Friday, December 30, 2011

Saved: Cured of Sin & Made Whole

It has come to my attention that the Greek word for "saved" (as in "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved") can have other meanings. It is translated as "make well," "heal," or "make whole" in many places. In Mark 6:56 it is translated as cured.

To save means to:
    heal, cure, make well, restore to health
    make whole
    preserve, keep safe and sound
    rescue from danger or destruction, deliver

I went through all the scriptures where this Greek word appears and found the places where the synonyms of "save" make sense to see how impactful they can be. I have also paired some up with other scriptures so we can see how these wordings agree with truth found in other places.
  • God did not send the Son into the world to find fault with the world but to make the world well through Him (John 3:17).
    • Jesus said, "I did not come to find fault with the world but to make the world well" (John 12:47).
    • God in Christ made relationship with Himself available to all by no longer counting people's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).
  • The Son of Man has come to look for and to cure those who are dying (Luke 19:10).
    • The Son of Man has come to look for and to make whole those who are damaged (Luke 19:10).
  • This is a statement that can be trusted and deserves complete acceptance: "Christ Jesus came into the world to cure sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15).
  • God our Savior desires all men to be cured, to be made whole, and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).
  • Jesus is able to save and cure and make whole forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to act for their benefit (Hebrews 7:25).
  • Jesus took God's wrath for sin on our behalf so now, through trust, we are made right with God by the blood of Jesus and cured of sin. We are made whole by His life (Romans 5:9-10).
  • Jesus will cure His people, removing them from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
    • He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
       
  • Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be made whole (Romans 10:13).
  • By the gospel you are made whole (1 Corinthians 15:1-2).
  • We trust that we are cured through the favor of the Lord Jesus. God purified our hearts by trust (Acts 15:9,11).
  • By God's loving kindness you have been made whole through trust (Ephesians 2:8).
     
  • When the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He made us whole, not because of righteous things we had done, but according to His mercy. He made us whole through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been made right with God by his favor, we might become heirs having the hope of knowing God forever (Titus 3:4-7).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Love by Love, Selflessness by Supply

Selflessness comes not by discipline.
Selflessness comes by being aware of God's love for you.

When you think you have to earn God's favor (love, grace, approval) you are like a man who goes to work solely to earn money. He doesn't care about his employer. He only cares about his need for cash. Likewise when you think you have to earn God's favor you don't fully care about God, you are only trying to fulfill your need to be loved and approved of by God. Even the best intentions cannot get around this. Like the need for money we all have that need for God to favor us. The need isn't wrong but how we fulfill the need affects the way we live.

All of God's children already permanently have His favor through Christ Jesus. Only when you understand that you already have God's favor can you truly love God and live for others. With that understanding you aren't focused on fulfilling your need because your need is already fulfilled. You aren't living to earn but living to give out of the abundant loving-kindness that God has given you.

Being loved by our selfless God makes you selfless because you don't have to worry about your need. You don't need to reach to get, you simply receive. You trust that you are taken care of by God. There is no more loving way to live than to live loved.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Be or To Become?

One incorrect assumption that Christians tend to make is that "in order to become I must do." This idea is especially tied to behavior. To be holy you have to behave holy. To be righteous you have to behave righteously. To be godly you have to behave godly. To be perfect you have to behave perfectly.
   
In Christ who you are is not based on what you do. It is all based on what Christ has done. Identity is by birth not by behavior. What did I do to become Michael Reyes? I was born into my family. Jesus tells us in John 3 that to be born into God's family we simply trust Jesus. Jesus extends His favor (grace) to us and we trust Him. From that trust in Jesus we are reborn.

Holiness, righteousness, godliness, and much more are all gifts of God to us as His new born child. They are things that cannot be earned. They can only be given. Ephesians 1:3 tells us that "God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ." When we assume that our behavior is the manner in which we attain any spiritual thing (blessings included) we miss what Christ has done for us.

Most Christians would say that godliness comes by behaving godly. God lives in us. Godliness comes by the presence of God in us which is given to us at our birth into God's family. Godliness doesn't come from moral behavior. Godliness comes from God living in you. If you don't think God living in you is enough to make you godly then you think that your own goodness, your own efforts and behavior, is what makes you godly. You think that your goodness is better than God's goodness, that you can make yourself be more godly than God can. Who or what is more godly than God?

Sadly people truly believe godly behavior is more godly than God living in them. 2 Peter 1:3 says, "God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness." Jesus is life and God is as godly as it gets. "Everything we need for life and godliness" is Christ in us! Because of what Jesus Christ has done the Christian never has to try to become. The Christian simply trusts that they already are.

Be Perfect Like You? Are You Serious God?

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, "You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Today we can understand Matthew 5:48 at least these three ways:

Perfection is Not by Performance
Perfection does not come by behavior. When we assume that our behavior is the manner in which we attain any spiritual thing we miss what Christ has done for us.

Jesus taught the law before His death to reveal the desperate need for Himself and His coming sacrifice so people would be ready to trust His sacrifice. It is impossible for us to keep God's old covenant laws. Jesus said "be perfect" to make that evident to the people of His time who felt they could keep the law fully. "Be perfect as God is perfect" is the ultimate "I can't do that." Jesus was making it evident to people's hearts that righteousness could not be attained by adherence to the law (behavior). Instead of outright saying this Jesus wisely allowed the people time to discern this in their own hearts.

We are Perfect in Our Process
We don't expect children to be as mature as adults. In keeping with your development in Christ God can look at you as perfect in the place you are in your life. God isn't stupid. He knows you fully and He doesn't expect you to be able to do or be more than you are today. God is satisfied with you.

We are Perfected by The Prince of Peace
Only a child of the Father can be perfect like the Father. When you are born again, by trusting Jesus, you are perfected in Christ. "By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are made holy" (Hebrews 10:14).

All of God's children are "made holy." They are all called "saints" which means "holy ones." When we first trust Jesus we are perfected for all time, thus He makes us perfect as the Father is perfect. So this perfection is not something we strive to attain but rather what Christ has already attained for us & gives to us at salvation.

We can actually see that, as His child, it is impossible to not be perfect in God's eyes! And that from two different considerations of what "perfect" can be. When we trust Jesus for our perfection rather than our performance we experience the abundant life Jesus talked about. The Christian never has to try to become. The Christian simply trusts that they already are because of what Jesus Christ has done.

Love God?

The Christian life doesn't work by us trying to love God more. It only works by understanding how much God loves us. God continually loves us. When we recognize His love for us we will love Him more and more.

Jesus was asked by a Pharisee lawyer/scribe, "Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" (Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34). Jesus answered by saying what the greatest commandments of the law are, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" & "Love your neighbor as yourself." He said "on these commands hang all the law and the prophets." He didn't say on these commands hang the gospel or the kingdom of God or the new covenant.

Those commands were the best the law had to offer. Romans 8:3 says that the law is powerless. The wisdom of the commands do not give you the power to keep them. Galatians 3:21 tells us that "No law can give life." 2 Corinthians 3 tells us that the Law (specifically The Ten Commandments) is called the ministry of death and condemnation. The word ministry means service. That means the law serves up death and condemnation. That is what it gives you.

Jesus, life Himself, came to give us life by giving His life for us. He did what the law could not do. Instead of merely telling us to love Jesus came as love and showed us who & what love is. Jesus never commanded His disciples to "love God." He told them and showed them how much God loves them and then told them to love one another. When you understand God's love for you loving God is a given. As we grow in our knowledge, understanding, and experience of the reality of God's love, love becomes a natural thing that is expressed in our lives. God isn't the person we put up with and try hard to love despite our feelings. God is the ever-loving Father, the closest friend. He woos us like a spouse.

We love because God first loved us. This is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us. (1 John 4:9-10)
Understanding the truth here is the key to walking in intimacy with God. The love we have does not come from a commandment it comes from the fact that we grow in God's unconditional love for us. We love, not because of commandments, but because God loves us.

We usually put the responsibility on ourselves to love God more. If we can realize the depths and importance of His love for us there will be a natural inclination for us to respond to the love that He has for us instead of us trying to love Him more. We will respond to His love instead of trying to love Him to get Him to respond to us. The gospel is not about us loving God. The gospel is about God loving us. Sadly it is easier for us to believe that God wants us to love Him than it is for us to believe that God loves us.

Jesus' new command is to "Love one another as I have loved you" (John 13:34). This is not a powerless command. His love is essentially included in it. His love is the means to loving others. Your love is dependent on His love. He is responsible you are simply responsive. Again Jesus never commands His disciples to "love God" because He knows loving God is unavoidable once you know His love for you.

 For more listen to these podcasts from the guys at Growing in Grace
We Love Because God First Loved Us
Living by Law vs. Living by Grace
Are We Commanded to Love God?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Transformed by The Light of His Glory & Grace

God has made us competent as servants of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the service that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the service of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the service that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the service that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was transitory came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!
Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6-18)

• The veil symbolizes the barrier between us and God, our shame.
• When Jesus died the veil on the temple was torn from top to bottom. God Himself tore it. It is only removed by Christ. But after it was torn the keepers of the temple sewed the veil back up!
• Even today we attempt to sew the veil back together to limit access to God for ourselves or for others. We consistently corrupt the simplicity of access to God by developing complicated formulas that supposedly make us finally acceptable for fellowship with God. Whole doctrines and denominations have been formed around the concept that "in order to reach God you must do these things.."
• Jesus has already granted all of His followers access to the Holy of Holies, to God Himself. The veil has been removed, don't put it back.

We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
• We expose ourselves to God (come to Him with unveiled faces). God shines His glory (grace, compassion). We reflect God's work in us to others.
• In addition to the spotlight of His grace we find that we are being changed. "We are being changed" is a passive statement. It means that we are not doing the changing, it is happening to us! God is doing the changing!
• Not only do we have the spotlight of His grace shined upon us, not only do we find ourselves being changed, but we know that we are being changed into His likeness. We know the destiny of our change. We are being changed into the likeness of Christ. Now we know why God has to do the work. We could never accomplish this on our own.
• We refuse to wear a veil, He makes us like Christ. Who else would you want to be like? What other goal would you prefer? God doesn't just agree to make us better or not as bad, instead God offers us the incomparable likeness of His Son. We only need to reveal ourselves to God and not sew the veil Christ tore back up. never accept separation from God as valid. Saying, "There has to be something more I must do," only sews the veil back up.

God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
(2 Corinthians 4:6)


Notes and quotes from The Father Style by Gayle Erwin

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Love and Cooperation, God's Will and God's Best

The Christian life is one of cooperation. God does not use you. You are not a tool. You are His friend not His slave. You are not to be passive but empowered. God will say to you "Will you do this with me?" if you say "No" God will not force you to do it, He will not hold it against you, He will not love you any less, He will not curse you, you will not lose favor with Him. You will however have to live with the natural consequences of not cooperating with your all wise, all loving, all knowing Father.

God knows what is best for you. Amazingly what is best for you is best for everyone, God, yourself, and others. This is possible because God is love and all about love. God's best for you does not mean second best for others. His best always involves people recognizing His love and His love being shown through His people cooperating with Him.

By "God's best" I do not mean "God's perfect will" as it is so often taught. The teaching I am talking about says "God has a plan A and if you miss His plan A then you go to plan B" and so on. That false notion of God's will says that His purpose means more to Him than His people. God's purpose is His people! God does not curse you for your disobedience or lack of cooperation by putting you on plan B. This idea of God's will says that God condemns you forever for your mistakes, not true! If Jesus can redeem you from your sinful state then He has no problem redeeming your mistakes and failures.

God's best (His will) has you experiencing and seeing His love no matter where you are. His best empowers your successes, redeems your failures, and has His love pouring out of you for others. You, God's dearly loved child, get to work with your amazingly loving and affectionate Father. When you understand that serving Him equals working with Him as Jesus did you will not experience the burden of obeying like a servant but the joy of willingly working with a friend.

Jesus said, "I only do what I see my Father doing. Whatever my Father does, I do also. My Father loves me and shows me all he does. I never act alone, I always act with my Father." (John 5:19-20)

See this post for a closer look at John 5.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sin? Forgetaboutit! Jesus Christ is The End of Sin for All Those Who Trust Him

Sin means "to miss the mark." Transgress means to "cross the line." Well what if on the cross Jesus was saying, "I'm removing the mark to hit and the line to cross. Now I am spreading my arms wide inviting you into an eternal embrace with me and the Father. I want you to live in reality with me and with others. No more of this counting good done and counting evil done." While it is still possible to behave hurtfully and destructively the new covenant is not about condemnation for your deeds it is about reconciliation and relationship. We are to deal with destructive behavior as relational realities by considering others.

God Counts Sins Against No One
"God the Father was in Christ on the cross making relationship with Himself available to the world by no longer counting people's sins against them. God has given us this message of relationship to tell others. We speak on behalf of Christ when we plead, 'Come to God!'" (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

2 Corinthians 5:19 is the true Gospel but it goes against almost everything modern Christianity teaches! God made relationship with Himself available by not counting people's sins against them. Because of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross God counts no sins against anyone. God is serious about sin but He is more serious about His love for you. That is why He sent His Son to die, to take away the sins of the world. If God counts your sin against Jesus and you, then Jesus died for nothing. Salvation comes from trusting in Jesus. When you first trust Jesus you are aware that you have sinned but you don't have to do anything about it. You merely trust that Jesus has taken care of your sins on the cross and you receive His forgiveness, His righteousness, and His very life.

God is not counting people's sins against them therefore sin does not separate us from being able to know God. Everything now is simply a matter of choosing to trust Jesus and trusting what He has done for us. Jesus changed things when He died on the cross, if not He died for nothing. Our sins were dealt with on the cross we simply need to receive the forgiveness that is already there. Sin was what Jesus took care of on the cross so now sin is not the issue in salvation, trust is.

"God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved through him. Whoever trusts in him is not condemned, but whoever does not trust stands condemned already because he has not trusted in the name of God’s one and only Son" (Jesus, in John 3:17-18).
Jesus said that people are condemned because they do not trust in Him. They are not condemned because "they have sinned" it is because "they haven't trusted in Jesus." We see also that John 3:36 doesn't even mention sin. "The one who trusts in the Son has eternal life. The one who does not trust the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath waits on him."

Salvation has to do with relationship. Salvation/eternal life is, in the words of Jesus in John 17:3, to "know God." Eternal life is "knowing God." It is a reality that begins when you first trust Jesus.

Christians Are Not Able to Sin
Romans 10:4 tells us, "Jesus Christ is the end of the law to everyone who trusts Him." Romans 4:15 says, "Where there is no law there is no transgression/sin." Romans 5:13 says, "Sin is not charged when there is no law"

These scriptures tell us that sin is only sin if there is a measure that defines what it is. That measure was the law and it has come to an end. Where there is no law, no sins or transgressions are charged as ours. Romans 4:8 says, "Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin." God doesn't charge His children with sin at all, meaning He calls nothing His children do "sin," He doesn't call it "sin" or even consider it to be sin. Christianity goes crazy with labeling things as "sin." God doesn't label anything His children do as sin, it is impossible for them to sin because they are born of God and God lives in them.

"Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. Everyone who has been born of God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but Jesus who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him." (1 John 3:5-6,9; 5:18)

1 John 5:18 says, "No one who is born of God sins." A child of God is someone who is born of God, someone who was born again. If you are a child of God you are not a sinner. You are a saint. Saint means "holy one." Your sin is taken away forever and you are given God's holiness. Holiness comes by birth not by behavior.

1 John 3:9 again says, "Everyone who has been born of God (whoever is a child of God) is not able to sin." I've only seen this scripture to be interpreted as meaning, "Everyone who has been born of God does not lead a sinful lifestyle." But that isn't just an outright addition, it is a total departure from the text. Those who say this believe that Christians can and do sin everyday. If I am "not able" to ride a bike that doesn't mean I can and do ride a bike several times a day. Sure it means that I don't live the lifestyle of a cyclist but that is because I can't ride a bike at all. There is double emphasis in this text. Someone born of God does not practice sin and is not able to sin.

1 John 2:25 says, "This is the promise which God Himself made to us: eternal life." Jesus said in John 17:3 Eternal life is "to know God the Father and Jesus Christ." 1 John 3:6 says, "Everyone who sins has not known God." The Greek tense of the verb "known" indicates a meaning of "Everyone who sins has never once known God." It is clear that this statement does not mean "if you sin you don't know God in the midst of your sin" or anything like that. If you sin you have never once known God. Every Christian knows God. Remember "Jesus was revealed to take away sins" because of Him the possibility of a child of God being credited with sin is zero. I am not saying a Christian cannot live destructively and harm others. I am saying you are free from even being accredited with sin by God because of what Jesus did for you on the cross.

In John 8:34 Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin." Romans 6 tells us that "You were slaves of sin but have been freed from sin." 1 John 3:9 says, "Anyone who is born of God is not able to sin." Jesus freed us from sin by removing our ability to sin. We cannot commit sin thus we are not able to be enslaved to it again. If we believe we can commit sin then we must believe that we are slaves to sin. There is abundant truth found in the New Testament telling us that we are free from being slaves to sin.

Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned" past tense. If you read the context you will find that it is saying that all people have the equal opportunity and need to be made right with God through Christ Jesus. Once they are right with Him, through Christ alone mind you, that "sinned" is truly past tense as we see 1 John 3 is in agreement with.

Sin means "to miss the mark" but Jesus has taken away sin. He has taken away the mark to hit, the target is no longer there. All that is left is knowing God. Life isn't about achievement or morals. Life is about relationship with God and with others. Follow God's loving lead and you won't be worried about passing a now imaginary archery test. You get to enjoy God, enjoy relationships with others, and enjoy life.

Christians can still yield to sin. "It is not I that sins but sin living in me that sins" (Romans 7:17). Yielding to sin is harmful but God loves me no less and He does not count even that against me. I still reap what I sow but God is pleased with me based on what Jesus did on my behalf not based on my behavior. The Spirit of God in you will never justify doing harm, He will displace it with love.

If you did not have the pre-conceived notion that Christians sin and you read the new covenant scriptures concerning sin you would not question the idea that Christians can sin and that sin still has power.
Scripture uses language like:  we are saved from sin, we are forgiven of sin, sin is taken away, sin is wiped away, sin is washed away, sin is not taken into account, we are freed from sin, sin is not charged, sin is done away with, we are not in our sins, sin is not counted against anyone, we are rescued from sin, we are cleansed and purified from sin, sin is not remembered, we are released from our sins, and we are not able to sin. [Visit this link for scripture references].

Jesus Christ paid the price of sin, death! The wages of sin is death and Christ paid it! On the cross Jesus said, "It is finished" which means "paid in full!"

Letting go of the sin monitor in your head is a huge step toward freedom. God is not counting anything against you and neither should you. Being right with God (righteous) comes by trust not by keeping commands. If you are a child of God you are irrevocably righteous, you are right with God for eternity. Nothing plucks you from His hand. Nothing separates you from his love. He doesn't leave you or forsake you. You always have His favor.

A Christian Cannot Sin Against God Alone
You cannot sin against God. There is no mark to hit to earn God's love, favor, or approval. There is no mark to hit to be righteous, holy, clean, or pure. God gives all of those things freely. They are inherited by birth not earned by behavior.

While God does not label or hold anything His children do as sin, He understands that we still have destructive behaviors and perceptions. He is not blind to our well-being or needs. Although these things are no longer counted as sin you could say that these "miss the mark" of what is best for you, your life, and those around you. Even with that understand that God will never condemn, curse, or convict you (declare you guilty) because of these things but neither does He condone (turn a blind eye to) things that harm you and others. God wants to walk you out of harmful behavior and perceptions.

Because you cannot sin against God nothing stands between you and His healing love. Fear, shame, and guilt, all obstacles to seeing, trusting, and receiving God's love, are removed when you understand that sin is truly taken away and never charged to you again. God is able to work in you and with you not on the basis of rules or rule breaking but on the basis of relationship.

Relationship is the most effective way for God to heal your hurts, untwist your twisted perceptions, and repair your destructive behaviors. When you think you have sinned against God you assume that you have broken your relationship with Him by your offense. You think that He is dissatisfied with you. You think this partly because you have never been taught otherwise but also because that is how every other relationship in your life works. Understand that God is different, He has perfectly selfless love.

When you know that being a Christian makes you sinless you trust God to always be there for you. You know that He loves you without condition and that He is unoffendable because He cares foremost about the well-being of His children. Our destructive actions don't anger God, they bring Him to our rescue. We need to look no further than how Jesus treated people to see how this is true of Him.

Christians Do Not Need to Be Conscious of Sin
Hebrews 10:1-2 says that when we know we are cleansed, we lose consciousness of sins.
"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin would have disappeared." (Hebrews 10:1-2)

There are many Christians living in bondage with a consciousness of sin. They are living as if this whole life is meant to be just focused on sin, overcoming sin, and trying to do our best for God. They never get to the life of Jesus Christ in them and the freedom He has set us free for. A constant focus on sin only breeds guilt, shame, blame, yielding to sin, etc. The blood of Jesus was meant to do away with us having a consciousness of sin so that we could live free, with a focus on the life of Christ and not a focus on trying to overcome sin.

"Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water" (Hebrews 10:22). We do not have to live with a consciousness that worries about sin and evil.

Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Is what we would call sin any of these things?

If the focus remains on "I need to change. I need to change what I am doing. I need to stop the bad things I am doing and start doing good" we will lose our actual focus on Christ. We will think that our behavior change means we are focused on Christ but it does not. We need to focus on the actual person of Jesus Christ. We get caught up on trying to resist things all the time. Instead of just living freely and letting Christ live through us we are always trying not to do the wrong thing. That is not what Christ has called us to do. The more we focus on behavior, ours or others, the less we focus on Christ and what He has done for us. The way our life in Christ works is by us resting, by us ceasing to strive, by us putting our focus on Christ the person rather than our efforts. When we rest the life of Christ in us will rise up and spring into action in ways we never would have imagined.

So How Do We Live If Not By The Consciousness of Sin?
Romans 7:6 says, "We have been released from the law, for we died to it and are no longer captive to its power. Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit."
We no longer serve God by obeying the law (laws, rules, regulation, obligations, responsibilities). We serve Him by the Spirit, which is walking with God and communicating with Him. Jesus did this very thing. Jesus worked with the Father on whatever He saw Him doing. [See my other posts about working with God here].

God gives us wisdom and instruction through the Spirit and the scriptures. Here are two relational truths Jesus said in scripture that give us an idea of how to love and treat people.

Jesus said, "Love one another just as I have loved you" (John 13:34).
In order to love we have to know God's love for us because God is love. In the new way of living in the Spirit we love by being loved. Our love flows out of God's love for us. We don't have to muster up motivation we simply recognize God's love for us and remember how God has shown love to us. His tender compassion and kindness towards us causes us to live in a loving way towards others. While this was a command it can only be lived by experiencing the Spirit of God loving you. We love because God loved us first (1 John 4:19).

"By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. Because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires." (2 Peter 1:3-4)

If you don't see His love ask Him to show it to you and to help you realize His love where it is and has always been in your life. Remind yourself that every good thing is from God (James 1:17, John 3:27, 1 Chronicles 29:14).

Jesus said, "In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you" (Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).
This gives you a simple relational instruction. If you wouldn't want to be treated a certain way don't treat others that way. With this it is truly the thought that counts. Love is not a sterile set of rules. Love is thoughtful, considerate, compassionate, and kind. Jesus modeled this in His life on earth and certainly still models it as He loves us here and now.

In short we live relationally. In our relationship with God we receive love. In our relationship with others we give love based on how God has loved us and how we would like to be treated. There is no scripture, doctrine, or anything else that excuses cruelty. Love is kind. Unkindness is unloving. This may seem obvious but for all of history mankind has made cruelty in the name of God something to be called loving because they have judged others based on their own knowledge of good and evil instead of their knowledge of God and one another.

The Spirit of God will often lead us to what seem like obvious acts of simple love, because they are. The law falsely makes love out to be a comparison of behavior that says "this person, who behaves well, is worthy of my love but that person, who does not behave well, is not worthy of my love." Jesus died for His enemies. He didn't just turn the other cheek, He willingly laid down His own life for them. He no longer counts people's sins against them. Likewise it benefits no one to count other people's sins against them. We still live by the Spirit and His wisdom to avoid harm but we know that there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus and we are in Christ Jesus so we are not to condemn others based on what they do nor are we to accept condemnation on ourselves based on what we do. God sees all Christians the same. God doesn't see them as dirty but instead wants to repair their damage. He sees them not as sinful servants but as sinless sons and daughters.

To those who are free from sin and guilt all things are unstained with guilt.
They are blameless, both their mind and their conscience are pure.
(Titus 1:15, Definition paraphrase)


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

God is Love Means God Loves You

God is Worthy by His Love
If the #1 thing God wanted was worship He would have only created angels to sing to Him. If the #1 thing God wanted was obedience and servanthood He would have only created robots. God foremost wants relationship. He wants to show His love to us and share His love with us.

The purpose of life isn't to glorify God. It is to experience God's love. Because of His love we understand God and automatically give Him glory, honor, and praise. God's love is what makes Him worthy of those things. Many hint that just because He is God, the creator, that he is worthy. God is not worthy if He is not perfectly loving. His love makes Him worthy and His love makes Him holy. If God had not love He would be nothing.

God is Not Self-Seeking
1 Corinthians 13 says, "Love is not self-seeking." Is God love?

The Father glorified the Son because the Father loves the Son. The Son glorified the Father because the Son loves the Father. God has such great love that He wants to lavish it upon us all.

God is more concerned with giving love than He is with getting worship. Why would we love if He didn't first love us? Why would we worship Him if He wasn't good? Because we are supposed to? Are we supposed to be better than God? How are we supposed to love if He Himself is not loving first? Think of the many times Jesus shows love without ever saying "Now bow down and worship me! Praise me!" He healed hundreds of people from compassion not an insecure need to be worshiped.

When God said, "I'm a jealous God. You shall have no other God's before me." God isn't insecurely saying "You must worship me." He is saying, "Everything else out there is going to own you. I want to give you life and I want to give you peace. Those are only found in real relationship with me." His jealousy isn't insecurity on His part. He is jealous for us, out of His love, for our benefit and protection.

What Worship Is
Worship is our love responding to God's love. What is the natural response to someone saying, "I love you," it is to say "I love you too." That is worship, us saying "I love you too God."

Worship is seeing how valuable God is by seeing how loving He is and knowing that He is the only source of good. Worship is clear seeing. When I see God for who He is the natural response is "Wow! Amazing! You are Awesome God!" Worship is good for us because recognizing who God is will bring love and liberty into our lives.

God accepts worship not because He is an egomaniac but because His love and goodness are so great He knows that He is the best thing for us. A wise and loving parent knows what is best for their children. God is as wise and loving as someone gets! Knowing and trusting Him to receive His love is what is best for us. True worship isn't the picture of a tyrant saying "Bow down to me lowly beings!" It is the picture of a child saying, "Thank you for loving me daddy."

We Are Significant by His Son
The beauty of salvation offered through Jesus Christ is that God makes it known how incredibly significant people are to Him. Because of God's great value placed on mankind Jesus laid down His life for us all.

The idea that man is insignificant devalues the cross, it devalues God's love for us, thus it devalues God Himself. The lower you make man the lower you make God because the greatness of God is His love. In His own words, if God has not love He is nothing. But God is love. The more devalued or insignificant we find ourselves the less we understand God's great love for us. If you want to know how significant you are look at the price Jesus paid for you.

God shares His glory with us. The Father loves us just as much as He loves the Son (John 17:20-23). Jesus loves us just as much as the Father has loved Him (John 15:9). Did Jesus say or even hint that people are insignificant to Him?

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever trusts in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus died for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).

God loves everyone. Whether you want them to be loved or think they deserve His love doesn't matter. God does have a special love for those who trust Him because trust allows them to experience His love. If you ever question as to whether you are worthy of love or anything else say to yourself, "Is God worthy? He has given me His righteousness. I am in Christ and Christ is in me." You are worthy of love because God has deemed you so. You are worthy of love because God is so great at loving. It is the lover that determines the value of the one loved. You cannot stop God from loving you!

As a Christian God makes me more significant, almost as significant as His Son (we are loved as he is loved and co-heris with Him) so am I to focus on how insignificant I am compared to God or how greatly He loves me and has honored me? God's goal isn't to make us happy moment to moment but he does want our joy to be full. Life isn't all about me as an individual but in no way imaginable does the greatness of God make a person less significant.

"God raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:6).
Devaluing myself does not bring praise to God. Since He raised me up why should I ever down or devalue myself as His dearly loved child? Devaluing myself actually ignores the miracle of who He has made me to be in Christ. Recognizing how He has given me significance is me focusing on the greatness of God. Why does God deserve praise? Because He is love.

So to say "It's all about God and not about me," or "It is about the greatness of God, not the significance of man," actually takes away from our perception of God's greatness! God's greatness includes the significance He puts on mankind! Part of why God is so great is because He values mankind so dearly. May I never devalue myself as His child. May I never devalue His other children or anyone.

Saying "It's all about God and not about me," says "God does not care about me as a person, He doesn't want a relationship with me, He just wants me to shut up and serve Him like a robot and worship Him like the angels do." We are in Christ! To say "It's all about God and not about me," means I see myself outside of Christ! What a sad, Godless way to see ourselves. God made it about me to show His love for me. We could, however, rightly say, "It is not about us being in control" or "us getting everything we want." God isn't going to serve my every whim but He is going to give me what is best for me when I trust Him. Even when I don't trust Him He will still work everything to my good.

God first loved us. He is the instigator. Who did He love? Us. It is all about God's relationship WITH US! You could rightly say, "It is all about what God has done." Who did He do it for? He did it for us!

If we have a deep relationship with Father we are going to have deep security. We are going to be secure and feel significant to the degree that we have that relationship with Him. When you feel insecure and insignificant you will find anything to hang on to including rules, rituals, traditions, and shame (the real false humility). God wants to draw us into a loving intimacy with Him that supersedes and overcomes everything else. What a privileged, simple, and wonderful thing!

Not Servants but Friends.
Our relationship with God isn't servanthood, it isn't even just the status of being His child. Our relationship with God is friendship.

Jesus Himself began this friendship, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). "You are no longer a servant, but God’s child" (Galatians 4:7). Jesus said in John 15:15, "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing. I instead call you my friends."

A servant, or slave, serves out of obligation. A friend serves out of love. A friend is free. This is why all of the New Testament writers that acknowledged themselves as the authors of their writings called themselves bond-slaves or bond-servants of God. A bond-servant is someone who is set free but chooses to serve the one who set him free. A bond-servant is someone who has been loved so greatly as a friend that they serve their friend out of that love and friendship. We find our significance not by serving God but by being His friend.

We Are Holy Because He is Holy
Jesus did far more on the cross than simply take away our sins. The Christian is Holy and perfect in God's eyes & God's eyes are the correct eyes, He isn't going to deceive Himself or you.

The word "saint" which we are called dozens of times in scripture, means "holy one." 2 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us that "God's holy people (His saints)" are all those who have trusted Him. That means every single Christian is holy. "We are holy and dearly loved" (Colossians 3:12). "God's temple is holy, and we are His temple" (1 Corinthians 3:17, 6:19-20). "We are a holy nation" (1 Peter 2:9).
"Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15)
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.” is a scripture from before the cross. Now the prophecy of "you shall be holy.." is "you are holy, for I am holy." "Be holy" is not a command but a reinforcing statement of truth. Like God telling you to "Be yourself." It does say to "be holy in all your behavior" because you, as a Christian, are holy in Christ. So since you are holy behave holy.

The Importance of Identity
Christians can still behave destructively and hurt others but their behavior doesn't determine their identity. Our identity in God does not come from our behavior but by our birth. We don't have to strive to be holy, we use the holiness that God has already given us to be holy in our behavior. We don't live to gain, we live to give. God has given us His infinite life to live by. "We already have everything we need for life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3). A Christian lives out of an abundance.

When your identity is misplaced so is your relationship. Even in the midst of your failure know that your actions do not define you, Jesus defines who you are. The way that we live is to be an outflow of what we know about our identity in Christ. We are one with Christ. We are in Christ and He is in us. Now we simply have to act like it, walk in it, participate in reality. We have Him in us, let Him live His life.

Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to clean up our flesh so we can walk in the spirit. Instead, it says, 'Walk in the spirit, then you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh' (Galatians 5:16). The reason the bible says that is because sins were taken away at the cross forever and God doesn't deal with us on the basis of sin, He deals with us on the basis of our righteousness, our identity in him. So we can walk in the spirit. It's the Spirit and the truth, and knowing our true identity in Jesus, in which we experience victory.

God says in Hosea 4:6: "My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge." When we lack knowledge of who we are in Christ and how much we are loved, we don't experience the life Jesus came to give us. The devil challenges our identity just as He did Jesus' identity. "If you are the Son of God then do..." But when we realize that Jesus came to destroy sin's power in our lives, we will no longer allow the enemy to deceive us into believing that we are not who God says we are. Sin has lost its power to condemn us or cause shame in our hearts because we have been made righteous in Christ. Our Heavenly Father sees us as very good and without fault because of Jesus! What more could He do for us to prove His great love?

God's primary interest isn't in what we do for Him or even what we do with Him. It is in who we are. We are the beloved bride in the Song of Solomon. He knows ever hair on our head not because He is all knowing but because He has paid loving attention to us. God is love means God loves You.


By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are made holy (Hebrews 10:14).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Inseparable & Unforsakable, Fellowship Never Broken

When you do something you would label as sin the Holy Spirit never says, "I am removing my fellowship from you (you have lost favor with me, I have taken my grace from you) until you confess your what you've done, feel bad about it, and try hard to never do it again." That idea, which most Christians are taught to live by, nullifies the power of the cross. It says "Sure you'd die for me while I was a sinner but you'd never talk to me while I have sin in my life." That is thinking God is double-minded, unforgiving, quick to anger, and grudge holding.

The term "broken fellowship" doesn't even appear in scripture. Fellowship is "the state of being with someone, the state of associating with someone." Fellowship is friendship and companionship. It carries the ideas of participation and contribution.

The lie that "sin breaks our fellowship with God" tells us that God is no longer with us, He no longer associates with us, He doesn't participate in our lives or contribute to our lives. Let us see how much of a lie that is.

The Lie of Broken Fellowship with God Exposed
Hebrews 13:5 tells us that God will never leave or forsake us. "Breaking fellowship" is leaving and forsaking. If God breaks fellowship with you that means God leaves you every time you sin because fellowship is "the state of being with someone."

Jesus said in Matthew 28:20, "Lo I will be with you always." "Lo" means "look," "behold." Jesus was saying, "Look for me in your life because I will always be with you." "Broken fellowship" says God is always willing to be without you if you sin. It says if you look for God with "unconfessed sin in your life" you will not find Him. Some even teach that if you don't start your prayer off by confessing your sins God will hear none of the rest of your prayer. But Jesus says "Look, I am always with you. I will comfort you in your pain. I will help you stop destructive and harmful behavior. Just look for me."

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that "Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
Firstly you can throw out the idea that you can "lose your salvation." If you believe that you believe the death of Jesus on the the cross was utterly worthless, that your sin is more powerful than the Son of God. That belief says that sin breaks the power of grace, love, and Jesus Christ instead of Jesus being the one who broke the power of sin and death. I'm not saying any of this to shame anyone. Most people believe falsehood because of deception or not being exposed to the truth. God has already reconciled the world to Himself and He did that by no longer counting any one's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19). From God's standpoint sin does not stand between anyone knowing Him. Sin certainly cannot remove sonship because Jesus is able to save completely.
Secondly Jesus always lives to intercede for us. That means He is always working in our lives, He intervenes for us, He is always participating in and contributing to our lives.

Hebrews 10:23-24 tells us to "Not forsake assembling with other Christians but to encourage one another and consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." Yet we think God will forsake meeting with us? Does God ask us to do something He Himself will not do? We think God will forsake us dozens of times a day. The truth is God encourages us and stirs us to love and good works.

John 1:17 tells us that, "Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."
If someone leaves you or refuses to associate with you because you do something they don't like that means you have lost favor with them, you are disgraced. The false doctrine of broken fellowship teaches that disgrace (shame) came through Jesus Christ because it says that you lose grace, you lose favor, with God. It says Jesus came to disgrace us by reminding us of our sin and counting every sin against us. The truth about The Truth is Jesus came to take away sin (1 John 3:5) and He does not count any sin against us (2 Corinthians 5:19). He is here to lovingly walk us out of destructive deeds into lovingly beneficial behavior. God does not abandon us when we need Him most. He doesn't abandon us at all! “Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to disgrace” (Romans 10:11).

God has given us right standing with himself. Who or what then will condemn us? No one, nothing, for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting at God’s right hand, interceding for us. Who or what then can separate us from the love of Christ? There is no such thing! Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:33-35,38-39)
God is love, if we can't be separated from His love how can we be separated from Him? If God's love was conditional He wouldn't have died for sinners, He wouldn't have died for people who were enemies of Him. Nothing separates you from his love. Notice it says, "No created thing" can separate you from the love of God. Well what are you? You are a created thing. You cannot separate yourself from God's love. That includes your behaviors, feelings, thoughts, and actions. None of those can separate you from God's love. Sin does not stand between you and God. God holds no sins against you. God doesn't count anything you do as His child as a sin (1 John 3:9). You only think sin separates you but that is a lie from the devil. What can separate us from the love of God? There is no thing. Again God is love, since we can't be separated from His love we cannot be separated from Him! God's love is so unconditional it is unstoppable, you cannot be separated from it! No amount of crying, confessing, self-effort, remembering your sins, emotional torment or anything we can do can add to the finished work of the cross, where our sins were forgiven, once and for all!

Jesus calls us His friends in John 15:15. From this and the previous scriptures we see that Jesus is an ever present friend who never leaves us. He always participates in our lives. He contributes all the good things. The entirety of scripture screams against the idea of God breaking fellowship with His children! I didn't even address the truth that God lives inside of His people, another truth that makes it obvious that God does not break fellowship with His children. Every definition of the original Greek and the English word "fellowship" is clearly always ours in Christ Jesus! God promised to never leave us. If that is true then the only thing that is required is for me to awaken to the fact that He is here too, right now. That changes everything for me. Good moments and bad moments are shared life with Him.

The Destructiveness of Believing the Lie of Broken Fellowship
It is no wonder most Christian meetings start off with a prayer asking for God to "be with us" or for "the Holy Spirit to come." It is no wonder we sing songs asking God to "remember us" and quote old covenant scriptures as if Jesus had never died and raised again!

It is no wonder so many struggle in relating to God. Someone else has to be there for a relationship to be real. God is always there but we've been taught that even the tiniest bad thought will make God walk out the door. Believing that fills us with so much guilt and shame that when we think we sin we can't even bring ourselves to confess it to God. That is the power of a lie, especially a lie about God, when what the lie guarantees doesn't work out well, at all, or even produces the opposite result as promised, in real life we think that it still must be God's way and we are the problem because we can't live right. All we get is more shame, guilt, and condemnation. I know, I lived it and it is clear to me that nearly every Christian I have known has lived it at some point to some degree.

Through the teaching of "sinning is breaking fellowship with God" we are teaching that God is the most petty, the most offendable, the most immature, the most grudge holding being to ever exist. You might think I'm exaggerating but I am certainly not! Think about it. We think if a Christian says 1 curse word, watches a movie with multiple curse words, or downloads a single pirated file that God will "break fellowship" with him or her.

That is like a father saying, "Now son you didn't say 'Yes sir' to me just now so I am going to avoid you (break fellowship) and ignore you completely (the idea that God won't hear your prayers if you have unconfessed sin in your life) until you call me and tell me what you did, say you are sorry, and tell me that you'll try very hard to never ever do it again. Until you do that I won't see you at dinner, I won't tuck you into bed at night, I will utterly forsake you just because of this one little thing, that though unnecessary, I required of you. Also if you do anything else wrong while I am gone you have to tell me about that too and feel very sad about it, if you don't I will continue to stay away from you. I won't listen to a single word you say. I won't help you through chores, trouble, or pain. I won't play with you. I won't comfort you. I won't be there for you at all because you have offended your father. You see my integrity (holiness) is so great that I simply cannot have anything to do with a child who doesn't tell me 'Yes sir.'"

That very example is what many many call God's "holiness." What a sick twisted lie! God's love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness is what makes Him holy. But this is what most Christians are taught about their relationship with God, that God is willing and certainly will drop His relationship with you in an instant if you do anything that could be conceived as wrong. That is the dominant view of the Christian life, "Try really hard not to do bad and God might show up and stick around." Amazingly God doesn't even count that denial of Christ's finished work on the cross against us. But living in that falsehood is still incredibly destructive to us. Jesus did not and does not dangle His friendship or presence like a carrot to get people to do what He wants them to do.

Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be distressed, troubled, fearful, distraught, lacking in courage, or feeling abandoned." (John 14:27) The man Christ Jesus left His Spirit, He is His Spirit. Being a Spirit makes Him closer to us than He could be as a man. One of the fruits His Spirit produces is peace. He gives us peace personified in His Spirit.

Fellowship is never something God takes away from us. If He did He would have to break His fellowship with Jesus Christ because He has placed Christ inside us and placed us in Christ. Our behavior can never change God's love for us and His fellowship with us. Our perception of Him or our perception of ourselves may keep us from drawing near to Him but He is always there with open arms. I am not an orphan one minute and a dearly loved child the next. God never forsakes me, He never breaks fellowship with me. Nothing separates me from His love. Let us trust in what God has done for us. "God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is trustworthy." (1 Corinthians 1:9) You can trust His promises that lovingly let you know He is always with you.

1 John 1 The Twisted Scripture
We have seen an abundance of scriptures that let us know that God will not break fellowship with His children in any sense. Let us now look at 1 John 1, the scripture that has been twisted into the lie of God breaking fellowship with His children.

"This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched concerning the word of life and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Thus we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Now this is the gospel message we have heard from Jesus and announce to you:
God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world." (1 John 1:1-2:2)

First Consider the Audience.
Those who teach that God breaks fellowship with us see the audience as Christians. 1 John is one of the later scriptures written and this is the only place in the New Testament where "confessing sins" to God is mentioned yet "confessing your sins to maintain relationship with God" is widely taught as an absolute must in the Christian's daily life. Jesus never demanded His disciples or anyone else to confess their sins to Him. Paul never told any of the Christians he wrote to to "confess their sins to God" even though they were involved in wide varieties of destructive behavior.

John says "We (us who are here writing this letter) have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" and that the letter is being written "so that you may have fellowship with us, with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." Only those who have trusted Jesus know God and can have fellowship with Him. Obviously you can't have fellowship, properly defined, with someone you don't know. John is telling these people how to have fellowship with God, how to be saved. Part of the audience is non-Christians the other part are confused Christians. In chapter 1 John is partly refuting a false teaching by Gnostics who were once among the people he is writing to. In 1 John 2:26 he says, "These things I did write to you concerning those leading you astray." The false teaching is that there "has never been such a thing as sin in the world," and because of that "no one has sinned." "Jesus was revealed to take away sins" (1 John 3:5) so recognition of your sinful state is integral to salvation. Thinking that sin does not exist, aside from just being false, removes much of the importance of Christ's death on the cross.

Second Consider the Content.

"What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ." Some of the people being addressed in 1 John 1 do not yet have fellowship with the Father and the Son. John states His purpose of writing this is to let them know how to have fellowship with God, how to know God, how to be saved.

1 John 1 presents the gospel. "This is the gospel message we have heard from Jesus and announce to you." Our modern ABC's evangelism method can even be seen in this scripture.

Admit you are a sinner. "If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us." "If we say we do not have sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us."
Believe in Jesus. "We have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us"
Confess your sins. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness."

It is evident by the context when John says "we" and "us" starting in 1 John 1:5b starting at "God is light.." he is not referring to himself and other Christians but those who need to hear "the gospel message from Jesus." It is an explanation of how to be saved. It is phrased sort of like a modern day instructional video. For example:  The man who is already a police officer says, "if we do this, this, and this then we become police officers." The man giving instruction is already a police officer but for the sake of instruction he uses inclusive language while going through giving the steps. John could have said "you" instead but he knew he had a mixed audience of Christians and non-Christians who had been deceived by the Gnostics. Saying "you" would confuse them making them think that all of them must continually confess their sins to God but since John included himself, a Christian, in the "we" it is easily understood as being instructional for those in need of being saved and informational to the rest. John doesn't use the word "you" at all from v1:5b-10. In 2:1 we see that he has finished reciting the gospel message he got from Jesus and tells them why he said what he has said so far.

"My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2).

When you receive Christ you "may not sin," your spirit will not be able to (as 1 John 3:9 tells us). John wrote this saying, "if anyone sins, which I just showed you that everyone has, then Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins and the sins of everyone else." It is a deliberate continuation of the instruction of how to be saved & how to tell someone to be saved. Do not let the chapter separation change the meaning of this text.

If 1 John 1:9 were addressed to the Christians, it would then contradict 1 John 2:12 that says, "Little children, I write to you because you have been forgiven your sins through His name." Why would John command people to confess their sins if He says a few verses later that they HAVE already been forgiven?

If non-Christians say that they have no sin or have not sinned, they are deceiving themselves, making Jesus a liar and the truth nor his word is in them. Saying they don't have sin disregards part of their true need for knowing Jesus. If they confess their sins (admit they have them), Jesus is trustworthy and righteous, permanently forgiving them their sins and permanently cleansing them from all unrighteousness. Jesus is the sacrifice for the sins of everyone and makes relationship with the Father available.

Third Consider the Context.
In the very same letter John writes,
"Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. Everyone who resides in him does not sin; everyone who sins has neither seen him nor known him. Everyone who has been fathered by God does not commit sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. We know that no one who is born of God sins; but Jesus who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him." (1 John 3:5-6,9; 5:18)

God says you, as His child, cannot sin. You are not able to sin because now you have a "new self" which is "born of God" that God solely identifies you as. Christians don't need to confess or ask forgiveness because God has separated their identity from their flesh & God has stopped counting what they do as sins. What sins do you need to confess if God is not charging you with any of them? If we do not realize the audience for 1 John 1 is partly non-Christians and the content is the gospel message of how to be saved (to show the lost & assure the saved) then what we find in the above scriptures from chapter 3 & 5 make no sense and utterly contradict 1 John 1. I personally have never heard or seen anyone address those scriptures (1 John 3:5-6,9; 5:18) yet they are in the very same letter and help us greatly understand 1 John 1-2.

1 John 2:25 says, "This is the promise which God Himself made to us: eternal life." Jesus said in John 17:3 "Eternal life is "to know God the Father and Jesus Christ." Remember John obviously wrote 1 John and the gospel of John so he was in no way ignorant of the fact that eternal life equals knowing God. 1 John 3:6 says, "Everyone who sins has not known God." The Greek tense of the verb "known" indicates a meaning of "Everyone who sins has never once known God." It is clear that this statement does not mean "if you sin you don't know God in the midsts of your sin" or anything like that. If you sin you have never once known God. Remember "Jesus was revealed to take away sins" because of Him the possibility of a child of God being credited with sin is zero. I am not saying a Christian cannot live destructively and harm others. I am saying a Christian is free from even being accredited with sin because of what Jesus did for you on the cross.

1 John Summary

  • All people are born into the condition of sin inherited by Adam.
    • If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
  • All have committed sins.
    • If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:10)
    • All have sinned (Romans 3:23)
  • All need to trust Jesus and confess their sins (agree with God that they have a sin condition/have committed sins) in order receive forgiveness for their sins from Jesus and be cleansed from all unrighteousness (sin). Doing this makes someone a child of God.
    • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
  • All of a Christian's sins are forgiven by God from the start
    • The blood of Jesus, God's Son, purifies us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
    • I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. (1 John 2:12)
    • In Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our sins, according to the riches of His grace. (Ephesians 1:7)
    • Jesus has made you alive together with Him, having forgiven you ALL your sin (Colossians 2:13)
    • The Lord has forgiven you (Colossians 3:12)
    • Christ forgave you (Colossians 3:13)
    • When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:12)
  • A Child of God is Not Able to Sin (from their new & only self, their perfected spirit) because they are born of God and God lives in them
    • Every child of God does not commit sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God. (1 John 3:9)
    • No child of God sins; but Jesus who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (1 John 5:18)
    • Everyone who trusts in this raised-up Jesus is declared good and right and whole before God. (Acts 13:39)

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, is with you all!
(2 Corinthians 13:14, Young's Literal Translation)



Read more about this topic, including a look at confessing sin in James 5 see the posts linked here

He Loves You For You

God wants us to love and trust Him for our benefit not out of His need. He enjoys it when we love and trust Him because He enjoys the relationship, He enjoys the affection. He knows that loving and trusting Him is what is best for us.

Many don't think of God as a loving Father. They see Him like an angry boss. They work for Him and are in constant fear of Him firing them (breaking fellowship) if they don't do exactly what He says (obey the written commands and extracted principles in the bible). They think that if they work hard enough and do a good enough job then God will finally acknowledge them, grace them with His presence, and then hand out a few bonuses (blessings) before telling them to get back to work.

A Father and his children can work together but ideally that is not the basis of their relationship. With God everything is ideal. I pray that all of us will see that more and more as our lives go on. The basis of our relationship with God is love not work, duty, obligation, or responsibility. We think God wants us to love and trust Him "this much" but we feel like we only love and trust Him "so little." God is not measuring you. He simply longs for authentic relationship. You simply cannot be commanded and obligated to love when you have never known love.

When we work with Father we see that His work is all about loving others. Love relationships will have their difficulties but what more joyful thing in this world is there than love? That is all God desires for us to do! God knows we love best when we have understood what it is to be loved by Him. When we try to force ourselves to love out of an obedience to a command rather than out of a heart that has been loved by God we will shame ourselves and push others away. They will know that our "love" isn't focused on who they are and what they need but on our own fear, commitment, and perceived obligation to obey a command to keep God pleased with us.

It is impossible to love selflessly when you think you have a God whose love for you is conditional. When you think God's love is conditional you will try to obey His commands to love for the purpose of trying to meet His condition so you can get His love. You will try to perform for God out of fear of losing His favor and that performance isn't out of love for God or for others.

God's love is not conditional but it is often not obvious to us. We will see it more and more as we grow to understand that God is the source of all good and we need do nothing more than to ask Him how He is loving us today.

Instead of thinking "I need to trust God more," trust Him to grow your trust in Him. Ask Him to make you aware of His trustworthiness, to show you why it is best for you to trust Him. God is certainly not offended by such requests. He will not hand you a snake when you ask for fish (Matthew 7:7-12).

God is our Father. Fathers give affection, protection, & instruction. God is the perfect Father who is love. He is the most loving and trustworthy being that exists. He is looking out for our best interests, He is looking to benefit us. What God knows benefits us the most isn't always what we think are our best interests, it doesn't always line up with our ambitions, desires, plans, or goals. God's love surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:19). If we trust Him and His love for us we will have the most satisfying journey we could possibly have in this life.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Did Paul Shame People?

Shame is a sense of guilt, disgrace, loss of favor with God. Shame is something that Christians aren't to have, Christ took away our shame at the cross and He makes us righteous. Shame is also not to be used to manipulate people, it is not to be a motivator. But there are two places in the New Testament where Paul seems to shame people.

1 Corinthians 6:1-6
"Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the assembly? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?"

The word translated shame here is defined as "a turning in upon oneself." It is not the usual Greek word translated "shame."
In 1 Corinthians 6:5 the issue is that Christians are turning to non-Christians or so-called brothers who are immoral to settle their problems for them. Understanding the correct definition of the word we can easily see Paul saying, "I say this so you will turn in upon yourselves and look for some wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren." Paul is telling them to look at themselves and amongst themselves to find a wise man to judge their matters. Paul is not shaming them with guilt. It is the opposite, the normal word for shame means disgrace but Paul encourages their competence as saints (which they are by grace) and communicates, "Look at yourself. Are you able to help settle these matters?"

1 Corinthians 15:34
"Become sober-minded as you ought, and sin not; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame."
The word translated shame here is the same as the one above and is defined as "a turning in upon oneself." These are the only two places this word appears in the New Testament. Paul tells them to "Wake up, become sober-minded." Understanding the correct definition of the word we can see that Paul is saying "Wake up, take a look at yourselves!" The NLT puts it this way "To your shame I say that some of you don't know God at all." Meaning "look inwardly, examine yourselves to see if you know God." This scripture is about realization not shame and guilt. Even if we took the word shame here to mean guilt or disgrace, which it doesn't, it is still aimed at non-Christians and Paul is not shaming Christians. "To your shame I say that some of you don't know God at all." Meaning "To the some who don't know God I appeal to the presence of your shame to help you realize that you don't know God."


Related Posts
Judges in the Assembly Part 2:  A closer look at the context & intent of 1 Corinthians 6

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surrender or Submission? Defeat or Victory?

Surrender
Surrender is not a term used in the New Testament. It is used in church circles usually referring to the biblical concept of submission or yielding. Using the word surrender, I believe, has a subtle impact on how we view God. The term surrender makes it out as though we are at war with God and we give up when He beats us down enough. But God is loving and in no way punishes His children (see 1 John 4:18). Scripture never uses the language of surrender of us in relation to God.

In some contexts the Greek word for "submit" is translated as "be subject" and may have the idea of being subordinate to God in a military fashion. Even there the idea of surrender does not fit because we are on God's side. He is for us, He is never against us. We are not at war with Him and we are not to surrender to Him as if we were.

Prominent Definitions of the English Word "Surrender"
acceptance of despair; the act of admitting defeat; to relinquish to the control or possession under threat, compulsion, or demand; to give (oneself) up, as or as if to an enemy

Submission
"Submit to God" -James 4:7
The Greek word translated "submit" in James 4:7 refers to "a voluntary attitude of cooperation." Cooperation is "working or acting together; agreeing." Biblical submission is a loving trust. It does not have the attitude of "because I have to.." or "since you're forcing me too.." Biblical submission says "I trust your desires are good and loving. I love you so I agree to work with you to fulfill your desires." This is how we are to obey God. Obedience is not merely an outward action in accordance with an instruction. Obedience is an inward trust based on God's love and guidance that results in outward action. There is nothing in the Christian life that does not involve God's love for you and your trust of Him.

The Christian does not need to "surrender daily" but to cooperate with what the Spirit of God communicates over the course of each day. Submission is a situational decision not a blanket declaration. You cannot submit your day to God. You can only submit as life rolls on throughout the day, anything else is pretending. Submission is relational cooperation done in the present tense. Submission is not tapping out because God twists your arm, it is tapping in, into the life, love, and relationship that God has given you with Himself. You cannot give your life to God. As a Christian God gave His life to you. He is your life (see Colossians 3:3-4). We are to simply walk with Jesus in newness of the new life He has given us. There is no promise to make or achievement to grasp just trust God and His love for you as in live in Him and with Him.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Family of God

In John 20:17 Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Do not touch Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. And go on to My brothers, and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father, and to your Father, and to My God, and to your God.’”
After His resurrection Jesus calls the disciples His brothers and says that God is their God and Father. Jesus shows us that His resurrection brought us into the family of God.

Jesus said in John 14:1, "Do not let your heart be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me." Jesus' cure for a troubled heart is trust in God and Himself. Just as when we were children we trusted our parents to take care of us and comfort us when we were troubled or afraid so we are to trust God enough to go to Him when we are troubled because we realize that He is the safest place to be. The problem with using the word believe in John 14:1 is it leaves the impression that we have to muster up some sort of feeling of confidence. But we are to trust God which is relational. It means we go to Him during our troubles.

In Matthew 5:48 Jesus says, "Be perfect as God is perfect." We don't expect children to be as mature as adults. In keeping with your development in Christ God can look at you as perfect not just as being made perfect in His Son but perfect in the place you are in your life. God isn't stupid. He doesn't expect a 3 year old to be like a 30 year old. He knows you fully and He doesn't expect you to be able to do or be more than you are today. God is satisfied with you.


Living with Siblings
When power enters into a relationship submission is about power and where you fall in hierarchy instead of submission being what God intended which is mutual respect and love for people we have a relationship with. Whenever you deal with relationships that are about power the relationship is selfish. It is all about the person with more power. The servant loves by serving and the master loves to be served. Jesus came as a servant even though He is the only master. None of us are to put ourselves above others.

So why do we think that being something other than a brother or sister to someone is what is superior? Brothers and sisters share the life of their Father. The older help the younger learn to grow. That is what a biblical elder is. An elder (older) brother or sister that helps you learn and grow. An elder is not a surrogate parent. We have only an inkling of how deep the family of God parallels to blood families. Just as our older siblings may try to manipulate and control us to make us obey them so it is with the family of God where men elevate themselves above others and claim authority they do not have over others.

Another thing to realize is that children who have the same parents can be wildly different people. It is the same with God and His family. With God's family being as large as it is there is tons of variety. I'm talking about individual personalities and behavior. I'm not condoning the segregating denominations which put the family in competition with or at odds with each other. Church institutions promote a sort of sibling rivalry. Anyone who claims to have everything right is automatically wrong and worse off than the humble person who realizes that all of God's children are in a process of growth and maturing. "If someone thinks he knows something, he does not yet know to the degree that he needs to know." (1 Corinthians 8:2)

Christians and Christian groups often bicker over who God loves most when the Father loves all of His children just as He loves Jesus who gave us the privilege of being children of God (see John 17:23 & John 1:12). We have the ultimate older brother in Jesus and He is the first born in Father's family. All of God's children are equally loved, equally clean, and equally righteous.

My Thoughts on Jesus Washing the Disciple's Feet in John 13

John 13:1-14:1
It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”

Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
“I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared my bread has turned against me.’
“I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will trust that I am who I am. Do not let your hearts be troubled. You trust in God; trust also in me."

My Thoughts
A reason Jesus washed their feet was that everything He had the Father gave to Him.

Jesus said Peter could have no part with Him if he did not let Jesus wash his feet. Peter then tells Jesus to wash his hands and head also. Jesus tells Peter that a man is totally clean if only his feet are washed. I think this pictures our response to God's grace and forgiveness. He makes us totally clean but we think that He needs to clean us even more.

I also see an idea of "Ok God since you are going to serve me then I want you to do this, this, and this too. I don't want you to serve me just how you want. I want you to do it my way too." But we can see by Jesus' response that He knows what we need when He serves us. We ask for things that are unneccessary at best. Peter had good motives and strong desire but good motives and strong desire do not equal wise motives and wise desire. That wisdom comes from God.

Another interesting thing is that Jesus says "You don't what I am doing now but you will know.." How often does Jesus "clean" us, meaning change our character and heart, and we have no idea what He is doing? When we get out of the circumstance then we see how God was cleaning us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Walking Under the Yoke of Jesus

The true meaning of faith is trust. Trust is a relational word. Trust means we deem Jesus as trustworthy and we put our security in Him. Trust causes us to "take His yoke upon us and learn FROM Him." The result is that we work with Him. It is 100% about walking with, relating to, Jesus in the Spirit.

His yoke is easy, His burden is light, and His commands are not burdensome because they don't consist of all the commands in scripture. The commands are the ones He gives you as you walk with Him. Some of the commands are the ones in scripture but the beauty is that He tells you when and how to keep them. Instead of heaping His commands upon you He guides you during your walk with Him. Jesus does not give me the burden of keeping the whole law. Jesus gives me the rest of having a love relationship with Him.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Walk with me and work with me--watch how I do it. I will walk alongside you. We will be yoked together but I will pull the weight and carry the burden." (Matthew 11:28-29)


"Everyone who trusts that Jesus is the Christ has been fathered by God, and everyone who loves the father loves the child fathered by him. We know we love God’s children if we love God and obey his commands.
For this is the love of God: that we keep his commands. The proof that we love God comes when we keep his commands and his commands are not burdensome, they do not weigh us down because everyone who has been fathered by God conquers the world. Our trust in God is the power that conquers the world. The person who wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who trusts Jesus is the Son of God." (1 John 5:1-5)


Related Posts
Yoked or Unyoked is The Issue of Life

Monday, November 7, 2011

Shame, Guilt, Grace, and Motivation

“Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame.”
(Isaiah 28:16, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6, Joel 2:26-27, Isaiah 45:17, 54:4)

Shame means disgrace, dishonor, disfavor. It is being out of favor; a loss of favor. Shame is literally the opposite of grace.

Shame carries the idea of "turning in upon oneself" thus guilt/shame is like a pity party where you devalue yourself or think that God devalues you based on your behavior/actions. From my experience that type of guilt does not result in positive motivation or actions. That guilt does not produce hope or peace. It makes you not want to go to God. That shame barrier is what Christ removed on the cross.

The people of the Old Testament always lived with shame.
"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin would have disappeared." (Hebrews 10:1-2)

People in Christ are free from having that shame. "Behold, your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:7). Now that Jesus has been the perfect sacrifice He provides for us "perfect cleansing & purification once for all time." He makes it so our feelings of guilt and our consciousness of sin are no longer absolutes. We are free from them.

Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never lose grace, they will never lose favor with God. A Christian cannot be out of favor with God. When you feel shame, when you feel guilt, you feel like you have lost favor with God but that is absolutely not the case! Once you are saved God will never put you to shame.

There is also a practical reality here. Everyone who trusts Jesus, with a personal present tense trust, will never feel shame. As long as you are trusting Him and His love you will not feel shame. Why? Because you are living in the reality of God's love and grace. From my experience this is completely true. If I am not trusting God I am susceptible to feeling guilt and shame by believing in the lie that I have lost favor with God. While I am trusting that God only gives me grace (loving kindness) and never gives me disgrace (shame) I will never feel shame.

Are You Motivated by Guilt?
Shame is what caused Adam and Eve to hide from God in Genesis 3:8. Before they ate from the tree in Genesis 2:25 it says that they were not ashamed. In Genesis 3:10 Adam says they hid from God because they were afraid of God. Shame/guilt causes you to hide from God. If you have "bad" feelings that do not cause you to hide from God or devalue yourself I would not call those feelings guilt. Shame and guilt lowers a person in their own estimation, weakens them, and causes them to yield to sin more.

If I don't want to feel bad (guilt) I am going to try to do better so I won't feel bad (guilt) anymore. Being motivated by that idea of guilt is not love or compassion based, it is for the selfish removal of my negative emotion. It isn't about benefiting the other person (love). It is about me feeling better about myself. If I do something because I'm going to feel guilty if I don't then it is still about me, its not about others.

When the result of your emotions, even if they feel negative, is care for and the benefit of someone else I would say you are motivated by love and compassion and not by guilt.