Tag Archives: Father
“However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you…So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh…For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”1
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.”2
The ideas of freedom and obligation (duty) seem antithetical. Yet both are mentioned in scripture as aspects of the life of a believer. This deserves a closer look with reliance on God’s spirit to enlighten us.
First of all, while obligation/duty is rarely mentioned in scripture, the idea of freedom is common and is central to the mission of Jesus. This isn’t my focus here, but scripture declares Jesus came to set the captives free, we have been called to be free, God desires we take care to remain free, we will be judged by the law of freedom, all children of God are free, and more. However, this is not speaking of freedom as the world understands it, which is essentially a license to do whatever your SELF wants. This freedom is pertaining to believers, who are in Christ. There’s surely more to this, but in part I believe this is a freedom from fear and law, and a freedom to love and a genuine spiritual walk with God (hallelujah!).
Love only exists where there’s freedom and no fear. I’m talking about self-focused, natural fear. There is no fear in love and no love in fear; they are opposing forces.3 Think about that statement. Serving out of fear means I’m very aware of my self and what I could lose. Fear fuels this sense of obligation and ultimately it’s self-serving. There’s no love in that. The obligation and service of love is totally different – it’s spirit-driven and totally without self-awareness or fear of loss. It’s an obligation to honor and edify another, not to preserve self, and it’s produced naturally by the new nature of God’s spirit within. That is love – God is love!
In the passage from Romans above, Paul says true believers are “not in the flesh but in the spirit” and are “under obligation not to the flesh.” As believers, our primary obligation is to NOT live according to the flesh – our own desires, understandings, and will – regardless of how good or logical they may seem. This is the flip side of our other legitimate obligation to live according to the spirit. These obligations are legitimate because our freedom is only in the spirit and is only possible through Christ’s atonement which reconciled believers to God and made our new “natural” state of being as “in the spirit” and to “live according to the spirit.” This is what Christ came and suffered to make real, and what true salvation is all about. The flesh/self is, and is to always be regarded as, old, obsolete, unnatural, deceitful, and dead. It is something to be shunned and forsaken. To live according to a blind and dead nature is to be dead in God’s eyes.4
As a second part to my “Alienated from Life” post, I plan to look at more closely at the following scripture: “…that, in reference to your former manner of life (led by the fleshly mind and nature), you lay aside the old self (the flesh), which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit (desires that deceive – seeming godly but aren’t), and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind (grow in spiritual perception), and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (the God-given spirit within you becoming the controlling force and very life of your whole being).5 Amen.
- Romans 8:9, 12, 14
- Galatians 5:13
- 1 John 4:18
- See Romans 6:6 and 8:5, for starters.
- Ephesians 4:22-24
“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart…”1
For several reasons, I’d venture to say that few church-goers have really examined this passage. But it really jumped out at me recently and I knew I had to look at it closer. Paul prefaces this statment by saying he is “testify(ing) in the Lord.” I was surprised to discover that in all his writings, this is the only time he uses this phrase! I believe this means that what Paul is about to say is something extra pressing upon God’s heart, something he is especially concerned we hear. Here it is again:
“…ye no longer walk as the Gentiles also walk, in the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardening of their heart…”1
A “walk” is a common idea in the New Testament, which refers to one’s manner of inward and outward life. Many “walk” based on a mind and understanding that is vain and darkened, and the terrible outcome of this is being “alienated from the life of God.” As I wrote about in my last post, God’s life, which is in Jesus Christ, is the only means of our salvation. If we are alienated from this life, we cannot produce anything of value to God and cannot be “saved.” This is actually very sobering.
If you look closely, a “hardened heart” seems to be the root cause of this alienation, so we must be careful to understand what that is. The “heart” could be said to be the core of one’s being where information is processed and where beliefs and ways of perception are formed and established. The word “hardening” here literally translates “covered in a callous,” thus meaning impenetrable and unresponsive to stimulation. In a nutshell, a hardened heart is a mindset that cannot receive or incorporate spiritual revelation. This is what God is primarily warning against.
Check out these verses as well: “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.”2
“And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?”3
Christianity has perpetuated the mistaken notion that a hard heart is a lack of compassion. This mistaken idea has taken root because our natural mind ALWAYS dumbs down deep, spiritual concepts in order to deal with them using the non-spiritual intellect. What’s scary is many pious and well-behaved Christians unwittingly have hardened hearts; they cannot and will not receive anything that doesn’t fit in with their current understanding. If you’ve been around Christianity very long, you’ve probably seen this. Don’t forget this sober warning is given to believers. Similar terms used in scripture are “stiff-necked,” “uncircumcised in heart,” “deaf,” “blind,” “stubborn” and “foolish.”
I hope we comprehend how important this is. Adherence to rigid doctrines and creeds is so dangerous, because they tend toward hardening our heart and alienating us from God’s life! Also mentioned in this passage are ignorance (absence of knowledge/perception) and a darkened understanding. Both are results of a hardened heart. A darkened understanding is very simply an understanding that is without a basis in (spiritual) reality as exposed by “light,” which is always used in scripture to represent inward, spiritual revelation and truth from God. Just as natural light exposes and reveals things, so does spiritual light. In the spiritual realm, only what is revealed by light is properly called “truth.” We see much evidence of this in scripture, including Jesus saying “I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness,”4 and Paul writing “…all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”5 Let us seek God’s light to shine on us and be brave enough to admit our absolute need for it. I hope some light is dawning within us right now. Let’s ask Him to teach us, seek to learn His voice, to rely opon Him. God, who is Spirit, will do it. It’s a process.
I want to look at the rest of this passage next time, which looks at the other side of the coin, focusing on what TO do instead of what NOT to do.
- 1. Ephesians 4:17,18 ASV
- 2. John 12:40
- 3. Mark 8:17
- 4. John 12:46
- 5. Ephesians 5:13-14
“And as for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” 1
I think about Christianity quite a bit, the way it thinks and works. I grew up in it and my thinking was greatly influenced by it. Over the past several years, I’ve been re-learning and coming to fresh understandings by being taught by the Spirit of God Himself. 1 John 2:27, quoted above, is therefore a verse that means a lot to me. It’s been a delicate and amazing process.
My observation is that Christianity has stopped pursuing truth and therefore been unable to change, grow, and follow God. Change is often uneasy and costly. For example, in many cases, if a pastor of a typical church were to make a significant or fundamental change, even if this change were toward the truth, it could very well result in the loss of the only livelihood he has ever known. For others, turning toward the truth could mean being ostracized or persecuted by their own family. These things are too costly for many to accept. As a result, the average Christian who is content to follow his/her pastor is rarely exposed to new, deep or uncompromised truth, and if they are, it seems foreign and strange. Thus, many christians live their entire lives in a largely stagnant state.
As I’ve said before, probably the primary doctrine of focus in all of Christianity, one that is incessantly proclaimed, is “salvation.” At it’s core, the common teaching of salvation is that through Jesus, we can be rescued from eternity in hell, promised eternity in heaven, and enter into “relationship” with God. Salvation is said to be what all the “lost” people in the world need. In the interest of brevity, I want to look at only one scripture that gives a better understanding of what salvation truly is.
“For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” 2
There are two main concepts here: reconciliation and salvation. Tragically, concepts like these are all too easily glossed over as vague “christianese” terms, and their sharp distinctions are lost in the gloss. In reality, these concepts are incredibly important, being purposes and results that intertwine with both the death and life of the Son of God!
Allow me to point out a few things from this verse. What the “lost world” needs is reconciliation, not salvation. The enemies of God were reconciled to him by the death of Jesus Christ. The word reconciliation has to do with an exchange; in this case an exchange from being an estranged enemy to being part of the “household of God” and at peace. 3 Reconciliation, at least in potential, is what was accomplished by the death of Jesus Christ at the cross.
It’s believers, who have already been reconciled, that need to be saved! The agent of our salvation is the life of Jesus Christ. How so? We are progressively saved as the life of Jesus Christ, his spiritual nature, grows and matures within us, and our natural life diminishes. That is salvation. Multitudes of scriptures allude to this, and once you understand more of what salvation is, they make more sense. 4 Salvation is not an entirely future event or something you have right now, it’s a present unfolding process wherein the life of Christ grows within you and the influence of self, your natural life, diminishes.5 Isn’t that something you need? No matter how good your behavior, it’s something we all need. God doesn’t desire well-behaved believers, He desires wise sons who are filled with the same life that His only begotten son was filled with. Without that life, the best-behaved among us are simply “whitewashed tombs;” nice on the outside, but spiritually dead inside.5
- 1: 1 John 2:27
- 2: Romans 5:10
- 3. Ephesians 2:19
- 4. Colossians 3:3-4, 2 Timothy 1:1, 1 John 5:11, 2 Corinthians 4:11, 2 Timothy 1:10…
- 5. 1 Corinthians 1:18, Philippians 2:12, Matthew 24:13…
- 6. Matthew 23:27
“…And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)
“For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be…” (Romans 8:7-8)
These two passages are companions, speaking of the same thing. In Genesis, you have the serpent and his “seed” (descendants, offspring) at enmity with the woman and her seed. Thousands of years later, Paul, who knew the Old Testament thoroughly, wrote of the fleshly mind being at enmity with God and the spiritual mind.
As I’ve discussed at some length recently, the mind of the flesh (also called the carnal mind or the natural mind), which Paul warns against, came into being in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and partake of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. You can immediately see it’s effects; in an instant they go from walking with God intimately and innocently to hiding from Him and covering themselves. The mind of the flesh has been the prevailing and “default” mindset of all mankind since that time, leading to all kinds of wickedness, blindness, and religious foolishness.
The serpent’s “seed,” meaning his descendants and offspring, are those who are filled with and led by the “mind of the flesh,” which again, is essentially just the natural, human mind. In fact, I truly believe the “antichrist” is a corporate body composed of religious people who are ruled by the carnal mind, just as the body of Christ are those filled with the mind and life of Christ. “Antichrist” refers to being opposed to Christ by a deceptive counterfeit anointing, not necessarily that which is blatantly or obviously opposed to Christ. Many think of the serpent as “evil,” but the scripture doesn’t say that. It simply says he was crafty, cunning, and subtle. In fact, his temptation was to become aware of evil as well as good! In the same way, the mind of the flesh isn’t “evil” as we often think of it. “Fleshly” or “carnal” simply refers to that which is 100% natural; to things that are human or earthly in origin, being non-spiritual and temporal. Physical things such as money, food, appliances, etc are fleshly, along with everything intangible that has it’s origin in the heart and mind of man, not God. This would include all of man’s thoughts, ideas, motives, and desires.
So we see that much of what Christianity values and advocates is thoroughly fleshly. Three or four times in the first four verses of 1 Corinthians 3 alone, Paul referred to the Corinthian believers in Jesus as fleshly. This is the very same Paul who wrote that the fleshly mind is enmity with God and the spirit! The truth is, although the fleshly mind can be very religious, occupied with good, and believe in Jesus, it is and cannot be other than the enemy of God. God’s ways are not at all like our ways, nor His thoughts like our thoughts. As He sees, from a spiritual point of view, the fleshly, human mind is blind, rebellious, stubborn, and ignorant. It’s opinionated, devoid of wisdom, proud, and confident. It’s everything the spiritual mind isn’t. The fleshly mind is the primary, if not the only, enemy of God. Even Satan has to answer to God as a tool He uses, but the fleshly mind is not so. It was forbidden in the garden, brought death when inherited, has permeated all of mankind, and only in Christ can we be freed from it. The death that we are told we must experience in order to abide in Christ is, at least in part, the cessation of the fleshly mind as our means of perception and relation to God.
The “seed” or descendant of the woman is Christ and his body. In the garden, God referred to this seed as a “he;” an individual man who was to come. In God’s time, Jesus Christ came! and indeed bruised the head of the serpent. No longer did the serpents seed, the fleshly mind, have legitimate authority over mankind. But, the serpent’s seed wasn’t immediately or entirely eliminated, because God has in mind an entire group of people filled with the very life and spirit of Christ, constituting a corporate, worldwide body of Christ, who will inherit the Kingdom of God. Paul said Christ is to be the firstborn among many brethren, that we are all members of his body, that we are to be filled with the life and spirit of Christ himself. 4 These are those called to be part of the true ekklesia, or church. Christ’s body doesn’t consist of those who are called Christians or intellectually believe in him, but simply those who are filled with the spirit and life of Jesus Christ and being conformed to his image, regardless of title or creed. May becoming spiritual and following Christ be our focus and goal, nothing else.
Thousands of years after the events in the Garden of Eden, as recorded in Mark 11, Jesus encounters a fig tree, a symbol of God’s people. Jesus was hungry and desired fruit, but all he found was leaves, because “it was not the season for figs” (fruit). So we see something very interesting. Jesus found the fig tree (God’s people) entirely covered in fig leaves, the very same thing Adam and Eve made to cover their loins with after their eyes were opened by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and they realized their own nakedness.
The meaning of this story is that Israel, and now the Church have not produced fruit (established the Kingdom of God on earth), but instead have chosen to cover themselves in “leaves.” Fig leaves represent the myriad of ways God’s people use to try to dress up self to be presentable to God – an impossible task. Fig leaves are manifested among God’s people today as self-improvement programs or means, behavior management, self-examination, determination, motivation, etc. Fig leaves remain the covering of choice since the garden, because since that time mankind’s natural state is to have the carnal, soulish eyes opened, causing God’s people to have a perception of self-awareness and fear. This is utterly destructive to the spiritual life. The first thing God says to Adam after he ate was: “who told you that you were naked?” In other words, who caused you to see yourself? This was God’s primary concern, and in the right season, he sent His son to undo this.
I do believe the current season of leaves is ending, and I see signs of this. A remnant of God’s called people are beginning to see how completely pathetic and unnecessary “fig leaves” are now that Christ himself has been offered as their covering (Galatians 3:27, Ephesians 4:24, John 15:4). Christ’s covering enables a restoration of innocence (unawareness of sin or self) and spiritual perception. Law, rules and regulations meant to control the flesh were never satisfactory to God and never intended to remain. Freedom from the mind of flesh (carnality) is increasingly becoming a reality for more and more of God’s children.
When Jesus cursed the tree, what he actually said was “no one during this age will eat fruit from you again.” He was speaking to Israel and the Church, both. He was saying that until the season of leaves ended, leaves were all that could be produced by God’s people. The Bible says that in “the fullness of time” (the proper season), Jesus successfully came to regain the spiritual sight that Adam lost, and then some. The body of Christ on Earth is going to do the same, worldwide. The result will be as far beyond what we know of as Church or Christianity as Jesus’ life and ministry was beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees. There will be no comparison, but many will reject it, just as many rejected Jesus in his day. I believe our call right now is to seek the Kingdom of God, His will being done on earth. Seek it daily. Ask the Father to give you spiritual sight, and be willing to abandon everything you’ve known for that. Cry out and seek this diligently and desperately, just as Jesus taught us to do in his parables. For the remainder of this season, it will be a struggle to enter the Kingdom. But it’s worth it.
I’m with you in this struggle and walk, friends. May true peace, the peace of the Spirit, be upon you.
*Credit to Dan Gochnour for some of the revelation here and challenging further study.
I’m coming to see that Jesus referenced the Old Testament more times and fulfilled more prophecies and types than most realize. Sometimes he did so very subtly, such as in Mark 11: 12 On the next day, when they had left Bethany, he became hungry. 13 Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if perhaps he would find anything on it; and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And his disciples were listening.”
Ask yourself, why was this incident recorded? Was it just to show that Jesus was upset with a tree for failing to satisfy his appetite? No, Jesus did this for the same reason he did everything – because the Spirit of God prompted him to. Jesus was using natural things to illustrate a deeper spiritual reality, as he often did. The truth is, everything Jesus said and did related to the spiritual realm at it’s core.
Some say the first time something is mentioned in scripture, a precedent is set for that particular idea which applies for the rest of scripture. I don’t know about that, but it’s interesting. The first reference of fig leaves in scripture is in Genesis 3, immediately after Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: (Genesis 3): “7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings…
To understand what the fig leaf covering represents, you first have to see why Adam and Eve made these coverings to begin with. Genesis mentions two trees specifically – the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, which God forbade them to eat from, and the Tree of Life. The Bible says the first thing that happened when they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree is their “eyes” opened. This is huge. These obviously aren’t physical eyes, they are the “eyes” of the human soul. Their opening is the source of man’s religious fixation. The Bible calls soulish perception “carnality” or “fleshly.” God sees all that is human, temporal, and non-spiritual, both of the physical (actions) and immaterial (beliefs, motives) realms, as fleshly and utterly worthless.
Genesis 2:9 says both the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life were “pleasing to the sight and good for food.” But, Genesis 3:6 adds one extra element to the tree of knowledge as Adam’s wife saw it; it was “desirable to make one wise.” Is wisdom bad? Were Adam and Eve foolish before eating from this forbidden tree? No, of course not. This wisdom which the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil imparts is human, soulish wisdom, which is based on reasoning, knowledge, cunning, and skill, and it makes one aware of self. Eating from this tree will thus always hinder communion with God and entrance into His spiritual Kingdom (which Jesus said is within us), because when the soul’s eyes open, the spirit’s eyes shut. Adam and Eve got more than they bargained for, essentially trading away spiritual innocence and life to get self-awareness and human reasoning, knowledge, cunning, and skill. If you think about it, Christianity has largely done the same since very shortly after Pentecost.
After they ate, we immediately see a tremendous difference in the relationship between God and Adam and Eve. When the eyes of their soul opened, they suffered the “death” that God had said would come – the death of their spirit, of their innocence. God didn’t change, Adam and Eve’s perception changed. This is so evident by their actions – right away, they covered themselves, hid, and were fearful. For the first time, they became highly aware of self (“knew that they were naked”) and fearful. Self-awareness is the foundation of human fear. It caused Adam and Eve to perceive God as a fearful master to hide from and dress up self for, rather than a loving and trustworthy Father whose love and acceptance frees one from fear, shame, and pretense.
Here’s the progression of events in the garden: ate fruit –> eyes were opened –> saw their nakedness –> became afraid –> made covering of fig leaves –> hid from God. Here’s essentially what this means: dishonored God –> took on carnal perception –> became self-aware –> became fearful –> created myriad of ways to make themselves presentable to God (this is what “leaves” represent) –> abandoned and lost true fellowship with Him. This mirrors the overall history of God’s people, to the present day.
In part 2, probably coming in a few days, I want to look closer and more specifically at Jesus’ encounter with the fig tree. I believe it references the events in the garden and contains a prophecy which is being fulfilled right now. God bless you!