Friday, March 30, 2012

The Responsibility of Our Relationship with God

We incorrectly learn that the responsibility of the relationship is on us. The question is not "How do I build a relationship with God?" it is "How do I begin to recognize how God is building a relationship with me?" He loves us so that we may live through Him and He live through us.

Our willingness to respond and rest is what ultimately makes the relationship happen because a relationship does take two. But when people think the responsibility of the relationship is ours we will make up or perform practices that we think will help us "get to God" that actually make a real natural relationship impossible. We will attempt to define what the relationship is when God should be doing that. Instead of trying to connect with the true God in spirit we follow performance based practices (religion) which cause us to ignore or write off God's advances towards us.

We can't force God to respond to us and trying to is an attempt to control Him. We can respond to Him and let Him reveal His love to us. Taking this burden that is not ours will lead us to work in vain & severely limit God. "Unless the Lord is the builder of the house (people/relationship) those who labor to build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). "Christ is in charge of God's entire house and we are God's house" (Hebrews 3:6).

Religion puts the responsibility of the relationship on us. It tells us to love God before we explore His love for us. It tells us to work for God as an unquestionable slave master who has already given out His assignments instead of walking with a Father and doing work on that journey with Him when He tells us to.

Human relationships involve people trying to figure things out together. We are equal in that regard. God already has everything figured out. He already knows what is best and has already prepared good things for us to do. If we don't let Him be responsible for the relationship then He will still clean up our messes and work things to our benefit as much as He can (Romans 8:28). His love allows Him to do nothing less.

God is the ultimate expert on life and love that is why we follow Him. Most think of submission to God as obeying the scriptures and avoiding destructive behaviors but submission in the bible means "relational cooperation." It only takes place in a living relationship where God is presenting you with something to cooperate with.

We do have a say in our relationship with God. We can choose love or we can choose self and I don't mean selfishness I mean self-effort. We can let Him be who He wants to be, the greatest love and experience of our life, or we can take the responsibility of the relationship on ourselves thus trying to make Him be who we want Him to be for us in our short-sightedness.

The truth is that it isn't about us giving our lives to God, it is about Him giving His life to us. The difference is a life of recurring misery vs. a life of rich joy.

Get truth from The Truth

Jesus said the Holy Spirit would lead us to ALL truth. That means there is no truth that we are lead to that doesn't have His involvement. It also means anywhere we think we've gotten truth where we can't recognize the involvement of the Spirit is worth calling into question. Preachers, teachers, authors, and even scripture we've learned from are worth our time taking to God to be taught by Him.

There is an untold amount of false & ignorant teachings & interpretations out there. Just because you are reading the bible doesn't mean it isn't being distorted through the lens you unwittingly look through. Turn to the Spirit of God before turning to the scriptures because it is unwise to wholly trust your interpretation of scripture. The Spirit may point you to the scriptures to teach you the truth and He may not. God is living and living inside of you. Trust Him more than what you've heard and speak with Him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Back Posts

I've added these back posts to put up my good teachings from the past which were posted elsewhere or dug out of my notes. Though some are revised and have updates I back dated them because I feel they represent that time for me well.

Law, Works, Character - 12/5/08
Valuing Truth and The Motivation for Sharing It - 1/29/09
In Context: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." - 3/27/09
In Context: "The truth will set you free." - 3/27/09
Arguing - 10/9/09

Letter to God 8/21/2010:  In this letter I asked God to "deliver me from sin" & "make me dead to it." Oh how true this became. He gave me the revelation of my sinless identity in His eyes as explained in my Sin? Forgetaboutit! teachings. He answered my prayer within the following year literally beyond all I would have asked or imagined! I added an update to the end to show all the ways He has since answered my letter.

Growth in Christ Through Relationships - 2/13/11
In Context: "Forsake not the assembling.." - 2/19/11
Failure as A Sign - 2/21/11
Feelings - 2/28/11
Suffering is Not God's Punishment - 3/11/1
Division: The True Heresy - 3/12/11
How "Preach" is Used with Bias in Translating the Bible - 4/9/11
Loving the Law More than Others - 4/21/11
Notes on Jesus' Teaching on the Mount: Why Jesus Taught the Law, The Two Builders - 4/21/11
Intellectual Knowledge vs. Relational Trust - 5/7/11
Conversation about Christ - 5/15/11
Already Holy - 5/15/11
In Context: "Forsake not.." & "I can do all things.." Revisited - 5/21/11
Variations on Psalm 23:6 - 8/24/11

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Take Up Your Cross Daily † You Have Been Crucified With Christ

"The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day." And summoning the crowd with His disciples, Jesus said to all, “If anyone is willing to follow behind Me, let him deny himself, and pick up his cross daily, and follow Me." (Luke 9:22-23; Mark 8:34)

Physically Follow Me
When Jesus said "follow me" He meant "physically follow me." The word for "follow" literally means "to accompany on the same road." Jesus was taking the road to the cross. We think of following Jesus today as "following His teachings." Jesus didn't mean that here. When He said "follow me" He didn't mean "Stay here, think about what I've taught you, and put it into practice while I go on to the next town." No one would've taken it that way when the man is right there in front of them. He was talking to a crowd and to His disciples. There is no telling how much the crowd had heard Jesus teach up to that point. It would have been silly for Jesus to mean "follow my teachings" when the crowd had barely heard Him teach.

Deny Self
Anyone who willingly takes up a cross has to deny self. Jesus even did it. In the garden of Gethsemane He prayed to the Father saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." Jesus was very troubled and grieved and distressed. He denied Himself and chose to do what the Father wanted. He "took up His cross" that night and headed to take up the physical cross soon after.

Most teach that "taking up your cross" is something like a reiteration of "deny yourself." As I've shown denial of self is a must for willingly taking up a cross but taking up your cross is not the same as denying yourself. No one today has to "take up their cross" because Jesus already crucified us with Himself on the cross. There are times when God wants us to change our intentions but usually only for the sake of benefiting others or to lessen our own unloving ambitions.

Why "Take Up Your Cross" Doesn't Mean "Crucify Yourself Daily" or "Die Daily."
Jesus Didn't Say "Crucify"
Jesus didn't say "Crucify yourself daily" He said "pick up your cross daily." We know there was a word for crucify because people shouted it at Jesus. If Jesus meant crucify, as in kill yourself, then He would have said it. Immediately before this Jesus said "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be killed and be raised up on the third day." Jesus was on a journey to the cross. A journey to a cross involves carrying the cross. Christ died once not daily. Jesus took up his figurative cross daily because He knew He was headed for the real thing. To follow a man you have to go where he is going. Jesus was going to the cross.

You Can't Crucify Yourself
No one can nail down all of their own limbs. Someone can however pick up a cross and walk with it on their shoulder. This wasn't even about a figurative daily death. Jesus wanted people to follow Him to His destination of the cross and receive the new & eternal life on the other end of it. There is not an indication in scripture that the disciples were miserable hanging out with Jesus or that they suffered daily more than the average traveler at the time. "Taking up your cross" was about the destination and the perseverance to reach that destination.

Scripture Never Commands that We "Die to Self" or "Die Daily"
Paul said "I die daily" in 1 Corinthians 15:31 referring to the closeness he comes to dying every day by putting his life in danger for the Gospel. He says "We are in danger every hour" and "I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus." There is nothing in this context to make us think that Paul is boasting about his efforts of self-denial. His point in the context is "Why would I put my life in danger, and I assure you I do every day, if there were no resurrection?" Romans 8:35-37, "we are being put to death all day long," also concerns facing physical dangers.

"Die to self" is a Christian buzz-phrase that isn't found in scripture. It typically means "self denial." Notice Jesus didn't even say "deny yourself daily." What He meant at the time was "If you want to follow me you'll have to leave everything you have" much like the fisherman disciples did. Denying self in Luke 9 was to pick up and physically follow Jesus. It wasn't a religious stringency but a one time abandonment of all someone had.

We live after the wonder that is the death and resurrection of Jesus. We are changed for the better by embracing Christ not by denying self. Scripture actually speaks against a focus on continual self denial. "Rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, strict self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (Colossians 2:23). "Don't let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial" (Colossians 2:18). The scriptures says that a lifestyle of strict self-denial is worthless and imposing it upon someone else is condemning.

Christ Died Once and We Died With Him
Notice all references to the Christian's crucifixion and death are past tense.
"I have been crucified with Christ" (Galatians 2:20). "Christ died for all, and therefore all died" (2 Corinthians 5:14). "For those who are in Christ the old creation has gone" (2 Corinthians 5:17). "We are those who have died to sin" (Romans 6:2). "We were buried with Jesus and we have been united with him in a death. Our old self was crucified with him" (Romans 6:4-6). "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3). "Christ died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit" (1 Peter 3:18).

"Christ raised from the dead never to die again. Death has no more power over Him. When He died He died to sin once for all. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin" (Romans 6:9-11). The "same way" means "We rose from the dead with Christ never to die again. We died to sin once." We died once and have no need to die ever again.

A New Self
Jesus' statement sounds like a requirement for salvation and for the Christian life. We see multiple encouragements for self-control in the New Testament. Why then does no post-cross New Testament author command anyone to deny self? "Our old self was crucified with Christ" (Romans 6:6). Praise God! We aren't to deny self because we have a new self, one that is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3), righteous, holy, and perfect (Hebrews 10:14). We are to live from our new self, which is our reborn spirit, and use it to control our bodies. Those who think we must "take up our cross" and "deny ourselves" don't understand the finished work of Christ, the new birth, or the life we have in Christ. We have already been to the cross and we have a new self. Now we sit with Jesus in heavenly places.

When we mistake our identity as a dirty worthless sinner then "dying to self" seems like a good thing but the problem is we don't know who we are, the wonderful new creature God has made us to be. God's type of love is not self-seeking. It is others focused and self-giving. We have the full goodness of God to give from ourselves because we are God's beloved children. God identifies us solely by the goodness of Jesus and the goodness He has put in us.

The Results
Almost no one ultimately carried their cross every day but God's mercy and love had them covered. When the disciples carried their crosses as far as they could go on the night of His arrest Jesus took their crosses on His back and carried on. When John, the three Mary's, and Jesus' aunt followed Him to the foot of His cross He took the crosses off of their backs and laid them on His own. Jesus was crucified on their crosses on their behalf. He is the only one who physically died upon the true cross and He suffered on all of our behalves. All of our crosses have already been carried. Our old spirits, our old selves were painlessly crucified with Him and we rose with Him in new life. This gift of new life we have is the greatest gift of all time because Jesus is life and His loving kindness is new every morning. God gives us daily doses of love and kindness. His love trickles-down and transforms. Those are days I want to live.

"Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in sins. It is by His favor that you have been saved.
God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus
" (Ephesians 2:4-6)

Related Post:
For all posts on this topic visit our Life from Self page

Monday, March 19, 2012

What Makes Someone Holy?

Modern Christianity thinks that holiness is something you attain to by good behavior.

Moses was called the humblest man who ever lived. That is a huge deal. But did his humble behavior change his face and make it shine? No. What did it then? He stood on holy ground and he saw the holy God. Moses got close to God.

Christian you are closer to God than Moses was. God lives inside of you. You have a spiritual unity with God that Jesus describes in John 17 as God in you and you in God. What then makes you holy? Is it your good behavior or is it the presence of God?

God living in you makes you more godly and more holy than even a lifetime of perfect behavior could. God named His children "saints" which means "holy people." Give up trying to be "good enough." God has already made you good enough, just live out of the goodness He has already supplied. That goodness is Himself in you.

Related Posts
To Be or To Become?
God is Love Means God Loves You [Section:  We Are Holy Because He is Holy]
Be Perfect Like You? Are You Serious God? [Section:  We are Perfected by The Prince of Peace]
The Discipline of the Lord, Our Loving Father Helping Us Grow

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Christianity: Academic Pursuit or Love Relationships

Some don't want scripture to speak to their heart before it speaks to their head so they require a reference for every scripture quoted. They want intellectual validation rather than spiritual validation. They look to interpret something based on their established lens rather than being taught by the Spirit of God who reveals the deep truths of God. Is Christianity merely an academic pursuit or is it about full-fledged love relationships with God and others?

Study Scripture or Show Your Spirit?
"Study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)

The word "study" is an old English word used in the KJV that has changed meaning since the KJV was translated. It isn't talking about academic study. It means "make every effort" or "be diligent." Sure that could include academic study but academic study is not specifically in view here. That outdated translation has caused many to be "always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). This is because they trust their intellectual interpretation of scripture over trusting the interaction of God in their spirit. They ignore the red flags that God gives through their feelings and write them off as selfishness. Presuppositions rule and our spirit is treated as if it were never reborn.

People take 2 Timothy 2:15 to mean, "Study scripture so God will approve of you" but what it really means is "You are already approved by God so make every effort to act like it." It doesn't mean you have to earn God's approval. You show that you already are approved of by God rather than strive to become approved. You do whatever you can to let others know what a joy it is to have God's approval. You live by and show your perfect spirit.

Divvying the Truth
"Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" does not primarily mean "make sure your sermon or lesson is accurate." It in fact runs contrary to that. Rightly dividing means you know who to give what truth to and when. The relational disbursement of truth is in view here not the blanketing of a message to a group of people. It is like dividing up a meal. You are considerate of the portions people need, their allergies, when they've eaten, and what they've eaten in the past.

"Rightly dividing the Word of Truth" is less about relaying information correctly as it is about relaying the correct information to the correct people. Don't simply tell the truth but know who needs what truth and follow the Spirit to give it to them at the best time. Just because you know doesn't mean you should tell everyone. Not everyone is ready to hear. Jesus taught in parables for that very reason.

Jesus deeply considered who He was talking to and when. Most today don't understand that about Him. Today people tend to approach the scriptures, especially the New Testament, with the mindset "I'm the audience so I must do whatever the bible says where ever it says it." Jesus' primary audience was pre-cross, under the law Jews. All people today are post-cross, post-resurrection, and are not under the law.

2 Timothy 2:15 is about others. You make every effort to show God's approving love to others. You give out truth to others when they need it most. This isn't a passage for a professional preacher. It is a scripture for every spiritual saint.

Person Traded for Papers
The Bible is like the biography of our friend God. The book does not replace God. Jesus said the Holy Spirit was one just like Himself sent to teach us & relate to us. Jesus specifically said in John 16:8-10 that the Holy Spirit is given to convince Christians of their righteousness (right standing with God) because God is no longer visibly on earth.

Modern Christianity treats the Bible as God. It treats Jesus as a distant historical figure. It treats the Father as someone in heaven who you pray strictly ordered prayers to who never talks back. For the Christian this views God as someone you try your best to act morally for because you are afraid God will get mad at you.

The reality: The Bible is mostly a historical record of God and His people in history prior to the 2nd century AD. It contains poetry about how some people felt and letters of instruction and advice from people who knew God well. It is a trustworthy record of God making Himself known to people in the time span it was written.

Jesus died on a cross to take away the sins of the world & He came back to life 3 days later. Because of this God never gets mad at His children. Jesus then became a life-giving Spirit who lives inside of all those who trust Him (1 Corinthians 15:45). He offers an unbreakable spiritual relationship. He is not distant but closer in the present than physically possible. The Father is like the Son, He lives in you and aims to show you love and to help, teach, & relate to you all your life.

God is not angry or distant. He holds no sin against any living person. He is closer to mankind than He has ever been. How sad would my relationship with my wife be if all it consisted of was me reading her love letters to me and leaving her messages about things I want? Approach God boldly and say "I want to know & experience your love." Don't feel like you are unworthy to do so. The blood of Christ has made you worthy forever.

No Summer Vacation
The methods of teaching in churches are patterned after Ancient Greece and not the style of Christ. Churches today have lectures (sermons) by professors (pastors) & classes with progressive lessons by teachers. Secular methods of teaching will result in non-spiritual learning. Thus people speak of God abstractly, think of Him as distant (impersonal), and argue about Him academically.

Church buildings are the schools Christians are "forced" to go to every week where most people can't wait to hear the final bell ring (the closing prayer). You get dirty looks for disrupting class (talking during a sermon or asking too many questions in Sunday school). You are required to sit and listen quietly and sometimes you get assigned home work.

I am not saying going to church is universally bad but I am saying that their methods are largely ineffective, unbiblical, & unChrist-like. It is much easier to receive falsehood and shame from the unquestionable trained professional than it is from a peer whom you can converse with. While it is fine to enjoy going to church a Christian doesn't have to want to go to church because churches as we know them aren't God's way and were never God's intention. What we call church is not the community of Christ that wows the world with their love for one another but instead is an obligatory academic institution.

Many of Jesus' famous sayings were responses to people not preplanned lectures. The Lord's Prayer & "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" are two examples. Most of Jesus' teachings were to His disciples whom He had relationships with. Jesus didn't teach them "a series on faith" or "a series on prayer." Jesus didn't teach with planned prescriptions. He taught man-to-man, person-to-person. He related with people and responded to them. He taught them at the times of their greatest benefit. Feel relieved that even in God's perfect timing the disciples still didn't understand a lot of what Jesus said.

Today preachers travel around preaching prepared messages to people they don't know. That is as unrelational as it gets and it is not Christ-like. When you don't have to relate to people you don't have to think much and you can just recite your prepared message with no interruptions. The Spirit has little to no wiggle room to help people through such messages.

Jesus taught crowds because crowds followed Him. He didn't schedule meetings for people to come. He actually attempted to escape crowds from time to time. We try to draw crowds to ourselves. Jesus didn't even command His disciples to set up meetings and draw crowds He sent them out in pairs to go house to house. Jesus' strategies were personal and impactful. Jesus "rightly divided the Word of Truth" His whole life all for the benefit of those who listened.

Jesus and Children
"People were bringing some children, even their babies to Jesus, so that He might touch them, lay His hands on them, and pray. And when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking those who brought them. But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant, and called for them, saying to them, “Let the children alone. Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them from coming to Me, for the kingdom of the God of Heaven belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will not enter into it at all. And taking them in His arms, He was blessing them. And putting His hands on them, He departed from there." (Matthew 19:13-15, Mark 10:13-16, Luke 18:15-17)

Jesus took children into His arms. He didn't send them away to a class or force them to memorize scripture. How did Jesus treat children? He invited them, He did not push them aside, He showed affection by touch, He prayed for them, He blessed them, He healed them, and He validated them. Jesus said He only did what He saw the Father doing. Well look at what Jesus did with children. That is the Father there too! He wasn't burdening them with laws and scriptures and study. He lovingly showed them affection.

Sadly parents feel a responsibility to train their children academically in regards to God. "Family bible study is a serious time because God is serious." Christian parents still teach their children the old covenant law. The law that brings death! A self-aware teenager might view life like this, "Life sucks under the law and God is no fun to be around. He is always getting on my case!"

Jesus did not use fear, punishment, and obligation to manipulate people. Why? Because He wasn't afraid. He knew how the Father felt about Him, He knew who He was and He enjoyed working with His Father because of the love they shared. We can live like this too.

Jesus died so we could know God forever and experience and share His love. Relationships!
The Assembly (true church) is the community of Christ that wows the world with their love for one another. Relationships!
Jesus welcomed children and treated them with loving affection. Relationships!

I pray that you experience the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge (Ephesians 3:19)

"Do not argue about trivial, insignificant things. Doing so helps no one and ruins those who hear you." (2 Timothy 2:14)

Here are some interesting definitions of "academic"
  • hypothetical or theoretical and not expected to produce an immediate or practical result
  • marked by a narrow focus on or display of learning especially its trivial aspects
  • Scholarly to the point of being unaware of the outside world
  • Theoretical or speculative without a practical purpose or intention
  • Having no practical purpose or use; belonging or relating to a place of learning, esp a college, university, or academy (church)
  • excessively concerned with intellectual matters and lacking experience of practical affairs
  • conforming to set rules and traditions

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Living by the Spirit

Knowing Our New Self
God is love. Christ fulfilled the law. So love truly is the fulfilling of the law. We love because He first loved us.

"God condemned sin in the body of Jesus in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the flesh but according to the spirit. Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the spirit have their minds set on what the spirit desires" (Romans 8:3-5).

Our spirits are our true identity. Our spirits (our new man/new creation) are created in such a way that they not only have righteousness in the sense that they are "right with God" but they also are credited with the perfect obedience of Jesus. They are righteous in the sense that they've already kept the whole law. Our spirits always "live by the spirit." Jesus obeyed on our behalf so to God it is as if we have always obeyed. Disobedience is sin and God remembers our sins no more, He took them away at the cross, so all we have left for Him to remember is good. Because of Jesus' death the righteous requirement of the law is fully met in our spirits.

Therefore if we live according to the spirit by putting our minds on God, His spiritual blessings, and the favor He has for all His children our outward lives will reflect the loving nature He has born into us. If we live knowing the goodness of the nature we inherited from God & live in relationship with the life giving Spirit of Christ within us we will love others like Jesus did and participate in the love He wants to display to those around us today.

Relating to God in the Spirit
While God does engage with us at times He seems to give us autonomy in our relationship with Him. He does not force Himself upon us. James 4:8 supports this idea, "Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you."

Since we approach God through the spirit we have to think about Him to approach Him. Our relationship with God is very practical. If we don't take time to think about Him we usually don't get the benefits of the relationship.

I've been blessed with the opportunities to dwell on God a lot. I personally think about the amazing things He's done for us through the cross. That draws me near to Him and fills me with joy.

Remember, God is the source of all good so God is loving us in many areas where we just don't realize He is involved. God participates in bringing us all the joys of our life. He truly is in sunsets, smiles, laughter, and breezes. He loves us in far more ways than we know. God participates in all the non-destructive pleasures of life.

"You make known to me the path of life; In Your presence I am filled with joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever."
(Psalm 16:11)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Questioning God is Ok

I saw the following quote somewhere, below is my response to it.
"Don't put a question mark where God puts a period."

Do we have such perfect spiritual hearing that we aren't to question what we think is God? Many follow deceptive thoughts and selfish ambition thinking it is the Lord's voice. When we aren't allowed to question God we lose our intimate relationship with Him and in fact hinder further communication with Him and instruction from Him.

Open honesty is best for our relationship with God. Pretending to be certain about something is not. If we continue to communicate with God and listen to Him He will turn doubt into desire. He will expose falsehood as the destructive force it is. He will turn our uncertainty into treasured reality.

It is better to doubt God than it is to lie to yourself. Doubt is not a reason to muster up confidence. Doubt is a reason to consult the Father. The Father knows that doubts are best removed inside of a loving relationship. Trying to convince yourself that you "shouldn't doubt" or "shouldn't be afraid" doesn't drive out fear. Only God's perfect love drives out fear and doubt. You don't have to "fake it until you make it," simply relate and receive. He started your faith and He finishes it so why do we think that means we have to muster something up in-between?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Seek First † Already Found

"Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all your needs will be supplied. Fear not little flock because your Father delights to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32)

This is a statement Jesus made before the cross. The kingdom was the King because speaking of Himself Jesus said "The kingdom of God is among you" (Luke 17:21). The righteousness of the Father is the Son. Jesus was telling these people, by appealing to their basic needs, to continue to seek God so they would fully find Him after His resurrection.

Those who live in the power of His resurrection are born again and at the beginning of their new life they are given everything they need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3a). Jesus wasn't giving a conditional command for Christians. He was encouraging those gathered to hear Him that day to seek God foremost so they may not miss out on the risen Jesus & everything He gives because He would be their true supply in life.

Jesus said in Luke 11:13, "He who seeks finds. The Father knows how to give good gifts to His children. Your Father who is in heaven will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" When Jesus said this the Holy Spirit was not yet being given out. Jesus was encouraging people to continue seeking God so they could have God's eternal best, Himself living inside of them.

We who have trusted Jesus are united with God. We have the King, we're in the kingdom, we have His righteousness, and everything we need for life and godliness has already been supplied. God's gifts can never be withdrawn, they are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). We are righteous & supplied forever! Now is the time to rest in our relationship with Him. Our seeking is over! We have Who we need and everything we need! All that is left to do is learn about who He is and become aware of what He has already given (2 Peter 1:3).

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Meaning of "Fallen from Grace"

"You who are trying to be justified (made right with God, made righteous) by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace." (Galatians 5:4)

Falling from grace means we try to merit God's favor and love by our own works. Many think that not trying hard to please God is falling from grace but in fact it is the opposite. Falling from grace is used once in the scriptures and refers to "trying to gain or maintain your own righteousness." Falling from grace isn't the loss of salvation it is a practical reality that means you don't receive God's grace in your life because you are trying to earn a gift, you are too busy working to stop, rest, and receive Christ's gift. When you have fallen from grace it is not because you have done something wrong but because you are not receiving God's grace in your relationship with Him.

We nullify the grace of God when we try to be good on our own. It is not that His favor for us ends. It is that we live as though His favor/grace does not make us right with Him (justified or righteous) so we try to earn God's favor by doing for God instead of trusting in God. Law (principles, rules, requirements, expectations) points you to yourself and your own efforts. Grace points you to Christ and His efforts on your behalf.

It is sad that almost 100% of how Christianity is preached/taught is to live in that fallen from grace state. That everything depends on you and if you mess up you are separated from fellowship with God and you've got to strive to do great things for God...

Those things sound good and right. But God's ways are far above our ways. We don't have to earn God's favor to be saved and we don't have to earn it to continue in life. We have it. We do not have to earn God's approval by what we do anymore than an infant has to earn his or her parents' approval.

Expectations breed guilt and shame because if you think you have a measuring stick you will measure yourself. The only thing we need to be measuring is how much God loves us. His love transforms us and gives us far more than we can even ask or imagine.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Miracles of Love: The Great Catch of Fish

The miracles of Jesus weren't just to show off. They were to show love.

The Miracle of The Great Catch of Fish
One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, "Depart from me because I am a sinful man, Lord." For he and all his companions, which included James and John, were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken.

Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear. Follow me and from now on I will make you become fishers catching men." When they had brought their boats to land, they immediately left their nets and everything and followed Him.

Knowing the Giver is the Ultimate Gift
Jesus did a miracle of love. We often think of miracles as simply signs and wonders but Jesus' miracles were acts of love. What man who fishes for a living wouldn't love catching such a large amount of fish? Healing and giving are acts of love. Jesus restored people and set them free. When He turned the water into wine He turned it into good wine with a taste that pleased the people at the wedding. Miracles shouldn't be viewed only as "Wow God!" but "Wow God loves us!"

I'd like to point out that "follow me" doesn't just concern Jesus' leadership but also His companionship. These men spent years with Jesus. They weren't trailing and trembling. They were loved by Jesus, open and free to be themselves.

Here is another thing we should be careful not to miss. Jesus just gave these men more fish than they could dream of ever catching yet they left the miracle to follow the man. The miracle was meaningless compared to the man. The gift pointed to God the Giver. Too often people make the gift into God and throw God out with the packing peanuts. These men dropped the gift and followed God the Giver. What a perspective to have! To be so enthralled with God that you leave what seems to be the gift of a lifetime.

May we start being more grateful for the Giver than the gift. May we marvel at the Messiah more than the miracle. May we not be more consumed with receiving than we are with our relationship with Jesus.

The Miracle of God Not Counting Sins Against Us, The Removal of Shame
Jesus and Simon Peter had already met (John 1:35-42). That is why he called Jesus "Master," a worldly term meaning "one of a higher rank." The miracle caused Simon to recognize Jesus as "Lord," a term Jews used for God. But Simon's shame over his sins caused him to fear Jesus. Jesus ignored Simon's sinful state. He didn't count it against him. Jesus said to him, "Do not fear. Follow me." If only we would realize that this is Jesus' response to all sin!

The father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) wasn't concerned with what his son had done. He just wanted to celebrate with him. When he returned the son in that story said, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." What a statement of shame! He basically said, "My guilt from sin is so great I am invaluable in your sight." So many people think that, both lost and saved, but what they don't count on is the love of an incredible father.

Like Jesus did to Peter the father ignored the sin and feelings of shame and immediately said, "Quick let's celebrate because my son is now with me!" Please realize and remember, this reaction is exactly what it looks like for God to "no longer remember the sins of His people" (Hebrews 8:12,10:17). He forgot your sins before the confession of your sinful state could leave your lips.

God says to all who come to Him, "Do not fear. Come with me and let's celebrate! We will invite others to the party so they too can enjoy my gracious love!"

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Purposes of The Law & Its Punishments

The Purposes of The Law
To Lead People to God
Just before the law was given people didn't realize they had the problem of sin. The main purpose God gave the law was for people to recognize their problem and go to God for help. It was like a spotlight on a need that was hard to see for the people of the time. The law was like a test that revealed the cancer of sin and God is the doctor who offers the cure. Sadly the people misunderstood the law and tried to follow it to the exclusion of relating to God. The law was thought to be a personal way to gain favor with God (cure themselves) instead of a spotlight to show our need for God & His mercy. While it may not seem like it the purpose of the law was actually relational.

The laws God gave were in a sense "too perfect" for all people to keep. Thus the New Testament says in 2 places (Romans 3:19 & Galatians 3:24) that the purpose of the law wasn't 100% obedience but to lead people to God. In another sense no law can really be perfect because it does not empower people to obey the law. Having laws doesn't mean people can or will keep the laws just like receiving a large credit card bill doesn't mean you can pay the debt.

Which is better for a child - a standalone list of rules or a loving parent who guides their child? With Jesus God officially removed the list of rules so now He relates to people on an individual basis as His children. He guides those who trust Him by living inside of them and bringing love through them. God allows mankind freedom so the law was the perfect way for God to relate to people in the time frame it was in effect (Moses on Mt. Sinai to Jesus). Jesus came in the perfect time in human history and one of the things He did was fulfill/end the law at the perfect time.

To Teach People to Love
The secondary purpose of the law was for people to know how to treat each other lovingly. Romans 13:10 in the New Testament says, "Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." If you love someone you won't harm them. I have heard it said that "the law shows you how to treat people you don't love." Love prevents harm and makes the world a better place to live.

Now we have the spirit of God, the spirit of love, living inside of us to tell us how to love. We are no longer burdened by laws but blessed by God to behave lovingly. Christians are to live by a spiritual relationship with God and not by the commands and principles of scripture. While scriptures & the law may give us helpful advice they are not meant to be standards that Christians live by.

The Bible is an aide that helps us relate to God & know Him better. The Bible is not a replacement for a relationship with God. Many Jews made that mistake, replacing relationship with God with the scriptures & the law causing them to miss the Messiah when He came. May we not miss Him in our day-to-day lives by making the same mistake.

To Govern the Nation of Israel
The third and most archaic reason for the law was to govern the nation of Israel. Some laws and punishments were for governing the nation of Israel. There are reasons that the laws were good for the people of Israel and why they were better than what the other cultures at the time had. Just as today the United States has laws with punishments & sentences Israel did as well.

Instructions were given to help the judges know how to govern. The laws and judges prevented the society from being overrun with criminals. God gave that ancient culture the best system of government they could handle. God only wanted what was best for Israel but they were often unwilling to cooperate with God and live the blessed lives He offered them.

Why Did the Law Have Such Harsh Punishments & Curses?
To Provide A Safe Society
Because God is all wise and knew the people He was dealing with some laws were more preventative and some punishments more severe than those we are accustom to today. The surface reason for this was to provide a safe society. People were punished for what we would call smaller crimes to prevent them from entering a life of crime and doing more harm to society as a whole. God perfectly understood how one sin leads to another so for the sake of His people as a whole He gave instruction for some very severe punishments.

To Lead People to God to Appeal for Mercy
Often we try to justify the Old Covenant laws & punishments with our logic but perhaps these laws were to speak to the people's hearts about the need for forgiveness. Perhaps this was God's second inroad into people's hearts. The first being the failure to keep the law.

Jesus said the second greatest law was to "love your neighbor as yourself." If you were caught in a sin that was punishable by death you would want to be forgiven. You would not want to have stones picked up by others to kill you. If you love your neighbor as yourself you wouldn't pick up stones to kill Him. You would instead say, "Lord have mercy on us all!"

Loving parents wouldn't want to stone their children no matter what the law said (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). A loving father would cry out for his children, "Forgive them Lord! They know not what they do." These punishments should disgust us, they were meant to. God commanded sacrifices & offerings but in Psalm 40 and Hebrews 10 God said that He does not desire the very offerings and sacrifices that He commanded. His commands weren't always His will or His desires [see this post for more:  Did God Desire for All of His Laws to Be Obeyed?].

Again the law was never about perfect obedience it was about leading people to God. God appealed to whatever part of men that was "made in the image of God" that sin didn't destroy. With these stomach turning consequences people would not only seek God's mercy for themselves but His mercy for others as well. God even made stoning a public affair so multiple consciences could be involved creating a better chance for someone to cry out to God for His forgiveness & mercy. Remember Jesus' response to stoning was "He who is without sin throw the first stone." God never wanted anyone to be stoned for sinning. He wanted humility, mercy, love, and forgiveness to spring out of people's hearts and pick up their stones only for the sake of dropping them as a show of forgiveness from the community.

To Show Us The Depths of Christ's Love in His Suffering.
God had punishments and curses for breaking the laws. Reading these today we can see the depth of what it meant that "Jesus became a curse for us" & that "Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law" (Galatians 3:13). They show us the depth of His suffering for our sins. He took upon all the curses, punishments, & judgments that sin has ever been earned and ever will earn by mankind. What a wonderful God!

The Law is Finished
The Law is over and has been since the cross. Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law by being obedient to God's desires through it & by becoming a curse for us, taking on all the negative consequences of not keeping the law. He took care of the positive side of the law on our behalf and the negative side of the law on our behalf.

Talk about "It is finished!" That very term refers to the law and its judgments against us. Jesus had not yet sprinkled His blood on the mercy seat in heaven nor had He resurrected so His redemptive work was not finished at that moment on the cross. What was finished was the law. 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." Where were they taken away? On 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." When did He abolish them? At the cross.

God is finished with asking people to keep the law and God is finished with punishing people for not keeping the law. The Law is Finished! It served its purpose. Now we are made right with God by trusting Jesus and we live life by trusting Jesus.

Goodbye rules hello relationship! So long principles hello Prince of Peace! Goodbye condemnation welcome Christ! It is finished! It is finished indeed!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Forcing Beliefs

From Matthew 13:34, here is Jesus explaining the kind of love He has,
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

Jesus wants people to know that He is forgiving even of the worst kinds of things. He longs to love, protect, & comfort people. Jesus doesn't violate someone's choice to reject or disbelieve Him. Those who want nothing to do with Him get what they want.

While I think it is good to humbly admit potential ignorance and suspend your disbelief the idea that someone should accept something with no evidence is absurd and that was never the way Jesus presented Himself nor was it ever how the gospel was presented in the first century.

Just as Jesus didn't force Himself on anyone it is not a good idea for a Christian or anyone else to try and force their beliefs on someone else. I mean that not only for individuals but also on on political, national, & legislative scales. Compassion does not consist of entitlement because you think you are right or fighting against something because you are afraid of it.

There is no record of Jesus bursting into pagan temples and telling them how wrong they are nor is there of Jesus going to Rome to get Caesar to change the laws and practices of the empire. Jesus allowed people to not follow Him. While it may not look like it because of the people who claim to follow Jesus, that was His way.

It is ok for everyone to have a voice but it is not loving to try to remove someone else's choice unless you are legitimately protecting another person from them. Sadly it is hard for people to understand that their personal fears do not equal compassionate protection for others.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Reconciliation Now! The Good News of Reconciliation

God the Father was in Christ on the cross, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)

We have reconciliation available now. God reconciled the world to Himself no longer counting people's sins against them. The gospel isn't primarily about heaven and hell. It is not about law or your failure to keep the law. The good news is that sins & all barriers between us and God are taken away. The gospel is about relationship. Jesus said "This is eternal life, to know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent." Eternal life isn't about a destination, though it includes one. Eternal life is an intimate and everlasting relationship with the person of God. The good news is this, that I can know God and be known by Him!!

What is Reconciliation?
Reconcile means to restore relations. The word is used in scripture in regard to the fact that in the garden of Eden people did have a close relationship with God. God in Christ restored the availability of relationship by taking away the sins of the world so there is no barrier between God and man. People just need to engage God with trust and they will get to know the amazing God He is. Reconciliation in the broad sense is God lifting mankind up from the fall to where they are free to relate to God again. So today reconciliation refers to God making relationship with Himself available to all.

Jesus is said to be the "propitiation" for our sins. That means His sacrifice removed the animosity God would have towards people for their behavior. He no longer counts sins against people. If we ever doubt the magnitude of God's generous and forgiving love for us we need only to look to the cross.

What Does it Mean to "Repent and Believe?"
The word repent means "to change your mind." The word believe in the bible means "to trust" or "to entrust." This is not a call to change behavior as is so often taught. It is a call to "Forget about what you thought you knew about God, the rule keeping & the rituals. God has revealed Himself fully through His Son Jesus the Christ. He died to take away the sins of the world. He is risen. He is alive now. Trust this risen Jesus, entrust yourself to Him. Nothing stands between you and Him. Nothing stands between you and God. He has already opened His arms to you on the cross as an everlasting invitation to embrace Him."

The following is a reason why changing your mind (repentance) is a part of salvation. "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil deeds" (Colossians 1:21). We thought we were enemies of God in our minds because of our evil deeds. Once we come to know the peace God has made with us through the death (blood) of Jesus we realize that God does not call us enemies but longs to know us as friends. Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1:1) and our living peace (Ephesians 2:14). Jesus is the living peace treaty of God. If we accept the living peace treaty of God's Son we become God's children and God's friends.

The Incredible Father
God is the Father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). God the Father is constantly waiting for you to come to Him. The moment He sees you He runs to you filled with love and compassion and throws His arms around you, hugging you and kissing you. His forgiveness is so great that He ignores your sins even when you bring them up to Him. He cares only to celebrate that you are now with Him. When we are lost we have it even better than the sons in this story because Jesus goes out to find us to bring us to the Father.

Reconciled to God Forever
Jesus said in John 6:37 "Whoever comes to me I will never drive away." That is a true "never" for all who come to Him. Whenever you do something that you think comes between you and God it certainly does not. God NEVER drives you away once you come to Him. He does not count your sins against you, ever (2 Corinthians 5:19). He does not consider them. He does not take them into account. His perfect love makes it so you are never punished by Him (see 1 John 4:18). You have no need to fear. Allow His peace to take control of your heart (Colossians 3:15).

God is reconciled to all mankind.
    He has overcome any animosity He could have towards mankind by judging the world's sins in the body of Jesus
    He offers His friendship to all.
    His love, peace, favor, grace, & goodwill is extending to all.
    He forgave everyone and wants them to know it
God wants all people to be reconciled to Him.
    To know the peace He has made with us through the death of Jesus.
    To become aware of the good things He has done for us.
    To become aware of the good things He offers to us.
    To change our minds from distrust to trust.
    To accept all He longs to give us.

Additional Scriptures
The favor of God has appeared with salvation for all people (Titus 2:11)

Mankind treated God as an enemy yet God reconciled all men to Himself through the death of His Son. Since mankind is reconciled to God by His death people will abundantly be saved, cured, & made whole by his life. (Romans 5:10)

God has restored our relationship with himself through Christ, and has given us this task of restoring relationships. God was using Christ to restore his relationship with humanity. He didn’t hold people’s faults against them, and he has given us this message of restored relationships to tell others. Therefore, we are Christ’s representatives, and through us God is calling you. We beg you on behalf of Christ to become reunited with God. God had Christ, who was sinless, take our sin so that we might receive God’s approval through him. (2 Corinthians 5:18-21, GWT)

Our message is that God was making all human beings his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends. Christ was without sin, but for our sake God made him take our sin in order that in union with him we might receive the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:19,21 GNB)

We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received relationship with God! (Romans 5:11)

My Paraphrase from 2 Corinthians 5-6
God the Father was in Jesus Christ on the cross making relationship with Himself available to the world by no longer counting people's sins against them. Christ died for all. God has given us this message of relationship to tell others. We speak on behalf of Christ when we plead, “Come to God!” Christ never sinned, but God made Him become sin for all so that all could be made right with God through trusting Christ and become the righteousness of God in Him.

God says to all, “At just the right time, I hear you. On the day of salvation, I help you.”

Indeed, the “right time” is now. Today is the day of salvation. Now is the right time to call out to God. Today is the right day to be helped. Do not put it off.

By knowledge, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, & by the power of God we tell these things to all.

We work together with Christ and we implore all who receive Christ,
"Please don't ignore one bit of this marvelous life of love & kindness God gives. From now on regard no one according to the flesh. All who are in Christ are new creatures, the old has died, and a new living spirit has been received! All of these things are gifts from God:  His Son, your freedom from sin, your freedom from being charged with sin, your being made right with God, your salvation, your relationship with God, His love, His favor, His grace, His kindness, His righteousness, & your new spirit that is born of God. He brought us to Himself through Christ. Christ died for all so that we who have living spirits no longer live alone but with Him who died for us and rose again. The love of Christ surrounds us!"

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What is the Remission of Sins?

Jesus's blood was shed for many for the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28).

"Remission of sins" means:
 • His blood was shed as a payment for our sins
 • Forgiveness of sins as if they had never been committed
 • Pardon of sins as if they had never been committed
 • Release from bondage to sin
 • Release from imprisonment to sin
 • Release from the penalty of sin
 • Release from the debt of sin
 • Cancellation of the debt of sin
 • Deliverance from sin
 • Freedom from sin
 • Christ takes people out of sin, He takes it away from them, and then places those who trust Him in Himself

Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. Now you have been united with Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:13)

Psalm 5 in the Light of The Messiah

"Give ear to my words, O Lord, Consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, For to You I pray." (v1-2)
We never need to beg God to hear us. While God doesn't always answer us in the time frame we desire God does answer our prayers. Jesus and the Spirit are always participating in and contributing to our lives (Hebrews 7:25, Romans 8:26).

I recommend that you write a letter to God once a year telling Him your desires for your life. Look back on it 6-12 months later and see how God has answered your prayers. I did this once and I couldn't have imagined at the time of writing the letter how God would answer my prayer but He did and I am still amazed.

"You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness." (v4)
God is never pleased with wickedness (harmful behavior). On the cross God separated the wickedness from each person. Jesus took away the sins of the world (John 1:29, 1 John 3:5). That means His eye is on persons not deeds. He doesn't take sins into consideration when looking at anyone (2 Corinthians 5:19). His displeasure & anger towards all sinful deeds (wickedness) was taken out on the body of Jesus on the cross. He now relates to people as people. He sees us as persons to be loved that He wants to help.

How blessed we are that God predicted our debts & paid them before we were even born! In this life everyone's sin account starts out blank and stays that way unless they ultimately reject Jesus. When we are saved God closes our sin accounts forever so we have no need to fear punishment from God in the afterlife.

"No evil dwells with You God." (v4)
Those who dwell with God are the ones who know Him. God has given those who know Him perfect, righteous, and holy spirits. Truly no evil dwells with God because God removes the evil and possibility of evil from His children at birth. This doesn't mean their behavior is perfect but that God identifies & relates to them by their true identity which is their spirit. It is like a father of an ex-con calling his son "son" rather "thief" because the debt is paid and forgiveness has been received.

"You hate all who do iniquity. The Lord abhors the man of bloodshed and deceit." (v5-6)
As shown above God no longer hates people and His hatred has been expended for iniquity, deceit, & bloodshed by the bloodshed of Jesus. He took all sins for all time into the body of Jesus and condemned them there. God was so serious about sin that He took care of it as a barrier between He and us. God still loves compassion and wants to help the abused and to turn the abusers to loving ways.

"For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield." (v12)
Favor is the literal meaning of "grace" in the New Testament. It means "a predisposed disposition of love and kindness towards someone." All Christians are righteous because of Jesus so all Christians are surrounded with God's favor. We are protected by His love!

"You always hear me Lord. You comfort me, watch over me, and help me. You despised wickedness so you agreed with your Son to take your anger for sin out on Him to remove the barrier of sin from the world. You purify those who choose to dwell with you. You help the abused and seek to turn abusers to your loving ways. By your abundant lovingkindness you have made me your home. I am now your holy temple and I bow my heart in awestruck reverence for you. O Lord, lead me in your just ways. Make me aware of how your Son is always with me.

Your forgiveness & love turns liars into honest men. You, by your blood do not hold them as guilty. Instead of letting them fall you lift them up & pull them close. You capture the hearts of rebels so they choose to be your companions. All who put their security in you are glad, you let them sing forever because of joy. You shelter them. Those who love your nature rejoice in you. For it is you who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, you surround him with gracious favor as with a shield."