Friday, February 10, 2017

Take Up Your Cross

I have been a minister at our local county jail in Humboldt County for several years now. Earlier on, I had been ministering in a dorm where there was a high percentage of new inmates each week. As a result, I would bring the message of the gospel each week so that the new attendees would get a basic understanding of Christianity.

One day, after I had been doing this for a couple years, I had a group of perhaps 8 or 9 fellows. I found both myself and the fellows transfixed as the Holy Spirit poured out a profound series of scriptures from memory that constructed a clear understanding of impact of Christ's death and resurrection. Some time later, I wrote all the passages down, and since then I have added slightly to it as illuminated by the Holy Spirit.

The message is essentially an explanation on how to realize Paul's great summary statement that the "word of God in its fullness"..."is Christ in you, the hope of glory".

Col 1:25, 27 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- ... To them [God's people] God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

What follows is that message, which I continue to use as a basic template to this day.

Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me


In Matthew chapter 10, very shortly after Jesus calls the 12 apostles, He issues to them what must have been a perplexing command. He told them:

Mat 10:38  And whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Jesus didn't tell them this once, later in His ministry he emphasizes this again:

Mat 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

A common interpretation of these passages is that following Him in this life will be hard, like carrying a cross around as we lived out our life trying to follow His ways. If we are not willing to work hard in following Him, then we are not worthy of Him. Perhaps the disciples had thoughts like this, of a hard life in the willingness to follow Him. But is this really what Jesus was saying?

The apostles really had no what He was really telling them. They were surely aware that the Romans put people to death by crucifixion, and they had surely had seen the Roman crosses with criminals hanging on them, but what did this have to do with Jesus? We can read late in Luke that the disciples did not understand any of what Jesus was talking about with regards to His death. They had not made the connection between Jesus saying He was going to die and the reality that His death was going to be carried out on a cross, and did not know the implication of that. They surely did not know what Jesus meant when He told them to take up their cross.

Luk 18:31-34 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. (32) He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; (33) they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." (34) The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

The impact of Jesus' command to take up their cross and follow Him must have begun to hit them when they saw Jesus carrying the cross on the Via Dolo Rosa. They may have reacted in horror as they considered that what Jesus had told them to do was to follow Him to His crucifixion. After all, Jesus did tell them twice to take up their cross and follow Him, and here they were seeing Him for the first time with a cross, going to His crucifixion.

Paul's Understanding


What could this mean? The full understanding of what was meant by taking up their cross and following Jesus was not initially available to the disciples. It took some time before the fullness of what Jesus was saying would come to be known. The manner of taking up our cross and following Him was not meant physically, but rather spiritually. It wasn't until years later when Paul was given the revelation and understanding of what all it meant (Gal 1:11-12)  that the true meaning started to come out and be known. Paul hit directly on the meaning of "take up your cross and follow me" when he said:

Gal 2:19-20  ... I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and that life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Paul obviously had not been physically crucified, he was the one writing to the Galatians. Clearly, Paul understood the spiritual meaning behind "take up your cross and follow me" and associated it with "being crucified with Christ".

Paul further identified Jesus' words, "let him deny himself" (Mat 16:24) with "crucified the flesh together with its feelings and desires" in this passage:

Gal 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh together with its feelings and its desires.

What Paul is saying is that taking up our cross and following Jesus means death to our selfish nature with its fleshly feelings and desires. To crucify means to put selfish feelings and desires to death, to throw them away, to put them out of our mind, and to die to them.

Crucified With Christ


But this is easier said than done. No matter how hard we try, we seem powerless to accomplish setting aside selfishness and our fleshly wants and desires. So how is this accomplished?

What follows is a step by step description of how this is worked out in our lives.

James breaks down and explains the problem:

Jas 1:14-15 But each one is tempted when he is dragged away and enticed by his own desires. (15) Then desire, after it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is brought to completion, gives birth to death.

We see an object of desire
We allow desire to grow to uncontrollable dimensions
We are dragged away by our out of control desire
Out of control desire leads to sin being birthed
Sin leads to spiritual corruption and then to death

This process is actually the path that a man takes when he lives for the flesh, from temptation to death. Our efforts to gain freedom from this process can leave us feeling rather hopeless. All around us we can see people who are living spiritually dead lives. Death is the loss of spiritual life and peace in this life, as Paul explains here:

Rom 8:6 "For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Spirit is life and peace,".

As hopeless as it may seem to break free from this, Paul helps us keep it in perspective:

1 Cor 10:13 Temptation has not come upon you except what is common to humanity. But God is faithful, who will not permit you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will also make a way out together with the temptation, so that you may be able to endure it.

What this means is that if you see people around you that are living peaceful lives there is nothing special about them, for all temptation is common. No one has greater or lessor temptations than other people. You too can experience the same peace that you see others experiencing, for God will provide you "a way out" with the temptation just like everyone else has been provided a "way out" with their temptations.

So what is the first step, where is that doorway that leads to the "way out" from the temptation?

2 Cor 10:3-5 For although we are living in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, (4) for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but powerful to God for the tearing down of fortresses, tearing down arguments (5) and all pride that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

In the explanation that James gave of the problem above, the "way out" is between "seeing the object of desire" and "allowing that desire to grow to uncontrollable dimensions". The "way out" begins with taking the thought of fleshly desire captive when it first occurs. You capture it by recognizing it before it has a chance to grow, holding it up before you and saying, "I see you, you temptation!" and grabbing a hold of it before you get to the point where you take action on it.

OK, so now you have recognized this thought and captured it, now what? The next step is to ask God for help in dealing with it while you have it captured.

Heb 4:15-16 For we do not have a high priest who is not able to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who has been tempted in all things in the same way, without sin. (16) Therefore let us approach with confidence to the throne of grace, in order that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Jesus has been there, He knows what we are going through, and He has promised mercy and grace, help in our time of need. Our part is to capture the thoughts and bring them to Him. His part is to help us to put the thought to death, if and when we bring it to Him.

The process of capturing thoughts, and bringing them to Jesus so they can be put down is "being crucified with Christ", and is the essence of Jesus' words, "let him deny himself, take up your cross and follow Me."

Now what happens when we bring these thoughts to Jesus? What does Jesus do when we bring thoughts captive to Him? At the moment we bring each thought captive to Jesus, we are calling out to Him and inviting His influence in us, and putting ourself in a position that will allow Him to help us. When we do that, we receive power, and pass from death to life. A "light" shines in our hearts. Paul calls this light in us "treasure in jars of clay"!

2 Cor 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

2 Cor 4:10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.


So the next question to be answered is how does this power come, what form does passing from death to life take?

Resurrection Life Promised


Paul states in this pivotal passage that through "death" comes "life".

Rom 6:6-8 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin-- (7) because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. (8) Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

The reason Jesus told His disciples, and us to "take up our cross and follow Him" in this way is because if we follow Jesus in His manner of death, then we will also then be able to follow Jesus in His manner of life, the very resurrection life that can bring dead men to life.

Rom 6:4-5 Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we may live a new way of life. (5) For if we have become identified with him in the likeness of his death, certainly also we will be identified with him in the likeness of his resurrection,

These words of Paul teach us that the reason for "denying ourselves", "taking up our cross and following Him", being "crucified with Christ", is because that is the only path to life. It is only through death that life comes. John recorded a metaphor that Jesus related in this discussion of taking up our crosses:

John 12:24 Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

The promise of resurrection life pouring into our lives is brought about through following Christ in His crucifixion.

Resurrection Life Through Transformation


The pragmatic implantation of resurrection life in us is the fulfillment of the promise of the New Covenant. Jeremiah recorded:

Jer 31:33 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

God is doing the writing, and that writing takes place as we are transformed into Christ's likeness. Ezekiel expands on this by connecting the New Covenant with a new Spirit being placed in us:

Eze 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (See also Eze 11:19)

Quite simply, resurrection life comes through the Holy Spirit living inside of us.

Rom 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

And how does the Holy Spirit come to live in an abiding way inside of us? The Spirit finds room in our hearts as we capture our fleshly thoughts, wants and desires, and bring them to Jesus in our time of need. By doing this, we extend an open invitation, born of our own free will, to the Holy Spirit to come in and live within us. Along with this invitation, we consent to His influence in our minds and hearts so that changes can be brought about by Him. By this we are made into a new creation as He takes off the old man and put on the new man and transformation has its full effect in us.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Eph  4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Tit 3:4-5 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,


The work of resurrection life happens in us through no effort of our own, it is entirely the Holy Spirit's work. Our part is to submit and yield, allowing the Holy Spirit to do that work in us by coming to Him and accepting His help.

2 Cor 3:18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Result is Fruit and Assurance of Salvation


The outward expression of the inward transformation by the Holy Spirit is expressed agape love. The expression of love for our neighbor is the opposite of the pursuit of selfish fleshly wants and desires.

Agape love is associated with divine revelation, and is an overcoming love that is planted into us by the Spirit. Agape love is powerful, and has some of the same nature as light. In the same way that light dispels darkness, so to does agape love dispel darkness. In the same way that darkness cannot overpower light, so to evil cannot overcome agape love. The intent of transformation through and by resurrection life is simply to produce agape love for God and neighbor within our hearts and minds.

The presence of agape love in our lives is the measurement with which we can examine ourselves to see if and how deeply we are in the faith.

2 Cor 13:4-5 For to be sure, he was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God's power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God's power we will live with him in our dealing with you. (5) Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?

The test that measures Christ is in us is that of expressed love. Is your life characterized by the following descriptions of love? These characteristics are the yardstick with which to examine ourselves.

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness, self control. ...

1 Cor 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (13) Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


The production of agape love as the end result of taking up our cross and following Jesus and so passing from death to life is so profound, that it is by this that we may know that we are saved. It is by the presence of agape love that we know that Christ is in us. The following passages should comfort us with the assurance of salvation based on Christ being in us as confirmed by the presence of agape love.

1 Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed over from death to life because we love the brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.

1 Jn 4:12-13 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God resides in us and his love is perfected in us. (13) By this we know that we reside in him and he in us: that he has given us of his Spirit.


Christ in you, is your hope of glory!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Law Written on our Hearts

In the days of Jeremiah, a prophecy was given in which God declared that He would make a New Covenant. In this declaration, Jeremiah recorded that the law of God would be written on our hearts and in our minds.

Jer 31:31-33 "The days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. (32) It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. (33) "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

What does it mean to have the law written on our hearts and minds? What form does this take? Was this a new concept, with the time prior to the New Covenant being a time when the law was written in ink and stone rather than in hearts and minds, and read and obeyed rather than internalized and obeyed?

Jesus Discusses Anger and Lust


In this famous passage from the Sermon on the Mount, it would appear that Jesus is expanding the scope of the 10 Commandments to include thoughts within the scope of all of the law. He calls out anger as an example and places thoughts within the scope of the command, "You shall not murder".

Mat 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' (22) But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Notice the words "and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment". What had happened to the people is they had been trying to obey the "letter" of the law, lest in their disobedience they would be judged and punished for breaking it; "anyone who murders will be subject to judgment". They were following the law through rote action to avoid judgment, but forgetting the intent of the law was to be obeyed through a heart change. The passage "anyone who murders will be subject to judgment" was not part of the law, but had been added by "people long ago".

Is Jesus expanding the scope of the law, or is He reminding the people of what the commands of that law had been all along? Notice this passage from Leviticus:

Lev 19:17-18 "'Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt. (18) "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

In this passage we can see that according to the law from the beginning, anger, revenge and grudges were always considered a part of the command "You shall not murder". Obedience should have come from a godly heart, not a fear of judgment. The ordinance governing the heart had been in place all along, and is here written as "love your neighbor as yourself".

We see the same thing in Jesus' discourse on lust. The command was never about just avoiding adultery, it was always about the change of heart as a part of loving your neighbor as yourself.

Pro 6:25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes.

Jesus was not expanding, upping, or making the law harder to keep. He was reminding the people that all of the law had always governed the heart.

The Law was Always For Our Hearts and Minds


Consider these passages that qualify all of the law under the Old Covenant. Clearly from the very beginning, all of the law was to be written on our hearts.

Deu 4:9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deu 6:6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.

Deu 11:18-20 "And you shall put these, my words, on your heart and on your inner self, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be as an emblem between your eyes. (19) And you shall teach them to your children by talking about them when you sit in your house and when you travel on the road and when you lie down and when you get up. (20) And you shall write them on the doorframes of your house and on your gates,

Pro 3:1-3 My child, do not forget my instruction, and may your heart guard my commands. (2) For length of days, years of life, and peace they shall add to you. (3) May loyal love and truth not forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them upon your heart.

Pro 7:1-3 My child, guard my sayings; store my commandments with you. (2) Keep my commands and live, and my teaching like the apple of your eye. (3) Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.


From these passages we can see the evidence that Jesus was not changing the law to include thoughts, the thoughts of our hearts were always a part of all of the law from the time it was first given. What Jesus was reminding them of was that the fulfillment of the law was to be found in the heart, and that fulfillment was drawing near.

Who is the Writer


Jeremiah declared that under the New Covenant: "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.". In light of the fact that the law was to have been written on our hearts from the beginning, as shown above, what was the new revelation that the New Covenant was bringing to pass?

In the passages above, notice who the writer is. God is instructing the PEOPLE to write the laws on their own hearts. Consider these instructions given to the people in just these five verses:

Don't let them fade from your heart
Impress them on your children
Talk about them
Tie them as symbols on your hands
Bind them on your foreheads
Write them on the doorframes
Put them on your hearts and inner self
Bind them as a sign on your hand
Teach them to your children
Write them on your doorframes (again)
May your heart guard them
Bind them around your neck
Write them on your heart
Store my commandments with you
Bind them on your fingers
Write them on the tablet of your heart

It is quite clear that the writer of the law under the Old Covenant is the individual PERSON. God is commanding each individual person to do the writing, binding and tying to their own hearts. Clearly the efforts of writing falls on the individual under the Old Covenant.

Now reread Jeremiah 31:33

Jer 31:33 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

How then do we reconcile God telling us that under the New Covenant that the law would be written on our hearts and minds, something that should have been done from the beginning? What is this passage actually saying?

The glory of the New Covenant can be found not only in what is being written on the hearts and minds, but in WHO is doing the writing. Under the New Covenant, God tells us that HE will write the law on our hearts and in our minds. It will no longer be left to the individual to do the writing, but Jesus through the Holy Spirit Himself will do the writing. Note this collaborating passage from Ezekiel:

Eze 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

Notice again in this passage from Ezekiel speaking of the coming New Covenant. It says that HE will give us a new heart, HE will put a new Spirit in us, HE will give us a heart of flesh, HE will put His Spirit in us, and HE will move us.

The writer to Hebrews collaborates this when he quotes the declaration of the Lord when He says "I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts".

Heb 8:10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Heb 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."


The great change in the covenants between the Old and the New is that the writing of the law on our hearts and minds will no longer be left to us, but Jesus through the Holy Spirit will do the writing.

The connection between the coming of the Holy Spirit and the declaration that God will now do the writing is unmistakably clear. The Holy Spirit is the writer now, and it is no longer left to our own strength and power.

What is Being Written


All of this begs the question, what did God mean when He said He would write His law on our hearts and minds. Did He mean that the complete Mosaic Law would be transcribed into our hearts and minds somehow and that we would still need to keep the ordinances? Is the fulfilled state of the law different than the unfulfilled state? How can we know if the law is being written on our hearts and minds?

The evidence of what is written in our hearts and minds is easier to see then the actual writing taking place. Let's look at the evidence of the law written on our hearts and minds first.

2 Cor 3:3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Paul was telling the Corinthian believers that they were showing that they were a "letter from Christ" based on what was written "on tablets of human hearts" by the "Spirit of the living God". So here we have evidence that the New Covenant was in place at this time, since the person who was doing the writing had changed from the individual person, to the living God.

What is it that the Corinthians were "showing" that lead Paul to say that they were "letters from Christ"?

Love expressed is clearly the end goal of all of the law. Regardless of who does the writing, whether the people were under the Old Covenant or the New Covenant, the intent of the law was to bring change to the heart and mind with the end goal of making expressed love the preeminent and godly characteristic of mankind.

The law from the beginning was to love God and love your neighbor. Matthew recorded that all of the law contained within these two commands. The 10 Commandments bear this out, as the first 4 command us to love God, and the last 6 command us to love our neighbor:

Mat 22:37-40 Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' (38) This is the first and greatest commandment. (39) And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (40) All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Jesus was quoting two passages from Deuteronomy and Leviticus:

Deu 6:5-6 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.


Lev 19:18 "'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

It seems clear that what Jesus is saying is that the evidence of "law keeping" is completely revealed in love for God, and love for neighbor.

Rom 10:4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The word translated "culmination" in the NIV is "tello", it means "the point aimed at as a limit, or the conclusion of an act or state". Compare "culmination" with the word translated "instruction" from the Hebrew word "yarah" in Exodus 24:12:

Exo 24:12 The LORD said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction."

"yarah" means to teach, instruct, inform "figuratively to point out (as if by aiming the finger)". Interestingly, the word "Torah" has a very similar meaning. The law, indeed the entire Torah was pointing to something else, and that something else was ultimately Christ, through whom the the law in it's fulfilled state would finally be written on our hearts.

The result of the law being written in our heart, it's fulfillment, what it was pointing at, that in which the culmination was Christ, was love of God and love of neighbor. This love was by Christ through the Holy Spirit as declared in the New Covenant by HIM doing the writing on our hearts.

In this way, we can see that through Christ's "culmination" of the law, all of the commands of the New Covenant are to keep the law in it's FULFILLED state of agape love poured out on our hearts.

Under the Old Covenant, love was to be expressed through our efforts at internalizing the law into our own hearts, and by it being changed into a person who accurately reflected God's loving nature. Under the New Covenant, love is "agape", love planted in our heart by divine revelation and poured out in action towards God and neighbor.

Rom 5:5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

The fulfillment of the law is agape love. Agape love is that love which is planted within us by divine revelation, and which then flows outwards to God and our neighbors by it's very nature. The divine revelation of agape love is the fulfilled law, written into our hearts.

When love is expressed with actions and truth, it has a specific nature, primarily, it is a love felt by the recipients, the recipients being reasonable people. This love in truth and action is described for us in several passages:

1 Jn 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

1 Cor 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. (5) It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (6) Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (7) It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Col 3:12-14 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (13) Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. (14) And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.


Therefore, keeping the law and the commands of God under the New Covenant are specifically understood to be the law in it's fulfilled state of agape love which is poured into our hearts. If Christ had not fulfilled the law, then we would still be trying to internalize the law under our own strength and power as was the case under the Old Covenant. That is the context for the following passages:

Rom 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.

Rom 13:10 Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Gal 5:14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."


How is it Being Written


In the following verses we read that we become Christ like as the Holy Spirit makes us new, transforms us, and regenerates us through washing and renewal by His cleansing interaction with our mind and heart. This transformation and regeneration is the process of writing happening on our hearts.

Under the Old Covenant, change was commanded by God through the instruction to obey the law written in ink. Under the New Covenant, Christ brings regeneration and we change, that is the process of the fulfilled law being written on our heart by the Spirit.

2 Cor 3:6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant--not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Eph 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Tit 3:4-6 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, (5) he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, (6) whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,


Thus, that which is doing the writing under the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit. The "pen" is rebirth, renewal, transformation, all of which lead to the presence of agape love in our hearts.

Conclusion


One of the primary factors distinguishing between the Old and New Covenants is who the writer of our hearts and minds is. Under the Old, we are commanded to be the writer, and under the New, the Holy Spirit is the writer.

Both the Old and the New Covenant law commands us to love God and love our neighbor. The Old Covenant Mosaic Law commanded us as individuals to do that, the New Covenant commands us to allow the Holy Spirit to do that through us.

While the Mosaic Law pointed at love, the Holy Spirit IS love. The writing in our hearts is not of the letter of the law which pointed at love, but of the Spirit who IS love.

When the writers of the New Testament speak of keeping the "commands" of God, they are speaking not of the law written in ink, but the fulfilled law. If Jesus fulfilled all of the law, then the commands we are told to keep under the New Covenant are those of the law in it's fulfilled state, that which the law pointed at, agape love.

Remember that "Torah", and "instruction" are both translated from Hebrew words meaning "to point towards, as if by pointing the finger" at a greater thing, such as godly character from the heart. The law was unable to produce godly character from the heart even though that is what the Israelites were commanded to do. Jesus however, was able to be a man of perfect godly character, thus fulfilling the law, and has subsequently come to live in us and by His work in us produce godly character in us Himself. Through Christ in us, we are able to realize the fulfillment of the law in us through agape love.

So there should be no confusion about what law is being written on our hearts and minds, and what we are to keep. It is the law in it's fulfilled nature, agape love, poured into us. Consider just a few of the passages that make this perfectly clear, from the perspective that "love" in the verses below is that agape love which God pours into and writes onto our hearts:

John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

2 Jn 1:5-6 And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (6) And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love.
Note: The command was not new in that we have always had the command to love God and one another. But it IS new in respect to it's fulfilled nature and source, agape, love given by divine revelation.

John 15:12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

John 15:17 This is my command: Love each other.

Rom 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

Eph 5:1-2 Follow God's example, therefore, as dearly loved children (2) and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

1 Pe 4:8-9 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (9) Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.

1 Jn 3:22-23 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

1 Jn 4:21 And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Law Fulfilled by Love


This is a summary outline of the progression of the Law from written to love expressed.

The Law (written Mosaic Law) was Temporary:

Gal 3:24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
Luk 16:16 "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. ....
Gal 3:19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. ....

The Reason the Law Was Temporary is Because:

Gal 2:19 "For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.
Gal 3:11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because "the righteous will live by faith."
Gal 3:12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, "The person who does these things will live by them."

Therefore......

Heb 8:13 By calling the covenant new, He has declared the old obsolete and near to disappearing.

This is the specific declaration of New Covenant law, supported by a library of collaborative scripture.....

1 John 3:23 "And this is his commandment: that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he commanded us."

This Love is the Called For Fulfillment of the Law In Mat_5:17:

Rom 13:10 Love does not commit evil against a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Rom 8:4 in order that the requirement of the law would be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Rom 10:4 Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

The Death of Jesus Accomplished Everything Per Mat_5:18:

John 19:30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Faith Expressed as Love is the only thing that counts:

Gal 5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Spiritual View of Homosexuality


A Spiritual View of Homosexuality


Spiritual Perspective


 Perhaps you have heard the book written about Flatland by Edwin Abbott. In it there is a story of people living in a 2 dimensional space much like a piece of paper, while a 3 dimensional sphere is passed through their world.  The 3 dimensional sphere appears as a line changing from short to long to short to them as it passes through their paper flat world.  The 2 dimensional Flatland dwellers can only see the sphere at the point it intersects their plane. To them, it is clearly a line and not a sphere.

 The spiritual realm is interwoven with our physical world and is preeminent.  Like the metaphorical realm of the sphere, the spiritual realm is one that contains within it the lower dimensions.  We see the spiritual realm’s at the point it intersects our physical one.  The spiritual realm’s interactions with our world are mysterious, incomprehensible, and indescribable.  We have trouble describing it in much the same way that Flatlanders seeing a sphere pass through their world as a line could not imagine nor describe a sphere.

 This is the marvel of the Bible.  It is in our 4 dimensional world (height, width, depth, time), describing a 5th dimension, that of the spiritual realm.  Jesus clearly made reference to the separateness of His spiritual kingdom from the physical in this passage:

John 18:36 LEB  Jesus replied, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from here."

 Paul also pointed out the existence of the separate but interrelated physical and spiritual realms in this passage:

Galatians 6:8 LEB  “because the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.” 

 In the same manner that Flatlanders cannot see the sphere, but are limited to seeing the line, we also are limited by our human bodies to the 4 dimensions, and cannot see the spiritual realm.  Yet, the Paul tells us that where we “sow”, or draw our strength from, will determine if we experience decay and corruption, or abundant and eternal life.

Spiritual Instruction Through Physical Example


 Flatlanders have no concept of what 3 dimensions would be like, and do not have the capacity within themselves to comprehend a sphere.  In the same manner, humans have no concept of what a spiritual dimension is like, and do not have the capacity within themselves to comprehend it.  Paul points out this problem and its solution in the following passages:

1 Corinthians 2:9 LEB  But just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love him."

1 Corinthians 2:12-13 LEB  Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, in order that we may know the things freely given to us by God,  (13)  things which we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people.

 The Bible is inspired by God, and as such is written from the vantage point of the spiritual dimension.  As we become spiritually aware, through entry of God’s spirit, the words in the Bible begin to crystallize or come into focus in our hearts and minds, and the spiritual realm begins to make sense.  It is like the Flatlanders reading and learning about the 3rd dimension, and starting to comprehend what it is like.

 One of the primary ways the Bible teaches us what this spiritual realm is like is through examples called types or shadows. Jesus used parables to give us examples what the spiritual realm is like.  He used the terms “the kingdom of heaven is like…” dozens of times, and a great part of the Bible is written to reveal the spiritual realm using this means.  (cf. Matthew 13, Mark 4) The Bible writers used physical examples to illustrate what spiritual reality is like.  Like the example of “Sowing and Reaping”, they also compared the sowing of physical and spiritual seeds, compared spiritual light with physical light, spiritual darkness with physical darkness, spiritual blindness and leprosy to physical blindness and leprosy, spiritual life and death to physical life and death, and so on.  In fact 1 Corinthians 10:6-14 indicates that most of the Old Testament was recorded so as to be an example to those of “on whom the end of the ages have come”.  The Old Testament is a book of physical examples that illustrate spiritual realities.

 The Example of Physical Union and Spiritual Union


 One of these examples reveals the spiritual relationship of marriage between Christ and His Church with physical relationship of marriage between man and woman. 

Ephesians 5:31-32 LEB  "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."  (32)  (This mystery is great, but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.)

2 Corinthians 11:2 LEB  For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy, because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.

Revelation 19:7-8 LEB  Let us rejoice and be glad and give him the glory, because the wedding celebration of the Lamb has come, and his bride has prepared herself.  (8)  And it has been granted to her that she be dressed in bright, clean fine linen (for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints)."

In the Bible, the physical relationship of a man and woman is a type or shadow of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church.  Christ’s marriage with His bride is also the model for the physical marriage of man and woman. 

 A key aspect of this example is the life giving sexual joining of man and woman, and the life giving relationship between Christ and His bride.  When a man and woman are sexually joined, they experience the ultimate in physical intimacy, pleasure, and joy.  The entry of God’s word into the heart of man has the same attributes, and we experience spiritual intimacy, pleasure and joy. 

 The fundamental miracle of this relationship however is the conception of life.  Through the physical union of a man and woman, life is conceived.  This is a powerful dynamic example of what happens when we have an intimate relationship with Christ, spiritual life emerges from the relationship.

 The life-giving example of a the joining of man and woman with conception of life in the context of marriage is a beautiful one showing the spiritual depth of the life giving relationship that Christ desires with His bride.  Christ desires to come into us, and live in us intimately, and give birth to everlasting life. 

 In another aspect of this image, we see that it is “seed” that is the agent bringing life.  The man’s seed enters the woman’s egg, and physical life comes forth.  Likewise, Jesus plants His seed in us, (Luke 8:11  "… The seed is the word of God.) and spiritual life comes forth.  The analogy of being “born again” is integral to this type.  In the same way that the union and physical seed of a man into woman brings forth new physical birth, so too does the union between God and man through the “seed” of the word of God bring forth new spiritual birth. The spiritual birth is the second birth, hence, we are “born again”.

1 Peter 1:23 LEB    … you have been born again, not from perishable seed but imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

This example of the physical union of a man and woman in its various facets is a powerful oft repeated example to us.  It is a living parable of our relationship with Christ, an example designed and created by Him to reveal His nature to us.  The conception of life coming from the joining of man and woman is a revelation of the spiritual life that comes from the joining of Christ with mankind. 

 Homosexual Relationship A Corrupt Type


 Those who legitimize the homosexual relationship have replaced the example Christ gave us of a man and woman bringing life forth with that of man and man or woman and woman, which cannot produce life.  It is a false image, an incorrect type or shadow of spiritual reality.  Since it is God who gave us the example of marriage to show the facets and depth of His desire and the results of relationship with us, it is dishonorable to corrupt this image into one that cannot produce life.  God’s very nature is that of giving life.

 Homosexual advocates attempt to explain away the prohibition on homosexuality by attempting to legitimize it through adding love, commitment and faithfulness.  But adding these things to the homosexual relationship does nothing to resolve the issue that the relationship cannot bear life, and the image or example it presents is of a Creator who cannot give life.  It is the act itself that is corrupt.  It replaces the illustration of a life-giving relationship with God one that is lifeless, thus presenting a false image of God.

 The Due Penalty of Their Error


 In Romans 1:27 we read of those who practice homosexuality "receiving in themselves the penalty that was necessary for their error".  I would like to examine this in the context of the spiritual perspective of this article.

If we turn again to our metaphorical Flatlanders, their instruction book says that if they break the line, they will experience decay and corruption in their lives.  But there are those Flatlanders who scoff at the book and decide to attempt to break the line into two lines anyway.  When the sphere that they are mistaking for the line is breached, unintended consequences being pouring out of it, and they become sick.  They will be looking at the line in perplexity; never realizing that the consequence they are experiencing is coming from another dimension, from a sphere and not a line.  Unless they become 3 dimensionally aware, they may never connect their reality of their action with the reality of the consequence.

 It is in a like manner that the “penalty necessary for their error” is manifested in our physical world.  The spiritual realm is set up a certain way, just as the physical realm is.  There is a physical “physics”, and there is a spiritual “physics”, so to speak.  When the “Laws of Spiritual Physics” are broken, there are attendant consequences, just as there are when the “Laws of Physical Physics” are broken.  In the same way that the Flatlanders reaped unintended consequences due to the error of acting as though the line was a line and not a sphere, we reap unintended consequences due to the error of acting as though there were only a physical realm and no spiritual realm.

 When the Bible warns against immorality, including homosexuality, it is for our protection, not to ruin our fun.  The preponderance of sexually transmitted diseases and broken hearts is a red flag for mankind that alerts us to the presence of spiritual “physics” that are exercising unseen influences from the spiritual realm in our physical realm.  Like the Flatlanders who were perplexed at the consequence of breaking the line into two, and not understanding where the consequence is coming from, we also are perplexed at the consequence of immorality, and not understanding where the consequence is coming from.  This is spiritual blindness of the sort illustrated by physical blindness.  What is worse, we ignore the red flag that the consequence is waving in our faces.  It is unfortunate that humanity is more in love with their sexual desires and activities of all sorts than hearing what God has to say about it, and we are reaping decay and corruption because of our inability to perceive the spiritual realm.

 Conclusion


 There is an interesting passage in Romans that states:

Romans 1:19-20 LEB  because what can be known about God is evident among them, for God made it clear to them.  (20)  For from the creation of the world, his invisible attributes, both his eternal power and deity, are discerned clearly, being understood in the things created, so that they are without excuse.

 That the sexual relationship between a man and woman in the context of marriage is life giving is clear.  It is also clear that this is an example through which we can discern God’s invisible attribute of being a life giving Spirit who wishes entry into our very being.

1 Corinthians 15:45 LEB  Thus also it is written, "The first man, Adam, became a living soul"; the last Adam (Jesus) became a life-giving spirit.

 The red flag of disease resulting from immoral activity is clear as well.  Our ignorance or rejection of the spiritual realm brings down on our heads decay and corruption.  This passage reveals that given such clear types and examples, we really are without excuse.  If the book says don’t hit your thumb with the hammer, and you scoff and rebel and hit your thumb with the hammer anyway, you are without excuse when you reap pain and suffering.

 Homosexual behavior cannot be condoned; the examples and consequences illustrate the foolish nature of such a path.  Yet, we must love those who through ignorance or rebellion are in the path of consequences coming from a place they know not where.

John 6:63 LEB  The Spirit is the one who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.

 In closing, I would like to echo John’s words:

1 John 1:1-3 LEB  What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched, concerning the word of life— (2)  and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was revealed to us— (3)  what we have seen and heard, we announce to you also, in order that you also may have fellowship with us, and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

Monday, July 28, 2014

God's Separate Plans For Jews and Gentiles



God's Separate Plans For Jews and Gentiles

God's Unconditional Covenants For His Names Sake

God has some covenants that are unconditional. He keeps these covenants for His names sake. This passage below tells us that His covenant with Abraham will not be broken regardless of what the Jews do. This passage is foretelling the return of the Jews to their homeland, not for their sake, but for His name.

Eze 36:22-24 LEB "Therefore thus say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord Yahweh: "Not for your sake am I about to act, house of Israel, but for my holy name, which you defiled among the nations to which you went. (23) And I will consecrate my great name, which was profaned among the nations and which you have profaned in the midst of them, and the nations will know that I am Yahweh!"' a declaration of the Lord Yahweh, when I show myself holy before their eyes. "'And I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all of the lands, and I will bring you to your land.

The following two passages talk about the unconditional nature of the Abrahamic Covenant even if Israel should reject Him:

Psa 89:30-34 LEB If his sons forsake my law and do not walk in my judgments, (31) if they defile my statutes and do not keep my commandments, (32) then I will punish their transgression with a rod, and their guilt with wounds. (33) But I will not break off my loyal love from him, and I will not be false against my faithfulness. (34) I will not defile my covenant, or alter what proceeded from my lips.

Jer 33:20-21 LEB "Thus says Yahweh: 'If you could break my covenant with the day, and my covenant with the night, so that day and night would not come at their time, (21) then my covenant could be broken with David my servant, from having a son who could rule on his throne, and with the Levites, the priests, my ministers.

The Effect of Sin

The Jews lost the land for a time, starting at the time "the anointed one [was] cut off" (Dan 9:26) even though they were given it in an everlasting covenant. They lost the land because they did not recognize the time of their visitation by their Messiah.

Luk 19:41-44 LEB And when he approached and saw the city, he wept over it, (42) saying, "If you had known on this day—even you—the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (43) For days will come upon you and your enemies will put up an embankment against you, and will surround you and press you hard from all directions. (44) And they will raze you to the ground, you and your children within you, and will not leave a stone upon a stone within you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."

Daniel's 70 Week Message to the Jews

Dan 9:24-27 LEB "Seventy weeks is decreed for your people and for your holy city, to put an end to the transgression and to seal up sin and to make atonement for guilt and to bring in everlasting righteousness and to seal vision and prophet and to anoint the most holy place. (25) And you must know and you must understand that from the time of the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem until an anointed one—a leader—will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be restored and will be built with streets and a moat, but in a time of oppression. (26) "And after the sixty and two weeks an anointed one shall be cut off, and he shall have nothing, and the people of the coming leader will destroy the city and the sanctuary, and its end will be with the flood and on to the end there shall be war; these desolations are determined. (27) And he will make a strong covenant with the many for one week, but in half of the week he will let cease sacrifice and offering and in its place a desolating abomination comes even until the determined complete destruction is poured out on the desolator."

Daniel is speaking to Jews. He is saying that from the command to rebuild the temple following the Babylonian Captivity to the end of this age is 70 weeks. The Jews here are to understand that there are 70 weeks of years in which God will bring them to the completion of His plan for them.

At the end of the first 69 weeks, the anointed one, Jesus, is crucified. At this point, time stops for the Jews.... but we know this is temporary because there is still one more unfulfilled week in Daniel's prophecy. That week was spoken to the Jews by Daniel. So they have to come back as a nation to fulfill that 70th week. These are exciting times, because the return of Israel to their land portends the coming of the fulfillment of Daniel's 70th week.

God's Dealings With the Gentiles

The time period between the 69th and 70th week is a pause in God's dealings with Israel. The following verses indicate that God's focus has changed from Jews to Gentiles due to Israel's rejection of their Messiah. This time period will conclude

Act 13:46 LEB Both Paul and Barnabas spoke boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you, since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life! Behold, we are turning to the Gentiles!

Rom 11:25 LEB For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you will not be wise in your own sight, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in,

The passage above is quoted from Isa 6:9 is spoken in reference to the blindness and deafness of the Jews in Jesus' time.

Mat 13:13-15 LEB For this reason I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand, (14) and with reference to them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says, "You will listen carefully and will never understand, and you will look closely and will never perceive. (15) For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they hear with difficulty, and they have shut their eyes, so that they would not see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them."

Additional passages speaking of the changing of times from Israel to the Gentiles follow:

Mat 21:42-43 LEB Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this has become the cornerstone. This came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? (43) For this reason, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruits.

Rom 11:7-11 LEB What then? What Israel was searching for, this it did not obtain. But the elect obtained it, and the rest were hardened, (8) just as it is written, "God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, until this very day." (9) And David says, "Let their table become a snare and a trap, and a cause for stumbling and a retribution to them; (10) let their eyes be darkened so that they do not see, and cause their backs to bend continually." (11) I say then, they did not stumble so that they fell, did they? May it never be! But by their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy.

God's Dealings With The Jews Again

So the time period between the crucifixion and the commencement of the 70th week is directed at the Gentiles. But when the 70th week commences as the Tribulation, the focus will be returned to Israel. This supports a Pre-Trib rapture view, since the rapture will remove the church from earth, returning to the focus of Daniel's prophecy, the Jews.

This passage in Luke speaks to the time of the Tribulation, and that the Jews will be trampled. But we see that the trampling will only occur until the "times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

Luk 21:22-24 LEB because these are days of vengeance, so that all the things that are written can be fulfilled. (23) Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing their babies in those days! For there will be great distress on the earth and wrath against this people, (24) and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

At the conclusion of the Tribulation period, the Jews shall see Christ coming in glory and power, and recognize in sorrow their Messiah, Jesus:

Zec 12:9-10 LEB And then on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations coming against Jerusalem. (10) "'I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication, and they will look to me whom they pierced, and they shall mourn over him, as one wails over an only child, and they will grieve bitterly over him as one grieves bitterly over a firstborn.

National Israel in the Millennium

Following the Tribulation, Jesus will come to national Israel:

Isa 59:20-21 LEB "And a redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn away from transgression," declares Yahweh. (21) "And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says Yahweh: my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have placed in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of your children's children," says Yahweh, "from now on and forever."

We know this speaks of Israel, because Paul refers to the "partial hardening" that happened to them until "the fullness of the Gentiles". He then quotes Isaiah 59:20, clearly correlation it with the post tribulation salvation of the Jews, who still exist as a people. He finishing up by stating that although they turned away from the gospel "for our (Gentiles) sake", they are still dearly beloved, and that He will still honor His irrevocable Abrahamic Covenant regardless of their behavior.

Rom 11:25-29 LEB For I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you will not be wise in your own sight, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, (26) and so all Israel will be saved, just as it is written, "The deliverer will come out of Zion; he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob. (27) And this is the covenant from me with them when I take away their sins." (28) With respect to the gospel, they are enemies for your sake, but with respect to election, they are dearly loved for the sake of the fathers. (29) For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Israel has a prominent position following the Tribulation. Isaiah speaks of Israel during the millennium in the following passage, showing that Israel exists as a nation and location, and that Jesus will rule from there (v3):

Isa 2:1-5 LEB The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: (2) And it shall happen in the future of the days the mountain of the house of Yahweh shall be established; it will be among the highest of the mountains, and it shall be raised from the hills. All of the nations shall travel to him; (3) many peoples shall come. And they shall say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the house of the God of Jacob, and may he teach us part of his ways, and let us walk in his paths." For instruction shall go out from Zion, and the word of Yahweh from Jerusalem. (4) He shall judge between the nations and he shall arbitrate for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. A nation shall not lift up a sword against a nation, and they shall not learn war again. (5) House of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of Yahweh.

Conclusion

There are those today who teach that God does not have a separate plan for the Jewish people apart from the church. This article clearly shows that is simply not true, and that God does have separate plans. But it is important to distinguish between the individual people of Israel, and the entity of national Israel.

Although Paul taught that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ, he is speaking here of individuals, not national entities.

In the following passage, Paul clearly says that Gentiles who were apart from Christ, have been made one with the Jews through His death and resurrection, and we now both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Eph 2:11-18 LEB Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, the so-called uncircumcision by the so-called circumcision in the flesh, made by hands, (12) that you were at that time apart from Christ, alienated from the citizenship of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, not having hope, and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you, the ones who once were far away, have become near by the blood of Christ. (14) For he himself is our peace, who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of the partition, the enmity, in his flesh, (15) invalidating the law of commandments in ordinances, in order that he might create the two in himself into one new man, thus making peace, (16) and might reconcile both in one body to God through the cross, killing the enmity in himself. (17) And coming, he proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to the ones who were near, (18) because through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Individual Jews have and do accept the New Covenant through Jesus, but as a nation, they have and are continuing in rejecting Him. So while the path is open to both Jew and Gentile, there is still the rejection of Christ by national Israel to deal with separate from the Gentiles, and that is the entire purpose of Daniel's prophetic 70 Weeks.





Monday, April 28, 2014

Man's Inner Being


Theology - The Doctrine of Man
(Foundations of Pentecostal Theology - Duffield, Van Cleave)


Man Created a Living Soul (Being)

Man became a living soul - (Gen 2:7)  As a result of the creative combination of an earthly element and a heavenly element, man became a living being in the image of his Creator.


Man Is Given a Body 
    1. The Greeks and many of the ancients thought of the body as a prison of the soul and the source of all evil.  Gnostics held this low esteem of the body to the extreme of denying that Jesus had a physical body.  John countered this:  (1 Jn 4:1-3)
       
    2. Scriptures teach us to honor and respect the body as God's creation  (Gen 9:6)
       
    3. The following are ten facts about the body important for the believer to know:
       
      • It is a mortal body that will return to the dust out of which it was fashioned   (Gen 3:19; Gen 18:27)
      • Man is made of mere dust; but that dust, in the hands of God, became something wonderfully made.  (Psa 139:14-16)
      • Man's natural, physical body is only a temporary tabernacle for the real person who inhabits it   (2 Pe 1:14; 2 Cor 5:1)
      • In the resurrection, man will have a new house not made with hands; however, that new body will have a relationship to the present natural body.  (1 Cor 15:44; 1 Cor 15:53; John 5:25; 1 Thess 4:16)

        Paul says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom (1 Cor 15:50, but Jesus in the resurrection had a body of flesh and bones, but not blood (John 20:27; Luk 24:39).  The new body is related to the old as the new plant is related to the seed from which it came (1 Cor 15:44)
      • The body is redeemed man is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore it must not be an instrument of sin. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
      • Man's body, when dedicated to Christ's service, is reckoned a living and holy sacrifice.  (Rom 12:1)
      • The redeemed man may employ his body as a weapon against Satan.  (Rom 6:13)
      • Redeemed man enjoys certain benefits of Christ's redeeming work in his body, even in this world  (Mat 8:16-17)  Also (Jas 5:14-15; Rom 8:11)

        That this redemption pertains to the present experience, and not just the future is seen in these facts:
         
        • Paul is speaking of believers present  victory over the flesh (Rom 8:9)
        • He refers to our mortal bodies, not dead bodies.  Moral means "subject to death".
        • Before the quickening of the resurrection, the bodies will be dead in the grace, not "moral".
        • The argument in this verse clearly pertains to the present walk -->  (Rom 8:12)
        • If the Spirit delivers from carnal domination through faith, so also can the Spirit deliver from bodily infirmity through faith.
           
      • The believer will be judged at the judgment seat of Christ on the basis of things done in the body.  (2 Cor 5:10)  Also (1 Cor 3:11-15; 1 Cor 9:27)
         
      • Man's body of "dust" which he inherits from Adam, bears the image of Adam as well as the image of God  (1 Cor 15:45-49)
         

Man Is Given an Immaterial Life

A man's immaterial life and personality are derived from God's creative breath and our life's breath depends upon the sustaining grace of our Creator  (Gen 2:7; Job 12:10; Psa 33:6; Isa 42:5; Act 17:25)

  • The Immaterial Elements

    Each of these  refers to the immaterial self from a discernibly different point of view, or describes different functions of the self.  John describes the Spirit of God as "wind" that "blows".  (John 3:8)  This could also say, "The Spirit breaths where He wills".  See also (John 3:8; John 3:4)
    • Life (Mark 8:35)
    • Soul (Mark 8:36)
    • Spirit (Psa 31:5)
    • Mind (Rom 7:25)
    • Heart  (Eph 6:6)
    • Strength (Luk 10:27)
    • Self (1 Cor 4:3-4)
    • Will  (1 Cor 7:37)
    • Affections  (Col 3:2)
  • Scripture attributes both soul and spirit to animals (Ecc 3:21; Psa 104:25-30)  Man is distinguished from the lower creatures by the quality of his faculties, not the number of them.
  • Errors include:

    Unregenerate man has only a body and soul, spirit imparted at new birth. This confuses the human and Holy Spirits. Ungodly men also have spirits (1 Chr 5:26)

    The soul is a human element, and the spirit is the divine element, again confusing the human and Holy Spirit.  (Rev 6:9; Heb 12:23) Soul and Spirit are both attributed to God the Father and Son (Mat 12:18; Isa 42:1; Mat 26:38; Isa 53:11-12; Luk 23:46)
     
  • Arguments for Trichotomy  (Body, Soul and Spirit)
     
    • Gen 2:7 - The combination of a body of dust and the breath of God resulted in a third part, the soul.
       
    • 1 Thess 5:23 - specifies three parts of man.
       
    • Heb 4:12 - declares that soul and spirit are capable of being divided.
       
    • 1 Cor 2:14 to 1 Cor 3:1 - Paul speaks of men as "carnal", "natural"  (soulish), and "spiritual", referring to three parts.
       
  • Arguments for Dichotomy  (Body and soul/spirit)
     
    • Gen 2:7 - only 2 distinct parts are mentioned, the body of earth and the breath of God.  The living soul is not a third part, but the result of body and spirit.  It does not say that man had a living soul, but  "became" a living soul.
       
    • John 12:27 - The terms soul and spirit are used interchangeably.  See also (Gen 41:8; Psa 42:6; Heb 12:23; Rev 6:9; Rev 20:4)
       
    • Ecc 3:21; Rev 16:3 - The terms soul and spirit are both used of animals and men.
       
    • Jer 9:9; Isa 42:1; Isa 53:10-12; Heb 10:38 - The term soul is attributed to Jehovah.
       
    • Mark 12:30 - The highes spiritual exercises are atributed to the soul as well as to the spirit.  See also (Luk 1:46; Heb 6:18-19; Jas 1:21)
       
    • Mark 8:36 - According to Jesus, to lose the soul is to lose everything.  See also (Mark 8:37; Mat 16:26; Mat 10:28)
       
    • 1 Thess 5:23 - The dichotomist says that Paul does not imply that body , soul and spirit are three distinct and separable parts of man, but uses the terms similar to how Mark does in Mar 12:30, as attributes.
       
    • Heb 4:12 - The dichotomist answers this passage by saying the passage doesn't speak of dividing the soul from spirit, but penetrating into the deepest recesses of one's being, even to "the thoughts and intents of the heart.

      W. E. Vine - "The Word of God pierces through all the lies deepest in human nature, not actual separating soul from spirit and joints from marrow, but piercing and laying bare the inmost being, cutting through the most secret recesses of the spiritual life, penetrating the soul, and deeper still, the spirit as through joints to their very marrow.
       
    • The dichotomist does not say that there is no difference whatever between the words soul and spirit.  Although they are frequently  used to designate the same immaterial part of man,  more precisely, they refer to man's inner-self in different relationships.

      When the words are distinguished in meaning, the soul faces earthward, and the spirit heavenward.  The soul is man in his earthly relationships, the spiritual is man  in his spiritual and immortal relationships.
       


Man Becomes a Living Soul (Being)

The two views, tri and di chotomy  are not greatly different, and no other major doctrine is affected by the difference.
  • Man as a Unity

    There is a strong tendancy among conservatives to think of man as a unity rather than divisible parts. The soul is separated from the body at death, but only until the resurrection. Paul speaks of the soul as naked without the body (2 Cor 5:1-4) See also (Rom 8:23; 1 Thess 5:23; Mark 12:30)
     
  • The Origin of Man's Soul or Spirit
     
    • Preexistence -  A theory of Transmigration of souls is the position held by Hinduism, Theosophy, Rosicrucians, and many occult religions.
       
    • Creationism -   held by  Roman Catholics and many reformed theologians.  Holds that the soul is created directly from God in each newly conceived person sometime between conception and birth, only the body is propagated by the parents.  Scripture quoted in defense are (Zec 12:1; Isa 42:5; Isa 57:16; Ecc 12:7; and Heb 12:9)

      It is urged against this position  that it makes God the creator of sinful souls or represents God as putting a pure soul in a depraved Adamic body.  It can also be shown that the scriptures in support of  direct creation of each soul would with equal force support the indirect agency of God in procreation.
       
    • Traducianism - (The preferred theory among conservative scholars.)  The human race was created in Adam, and from him, both body and soul were procreated by natural generation.  (Job 14:4; Job 15:14; Psa 51:5; Psa 58:3; John 3:6; Eph 2:3)

      Dr. Strong - "Traducianism holds that man, as a species, was created in Adam.  In Adam, the substance of humanity was yet undisturbed.  We derive our immaterial as well as our material being, by natural laws of propagation, from Adam - each individual man after Adam possessing a part of the substance that was originated in him.

      Arguments in favor of Traducianism:
       
      • There is no biblical record of God's creating a human being more than once.  (Gen 2:2)
         
      • It best explains the inherited sinful nature  (Psa 51:5)
         
      • Strongly supported by a vital statistic of Jacob's family  (Gen 46:26)
         
      • Seth was begotten "in the likeness" of Adam  (Gen 5:3)
         
      • It explains personality likenesses between children and parents.

        The traducianist, however, does not posit a purely natural origin for new souls; he maintains that all souls since Adam are indirectly created by God as the Sustainer of the process of procreation  (Heb 1:3; Col 1:17)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Fruit of the Spirit as Evidence

The Fruit of the Spirit as Evidence

Stan Feldsine

Matthew 7:20  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.


There are many today, both Christian and secular, who believe that we as Christians are told not to judge based on what Jesus said in the "judgment" chapter of Matthew 7.  The oft quoted first verse, "Judge not, that you not be judged." is used in an attempt to redirect any light shone in the dark places being sheltered by Christians and the world alike.  Isn't it seemingly ironic then that Jesus in verse 20 instructs us in the very means by which we should render a judgment, that we would know them by their fruit. 


There is ample evidence in Scripture that Christians are not called to turn a blind eye to injustice, immorality, and other sin, and we are called to render righteous judgment.  Jesus instructs us in John 7.24 "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."  Later, Paul reminds us that "...he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one." (1 Cor 2:15)


The question then to be answered in this paper is what is righteous judgment, what is the true standard of rightly judging?  How can we correctly determine what activity leads to life, and which leads to death, and thus, rightly judge.  And perhaps more importantly, who then CAN rightly judge?

The Fruit...
First, let's look at what this "fruit" is.  If it is by their fruit we will know them, or in otherwards, by their fruit we can judge, what is this fruit?  In Galatians 5:22-23 we read "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law."  The fruit then, refers to personal character.  Each of the fruit mentioned here is a descriptive characteristic of a persons interaction with others.  When we interact with others, is that interaction characterized by joy, peace, kindness, longsuffering (or patience), goodness?  We can look at ourselves and judge ourselves by these characteristics, do we treat those with whom we disagree with kindness?  With love?  Are we full of joy in our presentation to others?  These fruit are indicators or evidence of where we are at personally.  Likewise then, it follows that we can view others and judge by the light of these characteristics.

...of the Spirit
We now come to the question of from where does this fruit come?  Paul refers to this fruit as "of the Spirit". The implication then regarding the origins of the fruit is that we cannot manufacture this fruit ourselves, it is a product of the Spirit of God living in us and empowering us.  Guy P.Duffield in The Foundations of Pentecostal Theology states:

 "...these above named virtues, achieved by purely human effort, are not the fruit of the Spirit, but an imitation of it.  They are wax fruit in contrast with real fruit, just as beautiful as the real to view from a distance, but immeasurably inferior to the taste."

If we look at nature from where this metaphor comes, we see that natural fruit comes from trees and vines.  Fruit cannot grow itself, but depends on life from the host plant. Samuel Chadwick, quoted in 'The Foundations of Pentecostal Theology by Duffield speaking of human vs. Spirit fruit observes that:


 "The most striking feature of the contrast is the emphatic change from works to fruit.  Works belongs to the workshop; fruit belongs to the garden.  One comes from the ingenuity of the factory; the other is the silent growth of abounding life." 

 From where then does the real fruit come?

The Vine
Jesus made it abundantly clear where the source of fruit is. It is He Himself.  In John 15:1 Jesus states, "I am the true vine..."  And how does the vine produce fruit in us? Jesus in vs. 5 states "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing."   It is clear then that there is more to fruit production than just a human will to be kind, gentle, and so on.  The fruit "of the Spirit" is produced through our connection to "the Vine", Jesus. Abiding implies an unbroken connection with the Lord of Creation, reading His Word, praying without ceasing, fellowship with other likeminded believers. Abiding means yielding oneself to the working of the Spirit in our life on a continual unbroken basis.


This fruit is more than the outward appearance of human kindness, but produced by an inner spiritual regeneration powered by the Holy Spirit as we abide in Christ. From the Holy Spirit flows a spiritual life force, that is often referred to as water. John illustrates the concept for us in John 14:13-14:  "Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

The image is clear that as we take in the "water" of the Spirit, our cup will be filled, and outward from us will overflow a fountain of living water.  Another way to illustrate this concept would be to say that as we plug into Jesus, He will by the Spirit flow His life into us resulting in an abundance of fruit. As the Spirit gives to us, so we fill up, and the Spirit doesn't stop when we are full, but continues to overflow from us outwardly to those around us in love.  It is our connection to the vine, abiding in Christ, that makes this possible.

Righteous Judgment
The nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit listed in Gal 5:22-23 are all outward manifestations of love.  In reading 1 Cor 13.1-3 it becomes apparent that Paul is speaking of our interactions with those around us.  The message is clear, no matter how spiritual we think we are, if we act without love, then we are nothing.  Love is the central point from which all our actions are to be influenced and guided. 


Paul makes an interesting and pertinent statement about love to the Phillipians:
Php 1:9-11  "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,  (10)  that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,  (11)  being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

He prays that our "love" may abound to knowledge and discernment, that we may make a judgment call, approving that which is excellent.  The implication here is that without love, we have no foundation from which to make judgment calls.  From this and other passages it is clear that righteous judgment is judgment that is borne from a foundation of love, having been filled with the Spirit and overflowing with kindness, gentleness, patience. When we render a judgment on a brother or sister, or on a non-believer, we can hold up our words and actions against this banner of love, with the helpful definition of love from Gal 5.22-23 "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control".  Is what I am saying or doing peaceable, kind, good, and so on?


At this point it is worth pointing out that the word translated faithfulness, or faith, depending on the translation is frequently understood by people as "being personally full of faith", but this Greek word "Pistis" is derived from the Greek "peitho", which unveils the meaning to be that of projecting faithfulness outwards towards others, as is consistent with every other fruit listed.  In this sense, faithfulness implies having faith in others, believing the best about them and making friends, being loyal, in contrast with viewing others with suspicion. This is in line with 1 Cor 13, in which we are given several ways in which love manifests itself towards others. (1 Cor 13:4-7)  Love suffers long and is kind, does not behave rudely, thinks no evil, bears all things, and so on.  Having a basis of suspicion is sandy ground on which to launch judgment of others.

Answering the Questions
Righteous Judgment - So back to the questions to be answered.  What is righteous judgment, and what is the true standard of rightly judging.  Perhaps the reason the world is so fearful of being judged by the Christian community is because so many have been judged without love.  They have been the receptors of unkindness, rudeness, harshness, impatience, and so on.  It is no wonder that they  misuse the words of Jesus and fire back at us to "not judge lest we be judged".  Righteous judgment is this.  It is the judgment of those who are abiding in Christ. Who have received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and are being transformed into His image which is one of love, with all it's shades. It is kind judgment, gentle judgment, patient, good, and friend making judgment. It is judgment that demonstrates unmistakable love to the receiver.

Discerning Between Life and Death - Drawing on Paul's letter to the Phillipians, Phil 1:9-10 a  "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,  (10)  that you may approve the things that are excellent...", we understand that it is in love that we may discern properly.  John said in 1 Jn 4:16 that "God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him." Every judgment that God makes is borne from a center of love toward us.  If we are to judge as He does, then we also need to do so from that same center of love, and we do that by abiding in Him.  With love we can discern between the issues of life and death, physically but more importantly spiritually.

Who Can Judge - Everyone it seems wants to be a judge.  Judgmental statements it seems are epidemic, across social media, news media, blogs, and various articles across the internet.  But Jesus has set the standard for being a person who judges rightly, and few measure up to it.  He has said that those who can judge are those who love.  But it is not a worldly love, a wax imitation of love shown forth in human emotion and works.  It is a love that is placed into us by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit with our spirit.  It is a love that we lay hold of by faith that the God who said He would cause living waters to spring forth from us like rivers will actually do it.   It is a love that the Lord places into our innermost beings, that grows from the continual nurture of the Spirit, as we abide in Him, drawing close to Him in prayer, study, and fellowship that continues in an unbroken chain of time.  It is the Lord who is the judge, from perfect love, which He shares with us.

Conclusion
The Fruit of the Spirit stands forth as evidence of love in our lives.  With love we can discern the spiritual health of those around us.  We can discern who can judge, first by the fruit that we ourselves emit, for if "we will know them by their fruit", then we will also know ourselves by our fruit.  If we ourselves have poor fruit, then we should not be a judge of others at all, for love has not matured in us.  We run the risk of calling out a speck in the others eye when we have a beam in our own.


If we put forth good fruit, we have love.  Only in love can we tentatively judge righteously, but we must take care, lest we fall. (1 Cor 10:12)


It is my desire that this paper will lead some to come to see love as the greatest good, far above the calling out (judging) of the errors of others.  If love were mature in Christianity, there would be far greater unity, with the resulting far greater witness of the love of Christ amongst ourselves, and then with the far greater inpouring of the lost to the kingdom. (Jn 17:23)