Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psalm 1:6 in the Light of The Messiah

"The Lord knows the way of the righteous." (Psalm 1:6)

The righteous are literally those who are "right with God." We are made permanently right with God when we first trust Jesus. "The way of the righteous" is Jesus. He is The Way (John 14:6). He is our Way.

God spoke these words to Jesus: "This is my Son, whom I love and in whom I delight" (2 Peter 1:17).

"The Father knows me and I know the Father likewise I know my own, and my own know me. I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep" (Jesus, from John 10:14-15).

The Father knew the Son and sent Him to be our way to know the Father so that they can experientially know us. John 17:2-3 says, "Jesus gives eternal life and eternal life is to know the Father who is the only true God & to know Jesus the Messiah whom He has sent."

"The Father knows and delights in Jesus the Messiah who is The Way for people to be made right with God, to know Him, and to experience His love."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Psalm 1:5 in the Light of The Messiah

"Sinners will not stand in the assembly of the righteous." (Psalm 1:5)

Assembly is the proper translation of the word "church." The righteous are those who are "right with God." After the resurrection people are made right with God by trusting Jesus. Those who trust Jesus are born of the spirit (John 3:6-8), also called born again, born from above, or born of God. They have a new living spirit inside of them that is born of God. It is righteous, holy, and blameless just as Jesus is.

God has given us this perfect spirit as our new identity. God does not identify us as sinners anymore. He took our sins away on the cross and remembers them no longer.

We are the assembly, the body of Jesus and no member of our Lord's body is sinful. We are the spiritual body of our risen Lord.

"Sinners do not stand in the assembly of the righteous because, thanks to our Messiah Jesus, the righteous are not sinners but children of God."

Monday, February 27, 2012

Psalm 1:2 in the Light of The Messiah

"How blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2)

We live after the cross & resurrection. In this age we are to no longer pour adulation on God's old laws but on Jesus Christ the fulfiller of that law. The law was done away with.

Colossians 2:14 tells us that Jesus, "Wiped out the written ordinances (God's Old Covenant laws) that were against us and that stood opposed to us. He took them away and nailed them to the cross." Ephesians 2:15 also tells us that "Jesus abolished in His flesh by His death on the cross the Law of commandments contained in ordinances."

John 1:17 tells us "The law was given through Moses, but God’s favor and truth came through Jesus Christ." The law did not favor men. It condemned everyone who failed to keep even one law on any occasion. The law could be good, loving, and helpful but the law did not empower people to live lovingly. Jesus Christ however does. He brought God's favor (grace), truth, and trustworthiness. He loves us first thus we are able to love others (1 John 4:19).

"How blessed is the man who delights in Jesus our Lord and considers His love day and night!"

Motivation: Compassion vs. Obligation

There is no condemnation in Christ and we are in Christ. That means not only are we not condemned but we are not to condemn others. Condemn means to "declare or judge as guilty."

Compassion and condemnation are near opposites. Compassion says "I love you and am concerned about you." Compassion also knows when to be silent. Condemnation says, "The bible says what you are doing is wrong and God is not pleased with you." Without love scripture is useless. Love is not fault finding but encouraging. Love seeks the benefit of the other person. Love does not try to get someone to conform to your perceived standards for life because you feel obligated to do so.

If you approach someone trying to "help" them thinking, "The bible says what this person is doing is wrong so my duty as a Christian is to help them stop doing it" is not motivated by love but is motivated by your feelings of personal obligation and your desire to avoid guilt. A feeling of duty is not the same thing as love and if you mistake it as love you will hurt many people.

You can help someone selfishly. Doing that is the mindset that says, "I'll feel bad if I don't help this person." Love says, "This person feels bad I want to help."

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Letter Without The Lord

When I grew up I didn't have a set schedule to do chores. My parents just told me when to do them when they needed to be done or when they weren't going to do it themselves. If they told me to mow the yard I'd go mow the yard. If they told me to throw out the trash I'd take out the trash. If I approached this as some approach the bible I would think to myself, "One time in the past my parents told me to mow the lawn. I better mow the lawn every day just to be safe." I'd end up wasting my time and wasting mower gas. If that is not the case then I'd think of a time they told me to mow the lawn and feel bad whenever I'm not mowing the lawn. Instead of living by their real time guidance I'd be living by my perception of what it means to keep their past command and by my own feelings of obligation or shame that they never intended for me.

Sadly that is how so many Christians live and how I lived for years. "Spiritual" discipline with the wrong perspective will destroy you. Even reading the bible can cause you harm. Because of your feelings of obligation to read the bible and shame if you don't read it you are more likely to read something at the wrong time and apply it to yourself incorrectly. It is like a first grader trying to do algebra or calculus. If you don't understand the foundations & fundamentals of truths you're going to fail because you are trying to do something that was never meant to be done.

When we look at the bible as a "How to Make God Pleased with Me" rule book we miss everything God has already done for us. We are saved by grace. Grace is God's favor. Grace means God is not displeased with anyone alive because of what Jesus did for the world. God wants all to receive His initial gift of grace to be saved. Once we are saved God never is displeased and always pleased with us. Still He wants to make us aware more and more of His favor towards us.

If you don't know of God's favor for you then you will try to earn what you already have. Sadly most Christians are taught that they are saved by grace (without being told exactly what grace is) but they must live the Christian life by keeping scriptural commands. The Christian experience under this teaching is like this:

Your valentine buys the last box of chocolates from the store & gives them to you. You spend some time expressing your gratitude. Soon after you meet a new "friend" (the church, a preacher, etc.) who tells you that you need to pay your valentine for their gift. So instead of enjoying the many chocolates and the loving graciousness of you valentine you spend your time trying to pay for, earn, something that you already have. And I don't mean "pay back" I mean "pay for" meaning you won't accept a morsel until you feel like you've worked for it. So you have already been given the whole box and the total variety of chocolates. You can enjoy them right now but instead because of your wrong perspective of the gift AND the giver you enjoy little to none of them. You only reach for a piece that is being offered if you feel like you've earned it.

The love of Jesus is not self seeking (1 Corinthians 13:5). He isn't looking to be paid or repaid. He is only looking to love and to give. It is not our obligation to serve Him like a never present CEO. It is our joy to work with Him as a son does with his father. The letter always kills without the Spirit bringing life to it (2 Corinthians 3:6).

The bible is a history book and love letter rolled into one. It is the history of God who is Love. We aren't supposed to "do everything by the book" but by the Spirit. The Spirit will use and point us to the book at times but we know the living God. He lives in us and goes through life with us.

"You search the scriptures thinking that in them you find life and how to live it. Those very scriptures speak of me. I am The Way and The Truth and The Life. Follow me." -Jesus

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Back Posts from Discipling from the Ground Up Series

In November 2010-January 2011 my wife and I were discipling a couple. We only met with them 2 times before we moved away. Those 2 times I taught them my 2 "Meaning of Life" posts. I called the over all series "Discipling from the Ground Up." I also spoke with them about some other things that I had written for the occasion. After I moved I intended to keep writing the series but dropped the idea. So now I'm back posting some of the things I taught and the other things I wrote seeking to continue the series. Though back posted everything has been revised to my current knowledge of truth.

Discipling from the Ground Up

The Meaning of Life: Part 1, How to Know God - 12/1/10
The Meaning of Life: Part 2, Understanding the Relationship - 2/8/11
What is the Bible? Where does it come from? - 12/31/10 - New Back Post
Learn from Him  - 2/18/11 - New Back Post
Christ is Your Life  - 2/18/11 - New Back Post
Who God Has Made Us  - 2/18/11 - New Back Post
An Alternate Look at The Great Commission - 2/14/12

Related Notes
My Thoughts of God 12/31/10
2/18/11 Notes
My Thoughts of God 2/18/11

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jesus and The New Covenant Exposed in Zephaniah 3

Zephaniah 3 presents an amazing picture of Christ's first coming and what it is like for Christians because of it.

Excerpts from Zephaniah 3
“Therefore wait for Me,” declares the Lord, “For the day when I rise up as a witness. Indeed, My decision is to gather nations, To assemble kingdoms, To pour on all My anger, All My burning wrath; For all the earth will be devoured By the fire of My zeal. For then I will give to the peoples purified lips, That all of them may call on the name of the Lord, To serve Him shoulder to shoulder. In that day you will feel no shame because of all your deeds by which you have rebelled against Me.

I will leave among you a humble and lowly people, and they will take refuge in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down and no one will make them tremble.

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away His judgments against you. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; You will fear disaster no more.

In that day it will be said to Jerusalem: “Do not be afraid, O Zion; Do not let your hands fall limp. The Lord your God is in your midst, A victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with dancing & shouts of joy."

I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth."

Zephaniah 3 Through the Jesus Lens
Notice God says that "I will rise up as a witness" that is talking about Jesus, God in the flesh. Revelation 1:5 & 3:14 call "Jesus Christ the trustworthy and true witness." Jesus said in John 18:37 that "He was born and came into the world to bear witness to the truth."

"I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will turn their shame into praise and renown in all the earth." We know that Jesus healed the lame & associated with outcasts. The crippled, the lepers, and the other outcasts lived in shame day to day because of their sin & physical problems. Jesus sent so many people away praising God when he healed them or forgave them. Because of scripture these people are still renown all over the world to this day. Interestingly the word "save" in the New Testament can also mean "heal" or "make whole."

God gathered the sins of "all nations and kingdoms" into the body of Christ and "poured out all His anger and wrath." The "sins of the world" were taken away (John 1:29), devoured by the fire of His passion against sin.

After that (the cross & resurrection) God gives everyone the ability to "call on the name of the Lord" without any barriers. He makes men righteous with His own righteousness so they now have "purified lips." We can "serve Him shoulder to shoulder!" That speaks not only of the indwelling Spirit of God but also the friendship between us and Christ. It also speaks of the equality of peoples in Christ's kingdom, no one is above another.

"In that day you will feel no shame(!) because of all your deeds by which you have rebelled against Me." This refers to our experience of trusting that Christ took away our sins and holds nothing against us. There is no need to feel guilt or shame. Thank you God!

"I will leave among you a humble and lowly people," This is how Christ walked on the earth while "taking refuge in the name (character, person) of the Lord."

"The remnant of Israel (Christians) will do no wrong and tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue be found in their mouths" This speaks of the sinless spirits born into children of God. Our true identity in Christ is our sinless spirits who do no wrong. 1 John 5:17-19 says, "All wrongdoing is sin. We know that anyone born of God does not sin (does no wrong). We know that we are children of God." Only our spirits are "born of God." We didn't physically crawl into another womb so this all refers to our "new creation," the spirits God has gifted us with.

"For they will feed and lie down and no one will make them tremble." This speak of Jesus becoming our Good/Great Shepherd, the guardian of our souls (mind, earthly life). This also reminds me of the boldness of those in Acts. They had no fear in spreading the Good News of what God has done for us through Jesus.

"The Lord has taken away His judgments (ordinances) against you." Colossians 2:14 tells us that Jesus, "Wiped out the written ordinances (God's Old Covenant laws) that were against us and that stood opposed to us. He took them away and nailed them to the cross." Ephesians 2:15 also tells us that "Jesus abolished in His flesh by His death on the cross the Law of commandments contained in ordinances." Not only was the requirement to keep the law taken away but Jesus also took God's punishments (judgments against us) for our sins.

"The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst." This speaks of Jesus coming to earth to live among people. The word "midst" here can not only mean "among" but also "in," "within," "in the inward/inner part," and even "in your body." So this also speaks of the miraculous indwelling of God in His people because of Jesus.

"You will fear disaster no more." 1 John 4:18 says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment." We who have the Spirit of God living in us do not need to fear disaster or punishment from God. Romans 5:9 says, "Since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s judgment."
But the "disaster" spoken of here may mean "evil." We no longer have to fear evil. 1 John 5:18 says, "Jesus keeps His people, and the evil one does not touch them." 1 John 5:4 says, "Whoever is born of God overcomes the world through trust." 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, "The Lord is trustworthy & loyal. He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one." 1 John 2:13-14 assures us that evil can be overcome.

"The Lord your God is a victorious warrior." Notice it says, "victorious warrior." Christ achieved that victory over sin and death on the cross!

"Shout for joy.. Shout in triumph.. Rejoice and exult with all your heart.." There are so many reasons just listed above for us to do this! What a foretelling of the grace and favor of God, but that is not all..

Behold God's View of You because of Jesus:
The Lord your God is with you. He takes great delight in you. He will comfort you with His love. In His love He will no longer mark you as immoral. He rejoices over you with singing and shouts of joy! He is so glad about knowing you that He twirls around dancing!

Things Taken Away Because of Jesus:
The sins of the world
God holding sins against mankind
God's anger towards mankind
God punishing us
Shame & Guilt from past sin and rebellion against God
Shame & Guilt in General
God's Old Covenant Laws
Fear of punishment from God
Fear of evil
Fear in General
Physical problems

Things Given Because of Jesus:
Jesus Himself
Freedom for all people to call upon the Lord with no barriers
We are born of God, children of God, with a new righteous, sinless spirit (our "new man" or "new creation")
God lives inside us & is always with us
We work with God "shoulder to shoulder" in a cooperative walk of loving others.
We work with others "shoulder to shoulder" in a cooperative walk of loving others.
Equality of all God's followers
The spiritual traits of humility & honesty
Protection and security because of God's character
Jesus as our Great Shepherd who feeds us, gives us rest, guards us from fear, & guards our minds and lives
Boldness concerning our God
Reasons to thank God and rejoice
Victory over sin, the world, the evil one, and death
God's grace, His favor. He loves us so much He sings, shouts, and spins with delight over us!

Get the T-Shirt?
I don't intend to shill but I came across some of this scripture last year. I made and gave my wife's cousin this shirt for Christmas. So since I already made and its related I'll offer it here. You can get this women's shirt for around $21. Click on the image below to buy.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Good News of Justice

Christ died one time for the sins of all people, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

The just, Jesus, died for the unjust, mankind. Because of this justice is no longer defined by mankind getting rewarded or punished according to our deeds. Now justice is that all people be saved by trusting Jesus so that Jesus gets who is due Him. Before the cross justice was mankind getting punishment for sin. After the cross justice is the Savior getting who He paid for.
So to seek justice now is not to desire that evil be punished, although destructive people should still be prevented from harming others. Seeking justice on Christ's behalf is to desire that all men come to know God.
No one deserves punishment because everyone's sin has been taken away and freedom in Christ is a gift waiting to be opened. Come to know Him to share in His riches. God has made relationship with Himself fully available. Come to Him trusting His goodness to embark in that relationship. You can't benefit from a relationship if you refuse to engage with the other person. God is always better than you think.
When you trust Jesus God gives you everything you need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). God has given you His Son and because of that He will not hold back from freely giving you all good things in His good timing (Romans 8:32). In fact once you trust Him you receive every spiritual blessing that exists (Ephesians 1:3). We enjoy His gifts and blessings by simply knowing & trusting that they are given.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Obey: An Invitation to Cooperation

Obedience to God is something that comes out of love for Him and others. Sadly most seem to focus more on obeying than loving. Obedience has been made out to be nothing more than adherence to the commands & principles of scripture. But the truth is, true obedience is loving cooperation through the spirit. With God we never walk or work alone.

Obedience starts with Jesus as a friend saying, "Can we do this together?" or with me saying, "I see what you are doing here God. Do you want me to join in?" Obedience still ends with a simple "yes" or "no" but God offers no punishment, anger, condemnation, or loss of favor if you choose not to cooperate. Christ has already taken care of our sins and God understands us fully. He knows who we are, where we are, and every intent of our minds & hearts. He wants to kindly love us to loving cooperation, to change our minds about our refusals because cooperation with Him always benefits someone.. While not all of His loving feels painless at the time He does nothing out of anger, selfishness, or dissatisfaction. God is our helper and our comforter and our friend. Nothing changes us so effectively as His loving-kindness.

Obedience isn't a GIVING IN to Christ's demands but a GIVING OUT of His love and life which are in us. We work with Him to carry out His kindness.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

We Are Free Spirits Living in Flesh and Bone

Whoever trusts that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1).

At salvation we receive a new and living spirit that is born of God. Who we really are is our spirit. To call yourself a child of God is to identify yourself by your spirit. God calls us His children and exclusively identifies us by our spirit. Our spirits are righteous, holy, pure, clean, perfect, sinless, and so much more.

When our spirit is born from above we do not lose our flesh. Our flesh is our physical body which is genetically hardwired to sin. With God we are to put to death the deeds of the flesh, refuse to offer our body parts to sin, & allow our mind to be renewed. With these things, mainly allowing God to renew our mind, our outward actions will meet our inward reality. We will "rewire" our flesh.

In 2 Corinthians 5:1-3 our body, the flesh, is called a tent. A tent is a temporary but portable dwelling place. Our body, including our mind, is a faulty tent that needs repairs. We carry it with us until we die. We aren't supposed to determine our identity based on the flesh because God does not identify us that way. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). "We are not in the flesh but in the Spirit because the Spirit of God lives in us. We belong to God" (Romans 8:9). "Because Christ died for all we no longer regard anyone according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).

Romans 8:20,23 says, "The creation itself ALSO will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the (spirit born) children of God. We groan within ourselves waiting eagerly for the redemption of our body." We are alredy set free in spirit but the physical world and our physical bodies are not. Why didn't Jesus fix the physical world at the cross too? 2 Corinthians 4 tells us, "We have this treasure (the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the person of Christ) in jars of clay (earthen vessels, our flesh, our body) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." God chose to display His strength in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) so people would know that it is God who works in us to love (Philippians 2:13). Seeing His kindness through us leads them to trust Him (Romans 2:4) to receive His love and His strength.

We, who we really are in our spirit, are dead to (separated from) sin but our flesh is not. Sin cannot stain your spirit. Sin is not a spiritual issue with the Christian. God removed that issue when Christ died for us. Sin is only a humanly relational, physical, & practical issue. It is only an issue between you & God if you don't understand your total forgiveness & new identity in Christ. Even then God is not charging you with sin or counting anything against you. You are just walking in ignorance unable to experience your freedom in Christ. Your ignorance, mistrust, or disbelief are the only possible barriers between you and God. But that doesn't make what Christ did for you less true nor does it mean that God is creating or validating any barriers. You just cannot experience the joy of that truth if you are unaware of it or don't trust it to be true.

The Christian life is very simple and relational. It in many ways works just like normal life except there are many aspects that seem too good to be true. When you trust that they are true you get to enjoy those aspects. If you don't know the truth or trust the truth then the truth doesn't make you aware of your freedom. We are already set free but so many of us have not walked out of our perceived prison cell to enjoy our freedom.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

An Alternate Look at The Great Commission

Jesus said to His disciples, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore as all of you are going make disciples of all the nations, immersing them in the character of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to treasure everything I have commanded you. And look, I Myself am with you every day, even to the end of the age." (Mathew 28:18-20)

Immerse Disciples in God's Character
The word baptize means immerse. I most places in scripture God's "name" is equivalent to God's character, His loving personality, His nature. So I think what Jesus was saying was two fold, first the outward display of water baptism, second the immersing of the disciples in the full character of God.

The Character of God the Father
Compassionate; Gracious; Slow to Anger; Abounding in Mercy, Loving-kindness, Truth, Faithfulness, & Trustworthiness; Forgiving Wickedness, Rebellion and Sin

The Character of Jesus
Servant; Did Not Lord It over Others; Led by Example; Humble; As A Child; As the Younger; As the Least; Last; Used No Force on Us; Was Not Driven by Selfish Ambition; Made Himself of No Reputation; Was Fully Human; Obedient Even Unto Death

The Character of the Holy Spirit
Comforter; Stays with us; Guide Us into All Truth; Testifies of Jesus; Convinces the world of sin to lead them to trust Jesus; Convinces Christians of their Righteousness in Christ Jesus; Reminds Satan of his coming Judgment; Does Not Speak of Himself; Shows Us Things to Come; Glorifies Jesus

For more on God's Character Listen to these books by Gayle Erwin.

Teach Disciples to Treasure Jesus's Commands
The word typically translated as obey here can also be translated as keep and has the idea of treasuring. "Treasure everything I have commanded you." This says a lot more than just enforcing rules with no reason given as to why the commands are helpful. What do people treasure? They treasure their families, pets, memories. Treasuring is profoundly personal. It isn't an "Oh well if I have too." It is a "Wow I love this! It is good for you and good for me!"

John directly received the commission from Jesus. In 1 John 3:23 John summarized the commands of Jesus.
1. Trust God
2. Love others as God has loved you.

For more on the commands of Jesus read my post Trust and Love, Everything We Need

Friday, February 10, 2012

Don't Should on Yourself and Don't Should on Anyone Else

Whenever you tell someone they "should" do something you put a burden on them. It makes them try to want to want. A pure desire isn't motivated by mustered up passion. It is motivated by God's love. When we feel unworthy, scared, lazy, or indifferent God would love it if we came to Him and said, "Lord I can't change how I feel. Reveal to me how you are loving me in this moment and in this day. I know your love will change me."

We put so many shoulds on ourselves that we feel bad or selfish if we don't just get out there and do things for God. The fact is we always please God. We please Him even more by allowing Him to please us by showing us His affection for us. Nothing changes us more effectively than that. We love because He first loved us. Should says, "If you don't or can't you are bad." God as love says, "I'm good so you can."

Those who would call this is too mushy speak from their own pride. They are the type that say, "Just give me an order & I can do it!" True love is only produced by recognizing God's love. Obedience cannot produce love but love produces obedience. Mutual affection is the root of our cooperation with God.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Older People as Guides not Officials as Governors

Translators assume the church institution and its hierarchical authority system when translating the scriptures. Our translations and even our lexicons are skewed by this mindset. Words are chosen that veil or utterly replace their true meaning in the original text. This causes much confusion and has lead to sin, oppression, and death for hundreds of years. It causes our world view to be less like that of Jesus Christ and our study of scripture to be hindered. We have translated many words that meant only common things at the time of Christ into spiritual words, offices, and titles when the context is what properly defines who or what these common words are referring to.

Elder means "Older" not "Office"
Presbuteros is the Greek word traditionally translated "elder." Presbuteros is an adjective that means "older." It can be masculine or feminine which means it can be best defined as "older man" or "older woman." In the New Testament presbuteros always means a person who is older in age and nothing more. It is not a title but a word of comparison. The meaning of presbuteros never includes a function, title, responsibility or "office." But one can usually learn more about the older person from the context. Context identifies who the older person is and what they do.

In the times of the Bible, it was a very important to honor and respect people who were older. This certainly is a very good, Godly concept. But tradition has turned this good attitude into a "one-way-street" of rulership. Tradition makes an elder into a position of authority which makes him more important than other people and this reinforces our unbiblical ideas of hierarchy. By no means is "elder" a title of authority over others, or a rulership. An elder is an older person. Older people are expected to be a good example to younger people. (More information on presbuteros). 

Pastor means "Shepherd" not "One Man Leader"
Poimen is the Greek word translated "pastor." Poimen is a noun that means "shepherd." It is primarily used literally of shepherds such as the shepherds in the field at the birth of Jesus in Luke 2:8. It is used figuratively of Jesus the good/great shepherd. The noun form is used only once figuratively to refer to people other than Christ and that is in Ephesians 4:11, this is the only place where it is translated as the word "pastors." The word pastor comes from the Latin word pastor which means shepherd. At the time of the King James translation pastor was already a title/office in the church and the word was placed here deliberately instead of the word shepherd to justify the existence of this unbiblical office in order to keep authority over people in the church by the clergy. Poimen always refers to the function or duties of a shepherd (whether figurative or literal); IT IS NEVER A TITLE. It is better not to translate it, "pastor," because today this word is used as a title for men who occupy an office and perform functions not described in the New Testament.

In Ephesians 4:11 poimen appears in the plural best translated as "shepherds" and is coupled with the word for "teachers" this means all shepherds are teachers. It also means that a singular shepherd/pastor is not found in scripture outside of Jesus Christ. There are shepherds in the assembly but no mention what-so-ever of a one man leader called a shepherd/pastor. (More information on poimen, see also the history of the office of pastor 1 2).

The verb form of poimen is poimaino which means "to act as a shepherd, to tend, feed, provide needs, care for," basically to do the things a shepherd would do. It is translated usually as "shepherd (the verb)," "to shepherd" or "feed."

Overseer is not an Office
Episkopos is the Greek word traditionally translated "overseer" (it is maliciously translated as bishop in the KJV to once again justify an office in the church). This word is currently well translated. An overseer is one who watches over another or others to guard. Overseer is translated as guardian in 1 Peter 2:25. They are relational watchtower guards.

In 1 Timothy 3:1 some translations use after "if any man aspires to" the phrase "the office of overseer" or "the office/position of bishop" (KJV, NKVJ, NASB, NET, BBE, NRSV). There is however no Greek word that represents the word "office" in that verse and it has been completely added into the text. It is properly translated "if any man aspires to oversight" where "oversight" is the related Greek word episkope which means to watch over. It doesn't even use the noun episkopos for overseer so there is certainly no justification to use "the office of overseer" in this text. Episkopos is never used as a title in the New Testament. (More information on episkopos).

The Older Men were Overseers & Shepherds
Now that we know what the words mean let us look at who these people are in scripture. [Hence forth presbuteros will be translated as "older men," poimen will be translated as "shepherd," and episkopos will still be translated as "overseer"].

Acts 20:17-35
From Miletus Paul sent a message to Ephesus, telling the older men of the assembly to come to him. When they arrived, he said to them, “... You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, testifying to both Jews and Greeks about changing their minds toward God and trust in our Lord Jesus. ... I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have desired no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine provided for my needs and the needs of those who were with me. By all these things, I have shown you that by working in this way we must help the weak, and remember the words of the Lord Jesus that he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

We see here that the older men (elders) of the assembly (people) have been made overseers by the Holy Spirit and are to shepherd the assembly (people) of God. The duty to shepherd and to watch over is given to the older men. When we see the word overseers in scripture or shepherds (in Ephesians 4:11) we can deduce that these are talking about the older men of God, the elders. The older men of God are given the charge to watch over and act as shepherds to the younger people of God.

The older men were respected because they were seen as more spiritually matured than others among them. They were called "shepherds" because they were already feeding (teaching) the flock. They were called "overseers" because they were already watching out for the flock. They were not doing these things because some group of Christians "appointed" them, but because the Holy Spirit "made" them overseers. Again, a man in the New Testament is called "elder" because of what he is: older and more mature in Christ; he is called "overseer" because of what he is doing, watching out for the spiritual condition of the people; and he is called "shepherd" because of what he is doing, teaching & guarding the younger. These older people naturally set the example for the kind of character God wants all His people to have.

How Today's Offices Differ from God's Functions
Just looking at this text from Acts let us look at how today's "pastors" and "elders" differ from what Paul spoke of here & how today's offices cause them to display the negative aspects he warns against.

"Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of God"
Today's pastors have little to no relationship with the people they supposedly shepherd. You can't shepherd without a relationship. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said He knows His sheep by name. Pastors of larger churches couldn't possibly know all the people's names. This is why Christian communities took care of one another. The older looked out for the younger. Today's pastors & elders may see-over a crowd from the stage but few guard other's hearts.

Today's self professed "leaders" are like the older brother who tries to boss his younger siblings around claiming "Dad put me in charge" when Dad did no such thing. To be "watching out" for someone means you know where they are. The sheer reality of the man made pastoral office makes this impossible. Today's pastor is the rock star that might talk to you briefly after a performance but is too busy and has too many fans to take a real interest in almost anyone.

"Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them."
Paul warned that even of the men there some will exercise undue authority over God's flock. Rather than watching over and guarding the flock the older men themselves will become the wolves. Why would they do this? To "draw the disciples away after themselves." How often this still happens! Many churches speak more praise of their pastor than they do of Jesus. The pastor's name is always the one on the church sign while the name of Jesus, the only name given by which men can be saved, is absent.

Certainly "perversions of the truth" are taught wittingly or unwittingly in order to bolster the authority of the leaders. So many have selfish ambition and the others are blind to the enemies lies that keep them as substitutes for Christ (antichrists) at worst and distractions from Christ at best. Those who intend to rule well still intend to rule. The more you want followers the less likely you will continue following Christ yourself. When this happens the blind truly lead the blind. Jesus is never blind. Let us follow Him and be willing to listen to those who wish to point us toward Him.

"The message of God's grace (favor) is able to build you up."
So very many pastors don't preach God's grace but a mix of the old and new covenant where people are saved by God's unconditional favor (grace) but must maintain a relationship with God by keeping laws and being constantly aware of what could be considered sin. They tear people down with blanket behavioral judgments & condemnation. They speak the lie of God's near constant dissatisfaction with us rather than His favor and love. When oppressive men teach an oppressive God they block, discredit, or even demonize the light of freedom.

"I have desired no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine provided for my needs and the needs of those who were with me. .. It is more blessed to give than to receive."
This is simple. Today's pastors are paid professionals. They don't provide for their own needs nor the needs of those around them. They are the takers not the givers. They live off of the people. Many desire silver and gold if not for themselves then for their church building to outshine the one across the street.

Today almost all think of elders, overseers, and pastors as official positions of leadership given to whoever is "trained and ordained" but they are actually older people who guide by example & teaching and who guard over the younger children of God. It is a voluntary act of service to God and others. "If anyone aspires to watch over others it is a good work he desires" (1 Timothy 3:1).

Because of the professional pastor and authoritative church elders, older men who are to truly shepherd and watch over God's people are disqualified from serving God(!) by the church! The church has replaced personal protectors with impersonal professional preachers! This means that countless more are attacked by fierce wolves and drawn away to false teachers because of this replacement. Which is more beneficial? One impersonal professional preacher per church building or a community of older men invested in personally looking out for and guiding the younger Christians? You can trace the Christian generational gap right to the pulpit of your local church.

Yes some wise men still do what older Christian men are supposed to do, thank God, but our preacher loving church system has largely robbed generation after generation of people of the wisdom, guidance, and guardianship of our older people.

In secular usage elder is an excellent translation (although it does not denote the gender) but because the church's traditions of an elder being an office/title/position of authority I think it would be much better to translate it differently. I prefer the term "older man" to "elder" because it gives us a clear idea of what the scripture is talking about. It also personalizes the text much more than a word often thought to refer to a position of authority. A position that is illegitimate in God's eyes anyway.

When you think "The older men who guide well are to be considered worthy of double honor" (1 Timothy 5:17) you can think of any lovingly helpful older person and thus value them as God intends. But we instead think of this as referring to someone in the office of elder or pastor honoring them in title rather than actual guidance because they are leaders in name but do not necessarily personally lead you.

Presbuteros was also used to refer to older men in Jewish leadership positions and is usually coupled with "chief priests and scribes" in the context letting us know this fact. The word presbuteros on its own does not include an idea of authority anymore than me saying "I saw an older man at the store" means "I saw a Jewish Rabbi at the store."

1 Peter 5:5 makes it obvious that presbuteros is not a title or position when it says, "You younger men be willing to yield & cooperate with the older men." "Younger man" is not a title or office and there is no scriptural reason to assume "older man" is either. Titus 2 also speaks to both older men and older women in regards to how they are to relate with younger men and women.

Quick Word Reference
Shepherd for Poimen instead of Pastor
Poimen means Shepherd and should not be translated as Pastor.
Pastor causes us to think of the sole authoritative leader of a local church organization/building. This is an utterly foreign concept to the New Testament.
Pastor hides/replaces the true meaning of shepherd and the figurative implications that were intended by God.

Older Man for Presbuteros instead of Elder
Presbuteros means Older and can be singular "older man," plural "older men," and has a feminine form "older woman/women."
In secular usage elder is an excellent translation (although it does not denote the gender).
The church's traditions of an elder being an office/title/position of authority remove the meaning of "older man" for "office of."
Thinking of older people instead of people in positions causes us to give greater consideration to the actual older men and women among us as God intended.

Service for Diakonia instead of Ministry
Diakonia means Service and should not be translated as Ministry which means the class or occupation of church leadership.
Service is work done for the benefit of others. At the time of the KJV ministry meant "the function of a priest" & "office of priest" and today pretty much means the same thing just swap priest for pastor. Today most see ministry as a specially called occupational field that you "go into" like cops go into law enforcement ministers go into ministry.
Few see ministry as simply the act of serving others and instead see it as a life-long position or type of work God tells you to do. That mindset causes people to take God's direction as a destination. It makes them see God's will as "Here is your career assignment. See you in heaven." When God's temporal guidance is taken as a life-long mission you think you no longer need to talk to God, that you've found His will and now you can do it. This idea of ministry sees God as an employer who sends you away instead of an empathetic friend who walks with you.

Servant for Diakonos instead of Minister or Deacon
Diakonos means Servant and should not be translated as minister which means leader or deacon, which is an unbiblical hierarchical office.
This word was literally translated as the opposite of its meaning. The word minister (a person not a verb) was transliterated too from the Latin and Latin was the language of the Catholic Church which already had ministras (transliterated ministers) as men in power over other men well before the KJV was written. Minister meaning "priest" in English started in the early 14th century (1301-1400). Considering the grim & bloody history of the institutional church there is no reason to assume any translation choice to not be tarnished intentionally to serve their leaders, buildings, and system. It is no wonder they chose to transliterate so many words from Latin into English or use the English words that originated from Latin that were already associated with the church. It allowed the meaning to be related to their religion instead of the clear idea of a "servant" that those apart from religion/church could understand and thus freely trust in God and serve Him instead of the church system and its men in power.

See Also:
My Notes on Elders in the Church & Older People in the Assembly, it talks about older men being "appointed/ordained," the so called "qualifications," and the possible age range of these people.
My post The Word Leaders in the New Testament, it talks about why "one above another" authority and honorary titles are forbidden by Jesus.
Frank Viola's Straight Talk to Pastors E-Book (PDF), it looks at the elders/older men of the assemblies in scripture by going through the New Testament Chronologically.
The Body With and Without Leaders


God in His foresight has already forgiven you of all of your sins (Colossians 2:13). Jesus made it to where you cannot damage your standing or relationship with Him on His side.

God does not count sins against you (2 Corinthians 5:19). So He doesn't want you to live as though He does. Because He is not counting sins against you it is not good for you to count things against yourself. God wants us to come to Him with our struggles but He also knows that focusing on past destructive actions does not better us. I used to go and confess lusts and it would bring the lusts back into my head and body. It is better for us not to be conscious of sin (Hebrews 10:1-2). We're told in Romans 6:11 to consider ourselves dead to sin. Why? Because we are. We are dead to sin (Romans 6:2). Dead men don't react, confess, or turn. God doesn't want us to live a lie or to pretend. He wants us to join Him in reality and what a wonderful reality He has provided for us in Jesus!

Our relationship with God is superior to our relationships with others because God is perfectly & selflessly loving. He never gets offended or angry because He put that on Jesus when He condemned sin in His body. God cares for our well-being so much that at the cross He removed anything that could possibly stand between Him and us. His forgiveness is already completed and we get to enjoy that reality all the time when we recognize it is complete. If we don't recognize His complete forgiveness then asking Him for forgiveness allows us to experience His forgiveness. Asking God for forgiveness doesn't gain new forgiveness, God doesn't have to forgive us again anymore than He has to be crucified again. Asking God for forgiveness just taps into what has been there since Jesus rose again.

It is great to have an open, honest relationship with God but it becomes even more wonderful when we live in the truth of what Jesus has done for us.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Being A New Man

Our spirit is born of God thus making us children of God. The new creation we are in Christ is our spirit, obviously we still have our old bodies. "The new creation has been created in God’s image. It is righteous and holy" (Ephesians 4:24). Our spirit is born of God and is sinless and perfect.
    "No one who is born of God sins." (1 John 5:18)
    "By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are saints" (Hebrews 10:14).
"Because Christ died for all we no longer regard anyone according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16). We are to identify ourselves by our spirit. Thus we "put off the old man," no longer identify with him thus serving the flesh and "put on the new man," regard ourselves as we really are in the spirit as righteous, holy, sinless, perfect, & much more.

Romans 6:6 says, "Our old man is crucified with Jesus." The old man is already dead and gone so "putting off the old man" is putting him off of our mind. "Putting on the new man" is putting him on our mind and all the goodness that God has created in him.

To walk in the spirit is to walk according to the truth about your new spirit. You allow God to renew your mind so it will trust in the truth of who your Father has made you. A Child of God doesn't strive to win but rests in the victory of their loving Father and their older brother Jesus.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

God's Old Target, Our Own Targets, Jesus's Victory Party

The Target of God's Law Before the Cross
Sin means "to miss the mark." The law is like a target with multiple marks to hit that hangs close above your head. Whatever you shoot at it that misses the marks falls back down as sin. No human being has the skill to hit every mark every time and will in fact miss most of the time.

The more laws you know the more marks you see on the target. The target lowers the more you miss the marks. Jesus came along and taught the law to the fullest. Those who thought they had always been hitting the "not committing adultery" mark every time found out the mark was much smaller and harder to hit because adultery is "looking with lust." The majority who seemed to easily hit the "do not murder" law found out that they had been missing it most of the time when Jesus said "hate is murder in the heart." At this point people are being crushed flat by the target with no room to shoot or even lift up their bow. When that happens the law fulfills its purpose by getting people to cry out "Help me Lord! I can't do this by myself!"

This illustrated the experiential reality of the law. It was meant to crush self-righteousness out of people so they would appeal to God for His mercy. The spiritual reality was if you missed one mark one time you would be as guilty as one who missed every mark every time.

Our Targets of Rules After the Cross
God's law target was removed at the cross because Jesus hit all the marks Himself. There are no God imposed marks on a target to hit. Christ took away the sin of the world so there is no more hit or miss mentality with God. There is just an open armed invitation of "Trust me to experience the abundant life of my love."

If you trust Him Jesus puts you under grace. Grace reaches high into the heavens and sends down beams of love. Where you stand under grace is high off the ground from where the law was. If you build a new target (a set of laws, rules, principles, obligations, & expectations) you experientially fall from grace, stand on the ground, and put the target over your head. The target blocks many of God's beams of love and grace and you feel down and lowly. You keep yourself from experiencing God by putting yourself under a law target. Under your own law you keep your own score. You condemn yourself (feel guilt and shame) by keeping score. God is not counting anymore because His law was fulfilled by Jesus.

Some people put themselves under law as a means of inflating their ego. They choose what they are good at & put that up as a target. Then they look down on others who don't have the same target with the same marks. Having any target makes you self-righteous because you aren't relying on God's grace or the righteousness of Christ.

The Victory Party
Jesus hit every mark every time. The archery contest is over and Jesus has won! He invites you to share in His victory. Jesus did all the work and you get the same benefits of the victory as He does! You could say that salvation is trusting that Jesus really did win and accepting His invitation to His victory party.

The apostles were whipped and beaten and they rejoiced about it (Acts 5:40-41). Paul and Silas sang praises while bound in a horrid jail (Acts 16:25). For these men Jesus' victory was so great that even persecution was a party! The law is taken away so this party has no rules! Who needs rules when you're partying with the most loving guy in the universe? His good company improves our character!

Party on, Christians! Party on, Jesus!