The New Commandment

Of all the essays I've published so far, this is probably the most difficult. Difficult, because I'm talking about things that are not, as yet, reality in my own life. And difficult because, to get my point across, I have to share things about my life which would more comfortably be kept private.  I publish this essay anyway, humbling as it may be, as it addresses one of the most important issues of all: as born-again Christians, how should we live?

What can we really expect if we totally assimilate the true Gospel in our lives? Has anyone ever achieved it? 'Living the Gospel', what does that mean? Why was it necessary for Jesus to issue a New Commandment, when we already had Ten, plus a large number of 'regulations'?


"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have (agape) love for one another." (John 13:34-35)

Whilst Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, Christianity has the dubious honour of being the fastest shrinking religion.  In fact, 'Christianity' as a religious persuasion is difficult to define. It wasn't that long ago that most people in western society regarded themselves as Christian, simply because they lived in a 'Christian' country, or they didn't fall into any other category, or they were born 'Catholic'.  Most 'Christians' in the census probably don't believe in the God of the Bible. We lay unfortunate claim to being the least unified and most compromised religion.  We practice our faith from the safety of our air-conditioned comfort zones. Now, with the Christian God virtually banished from our public schools and fewer kids learning a biblical value system from their parents and Sunday school, it is worrisome to think what future census figures will look like.

On the one hand, the least tolerated Christians in today's society are the ones who profess to believe the whole Bible, literally. But then on the other hand, society generally has lost respect for Christians, because many have compromised their beliefs to be more in line with worldly thinking.  In case you didn't realise it, if you compromise the basis for your faith, you actually come across as a hypocrite!  However, apparently the world is more prepared to accept 'hypocrites', (those who are prepared to compromise interpretation of the Bible and keep an 'open mind' on other ways of ‘reaching God'), than those who believe in absolutes.  The world rejects the genuine Christian believer.  For some strange reason, the same rules do not apply to any other religion. No one would dare suggest Muslims should not believe the Koran literally. That would be tantamount to discrimination on religious grounds.

If it wasn't obvious yet, I hope it is now: We urgently need to do some serious navel-gazing to see where on earth we lost the plot. Effective Christianity depends entirely on the true manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Without that, everything is just babble, hype and whim.

Earlier, in my essays on Christian love and others, I stated that I believe that God created the potential for people to be convinced of the truth of the divine nature of Christ, simply by observing us Christians in action (Ref. John 13 and 17).  This is the New Commandment. We don't need to preach at them or present convincing arguments as to the existence of God.  We simply need to surrender to the Holy Spirit by taking up our cross daily, and let Jesus live through us, submitting to one another in love. If we truly do this collectively, then our lives will become the most persuasive testimony to the truth of the Gospel this world has ever seen!


So I want to tackle here what I think that will mean in practical terms. And I'm looking for input and ideas and testimonies from as many of you as possible. I stress what follows is largely speculation, as my expectations haven't been experienced yet in the full expression of what God has designed. There have been only a few times in my life when I have touched that spiritual reality. Whilst they were few, they were enough to convince me I'm not asking the impossible. Below, I will relate one of these experiences.


First let me say, I believe in a very practical, hands on, Christianity. We can stand with thousands singing 'hallelujah' (and of course there is a place for that!), but if we don't look after the disadvantaged, it is empty and meaningless. James, chapter 2, states it all very clearly: "Faith without works is dead".  We can't do things to earn our salvation, and this is absolutely true. But there is another perspective, which shows very clearly that if our faith doesn't result in action, it wasn't really faith at all.

The converse is also possible. In his first letter to the Corinthians (Ch.13), Paul discusses the three big factors in Christian living: faith, hope and love. (And the greatest of these is love).  Early in that chapter he shows it is actually possible to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, and still not be in touch with Jesus.  We can be religiously and ritually prophesying, speaking in tongues, and demonstrating faith so great that we can move mountains, and look after the poor, and still have missed the essence of the Gospel message!  If we have not love, we are just like a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. In other words: works without love is dead! This leads to an insight that to me is so astounding, it takes just a little while to come to terms with: the GIFTS of the Spirit can be exercised for some time AFTER the Holy Spirit has ceased being involved!

Jesus has a way of cutting through all the logic and reasoning and getting right down to the bare bones.  That's why I love going back to the Red Text, Jesus’ own words. At the judgment seat he says:


"I never knew you, even though you prophesied, and cast out demons and performed miracles in My Name" (Matt.7:22), "…because when I was hungry you didn't feed me. When I was naked you didn't clothe me.  And when I was in prison you didn't visit me" (Matthew 25:34-46)

At this point I think I am justified in drawing three initial conclusions:

  • True faith and agape love are so strongly intertwined, they cannot exist without each other.
  • Faith without works is meaningless and works without love is meaningless.
  • The true version of this powerful combination MUST result in us doing something about it.

It is also evident that faith and love are conditions that are easily falsified. Yet, there is one version of it that is a 'must' for all of us. This essay aims to articulate that version.


It was not so long ago, when a Christian girl, a friend of my son, was forcibly placed under psychiatric care and had mind-altering drugs prescribed by a bloody-minded psychiatrist, because the girl claimed she had heard from God. Obviously, the Christian jargon we regularly use can be readily misinterpreted by the secular community. In the case of the girl, the doctor insisted she must be schizophrenic, hearing voices, and that she was a danger to herself and possibly others.  After meeting her personally, I testify she is one of the most sane, normal, intelligent human beings you could encounter, with a soft and willing heart for her Maker.

I have heard testimonies of people who have claimed to have heard the audible voice of God, and there certainly are ample scriptural precedents for this.  From Moses at the burning bush to Saul on the road to Damascus, people have experienced the supernatural communication of an audible voice.  As for myself, I cannot say that I have ever experienced this.  However, at the risk of being locked up by the same bloody-minded psychiatrist I mentioned earlier, I confess that the closest I have come is hearing a voice that 'just' bypassed the eardrums and went straight into the brain.  I will tell you about that experience below.  But let us be honest and say that, in the main, 'hearing from God' mostly comes in the form of revelation, insight, peace of heart or reaching understanding, while hearing or reading His Word. Or alternatively, 'just knowing' after or during prayer. 'Hearing from God' is a vital part of our dynamic relationship with a living Saviour, Who is deeply involved in the details of our day-to-day life. Without it, our daily walk would be pretty mundane and uninspiring.  So how do we discern between the true version and the many false versions of the faith/love combination? It really comes down to 'hearing from God'.  

Jesus said His sheep would hear His voice. But how often have we been mistaken, when we were convinced we'd heard Him? Let's be really honest here. Most of the times when we think we hear what He is saying, it is clouded by personal interests and preconceptions.  Our upbringing has predisposed our thinking to believe that finding happiness and personal fulfilment is tantamount to achieving His will in our lives. (I would've liked to say, we 'hear through rose-coloured glasses', but the metaphor doesn't quite work!)  The truth is very much the opposite - our will must become changed to His will.  If Jesus' prayer to "let this cup pass from Me"(Matthew 26:39) had been granted, you and I wouldn't have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him.  Fortunately, Jesus qualified His feelings with"Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done". 

It is becoming more and more clear that seeking His will, with as clean a personal agenda slate as possible, is the way to go. 'Prayer', whatever that constitutes (and I am tackling that below), is probably the best means of getting in touch with God. But for most of us, prayer comprises a list of requests as long as our arm.  And when we run out of requests, we don't know what else to say, besides 'Amen'.


OK.  The time has come to give you a personal testimony of a mind-blowing experience some twenty or more years ago.  (In a weird kind of way I hope that, somehow, my favourite psychiatrist will get to read this, shake in dismay, and send the boys in white coats after me).

I was driving along in my Mini Minor (remember those?), going to fellowship in Sydney somewhere.  There had been a prelude of unrest preceding this night, but I won't bore you with the details.  I was praying furiously for God to intervene and bring peace into the situation. Suddenly, a voice, I knew wasn't my own, spoke straight into my brain, bypassing my eardrums, (that's the best way I can describe it) and asked: "Albert, do you love Me?" You can imagine me, alone in this tiny little car, and a voice, which was almost an echo, yet wasn't, ringing in my skull.  I was shocked. It was totally unexpected and overwhelming. I burst into tears.  I don't know how I kept the car on the road, but I guess, (like the point I made about being 'slain in the Spirit' in my essay by that name), if God is in it, He is in control of everything.  

It was ages before I managed to pull myself together enough to answer. Finally I managed to blurt out: "Yes Lord, You know that I love You!"  To be totally honest, I can't say with any certainty that I actually voiced those words. It is possible I thought them.  At the time, too, I do not recall noticing the similarity to Peter's experience. That recognition didn't come until the next day, (when I promptly put the words to music).  He answered, "Then feed My sheep!"  As I write these words down, I recognise how far-fetched this whole thing must sound. Nevertheless, I will finish the story exactly as it happened, without embellishment or trying to make it sound more plausible.  Just as He asked Peter three times, He asked me three times. I arrived at the fellowship with tears still running down my cheeks. And the whole night, I wasn't able to speak. Not about what happened. And not about the unrest in the group. What I did realise was that I wasn't the same person who hopped into the Mini that night. Some incredible changes had taken place, and it would be days before I became aware of all of them.

For this story to make sense, I have to make myself vulnerable by confessing some of my human shortcomings.  I need my sleep, minimum 8 hours, preferably 9. I like veging out in front of the television.  I am normally pretty slack when it comes to disciplined reading of the Bible and my prayer life.  Physical exercise is good for healthy people with plenty of time on their hands, not for me.

The first change I noticed is that I could almost 'touch' Jesus. He was so close and real, it was like I had been spiritually awakened. Being so aware of His presence, chatting to Him became the most natural thing in the world. I went to bed chatting to my Lord, and woke up still chatting to Him.  I became aware it was possible to literally 'pray without ceasing', and it was no effort.

The next change was a physical awakening.  Suddenly, 2 to 3 hours sleep a night seemed to be all I needed. For a whole month, that was all I got. Not only was I more refreshed than normal, but my brain felt like a veil had been lifted.  My work in the office, writing reports, improved remarkably, even though my mind was mostly with Him.  A colleague who regularly used His name disrespectfully, would look strangely at me every time he would start to say 'Jesus' or "Christ', and be unable to say it. I had not told him what was happening to me. My body was bursting with energy.  I started running nightly for hours, wishing I would come across someone else who was experiencing the same thing. They never came. For a whole month I didn't switch on the television.  Instead, I was absorbed in His Word, experiencing revelation after revelation. As an amateur guitarist, I would pick up my instrument and start to worship Him. New songs would flow from deep within my being by the dozens.  I never liked hugging men, but during this month I wanted to embrace all my brothers and sisters, as my heart was overflowing with love for them.

Then something even more remarkable developed. I felt I was aware of a treasure chest of spiritual gifts that Jesus had open. He wanted to hand them out freely, but few Christians wanted them. I seemed to share something of the disappointment and pain He felt when His gifts were rejected, as if I was tuned into His emotions. I seemed to be able to tell which of His followers were open to receive His gifts and love, and to what extent. And which were not open. I couldn't tell what sin was in their lives or what held them back, but it was still like finding out a secret about someone that they didn't really want me to know. It was a type of discernment that I found distressing in the extreme. The distress grew, as I became increasingly aware of Jesus' grief and pain of rejection. As I grieved with Him, I prayed for the strength to cope with it, knowing as I prayed that I was asking for something that wasn't meant for me. It got so bad towards the end, I thought I would lose my mind in screaming agony. 
Just why Jesus chose me go through this experience I have never quite worked out.  All I know is that, after a month of having it on my own, I could not take it anymore. I asked Him to stop it.  And instantaneously, the incredible awareness was gone. And so was the energy. That evening, I switched on the TV and fell asleep in front of it, racking up a good 8 hours of sleep.  I stopped running.  I went back, in part, to my old ways. But an experience like that cannot leave you unchanged. Maybe it was a foretaste of what is possible. Some Christians told me it had been from the Devil.  But if that was so, I felt I could never be sure of our Lord again.  Still, from then on, I didn't tell anyone about it, feeling they wouldn't understand.

I share this experience with you now, hoping you appreciate my honesty and motivation for sharing it. I have kept it to myself for some twenty or more years.  I share it now, for what it's worth, in obedience to His instruction to submit ourselves to one another.  If we really are to bring about revival, total honesty is surely a prerequisite. My inclination is that the Lord wanted to reveal just a small measure of the astounding possibilities in a relationship with Him. And I think, in it lies the secret of abundant prayer life and truly hearing from God.  If anyone reading this has experienced something similar and is prepared to share the details, please let me know.  

Whilst the experience is over, I have taken on board the point Jesus made: "If you love me, feed my sheep". I have shared testimonies and songs with as many brothers and sisters as I was able, trying to encourage them in their relationship with Him.  I have tried to be available to help others in whatever practical needs were evident.  (The most precious commodity we have to give, one we never get more of, is time.  Giving from your time is a much greater sacrifice than giving money.)  This website is just one way of feeding His sheep.  At the same time, I confess to many years during which I was at loggerheads with my Lord, refusing to speak to Him, and telling Him so regularly!  Details can be found in Series 3. 


So, back to the subject at hand. Based on the experience above, assuming it truly was from God, I think I am now justified in drawing some more conclusions:


  • Prayer is the best way of hearing His voice, most likely because it blocks out distractions.

  • Prayer is two-way communication with God and doesn't necessarily involve words.

  • Prayer without ceasing' (1 Timothy 5:17) becomes more viable as our awareness of His presence increases.

So imagine a dear Christian friend, dying of cancer. And we all pray fervently, but he dies anyway.  What are we to make of this?  Was it not God's will that he be healed?  Was God not listening?  Is it invariably God's will to heal the sick? I know of a young father of three, a dedicated Christian, with a heart condition. The whole church prayed for his healing, but his pacemaker failed one Saturday morning at his boy's soccer match. He died, leaving behind a young widow and three kids to fend for themselves. Did Jesus pray for all the people suffering illness? Did all those He prayed for get healed?  Did we not have enough faith? Did our dying friend not have enough faith?  The questions go on and on.

Personally, I believe it is the height of impertinence for us to stand up and loudly demand that someone be healed. I know all the scriptures. Jesus died for both our sin and our sickness.  By His stripes we are healed. Greater things will we do than even Jesus did. They shall lay hands on the sick and they will be healed.  There are lots more. Yet, when I hear a well-meaning Christian commanding someone be healed in Jesus' name, I cringe.  Sometimes we go even further, shouting: "I heal you, in Jesus' name" or "I command this demon to leave, in Jesus' name". I know all the authority teaching too, but there always seems to be something slightly askew in the way in which it is put into practice.  Demons aren't afraid of us, you know.  They are afraid of the one Who defeated them. If we whisper His name, respectfully asking Him to do the healing, if that should be His will, demons shake in fear.

What is critical is that we pray according to His will.  To do that, we must hear directly from Him on the specific circumstances at hand. THAT is the vital difference between being under the law and being set free. We can invoke a scriptural truth as a general principle through our understanding. Or we can hear Jesus whisper in our ear: "I want this person to get better". Or alternatively, "I have other plans for him".

I think I can draw some more conclusions here:


  • The primary purpose of prayer is to align our will to His, NOT to bring about change.

  • Only real-time relationship with the Holy Spirit will reveal His will in specific circumstances

  • When we pray, speaking His will appears to be one God-ordained way of bringing it about.


God has placed us in an environment. I believe that, unless He specifically calls us out of that environment, that is where He wants us to serve Him.  The problems in this world are endless.  The number of people who haven't heard the Gospel are endless. The horrors produced by hatred are endless.  Sin is everywhere.  Suffering is everywhere. We can become overwhelmed to the point of throwing our hands up in despair and doing nothing at all.  Or we can recognise that Jesus has a plan for us right here, where He has placed us.  We can be His influence and mouthpiece in the very place where we are now, loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving each other as He loved us.  


We are called to love our neighbor.  Jesus, hungry or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison.

It is obvious from the parable, that the good Samaritan was on the right track in terms of living the way God wants us to. The Samaritan didn't make it a habit of searching the streets and by-ways, daily, for people who had been attacked.  Buthe helped the one that God placed in his path.

Our neighbour, literally, is the one living next door. It is also the person next to you on the bus.  And it is the person driving selfishly in the adjoining lane. It is the work colleague who's always swearing.  And it is the homeless person you almost tripped over. It is the black sheep of the family. It is your mother and your father and your sister and your brother.  It is the person at church who doesn't agree with you on the Prosperity Doctrine. Or the one who insists we have evolved from apes.  It is the person in the street, bawling his eyes out. It is the starving little girl with big pleading eyes from Ethiopia. It is even the terrorist who killed your cousin.  It is any person on God's earth that He sees fit to cross your path.

Individually, we can't alleviate hunger in the third world.  But we can save one.  We cannot solve the homeless problem.  But we can feed one.  We can't police the entire suburb. But we can help our neighbor when he is robbed.  We mustn't compromise the Gospel. But we can listen to the dissenters, in love.  And then make our point, again in love.


There have been countless martyrs for Christ, and even more lives of sacrifice for others - wonderfully inspiring testimonies of Christians dedicating their lives to His service. There are lots of scriptures encouraging us to emulate or at least aspire to reach the example Jesus gave us.  Our way of thinking evokes an ultimate image of millions of Jesus clones, doing our thing here on earth.  But let's face it, no one has come close. The testimony I shared above showed me one more thing. Truly 'living the Gospel' is NOT something you can do on your own.

I believe that is because that is not God's intention for us to reach Jesus' standards on our own.  In my essay on Christian love, I made the point that it is impossible, by yourself, to obey the New Commandment.  You cannot, by yourself, love one another. You can love your neighbor on your own.  You can sacrifice yourself for others. But the vital difference in the New Commandment is the mutuality of love.  Added to that, Jesus raised the bar. We were to go from loving our neighbor as ourselves, to loving each other as He loved us. He loved usmore than He loved Himself.  He loved us to the point of laying down His life. The quality of genuine agape love first makes us willing to forego our own agendas, in favour of God's - this is the true meaning of laying down our lives, or taking up our cross, daily.  Thus tuning into His will, we are then enabled to let agape love flow, resulting in us placing our brother's needs before our own.

It is Man's nature to seek self-glorification. It is Man's nature to separate one person and put him on a pedestal.  It is this fallen human nature that seeks 1) to be worshipped and 2) to worship someone or something we can see. Every time we separate a single human being to be our 'leader', or flock to see a single Christian who has reached 'superstar' status, we are on the wrong track. We do it, thinking that somehow they have a closer or more powerful relationship with God, and therefore we ourselves can get a 'touch from God' through them. This tendency makes us play right into Satan's hands. Truly 'Living the Gospel' is a very humbling experience for both leader and follower alike. And it requires each of us to be directly in touch with God.  

The expression of God through a single human being has already been achieved in Jesus. Now, God wants to express Himself through the most challenging of mediums: the multi-membered body of Christ here on earth.  That is why Jesus gave the New Commandment.  That is why He sent the disciples out in twos. Thatis why He said 'Where two or three of you are gathered in My name, there I will be in your midst'.  That is why we have to submit to one another. That is why we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together. That is why Jesus prayed the world would recognise God had sent Him, through the testimony of our lives in relationship to each other.  

Time for more conclusions:


  • Each of us has an individual responsibility to be directly in touch with God, seeking His will

  • The key to 'living the Gospel' is the New Commandment.

  • Jesus expects each of us to take up our cross daily and lay down our lives for each other.

  • We cannot live the Gospel on our own - mutual agape love must flow.

The next time you ponder the 'big questions'; the next time you feel overwhelmed by the weight on your shoulders or the way life has been a disappointment for you, think about these things. There is a much greater purpose for all of creation. God has a plan that includes YOU.  But to be part of it, you have to surrender your own plans.  All personal agendas, no matter how commendable in our way of thinking, stand in the way of God's agenda.  In the ultimate culmination of all of creation, His will must be done.



  • The most important factor in living the Gospel is hearing from God directly, in every circumstance. And this is only achievable through genuine implementation of the New Commandment.

True faith and agape love surely are a powerful combination that can change the world. And it begins at home, right there where you are.  But there is one more thing we really need to consider, an element that will bring all of this together even more meaningfully.  It is vital to every relationship in our life, our faith, our love and our salvation.  So I will make it the subject of my next essay.