Thursday, April 21, 2011

Notes on Jesus' Teaching on the Mount: Why Jesus Taught the Law, The Two Builders

Intro from 3/8/12
I was going through The Merged Gospels, an excellent harmonized translation of the 4 gospels that puts it in one narrative (I liked it so much I bought the eBook and the audio), and these notes are me figuring out and being taught by the Spirit that Jesus taught the law before the cross to show people their need for a savior. God revealed this to me through a pure reading of the scriptures with revelation from the Spirit because I had heard no one teach this truth before this. My thoughts here are specifically of those from Jesus' lengthy teaching on the mount. Along with my notes I recommend reading Matthew 5-7 & Luke 6:20-49 or buying The Merged Gospels and going through Stories 54-79.

Intro from 4/21/11
It is very difficult to determine the context Jesus is speaking in here. He is teaching His disciples in front of a crowd before He brings grace through the cross. Jesus knows that 11 of His disciples will remain in Him. It seems to me that in parts of this Jesus is clarifying the old covenant laws. He gives many works to attain righteousness ideas including forgiveness being contingent on forgiving others. Many of these things only make sense before the cross which is from when He speaks. We too often run to applying everything scripture says to ourselves. At least we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus' 12 disciples usually didn't understand what He was saying either. Still there is a lot more mystery than our prideful academic minds wish to admit about scripture. We try to say, "Well this is what He really meant.." to fit our preconceived view of things. So there are some wonderful things I see here and plenty of wonderful things I have yet to see.

Notes on Jesus' Teaching on the Mount
Why Jesus Taught the Law
Jesus starts this off with talking about the law and how He has come to fulfill it. I think Jesus is saying that He is so important that even if heaven and earth were no more the law would still be in effect. He is the only way for the law to be fulfilled and the only one who can accomplish all things.

To me Jesus is more showing us how hard it is to keep the law than He is giving us new commands to live by. Jesus basically points out "You think you can keep the law? Well it is much more than the externals. It is much harder than you think. These commands go to the heart. If you can't keep them you are in danger." He repeatedly points out that we are in danger if we can't keep the commands. He shows us God's even higher standard of love and compassion. He raises the bar higher to make it even more clear that we cannot keep His commands and to show us our need for Him.

Pluck out your eye, cut off your hand, allow an enemy to strike you. Under grace our actions do not put us under danger of fire. So Jesus is talking to people under the law before His sacrifice. He is showing that it is even more impossible to keep the law than had ever been thought. The scribes and Pharisees are externally perfect but Jesus' standard is internal also. So how can anyone be saved? With man it is impossible but with God all things are possible!

Jesus said that no one comes to the Father but through Him. This means there is no other way. It means that you cannot know the Father by keeping the law.

We usually look at commands as what to do but God is also showing us what we cannot do. We need His mercy, favor, forgiveness & strength.

I see this scripture as Jesus setting up people's need for His grace more than anything else. Jesus turned the cheek to the point of death on the cross. Yes it can be good to do what Jesus talks about here but we can never do it without Him living it first as He did. He fulfilled the law and now He fills us full with Himself which is the only way for us to keep the commands He desires us to keep. He writes His law on our hearts because He Himself is there in our hearts to do so.

The Two Builders
Jesus finishes His discourse saying, “Therefore, every one who comes to Me, who hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like. He is like a wise man who built his house, who digs deeply and places a foundation on the rock. And the rain descended, and a flood came to beat the rivers violently. They came, and the winds blew, and they beat on that house, and it was not strong enough to shake it, and it did not fall, for it had been founded well on the rock. And every one who hears these words of Mine, and does not do them, will be compared to a foolish man who builds his house on the sand - earth without a foundation. And the rain descended, and the rivers burst through, and the winds blew, and they beat on that house, and immediately it fell, and its fall and the ruin of that house was great.”

Anyone who 1. comes to me 2. hears my words 3. does them.
Jesus wraps all of this up very well. Hearing His words and doing them are useless without first coming to Him. Jesus is the rock not the hearing and the doing. Hearing and doing is the "digging into the rock."

Notice Jesus says "Whoever hears my words and does not do them."
The wise builder came to Christ, heard His words, and did what Jesus said. The unwise builder heard the words of Christ and didn't do them. The unwise builder never came to Christ! The hearing is present in both builders. Not only is the doing missing but, more importantly, the coming to Christ is missing. Even after we know Christ we must still come to Him before doing what He said. We must trust Him for the who, when, where, and how of doing what He asks us. The Bridegroom should not be thrown away in favor of the book. The Spirit should not be thrown away in favor of the scriptures. They work together. The living Word works with the written words. The Spirit works with the scriptures all for our benefit and purification.

Loving the Law More than Others

On a Sabbath Jesus entered into a synagogue and taught. And, behold, there was a man there who had his right hand withered. And the scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him, whether on the Sabbaths He would heal him. And they questioned Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbaths,” that they might find an accusation against Him. But He Himself, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “What man among you who has one sheep which falls into a ditch on the Sabbath, would not lay hold on it and lift it? He said to the man who had the withered hand, “Rise up and stand here.” And rising, he stood. Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you about something. How much better, therefore, is a man than a sheep? Is it lawful on the Sabbaths to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to kill?” But they were silent. “So it is lawful on the Sabbaths to do good.” And looking around on them all with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their heart, He then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored whole as the other. But they were filled with anger. And the Pharisees went out and immediately took counsel with the Herodians, and spoke with one another against Him, about what they might do to Jesus, how they might destroy Him. (From Matthew 12:9-14, Mark 3:1-6, Luke 6:6-11)

This is one of the most heartbreaking accounts I've come across in scripture. The Pharisees hearts are so hard that they are more dedicated to the law than they are to loving others. Their heart conditions become obvious when they go on to plot to kill Jesus. They care more about their self-righteousness, praise from men, & the written law than they do about God and others. It is no wonder that Jesus was so harsh with them. Jesus Himself was angry and grieved because of their hardness of heart.

Scripture makes it clear that love summarizes the law. Legalism then is when law exists without love. Jesus asked if it was lawful to do good or heal on the Sabbath. In the Pharisees minds not working on the Sabbath trumped love & compassion. The law was more important than love to them which is absurd in God's eyes as the law was all about love. They viewed the law as arbitrary at best and a vehicle for their own self-righteousness at worst.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How "Preach" is Used with Bias in Translating the Bible

I've noticed in personal study that a translator bias/indoctrinated by tradition bias appears when using the word "preach." When "kerusso," one of the primary Greek words translated as "preach," appears in the context of someone who is not Jesus or apostles it is not translated as "preach" but as "proclaim."

Mark 5:19-20 talks of the man who had the Legion of demons cast out of Him.
Jesus said to him, "Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you."  And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

The word kerusso was properly translated as "proclaim" there but when referring to Jesus or apostles the same Greek word is translated as "preach." This gives us an underlying idea that only special people "preach" and the common man "proclaims." But truly scripture offers no distinction. This same thing also happens in Mark 7:36 & Luke 8:39.

What I'm pointing out here is that there is an unwarranted clergy/laity style bias that appears when translating the Greek word kerusso. I don't think the word preach should ever be used in a bible translation because when we hear it we think of a non-interactive monolog (a sermon) which is never what scripture refers to.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Who or What is the Bible About?

Wordle is a site that generates "word clouds” from text that you provide. The larger the word the more often it appears in the text. I had the ability to put the entire text of The Bible in using the World English Bible translation. It shows the top 150 non-common words (common words are "a, the, and"...).

See if you can figure out who the Bible is about.

The Bible

The Old Testament
The New Testament
The Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Alive to God in Christ Jesus

Romans 6:11 says, "Consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but living to God in Christ Jesus."

It is often taught that "you need to be broken over your sin." It makes us think that we have to force brokenness but forcing brokenness produces self-focused guilt. Guilt drives us away from our loving Father because it makes us feel like He loves us less because of what we've done. Instead He is loving towards us and wants us to know that our sins are totally forgiven and that His blood constantly cleanses us of any unrighteousness we come into contact with. Because of Jesus sin can never stain us!

Brokenness is not something to force. You are either broken about your deeds or you are not. God doesn't want you to bash yourself with guilt He wants you to draw near to Him and experience His accepting love for you.

To be dead to sin is to count sin as nothing. God does not hold our sins against us so we need not hold our sins against ourselves. Instead of focusing on sin, negative behavior, guilt, & shame I turn my heart to God and go on living my life for God as if the nothing had never happened though I will mend relationships as necessary if I caused others harm.

Romans 6:8-14
"Now if we died with Christ, we trust that we will also live with him. We know that since Christ has been raised from the dead, he is never going to die again; death no longer has mastery over him. For the death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you too consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness. For sin will have no mastery over you, because you are not under law but under grace."

Sadly we too often focus on the wrong side of what God is telling us in this scripture. We strive to "consider ourselves dead to sin," "to not let sin reign in our body," "to not present our body to sin."

God does not intend for us to focus on or strive to "be good." God intends for us to focus on Him and His goodness.

I am alive to God in Christ Jesus. I am to present myself to God as one who is alive from the dead so I may enjoy and display the gift of His righteousness. I am not under law. I am under grace. Law means I have to perform to please. Grace means I have been given every good thing by a loving God. Dead to sin means I don't think about sin thus I focus not on my deadness to sin but on His gracious love for me. When someone dies it is better for us to remember their life than to dwell on their death. I am dead to sin because I am alive to God. He's alive! I'm alive! We're in love!

This post has been heavily revised and edited on 1/26/12. It does not fully represent my life in April 2011. I have changed it to share the accurate truth with others.

Unity through God's Love

Unity cannot be forced. Unity and conformity are not the same.

Colossians 3:14 says that "Love is the perfect bond of unity."
The only way to unity is through the love of God.

1 John 4:10-11 says, "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love one another."

Unity comes from realizing how much God loves us then loving others because of His love for us and His love them.

1 Corinthians 13:2 says, "Without love we are nothing"

You simply need to learn more and more how much God loves you and His great love will lead you to love Him and others in freer ways than you ever thought possible.