Thursday, January 31, 2013

Boiling it Down

I think it is interesting that we still boil things down to laws, "love god, love others."

If the message to pass on from scripture were to "love god & love others" a person wouldn't even need to know God to try to pull that off. It would also be easy for the person we pass it onto to still live in a "how much love do I have to give to make me ok" mindset. They had those laws before Jesus came. If they were the only truths that mattered why would Jesus die?

I think the most important thing to get out of scripture is "God loves me & that means I'm ok & God loves you too & that means you're ok." He'll love us well enough for us to love Him back & to spread His love around.

If you don't trust that He loves you then your experience in life is not going to be ok because you will try to get Him to love you & even if you don't try that you'll still be missing out on living in His love. If you don't trust that He loves others then you will make yourself superior to them in your mind. Or you will fear for them & be angry with them because they aren't trying hard enough to get God to love them.

Without trusting that you are loved you won't be willing to accept yourself as worthy of love. Likewise if you don't trust that others are loved you'll treat them the same way you'd treat yourself, as unworthy of love & needing to earn that worth.

I don't care if my "most important thing" sounds universally or not. The fact is God will give you another chance to trust His love. God will do His uttermost to save us all. God isn't going to be like, "Ohp you waited until your deathbed to trust in me, too late" or "Oh too bad you waited until judgment day to trust in me, too late."

Good News Flash! Romans 14:10-12 reveals to us that Isaiah 45:18-24 tells us what God says on judgment day to all of those who have not yet been saved. He says, "There is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other." He also says, "Gather yourselves and come; Draw near" & Isaiah says "men will come to Him." Hebrews 7:25 tells us that "God will save forever those who come & draw near to Him."

"God is patient with everyone. He does not desire for anyone to perish. He wants every person to come to changing his or her mind to trust in Him" (2 Peter 3:9). Here are the main two things to know about God. God is love & God is a Savior.

See this page for related posts:  Choose Life & Live!

Monday, January 28, 2013

An Alternate Look at Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

Is this about judgment day or is it about the day (period of time) after Jesus' resurrection?

Jesus said in Luke 17:21, "Look, the kingdom of God is in your midst." This could easily picture Jews or anyone else who tries to "enter the kingdom" by their works. The will of the Father is to trust Jesus (John 6:40). We don't enter the kingdom upon the death of our flesh. We enter it when we are first saved. Likewise people try to enter the kingdom in the flesh by boasting of their own works. I think it teaches a more valuable & more urgent lesson this way than if it were about hell. Works don't get you into the kingdom, only trusting God to know Him does.

Satan Wants You to Make Promises to God

You won't see anyone being told to "make a commitment to God" in the New Testament. A commitment is basically a promise or set of promises. Jesus essentially said in Matthew 5:33-37, "Don't make promises to God. If He approaches you with something just give Him an honest yes or no. The idea that you should make promises to God actually comes from Satan."

Jesus wanted to take us away from the paradigm of failure but to retain the paradigm of willingness. Jesus knew we couldn't keep promises so He told us to not make them thus resulting in us not having to experience the shame of failure.

One of Satan's goals is to make us feel guilty & feel like failures. Jesus said anything outside of an honest yes or no come from evil. Why? Because it is Satan setting you up to condemn yourself by convincing you to make promises you cannot keep & had no business making.

Very sad is the fact that most of Christianity is based on making commitments & promises to God. They even say we are saved by making a commitment to God or by making Him our Lord. By that teaching alone (& there are many others I won't go into here) it is obvious that most of Christianity is based on something Jesus calls Satanic.

What if The Story of 'The Woman Caught in Adultery' Never Happened? Examining John 7:53-8:11

Most translations today say that John 7:53-8:11 is almost certainly not a part of the original gospel of John but represents a later addition to the text. While there are specifics that may have never happened the primary truths in this story are still present elsewhere in scripture.

"Everyone went to his home. But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Jesus Still Didn't Condemn
In John 4:18 Jesus knew the woman at the well's heart and revealed that she was an adulterer. He did not take the woman at the well and have her stoned as the law says to do. Jesus didn't carry out any of the punishments of the law.
Jesus said in John 3:17, "God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him." In John 12:47 Jesus says, "I did not come to condemn the world, but to save it." So Jesus could have done this or something like this. It certainly was in His character & mission to do so.

Jesus & Stoning
We can still know how Jesus felt about stoning without this story. Jesus said the second greatest law was to "love your neighbor as yourself." If you were caught in sin that was punishable by death you would want to be forgiven. You would not want to have stones picked up by others to kill you. If you love your neighbor as yourself you wouldn't pick up stones to kill Him. You would instead say, "Lord have mercy on us all!" So Jesus ranking love your neighbor as yourself at the top of the law lets us know what Jesus thought about people carrying out the punishments of the law. Again there is no instance where Jesus carried out or approved of one of the law's curses/punishments being inflicted upon someone.

Go & sin no more.
In John 5 Jesus heals a man. Later in 5:14 Jesus encounters him in the temple & says to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you." Unlike the woman caught in adultery no specific sin was made mention of for this man. Jesus gave the man a reason to sin no more, to keep a worse ailment from coming upon him. Jesus had not yet drained sin of its power so Satan was able to bring sickness to people because of their sin. We know he could do this because he was able to in Job 2:7. Satan "steals, kills, & destroys" because sin gives him an opportunity to do so. So Jesus told this man this so he would stay well.

This was one of the purposes of the law also. Before Christ provided His life & His Spirit from the resurrection obedience to the law was a way to protect yourself from Satan's power. In Leviticus 18:5 God says, "Keep my decrees and laws, for the man who obeys them will live by them." Literally "live by them," as in, if you refuse to keep them you are in greater danger of Satan ending your life because as Hebrews 2:14 says "Satan holds the power of death."

Today people can be spiritually born of God which makes them one with God in Spirit. So 1 John 5:18 says, "the evil one cannot touch someone who is born of God." Jesus would not tell a Christian to "sin no more" today because Satan is powerless to use sin against a Christian (though he can still deceive you). Note that this is the only time Jesus told someone to "sin no more." And it wasn't for "heaven's sake" it was for health's sake.

Mankind is no longer under the law thus God does not relate to us based on sin or lack of sin. Christians need not be conscious of sin because Jesus has cleansed them. Romans 6:14 says, "sin has no power over you." Now that God offers His Spirit & His Life to save & protect mankind sin is exclusively a relational issue between humans. Of course Jesus doesn't want you to go around hurting yourself & others. Jesus keeps us safe & His love walks us out of the problems our flesh has without ever charging us with sin or having to command us to "sin no more."

God offers us freedom from sin consciousness because the very concept of sin is self-centered. Labeling your actions as sin & keeping a tally of your sins makes you focus on yourself & your faults rather than empathizing or reconciling with those you have done harm to. If you don't believe this is true I guarantee you haven't tried living without counting sins against yourself. You don't have to be sin conscious to be love conscious. Jesus never told anyone else, including His disciples to "sin no more." And He certainly didn't tell them to pass that on as an essential effort for all Christians to continually make. It is for freedom from sin that Christ set us free from sin. If I was a prisoner of war & was set free but still focused my mind on my time as a prisoner I would not be free in my mind. Your Spirit & identity has been made free from sin already. Free your mind from the consciousness of sin & you'll experience the victory over sin that you've always dreamed of.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

John 20:23 - Could The Apostles Forgive Sins?

Jesus breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:22-23)

Forgive in the bible is often a poor translation because it does not mean, "stop holding something against someone." The word forgive actually means "release/set free" or "remove/take away." "If you release anyone of his sins, he is set free from them; if you do not release them, he is not set free from them."

This is speaking about the freedom that the gospel brings. If the disciples, through the power of the Spirit, told people the good news of what Christ has done those people were set free from sin. If they did not tell people of what Christ has done those people will not experience the freedom He has provided.

Hearing & trusting in the gospel is what sets people free from sin! Jesus wasn't giving His disciples permission to save some & condemn others. He wasn't giving them the ability to override people's freewill, Jesus didn't even do that. He was telling them of the effective reality of the gospel. If they suppress the Spirit, the freedom it could bring through them is also negated. I think Paul echos Jesus' statement in Romans 10:13-15,

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." But how can they call on him to save them unless they trust in him? And how can they trust in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? Just as it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!"

So Jesus' words in John are like another form of the great commission. He is essentially saying, "You have been given the power of the truth that frees people from sin. If you don't tell them they cannot be freed. Don't hold back!" This is why we don't see the disciples going around "forgiving people of sins" or setting up confessional booths but we do see them proclaim the good news. The good news is that Christ has already provided freedom from sins (forgiveness of sins). The freedom is there but the knowledge of the truth is required for people to "be set free." Christ took away the sins of the world. Once people know that they are already released from sin they are freed up to see God & to trust Him.

"If you send away the sins of any their sins have been sent away from them. If you hold the sins of any, they have been retained." What this means is the disciples had the ability to lift burdens or leave burdens. "If you release anyone of his sins, he is set free from them" in other words, "He who the Son sets free is free indeed." The freedom is irrevocable.

Agreement & Apology: Confessing Sin in James 5:16 & 1 John 1:9

"If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous so he takes away our sins and cleanses us from all unrighteousness." (1 John 1:9)
"Confess your sins to one another." (James 5:16)

"Confess" in 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16 are not the same Greek word.
Confess in James 5:16 means to "acknowledge openly." Within context it means apologize, reconcile, and admit harm done to others to heal your relationship with them.

Confess in 1 John 1:9 means "to agree with," "to say the same thing as God." God forgave all sin and took all sin away on the cross. So to "confess sins" here means to agree with God that sin made you need a savior and to agree with Him that Jesus, our Savior, took care of your need. The word "confess" here does not mean "recount every specific instance." It means to agree with God that you have sinned in your life and agree with Him that He has taken care of your sins on the cross. For the lost 1 John 1 is a passage for salvation. For the saved it is a passage for gratitude and the assurance of salvation.

The years when I recounted my sins I didn't think about Christ's work on the cross at all. I was sin focused and trying to get clean not Christ focused and thinking about the everlasting cleansing of His blood.

Seeing God as Father: Tithing

Tithing is an old covenant practice & the institutional church is in no way the modern equivalent to "the storehouse." But I'm not going to expose the fallacy of tithing teachings on biblical grounds. Instead I'm going to do it on fatherly grounds. Jesus told us in Matthew 7:8-11 that God is the best Father there is & He knows how to treat us better than even we know how to treat our own children. So let's expose the sickness of tithing teachings by simply seeing God as our Father.

Tithing doctrine says God will only "rebuke the devourer" if you pay Him 10% of your income weekly. Meaning if you don't pay Him for the upkeep everything you own will fall apart & need repairs quicker. This concept pictures God as a mafia godfather rather than as God our loving Father. It is also taught that God won't bless you or take care of you unless you tithe.

What father would refuse to help his child financially unless his child paid him a weekly portion of his or her income?
What knowledgeable father would refuse to help his child repair a car, appliance, or home because his child failed to consistently give him a portion of his or her income?
What father demands payment (regular payment, even) before he will help, bless, give, or even protect his child?
What father would let a bully come in & wreck up his kid's room because his kid didn't pay him back a dollar when getting an allowance?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Dare to Believe that God is No Longer Counting Your Sins

I have yet to encounter a single person who disagrees with my views on sin & God's love legitimately confront what 2 Corinthians 5:19 says,
"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, no longer charging to them their sins."

Not a one of them are willing to believe it or tell me that it doesn't mean what it says. They just go on choosing to believe that God charges them with sin & that He will shame them on judgment day with a video of every bad thing they've ever done. They claim to believe in the authority of scripture, that is unless it disagrees with what they've been indoctrinated to believe, then they just ignore it.

By saying this some might think I'm puffed up with knowledge but the fact is I am built up in love, built up in Jesus's love for me. And I want others to see His love for them. I used to believe that I should confess sins & repent of them but I found out I was wrong, that repent does not mean "turn from sin" in the New Testament Greek & that 1 John 1:9, the only scripture about confession, refers only to salvation, not to day to day Christian living.

People are saved by trusting Jesus to know Him. The barrier of sin was taken care of on the cross & that is what 2 Corinthians 5:19 is about. Your victory over sin & freedom from the power of sin because of Christ is beyond anything you've ever imagined. When I believed that I needed to repent & confess I literally could not have imagined if I tried the truth of what it means to be dead to sin. "He is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

I don't feel, in any stretch of the imagination that I lack God. My need of Him is constantly fulfilled. Jesus said "whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again." He came to give us abundant life, not on-again off-again forgiveness, on-again off-again presence, on-again off-again grace. Of course we do reap what we sow. I am not sowing to a mind set on the flesh & its sinful deeds. My mind is set on the spirit & the perfection thereof.

I have dared to believe that God took my sins away, He does not charge me with sin as His child, He remembers my sins & lawless deeds no more, He takes none of my sins into account, He freed me from sin, sin's power over me has been ended by Jesus, I am no longer in my sins, no longer in my flesh, He made me die to sin with Him, He rescued me from the domain of darkness, forgiven everything there ever has been or ever will be needed to be forgiven, He cleansed me & purified me from all sin, sin has no power to separate me from Him, He released me from my sins by His blood.

And yeah every one of those things are in scripture. Compare that to the ONE place in scripture that talks about God convicting of sin & ONE place where it talks about people confessing their sins. It should be obvious then that both of those places have been misapplied to pertain to Christians.

"Let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles us. Jesus despises shame. So instead of shame let us instead fix our eyes upon Jesus. His trustworthiness creates & completes our trust in Him."

Ways to Not Listen to Someone

Surprise, I'm gonna teach religion for a minute, numbered & everything!

Ways to Not Listen to Someone
1. Label or categorize them into a certain group of people you already disagree with. Think to yourself, "Oh he's a this" or "She's a that" or "Oh you're one of those people."
2. Ascribe motive to what they have to say, For example, "They are just bitter, They are rebellious, They are just trying to be different or get attention."
3. Never consider the possibility
    A. That you can learn something new.
    B. That you can be mistaken.
    C. That you have been deceived.
    D. That if you are angry it is pride on your part.
4. Stop listening to them or counting them as a valid informed human being the first time you hear something you disagree with or think you might disagree with if you keep listening.
5. If they come up with something that contradicts what you believe don't try to figure out why it contradicts or how what you believe could mesh with what they believe, just stick to what you already think is true & hope it is never brought up again.
6. Never answer a question directly no matter how hard you are pushed. Just address something that is beside the point or reply with questions of your own that have nothing to do with what you've been asked.
7. Because you think you are right assume their confidence in what they believe is pride.
8. If someone disagrees with what you have to say repeat yourself over & over as if they didn't hear you because that is the only way someone would ever disagree with what you believe right?
9. Assume that you are always telling them something new as if they couldn't have possibly once believed what you now believe & found out that they were wrong.
10. If you are talking online imagine their inflection is angry, cocky, hateful, or despicable.
11. If you are talking online never read what the persons says more than once & never read your responses before sending them.
12. Never remember any time in your life where you have been proven wrong, especially if you were happier to know the truth.
13. Assume that the only qualification to learning truth is time spent studying. Thus if you are older than the person you're arguing with you are always right by default.
14. Only trust leaders or people with formal education.
15. Call people "closed minded" because you refuse to open your mind to the possibility to them being right.

Feel free to add more in the comments!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Meaning of "My Word shall not return to Me void"

In Isaiah 55:11 God says, "My word which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me void, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it." Jesus said in Mark 7:13, "The traditions of men make void the word of God." So in one place God says His word can't be made void & in another He says it can, thus these must be talking about different "words."

God got the idea across in Isaiah 55:11 of, "I will accomplish what I desire." Something like that pertains to keeping promises. God makes a similar statement in Isaiah 45:23 while making a specific promise at the end, "I have sworn (made a promise) by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance." Remember also 2 Timothy 2:13, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful. He cannot deny himself."

Another interesting thing about Isaiah 55:10-11 is that it is actually future tense. He says, "the word from my mouth shall be as trustworthy as the rain coming from above to water the earth before it evaporates." Thus, at the very least, we cannot assume "the word" He is speaking about is scripture written before Isaiah.

In Mark 7:5-13 Jesus first quotes Moses (scripture) then He quotes a tradition which makes a truth claim. Here the "word of God" being referred to is the truth of God found in scripture. It can be made void by man made traditions.

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13 also gives us this idea of the word/truth of God being made void. There Jesus speaks of "the word of the kingdom" referring to the truth of the kingdom, something we now have written in scripture. Jesus says "the word can be snatched away by the evil one," "the word can fall away because of affliction or persecution," & that "the word can be choked & made unfruitful by the worries of the world & the deceitfulness of wealth."

So it is evident from the teachings of Jesus & the original context of Isaiah 55:11 itself, God saying, "My word will not return to Me void" does not refer to scripture or the reading of it but instead to the effectiveness of His promises.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Gospel Without Repentance

It seems to me that Christians publicly speaking against what they consider to be sin actually makes people less likely to come to trust in God. The gospel, the good news is that God isn't holding the world's sins against them (2 Corinthians 5:19).

Many Christians say, "God hates you because of your sin. You need to turn from your sin so He will forgive you."
The gospel says, "God holds nothing against you, just trust in Him to receive His love & His life."

Repent does not mean "turn from sin" in the New Testament, it is a mistranslation. The word repent does not belong in the New Testament. Instead of repent it should be translated as "change your mind."

When the bible says, "the sins of the world are taken away" that means the spiritual barrier of sin has been removed, the law is over, & God holds nothing you've done against you.

Forgive is also a mistranslation, for God to "forgive you" does not mean "God stops holding your sins against you." He stopped doing that at the cross when He "took away the sins of the world." What the bible actually means when you see the word forgive is "God takes away the burden of your sin off of you & He takes away the spiritual condition of your sin."

LIE:  Sin is a problem between you & God. You need Him to forgive you (meaning stop holding your sin against you).
TRUTH:  Sin is not a problem between you & God. God wants you to trust Him so He can remove your burdens & give you eternal life.

I am sick of the performance based "turn from sin" false gospel. We've been taught by almost every evangelist out there that, "You must let go of sin to be saved." But the truth is salvation isn't about you letting go of sin, it is about God making sin let go of you. To be saved you must trust God to remove sin's grip on you. When He does this it is permanently removed. You may grip onto it with your flesh at times but sin will never have a hold on you again!

God forgave us all at the cross. There He stopped charging all of mankind with sins & charged those sins to Himself so He could destroy them. But God cannot remove sin's condition without your permission, you have to willingly trust Him to become your Father by rebirth. The only way to stop death is by resurrection & rebirth.

Nearly all of these truths have been kept from the world & Christianity as a whole. Instead people are told, "God wants to torture & kill you but he'll call off his dogs if you agree to be his slave."

Good news! The King of Love is here! Change your minds to trust in Him. Do this & He will remove the guilt, shame, & burden of your sins. He will give you the gift of Himself, His very own Spirit to pour His love into your heart. He will make you into a new creation by causing your spirit to be reborn & united with His forever.

Related Posts
Jesus Did Not Come To Call The Righteous to Repentance?
Thoughts on Evangelism

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Religion Does Not Need A Living God

When you talk about the possibility of people not being a part of a denomination or a religious institution but just seeking God purely on their own in the midst of life many Christians, pastors, & people in the church world think that there will be total mayhem & chaos & that everyone will go off in different directions. When they express that concern, basically what they are saying is, "I don't really believe there is a God." -Darin Hufford

Jesus said, "the traditions of men stop the Word of God." Jesus is the word of God. If everything hinges on human leaders, institutions, & doctrines you don't need God to be real, alive, or present. Much of visible Christianity, though labeled as under God, is atheistic in practice. This religion, while not always as strict, is just as self-righteous as that of the Pharisees. The main difference is that a frowning or angry picture of Jesus is placed next to the law. So now even the humble, who wouldn't dream of trying to be righteous in the same prideful ways the Pharisees tried, are shamed into living a life of self-righteousness.

A religion that doesn't need God to run has replaced Him in every aspect. Churches have preachers & the misapplication or twisting of scripture to replace the living Holy Spirit to teach us. In churches people sit next to one another & have a two minute greeting to create the illusion of fellowship. The seminaries & theologians have already formulated all information into denominational doctrines to where you never need to consult God, just consult those trained in the seminaries & the people who study the theologians because you are told that you can't trust yourself to hear God anyway. Preachers dare tell you in numbered lists how to talk to your own Father. All of God's gifts through Christ except for heaven are taken off of the table & are taught to only be earned through performance based self-righteousness.

While there is false teaching involved I am aiming at the man made structure that churches pattern themselves after & operate by. Unbiblical traditions replace God. Preachers identified as leaders take the place of Jesus/The Holy Spirit in practicality. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 23:10, "Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ." He also says there that we are all brothers & sisters. Having men as leaders in place of our sole leader, Christ, is "antichrist" by definition because antichrist literally means "instead of Christ." So all the churches that include the hierarchical authority of men over other men are antichrist because they replace Christ in practicality & usurp His sole authority. If false teachers didn't have false authority then people would be much less likely to believe their lies. But false authority with accurate teaching is still detrimental. The hierarchy itself creates false perceptions & unhealthy dependencies. Even with accurate preaching/teaching it still does this & has negative effects on people.

Preachers love to throw around the term "idol" to shame people but the truth is preachers & pastors are idols, churches are idols, not just tangentially but often officially, though not utterly blatant to some. What a miracle it is that God & His love has ever gotten to any of us!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Idea that We Should Read the Bible Every Day

I wonder how many of us are actually led by the Spirit to read the bible. Most of us think we are supposed to do it so we find a place to read & pray "God teach me what this scripture means." Since we prayed the prayer we assume that whatever we think when we are done reading must be what it means. We assume we have no bias in an unrenewed part of our mind that will block us from the truth. Jesus even said, "the traditions of men stop the word of God." So if you believe in those traditions or traditional doctrines how do you expect to learn from God? You've already stopped Him from teaching you with your presuppositions. Considering all these things why do we think we can randomly pick a place in scripture & God will show us the full truth of it?

Because I thought I was supposed to I read the bible every single day from February 1999 to November 2006 & I learned almost nothing. I read through the bible in a year based on one of those plans & all I remember was crowning Leviticus as the boringest book. We can be like a 2nd grader opening up a calculus book & pointing to a random page saying, "Teach me this." There is a lot to learn before you can get there. Yet with scripture we assume that any place is a good place to start & that we won't deceive ourselves in our ignorance while reading it. Churches pretty much tell us, "Forget about knowing the gospel or being rooted & grounded in God's loving grace for you, just start reading the bible somewhere & listening to sermons & everything will be ok." Life doesn't work like that!

I picture God answering our prayer like this, "How can I teach you that scripture? I didn't even tell you to read that. You need to learn 7 more things & unlearn 36 more things before you can be ready to learn what that says."

Legalistic bible reading (seeing it all as law or even reading it as an obligation because you think it is a law to do so) leads to self-condemnation more than anything else. Scripture hopping, chapter picking, or even reading along with a commentary often result in you believing falsehood even deeper than if you had never picked up the bible at all.

When God said, "My word will not return to me void" He wasn't talking about the reading of His scriptures, He was talking about the effectiveness of His promises. Maybe we should stop thinking "the scriptures will guide us into all truth" & believe what Jesus actually said, "The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth."

It is great to trust God to teach you the scriptures. But when is it a good idea for the student to say "teach me this" when the wise teacher knows the student is not ready to learn that yet? Jesus said "the Holy Spirit would guide you into all truth" not "you will guide yourself & the Holy Spirit will still get you to all truth." Sure you'll get some truth that way but life will end up being insanely harder & much more wasteful. I know I've been there.

See also:  The Meaning of "My Word shall not return to Me void"

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

To Fear or Not to Fear?

In Luke 12:5-7 Jesus said, “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the one who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."

Most assume that the one who "kills" & "has authority to cast into hell" is God, so much so that some translations capitalize "the One" making it seem as though it is God. But notice Jesus goes from telling people to fear to telling them how valuable they are to God, that He never forgets them. Jesus said God knows how many hairs are on our heads. He didn't say it to make a point about God being omniscient. He said it to make a point about how much God values us, which I think pictures God enjoying to number our hairs like a warm hearted father.

Jesus then goes on to tell the people "do not fear." Well which one is it Jesus? Fear God because he'll kill you & send you to hell or Don't fear God because He values you, you are always on His mind, & He delights in knowing every detail about you? It is the second one because the first one isn't referring to God at all. Hebrews 2:14 says, "The devil has the power of death." In John 10:10 Jesus says that Satan comes only to steal, kill, & destroy.

Why would Jesus tell people to fear Satan? Because Satan's power of death had not yet been broken by Jesus' resurrection. Lets look at Hebrews 2:12-15 again, "Since God's children live in flesh & blood Jesus Himself became flesh & blood, that through death He might render powerless the one who holds the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives."

God is the Savior who offers life. Jesus didn't tell us to fear God, He said "Don't be afraid, God values you tremendously." Jesus' coming was prophesied as a time to not fear. "Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt”' (John 12:14-15). In Luke 8:50 Jesus said people are saved, healed, & made whole by trusting without fear. Why shouldn't we be afraid? Because our perfectly loving God values us enough to count every hair on our head.

What about the Old Testament telling people to "Fear God?"
During the temptation of Jesus, Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (Mathew 4:10). Notice the word, “Worship.” Jesus said worship the Lord your God, but the verse He quoted in Deuteronomy says, “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only" (Deuteronomy 6:13). So Jesus changed out the word, “Fear” with, “Worship.” It must be that these two words are synonymous in the mind of Christ, and who else to interpret the fear of the Lord than Jesus himself! Jesus himself defined “the fear of the Lord” as “to worship the Lord.” Jesus was talking to Satan. If there was one being for Jesus to be talking to and say "fear the Lord!" or "be terrified of the Lord!" it would be Satan yet Jesus still gave us the true meaning. The fear of the Lord is not frightfulness & terror. The fear of the Lord truly is worship which means "reverence, honor, & respect."

This suggests that perhaps "fear God" never meant "be terrified of Him" but instead always meant regard, respect, & revere Him. Even if it did once refer to a terror type of fear our King has come being announced beforehand as someone to "fear not." And His Spirit has come to pour out His love into our hearts, a Spirit that is not of fear, but of power and of love and of a mind that can be confident in its abilities to understand.

"There is no fear in love. Love gets rid of fear. Fear involves punishment. Love does not punish. God is love. If you are afraid of God or afraid of punishment you have refused to be completely carried by His love. This is the key to letting His love carry us, knowing that we love because He first loved us. If you get that backwards, thinking that He loves or gives because we first love Him, your experience of His love will always be inadequate because you will be too busy trying to love Him to let Him love you." (1 John 4:18-19)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Seeing Mixed Covenant Teaching

Perhaps the reasons why churches teach mixed covenant, law & grace is because Jesus taught law & grace at the end of the old covenant. While we can benefit from them we must understand that Jesus' teachings were for a very specific 3 year period in history. Jesus was preparing Jews who were under the law for grace. The key words are "preparing" & "under the law." Grace has been here as long as we've been alive & we've never been under the law.

I dare say most churches teach Jesus like atheists would teach Jesus, as a wise historical teacher. The only difference is that Christians have "made Jesus lord" (something scripture never says to do) so they must obey Him & they think obeying Him means keeping commands He gave that scripture records. But those commands were to a very specific group of people (Jews under the law), at an even more specific time (3 year period before the resurrection), with a specific reason (to get people past sin, past the enemy, & past bad leadership to the resurrection so that they might be saved).

To teach law & grace mixed together today creates a non-reality where people work hard to receive gifts from God. That is not how gifts work! The most grace most mixed law & grace teachings give is "you get a free ticket to heaven." The truth is that people under this mixed teaching see grace as a bonus for work or an incentive to work. You get saved so you can serve God/the church.

Here's a list of things you will never see in scripture that churches teach you about salvation:
You give your life to God
You make Him Lord
You surrender to Him
You make a commitment to Him
You ask God to use you

I won't go into specific reasons why those aren't true but I will ask, "How many of those are grace?" All of them are about what you do for God. NONE, I say NONE of them are about what God did for you. Grace & the gospel are about what God did for you. All of those are works based salvation. They say YOU do the giving so God will rule over you so you can work for Him some more. 'nuff said!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Forcing Hate

Do you love to hate?
You've heard "love the sinner, hate the sin." But striving to hate sin is a dead end that puts your mind on sin instead of on Jesus and loving others. Love the sinner, hate the sin says to people, "I love you but I'm gonna focus my hatred on your faults." Y'know because the smart way to love someone is to focus on their faults right?

1 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Love does not take into account a wrong." So it is impossible to love the sinner & hate the sin. If you hate their sin you've stopped loving them because you're keeping account of their wrongs to hate on. God's attitude toward sin is love's attitude. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says God doesn't hold any one's sins against them. God didn't ignore sin, He condemned sin in His flesh on the cross.

God will never make me feel shame or guilt for my actions. God will reveal truth to me & He still loves me so He will help me stop my harmful behaviors. There is no hate involved, just love.

I'm not saying it is wrong to have a distaste for evil. My beef is that "hate the sin" is phrased as a command. The idea behind the quote is that when someone does something "sinful" I am obligated to hate their sin, as if I am not allowed to love a sinner without hating their sin. All I remember Jesus doing was loving the sinner & confronting those who burden others.

God has never painfully shown me the truth unless that truth caused me to feel pain for another person because He revealed a piece of their heart to me. I honestly can't think of a time God even called me out for doing wrong. What happens in my life is God turns my mind naturally & immediately back to Him in most cases where I do something wrong. Not even in a, "Oh boy I'm thankful you forgave me" but more like I just forget about what happened (unless I need to reconcile with someone) & go on walking in the joy & peace of the spirit within moments of doing the wrong. That is the freedom of His love. I used to be burdened for days over screwing up now I am free & joyful in who God is even a moment after screwing up without even trying. He causes my focus to default on Him.

The context of John 16:8 says Jesus convicts those who don't trust in Him of sin. It says He convicts the people who trust Him of righteousness (a play on words that means he declares them "guilty" of not being guilty). "Convict" is a direct synonym of the word "condemn." Convict means "to declare guilty." Condemnation is a "pronouncement of guilt." Romans 8:1 says there is NO condemnation in Christ. God will not charge His child with guilt. (Accuse & convict are synonyms too). In the secular world "convict" is used to describe someone being found guilty in court & sentenced to imprisonment. So I wouldn't use that word because I feel it gives the wrong message to Christians & non-Christians alike.

God does refute us (sometimes translated as rebuke) which means He leads us out of false beliefs we have (such as "this isn't hurting anyone"). Hebrews 12 says that sort of thing can make us "sorrowful or irritated" but "afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." Personally I haven't felt sorrowful or irritated over God refuting me because the truth is so much better than the falsehood I believed.

People shouldn't have to strive to hate sin. If you do you do, if you don't you don't. To force yourself to hate some one's actions actually makes you less loving toward that person. The way I've heard the "love the sinner, hate the sin" quote used most often is to basically say, "You can be friends with a 'sinner' but you have to let them know that you don't condone what they do & that you hate their sin." It almost comes across as "You're not allowed to love a sinner unless you also hate their sin, if you don't hate their sin you're a bad Christian & susceptible to becoming like them."

The quote isn't even from scripture. 2 Corinthians 5:16 says, "Do not regard anyone according to the flesh." While I can hate evil & try to protect those I love from it that doesn't mean I should deliberately hate some one's actions as the quote suggests. That is a terrible idea that makes it harder to love people. Ask yourself, How can I forgive someone while hating their sin?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Living by Labels Instead of Local Love

I think one of the big problems with Christianity today is that it lives outside of the scope of local relationships. Because we have world news we think that the choices of people we've never met & likely will never meet are our business. Such a broad scope of information requires labels. Fortunately for the news most people & groups label themselves. Labels dehumanize people. Once someone stops being a human in your eyes and instead becomes a set of ideas you have about them you cannot love that person! Jesus' idea of loving your enemy wasn't to identify them exclusively by their faults as if they weren't human beings created by God. When you label someone with a label of something you disapprove of you pretty much just see them as a walking ball of sin, how would you not end up hating someone if you see them from the start as only a this or a that? This type of labeling is the definition of prejudice. Labeling makes you consider people you've never come in contact with your enemies. How many people go around filled with negativity or hatred towards people or politicians of opposing political viewpoints whom they will never meet in real life? Don't kid yourself, I visited Facebook on election day.

I don't remember Jesus rallying against any particular sin while He was on earth. He confronted people who He came in contact with but He didn't form protests or preach against the "sins that are ruining society." Jesus related to who was in front of Him. Jesus did not pull out scriptures & say to His disciples, "This scripture tells you what is wrong, get out there & let everybody know it is wrong because I HATE SIN!" He certainly didn't say, "If those people you told to stop sinning keep on sinning tell them that I will send floods & all sorts of natural disasters to judge them!"

That type of thing sounds like this.
A Christian says:  God hates you because of who you are or what you do so you need to quit doing what you're doing & say you're sorry to Him so He won't torture you forever.
Non-Christian responds:  What? I don't hate God. I don't even know Him. Why would I apologize to someone who hated me first? Why would I want anything to do with a God that identifies me only by my faults?

No Longer Falling Short..

"All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" is not supposed to be a verse that Christians use to feel guilty about their weaknesses. The very next verse says, "People are declared righteous through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus." Glory means "great value." Redeem means "to restore value." No matter how much we had fallen short of God's glory through salvation in Jesus He much more raises us up to His glory! So you as a Christian never again need to speak of how you "fall short of God's glory." If you still do then you think your value is based upon your behavior. Not even the best behavior could reach God's glorious value but He has given us the value of Jesus as a gift.

To call yourself unworthy is untrue. To say that you "fall short of the glory of God" because of your actions is untrue. What kind of father wants his son or daughter to think that he or she is "unworthy" to be his child. God made you eternally worthy because He birthed you Himself by His Spirit. The bible says righteousness is a gift. God made all His children righteous yet for years I never heard a single Christian say, "I am righteous." At the same time, it was almost impossible to encounter a Christian who didn't speak of their unworthiness.

So many self-professed Christians were taught to look back at their salvation as if it were this:
"I first met my father on Christmas day. He kept telling me how sinful & unworthy I am. I apologized to him. He accepted my apology by saying, 'Now that you've met me I'll tell you how to earn your Christmas gifts from me.' He told me a little but mostly he just kept telling me how sinful I am & how unworthy I am to be his child. He said it was his job to remind me of how much I fall short. Because of my unworthiness I have never been able to receive a single one of his gifts."

Jesus is Living & Loving

Without the living God living inside of us Christianity devolves into a lifeless system of appearances & academics. He who has the best memory or he who puts on the best outward appearance is viewed as the best Christian. Instead of having brothers & sisters as companions, we view others as commanders or competitors. Those who we think we can outshine are our competitors. Those who we don't feel like we can measure up to because they frequently look good standing on a stage we consider as commanders.

Romans 14:17 may be one of the most important scriptures you'll ever read. It says, "The kingdom of God is guiltlessness, peace, & joy in the Holy Spirit." If you lack these things you have either never met God or you don't know that the fullness of God is in you & with you. For years as a Christian I had an ultimate sense of peace & joy but now that I know of Jesus's unending love for me & presence with me my peace is never shaken & my heart abounds with joy at any given moment I turn my thoughts to Him. I am also guiltless, free from the burdens & feelings of guilt & shame. Instead I am accepting His love through me. A love that never has to focus on my failures to drive me to rejoice in righteousness & repair relationships.

Self-examination according to the flesh is self-execution. You have to let go of measuring your life based on your perceived failures & successes. It is Jesus's success on the cross & coming out of the tomb that brings us peace & joy & freedom from guilt. And its not just those facts on paper that does this. It isn't an, "Oh this happened 2,000 years ago so now I should feel good." It is when you learn from Him & relate to Him in the reality caused by this good news that you see & feel His love poured out into your heart by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Good News is The Way to Life and Immortality

2 Corinthians 5:19 says God does not charge anyone in the world with transgressing the law. Why then do people use the law to evangelize? They say, "Have you ever broken one of the ten commandments? Of course you have. Because you've broken the commands that God came up with God is going to send you to Hell if you don't apologize to Him for it."

The fact that God doesn't charge people with breaking the law is part of what Paul calls "the message of reconciliation," which is essentially another way of saying "the gospel." The gospel is the good news. The good news is that God was never against you. He has always "so loved the world.." That is why He sent His Son to take away the barrier & burden of sin. The good news is that God is against death & He wants to save you from it by giving you eternal life.
The good news is that Jesus came not as a judge who enforces the law but as a Savior who judges no one. Don't believe me? Those are the words of Jesus Himself. He said them along with John 3:16 in 3:17, "God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world, but to save the world through him." Maybe we've been getting this evangelism thing wrong. Romans 6:24 says, "the wages of sin is death," not “the wages of God is death if you sin.” Hebrews 2:14 says, "the devil holds the power of death." God is not saving us from Himself because He is "too holy" to stand our sin, that thought is absurd because God Himself became sin on the cross. God is saving us from His enemy, death.

"Christ Jesus, the savior of the world, broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News" (2 Timothy 1:10).

Jesus says in Revelation 21:6-8, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty, I will give the water of life without cost. It is a free gift. He who overcomes, that is, He who trusts in me will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the unbelieving, those who didn't trust me, their immorality has not been cleansed from them thus the sting of sin has put them to death. Their destiny is the lake of fire and sulfur which is the second death."

"As I live!" declares the Lord God, "I take no pleasure in the death of any human being. Instead, what I want is for all people to turn to My Way, Jesus the Savior of mankind, and live! I ask you beloved people, why then would you choose to die?" (Ezekiel 33:11, New Covenant paraphrase)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Who Killed Jesus?

The cross is the place where sin, guilt, & shame were taken care of. How terrible is it then that the cross has been used to make people feel guilty? The gospel has been flip-flopped to manipulate us & make us feel bad. You didn't kill Jesus. Jesus said He laid down His life willingly (see John 10:17).

LOOK! Here is the Gospel:

"God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3)

For more on this read my post The Good News

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why Does Grace Have to Be Received?

Grace, as we have been told, means "unmerited favor." The problem is that when we've been told this it was probably by a preacher who just went on to his next point. There was no time to let what "favor" is sink in. Favor is "a disposition/attitude of loving kindness." When you see the term "loving kindness" in the Old Testament you could put the word "grace" there. Grace then can fairly & perhaps more accurately be translated as "unconditional love."

If grace is unconditional love why is trust the condition to receiving grace?
Imagine someone wants to take you on a date & has already paid for everything. When this person shows up at your door to take you out you have the option to go or stay. If you decide to stay it would be unloving for that person to force or even try to force you to go out with them. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says "love does not demand its own way." God is love. God does not demand His own way. If He forced His loving grace upon you it would no longer be love or grace. It is common sense that forcefulness & manipulation are not love. And we can easily understand this from the dating scenario above. Jesus says to humanity in Revelation 3:20, "Look, here I am, standing at your door and knocking. If you hear my offer & open the door, we will dine together."

Related Posts
God Abounding in Grace
Grace is God's Love for You

Friday, January 4, 2013

Belief & Religion or Trust & Jesus?

"If something is true you need not have belief. If someone asked you, "Do you believe in electricity?" You would say, "What kind of question is that? Electricity is real." If God is real then I should experience Him, He should change my life, He should make me more compassionate, loving, understanding & forgiving; all the things Jesus does speak about." -Deepak Chopra

The worst translated words in all of scripture into English are the words believe & faith. The word believe in most people's minds pictures "mental acceptance mixed with uncertainty or the possibility of being wrong." Faith is an ambiguous word defined by religions & even defined as religion. Believe in the Greek is the verb form of the noun faith. Both of these words simply mean "trust." Trust is a relational word that does not stop at the idea of believing. Trust is something you put in someone else. Trust is not merely an idea in your head that you are confident about. So to believe in God or to have faith in Him actually means to trust Him, to consider Him trustworthy & loving enough to then put your security in Him. This requires an encounter with God.

You cannot be saved by putting your eggs into the basket of Pascal's Wager which basically says, "believe in God because if He is real & you don't believe in Him you'll be screwed when you die." That is all mental & it has nothing to do with encountering a being. You cannot be saved by considering the so called "essential doctrines" to be true. You cannot be a practicing Christian because Christianity is not something you practice, it is a person you know & live with.

Jesus Himself defined "eternal life" in John 17:3 as "knowing God the Father & His Son that has been sent." That is one of the least quoted verses of all time because once we see eternal life & Christianity as being a real relationship rather than a post-death destination religion loses all of its power. Performing religious practices & holding certain beliefs cannot introduce you to God. The Holy Spirit cannot be purchased with a sinner's prayer or church membership! The concept of becoming a Christian has been squashed into a marketable, "repeat after me" or "believe this list of things" package that has nothing to do with meeting God. No one was ever led into a prayer to be saved in scripture. Religion has hijacked the concept of God & said, "If you want to get to God you have to come through me first!" Jesus, the Savior of mankind, is alive & real. Jesus said "I AM THE WAY." Christianity is not the way, holding beliefs is not the way, our morality & actions are not the way.

Religion is fake & founded by the Snake. God is the real deal. His love is a tailor fit. He's so holy He healed someone with His spit. As Paul said compared to Him religion, even perfectly practiced is... well you know the rest!

Related Posts
Faith: Trust in God

All the Specific Things the New Testament Labels as Sins

Do you expect a list of all the specific things the New Testament labels as sins to be astronomical?
Christians love labeling things as sin. "This is a sin.." "That is a sin.." For almost all of those things the word "sin" doesn't even appear in the same context. For example they say homosexuality is a sin & cite Romans 1 but the word sin doesn't even appear in Romans chapter 1. I'm not saying the bible doesn't describe certain things as harmful, destructive, or unloving. However, with the over the top slapping with the label of sin Christians do I think it would be interesting to see what specific actions the New Testament literally calls sins. Why just the New Testament? Because ALL old covenant law breaking would be considered sin (1 John 3:4). In the New Covenant the law is over. Romans 5:13 says, "Sin is not charged when there is no law." If you want to claim that all lawbreaking is still sin then you best get ready to keep the true sabbath starting at sundown on Fridays.

Even I was surprised at what I found. Remembering that sin is still talked about in a general sense, here are the only specific things explicitly identified with the label of "sin" in the New Testament:
  • Mark 3:29, Blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which is basically saying Satan is responsible for the good God does.
  • Romans 7:7, Coveting, although in context it is described such in relation to the law.
  • 1 Corinthians 6:18, fornication is described as "a sin against your own body"
  • James 2:9, showing partiality, although in context it is described such in relation to the law (The letter of James is addressed to the 12 tribes of Jews).
  • James 4:17, "A person who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to that person it is sin." Of interest is the fact that it does not say this "is a sin" it says that it is a sin to that person. Just before this in verse 12 it says, "God is the only Lawgiver and Judge." Thus James 4:17 has similar meaning to what Paul said in Romans 14:22, "Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves." Essentially it means you have the option to condemn yourself about any good thing you aren't doing at the moment & see it is as a sin. Notice it doesn't say it is a sin to God. People do this sort of thing all the time, they say "I'm not doing enough. I'm not giving enough" etc. They "measure themselves by themselves" instead of exploring the immeasurable righteousness Jesus has given them.
  • 1 John 5:17 says "all unrighteousness is sin." Here is the only thing specifically described in the New Testament as unrighteous, Acts 1:18, Judas getting paid off for betraying Jesus.

Again the word sin is used in the broad sense a lot so don't read into this saying I'm trying to make excuses for whatever. Just take an honest look at what the New Testament labels as sin.
   0. Coveting & showing partiality are sins against the law, which is over. I could have left those out.
   1. Fornication is sin against your own body.
   2. You can count sins against yourself by counting all of the good things you aren't doing at the moment.
   3. Saying Satan is behind the good God does is a sin against the Holy Spirit. Don't know of any Christian who has ever done that.

Just food for thought for the next time you want to label something as "a sin." You're probably doing it by your own "knowledge of good & evil." Most of Christianity pictures God as the tree of knowledge of good & evil & as the accuser (convicter) but God is actually the tree of life & the comforter. I say it is time to stop being sin conscious & start being love conscious instead. It is a lie that you have to understand evil to understand or appreciate good/love. Do I have to abuse my baby daughter for her to appreciate the love she gets? Absurd! Good doesn't need evil to be appreciated. Love is awesome like that. God is awesome like that.