Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rebirth and Perfection

I found some very interesting insight from The Merged Gospels.

Matthew 5:48 Merged with Luke 6:35-36
"You will be sons of the Highest, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. You will therefore be merciful, as your Father is also merciful; perfect, even as your Father Who is in Heaven is perfect."

Very telling. Taking these scriptures together we can see that perfection is linked to spiritual rebirth! Let us fast forward the language to apply to a post-resurrection child of God.
"You are sons of the Highest. You are perfect, even as your Father Who is in Heaven is perfect."

Reminds me of these:
"Your new man (spirit) is created in the likeness of God in righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24)
"By one offering Jesus has perfected for all time those who are made holy" (Hebrews 10:14)
"The spirits of righteous men have been made perfect" (Hebrews 12:23)

You might be thinking, "I don't feel perfect or act perfect." That is because you are looking at your flesh (body/mind) rather than your spirit. Your spirit cannot produce sin (1 John 3:9, 5:18). The bible talks about "walking by the spirit" by "setting your mind on the spirit" (Romans 8:6). When you walk by the spirit you "will not carry out the harmful desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). Walking by the Spirit may, not only refer to the Holy Spirit but also your spirit that is "created in the likeness of God" because "the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17).

"The mind set on the spirit is life and peace"
(Romans 8:6)

Ask Jesus

Jesus said a lot of things that we still ask questions about today. Here I post quotes from Jesus that answer some of these questions. Perhaps people will find this post and avoid the misery of mystery & the destruction of lies. These are personalized quotes so you can pretend like you are asking Him these questions yourself and He is answering them.

  • Jesus Why Did You Come to Make God Known?
    • "I made The Father's name known and continue to make it known so that the love with which the Father has loved Me might be in people, and I be in people." (see John 17:26)
  • Why Did You Come Jesus?
    • "I have come so that people may have life and may have it abundantly. I am life so I came so that people could have me and lots of me!" (see John 10:10)
  • Are You the Son of God?
    • "Yes, I am." (see Mark 14:61-62, Matthew 26:63-64)
  • Are You the Christ/Messiah? (Note:  Christ means God's Chosen One, His chosen King, Priest, & Spokesman)
    • "I am." (see John 4:25-26, Mark 14:61-62, Matthew 26:63-64)
  •  How Can I be Born Again?
    • "Just as your body is born by flesh your spirit must be born by the Spirit of God. If you trust me your spirit will be born into an everlasting life, never to perish. You will not be judged by me but saved, cured, & made whole through me. This is all possible because my Father loved this world so much that He gave me, His only begotten Son, to be willingly lifted up on the cross. There on the cross I drew all judgment to myself & poured out my blood for the removal of sins." (see John 3:1-21, 10:11-18, 12:31-33; Matthew 26:28).
  • What is Eternal Life?
    • "This is eternal life to know my Father, the only true God, and me, Jesus Christ whom He has sent." (see John 17:3)
  • How Do I Get Eternal Life?
    • "If you trust in me you will have eternal life." (see John 6:47)
  • As a Christian How Much Does God Love Me?
    • "The Father loves you just as much as He loves me. I love you just as much as the Father has loved me." (see John 15:9 & 17:23)
  • What is the will of God?
    • "This is the will of My Father, that everyone who trusts in the Son has eternal life." (see John 6:40)
  • What is the will of God for me?
    • "To trust in me, Jesus Christ the Son of God." (see John 6:40)
  • What is the work of God?
    • "Trust in me, Jesus Christ the Son of God." (see John 6:28-29)
  • How do we do the works of God?
    • "Trust in me, Jesus Christ the Son of God." (see John 6:28-29)
  • What work does God want from me?
    • "This is the only work God wants from you:  Trust in me, Jesus Christ, the one the Father has sent." (see John 6:28-29)
  • Why is there evil?
    • "People do evil deeds because they love the darkness rather the Light. I am the Light. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (see John 3:19, 8:12)

I hope to expand this post so please leave questions & I will search the scriptures to see if Jesus has already answered them.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cooperation not Control, Commitment, or Promises

Most teach that we should "give God control." That we should pray for God to "control" us. But scripture never uses that sort of language. It says for us to walk with God & to cooperate with Him. It is always a relationship. It is never "all me" or "all Him." It is "us together." That is how Jesus lived with the Father.

We cannot "hand over the controls" of our life to God. God will not magically override your free will just because you said you'd "surrender" your will to Him. Surrender is a term never used in scripture for our relationship with God. The word that is used is "submit" and it literally means "voluntary cooperation." It is a relational walk not a switch off. It happens decision by decision. You cannot blanket cooperate. You have to do it in time as God directs. The idea of "surrender" & "giving God control" is often approached as a switch off. Your part is to pray a morning prayer where you declare blanket "surrender of your day." Life doesn't work like that. You can't say to your boss, "I surrender my day to you" and expect him to do all of your work or even that somehow the right work will get done. Communication lines must stay open.

The bible doesn't use the word "commit" or "commitment" either. Commit, as I've always heard it used in religion, means "dedicate, pledge, promise, to put yourself under obligation.1" Jesus told us that it is not good to make promises to God (Matthew 5:33-37). Instead He tells us only to use an honest "Yes" or "No" as questions arise. We aren't to live by the promises we make to God but the promises He has made to us. Religion constantly takes the focus off of God & our legitimate relationship with Him in favor of rules to keep & promises to make. Whether it is realized or not both are based solely in human effort.

Making promises to God is ineffective because they are either theoretical or made outside of a situation. Jesus said anything beyond an honest "Yes" or "No" "comes from evil.2" So sad it is then that religion teaches the Christian life as almost based solely on promise making. Repent is falsely taught to mean "promise to God that you will not repeat a sin." It is also taught that you should "repent" however often you do something you think is sin which can be many times a day. (Repent actually means "change your mind" not "to promise to change your mind" but an actual change of mind). Instead of realizing that we "cannot make one hair white or black" we set ourselves up for perpetual disappointment.

God never intended for us to live in an endless cycle of make promise/break promise/shame/recommitment. I dare say the majority of Christians live that way. I lived that way for about 10 years as a Christian. God's love is unconditional and it is based on His perfectly trustworthy promises not on my so called obedience. I say "so called obedience" because most are taught to obey rules/principles that either God never told them to obey or that were never biblical in the first place.

While cooperation (the literal meaning of submission in the bible) can involve you choosing God's will over your own, the focus is not on what you are giving up (like it is with commitment & surrender) but on what God is giving you!

Commitment & surrender are based on human instigation & effort. In cooperation God guides & we respond. God is the instigator, the wisdom, and the power source. We are His beloved children. The more we cooperate with Him through trust the more we will enjoy the love & experience of walking with our awesome Father!

"The love of Christ grips us & compels us. His love holds us together & gives us security. We can see the wonder of His love because He has died for all. So now we who have living spirits may no longer live unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us and rose again. The love of Christ surrounds us!"
(2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

1Commit, meaning entrust, is a good thing but it still has to happen as you walk through life. Entrusting yourself to God gives you eternal salvation & a new identity (spirit) in Christ but opportunities for entrusting yourself to God happen as you walk through life with Him. You have to choose to trust Him as things happen. It sounds simple and it is.
2Religion evil? No surprise to me.

Friday, July 27, 2012

All Blessings Are A Done Deal in Christ

"By his divine power, God has already given us everything we need for life and godliness, through our knowledge of Him." (2 Peter 1:3-4)
"God has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ." (Ephesians 1:3)

God has already given me every blessing. All I need to do is learn about what He has already given and use it. I don't have to beg & scratch to get. I already have everything because God has already given it all. It is much easier to use something you already have than it is to try to get something you don't have. God is so good to us that He made it easier than the vast majority of us have ever imagined.

Obviously I miss out on a lot if I refuse to follow God's direction but that is not what I'm talking about here. Most have been taught that God's blessings are dependent on our behavior/performance. But like salvation they are not. For those who have trusted Jesus salvation is a done deal, removal of sin is a done deal, healing is a done deal, ALL needs & ALL blessings are a done deal.

"Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?"

(Romans 8:32)

Die Daily? No, Already Crucified & Alive to God in Christ Jesus

Somehow performance based religion has turned "death" into a work of the flesh meaning "denial of self-will." Our death spoken of in scripture however is our death with Christ where He killed our old man (spirit) to make us a new creation (spirit) that is created in His likeness (Ephesians 1:3-8, 4:24).

Over and over again, it never fails, I keep seeing how EVERY aspect of religion points to man & His works while true Christianity always points to God's works & His love for us.

Here then is a quick "Lie of Religion" vs. "Truth of God" test:
If it is something I have to do alone by my behavior it is a "Lie of Religion"
If it is something Christ has already done or that He does with my cooperation it is a "Truth of God"

Lie of Religion:  Death to self is a work you must perform daily.
Truth of God:  Death of your old self is a work Christ performed already, one time for all time.

Read this for a full explanation:  Take Up Your Cross Daily † You Have Been Crucified With Christ

Friday, July 20, 2012

Psalm 10:1 & 10:12 in the Light of The Messiah

"Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble?" (v1)
After this the psalmist goes on to talk about the harmful actions of the wicked. The psalmist was more concerned with the enemies activity than He was of God's activity so He had difficulty seeing God in the midst of trouble. This same type of thing happened when Peter was looking at the storm instead of Jesus as he was walking on water.

Many assume & answer the psalmist's question for him. Thinking, "Yes God does stand afar off & He does hide himself in times of trouble." Writer's of the psalms questioned God from their perceived experience. Often in Psalms the assumption of the question asked is wrong and we find later in the Psalm or elsewhere in scripture that they assumed the wrong things about God. Acts 17:27 says, "God is not far from each one of us." Psalm 46:1 says, "God is an ever-present help in times of trouble."

"Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up Your hand. Do not forget the helpless." (v12)
This reminds me of Zephaniah 3:8 a prophecy of Jesus' coming, “Wait for Me,” declares the Lord, “For the day when I rise up as a witness." Romans 5:6 says, "While we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly." Both of His hands were raised on the cross as an eternal picture that He does not forget the helpless.

"You did not stand afar off, O Lord. You came to earth in the flesh and made your glory known in the face of Christ. You lifted your hands up to be nailed to the cross, welcoming the helpless to receive all of the help they will ever need."

Christian Persecution & America

I've heard many American Christians sorta wish that American Christians were persecuted more & that we would suffer more. They look at the stronger faith of people in other countries where persecution & suffering is the norm. They think that if America was persecuted, Christians here would have a stronger faith. First, I wonder how many of those theorists have actually been persecuted? Secondly, I recall that this mindset is not confirmed in scripture.

"The seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away." (Mark 4:16-17)

It isn't persecution that draws you to God, It is God's love. If you don't already know His love Jesus says you will quickly fall away when persecution comes. Enduring persecution does not make you stronger, it only taps into the strength you already have. That strength to overcome is your trust in God (1 John 5:4). The more you know God loves you the more you will trust Him.

Persecution is Satan's way of stopping the gospel. When people don't know or believe the true gospel there is no need for persecution. Galatians 6:12 even suggests that those who try to live by law or by their own strength will not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. In my opinion Christianity in America would virtually end if major persecution came because people are not "rooted and grounded in God's love" (Ephesians 3:17).

One of the easiest things, knowing that God loves you and letting Him love you, has become one of the hardest things because the traditions, false teachings, & false authorities of mainstream American Christianity. Its sin focused, mixed covenant, cross-ignoring teachings already have people barely hanging onto, not God, but a false picture of God. A picture that paints God as an utterly selfish, human hating, Christian hating, nagging, shame exploiting, greedy, & abusive monster who treats them worse than probably anyone they know & is 1,000 times more easily offended than any human being to ever walk the earth.

Because people believe God exists & believe the most basic gospel they honestly want to follow and serve God. But thanks to thousands of years of scripture twisting doctrines, man made traditions, and satanic deception people are told to follow this false picture of God whose abuse and constant fault finding are taught to be His "love." Or they are taught to serve & follow the preachings of an unbiblical religious system called "church" that pictures God as a distant CEO who you have to beg to show up in a "church service" to receive any recognition from him for all of your hard work for him.

Fear not, and engage the God who longs to unravel the lies you've been told so you can experience His love as He has always wanted. God loves you enough to accept you as you are. He is big enough & has shed enough blood to never be angry with you. He is who He says He is, God is love. Love that is easily identified by anyone who has ever wanted to be loved.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Jesus Goes to Prepare a Place in His Father's House † We Live in The Father

This is part 2 of a series. Click here for Part 1.

“Let your heart not be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Me. In My Father's house there are many rooms. And if not, I would have told you. For I go on to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and I will receive you to Myself, that where I am you might also be. And you know where I am going and you know the way.”

Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how are we able to know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, if not through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. And from this time you have known Him, and have seen Him.”

Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and that is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “I have been with you such a long time, and you do not know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. And how do you say, ‘Show to us the Father?’ Do you not trust that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak from Myself, but the Father Who is abiding in Me does the works. Trust Me, that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me. And if not, trust because of the works themselves. Truly, truly I say to you, he who trusts in Me, the works that I do, he will also do, and he will do greater than these, because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, I will do, so that the Father would be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name I will do it.” (John 14:1-14)

The first portion of this is usually taught as referring to Jesus' ascension & His preparation of a mansion for His people. That interpretation is wrong and ignores the context. Firstly Jesus says "I go away so you can be where I AM." Where is Jesus? He is not in heaven. He is in the Father. At one point Jesus outright says, "I am in the Father" & later says, "I go to the Father." Jesus is saying that He is going to the cross which will, in death, take Him to the Father. His work of salvation on the cross "prepares a place" in the Father for those who trust Him.

Secondly Jesus says, "I will come again" If this was speaking of His second coming, as most assume it does, then Jesus would have carelessly been ignoring the plight that came for His disciples while He was arrested, crucified, & in the grave. His promise to come back again speaks of the resurrection! Jesus said, "I will receive you to Myself." He received His disciples to Himself after His resurrection and gave them the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

What Jesus later says in John 16:16 further confirms this, “A little while, and you will no longer see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” Jesus said it would be "a little while" before they would see Him again after He had gone away. This again confirms that He was talking about His resurrection because He was in the grave only a little while, especially when compared to the thousands of years & counting we are waiting for Him.

Thirdly, the thought of going to heaven wouldn't haven been encouraging to His disciples because, while He was dead, they would be doubting that Jesus was who He said He was and that He spoke the truth. Jesus was speaking of the resurrection, His return in a "little while." None of them trusted in the resurrection until they saw Him. Why would Jesus be trying to encourage them about going to heaven when they die or about His second coming if they were facing His imminent death which seemed to invalidate Him & everything He said?

Being in heaven is nothing compared to being in the Father! Those who are not in the Father will go to heaven for judgment and will not rejoice about it. Those who are already in the Father have endless reasons to rejoice right now! A place in the person of the Father is more important than the place of heaven. We are in the Father's house. We have been received by Jesus. We are with Him in the Father.

"You have been raised to life with Christ, so think about the realities of heaven, where Christ sits on his throne at the right hand of God. Keep your minds fixed on things there, not on things here on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life, your real life. When He appears, then you too will appear with Him and share His glory!" (Colossians 3:1-4)

This Side of the Cross:  The Night of Jesus' Arrest
1. Intro
2. Jesus Goes to Prepare a Place in His Father's House † We Live in The Father
3. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments † I Will Love You So You Will Trust Me
4. Remain in Me † You are in Me

This Side of the Cross: The Night of Jesus' Arrest Intro

In John chapters 13-16 we hear Jesus talking to His disciples just before His betrayal. Before morning Jesus would be arrested and soon on His way to the cross. Knowing that is crucial to truly understanding what Jesus is saying here. Jesus says things referring to the tumultuous time coming to help His disciples get through the next few days.  He says things like, "I will be with you only a little longer, Do not let your hearts be troubled, Trust in God and in me."

John 13 starts with, "Jesus knowing that His hour had come, that He would depart from this world to the Father (this refers to His death on the cross not His ascension), loving His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end." During everything Jesus says and does in these chapters Jesus is keeping in mind that He is going to die on the cross and be in the grave for 3 days. Everything He says and does here is to show love to His disciples. He wants them to see Him risen and to receive the Holy Spirit.

Jesus explains in John 13:19 that He will be telling His disciples future events so that when the events happen they would trust in who He is. Here are some things Jesus says to them speaking of His coming death, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer,” "My body is given & broken for you," "My blood is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins," "You will all fall away because I will be stuck down," "After I have been raised..”  Jesus also predicted Judas' betrayal, Peter's denial, & Peter's return.

At the end of John 16 (v29-33) Jesus' disciples said to Him, “Now we know that You know all things. In this we trust that You came from God.” Jesus answered them, "Now do you trust? Behold, there is coming an hour, and it has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and you will leave Me alone. But I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that you might have peace in Me. In the world you will have trouble. But take courage, I have overcome the world." John 13-16 begins and ends with the same idea. Jesus loved His disciples. He spoke to them knowing His death and burial was soon to come. What He said to them was intended to give them peace, courage, & confidence in Him while He was arrested, on the cross, & in the grave.

Almost everything I've heard taught about these scriptures utterly leave the context behind and apply whatever is said to all Christians for all time. Jesus is speaking to a unique group of people at a very unique time. His disciples have not yet received eternal salvation because Jesus had not yet made it available through the cross. While we can benefit from any scripture not everything that is said should be applied to us. Even though not all of the commands Jesus said are for us today we can still benefit from the fact that Jesus cares enough about His people to prepare them for hard times. God did this for me the day my dad died before I was even aware of his death (see this post). Likewise Jesus did this for His disciples shortly before He was put to death.

In this series I will show that Jesus wasn't laying down miscellaneous instructions & commands to hopelessly burden all people for all time but instead sought to give His disciples hope even as they face their Master's crucifixion. This was the biggest event of their lives and the biggest event of all time. Jesus' words to them spoke to their upcoming situation. Removing these scriptures from context ignores the importance of the cross & the magnificent change it has made. Religion, Satan, legalism, & shame all point to man's behavior. God & the gospel always points to God and His behavior on our behalf, His love.

This Side of the Cross:  The Night of Jesus' Arrest
1. Intro
2. Jesus Goes to Prepare a Place in His Father's House † We Live in The Father
3. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments † I Will Love You So You Will Trust Me
4. Remain in Me † You are in Me

Friday, July 13, 2012

I No Longer Run From God

I realized that I haven't experienced "running from God" in my life for well over a year. It used to happen at least twice a month. Here are the reasons why I no longer run from God:

I now know that both faith and believe mean trust & that my trust in Him grows from realizing how much He loves me. I know that He loves me unconditionally. I know that He has forgiven me of all my sins past, present, & future. I know that He has promised to never be angry with me & He never is. I know I cannot offend Him. I know He holds nothing I do against me. I know He is always with me & never breaks fellowship with me because of something I've done. I know that He does not require me to confront Him in prayer with a list of my recent failures. I know what it means to be born again, I have been given a spirit created in the likeness of God that is perfect like He is so now He does not identify me by my flesh, faults, & failures.

Now I never want to hide. I just want to stay by His side. Who would want to run from a God who is as endearing as this?

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Salvation: Grace, Forgiveness, & Life

Saved by Grace
"It is by grace you have been saved, through trust and this is not from yourselves it is the gift of God. You are not saved by works" (Ephesians 2:8-9). Grace implies graciousness which implies giving which implies gifts. Grace literally means "favor." I like to define favor as "God's disposition of loving-kindness."

Because God was predisposed to loving you and being kind to you, in His graciousness, He gave the gift of His Son. When you trust Him by receiving His gift, His Son, you are saved. You are not saved by works. You are not saved by turning from sin (a work). You are not saved by asking forgiveness (a work). You are saved by trusting Jesus. You change your mind from disbelief and doubt to trust, that is biblical repentance.

"He has forgave us all our sins” (Colossians 2:13).
If someone accused me of something I hadn’t done and I forgave them, they would be forgiven. Forgiveness is all my side. Because of the cross, you are forgiven. You were not forgiven in accordance with anything you do, but in accordance with the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7). Forgiveness is all on God's side. It is something you receive as a gift. Gifts are already paid for. Forgiveness as a gift is something you receive by trust when you become aware of it. It is not something you have to ask for. When you trust the forgiveness Jesus bought at the cross you are saved. You cannot enjoy the benefit of the gift if you refuse to receive it. A gift refused is still a gift purchased & offered.
Changing Our Mind About Dead Works
Hebrews 6:1 calls one foundation of salvation "repentance from dead works." Repentance means "a change of mind." All works are dead if not done by Christ or through Christ. Repentance from dead works means you change your mind about dead works working. Hebrews 6:1 calls another foundation of salvation "trust in God." You change your mind about your works bringing life and realize, from hearing the good news, that only the work of Christ brings life so you choose to trust Jesus.
There is no law that can give life. (Galatians 3:21)
Jesus said, "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!" (John 5:39)
Jesus said, "It is the Spirit that gives life. Human effort accomplishes nothing." (John 6:63)
Jesus said, "Truly, truly I say to you, He who trusts in me has eternal life." (John 6:47)
Jesus said, "This is eternal life, to know You Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3)

In the World

I think "being in the world but not of the world" has more to do with how we treat people not issues of personal purity which most seem to focus more on today than actual relationships. Love does no harm to a neighbor. If the entertainment I intake doesn't harm my neighbor then there probably isn't a problem with it.

Sadly Christians are very afraid of sin because they think & live as if it is more powerful than Christ in them. It is not in the slightest. Satan's only attack is trying to get you to believe lies. Christians are in far more danger of Satan's attacks from the falsehoods spread at most pulpits than they are with secular entertainment. A lie about God is the most dangerous kind of lie & can make you miserable your entire life. Performance based religion that says Jesus didn't take care of our sin problem is the most worldly thing of all.

When we think we "step away from God" by our actions He is always right there. You can't "step away from God." Nothing you can do separates you from His love. Trust in that truth and your worries about "being taken away from Christ," "stepping away from God," "breaking fellowship with God" will fall off and you will get to bask in His true love that never lets you go. If you fall He goes down with you to help you back up.

Our faith is what overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). "Our faith" isn't our morality. Faith means you trust in God, in His love and goodness towards you. That faith is weakened or nullified when you believe His love and goodness have barriers. Christ removed all barriers at the cross. Fear not for He is with you.

God Resists The Proud = God Resists Legalism

Luke 15:17-24
When the son came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to the father, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

The father here pictures God our Father. Notice the son had planned to ask to "be one of the father's hired servants." Because of his sin he felt like he had to earn a place in his father's house. The father didn't even let him finish the speech he had prepared. He immediately started lavishing gifts upon him and started throwing him a party. The father's love and graciousness (grace) had nothing to do with what his son could do for him.

Likewise the older brother worked for his father but was angry that he wasn't getting what he felt like he deserved for the work. The father said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.’ God doesn't cooperate with legalism. He didn't reward the older brother for work because his son already had whatever he could what. All he had to do was take it and enjoy it.

God would be giving a misrepresentation of Himself & His unconditional love if He let legalism work. He resists cooperation with those who try to earn from Him.

"God resists the proud, but gives grace unto the humble" (James 4:6)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Problems with Christians Confessing (Recounting) Sins in Prayer

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Most teach this to mean, "Christians have to recount (list) all of their recent sins every time they pray in order to be forgiven by God and to have fellowship with God." So what is the problem with that? The problem comes if you assume something for yourself that was not intended for you & taking that assumption causes you to put conditions on your relationship with God that aren't actually there.

Two Reasons The Scripture is Not Telling Christians To List Sins
#1. 1 John 1 wasn't written for Christians. It was an explanation of how to be saved using inclusive language. John starts off this section of scripture saying "Now this is the message we have heard from Jesus and announce to you." The message is about God and how to be saved in verses 5b-10.

#2. The word "confess" in 1 John 1:9 does not mean recount or list (recall & recite in prayer) but it actually means "to agree." It is to agree with God about your sins, that you had them and Christ took care of them. If you agree with God that Christ took your sins away, which He did, then you have no reason to recount them. Doing so would actually be the opposite of what John intended when writing this scripture. 1 John 1:9 simply means, "You receive His forgiveness by believing His forgiveness." It is not a rule for daily relationship. It is praising God that Christ finished the work of forgiveness on the cross and saying, "I want in on this!" Even if this were written for Christians it would simply mean, "Continue to agree with God that your sins are taken away and rejoice over Christ's finished work on your behalf!"

Why Can Confessing Sins Make Me Feel Forgiven?
Imagine God has set a bowl of fruit in front of you. He has, in reality, given you the whole bowl for you to take whatever you want whenever you want. If you think they only way He will allow you to have a piece of fruit is for you to list your sins and ask for forgiveness then you will only enjoy the fruit when you meet the conditions you perceive to be necessary. Christian, God has completely forgiven you of sin for all time (Colossians 2:13). You can feel as much forgiveness as you want but if you genuinely don't believe the forgiveness is there unless you meet certain conditions then you will only feel it when you've met those conditions. You are trying to reach through a hole in the wall to get forgiveness from the other side when in fact there isn't even a wall. You can feel forgiven when you confess because you are already totally forgiven. I live in His total forgiveness and I feel free and forgiven anytime I want, all I have to do is turn my mind to my wonderful Father. I used to reach through a tiny hole in the wall (listing of sin) to receive my forgiveness but now it inhabits my whole world.

How Recounting Sins Deadens What Should be Abundant Life in Christ
It Causes Feelings of Shame
A major part of this false doctrine is that sin causes a Christian to "break fellowship with God." Shame means disgrace, dishonor, disfavor. It is being out of favor; a loss of favor. Shame is literally the opposite of grace. A removal of fellowship is a removal of favor. If I refuse to relate to someone because of something they've done they have lost my favor. “Everyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame” (Isaiah 28:16, Romans 9:33, 10:11, 1 Peter 2:6, Joel 2:26-27, Isaiah 45:17, 54:4). That means God will never disgrace anyone who is saved. You will never lose God's favor or fellowship. Someone with shame says, "I am bad, I am worthless, I'm a no good sinner." Those are things you typically hear in prayers that confess sins. God never causes His children to feel like that, He will never put you to shame nor does He command something that shamefully requires you to recite your failures in prayer.

If someone you knew forced you to tell him all of your failures everyday that would dishonor you, disgrace you, and that person wouldn't seem to have much favor for you. What type of father wants you to focus on your faults, on every conceivable shortcoming that you have? Please don't make excuses for God to behave worse and love worse than human beings, He doesn't. God's ways are higher than our ways but remember Jesus is The Way, He perfectly exemplified God's ways. He never asked His disciples to list their sins to Him or to the Father. God's response to shame was to ignore it thus preventing someone from dwelling on it one bit. Instead of acknowledging shame He immediately offered security, gifts, and joy (see this post for more on God's response to shame).

It Stirs up Lusts of the Flesh
No one who believes that "Christians need to confess their sins to God" would admit this but as someone who once believed it & practiced it I'll say it, recounting what you think to be your recent sins tempts your mind and body into repeating those deeds. This is one of those things Christians ignore because they think they are weak and they just aren't living up to what they think "God's way" is.

Philippians 4:8 says, "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Is what we would typically call sin any of these things? Certainly not!

It Limits God's Love & Is Unloving to Us
Because of what Jesus did God promises to no longer remember our sins (Hebrews 8:12,10:17). The false teaching of Christian confession of sins requires people to remind Him of them. "Love keeps no record of wrongs" but those who feel they must confess their sins keep the best record of their own wrongs they possibly can. If God wanted you to confess your sins to Him that would mean He doesn't want you to love yourself, because you must keep a constant record of sins for or between your prayers. It would also mean that God doesn't love you because He keeps a record of your wrongs in between your confessions. This doctrine of Christian confession slanders the name and nature of our God & makes His love purely conditional.

It Opposes What Christ Died For
Confession of sins has Christians remember sins & ignores God's example of forgetting them. It has people dwelling on evil in daily prayer instead of dwelling on good. Jesus took our sins away (Romans 11:27), confession brings our sins back out. Jesus' sacrifice purified us from sin one time, for all time so our consciousness of sin can disappear (Hebrews 10:1-2). Confession demands constant consciousness of sin.

As I've just shown it opposes much of God's work on the cross causing people to live the opposite of how God intends. It is a doctrine of Satan that will rob you of peace, fill you with shame, & tempt you with the same things you try to avoid. Worst of all it will put a condition on God's forgiveness & relationship (fellowship) causing you to perpetually feel far from Jesus who gave you His blood to make you eternally inseparable from Him. Sin is defeated. Christian, for you it is taken away forever, never to be brought up again. Jesus Christ is the end of sin for all those who trust Him (Romans 4:15, 5:13, 10:4). That is my experience & my confession.

Related Posts
Inseparable & Unforsakable, Fellowship Never Broken- Looks in depth at why God will never "break fellowship" with His child & at how 1 John 1 is not written for Christians.
Forgiven and Loving
Why Christians Don't Need to Confess Sins- Teachings from Various People

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sola-Scriptura is Idolatry

Sola-Scriptura (scripture alone) is idolatry. We should never disregard scripture but disregarding the living God is much worse. Jesus didn't promise the scriptures as our teacher but the Spirit. Following the Spirit is not "going beyond what is written." It is written in John 16:13 "The Spirit will guide you into ALL truth."

While the scripture is good and true and useful Jesus didn't make a promise that scripture would guide us to truth. Notice how many people know the scripture but don't know truth (see 2 Timothy 3:7). When you ignore the living God, who lives in you, in favor of the scriptures and/or various preachers & teachers you will be led into lies that twist the scriptures into a lifeless religious prison.

Don't trust the bible more than you trust the living God. If you do then you will end up only being certain about your interpretation of scripture. When you are certain yet wrong your life will be miserable. This misplaced or imbalanced trust closes your heart to God bringing you the truth. Being sure is not the same thing as being assured by God.

"You don't need anyone to teach you what is true. The Spirit teaches you everything you need to know" (1 John 2:27).