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About firstthekingdom

Truth seeker, religion debunker, Jesus follower...regular guy.

The Suffering Servant

Sometimes, I will send a text to myself when I have a thought I don’t want to forget.  The following quote is an expanded version of one such text I sent myself while thinking about the nature of love:

Love is “unfair,”  in favor of the beloved.  Love looks like a suffering servant – it’s the strong bearing with the weak, it’s putting others above oneself, it’s choosing mercy instead of judgment, it’s speaking grace and life in the face of death.  Because love doesn’t “know after the flesh,”1 it cannot and does not react or respond; certainly not with evil.  Love, being founded in the nature of God Himself, CANNOT be changed or overcome.2   Love isn’t painful in and of itself, but until the world is matured and perfected, love must and will take the form of suffering servanthood.  We must know this: if the Kingdom/Reign of God (the expression of the nature and will of the Spirit) is ever to be manifested on earth, it must do so through the body of Christ on earth!  As such, those who are Christ’s cannot repay evil with evil – not even a slight evil with an even slighter evil.  As should be obvious, repaying evil with evil, violence with violence, anger with anger, selfishness with selfishness, insult with insult, etc. simply perpetuates evil.  To end this cycle, someone has to absorb blows and insults, without returning them.  Someone has to walk in a higher plane than reasonings and reactions based on ego and fear; demonstrating the nature of God by showing KINDNESS to those who are undeserving, by speaking truth and life in spite of persecution, by both proclaiming and demonstrating God’s nature and mind.  This, by the way, does not mean pointing out “sin” any time you see it.  Doing that is actually administering DEATH.  It means showing and offering Life.

As I’ve said many times before, I am optimistic for the future.  I am confident that death will be swallowed up by life, light will banish darkness, truth will prevail over lies, Christ will replace Adam, and love will overcome fear.  In fact, I am certain of these things, because I am certain that in Christ, from the foundation of the world, they have already been accomplished!  Time and space place inescapable constraints on flesh and blood, but they have no such constraint on Spirit, where the end is known from the beginning and both past and future are merely parts of one whole.  In the Spirit, death IS swallowed up by life, and love IS the foundation of all things.  Just how and when these things will manifest in time and space, I don’t know. But I am confident they will.  Now, I am very aware that there is much I don’t know!  I am just increasingly confident that Christ has fully prevailed, so therefore NOTHING can stop the manifestation of love and truth and Life!

It bears repeating: true love often involves suffering.  Love suffers because it absorbs the various abuses that stem from fear, ignorance, and unbelief, but never returns them.  Paul wrote that Christ’s body is to “overcome evil with good.”  Love overcomes evil in the same way that light overcomes darkness, and truth overcomes lies.  Love suffers yet overcomes, because it doesn’t change or cease when things are difficult or when opposition is strong.  Jesus, the greatest man to ever live, allowed himself to be abused, beaten to shreds and crucified by prideful religious fanatics and a callous military and political system – in order to save them all!

I’ll end with this: what if the “salvation” Paul wrote of has more to do with aligning ourselves with and then bringing the “Kingdom of God/Heaven” to earth than it does with going to “heaven” when we die!?  What if, as the body of Christ, WE are the only ministers of salvation this world has – a world that still remains in darkness and needs it!  What if love is the necessary foundation, without which any preaching is useless?  What if the way we minister this salvation is no longer primarily by “preaching,” but by sacrificial LOVING, even if that means physical death!  Are we willing, or willing to be willing?  Our Spirit is.

Be blessed my friends, thanks for reading.

 

 

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:16
  2. 1 John 4:7, 1 Corinthians 13:8
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Posted by on August 29, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Speech and The Two Truths

John 21:25 ESV: “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.”

1 John 3:18 ESV: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

Ephesians 4:29 ASV: “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.”

In recent years, I have increasingly begun to value the practical instruction Paul gives in his Biblical letters; instruction about how those who are Christ’s are to live and relate to others.  While I still value and enjoy the deep spiritual revelations Paul shared, I think it is wise to be wary of intellectual assent without real-life application.  Let’s not forget that the same Paul who proclaimed profoundly deep revelation also said things like: “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but don’t have love, I am nothing,”1 and “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”2 . It is easy to over-value knowledge and under-value applied love, because knowledge in itself demands no change, while love is always accompanied by humility and sacrifice (and glory)!  A question I’m asking myself is this: do I really “know” a Truth if it is not being expressed in the way I conduct myself in the world and relate to others?  

Ephesians 4:29, quoted above, is an example of one such practical instruction.  While it sounds like an ancient version of the modern saying: “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” it is actually much deeper than that.  To understand more fully what Paul was saying, let’s start by looking at the definition of some of the Greek words that this verse was translated from:

Corrupt:”

 Greek transliteration: “sapros.”

Definition:
1. rotten, putrefied
2. corrupted by one and no longer fit for use, worn out
3. of poor quality, bad, unfit for use, worthless

-Sapros seems to roughly mean: “worn out, unfit, useless.”

Edifying“:

– Greek transliteration: “oikodome.”

– Definition:
1. (the act of) building, building up
2. metaph. edifying, edification
a. the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, happiness, holiness
3. a building (i.e. the thing built, edifice)

“Edifying” seems to be a good translation of oikodome, which seems to mean “to build up, to strengthen.”

Grace:”

-Greek transliteration: “charis.”

– Definition:
1. grace
a. that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
2. good will, loving-kindness, favour
a. of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
3. what is due to grace
a. the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
b. the token or proof of grace, benefit
1. a gift of grace
2. benefit, bounty
4. thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

Charis is a harder word to pin down, as it describes something divine.  If I had to define grace, I would say it is “the influence of the divine.”  When a human heart is influenced by grace/the divine, it will always, at least in some way, change the way one lives and relates to others.

With these things in mind, here is what I think Paul essentially meant in Ephesians 4:29: 

Be very careful not to say anything that is spiritually or otherwise useless or harmful to the hearer.  Instead, as a child of God, what comes out of your mouth should be only things which give Life – things which are of the Truth and are helpful and useful in building up the hearer into a realization and manifestation of their identity as a son of God and a member of Christ’s body.  In so doing, you are literally acting as Christ – as a minister of God’s divine grace and Life and peace to that person – instead of a minister of self-awareness, death and condemnation.  

A friend of mine once pointed out that there is a difference between things that are true, and Truth itself.  Things that are true, also known as “facts,” are things which deal with the natural realm.  Statements like “I feel sad,” or “the sky is blue” are in the realm of the “true.”  However, Truth, with a capital T, is deeper, being exclusively reserved for the realm of the divine.  Truth cannot be changed by what is “true” or by “facts.”   Truth has to do with that which is part of the fabric of creation, of God’s nature Himself.  Statements such as “you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God,”3 like “one died for all, therefore all died,” like “(Jesus) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world,” are in the realm of Truth.  Truth has to do with the heart and will of God for mankind, which was most clearly demonstrated in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.  We don’t need to ignore facts, but we cannot let facts (truth) become more real to us than Truth.

What I’m saying, and I believe much of what Paul was saying, is that those who are Christ’s MUST speak and call to the divine within each person, speaking the Truth of their identity and being as sons.  This is what it means to speak things that edify, instead of things that corrupt.  Pointing out sin, as many Christians have erroneously taken it upon themselves to do, only INCREASES guilt, shame, and condemnation in the world – it is literally anti-christ to act as a law-giver and bring guilt.  It may be “true” that men are sinners, but it’s NOT Truth.  

Finally, the member’s of Christ’s body cannot just “proclaim” Truth, we must embody it.  IF and when we “see” Christ as our life, as the life of the world, we must let this truth permeate all of our being.  While this is certainly a lot deeper than merely “say nice things,” it includes that!  A better way of thinking about it is not to “be nice,” but to be Truthful and Edifying, building our world and it’s people into their identity as sons, rather than reinforcing a false identity as sinners, which just creates more sin and death (which scripture clearly says was the whole purpose of the law)!  Amen.  

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:2 WEB
  2. 1 Corinthians 8:1 WEB
  3. Colossians 3:3
  4. 2 Corinthians 5:14
  5. 1 John 2:2
 
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Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Meekness and Life in Knowing Christ Crucified

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As recorded in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul said this about his visit to a group of believers in Corinth:  “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”

That’s a bit dense, but it seems the essence of what Paul was saying is something like this: “Because I wanted you to encounter God the Father rather than a human ego known as “Paul,” I chose to conduct myself among you in meekness and simplicity, rather than with severity and grandiosity.”  It seems that many times, Paul took pains to be humble and meek.  2 Corinthians 10:10, to give another example, shows that many people found Paul to be less “impressive” in person than in writing.  He intended it that way.

Somehow, Paul makes a connection between the exclusive “knowing” of Christ crucified and a conduct of meekness, sincerity, and simplicity. What does that mean? Here is a suggestion: “knowing Christ crucified” = recognizing Christ AS one’s life(!) and therefore walking in humility and sacrificial love. Scripture says clearly: all men (all of Adam) died in Christ, and Christ is their true life and identity. The recognition of Christ AS one’s life is a natural product of knowing the truth that in Christ ALL were crucified and risen anew. It’s not a matter of changing or doing, it’s a matter of seeing and integrating. Consider the following verses:

  • Colossians 3:3-4: “For you (self/ego) have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When (literally: “whenever”) Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died…”
  • Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I (Paul/ego) who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
  • Romans 6:6,11: “We know that our old self (old man) was crucified with him…” “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:1: “If (since) then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above…”

The knowing of Christ crucified caused Paul’s meekness because “knowing” has nothing to do with a mental agreement of fact, but everything to do with integration with revealed truth, which then naturally leads to the expression of that truth outwardly.  If that truth is that “Paul” the ego has died and Christ lives in him, then to know/integrate with that truth will mean the suppression of that (in this case brash) ego and the manifestation of the Life of Christ – a Life of love and truth and grace.  This is especially important when teaching others.  You don’t want them seeing YOU or receiving from YOU the ego; you want them seeing and receiving Christ the Life!  I’m not saying we are all identical robots.  We are all unique and amazing expressions and functions of the body of Christ on earth, and for that very reason, we must be sure we are not presenting the dead ego/self, but Christ the Life!

So, can one really “know” a spiritual truth while ignorantly living in a contrary manner? Does one truly “know” Christ crucified if one still sees the ego/self/flesh as one’s life, and relates to others as that self/ego?  I think the answer to those questions is “no.” That answer concerns me, it inspires me to go deeper. Again, if Paul himself – the one who was able to truthfully claim to be a flawless Jew and later a gifted, revelation-endowed, miracle-working, fanatical evangelist of Jesus – if such a man took pains to ensure the ego/self known as “Paul” wasn’t seen, but Christ the Life was seen in him, how much more should you and I do the same? Let’s give this some serious thought, brothers and sisters. Bless you!

 
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Posted by on July 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Sting of Death (Root of Slavery Pt. 2)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (bondage).  -Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV

In my last post, found here, I made the case that the “devil” in Hebrews 2 is not an evil spiritual being.  “Devil” is translated from the Greek word diabolos; an adjective which means something like “an accuser.”  In this post I want to look at what this “accuser” actually is.  

The primary thing Hebrews 2 says about this devil/accuser is that it had the “power of death.”  To make sense of this, we have to understand that “death” is often used in scripture in a spiritual sense, referring to a state of separation from God (who is Life).  Here are a few examples:

  • Romans 8:6: “For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace…”  Just like darkness has no existence in itself, simply being the absence of light, so death has no existence itself, being the absence of Life.  The idea that the mind of the flesh IS death means is that there is nothing divine to be found in or given from the natural mind/imagination of man, which has not been refined by the Fire of God’s presence.

  • 1 John 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”  Abides in death = dwells/lives in death.  This is clearly not speaking of physical death (or life), but of a state of separation from from God, who is Life.  Note also: love is THE sign of Life.

  • 1 Timothy 5:6: “…She who is self-indulgent is (spiritually) dead even while she (physically) lives.”

 

  • The devil having the “power of death” means it somehow facilitated a separation from God, and it creating a “fear of death” means it also reinforced the awareness of this separation.

 

Now, how did the devil create a separation from God?  To answer that, let’s look at a few other scriptures which mention death and its power. My comments are in blue.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:56 ESV:  “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.”  -In other words, law empowers sin, and sin gives death it’s “sting.”  So the foundation of sin and “stinging” death is law.  Law—> sin —>death.

  • Romans 5:12-13 ESV:  “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned–for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.”  Again, crazy as it may sound, we see that law —> sin —> death.  

  • Romans 3:20 ESV:  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.  -Justification NEVER comes by law, only knowledge of sin/violation does!  

  • Romans 7:5-6:  For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death.  This is the same basic thing as said in the verses above: law—> sin —> death.  But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”  There are many parallels here with Hebrews 2.  Here in Romans, we are told law and the “written code” held men “captive.”  Hebrews 2 mentions a “life-long bondage” empowered by a “devil” which was destroyed through Jesus’ death.  It’s clear in this passage that “that which held us captive” is the law, also referred to as “the written code.”  So, the “captivity” of Romans 7 is the same thing as the “life-long bondage” of Hebrews 2. All this captivity and bondage stems from the law, aka “the written code,” which created sin and death.

Think of a speed limit: does the law give a reward to those who drive within the limit?  No!  Law doesn’t work like that!  Law’s ONLY function is to accuse; to identify and prescribe penalties to those who step outside it’s boundaries.  In this way, law creates both sin and “sinners.”   When we become self-aware and conscious of sin, then spiritually speaking, we “die.”  This is what took place when Adam and Eve at from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  They immediately saw their “nakedness,” BECAME AFRAID, and hid from God.   But, remember this: when Adam and Eve “sinned,” THEY hid from God, but HE went looking for them!   So here it is:

 

  • LAW is the “devil” of Hebrews 2.  Law accuses and thus gives rise to sin.  Sin then gives rise to death – an awareness of separation from God – through self-awareness and fear.  This also gives death a “sting,” causing people to be aware of and pained by it.  

To summarize: we know that the devil had the “power of death.”  By the same token, it is LAW which gives rise to sin, which then gives rise to death. The devil also facilitated a “fear of death.”  Again, law, by way of sin, gives death a fearful “sting.”  Third, the devil caused “life-long bondage.” Again, it is LAW which creates “captivity,” or bondage!  Here is one final scripture to support this idea:

In part 3 to come, I am going to look at how Jesus broke the cycle of “sin and death” and placed ALL men into a position of grace and life, though many remain ignorant of it.  Thanks for reading.  I know this may be a bit “dense,” but I hope it makes sense and you glean what you can.  Bless you!

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Women Are The Devil!? (The Root of Slavery Pt. 1)

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, (Jesus) himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, (15) and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (bondage).  -Hebrews 2:14-15 ESV

These verses contain a lot of big ideas, stating “the devil” imparted a “fear of death,” which then made one “subject to” (meaning “put under the authority of”) “lifelong slavery” (or bondage).  Put another way, this says: “the devil’s power created a fear of death, causing life-long bondage to those under his rule.”  Although (thank God!) Jesus broke this bondage once for all, I think it’s worth understanding what the devil and this bondage are or were, so we don’t somehow go back under it.  

To understand what all this means, we have to be open to the possibility that our current understanding is wrong, and that this is ok!  It also greatly helps to keep in mind that while the New Testament contains much truth and enlightenment we can benefit from, was not written TO us, in 2017 A.D. (possibly except for the gospels).  Certainly the book of Hebrews, which was written nearly 2,000 years ago to Jews living while the temple in Jerusalem was still standing, was not written TO us!  I could elaborate a lot more about this, but my point is that our understanding of scripture derails very quickly when we don’t keep the original audience and time-frame in mind.

So, looking again at Hebrews 2:15, the Greek word translated “slavery” or “bondage” is douleia.  This word, used four other places in the Bible, always refers to a “state of being” which was undesirable, immature, inferior, and temporary.  In fact, it is said to have already passed away in Christ!  Notice its use in these four scriptures: 

  • “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery (douleia) to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”” (Romans 8:15 ESV)

  • “…that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage (douleia) to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21 ESV)

  • “Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery (douleia); she is Hagar.” (Galatians 4:24 ESV)

  • “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (douleia).” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

So, douleia is associated with death, the devil, fear, corruption, an old covenant, and a yoke of slavery!  Aren’t you glad Jesus defeated the devil and delivered us?!  

That leads me to the main issue I want to explore: who or what does “the devil” refer to?  You might be surprised, as I was at first, to learn that this term does not necessarily refer to an evil spiritual being.  The Greek word translated “devil” is diabolos, which is not a name and does not refer to a specific being.  Diabolos is an adjective, a descriptive term, literally meaning “an accuser, a slanderer.”  Anyone or anything which slanders and accuses a child of God is a/the devil!  Consider these scriptures:

  • 2 Timothy 3:2-3 ESV:  “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous (diabolos), without self-control, brutal, not loving good…”   –Here, we clearly see Paul writing that PEOPLE will be diabolos (devils)…

  • Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers (diabolos) or slaves to much wine.”  (Titus 2:3 ESV)

  • Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers (diabolos), but sober-minded, faithful in all things. (1 Timothy 3:11 ESV)

Again, very literally, people who slander others are “devils,” and judging strictly by scripture’s use of this term, it seems women were particularly prone to being devils (kidding)!

Now, I’m not arguing for or against the idea that there is a spiritual being or force known as “the devil.”  My point is simply to show that the term “devil” in the Bible doesn’t necessarily or always refer to such a being, and, as you are probably gathering, I strongly believe Hebrews 2 is such a case where “devil” isn’t referring to an evil spiritual being.  In my next post, I hope to show why I believe this, what the “devil” refers to in this passage, and look at how he/it empowered the “fear of death” and what “life-long slavery” referred to.  I hope this has made you think!  Stay tuned.  

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The Three Fathers

The Three Fathers

 

“Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.” -John 8:43-45 ESV

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  –James 1:17 ESV

“…one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” –Ephesians 4:6 ESV

“If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers (literally: “the fathers of our flesh”) who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?”  –Hebrews 12:8-9 ESV

Have you ever noticed that the scripture refers not just to God, but also to the devil as a “father?”  This means, in some sense at least, that there are both sons of God and sons of the devil on earth.  It seems scripture identifies three main “fathers”:  God, the devil, and men.  As I see it, the term “father” refers to the one whose “seed” (mind, nature) we have received and are expressing.  God is said to be the Father of lights, of Spirits, and of all.  The devil is said to be the father of lies and murder.  Men are the fathers of flesh.  

With regard to men as fathers of flesh, I mean just that.  Our physical bodies are clearly derived from our parents, often with strong resemblances.  Many mental and physical diseases run in families, and research has shown that children adopt at least some of their biological parents’ personality traits even if raised by someone else.  

As for the devil as a father, Jesus claimed this was the case with the Pharisees, as evidenced by their resemblance to him in their proclivity for murder, condemnation and slander (which are essentially the same), and their devotion to lies coupled with an inability to recognize Truth or hear God’s word.  The devil’s “seed” was so prevalent in them, they couldn’t recognize and even hated and killed the son of the very God they claimed to worship.

One might ask how God can be the Father of “all,” as Ephesians 4:6 says, while at the same time some people are sons of the devil.  As I see it, God is the Father of all in the ultimate/final sense of being the source and destination of all.  But, there are those (like the Pharisees) who receive and nurture a different “seed” than God’s, and so they begin to take on a different nature, character, and appearance.  Therefore, in a manifest/actualized/present sense, these are not sons of God.  

Romans 8:19 famously says: “…the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing (or manifestation) of the sons of God.”  Let’s keep in mind the description of a manifest son of God which Paul gave just a few verses earlier, in verses 13-14:  “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  

Let me unpack these verses a bit.   First of all, in verses 13-14, notice Paul is highlighting the contrast between flesh (death) and spirit (life).  The spiritually dead mind of the flesh, in it’s fear and ignorance, will interpret a statement like: “if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body” as “if I meet the requirements, the Spirit of God will empower me to __________ and I will be holy.”   But that’s all wrong.  First of all, there is no holiness in mere outward behavior.  Second, God/Spirit doesn’t empower us against flesh, because flesh is already dead!  Instead, God enlightens us to spiritual reality, and as the Life of the spirit grows, the deadness of the flesh becomes naturally manifest.  It’s not something WE do, at all.

The phrase “by the Spirit” could also read “in the Spirit” or “according to the Spirit.”  It’s not specified in the original text.  It makes more sense to me to read it as “according to the Spirit,” since Paul is comparing with a life that is “according to the flesh.”  “According” means “corresponding to, conforming to, in keeping with.”  Elsewhere, Paul contrasted the “works” of the flesh with the “fruit” of the Spirit, because the flesh deals with outward things, while the Spirit is naturally present inwardly.  So here is what I think Romans 8:13-14 means:

“…if your mind and actions are corresponding to the flesh, you are dwelling in death instead of the Life that is your inheritance as God’s son.  But, if the reality of your union with Christ, your adoption as a son, and the love of God become revealed to you, in keeping with that reality you will naturally begin to manifest the fruit of the Spirit and the carnal works of the body will fall away.  In this way you will become a manifest son of God, for all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  

I do greatly desire and pray that we be enlightened to the true gospel and the radical nature of the new covenant.  It is so needed and is so different from religion.  You are loved and reconciled, right where you are.  This truth can be ignored, but it cannot be changed.  I encourage believers to consider focusing less on “current events” done by darkened minds, which will only stir up the flesh into fear and anger.  Instead, see beyond the works of darkness to the unchangeable Spirit.  Embrace love, let it permeate you, heal you, and extend to others.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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We ARE It (Without Hands pt. 1)

I’ve written many times about the fact that in Christ/Spirit, we have died and risen into new life.  In Colossians 2:11-13 (ESV), Paul uses the illustration of physical circumcision to make this same point:

“In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…” 

There are several important things Paul states about this spiritual circumcision. First, it only exists “in him,” meaning in Christ/Spirit.  It’s not something that is seen in the physical body or felt with physical senses.  Second, it was done “without hands,” meaning that man had no part in it and cannot alter it.  Third, this circumcision didn’t cut off a foreskin, but the entire “body of the flesh.”  By doing this, God did what man couldn’t (and still can’t) – end the flesh. As God sees, in the Spirit, EVERYTHING which has been birthed from the “seed” of man is condemned, dead, taken away.  Fourth, Paul says God did this while men were dead in trespasses and (spiritual) uncircumcision.  We didn’t “earn” this, it was done in God’s timing and by His decision.  Paul says by cutting off the flesh, God was forgiving all trespasses and uniting men with Christ, making them alive TOGETHER with him. Needless to say, a radical change has taken place!  This change, for those with eyes to see, is not in the physical world, and not in the darkness within or outside of us.  Those things remain dead.  This change is in the Spirit, which then alters our perception of and relationship to everything, and which ultimately will consume all that is not in accordance with it!  

In a recent post, I mentioned some questions I wanted to address in light of these things.  Here are a few of these:

1. How should we relate to other people?  

-I agree with Paul, who in 2 Corinthians 5:16 wrote believers are to “know no man after the flesh.”  Knowing that in the light of the new covenant, all flesh has been cut off and put away, and all men reconciled to God, we will not relate to people (positively or negatively) based off what is dead and cut off.  It’s unnatural and often very difficult to walk this way, but I think the term for it is LOVE.  For example, In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul wrote: “…the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded (recognized) this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died…”  In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul also famously wrote that love keeps no record of wrongs, is longsuffering and kind and never quits.  I believe this is because love is based on the eternal, accomplished fact that Christ died for all, as all, reconciling all men to God, who is no longer counting sins against anyone. 

 

2. What should our relationship be to the world? (I define “world” not as planet earth, but as the systems and values that have been founded and established by man on the earth).  

Again, scripture answers this quite clearly:  

  • “…the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”  -Galatians 6:14

  • “…all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” -1 John 2:16-17 ESV

Recognizing the cross of Christ was our cross too, and that his resurrection was our resurrection too, we will not make any firm attachments to anything still founded on the old creation, nor will we let its values or deceitful desires enter our hearts.

3. What is our relationship to religion?  

-We realize that God is satisfied in His son, and places no value on anything except an increase of His spirit.  In the new creation, there is no benefit (nor intrinsic harm) in any outward observances of any kind.  The only obligation we have is to love one-another.  Seeing the mind and hand of natural man underlying all forms of religion, and knowing natural man is spiritually dead, we simply leave religion be, calling men to come out of it as the Spirit reveals the new creation within them.  We then follow the Spirit in freedom and Life, outside of pretense and ritual.

4. What do we make of it when we still “sin?,” if we have died and been raised with Christ?  

– First, let us remember, according to scripture, Jesus became sin on our behalf, took away the sin of the world, and God is no longer reckoning sin against anyone.  So while sin exists (in a sense), it is, in the final analysis, a moot point, a defeated foe, a nullified issue, and one that we would be much better off not worrying about at all.

Assuming this is true and we are reckoned sinless and have been raised to new life in Christ, it is still the case that the MANIFESTATION of this reality is not instant or painless.  We remain human, and scripture gives many examples of carnal behavior even among the early church.  Even when we genuinely are seeking the Kingdom, it often takes time for us to let go of habits and attachments that were formed in darkness, especially those deeply-rooted issues which often develop from traumatic experiences and subconcious lies.  It also often takes time to unlearn and undo the fear-based, self-focused way of relating to God many of us were raised under.  And because some of these things remain, sometimes old behaviors/habits persist for a time, or temporarily return.    

But, the key thing is, having died with Christ, we know these things are not “us.”  As Paul wrote in Romans 7, it was not he (Christ, his true identity) that sinned, but the vestiges of sin (the old man/Adam) that remained within him.  Knowing Christ alone is alive, he sought and suffered to see that truth become the manifest reality of his existence.  Knowing any old, sinful ways are not “us” and are not being held against us, we can avoid the two deadly errors: either thinking we “have it” and becoming proud, or thinking we “don’t have it” and becoming discouraged and fearful.  We don’t “have it” or “not have it.”  We ARE it!   It’s just a matter of revelation, refining, and manifestation.  

Here’s what I mean by “we are it.”  A few scriptures speak of purification or refining, which is a process that identifies and removes foreign material so only the valued substance remains.  In the same sense, the Spirit isn’t working to make us something new or better, but simply to identify and consume what ISN’T our true and valuable nature – Christ/Spirit/love.  As we yield to the Spirit’s gentle work, painful as it may be, the falsehoods and impurities are removed, making us become MANIFESTLY a new creation in the process.  It may not look like the ideal person religion has presented, but more like Jesus.

~

Father, renew our minds and hearts to the reality of the new creation.  Let us always remember that in the end, the “hands” of man are useless.  May Christ, our life, be manifested, unhindered by our own efforts or misunderstandings.   Thank you that you removed sin and are not dealing with us accordingly.  May we be the same, for ourselves and others, that fear might diminish, and love and wisdom grow.  Amen.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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