• Stephen Hill

New frontiers in Christianity

“One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”

This is a quote by the French writer, Andre Gide. The ‘new lands’ that I wish to write about are the ‘new lands’ of sonship in the Father’s love.

Since I have come into an experience of the Father continually loving me, which is the life of sonship, I have often tried to put my finger on some things that niggled me.

Why is sonship different to the old life of orphan-hearted Christianity or servant-hearted Christianity?

Why does Christianity only seem to really work for me now, when it didn’t for many years even though I had some very significant and powerful experiences of the Holy Spirit? It got me pondering and here are some of my conclusions.

I have absolutely no doubt that the revelation of the love of the Father and the sonship which flows from that is the essence of Christianity itself. The New Covenant is a covenant of sonship, whereas the Old Covenant is a covenant of servanthood. The old agreement is conditional upon obedience, whereas the new agreement is unconditional love leading to relationship. When it really gets down to ‘brass tacks’, to foundational reality, I didn’t really know what Christianity was until I came into sonship in the abiding love of the Father.

I want to explore a number of differences between the era that I have come from, and the era that I am now in. When I experienced the Father’s love for me and I entered into relationship with Him, a new era dawned in my life, bringing with it a new type of spirituality. It is a new experience of Christianity, but I am convinced it is the real Gospel, in contrast to what is really a Christianised form of the Old Covenant.

In this article I want to explore some contrasts between Evangelical/Charismatic/ Pentecostal Christianity and ‘Sonship’ Christianity.

Firstly, much of the Body of Christ is focused on “a time which is coming.” But the life of Sonship brings a realisation that the time has now come.

In the Christianity which was such a major part of my life, the time of God’s blessing was always coming in the future, but was never actually realised. Like a mirage in the desert, the next move of God is always out of reach, and never seems to appear. I believe that some of the moves of God which were authentically prophesied (there are sadly many prophecies given which are not authentic) actually did come, but they came in a package that many people missed because of a misplaced expectation about what a move of God would look like. The outpouring of the love of the Father is an example of this, but the fruit of it is not seen in conferences and meetings, but in a restoration of freedom and a restoration of family relationships. I know many people who have become disillusioned and lost faith because they never found the fulfilment to the expectation of a time that was coming.

Outside of the love of the Father, hope is always deferred and many hearts are sick (Proverbs 13:12) but the Father’s love brings the desired hope into reality. This reality, in the words of Proverbs 13;12, is “a tree of life.” When the substance of the Father’s love is experienced as poured out in our hearts – the time….NOW IS.

When Jesus dialogued with woman at the well of Sychar in John 4, He spoke of a time that was coming. But then, in verse 23, He collapsed the delineation between the future and the present and pulled the future forcibly into the present. “The time is coming….and…now…is”

When the Father is revealed in our hearts, the time…now is.

The substance of the Father’s love brings eternity into our hearts right now. Hebrews 6:5 speaks of those who have “tasted the powers of the coming age.” This means that they lived in the reality where the future became merged with the present.

Of course we can look with hope to the future, of being more like Jesus, but in sonship the hope is available now, as the love of God is poured out in our hearts.

Secondly, ‘Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is obsessed with the spectacular but sonship sees the in-breaking of God through the ordinary.

The form of Christianity that I lived in was characterised by waiting for the big event to happen. We were so focused on the big and the successful and the powerful that we missed the glory of the small things. To us it was all about the ‘big event.’ I have discovered, however, that the ‘big events’ of redemptive history are not actually big events to our human perception. The in-breaking of God into human history was through a little baby in a manger.

Sonship Christianity is characterised by the arrival of the Son, as a baby in a manger. In the charismatic Christianity that I was a part of, there is a continual hope held out for a cataclysmic in-breaking of God to an ever longing people. This same expectation characterised Israel who waited for the Messiah. However, when the promised Messiah actually arrived, He came in the guise of a little baby in a manger. The old man Simeon and his companion in the temple, Anna, were among the few who recognised that when God’s promise actually comes it can be so easily missed, because it is radical in its ordinariness.

The packaging of God’s parousia is deceptive to the point of being deeply disappointing and even scandalous. Many of us miss the birth of sonship because it is very embryonic. It is just the merging of two cells to form a zygote, the Father’s seed and spirit joined with our humanity. Life begins with the merging of two cells way down in the hidden depths of the mother’s body. I believe that life from God begins in this way, a way which is minutely insignificant in its inception. There may well be a big experience, but look out for the growing pregnancy which takes a while to become evident.

My observation of redemptive history is this: God’s movement is always easily missed. It happens way off the centre of the stage, in the backside of the desert, by the ‘left hand’, in a provincial town, through a second-class citizen. It happens in the feminine, in that which is humble and despised.

Thirdly, Pentecostal/Charismatic experience looks for the Spirit coming upon externally. Sonship awakens the awareness of the internal Spirit who comes from within.

Another major difference between ‘Charismatic Christianity’ and ‘Sonship Christianity’ is this – and the ramifications of this are very big. Charismatic Christianity recognises the coming of the Spirt upon from without, in other words the external movement of the Spirit. Sonship Christianity recognises the Spirit as being within, and rising up from the innermost being as rivers of living water. In ‘Charismatic Christianity,’ where the Spirit comes powerfully upon (yet still externally) there is no integration of the Holy Spirit and the human vessel. The Spirit moves upon the human as He wills for charismatic function. In sonship, the Spirit indwells and rests in the human heart as His home.

Let me say this, your experience of the Spirit depends very much on your theology and belief of adoption If you only believe in a legal adoption that we are not God’s children by spiritual DNA, you will only ever have faith for the Spirit coming upon you. 1 John 3:9 tells us that the “seed of God” abides in us. The Greek word used for ‘seed’ here is the word sperma. If you believe that God is your Father by spiritual DNA, and that you are spiritually His real son or daughter, you will have faith to believe that the Holy Spirit of sonship actually indwells you, and you will hear Him crying out “Abba, Father!”

Fourthly, Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity is trapped in promise without fulfilment. Sonship Christianity transforms promise into substance.

I had an amusing, but at the same time somewhat sad, experience in a church once. This church met in a hotel which overlooked one of the most spectacular beaches in the world. Turquoise and green marbled seas crashed in turbulent surf on the white sands. The ironic thing was that the church met in a room facing out to the beach, but they had the curtains drawn, and on a screen they had projected a grainy image of sea rolling in on a sandy beach. I wonder did anyone else notice how ironic it was that they were substituting the reality for a very inferior image.

Sadly, this is true in the lives of many Christians. We are satisfied with the grainy image behind the closed curtains, but we do not realise that the real substance pummels the beaches of our heart. Someday we have take down the screen, open the curtains, go through the door and feel the wind in our faces, and smell the salty tang of the sea air. One day we have to experience the substance of the love itself. We can’t access Him by reading about Him. We must start relating to Him.

When Israel left Egypt by the hand of God through the Red Sea, they walked in the hope of entering the Land of Promise. The strange thing is, they could have entered into the substance of the promise after 11 days’ journey, but they chose to stay in the hope of unfulfilled promise. They made a choice to draw back from fulfilled promise to live in the unfulfilled hope of promise. Why did they do that? Why did they fail to enter into the rest? Why did they not receive the promise when it stood in front of them?

Well, the answers to that are many and familiar. The cliched answer is that it was because of unbelief. Of course it was, but what sort of belief did it require to enter into the promise? Here’s what I think.

I think they drew back from the fulfilment of the promise because they expected God to bring them into the land in the same manner that He took them out of Egypt. They were locked into expecting the big and the powerful, but the entrance into the promise came by taking a small step at a time. They were told that they would possess everywhere they placed the sole of their feet.

Promise and ‘destiny’ are entered one step at a time. Promise comes by the sole of the foot, one tiny area at time. Destiny, which is to be your deepest, truest self, is entered according to faith. Be faithful in the small things. Do not despise the day of small things (Zechariah 4:10) for therein the promise is realised.

The one thing that challenges me is this: Learning to see God my Father manifested in the minute detail of everyday life. I am convinced that the key to breakthrough in the supernatural lies here in seeing Him in the here and now.

My final point is this: Evangelical/Pentecostal/Charismatic Christianity works on the assumption that God is absent, Sonship is ‘Immanuel’ – God present with us.

Many people, especially preachers and worship leaders, work on the premise that God is absent by default and we have to invite Him, even beg Him, to come and grace us with His presence. That is an Old Covenant understanding which many Christians live under. The New Covenant is based on the reality that God is already with us, never to depart, and by faith we celebrate and live out of that reality. In Christ, God’s presence is guaranteed – Immanuel.

Always looking to the future means that the Lord is not present. He is absent from the reality of here and now. The presence of God is precisely that – He is in this moment right here, right now. The future of the past is present now. God is here right now. The Trinitarian Presence is with us right now. The indwelling Spirit is indwelling right now. Being free from the past is one thing but often our anxiety continues because we are trapped in the future. Living in the now is to leave the future with God. He alone knows what the future holds and we arrive at the future by the sacrament of the present moment.

In the Son, the way is open for unrestricted access to the Father. We labour under a misapprehension that He is absent but He is present with us. The question is not, “Is God with us?” The question is, “How is He with us?”

He is with us in our human heart.

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