The following seminar was written as a summary of some of the very insightful teachings of Stuart Gramenz. After decades of very effective ministry in many countries, Stuart spent four years as a prison chaplain in Brisbane to see if some of his theories worked in the hardest of minds. He eventually saw hundreds of hardened criminals come to faith in Jesus. He spent many a long hour explaining to inmates how much their spiritual father loved them and then teaching them how to hear his voice. By distilling the gospel message down to its simplest form men who had suffered broken relationships all their lives could see the wisdom in re-engaging with their spiritual daddy.
I trust you get as much out of reading this seminar as I did out of writing it. If we can get this message out into the community we will definitely see resurgence in interest in the man from Galilee.
CHRISTIANITY STRIPPED BARE
When everything is stripped away, Christianity simply involves leaving behind a life of independence from God and coming into a life of intimate relationship with Him. It is not about going from being a bad person to a good person. It is not about relieving guilt. It is not about going to church. It is not about getting an insurance ticket into heaven. It is all about friendship.
When Adam and Eve were first created they were specifically designed by God for a personal relationship with him. God made them in his own image so that he could have an intimate friendship with them (Genesis 1:26). He loved them intimately. He enjoyed walking and talking with them in the original creation. But then they rebelled and their rebellion against him was initiated by a dangerous lie Satan told them. Satan said they could be as free, happy, powerful, knowledgeable and as eternal as God, if only they severed relationship with him. They believed this lie that happiness came from independence and cut their intimate friendship (Genesis 3:1-24). This is what God called “sin”. It is simply turning away from the one who made us by breaking the relationship.
All the actions we think of these days as “sins” are just a by-product of this desire for independence from God. Like children born to AIDS sufferers, all of us have been infected with this virus of independence (Romans 3:23). This is the root of a giant tree of suffering, immorality, guilt, corruption, violence, religion, arrogance, control, manipulation, destruction, death, power, greed and shame. These all came into our history because of this sin of independence. These curses are the branches, but independence and the desire for self-control of our world was the root cause. The result of all this is a yawning spiritual gap in our lives. We feel like something is missing.
Individually we play out our desire for independence by filling up our lives with things like material junk, jobs, hobbies, sport, entertainment, adventure, relationships, obsessions and other diversions so we don’t notice the spiritual gap that is not being filled. However, after we die the junk and time-consuming habits will be gone, and we will have cut ourselves off forever from any chance of an intimate relationship with God. He waits one lifetime for us to come back to him. Afterward we will see his beauty from a distance and crave what we will never have. This is what God called Hell. It is a never-ending separation from the most loving heart in the universe, and we choose it! God never wanted this outcome for anyone. No one was ever meant to have this future. But we bring it upon ourselves because of our independent spirit. It is simply impossible for a person to live forever with a holy God when they never chose friendship with him when they were given the chance.
God was heartbroken at this situation. He longed to restore the broken relationship between himself and humanity so much that he immediately hatched a plan to get us back (Genesis 3:15). He knew we were incapable of solving the problem so he solved it for us. He sent part of himself, Jesus, to earth to show us the way back into relationship (John 14:6). Jesus clearly demonstrated the father’s amazing passion to bring us all back to relationship (Matthew 14:13-21). He told us that this restored relationship and its effect in the world would be called the “kingdom of God”. He said it would grow as more and more people down through history came back into a sweet relationship with their creator. He did many miracles, including raising people from the dead, to prove to us humans that he really was our creator in human form. He taught us for three years about love and relationship. Then, on our behalf, he separated himself from the father on the cross (Luke 22:42-44). He took our place and paid the price of total separation so that we can begin a precious friendship again with God. He then rose from the dead as a final amazing act of divinity and launched his followers into the world to with the news that all people can now come back into intimate friendship with God, just as it was meant to be in the beginning (John 17:20-21).
Accepting this gift of restored relationship costs us nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9). We cannot work our way back into favour with God like a naughty child trying to be good. We simply cannot be good because the root of our being is corrupted. The restoration of our intimate relationship with God comes entirely from his heart of love for us (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:4-5). All we have to do now is to accept the crushing price Jesus paid and his special offer of friendship (John 17:15). That’s it, just accept it. From this point on God will see us as without sin because we are now friends again (Hebrews 10:17). Wow! Everything changes. It is like we have died and are reborn (2 Corinthians 5:17, Titus 3:5). We are given a new heart that longs to do the will of our new spiritual daddy (Hebrews 10:16). We are seen by our father as perfect and he deliberately blots out all memory of our imperfections so that he can have a relationship with us (Hebrews 10:14, Isaiah 43:25, Romans 8:1). For most of us this will be a big and exciting change from our pretty miserable independent lives.
The scriptures describe our new relationship with God as an adoption into his family (Romans 8:15, 2 Corinthians 6:18). It is something that you do not work for. Just as parents choose to adopt a child, so it is with us, except in this case we get to choose our new dad. Because of what Jesus did, you have been given the opportunity to become an adopted child of the creator of the universe! All the legal formalities have been completed. If you accept the offer and become part of his family you have all the rights of his family forever. You become a precious child of the father (John 1:12, 1 John 3:1). You become a brother and friend of Jesus (John 15:15, Hebrews 2:11). The Holy Spirit, our counselor and comforter, comes and teaches you how to live your new life (John 15:26). The father makes his home in your spirit (I Corinthians 3:16). He walks with you and talks with you every day of your life (John 10:3 Romans 8:14-17). Then he welcomes you into his home when you die, where you live forever with him. This is good news. It is great news! That’s why the ancient writers used the word “gospel”. It simply means “good news!” Incredibly though, God has given us humans the right to refuse this special offer of adoption. He is the ultimate gentleman. You are totally free to accept or refuse the offer. It is up to you.
SHAME AND GUILT
If you take up this wonderful offer of relationship with our creator something wonderful happens. God removes all memory of what you were like and what you did when you lived in independence. God deliberately does this so that he can see you as his perfect child (Isaiah 42:25). You do not have to feel ashamed of your past lifestyle because it has vanished from God’s mind. It has been completely cancelled (Colossians 2:13-14). Before people come into relationship with God they usually feel unworthy of a relationship with him because of what they have done. They want to hide from God like our first ancestors did (Genesis 3:10). This sense of shame and guilt is why many people do not open their heart to a relationship with God. They are ashamed of their lives and feel unworthy. To make up for this feeling they often do lots of religious activities thinking this will put them in the good books. But you can never be good enough, that’s why it is a free gift. You do not have to listen to this “good works” lie once you come into his family. Everything has been completely forgiven and forgotten. It is like your life is now encased in a cocoon of pure gold. God only sees the gold, even though you may feel like a grub inside. You are his child and you are loved so much that Jesus deliberately sacrificed his relationship with the father to set you free to come into his family. Your new life has completely overtaken the old and the old things no longer exist in the mind of God. Just walk in intimate friendship with God and the old habits, thoughts, memories and words will automatically start to disappear.
Sometime after a person comes into relationship with God, they may feel like they have to work to please him. For example they are told “don’t do all those bad things”, “pray that prayer”, “go to this meeting”, “keep this ritual” etc. This attitude comes from a feeling that you are unworthy to be a child and a friend of God, and only feel like you deserve to be a servant. This is a huge problem. Always go back to the truth that you were adopted into God’s family and you are precious to him. His only wish is to have an intimate friendship with us. He wants to talk to you and guide you through life as the best friend and daddy you could ever wish for. If you read story of The Lost Son in Luke 15, Jesus explains how the father really feels toward us. Notice how the father ran and hugged the son, but the son didn’t feel worthy of his father’s love. Regardless, the father threw the biggest party ever. That’s how much God loves you. Begin to live and think of yourself as a special child of God and feelings of unworthiness will gradually disappear. Jesus paid the price for you to be free of shame and guilt. Satan wants you to continue to suffer from them both. Believe the truth, not the lies. (James 4:7).
As we have already said; when you become a child and enter into friendship with him, he deliberately blots out any memory of your past. You are covered by a robe, or cocoon, of purity (Isaiah 61:10, Revelation 19:6-9). You have done nothing to deserve it but you are already perfect in the eyes of God. However, it is not the day by day reality you deal with. You may still get angry, let slip with a few choice words, still think impure thoughts and wonder about your lifestyle choices. This is normal; a growing child always makes mistakes. Look at the glass half full and not half empty. A learner driver will not be perfect when he or she first gets behind the wheel, and the instructor will not get angry when they make a mistake. In the same way your spiritual daddy knows you will stumble and fall as a spiritual toddler. But he cheers you on for the few good steps you take, not the falls you make. As long as you are in friendship with God, as long as your personal relationship with him is strong, all will eventually fall into place in your life.
LEARNING TO LISTEN
When a child is in close relationship with their dad they are continually receiving instructions on how to live. Their dad’s delight is to train them up in the skills needed to live a successful life. In the same way, as you keep in close relationship with the father, then the spirit of God will guide you into all truth (John 14:15, 25, 16:13). A toddler begins life not understanding the voice of its parents. But it quickly learns to hear the voice of its father and mother and eventually go on to be able to understand amazing levels of communication! In the same way, as a new believer, expect to quickly learn to hear the voice of your spiritual daddy and follow his instructions for your life. He will talk to you lovingly, through his gentle small whisper, or through your conscience, or through scripture, or through others, or through circumstance. Instruction by gentle instruction, Jesus will guide you into the lifestyle he wants you to live. It will not happen overnight, but it will happen faster the more you draw near to him in friendship. Remember the golden cocoon? Well, inside the grub gradually turns into a butterfly. That is what will happen to you as your friendship with God blossoms. You will fly into a more beautiful future than you could ever have imagined.
So why not give it a go. Tell God you want to come back into relationship with him and ask him to be your intimate friend. You have little to lose and an amazing amount to gain.