Friday, August 31, 2012

The Body With and Without Leaders

Do Not be Called Leaders
There are Christians who lead at times but Jesus forbade positional/hierarchical/office based leadership in His body. Matthew 23:1-12 makes that very clear. He says, "You have ONE Leader" & "You are all brothers." My stance is that having an officially elevated status will cause you to seek it further even if you didn't seek it to begin with.

Jesus didn't merely say, "Don't call yourselves leaders." His wording was "Do not be called leaders," meaning don't allow others to call you something like that. It wasn't simply, "Don't call yourself that" or "Don't insist others call you that." That word He used for "leaders" never appears again in the bible because they obeyed Him. Jesus listed 3 honorary titles in this context to emphasize the fact that he was talking about receiving or promoting honorary titles among the brothers as being a bad thing. It is not the specific titles that are damaging but the type of titles that make a brother seen as superior to others.

Christ is Your One & Only Leader and You are All Brothers
Christ Himself said, “ALL AUTHORITY has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Paul would often plead the case of his apostleship (that he was really sent by Jesus) & he did so on the basis of his testimony and Christ in him & through him. All Christians have authority in Christ but no one Christian has authority over another Christian. As Jesus said, "We are all brothers."

"There are no legitimate Christian leaderS." It isn't only that Jesus said "Do not be called leaders" but that He said "You have ONE LEADER, CHRIST." That doesn't mean "none of you will ever lead." The Assembly is the Father, the First Born, then the many brethren. No brother or sister has legit authority over another. A brother may lead for a time. Brothers aren't to lead by having an authoritative office of honor. Leading is instead initiating something by requesting for cooperation. This leading also is done with mutual cooperation/submission to others. Leading in the body of Christ plays out as a relational walking out of ideas & plans. Subjection is not required or requested. Everything is voluntary rather than obligatory.

The Complexity of Christ's Body
Anyone can lead at any time. There are no leaders but a body of people who switch off taking the lead as Christ, the Head instructs. When the eyes can't see in the dark the hands take the lead reaching out to check for obstacles. A functioning body compensates for temporary or permanent weakness. And guess what? Someone does not always have to be leading! People can easily relate to one another without having to be directed & redirected. The spirit of God moves in love through His listening body.

I understand Paul says things like "the eye cannot say to the hand..." but I don't think that means someone who is "the eye" cannot also work as a hand does. It is clear that Paul shepherded & evangelized. Some are more gifted in one area & some are more gifted in another but God did not set His body up as "this body part always teaches" & especially not as "this is the only body part that teaches." All members of the body are connected to Christ thus they all have something to contribute. While it can be helpful to recognize how someone is gifted it is not necessary because the people will walk in the love of using that gift for others regardless of if they are officially recognized for it.

Older men & women (elders) were recognized (mistranslated "appointed") as beneficial examples for the body in certain assemblies that had been around for several years. To say they were "leaders" in the sense that we know the word today in churches is inaccurate & to say that they were "leaders" in the sense that Christ spoke of is also inaccurate because that word never appears again in scripture after Christ spoke it. These older people were trustworthy guides and guardians for the younger.

The body as a group can come together and exercise Christ's authority but no SINGLE brother has authority over another. Matthew 18 really drives home that point by saying things are done by "two or three" not by "one over all."

Who Gets the Honor?
[1 Corinthians 12:21-26]  "The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together."

In today's church system the ones who do not lack honor, the self-titled leaders, are nearly always the ones that receive greater honor. The weaker are utterly unrecognized especially since the church is a performance based system. That lets us know further that the system is not of God. In Christ's assembly the lesser is honored rather than the self professed leader. This honor doesn't picture someone being put on stage every couple of months for a round of applause then shoved back into servitude. Honor means "to give value to." This plays out in relationships within the body where the weaker are valued, accepted, & encouraged. Romans 15:7 says, "Accept each other just as Christ has accepted you." Think about how Christ has accepted you! Doing this means we "love one another just as Jesus has loved us" (John 13:34-35). Remember Jesus didn't love us out of fear or obligation but out of joyful free will. There was no law that said, "God must love man" or "God must sacrifice for man."

Would I call my hand an office?
The supposed "positions" & "offices" in scripture have been misinterpreted for centuries. The word "office" isn't actually used in the New Testament (Read this for more). Rather than as offices to occupy they are described as gifts in both the contexts of 1 Corinthians 12 & Ephesians 4. "Jesus gave gifts to men” (Ephesians 4:8). Would you call someone with the gift of tongues a leader simply because his gift is listed in scripture? I don't think so, but the gifts that are historically (not biblically) tied to positions of leadership people do consider to be leadership positions. Please don't let this bias blind you to the love and unity found in having Christ alone as your Leader.

How does leadership language come across in our language today?
If you say the word "office" in any Christian setting people aren't going to think "any member of the body who is gifted in specific functions" they are going to think of leaders, pastors, elders, people who hold leadership positions. If you say "leader" in that setting or any other setting people will again think of those man made offices that do not even function the same way as the people in scripture did. They won't think of "someone who leads on the occasions that God guides him to" they will think of the person who is in charge or in command of others. Thus "leader" and even "office" have meanings like those things which Jesus spoke against, they are honorary words that set one brother over another brother in the ears & eyes of those who hear them. In my opinion those words should be utterly avoided because they breed harmful perceptions.

What about Ephesians 4:11?
"God's loving-grace has been given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. He gave gifts to men. He certainly gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds & teachers for the equipping of God's holy people for the work of building up the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the trust and knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

As a result of being equipped, we will no longer be immature like children who are tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part works in its own unique way it causes the body to grow. When the whole body is functioning the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." (Ephesians 4:7-8,11-16)

This happened & can still happen. This is not talking about something "in the sweet bye & bye." Paul tells you what equipped people look like. He said these people's work results in "us no longer being children who are easily deceived." How many times does someone need to be "equipped" before they can go on their way? John says when people are equipped they "no longer need any men to teach them" (1 John 2:27). If you look at the history of the first century assembly you will see that pattern. Paul, an apostle, makes disciples in a town. He stays with them a short while revealing to them the wonder of Christ. He then leaves them without an apostle, elder, shepherd, etc. He equipped them thus "each person is able to work in his or her own unique way" & the body grows! It grows closer to Christ, closer to one another, & may even bring more people to Christ through proclaiming the good news to their community. Only after they had been established for several years did Paul decide to recognize some older people in some assemblies who shepherded the younger as especially trustworthy people to relate to.

The people who genuinely equip the body, don't ever lord over it. Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:24 said apostles, "Do not lord over people but work with them for their joy to help them to firmly continue to trust Jesus." What a beautiful depiction of an apostle! "Coworkers who help you firmly continue to trust Jesus for your joy." All the gifted people spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 are fellow workers, not Christ-usurping leaders. Some of these people are catalysts who spur us closer to Christ & closer to one another. Others are older brothers & sisters who watch out for us. They aren't lingering leaders who we need to support nor are they commanders. An organization or building run as a business is not in view, instead it is a community of people leaning on Christ and loving one another however Christ has gifted them to do so.

How Church Leaders Are Not What Ephesians 4 Describes
They cause the body, in practice, to be non-existent.
The leaders & singers (mouths) are the only members who function in a church service. Some may do technical or physical work to help the "show go on" but that work is neither relational nor Christ centered. The service is run by the pastor, who is the false head, the "highly exalted" man who officially "speaks for God." Think of how cult like and stupid that sounds Christians. Now remember Christ lives in all of us, can speak through all of us, and wants all of us to be free to work how He sees fit. The primary Christian gathering is dominated by self professed leaders & does not allow people to relate to one another while the "man of God" is on stage. If you say, "the body is supposed to function during the week," What sense does it make for the one time a week the body is gathered to not allow functioning?

Leaders are the perfect people to deceive others
Jesus forbade positions of leadership because they promote false authority and "authority" makes it easier to convince people of falsehoods. Sometimes this false authority gets so large that people are required to believe whatever the self professed leader tells them. "How dare you question me?" is a mood you can get from many leaders if you question them. "How dare you question our leader?" is a feeling you can get from others. Most often & most dangerous though is the question you ask yourself, "How dare I question the schooled expert who is a better Christian than me?" Instead of delivering us from being deceived the leaders themselves are the ones who deceive us. They are even taught in their schooling how to manipulate people into coming to or back to their church, carrying people around by the winds of their teachings.

Leaders make people dependent on them.
People are strung along week to week to be permanently dependent upon the preacher. In most cases they are told that they are in sin if they do not show up to listen to the weekly sermon. They are also shamed as being inferior Christians if they do not show up for the Sunday night or Wednesday night sermons. The pastor's professional training makes people feel like they cannot study scripture for themselves accurately. People are also made to feel as though they cannot trust their hearts which results in people not believing they can hear from God so they must come listen to the spiritual guru. Equipping is not the goal of church leaders, dependence & attendance is.

People are never actually equipped.
They are either cooled off or heated up, depending on the preacher's style. They go to church to be recharged for the next week or to be rebuked for the previous week. They are stuck in starvation mode never getting the Christ-centered relationships they long for.

Having leaders is a rejection of unity
If each church building has its own leader or set of leaders unity is impossible because people are set up to follow someone other than Christ. Every single church building is a sect, a divisive institution with its own name, facilities, leaders, & members. If you are a member of a church you are looked at crooked for even visiting a church you are not a member of. The biblical meaning of heresy is not "unorthodox beliefs" but "division." Galatians 5:19-21 calls division "a work of the flesh." Further proof that the church system is not based on the spirit but on the flesh.

I haven't even addressed how the messages of these false leaders tear people down instead of build them up & make people run from God by painting Him as a monster. The body can never grow when each member is not allowed to work in its own way. Church leaders aren't the equippers of the body of Christ but the executioners, they shoot people down into shame and passive attendance. While most of these people are not doing this maliciously their very position (office) does untold harm to people because they see one brother elevated over the others. He stands on the stage, his name is on the church sign (usually Jesus' name isn't even on there!), he gets the esteemed religious title of pastor, reverend, elder, bishop, etc. The mere existence of official leaders is damaging to any Christian group whether in a traditional church, home group, or otherwise.

Who Are the People Spoken of in Ephesians 4:11?
An apostle is someone sent by an assembly to make disciples, establish assemblies, & help other assemblies relate to one another & meet with Christ as head. The initial 12 apostles were sent by Christ in the flesh. Paul was sent by Christ in the flesh & by the assembly at Antioch. The word apostle is a transliteration, not a translation. Apostle is best translated as "delegate."
Prophets are simply people who hear God well & tell others what they hear. They can tell you of your present condition and give you (sometimes foggy) pictures of something to come in the future. Other potential translations for prophet are spokesman or mouthpiece.
Evangelists will proclaim the true gospel of God's grace which is summarized in 2 Corinthians 5:19-20, "God the Father was in Christ on the cross making relationship with Himself available to the world by no longer counting people's sins against them. God has given us this message of relationship to tell others. We beg you on behalf of Christ, "Come to God." Evangelist is also an transliteration, best translated as good messenger or gospel messenger.
Shepherds (mistranslated pastors) guard and guide. They are the same people described in the bible as overseers & elders (older men & women). Shepherds are trustworthy brothers & sisters who you have a relationship with who will advise & teach you.
Teachers draw you closer to God in love rather than in fear & obligation. In the bible preaching is not the same thing as teaching. Teaching is relational and interactive. In the bible preach merely means to "proclaim" or "announce." A mere relay of information is not biblical teaching. Preaching sermons does not make you a teacher. Today's preachers are orators who do their own research. Teachers don't talk to people, they talk with people.

Paul, who identified his gifting as an apostle, did evangelistic work (Colossians 1:23), he heard directly from God (seen in the letters he wrote), he taught (Acts 18:9-12), he shepherded (Acts 20:17-35), he manifested miracles (Acts 19:11-12), he healed people (Acts 28:8), he helped people (Acts 16:9-10), he administrated the collection of money for the poor (1 Corinthians 16:1), he spoke in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:18), he even wrote of future events (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

Paul at one point or another exercised most of the gifts listed as examples in scripture. So we see that gifting is not a boxing into one area or a lifetime job assignment. Gifts are good things you want to share with those you love. Never merely accept a title someone wears as a description of who they really are. Most pastors aren't shepherds. Anyone who wants you to follow them based on the title they wear is corrupt or has been deceived. They will probably present to you "falsehoods so clever they sound like the truth" because they themselves believe those falsehoods & their position prevents them from being questioned. The gifted people spoken of in Ephesians 4:11 are all fellow workers who are not above or greater than any other Christian. At most they will request cooperation. They aren't leaders but loving brothers & sisters.

"The children of God do not exercise authority over one another. Instead we work with each other to help one another firmly continue to trust Jesus. We do this all for the joy of one another" (2 Corinthians 1:24).

Related Posts
The Word Leaders in the New Testament
Older People as Guides not Officials as Governors
What Jesus Hates & Despises
How Sermonizing is Not Shepherding & More..
Is Eating Poison Worth Your While?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

God Does Not Punish His Children

Jesus didn't go around punishing people for sin even if the law said to do so. The predominant view of God today is that Jesus would have cast the first stone & all of the stones. But the truth is He loves people and doesn't hold sins against us.

Religion wants you to believe that God is a good God when it pictures Him abusing His children with guilt, shame, & sickness. That somehow "holy" means quick to anger, easily offended, and vindictive. If God's love & goodness is unrecognizable as love or goodness to mankind then the gospel isn't good news, it is non-sense. God is love, the bible defines love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. God is patient, kind, unarrogant, He does not seek His own, He is not easily provoked, He does not take into account wrongs suffered, & He does not rejoice in unrighteousness (not even in punishing it), but rejoices with the truth.
Perfect love cast out fear because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). God is perfect love, if we think He punishes us then we aren't understanding His perfect love. If you think God punishes you then I implore you to explore His perfect love more.

Suffering does not equal punishment from God and neither does discipline or persecution. Punishment is "a penalty imposed for wrongdoing." Christian persecution usually comes from the consequences of right doing. Persecution and suffering can come from doing good things for God's sake & that doesn't mean God is abusing His children. It is just the world responding with hostility to God.

Paul says in Colossians 1:24, "I am happy about my sufferings for you, for by means of my physical sufferings I am helping to complete what still remains of Christ's sufferings on behalf of his body, the assembly." This is about living sacrificially for others out of love. God is loving His people through Paul and that love involves suffering for the sake of others, not getting beaten up by God for God's sick pleasure. Paul chose to put himself in danger for the love of Christ and for the love of others. Jesus did the same thing for the love of the Father and for the love of us.

It pleased the Lord to bruise Jesus (Isaiah 53:10) not because God gets sick pleasure from beating up His kids but because it served a purpose of greater love. God was pleased to bruise Jesus like a surgeon is pleased to cut someone open and remove a tumor. Christ took the beating that sin would give us to condemn sin so it would not be a barrier for mankind and God any more. God doesn't love abuse but He does love to free people from abuse. Christ offers freedom from the abuse of sin.

Some think God chastening is God punishing. The Greek word behind "chastening" does not mean punishing. It is the word usually translated as discipline and means help grow, teach, train, nurture, "the whole training and education of a child." God does not punish His children, He corrects them with truth for their benefit. [More on God's Discipline]

GOD CHOSE TO LOVE YOU AS A PERSON OVER PUNISHING YOU FOR YOUR ACTIONS. Thinking you've been good enough to deserve the goodness of God totally misses the point of the cross. On the other side of the coin, anyone thinking that bad things are happening in their lives because God is punishing them for something bad they've done is also missing the point of the cross. The point was not Him hating sin. The point was Him loving you. It's not, "For God so hated sin.." but "For God so loved the world.."

Most Christians think God's punishment is to make you feel really bad (shameful, guilty) about what you've done. God created mankind to be loved not to be punished. Jesus came to take away our sins. Shame, guilt, & condemnation should not be a part of a Christian's life in any way. When you are not judging yourselves in light of the finished work of the cross (free from sin, accepted, loved), you will still experience the punishing effects of sin (rejection, shame, condemnation). Even If you are deceived, ignorant, or ignoring you will live what you believe. If you believe God punishes you then you will label your own feelings of shame, guilt, depression, failure, dissatisfaction, etc as "God's discipline" or "God's punishment." Whether it is true or not you will live what you believe. Believe in His love! Trust in His love! He is love! He is The Truth! HIS LOVE IS TRUE FOR YOU!

Related Posts
The Discipline of the Lord, Our Loving Father Helping Us Grow
Suffering is Not God's Punishment
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Is Eating Poison Worth Your While?

As good as institutional churches can be they almost always have these 3 major faults
#1 The church service is a Non-relational performance (show) to an audience by professionals
#2 It is led by men instead of Christ
#3 It promotes (forces down your throat) sin consciousness

#1 destroys the purpose of Christ's body, to love one another and build one another up, to share Christ in them with one another. One another means every person is involved. If its non-relational it is not a biblical meeting of the body.
#2 is set up to sucker people into believing lies because an unquestionable expert is presenting all of the information. It also makes it very hard for people to hear the real voice of God.
#3 is the worst of all, it kills the experience of the gospel in your life & leads you to shame yourself & condemn others.

I see churches like a restaurant that serves a 3 course meal. Two of the courses may be the best food you've ever had but one of the courses is poisoned & you don't know which one. I'm not going to a restaurant that serves up poison nor will I recommend it to anyone. So to me this isn't an issue of "I disagree with the menu selection." It is a case of "This place serves poison! No one should be eating poison! Please don't eat their poison!" Saying "no church is perfect" can be a rationalization to eat poison because you love the other things that are served up.

Making mistakes is one thing but having institutions/traditions/practices that are intentionally present all the time is another. Mistakes are like a cook accidentally spilling soap in your food. Traditions (etc.) are like poison being listed in the recipe.

Churches as people can make mistakes and be loved in spite of them because they are our brothers & sisters in Christ. Churches as institutions are like  faulty built machines. The blueprints are wrong and the machine will harm people because of it. I'm not promoting being "against them." I am stating why I am against an "it." While what I wrote is based on my observance it is also evident from scripture what is poison and what is not.

No matter how someone spins it I am not going to condone or promote poisoning the body. I am not saying, "Don't go to a church." At most I was saying, "Watch out, the church you are going to is very likely to be poisoned." I don't "support" eating poison, poison that I've seen harm people in countless ways. I don't want my brother to be harmed.

Thoughts from My Wise & Wonderful Wife
We have seen and experienced the bondage that people have been under unknowingly. There are some churches that may not have all three things going on that are listed but anyone of those things is a poison. We have seen a church to have true loving relationships. But even that is few and far between. Sin consciousness is for sure forced down your throat almost weekly. That's what the vast majority of sermons are. They are about a particular sin geared toward making you feel guilty about it. People call that conviction and pass it off as from God yet the only place in scripture that uses the word "convict" in reference to a Christian says that "He will convict them of their righteousness" not of their sin. We are dead to sin and alive to Christ and His righteousness because of His death on the cross and resurrection. Yet Christians walk around with so much guilt and shame that Christ died to take away.

When a sermon is nice and neatly put into a package and delivered to a vast group of people all of differing places in their walk with God it is very difficult to think through, "Could he be getting this wrong?" I've even experienced feeling guilty for daring to question whether what a preacher is saying is true!! I know they say study it out for yourself but in all honesty most do not. They assume the studied pastor must know what he is talking about. Plus we are not taught how to study. The bible is a very daunting book and we are made to feel like a true Christian will simply know how to study. So we keep quiet and hope the pastor is right.

We most certainly do promote meeting together with other Christians in a setting where all are free to contribute and growing and learning and discussing are present. These types of meetings can be difficult because we are so used to one man doing most of the talking but it is possible. We have seen people living in such guilt who feel that guilt is what God wants for us, to be down on ourselves and beating ourselves up.

Further Thoughts from Me
"Sin consciousness" refers to Hebrews 10:1-2 which says that the sacrifice of Christ has purified us for all time & our consciousness of sin can now disappear.

From a pulpit it comes out as a focus on "not sinning" usually through flesh based efforts or it comes out as guilt tripping, rebuking, or shaming the audience. Blanket statements of shame are made towards people who are not only undeserving in Christ (as all Christians are) but perhaps even undeserving in their behavior.

If you look carefully at the new testament you'll never see the word sin & the word repent in the same context unless it is talking about receiving the forgiveness of sins. The word repent is never aimed at Christians either.

Essentially to me sin consciousness is counting sin against yourself or others. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says God no longer counts sins against people thus neither should we.

God has similar feelings in Amos 5:21-24 regarding old testament assemblies which placed obstacles between men & God as I do about present assemblies.
“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at your peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream."

Note that God never says He hates the people but the pretentious things, even the things He once commanded, which they do. That is how I feel too.

Now it is the righteousness of Christ that we need to flow not our own righteousness. Sin consciousness does not allow it but denies the righteousness He has given us. Putting on a show & having professional leaders denies the body the ability to flow out the righteousness of Christ because they are a silenced audience

Related Posts
Ignore the Poison?

Friday, August 24, 2012

Deep Love

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).

People can become like timid stray animals because they have been abused, used, or treated badly by others. When you love someone those sins that they have suffered at the hands of others are covered over by your love. This covering process can take a very long time which is why it requires deep love. This is why telling someone you've just met "I love you" or "Jesus loves you" can fall on deaf ears. It is not the word love or the concept of love that has lost its meaning. It is the giving of love that never lives up to people's accurate expectations. People know in their hearts what love is, they know how they would want to be loved. That is why Jesus' words still ring true, "treat others the way you would want to be treated." There is no mystery about how to love in those words.

Whether they realize it or not people are searching for God's kind of love. Only God & those who are constantly confident that God loves them can give people that kind of love. If you EVER doubt God's love for you then you are a broken or cracked pipe trying to deliver the living water of God's love to a thirsty world. If you do not trust the source you will not see a supply.

The root of the problem with the world is not that people lack love for one another, that problem begins at the branches. The root of the problem with the world is that people do not know or are not completely confident in God's immeasurably deep love for them.

So How Are We to Think of Sin as an Action Today?

There is the condition of sin that is in human DNA.
There is the condition of sin that is in the lost man's spirit.
There is the entity of sin (possibly Satan) that wants to devour people (Genesis 4:7, John 8:34, Romans 6:14, 7:14, 1 Peter 5:8).
There are the actions of sin that were all laid on Christ.

The law is over, sin is not charged where there is no law (Romans 4:15,5:13) & because of Jesus' death God no longer charges people with the action of sin (2 Corinthians 5:19). While the flesh of lost & saved people still produce actions of sin & the dead spirits of lost people still produce actions of sin those sinful actions were charged to Jesus instead of mankind and judged at the cross so the sins were "taken away."

God did something magical at the cross, He took whatever past present and future sin we could have been charged with and condemned them in the body of Christ. Judgement for our sins happened before we were formally charged in our lifetime, thus we are not charged in our lifetime. His mercy was so great that He reversed the chronological order of judgement for the people who live after His death!

So how do we think of the action of sin today? That is a question I often ponder. Here is how I see it..
1. Just like an ex-con who has served His time still committed the crime in the first place to earn that time today's actions of sin were still laid on Christ. Knowing that always points us back to Him with gratitude which is the best thing to help us live more lovingly in this world.
2. There is to be no sin consciousness because we have been cleansed for all time by the sacrifice of Christ. I take "sin consciousness" to mean "a counting of our own sins" & "labeling our actions as sin." The opposite of sin consciousness is being "dead to sin but alive to God." Alive to God is key, it means you love God & love others. You don't have to be sin conscious to be love conscious.
3. We are to regard no one according to the flesh. The flesh is the only part of the Christian that produces sin. Lost people have a dead spirit that needs to meet Jesus to be reborn.

In my mind sin is an optional label you can put on unloving actions to hold those actions against yourself or others. I think sin is a completely unnecessary label for actions unless:
1. You are recognizing what Jesus took for you on the cross.
2. You are pointing a non-Christian to the fact that they have the spiritual condition of sin so they will come to trust Jesus for the cure.
3. You are trying to make a Christian aware of their harmful behavior towards other people so that they will walk by the spirit and not by the flesh.

Amazingly the only "consciousness" of sin that is appropriate is the kind that points to the finished work of Christ on the cross. If whatever you think of sin or call sin doesn't easily point to the cross I think you are looking at sin the wrong way. Christ became sin, doing so didn't just bring salvation but it also made it so any legitimate (biblical) thought of sin points you to Him. People have gone "label happy" labeling or viewing most things as sin and thus they miss what it means for Christ to have "taken away the sins of the world." Yes, a lie is still a lie & a lie is still unloving but I don't think it is appropriate to label it as a "sin."

If sin is not charged to us for two reasons (because there is no law to do so & because God refuses to do so) & it has already been judged how can we call an action sin? If there is no law, if the judge refuses to charge you, & any debt you could possibly incur has already been over paid how can you call something a crime? Our lives are not about sin, they are about our relationships with God & others. God can & does look at you apart from your actions. God still lovingly walks us out of destructive behaviors. Sin truly is taken away & for Christians it is as far as the east is from the west. In reality sin as an action is a dead concept for Christians, that is why we must CONSIDER ourselves dead to sin.

It is kinda hard to wrap our minds around because we are desperately trained to call out sin as we see it. God doesn't see all sins the same because He has no eyes for sin at all. He cannot look upon sin because it is gone. What is there for Him to look at? All that is left is trust or unbelief. Truly it is finished.

"The Messiah has finished the transgression, made an end of sin, made atonement for iniquity, brought in everlasting righteousness, & given His holy people His Holy Spirit." (Daniel 9:24, New Covenant Paraphrase)

God's approach is different than ours, He helps you up without saying "that was stupid." He is loving enough to not charge you with fault yet still realize your need. Like the prodigal's father He never breathes a condemning word about your short comings. To charge someone with sin is condemnation. We think we have to be charged with a crime first to prevent repeating it. May we all learn how untrue that is! God doesn't require flesh based efforts to invoke change in how we behave. His loving kindness captures our hearts & that is all we need, to have our heart in His hand.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Victory of Jesus Has Brought Liberation from Sin

Whether or not we sin isn't the primary issue of life. We are free from sin (Romans 6:6-7,18,22, 8:2).

If I am freed from a country that once enslaved me I could..
    1. Stay there and try to fight against the people who imprisoned me.
    2. Go enjoy my freedom elsewhere.
I don't have to fight to maintain freedom, Christ freed me.

Hebrews 10:1-2 says that when we know we are cleansed, we lose consciousness of sins, meaning we no longer have to count sins against ourselves.
"The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship. If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped, for the worshipers would have been purified once for all time, and their feelings of guilt and consciousness of sin would have disappeared." (Hebrews 10:1-2)

I've been perfectly cleansed for all time because of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. God's value of me as His child is not based on my behavior. God does not charge His children with sin (2 Corinthians 5:19-20; 1 John 3:5-6,9; 1 John 5:18). Because He loves me I want to love others & do good.

Romans 6:8-14 says to "Consider yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus." God does not intend for us to focus on or strive to "be good." God intends for us to focus on Him and His goodness.

A liberator's victory brings freedom. Jesus is our savior, our liberator. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Corinthians 3:17). Our victory doesn't come from trying to obtain or abstain it only comes from trusting in the victory Christ has already won, what He has already obtained for us. "The victory that overcomes the world is made evident through our faith, our trust in Christ's victory" (1 John 5:4).

Thoughts on Evangelism

Hell is not Good News
Under law everyone deserves hell. Under grace everyone deserves salvation but must choose to trust Christ to receive it. Rejecting Christ is like being given a house but never moving in.

Evangelize means to "proclaim or announce good news." The gospel of Jesus Christ is literally good news. The gospel isn't about hell it is about Jesus Christ taking away our sins so we can know God. People don't have to be warned about hell if you introduce them to our wonderful loving God. The message of Jesus was "Trust me and LIVE!" not "Trust me or DIE!" The gospel message isn't, "You're in danger of going to hell." The gospel message is "God has already bought for you and is offering you every good thing. Trust Him and you will have more joy & experience more love than you ever thought possible."

The book of Acts doesn't mention hell thus we see no basis for it to be used in evangelism. We cannot convince anyone but we can tell them the good news. I think that is why hell never comes up in Acts. If someone doesn't respond positively to the good news of what Jesus has done for them what more is there to say? I would see anything more as manipulation because you feel obligated to "get them saved" because religion teaches that you must or you are a failure.

Fear of Hell Does Not Result in Relationship with God
Using "if you don't trust Jesus you're in danger of going to hell," even after sharing the true gospel, is adding an appeal to human fear at the end rather than letting the gospel rest on God's love. The last thing you say is often the most memorable because it is the most recent. I falsely got baptized based on my fear of hell. I wasn't choosing God or trusting God. I did not know God because of it and I was not saved until 5 years later. Adding "if you reject Him you're in danger of going to hell" every time you share the gospel is sorta like offering someone a million dollars at gun point. Let the riches speak for themselves! If you truly believe the gospel is Good News why would you need to threaten someone into it?

Churches Seek Religious Servants rather than Disciples for Christ
Some say, "Well Jesus talked about hell more than he talked about heaven." I don't know if that is true but I do know that He talked about His Father & His relationship with Him most of all because that is what salvation is, an eternal love relationship with God. I've pretty much never heard anyone evangelize like that. Rarely do you hear, "Jesus wants you to know & experience the love of His incredible Father." Why is that simple truth so rare? Because religion runs on the performances of its people. If people think God already completely loves them and approves of them the minute they are saved then there is no reason to serve a religious system to earn His approval. God did not set up a religious system. I'm not saying this is done maliciously but church attendance/service/membership is almost always included in the sales pitch. "Pray now and you will not only avoid hell but you can go to my church free!"

The Christian Sales Pitch
Most people never see evangelism exemplified. We only see public preaching that is so impersonal & non-interactive that preachers are forced to make blanket statements & assume people's answers because people aren't allowed to personally answer during a sermon. So likewise we may approach evangelism as a "prepared message" rather than a conversation where we listen to the person we are talking to and we listen to the spirit. In churches I've only seen evangelism taught as an intellectual formula to win an argument. Honestly it leaves God out of it. If you have x amount of things to say when does God get a chance to lead you? "Evangelistic training" in the church is basically something used to calm people's fears (which Christ Himself should be doing) & it is a practical substitute for listening to God. Christians are seen as another form of manipulative salesmen by the world & rightly so because that is exactly what they are taught to be.

Getting someone to pray "the sinner's prayer" is how you "close the deal." And just like a salesman you may never speak to this person again after closing the deal because you got them to pray the prayer and show up to your church. Planting and watering are part of a gradual process of care, growth, and relationship. Most Christian witnessing carries the mindset of applying miracle grow so we can quickly add a tally to the conversion board.

Oxymoronic Witnessing
Not only does most "witnessing" end in trying to get people to go to your church but even more often "witnessing" is inviting someone to church to hear a sermon. A "witness" is one who can give a firsthand account of something experienced. A prepared sales pitch is not a witness. Getting someone to go to church in hopes that they will get saved is like a salesman only inviting someone to an infomercial taping. People don't witness because they haven't witnessed anything. If your entire witness is based on what you've read in the bible, you probably haven't witnessed anything. Just because you read about a crime in the paper, doesn't mean that you can go to court during the trial and be a witness.

Several times Jesus told people not to say what He had done for them but they couldn't help themselves because they witnessed the living God, the Messiah. The news is not good if God is not knowable. If I am a witness that means I have seen God's love for me. The good news is that Jesus took away our sin on the cross so that we could know God. As Jesus said in John 17:3, "Knowing God is eternal life!" Witnessing flows from a relationship with God.

Being Motivated by Guilt
If I'm sharing Jesus with my neighbor because I'm going to feel guilty if I don't then it is still about me, its not about them, and they're not going to hear it. Religious obligation turns evangelism into, "I'm gonna feel bad if I don't witness so I'm going to run over there and witness." If your witnessing is motivated by guilt or fear of guilt you in no way exude the gospel. The gospel of Christ removes guilt. If you fear your inactivity will produce feelings of guilt then you need to understand the gospel yourself.

The Gospel Message as Presented by Paul in 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."

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spiritual Identity in Christ Summarized

"Because Christ died for all we are to no longer identify anyone according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).
Our identity is our spirit, that is how God identifies us and how God wants us to identify ourselves.

"For those who are in Christ the old spirit has gone" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

"Your new spirit has been created in the likeness of God. You truly are right with God. You were made righteous, pure, guiltless, innocent, faultless, and holy" (Ephesians 4:24).

"All wrongdoing is sin. We know that no one who is born of God sins." (1 John 5:17-18)
The only part of you that is born of God is your spirit, Jesus makes that clear in John 3. Now remember God only identifies you by your spirit. So essentially what this scripture says is, "You can do no wrong in God's eyes!"

Monday, August 20, 2012

How Sermonizing is Not Shepherding & More..

There is no biblical evidence of a sermon (non-interactive monologue) being "preached" to a group of Christians in the New Testament. What we do see is open participatory meetings where "each one" has songs, teachings, revelations, etc (1 Corinthians 14:26). Thinking every time the word "preach" is used in translation of scripture it means "preach a sermon" is making an assumption not based on study. There is no such thing as a "pulpit" in the New Testament. Today's type of "preaching" is based on the traditions of men & misapplications of old covenant scripture.

I don't think the Word of God "should be preached" among Christians as most people understand preaching (sermonizing). The traditions of men are an inferior substitute to the ways of God. I've heard preachers admit in sermons that sermons/monologues/lectures are the least effective form of communication/teaching but then blame the audience for not remembering sermon material. That would be like a coach intentionally training his team in the least effective way possible & blaming the team for being lousy.

To me there is a big difference between preaching & teaching. I don't consider an impersonal, non-interactive relay of information to be teaching. If you research the uses of the word preach & teach in scripture you'll see that preaching (usually meaning proclaiming or announcing) is something done for Non-Christians to make them aware of the gospel. You'll see that there are times that "preaching and teaching" are mentioned together hinting that they are separate things.

While I am aware that teaching does happen in churches, the sermon is something that falls short of the biblical idea of teaching (you could call biblical teaching discipling). While it could be called preaching (proclaiming) it is something we never see done in a Christian assembly in scripture. There are countless ways that sermonizing is harmful to the body. The message that always points back to the love of God & the finished work of Christ (the true gospel) will prevent most of that harm from occurring. The sermon, in most churches, is touted as the essential "main-event" of the normal Christian life. When it is touted as such that is one of its most harmful elements because its non-interactive & impersonal nature actually stops people from relating to & loving one another, instead it forces them into silence.

Sermonizing is Not Shepherding
We never see "preaching" associated with "shepherds/pastors" in scripture either. We hear that shepherds "feed the flock." What is feeding? Is feeding throwing food into a large crowd & never knowing if anyone in the crowd catches and eats anything? Where is the evidence that someone was fed? It is assumed that because you spread the seed that people are fed. Sermons don't accomplish feeding. The only type of feeding I would say a sermon does is like that of a grocery store. If people come in and appropriate the food they can feed themselves from it. Throwing food at people's mouths (ears) to me is not feeding. When I think "feeding" I think of how one would feed a baby or a small motherless animal. I would consider The Great Shepherd Jesus' interactive & personal discipling to be feeding.

Seeing-over a crowd when you preach is not the same as overseeing (teaching & guarding). Hebrews 13:17 says that overseers (the same thing as pastors/elders) are "those who are alert to the condition of your lives." You can't be alert to some one's condition when you aren't even relating to them. Sermons are non-relational. Sermons don't accomplish shepherding in any sense. The sermon itself does not accomplish biblical shepherding. When something is preached to a passive crowd it is all on the crowd to pay attention and feed themselves. It is no different than watching a sermon on television. People can learn from those but that doesn't mean "Televangelist Whoever" is shepherding them. There isn't shepherding it is just a relay of information.

In Ephesians 4:11, the only time shepherds is used for people other than Jesus and literal shepherds, it calls them shepherd-teachers. Shepherding does involve teaching & fellowshipping is essential to shepherding. If there is no relationship between someone & their pastor/shepherd it is impossible to be shepherded. Shepherding is personal & relational. Sermons are just as personal on TV as they are in person. Based on my study of scripture I would say that sermons do not accomplish shepherding in any sense from the shepherd's standpoint. While people can and do learn from sermons, preaching a sermon is not shepherding at all.

Church Service is Extra-Biblical
While the preacher speaks people have to be quiet & listen. It literally stops people from relating to one another for that time frame, which is the majority of the time they spend assembled together. One another relating cannot be done during a sermon. To share Christ in us with one another is the most important part of the Christian life, it is what scripture calls God's eternal purpose. So if the sermon is the "main event," building one another up etc. is less important & to most not even part of the normal "church experience."

Announcing testimonies, praises, & prayer requests does not accomplish most of the one anothering spoken of in scripture. Announcing good things (you could biblically call this "preaching") is beneficial but it is still not relational.

Typical Sunday morning church meetings go something like this,
Greet each other very briefly (usually with cliché greetings); Announce your testimonies, praises, & prayer requests to the congregation; Sing and don't talk to each other; Listen to the sermon and don't talk to each other; meeting over.

The elements & time managed structure of the meeting "actually stops people from relating to & loving one another." When the church comes together it has "better things to do" than sharing Christ in us with one another. You can hope that somehow the sermon or another element has inspired people to love & relate but overall the meeting itself does not even allow it to happen during its duration.

Example overrides information. What you do in practice is what people take as truth more so than your words. This is one of the things I mean when I said, "the gospel stops most of that harm from occurring" because in practice information from a sermon is touted as more important than relationships. Why? Because relating is something you are supposed to do outside of the meeting. 40 minutes or so is given to a sermon & maybe 2 minutes given to a meet & greet.

So the "church service" is an event to attend like a concert. The modern church service is something extra-biblical. This type of meeting, including the sermon, is not endorsed or even found in scripture. It bears almost no resemblance to the assembling talked about in 1 Corinthians 14 & Hebrews 10. Sure it can be beneficial but the traditions of men are still an inferior substitute to the ways of God. This Sunday morning church service is touted as the main event of the normal Christian life (often with the sermon as the primary portion of the service) but it is an extra-biblical substitute for genuine relationships & relational meetings where everyone can contribute. Meetings that are led by Christ the Head instead of led by programs, preparations, & preachers.

Related Posts
Community vs. Prescriptions
How "Preach" is Used with Bias in Translating the Bible

Love One Another
In Context: "Forsake not the assembling.."
In Context: "Forsake not.." & "I can do all things.." Revisited
Growth in Christ Through Relationships
Mistranslation of Words in The Bible

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11: Dangerous or Delightful?

"Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:27).
People who profess salvation through partaking of communion yet do not possess it, because true faith is not present, become guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. Those people will not be able to claim ignorance when they stand before God. The Lord's Supper clearly proclaims the Gospel.

Christians are never guilty of the blood of the Lord, they are never condemned, & they are always worthy. This scripture cannot be about them. But some might say, "This was written to the assembly at Corinth. That means this scripture must be addressed to Christians." Paul wrote to the Corinthians again and said, "Examine yourselves to see whether or not you are in the faith" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Paul said the same thing here, "Let a man examine himself" (v28). Why would he write that if he did not have reason to think there were non-Christians among the assembly at Corinth? He wouldn't, thus it is ignorant to think that everything in Paul's letters must apply to Christians or only addresses Christians.

"He who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep." (1 Corinthians 11:29-30).
God is not cursing, condemning, or killing off Christians in this text. When we see "the Lord's body" Paul is not making the body analogy referring to God's family because the Lord's supper is specifically about the broken physical body of Christ. It says the people spoken of here are unworthy because they are "not discerning the Lord's body." If you don't discern the Lord's body you cannot be saved because the Lord's body is what brought salvation & new life. His body is also what brought physical & emotional healing. By the stripes on the body of Christ we are healed. The passover bread had stripes & piercings baked into it. These people were sick because they did not recognize the body of Jesus our Lord thus they did not have the power to be healed. Those who do not recognize the healing Christ's body obtained sentence themselves to weakness, sickness, & death.

"If we would discern ourselves, we would not be judged." (1 Corinthians 11:31).
Those who recognize themselves to be a sinner and put trust in Jesus experience salvation, and they will not be judged. This entire portion of scripture is aimed at the tares/goats (non-Christians) who are among the wheat/sheep (Christians). This entire scripture is not about Christians becoming sin conscious & examining their flesh. It is certainly not about God condemning & pouring wrath on His children. And it is absolutely not about Christians losing their sonship/salvation. If it meant these things it would go against the intent of Christ's sacrifice which is what The Lord's Supper reminds us of! God didn't set this up as a potential death sentence to abort His children's salvation if they have unconfessed sin in their lives & take the bread or wine. The Lord's supper wasn't given as a somber time to examine our flesh (which is not our identity in Christ) & remember sins but was given as a reminder of the fact that our sins are taken away because of the bloody, beaten, & broken body of Christ our Lord.

What? You mean the Lord's Supper serves to point solely to Christ on the cross & not me, my sin, & my works? Sounds like the love of God to me. The unworthy are the unsaved. When you are saved Christ makes you worthy forever! He doesn't see you or judge you by the actions of your flesh. He only sees your sinless spirit made in the likeness of God which is one spirit with Him! <Don't believe the last two sentences? See the scriptures below.

"Now we, along with God, recognize no one according to the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16).
"Once the Spirit of God dwells in you, you are not in the flesh but in the spirit" (Romans 8:9).
"Your spirit is created in the likeness of God in pure righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24).
"Your spirit, which is born of God, cannot sin. You are not able to produce sin" (1 John 3:9, 5:18).
"The one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1 Corinthians 6:17).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

More Thoughts on Christians Not Needing to Confess Sins

I learned that God does not want me counting my sins up because I have been cleansed of them & He does not count anything against me (2 Corinthians 5:19).
My experience where I don't need to confess sins for any reason is infinitely better than when I did. I used to believe that I had to confess sins to God but the release & forgiveness I felt was merely the first tastes of who God is & of His power.

"As a man thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7). You limit your experience of God by believing in this falsehood. When you put conditions on God you will live by those conditions even when He is not putting those conditions on you. He offers you a feast of cleansing, power to overcome, fellowship, & joy but the condition of "I should still confess my sins" gives you only a taste of His wonderful love.

Acknowledgement of fault can be ok but it is unnecessary. I trust God will walk me out of what He wants to walk me out of. Because of what Jesus did God promises to no longer remember our sins (Hebrews 8:12,10:17). Nowhere does scripture suggest that this promise to forget is contingent upon continual confession of sins. You have to add the words "if you confess your sins" to countless scriptures to support the idea that Christians are required to confess sins to God. That means in God's eyes I can't "acknowledge it" because He keeps no record of it. "Love keeps no record of wrongs." "God is love."

God wants to convince me of my righteous spirit not of my unrighteous flesh. I don't need to ask for forgiveness to experience it. I walk in His abundant forgiveness every day beyond what I could have imagined years ago. Sin has no power over me (Romans 6:14). If "I" sin it is my flesh that does it & not my spirit (1 John 3:9, 5:18). God does not identify me by my flesh & neither should I (2 Corinthians 5:16 & Romans 8:9). However if I harm someone else I will take the loving route to making amends.

Trusting in God's Love is Not Risky

God is always better than we think He is. Scripture says it is impossible to come to a full knowledge of His love. Even though you enjoy God you could be believing a lie that keeps you from enjoying Him even more.

I don't understand the hesitancy people have to believe me when I say, "Our life in Christ Jesus can be even better than you think.."

So many Christians refuse to suspend their disbelief and take a step on faith saying, "Maybe God is good enough to not require me to confess sins to Him," or "Maybe God is good enough to not count my actions against me." Not taking that step either comes from an unhealthy fear of God (the kind that doesn't understand His perfect love) or from the pride of not wanting to be wrong. Take a risk and trust in His love. You won't regret it.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Does God Abort His Children?

Hebrews 7:25 tells us that "Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." "God is not wishing that any should perish" (2 Peter 3:9).
So not only is He able He is also willing. Thus how can you not be saved completely if God is willing and able to save you completely?

"Nothing can separate us from the love of God" (Romans 8:39). God is love, if we can't be separated from His love how can we be separated from Him?

If somehow a Christian can become "unborn" based on their behavior after being born again that would mean sin is more powerful than God which is utterly false. Believing sin is more powerful than God really misses the point of the cross. We've already been totally forgiven at the cross. God does not count anything against us because of it (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Christ is the one who causes perseverance (see Hebrews 7:25 above). We abstain from bad behavior because God loves us not because we are afraid of Him casting us off.

If salvation is dependent upon human behavior Christ died for nothing. Why would there be a sacrifice for us if we could have saved ourselves? If you think you can lose your salvation based on behavior you, knowingly or not, believe the cross has no power and it is all our righteousness that saves us. That is not the gospel at all.

A Christian losing salvation essentially would be God aborting His own child.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments † I Will Love You So You Will Trust Me

Jesus said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
This is perhaps the legalist's favorite phrase that Jesus ever spoke. Most take this as meaning "To prove you love me you must keep everything I have ever commanded you." It is not the keeping that produces love but the loving that causes the keeping. But contextually are there specific commands Jesus is talking about? Yes.

What Were the Commands?
"A new commandment I give to you, love one another. Just as I have loved you, love one another" (John 13:34-35).
"Trust in God. Trust also in Me" (John 14:1).
Why these two? Because John repeats them in 1 John 3:23, "This is God's command: to trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as He commanded us." "As He commanded us" refers back to John 13, "Love one another as I have loved you." Apparently this command was well known & widespread because John referred to "as He commanded us" without quoting how He commanded us.

Why Did Jesus Command His Disciples to Trust?
In John 14:1 Jesus says, "Trust in God. Trust also in Me." Now let us read John 14:15-17, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments and I will ask the Father, and He will give to you another Comforter, that He might be with you forever the Spirit of truth. He will be in you." Wow, this statement from Jesus (if you love Me..) has been taken so far out of context that it isn't even the whole sentence. Jesus knew these men & Judas had already left to betray Him. Jesus was saying "If you love me you will trust me & you will trust the Father. That trust results in receiving the Holy Spirit who is just like me. He will be with you forever and live in you." These guys did love Jesus, they were in a very unique position to have a love relationship with Him in the flesh before Jesus went to the cross, rose again, and became a life-giving Spirit.

Jesus was saying "Do you love me Peter? Do you love me John? Do you love me Matthew?... If you love me you will keep my commandments to trust in the Father and to trust in me. When I know you trust me I will ask the Father to give you another Comforter (one who is just like me) to be with you forever and to live in you." This was Jesus' appeal to the human relational love they had for Jesus which was built the 3 years they were with Him so they would trust Him through the devastating time where He goes to the cross and even to the grave. Jesus foretold them of His death and resurrection numerous times. John 13:1 says that everything Jesus did this night was to love His disciples because He knew He was going to be arrested and die soon.

Jesus didn't say “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" for all Christians throughout time to be burdened by all the commands Jesus taught in His life (many of which were old covenant commands which He spoke so people would realize their helplessness in keeping those commands). Jesus was referring to specific commands. He said this to men He had established human relationships with. He told them that He was about to be put to death and would rise again. He wanted them to trust Him so they would see Him risen and receive all the amazing things He gives through the Holy Spirit and new life.

The disciples did love Jesus because He first loved them and they all did receive the Holy Spirit as promised because ultimately they trusted in the Father, in Him, & in His resurrection. The loving caused the trusting. The trusting was the keeping of the two commandments to trust. The result of & reward for the keeping was receiving the Holy Spirit, an eternal spiritual relationship with God.

Today He loves, we trust, & He gives us the Holy Spirit. This was spoken to those who knew Jesus in the flesh so they would simply trust Him until He would give the Spirit. Jesus still wanted them to trust Him after they received the Spirit but that was not the initial purpose of the commands. Be sure that He still wants us today to trust Him (have faith in Him, believe Him) but also be sure to know that trust is the fruit of a relationship where you know that you are loved. These men uniquely had that relationship with Jesus before salvation was complete. Now God wants us to know His love, trust Him, & receive His Spirit. Trust is how we experience God's love for us and trust is how we love God.

Why Did Jesus Command His Disciples to Love One Another?
"This is God's command: to trust in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us" (1 John 3:23). This lets us know that more than just the commands to "Trust in God & trust also in Me," were in view. Jesus was also referring to this command which He said twice that night, "A new commandment I give to you, love one another. Just as I have loved you, love one another. All will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another” (John 13:34-35).

John repeatedly talks about "God's commandments" in 1 John but then says "This is His commandment" in 1 John 3:23 (quoted above). It is a compound command. In brief the command is, "Trust me & love others as I have loved you." "Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, & strength" was the greatest commandment in the law. The law was powerless (Romans 8:3) & the law is over (Colossians 2:14 & Ephesians 2:15). This new commandment supersedes the previous greatest commandment not only because the law is over but because this is not a powerless command. God's love & trustworthiness is essentially included in it. Knowing His trustworthiness is the means to trusting Him. Knowing His love is the means to loving others. Your trust is dependent on His trustworthiness. Your love is dependent on His love. He is responsible you are simply responsive. When everything depends on God & comes from God people will see God, "All will know that you are My disciples."

Why didn't Jesus give the new command, "love as I have loved you" before this night? Simple, this was at the end of His life with them in the flesh, He made sure that His love had been shown to them adequately before He gave this new command. God's new covenant commands are not laws. A law is something that you are bound to keep where failure to keep it results in a penalty/punishment. There is no condemnation or punishment for those in Christ. If you have not experienced His love God is not expecting you to love others well. Your goal is to discover His love & trust Him. This command is only for those who know His true love. It was given to keep the disciples together during their time of adversity. After His death they were staying in the same place. They loved one another during this tough time.

John repeats this command for those who know His true love. John speaks about God's love for us before repeating the command. He says, "God wants fellowship with mankind, knowing God brings complete joy, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin & unrighteousness, Jesus is the satisfying sacrifice for the sins of all, God has removed our sins, we have an anointing from the Holy One, God has promised us eternal life (relationship with God), God is our teacher, because of His great love God calls us His own children, we have been born of God, we are righteous, God has given us a new spirit through our birth in Him that cannot produce sin, Jesus laid down His life for us, God can stop our hearts from condemning us."

John goes on to write "We love because God first loved us. This is love, not that we loved God, but that God loved us and sent His Son as the satisfying sacrifice for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10). Understanding this truth here is the key to walking in intimacy with God & walking in love with one another. The love we have does not come from a commandment. It comes from the fact that we grow in God's unconditional love for us. We love, not because of commandments, but because God loves us. His command is to "love as He has loved us." His love instigates & empowers our love for others. John makes a point that true love only comes from God loving us first. Love is not produced by us trying to love God without knowing His love first. Thus it is not the keeping of commands that produces love but God's loving of us that causes the keeping of commands.

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:2-3). Remember His commands are to trust God (view Him as trustworthy & walk in a relationship with Him where you entrust yourself to Him & follow His guidance) & to love one another as He has loved us. We love God by trusting Him! We love God by loving others! 'We know we love the children of God when we love God, trust God, & love others as He has loved us.' Remember, His commands are not laws, they are not a stack of overwhelming obligations. His commands do not burden us because trust & love are walked out in a real-time relationship with Him & with others.

Keep His Word
In John 14:21 Jesus says, "He who has My commandments, and keeps them, that is the one who loves Me, and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him.”
It is all about relationship. Here is a paraphrase of how the disciples would have heard Jesus when He said this, "If you know that I ask you to trust me and the Father and you do trust us, that means you love Me. Since you love Me you will experience the love of the Father and you will experience my love also. I will show myself to you because you trust me and because you love me."

John 14:22-24: Judas, not Iscariot, said to Him, “Lord, what has happened, that You are about to manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word, and My Father will love Him, and We will come to him, and We will dwell with him. He who does not love Me, does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me."

Note the differences, earlier Jesus said "if YOU (my disciples) love me, YOU will keep My commandments." Then here Jesus says, "If ANYONE loves Me, He will keep My word." When asked about "the world" Jesus no longer uses the word "commandments." I think it is because Jesus takes "my commandments" literally. He actually told His disciples to do things. He commanded them. The world, meaning those who weren't His disciples at the time, "does not know Him" so they aren't commanded. (Note that John repeated Jesus' commands to others & wrote them in scripture. Because of this we who are His disciples can say that they are His commands to us but that is not the time frame Jesus was speaking in).

Keep means to hold, treasure, pay attention to, follow, listen with the intent to understand or act upon. It is somewhat similar to obey but more thoughtful & personal. It isn't just doing. Keeping is listening & understanding then treasuring & doing. (This is also the definition of keep used for "keep my commands"). So to "keep His word" is to have a trust that results from grasping the wonderful news of Jesus.

Those from the world who love Him keep His word. Notice it is singular. His "word" here means they trust Him about His trustworthiness regarding who He is. Love and trust go together. To God trusting Him equals loving Him. These are just the facts of salvation, if you trust (love) Him you will experience the Father loving you and God will live in and with you in an eternal spiritual relationship.

Those who do not love Him don't trust Him and don't care about any of the words He has said. Hebrews 11:6 says, "It is impossible to please God without trust". Galatians 5:6 says, "The only thing that counts is trust being expressed through love." We love because He first loved us. His love draws us to trust Him and trusting Him is loving Him.

Originally “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" was directed towards Jesus' disciples to appeal to their relational love for Him so they would endure & be saved through His resurrection. After the cross Jesus does not appeal to our love for Him in order for us to receive salvation because until we are saved we do not know Him.

Jesus was referring to specific commands. John passed these commands on to all Christians. The commands were 1. trust the Father 2. trust Jesus 3. love one another as God has loved you. These are the only overarching commands for Christians today because all of God's direction for our lives is followed by trusting God. Trust is how we have a relationship with God.

These 3 commands (which John considers 1 command in his first letter) all point to God rather than our personal morality. Our trust is in His trustworthiness. Our love for others comes from knowing His love for us. Truly His commands aren't burdensome. Jesus wasn't endorsing a legalistic lifestyle but instead is promoting a relationship with God that springs from & is based on His trustworthiness & His love for us. The more we recognize His love the more we will trust Him, love Him, & love others.

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

Very Related Posts

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Self-Focus is God-Focus

As a Christian, because of Christ, I have a good self. In order to walk by the spirit I must acknowledge the good self (spirit, identity) that God has given me. My spiritual identity is in fact my only identity in God's eyes. Thus it is my only identity, it is my only "self." If you must talk about selfishness I think self-centred is a better word to use than selfish. Jesus had the greatest self ever but He was not self-centered. The opposite of self-centeredness is love for others. If I focus on self to the exclusion of others that is a harmful thing.

Jesus knew who He was and the importance of what He came to do. If He was not confident that He was the Son of God everything would have been in disarray. Likewise we must have confidence in the fact that we are His children & confidence in what it means to be born of God. The idea that I should degrade myself is sick, satanic, & useless (Colossians 2:18,23). For the Christian a focus on our true self (our only "self" as God sees us) is a good thing and is actually a focus on God. If I rejoice about my identity in Christ it is all because of what Christ has given me & done for me.

An amazing thing to do is to also rejoice in how God sees other people, about their true identity in Christ especially when they treat you poorly. We who are in Christ are equally loved, equally holy, equally righteous, & equally perfected whether we can see it or not. To see someone through the eyes of Christ disarms your negative thoughts and emotions towards them. If we have an awareness of sin, that is if we count sins & label things as sin, it is impossible for us to see anyone, including ourselves, as God sees us. God has taken the world's sin away. He has removed it from people so now He does not regard anyone according to their flesh based actions. God knows this is best for us too. Not regarding people according to their flesh based actions changes how you treat people. You cannot judge or compare by pride. You simply love because you are loved & they are loved. God's love is like butter, it is better when spread.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Spirit is Willing but the Flesh is Weak † The Spirit is Able

Looking at Jesus
"When Jesus arrived at the place in the garden called Gethsemane, He began to be very troubled and grieved and distressed. Then He said to His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and keep watch with Me. Pray that you might not enter into temptation.”
And He withdrew from them, and went a little beyond them, about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down, and He fell to the ground on His face, and began to pray that if it were possible the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, “My Abba Father, all things are possible for You. If it is possible, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but what You will - Your will be done.” Now an angel from Heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He was praying very fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground...And He went away again a second time, and prayed, saying the same words. "My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done."..And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more." (MT 26:36-46, MK 14:32-42, LK 22:39-46, JN 18:1)

Jesus says that people "enter into temptation." Some translations mistranslate this as "fall into temptation." Temptation is no accident. It is something you choose to enter into by entertaining thoughts of fear, lust, anger, shame, etc.

Jesus faced something we will never face, the task of taking upon Himself the sins of the world to the point of "becoming sin." "God made Jesus, who knew no sin, to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus was tempted to find a way out of this suffering. He was "very troubled and deeply grieved and distressed to the point of death!" He asked the Father for a way out three times. He did so without sin by preferring the Father's will to his own even in His agony.

Jesus would face the FULL power of ALL sin & the greatest suffering EVER on the cross. Here, in the shadow of the cross, He faced sin's full power in the form of the greatest temptation of all time. He was tempted to avoid the suffering, to choose self-centered "love" over love for His Father and the world.

His temptation & agony over it was so great that, "His sweat became like drops of blood falling down on the ground." I believe that Hebrews 12:4 speaks, not of the cross but of His experience in the garden. It says, "In your striving against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood." Jesus was tempted to commit the ultimate sin, abandoning redemption, because He faced the ultimate suffering. He strove against that sin to the point of shedding blood. His agony was so immense that an angel had to strengthen Him. But to the praise of the Father HE DID RESIST!

The Power of Sin Broken

We Christians now have this same power & person living inside of us, He who resisted the ultimate temptation. His temptation was one that is "not common to men" & no one else will ever face it. Jesus died one time to break the power of sin for all. He freed us from sin. He did away with our body of sin. "God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh. He condemned sin in the flesh by declaring an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins" (Romans 8:3). "Jesus Christ loves us and released us from our sins by His blood" (Revelation 1:5).

Jesus broke the power of sin. So not only do we have the power & the person to keep us from entering into temptation but sin also has no power over us (Romans 6:14). Sin (& Satan) is like a pitiful & fallen dictator threatening you with a fake gun under his jacket to do his bidding. Most give in because they are unaware of the arsenal of power they have been given through being born again.

"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). The Word of God is the Sword of the Spirit because the knowledge of the power is required to use that power. An unarmed man will fall prey to the enemy. An unskilled man is likely to give in also. Train with the sword. You train with the sword by having a relationship with Jesus and reading the scripture. "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). So many only resist in the flesh, which is useless, that is what Satan wants you to do. But if you resist in the spirit his fleeing is what you will be seeing.

Looking at His Disciples Then & Now
"Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak" (Matthew 26:41).

Jesus saying, "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” was spoken to His disciples before the cross. Their spirits had not yet been united with God into one spirit with Him (1 Corinthians 6:17). They did not yet have the Holy Spirit nor the born again spirit we have today. Our spirits are infinitely more powerful than theirs were.

That tells us two things,
1. Their spirits were still willing even though they were not born again, so we have no excuse to not be willing especially since "God works in us to make us willing" (Philippians 2:13). A Christian who is aware of the spirit God has given them & is unwilling to use its power is like the world's strongest man refusing to help an old woman get a jug of milk out of the fridge.

2. We don't have to "watch and pray so that we will not enter into temptation" because our spirit is greater than our flesh. We don't have to watch for temptation because we are dead to sin & alive to God in Christ Jesus. We don't need to fear temptation because sin has been taken away at the cross & we need not be conscious of it (Hebrews 10:1-2).

The more we know God's love for us & of our freedom from sin the more we will be able to tap into our "continually praying spirit" gaining feelings of refreshing joy & peace. We don't have to beg God to deliver us from temptation. He has empowered us to ignore it. Our greatest, most powerful prayer, is not a prayer of fearful desperation but a prayer of thanksgiving for what God has already done for us.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

God is not mocked. - Avoid Flesh Renovation

God is not mocked.
Galatians 6:7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, he will also reap."

Most take this to mean, "You better not mock God by sinning or He'll punish you."  But I think "God is not mocked" shares meaning with 2 Corinthians 5:19, "God does not count sins against you."  Literally God is not mocked.  God is not counting anything you do against you, but you will still receive the consequences of your actions.

It goes on to say in 6:8, "The one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."  Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life can be defined as "knowing God" or "relationship with God."  So if you sow to the spirit (trust in God, set your mind on the spirit) you will know God more & grow an ever improving relationship with Him.

Avoid Flesh Renovation
"The mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace" (Romans 8:6).

The flesh is your physical body & mind. It is what produces sin.  Your spirit is "born in the likeness of God" (Ephesians 4:24).  It cannot produce sin (1 John 3:9).  You don't want to attempt a flesh renovation, not even based on the commands of scripture.  Attempting a flesh renovation is "sowing to your flesh."  Focusing on the negative qualities & behaviors of yourself or others will cause you to lack peace & reap corruption (an inferior, harmful life).  Focus on God & who He has made you in your new born spirit & as Philippians 2:13 says, "God will work in you to desire & to act according to His good pleasure."