Why? Because He ignored commitment-based religion and spoke to them about the issues of the heart - something the Pharisees couldn't even begin to understand.  Their constant attention to the self-sufficiency bred by commitment-based religion meant they couldn't even hear what Jesus was saying.  (John 9:40,41) 

This book is well worth the read.  

You can order "Limitations" at this link:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Holding On Loosely

I'm always intrigued when the Lord brings an international friend across my path with a timely message.  This time, my friend Kenny Russell in Israel wrote to let me know a brother in the Lord is visiting Charlotte soon and I would probably want to talk with him on the show.

A few days later I received a copy of his friend's book.   "Holding On Loosely", Finding Life in the Beautiful Tension is written by Pablo Giacopelli. 

Pablo is a tennis coach.   And he shares his personal and professional journey about coming to a place of simply letting God be God.

In the preface Pablo describes the "search of a tennis dream programmed by my father into my mind and into the very core of my being. The mission was simply to make it.  "Making it" became an idol in my life. The closer I got to making it, the more the people who mattered to me smiled and loved me.  The further I got from making it, the less of their approval I received. As life progressed, I learned very quickly that receiving love and approval was inextricably linked with being successful.

"The years came and went, and I found myself the victim of the very things I had tried to control in my life.  Yes, I achieved some success, but it was not the success I was told I had to achieve. Or so I assumed, as I never quite received the approval that confirmed I had reached the goal."

Pablo goes on to describe a path where his relationship with God became one of "entitlement and fictional codependency" .  Ultimately, he says "In my desperation I inevitably became a control freak and perfectionist. Outside , I portrayed the image of someone who had it all together, someone who knew God and His grace and love for people. Yet inside I continued to get further and further away from the very thing I claimed to know. My legalistic approach to God and life alienated me from the very love and life I was looking for. I fell into the trap of religion and all it supposedly offered if i could just somehow make the grade.  Religion cost me my life, my first marriage and many other close and valuable relationships; it led me to do the very things I condemned others for doing."

But Pablo's story has a happy ending.  The trap he fell into of "good intentions and self-help formulas" was interrupted by a loving Father who revealed that "God lives on the road of grace, where behavior and performance take a second seat to life, love and relationship. On this road, we are free to be ourselves. No more manipulations and false pretenses. No more bargaining or forcing. No more religion and rules. Just Life"

You can order "Holding on Loosely" at this link:

Pablo Giacopelli will join us for a OneBody connection event on Sunday September 23rd. You can learn more and RSVP at this Facebook link

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

In Search of: A Message, A Man, A Meeting

The idea for this title belongs to my dear wife, Debbie.  As we went for a walk the other day, we discussed the issues that will follow.  Just today, I was meditating on the content for this blog posting.  The heart behind it was further stirred by this Facebook entry from a friend:

“You know, I'm having a hard time understanding  why so many people who have left our old church are so eager to jump right into another one. Makes me think of that proverb about a dog returning to its vomit.”

Let me first say, this is not written as a criticism of anyone.  It is really more of an exhortation . . . to SEEK THE LORD rather than repeat another round of futility.  I can speak from experience on this, because I ultimately had to go through another round of painful dysfunction (and drag my family through it as well). The reason: institutionalization caused me to feel that I needed to find another “thing”.  My loving Father let me find it, and the lesson this time was like the proverbial hot stove . . . hot enough to keep me from touching it again!

The title of this blog post refers to ‘attractions’ or ‘entry points’ into more religious distraction and dysfunction. God clearly loves His people and of course he also loves leaders.   He uses men to deliver messages and He sometimes works through meetings (though many times He does so despite us, not because of our amazing meeting skills). Even though He uses these things, they alone are not indicators of the health of a particular spiritual expression.  I can say emphatically that if these are the criteria that attract us to “joining” another religious franchise, we still have some foundational lessons to learn.

A Message

I am continuously bombarded by emails and Facebook messages about some “man of God” who delivered some extraordinary message.   Maybe the message is wonderful, but does that automatically mean one should join an organization that person is connected to? 

I have friends who have been languishing in a “church” for years.  When I most recently asked why they’re still there, my friend replied, “We like the preaching.” This is curious in light of the fact that my friend is aware that the people doing the preaching have a history of abuse, control, manipulation, and lying. The friend was speechless when I asked, “What good is preaching when they don’t practice what they preach?”  

Too many Christians believe there is something spiritual about listening to sermons every week. There can be, but there is no biblical evidence that it is God’s purpose for us to listen to someone drone on and on, week after week, while a “congregation” passively listens.  Luke refers to his gospel as an account of what Jesus “began to do and teach”.  And yet I’ve found few people preaching who even know how to “do,” unless doing is simply defined as telling others what to do.

While there is a healthy place for teaching, increasingly I see that New Testament priesthood involves more effective body ministry of “one anothers” and less of the one-man-show eternal lectures many of us have become addicted to. 

A number of people I know rejoice in “how well taught” they are. I acquiesce that Paul might say the same, but only about his pre-Damascus road days which he came to view as rubbish. 

Hearing a good sermon (or even a series of good sermons) is hardly a reason to throw our lot in with another organization. The real test is BODY functionality:

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)

A Man

Those who have been in religious organizations where leaders have a high view of themselves and of their importance to the body should be especially on guard for what amounts to idolatry.  

I grew up hearing people refer to “Pastor (Tom, Dick or Harry)’s church” or “Brother so-and-so’s church.”  Though not intentional, in most cases, these words were literally true; the church belonged to that man. The problem should be obvious. Any “church” built around a man is, frankly, an abomination.  Have we not learned the error of “I am of Paul, I am of Apollos . . . ?” 

This is putrid idolatry.   We Christians slam unbelievers for their worship of music stars, celebrities, and Hollywood actors. Yet we do the very same thing in the church world with our worship of famous preachers, musicians and edifices. We allow those who treat us like commodities to “make merchandise of us.”  And we permit selfish leaders to divide the body in the name of a perverted view of pastoral authority. 

Look at the way we set up church meetings: the pastors are the center of attention.  All the chairs or pews are focused in that direction, not toward one another.   Truthfully, much of what we’re doing is relating to each other around self-appointed leaders, rather than to one another in Jesus.   This is another bad habit that desperately needs to be broken. 

A Meeting

If there’s one thing that describes Christians in the western world, it is this: we are very meeting-centered.  People judge a “church” by the “Sunday show.”  Along with the music, the sermon is judged much like a performance on American Idol.  We don’t seem to care whether Jesus has knit our hearts with others in real relationship by “joints and ligaments.”  If we enjoy the meetings, we then attempt to build relationships within the organization.  Isn’t this backwards?  Should we not first discover relationships THE LORD has given us, instead of looking for a black cat in a dark room that probably isn’t there anyway?

God is building A PEOPLE relating to reflect His glory, not an organization to simply gather for meetings. This requires we first connect to HIM, and then out of that union of life with Him, we can move on to share His life with others.  The problem is, I find that most people (for a variety of reasons) don’t learn first how to relate to their Father.  All too often, the result is we don’t fellowship WITH GOD, but simply fellowship with each other, ABOUT GOD.

Running through these three “attractions”; The Message, The Man, The Meeting is a common current: spiritual immaturity.  In most cases, participation rarely requires us to operate in functional priesthood.  While we’re looking for “the church that will meet our needs,” we fail to find our completeness in CHRIST, leaving us orphaned, (assuming we are not actually spiritually still-born).  As a result we go from one religious orphanage to another, looking to others to “bottle feed us,” locking us into what amounts to eternal infancy.

So what is our universal call?  In Matthew 6:33 we are told to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness . . .” But what does this really mean?   I sum it up this way: the kingdom of God is the realm of Jesus’s Lordship and authority, and it is not a one-time event.  I am to be in a continual state of aligning with the King.  As I am, His righteousness is released.  Is that simply being a “good person”, or mere moralism? Absolutely Not! It is humanity living in relational sync with the living God. 

The commandments are summed up in loving God and loving others.   Did not Jesus say, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another?”  This sends us to “the better way” in 1 Corinthians 13.  How is this walked out?  We must develop deep bonds of love over time with “one another.” However, our promiscuous floating about, looking for the most charismatic men (people, not gender specific), messages and meetings prevents this? 

The real need today, that hasn’t changed over two thousand years, is for us to learn how to love.   In my thirty-plus years of church life, it is more apparent to me than ever, that this is not the priority of our religious systems, and if we are honest with ourselves, we will find, it is not really our priority either. If it were, we would spend much more time learning how to love our families, other believers, and neighbors closest to us, instead of “compassing land and sea” to find some “church” or group that’s “doing it right.”     

In light of our human proclivity to gravitate toward the path of least resistance and follow the religious crowds, my appeal is simply this: try spending a month of Sundays simply seeking the Lord ALONE.  Don’t go looking for “another church” during that time.  Focus on LISTENING, to see what your Father has to say about what is on His heart.   Take your cues from Him.  I suspect He is unlikely to send you to another franchise or organization, but instead put specific people on your heart: people He may want to disciple you, and/or those He may want you to disciple.   When we begin here, we will find the path of BEING the church rather than having, doing, or finding church.  After all, did not Jesus promise that He will build His Church?  Our call is to seek the kingdom and let Him do the building.  We simply abide in Him.  In that place religious striving and “church busy work” ends and “doing the works of God” commences.   Otherwise, we simply remain what my wife calls “NASCAR Christians,” going really fast, logging mile after mile on an oval track equating speed with progress and busyness with spiritual growth. 

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  (John 5:19 ESV) 

We would do well to remember the words of one prophetic voice who spoke to his generation words that are no less true today:

"One hundred religious persons knit into a unity by careful
organization do not constitute a church any more than eleven dead men
make a football team. The first requisite is Life, always."

- A. W. Tozer

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Path to Functional Priesthood

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few days in Dallas for some major political events.  While there, I got the opportunity to fellowship with a friend I met 3 years ago here in Charlotte. 

Bryon Wiebold is walking with other brothers and sisters in genuine community in the Dallas area.  So I was anxious to connect with him on this recent trip to learn what the Lord is doing in his life, and in those around him.  As we talked I was struck by the foundational truths the Lord has burned into his heart about the nature of discipleship and leadership.   I could not selfishly hoard the download the Spirit of God was releasing through Bryon, so I recorded that exchange to share for broadcast.  

I would encourage you to take 30 minutes to listen to the program.  And as usual, your feedback and testimonies are always welcome.


Saturday, June 9, 2012

How New is the New Covenant? Practical Applications of New Covenant Living

A healthy New Covenant understanding is a good thing.   But the big challenge is walking it out.  In this final installment in the series, Steve Crosby goes into the "Practical applications of New Covenant Living".  

We learn that we are now empowered to live well and love well.  And this is the foundation on which real Christian community and mission can take place.

Here's the final part of the series, "How New is the New Covenant?"

Monday, May 21, 2012

How New is the New Covenant? : Grace and Truth in the Light of the New Covenant

In discussing our spiritual journey with a friend the other day, I spoke something that was a revelation to me as I uttered the words.  I declared that when we made a step of faith 4 years ago, we thought we knew what God was up to.   We now know he had other plans.  The bottom line is,  I now realize that God is the Lord of my journey.  And where I am today is not merely the product of my own spiritual management of my walk.   If that were the case, who is really God?

Further developing this kingdom value, Steve Crosby zooms in on definitions of words we may have heard many times before, like Grace and Truth.   Now you will hear more about them from a relational paradigm.

AN ADVISORY:  Due to a change of order in the messages delivered, last week's post was mislabeled.  You can hear the newest unreleased segment at this link.

The lead-in above actually goes with the message now posted above.   Sorry for any confusion.

Monday, May 14, 2012

How New is the New Covenant?: A Covenantal Life or a Principled One?

The foundation of New Covenant Life is found in the knowledge of God. But what is that?  Is it merely an intellectual collection of information about God?

In his usual style, Dr. Steve Crosby drives home the reason for our full heads and empty hearts in the modern church.   But he doesn't leave us there.   We learn how to experience the reality of eternal life, the life Jesus purchased for us on the cross.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How New is the New Covenant? : Solution: Righteousness - How It Should Be Defined

In the 3rd session, Dr. Steve Crosby already defined sin as relational alienation.
Now he tackles righteousness from a relational persepctive.  

Very often people describe righteousness merely in behavioral terms or in the context of ethical issues.   So is there a way to increase our righteousness?  What really happened in the New Covenant?  If sin is relational alienation, what is the remedy?  These are some of the issues Steve deals with in part 4 of his series.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How New is the New Covenant? The Problem: Sin - How Should it Be Defined?

What is sin?   This age old question has been the subject (even an obsession) for so many discussions, bible studies and sermons.  But what is at the root?  

In recent years I have come to a profound transformation in this area by a shift from a forensic perspective to a relational one.  The result is gloriously liberating and empowering for God's people when we reject years of faulty tradition that have produced bad fruit and embrace our Heavenly Father and His Word.  God really is for us.  He is not merely  a cosmic Prosecutor or even Judge, keeping score so he can whack us when we sin.  

In this 3rd part of Steve Crosby's series, "How New is the New Covenant?", he even takes on issues of how we view knowledge, truth, morality, and even worship in a kingdom context. 

Let the spirit of God refresh your heart and mind as you listen to this liberating message.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How New is the New Covenant? The Covenantal Godhead

Do you ever wonder why so often we fail to truly reflect the image of our Heavenly Father?   Dr. Steve Crosby addresses that and other questions in part 2 of his series.

We learn that our understanding of Him (or misunderstanding) is ultimately what we end up reflecting to others.

The key to the new covenant is understanding true faith. It is not just believing a set of doctrines, but RELATIONAL TRUST.  This has been a transformational value in my life. 

You will also appreciate Steve's sharing about God's provision for Covenantal living.  
Here is part 2 of the series, How New is the New Covenant?

Monday, April 16, 2012

New Covenant Sessions: How "New" is the New Covenant?

We are approaching the 3 year mark in our life outside the institutional church system. And if there is one thing I am convinced of, it is this: too many people in this "movement" are more aware of what they have left than where they are going.

Irrespective of where and how people "worship" I believe the measure of our flourishing in Jesus is directly related to the measure of apostolic/prophetic foundations in our lives. (Ephesians 2:20) And I am increasingly burdened by the reality that for many, these foundations have really never been established.

At the heart of this is the gospel of the Kingdom. I believe too many "believers" are familiar with a gospel that is, in reality, profoundly incomplete. I speak from my own experience. What I thought was the gospel was really a shadow of the gospel Paul proclaimed as "the power of God unto salvation". (Romans 1:16)

I stand in awe today with a profoundly more complete picture of the Gospel. Yes, I left an institution 4 years ago that was so "cross" focused that resurrection life was essentially smothered. But more importantly, by God's grace, He has placed us in a growing family in this city that includes foundation building gifts to the body: apostles and prophets who are passionate about the New Covenant. One of those gifts is Dr. Steve Crosby.

I rejoice in the deposit the Lord has given Steve. And I see the ongoing impartation of the Kingdom values he shares and walks out with God's people from day to day. Recently Steve started delivering a series of messages in Hickory, NC, How "New" is the New Covenant? I sensed very strongly the Lord's desire to widely broadcast what he is communicating, so I will post these messages here over the next few weeks.

The first is an Introduction.
Since my teens I have believed that too much of today's expression of "church" is more like the Old Testament than the New. There is a good reason for that: we really don't get that new means NEW!

That is a good starting place to take in Steve's first message from New Covenant Sessions. As always, we welcome your comments.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Identity Theft: The Foundation of Your Life is Not What You Do, Or What You Know, But Who You Are

In the early stages of my significant period of "deconstruction", I was blessed to read "Identity Theft" by Kevin Avram and Wes Boldt. The authors are old friends who reconnected through a Divine appointment. It turns out their fellowship resulted in rich times of fellowship and sharing. The Lord was teaching them together. The result is this desperately needed book that takes us on a path to walking in our identity as sons, as opposed to laborers, orphans, or beggars.

"Identity Theft" begins with the background stories of the Avrams and the Boldts. Wes and Mary Boldt's account kicks off with the sale of the business they ran for 26 years.
Wes describes their church experience. Mary was involved in many wasy, including the worship ministry. He served on the elders board for 20 years, including several years as board chairman. And of course, they gave a lot of money. Wes describes this season of life:

"I was living on autopilot during those years. This is the only way I know how to explain why I didn't pause for even a second to consider that there might be a difference between the church as an institution and the church as a Christ-centered body of believers. I was so confident and ambitious that I didn't have time for the more organic aspect of church, including relationships. I was interested soley in building the institution. I figured if God could be pleased with a successful large church, how might He feel if we could build a successful mega-church?"

Life changed significantly after the Boldt's largest competitor offered to buy their business.

"With the removal of the business from our lives, the basis upon which I had found my identity and understood my purpose was no longer valid. My role as a check writer to the church had also stopped, meaning I was about to discover how intricately my ability to give financially had influenced, and at times, even defined, my sense of identity."

The Lord began teaching Wes and Mary about heart attitude and motivational gifts. Wes realized that he derived his self-worth and identity from his status as a business owner and position in the church. Now, in the Arizona desert, he didn't have either. And there was yet one more brutal discovery for the Boldts.

"Mary and I had sacrified endless hours and large sums of money for our church, yet it was in our desert wilderness with the institutional aspect of church was revealed. We discovered that the basis for most of our relationships had been work- and church related rather than personal. The men I ahd worked with on the elders' board disappeared out of my life. I remember how happy I was the night one of them called on the phone, and my deep disappointment when I realized the only reason for the call was an appeal for funds. Was my worth as a man and church member derived soley from what I could contribute to the institution? Was the glue that had previously held all our relationshps together only the institutions, its goals, and our giving?

Eventually, I realized that after 30 years of adult living and more than 20 years as a church board member at a mainline evangelical church, I ddin't even know what church was, and worse, I didn't even know who I was."

You can order "Identity Theft" at this link:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SGM Chronicles: The Plague of Passivity

In all fairness, it must be said that most of the church system we’ve all known and experienced promotes a culture of passivity with its perpetuation of the “pastor/laity” divide. However, the tendency is more pronounced, in “churches” that promote a strong hierarchal expression of leadership: they tend to foster even a deeper and more damaging level of passivity and inactivity among members. I do not believe that for the most part, the damage caused by these leaders is with intent, but rather, through ignorance and blindness: blindness regarding the scriptures, and blindness regarding themselves. But as we know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Since I began this series, I’ve gotten mixed feedback. Those who have experienced some form of spiritual abuse firsthand, or are aware of situations involving someone they know, have been encouraged by what they’ve read. They’ve wondered, many times for years, whether something was wrong with them. Now they realize that voice whispering to them was actually the Holy Spirit. Still others have predictably circled the wagons, either dismissing the idea that something very serious is wrong, or justifying their defense of the organization by personally attacking people who offer critical assessments of the institution. Still others acknowledge there are issues but do not see the urgency of them. And the age-old excuse is thrown out thoughtlessly: “There is no perfect church.” (I’ve always rejected this excuse. If we simply rest in the fact we are imperfect, why bother to address our imperfections?) And still others are so deeply blinded by their devotion to leaders, that they honestly don’t see a thing. Tragically, many of them frankly don’t care.

I am personally aware of some leaders who can accurately be described as textbook examples of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. They have fooled hundreds (even thousands) with a well-rehearsed “humble demeanor.” But unknown to their most ardent supporters, is a trail of damaged lives . . . people thrown under the bus in the name of building religious empires. If these followers had only an ounce of basic human curiosity, they would inquire about, and find behavior they would never imagine engaging in themselves. And yet they tragically believe these pastors are more “spiritual” than they are . . . men whose example should be followed without question.

How many lives have been disrupted by “church plants” or “adoptions” where leaders have been “de-gifted” and sent packing? In so many of these situations, the congregation accepted the changes as the wise decisions of those who are “over them.” Other members have relocated to new cities or towns and sold properties at a loss, only to find that they have been exploited. I am aware of one such “church plant” that was doomed from the start. In truth it was a church split: a by-product of profound relational conflict between leaders. (Leaders who guided the church through several rounds of “Peacemaker” curriculum.) All of the elements that led to the demise of the “plant” could have been discovered had both leaders been transparent. To this day, I am not aware of either leader coming clean about what really happened—shame on those pastors for their lack of disclosure. But shame on the people involved who are still with the mother church, for not demanding to know the WHOLE truth, and evidence of repentance from ALL of the SGM leaders involved.

In previous installments, I’ve discussed the purpose of Ephesians 4 ministry. It is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. But in my nearly fifteen years with SGM, I saw very little equipping. Most of the “ministry” centered around the pastors, and any training was simply geared toward supporting their ministry. This is backwards! Healthy Ephesians 4 ministry is not about showcasing my gifts, but activating yours!

Again this is not unique to SGM, but the Kingdom value of every-member participation is quenched by the perpetual classroom mentality. I believe the DNA of what takes place (and what doesn’t) in the life of the body is set on Sunday mornings. What do you see? Typically pastors, and maybe a worship leader/team on stage, and everyone else sitting passively, at least half of the time. What inevitably develops is an unhealthy dependence on pastoral ministry.

It was Ignatius of Antioch who helped to set the foundation for what most call “church.” In his “epistle” to the Magnesians, he taught this monstrous doctrine:

As therefore the Lord did nothing without the Father, being united to Him, neither by Himself nor by the apostles, so neither do anything without the bishop and presbyters. (Chapter 7)

So it is ironic that so-called “Reformed” brethren continue to perpetuate this false doctrine of pastoral control. Everything in the life of the church must fall under the supervision of pastors. In my experience within SGM, if a pastor is unable (or simply unwilling) to “oversee” some form of ministry or outreach, it simply isn’t done. This produces a Babylonian bottleneck. The pastors sit at the top of the religious enterprise, empowered to make the final call on initiatives the Spirit of God may put in the heart of regular members. A “no” from the pastor often relegates those members to a role of religious observers . . . merely watching the leaders do what is alleged to be ministry. Much of the time, that is simply preaching and teaching. The real body life of “one anothers” rarely takes place. And truthfully, pastors are often relationally broken themselves, and/or inept and unable to walk in fellowship with regular members. This reduces our Father’s vision of a healthy body nourishing itself and carrying out the mission of the gospel… into a religious lecturing society.

In this kind of atmosphere, members are assured that their pastors are caring for them. They are dealing with the pertinent matters of the church. Members need not worry their little hearts out. The church “elders” have everything under control. Members simply need to attend and participate in all the meetings and pay their tithes. The leaders will take care of the rest.

Because members buy into this blatant suffocation of the “royal priesthood,” they extend trust that goes beyond scriptural boundaries. The result is leaders have broad latitude to define their level of control over the flock. And the temptation to use and abuse that authority is irresistible.

So members are generally in the dark about what is really going on in the church. They are instructed to submit to those in authority over them, and to trust them. But Paul has a much more humble view of himself and other leaders, and he accepts the burden of responsibility:

This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
(1 Corinthians 4:1-2 ESV)

The New American Standard Version drives it home a little more:

In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy.

The challenge comes in any effort to verify trustworthiness. This can only happen in genuine relationship. So without an atmosphere of mutuality in relationship, injustices and abuse occur behind closed doors. And in a controversy, there’s only one version of events that matters: the pastors’ version.

Since members have already accepted this default position to discern what is true and what is not, the tendency will always lead to acquitting the leadership, and marginalizing or judging anyone who might dare to have a contrary opinion or perspective. And so it is a very small leap at this point to encourage members to refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees with them. Tragically many members tend to comply. The result is true Kingdom purposes are thwarted, and an atmosphere for profound evil to flourish only grows with time.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. "
- Edmund Burke

There is an evil which most of us condone and are even guilty of: we remain neutral, impartial, and not easily moved by the wrongs done to other people. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself. It’s more universal, more contagious, and more dangerous. A silent justification makes evil that erupts as an exception to become the rule, and in turn allows it to be widely accepted. [i] Indifference to injustice is the normalization of evil.

[i] The Prophets, Abraham Heschel, 364; quoted by Stephen Crosby, Healing: Hope or Hype?

The indifference described above is the breeding ground for the birth and development of spiritual tyranny. We need to hear the wisdom of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel on the issue of indifference and passivity:

The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference.
(Oct. 1986)

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

For one who is indifferent, life itself is a prison. Any sense of community is external or, even worse, nonexistent. Thus, indifference means solitude. Those who are indifferent do not see others. They feel nothing for others and are unconcerned with what might happen to them. They are surrounded by a great emptiness. Filled by it, in fact. They are devoid of all hope as well as imagination. In other words: devoid of any future.

In the Pauline spirit, I also offer a refreshing contrast to the standard fare from SGM. It is happening in Gaithersburg, MD. At the beginning of the current SGM crisis last summer, Joshua Harris set the tone for the people he leads at Covenant Life Church by starting with repentance. Now months into the process of review and exceptional input from members, that local church is changing its pattern of governance. Among the many positive changes, the members will be involved in every significant decision. This is a great start in the right direction.

I can also personally testify about how God’s people begin to flourish in Jesus when they get out from under oppressive top-heavy, hierarchal, religious control. In a few short months I have watched two dear friends of mine move from passivity on the pastoral plantation, into healthy identities in Jesus as men of God who are demonstrating priestly initiative. How did they get there? Genuine Ephesians 4 apostles and prophets walked with them in relationship as friends, and coaches, not as overlords. This is in sharp contrast to the years of sitting under “leadership” dominated by pastor-teachers that stripped them of their identity and purpose in Christ, essentially emasculating them.

Notice Paul’s perspective and attitude toward believers he wrote to. He clearly did not see them as “dumb sheep.”

I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another.
(Romans 15:14 ESV)

Clearly the leadership of SGM has no such confidence in its people. They continue to double down on the demonically empowered idea that regenerated members are eternally untrustworthy and sin-prone, and therefore dependent on pastoral leadership to function. This is not only biblically indefensible, but even the world recognizes that this is profoundly unhealthy and cultic.

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying,
“Come out of her, my people,
lest you take part in her sins,
lest you share in her plagues;
for her sins are heaped high as heaven,
and God has remembered her iniquities.
(Revelation 18:4-5 ESV)

Whatever we believe Babylon represents in Revelation 17 and 18, we should take the judgment the Lord pronounces very seriously. We can argue that we did not commit all the sins the leaders were responsible for. But the truth is, we cannot make that claim if we are rank and file members who give assent to their activities (seen and unseen) by our presence, and fund their activities with our money. There is simply no excuse for any believer to bury his head in the sand and buy into the lie that matters of religious abuse, leadership sin and hypocrisy, are “pastoral issues” that are none of our business. All too often I’ve seen na├»ve and lazy believers embrace such non-thinking . . . until they are personally victimized. Otherwise they don’t care. “As long as the music is good and the doctrine is sound, and the pastor or pastors treat me well, nothing else matters.” It should be clear by now this is not kingdom thinking, but frankly thoughtlessness, the kind that is unacceptable even to humanists, the kind that produces tyrants in the church and in the world.

Saints let’s get real on this: if we can’t come to grips with the level ground at the foot of the cross, the priesthood of believers (in practice, not just in theory), and the upside down (or right side up) understanding of the kingdom of God (true leadership is modeled by serving, not reigning over others), we have absolutely NOTHING to show the world, no matter how sound the gospel we proclaim with our lips. The world will continue to hear our clanging cymbals and realize nothing has changed. We’re still playing church.

Friday, March 9, 2012

How New is the New Covenant?

If you are in the Hickory NC area you might be interested in joining us next Saturday AM, March 17, at A Place to Talk at 1546 Brookford Church Rd, Hickory, NC 28602, from 9-noon.

We will be doing Part One of a once-a-month, three month, series on "How New is the New Covenant?" This month we will be doing an introduction, and looking at the fundamentals of sin and righteousness from a "relational" point of view, rather than the "legal-forensic" point of view that has characterized the Western Church for 1,000 years. This will be seminary level teaching. All are welcome, but bring your "thinking caps" with you! :-)

There is no registration fee, but an offering will be taken.

I think you might find it invigorating and "challenging" . . .

God bless,

Steve Crosby

You can RSVP to this event at this Facebook link:!/events/368378699858093/

Friday, February 24, 2012

Church and Kingdom, Here and Now: An Apostolic Critique of the 21st Century Church


This apostolic critique of the 21st century church is written primarily for apostles and prophets—in a language that should be familiar to most. It is short, and to the point. Others may find it interesting, even helpful and insightful, as it addresses issues that affect all believers. May the Holy Spirit add meat to the bones for you that sets these issues into your particular context, culture and tradition.

There are numerous issues that should be evident to apostles and prophets, but often escape the attention of others. The objective of this book is to set forth these issues for our consideration. Each chapter will address a different issue.

We acknowledge the sincerity of the vast majority of church leaders and churchgoers. Honest, deeply committed Christians can disagree. However, the age of being disagreeable must come to an end, and we—together—must face issues with a willingness to embrace the truth when it becomes evident.

After Pentecost of 33 A.D., both the kingdom and the church are spoken of as a present reality. Prior to Acts Chapter 2, the kingdom and the church are spoken of as future. Earlier, Christ had said, "I will build My church." In the last verse of Acts 2 we learn that the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Christ began reigning after His ascension. On Pentecost in 33 A.D. Peter affirms that the prophecy of David concerning one who would sit on his throne was fulfilled in Christ's resurrection.

Jesus Christ began His reign on the earth through a people who were filled with His Spirit. Prior to being crucified, He told them:

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

“He (the Spirit of truth) dwells with you and will be in you.” Hmmm. Could this be Jesus?

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.”

“The world will see Me no more, but you will see Me.”

All of the above foundational truths were embodied in the apostles’ teaching to which the early church remained steadfast. The early church is our model, only because the Holy Spirit led it. We are to be led by the Holy Spirit today. Christ in them, there and then, and Christ in us, here and now, was—and is—the hope of glory.

We need more than teaching about what the apostles taught. We need the apostolic impartation that the early church experienced. We need the real deal if we are to become the real deal!

To that end, I prayerfully submit a critique of the twenty-first century church. Here are twelve issues of concern:

• Pastors are not acceptable substitutes for apostles.

• Evangelism is not an acceptable substitute for discipleship.

• The good news of salvation is not an acceptable substitute for the gospel of the kingdom.

• Heaven is not an acceptable substitute for the kingdom of God on the earth.

• Pastors who act like apostles are not an acceptable substitute for master builders.

• Organizational membership is not an acceptable substitute for Holy Spirit placement.

• Citywide events are not acceptable substitutes for the church in the city.

• Tithing is not an acceptable substitute for Spirit-led stewardship.

• Devotion to church is not an acceptable substitute for devotion to Jesus.

• Busyness in church activity is not an acceptable substitute for life in the Spirit.

• The anointing is not an acceptable substitute for maturity and transformation.

• Sixty minutes of singing is not an acceptable substitute for a lifestyle of worship.

Do not settle for substitutes! In the sweetness of the Spirit, pray and work for the reformation that is in His heart.

My objective includes eliminating unnecessary issues and enabling certain essentials so that the oneness we have together in Jesus may be both enjoyed by us, and at the same time, displayed for the world around us to see.

So long as the church as a whole avoids or fails to acknowledge the master builders—and their role in the foundation of the church—divisive issues will persist and essentials will be neglected.

My heart is to present something that would draw us together, not further denominate the fractured and compromised body of Christ. I ask: “Is Christ divided?”

This book is the fruit of nearly fifty years of repenting. I have been called upon many times, because of new insights into God’s purpose, to lay down practices that I formerly believed were acceptable. More than once, I was guided to repent from things that directly related to our income, the financial security for my wife and family. The daily cross of disciples looms large when one is facing these kinds of death to self. I can look back and be thankful for each time that I chose His life, to submit to Him and His higher thoughts and ways.

There is no camel’s hump hindering me from going through the eye of the needle, and entering in to all that Father has for me—all that He has for me to do.

Repentance is no big deal—it is the way to life, and a way of life—when you are following the Cloud by day and the Pillar of Fire by night.

Living in an awareness of the abiding presence of Christ within makes all such changes seem very small. Repentance is “a no-brainer” when you are seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Being aware that we have been baptized into Christ’s death, we are also aware that we were raised with Him from the dead, to walk in newness of life.

The Master of all master builders is building His church!

The kingdom of God will be given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.

Can we talk? Can we embrace one another as brothers and sisters, and yield to the Holy Spirit to manifest His fruit as we discuss these matters together?

And the servant of the Lord must not be quarrelsome (fighting and contending). Instead, he must be kindly to everyone and mild-tempered [preserving the bond of peace]; he must be a skilled and suitable teacher, patient and forbearing and willing to suffer wrong.

You were all called to travel the same road, and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.

You can order Don Atkin's new book, CHURCH AND KINGDOM – HERE AND NOW at this link:

Friday, February 3, 2012

Enjoying God: A Father to the Fatherless

S. J. Hill

One day, an Australian seminary student met a teenager living on the streets of Melbourne and struck up a conversation. As he tried to share the Gospel, the boy asked pointedly, “What is God like?”

What a loaded question! The seminary student had one chance to share the Good News and felt pressured to come up with just the right answer. His mind raced. Reflecting on what he’d learned in his recent studies, he replied, “God is like a father.”

Without hesitation, the teenager snapped, “Well, if he’s anything like my old man, you can have him,” and walked away. Later, the student learned from a social worker that the boy’s father had repeatedly beaten his mother and raped his sister. The word “father” had dredged up all kinds of emotions and terrible memories, and the door to sharing the Gospel had been slammed shut.

This story vividly illustrates the relationship between the impressions left on us by our earthly fathers and our perceptions of God. Because this teenager had a bad experience with his own father, he was unable to grasp the goodness, kindness, and loving nature of the heavenly Father.

Ideally, our experiences with our fathers should point us to the heart of a greater Father who loves us more than any earthly father ever could. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Maybe you’ve felt the sting of a clenched fist or recall the haunting, cruel words of a childhood incident. Maybe you never heard your father say, “I love you.” Countless people have told me, “I have no problem believing Jesus loves me, but I can’t seem to relate to God as my Father.” More often than not, they were emotionally or physically abused while growing up, or their fathers were never there for them. If you’ve had a bad experience with your father, it may not be easy to relate—consciously or subconsciously—to God as your Father.

What do you think God is like? How do you perceive Him?

The Affirming Father

Many of us grew up in homes that were performance-driven. Our fathers may have only expressed approval after he thought we’d accomplished something of significance. The pat on the back, the words “Well done!” or an extra long embrace were only given after we had excelled in something like education, sports, music, or employment. While our achievements should have been recognized and celebrated, they should never have been a prerequisite for receiving our father’s love and affirmation.
This performance-oriented mentality eventually spills over into our Christian lives. Initially as young believers, we may sense God’s unconditional love and enjoy the simplicity of relationship with Christ, but it’s not long before we think we aren’t doing enough. This mindset ingrained in us from childhood rears its ugly head and starts haunting us again. It suggests to us that we can’t run hard enough, chase God fast enough, pray enough, serve enough, or be in church enough.

But our heavenly Father never bases His love and affirmation of us on what we do for Him—His acceptance is completely unconditional. You can’t do anything to win His approval. He loves you fully, and that will never change because you are in Christ. And grace can never be repaid. It carries no price tag – not because it’s worthless, but because it’s priceless.

Merely disciplining ourselves in Christian practices will never produce lasting joy in our lives. Too many of us are doing things out of duty rather than delight. We’re praying and reading our Bibles out of routine rather than enjoying our relationship with God. We live with continual guilt, feeling that we aren’t doing enough for Him. We try to get up early every morning and spend quality time with Him, but it’s never enough. We memorize Scripture and witness to everything that breathes, but always come away feeling we haven’t accomplished enough. We’re consumed with a fear of punishment for not measuring up.

We have been programmed to believe that our success in life is based on what we do.
But what is our Father’s view of success? The Scriptures clearly reveal that what makes a man or woman successful is not what they do; true success is being loved by God and being lovers of God. Psalm 18:35 says, “You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great” (NIV).

What makes our lives valuable? It’s God’s extravagant love for us—not our accomplishments. Our worth is defined by the fact that He created us for Himself; He doesn’t want our efforts as much as He wants us. He certainly does enjoy what we do for Him. But most of all, He enjoys us!

The Approachable Father

Some of us also had fathers who were overly strict and stern. They placed demands on us that often broke our spirits, ruling the home with a mixture of fear and guilt. Instead of offering love and affirmation, they may have continually pointed out our faults and mistakes—perhaps thinking they would motivate us to “try harder.”

If you grew up with a dad who was demanding or abusive, you may have difficulty receiving your heavenly Father’s love; you may tend to think He’s always looking for some fault in you. As a result, it may be hard for you to picture Him smiling over you in loving approval and acceptance.

Like a beaten puppy, you may actually be afraid of God, assuming He’s just like the other authority figures in your life. But you must realize that He is different from any other authority figure you’ve ever known. He isn’t perpetually angry with you or just putting up with you; He enjoys you even in your struggles.

I’ve been blessed with two sons. When they were babies, they couldn’t communicate with me. They couldn’t even play golf with me. All they did was eat, sleep, and make messes. But I loved them intensely! Now that they are adults, I don’t love them any more than I did when they were babies. They were just in a different season of their lives.

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (NIV). Do you get the message? God is not an authoritarian Father. He doesn’t want you shrinking back in fear or apprehension of Him.

The true fear of the Lord is not a tormenting fear or an emotional fear. It’s not even a fear of punishment in this life or the life to come. The fear of God is the sense of awe we experience when we’re brought face to face with the transcendent (unequaled, surpassing, matchless) splendor and beauty of who He is and the incredible love that He has for us. It is this awe and reverence that can bring us close to the Father’s heart and lead us into a life of spiritual and emotional wholeness.

Because of our past experiences, many mistake divine correction for divine rejection. But the Father’s correction is deeply rooted in His affections for us. While He may be displeased with a certain area in our lives, He is not displeased with us as individuals—as Proverbs 3:12 says, “the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (NIV). Although He sees the undeveloped areas of our character, He also hears the willing cry of our spirits. As we set our hearts on loving and obeying Him, He will make adjustments in our lives until we come to maturity.

The Affectionate Father

In 1996, Christopher Robin Milne died in England. You may recognize the name. His father was the famed children’s author A. A. Milne, who named the lead human character in his Winnie-the-Pooh books after his son.

But according to Christopher Milne’s tragic obituary, his father spent little time with him. He was too busy making other children laugh and smile through his writings to take time for his own son. Christopher died in his 70s, hating his world-renowned father because he failed to live the kind of life he depicted in his books.

Like the younger Milne, a lot of us grew up with passive fathers. They seemed distant and rarely got involved in our personal lives. They weren’t very affectionate and rarely showed any emotion. So we have difficulty understanding God as our Father, because we view Him as distant and aloof. Our earthly fathers never expressed their love and affection for us or spent quality time with us. They didn’t seem to notice our joys, our sorrows, our struggles, or our successes. This has led us to believe that God doesn’t care about the details of our lives. We then find ourselves running to Him only in an emergency. Our relationship with Him never deepens or becomes intimate because, in the back of our minds, we fear that God is not really interested in us.

But just the opposite is true! You are special to Him (Psalm 139:13-18). There has never been another human being quite like you, and there never will be. You make Him smile. You make Him laugh. In Zephaniah 3:17, the Bible even says you make Him sing for joy. Whether you understand that or not doesn’t stop God from responding to you in this way.

He looks at you and grins. You are your Father’s unique boy or girl, bringing Him pleasure and delight in a way no one else ever could. He loves your freckles and funky-shaped toes—and He loves your heart. He loves you when you’re awake, vibrant, and full of life. And He loves you just as much when you’re down, struggling, and lethargic. He even loves you when you’re sleeping. He loves you when wake up—even with morning breath and “sleep” tucked in the corners of your eyes. He can’t wait to hear your first thoughts. He looks forward to accompanying you throughout the day and talking with you. He loves watching you enjoy His creation. He smiles when you look at the mountains, sea, or sky and think of Him. Just being with you is enough.

The truth is, God really likes you. In fact, He enjoys you. You may not think you measure up, but He does. He isn’t tolerating you. He isn’t waiting for you to become more mature in your Christian walk; He loves you right where you are, even in your weakness and immaturity. He’s not keeping a record of your mistakes or the times you blew it. Thanks to the gracious act of His Son, He sees you perfectly redeemed!

You can order S.J's book "Enjoying God" at this link.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Identifying and Uprooting the Legal Spirit

I'm indebted to Dr. Stephen Crosby for drawing my attention to what he describes as a "legal spirit". This would be defined as a judicial and forensic approach to our relationship with God and with others. The result is we fail to walk in loving relationship with our Father, and we also make other people's lives miserable, assuming a role as self appointed prosecutors to "enforce God's law". This mindset is especially dangerous for a person in leadership.

Here are brief examples of the legal spirit in action in the Scriptures:

Jesus and Disciples: Gathering Grain and Healing on the Sabbath
John 12:1-14

The Legal View: The Disciples should not have plucked grain, Jesus should not have healed a man with a withered hand on the sabbath.

Kingdom View: Our Father desires mercy, not sacrifice. He does not like to see the guiltless condemned. Jesus is Lord of every day.
Humans are more valuable than animals.

The Woman Caught in Adultery
John 8:1-11

The Legal View: The woman was guilty and should be stoned

Kingdom View: He who is without sin should cast the first stone. No condemnation of the woman. An exhortation to go and sin no more.

Legal: Right and Wrong
Kingdom: Life and Death

Legal: Inability to see and love people, just their sins
Kingdom: Sensitivity to and redemptive love for people

Legal: Condemnation
Kingdom: Grace and Mercy

Legal: Tenacious preoccupation with of sin/spotlighting
Kingdom: Loving and hopeful engagement

Legal: Focus on a determined outcome for people's behavior
Kingdom: Grace and mercy to let people walk in freedom and even make mistakes


God: Judge
Scripture: A Rule Book
Church: a group of good people doing the right things
The World: bad people doing the wrong things


God: Father
Scripture: Words of Life when animated by the Spirit
Church: The Family of God
World: People Outside of God's family

So what is the cure for the legal spirit? Love.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

(John 15:1-17 ESV)

Notice the themes: It is all summed up in relationship: abiding in Jesus, the frequent references to "Father" and "love. We abide in Him. He loves through us. It is that simple.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
(James 2:8-13 ESV)

If the Father's love flows freely in us, mercy will triumph over judgment.