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Power Perfected (Our Body pt. 3)

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“He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 WEB (R))

“And those who passed by derided (Jesus), wagging their heads and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”  So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.” (Matthew 27:39-44 ESV)

Wow.  Just wow.  

Here’s something to think about: to walk in the Spirit of God, the Spirit of “power and love and self-control,” a requirement is that the flesh be “weak,” meaning “without energy.”  Our flesh should be so “malnourished” that it has no power.  This is not a metaphor or suggestion, but a universal law, expressed many times in scripture. For instance, in 2 Corinthians 12, quoted above, Paul says he was being beaten up and weakened by a “messenger of Satan” so that he would not become arrogant or self-righteous.  He asked God to take this away, but God chose to leave it, telling Paul that His (spiritual) power is only matured where there is weakness (of flesh).  This does not refer to the physical body.  The “flesh” is a nature, which was birthed when Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The flesh is always fearful and self-focused, because it is based on the illusion that man has goodness, worth or even existence in and of Himself, apart from the Spirit. Paul understood this and concluded: “when I (flesh) am weak, then I (Spirit) am strong.”  Again, I believe this is a universal law, not a suggestion or an ideal.  

It’s a well-known mystery in Christian circles that the first “church,” particularly for the short time following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, walked in spiritual power and radical love far beyond what we usually see today.  Perhaps the reason for this discrepancy is simply that we have failed to truly embrace weakness of flesh?  As stated in Acts chapter 2, the first group of believers, at the direction of and under the power of the Spirit, renounced individual ownership of everything they had.  Everything was seen as belonging to the body of Christ, not the individual member, so if one member lacked, others would gladly give.  They truly practiced the exhortation Paul would later write to the believers in Phillipi: “…make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others. Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…”1

Today, I see so much of the opposite.  I see many believers (including myself many times) being far more “generous” toward and occupied with themselves than others.  How can this be reconciled with “love your neighbor as yourself“?  I hear talk of violent response to persecution, despite the fact that Jesus taught against it.  Obviously, I want to live in peace, free from an oppressive government.  That’s not a “bad” desire, but the bigger question isn’t “good or bad,” but “flesh or spirit.”  God doesn’t just look for “good” and only reject “bad.”  He recognizes and looks for spiritual, and rejects fleshlyI don’t understand things perfectly, but is it possible that the earth is in the shape it’s in not because we haven’t killed enough bad people, but because believers have walked in the flesh without realizing it, and have thus remained spiritually immature and unable to share or impart Truth and Life?  What I am simply trying to do here is remind us of a spiritual law which has largely been ignored, resulting in a lack of power.  The law is this: spiritual power is matured only in fleshly weakness

Consider this scenario: What if God isn’t so much looking at us as believers individually, but as His (corporate) Son, the entire body of Christ?  What if, just like Paul (and Jesus himself? see Hebrews 5:7-9 below)2, many members of the body of Christ need suffering to shock them into seeing how deeply the tentacles of the “flesh” have infiltrated every part of their life and thought?  If God is aiming to weaken the flesh (which He sees as death) in order to allow for the maturity of the Spirit, then such hardship and suffering would actually be an act of mercy and love, because the deceptive flesh is keeping believers from their inheritance in God’s Kingdom!

Here’s where the rubber meets the road: if THE BODY needed such harsh treatment, would you INDIVIDUALLY embrace it for the sake of others, or would you resist it?  Would you gladly lose your comforts and pleasures if it meant the maturity of OUR body3 and the establishment of the Kingdom of God?  If not, then the love of the world is in your heart and you are not seeing and living according to the spirit, the New Covenant, and love. That’s not a condemnation, just a statement of fact and something to address.  Most believers are not in such a place right now, and I’m not all the way there myself.  If nothing else, let’s be willing to be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.  Let’s seek the One whose love and Spirit are within us and are able to make us willing, from the heart, to suffer gladly for the sake of others.  Although the flesh was put away and made obsolete at the cross of Christ, many of us to this day still know it as our “life,” so letting it go is impossible in the flesh, which is why self-examination and religious piety are useless.  What’s needed is for the flesh to be ignored altogether, good or bad, and for us to set our minds and hearts on the revelation of the Father and the maturity of His spirit within.

Good and evil are the two sides of the coin known as “flesh,” but there is a different way altogether, known as “the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus.”4  The term “flesh” can encompass everything born of Adam/Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil rather than of Christ/The Tree of Life/the Spirit.  On the other side of embracing (not causing) the “death” of the flesh is true Life – not a better existence on earth, but the inward reality of all the things the scriptures speak of – Love and glory and all the fruit of the Spirit.  Our Father is patient and kind, and will provide what we need (though not necessarily what we selfishly want or are accustomed to) by the power of the Spirit.  If you see a “shaking” coming or experience it, realize that the only thing that can be shaken is the flesh. Therefore don’t fear, but rejoice!  The flesh being weakened/malnourished will allow for the Spirit to mature.  See it as an opportunity to practice true discipleship and follow the Lord, and realize hardship and oppression may not be something to resist but embrace, because the stage is being set for the Spirit of God to truly work in His body once again.  Amen.

  1. Philippians 2:2-7 WEB (R)

  2. (Hebrews 5:7-9 WEB (R)):  He, in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and petitions with strong crying and tears to him who was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear, though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered. Having been made perfect, he became to all of those who obey him the author of eternal salvation…

  3. https://firstthekingdom.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/body-or-bodies-our-body-pt-1/

  4. Romans 8:2 WEB (R): For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.

 
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Posted by on August 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Deception 1: Something When Nothing

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For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.” (Galatians 6:3 KJV)

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  (Galatians 2:20 KJV)

 

Believe it or not, if you examine them closer, you’ll see the two verses above are actually speaking of essentially the same thing.  I’m going to look at this, because they contain an essential truth, one I’ve been sharing about often as of late.

The common fear-based mentality of “act right or be punished” will, AT BEST, lead to a shallow and incomplete understanding of the spiritual truths the apostles wrote about in the Bible.  Spiritual things go deeper than surface-level outward behavior.  For example, many Christians read Galatians 6:3 (quoted above) as something like this: “if a man thinks he is acting righteously when he is hypocritically living in sin, he deceives himself.”   Maybe there’s some shallow truth in such an interpretation, but what Paul really said is this: “if a man considers himself (that is, his flesh) to be alive or better than others, when in reality all flesh is dead and worthless, he deceives himself. 

Do you see the great difference in the two? The first attitude, which is surely the far more common one, has to do solely with outward behavior. Equating spirituality with obedience of outward laws will ALWAYS lead either to self-righteousness or self-condemnation.  These are equally deadly, because both keep the focus on SELF, working exactly like spiritual cancer in that they keep the flesh alive when it should be dead (that’s what cancer cells do, look it up)!  The second interpretation, which Paul meant, is not directed at behavior, but at recognizing what God did in Christ (ended the flesh and brought the reign of God to earth through the Spirit), and beginning to see and walk accordingly, with the Life that is implanted within!

That being said, allow me to highlight Paul’s foundation for stating the flesh is worthless and those who value it are bound to be deceived.  He gave this foundation earlier in this same letter to the Galatians, in chapter 2 verse 20, also quoted above.  What he said is that since he had seen by revelation that he (and ALL flesh) had been crucified with Christ, he no longer considered himSELF as being alive or capable of producing anything (spiritually) alive. 

In Philippians 3:7, Paul wrote of undergoing a radical change, so radical that the very things he once saw as profitable and desirable, he now found worthless and gross.  The basis for this radical change was receiving the revelation of Christ as the “last Adam”1.  Before this revelation, he valued his own works and was proud of his impressive law-keeping.  But, by the grace of God, he was shown that the only “life” within him, the only thing righteous, was Christ, the Spirit of God.  Knowing this and knowing himself, Paul remained on guard against thinking ANYTHING that came from himself was of spiritual worth or usefulness.

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So what does this mean, what should we be doing differently? That’s the so-called million dollar question, but there’s really no direct or cookie-cutter answer other than “follow the Spirit.”  Remember Jesus saying in John 3:8 that a spiritual person is like the wind, which cannot be predicted or followed? I believe at least one point he was making was that the Spirit of God is not like the law, with its strict set of do’s and dont’s. The walk of a spiritual man is different – the law becomes inward, written on the heart (Jeremiah 31:33, Romans 2:15, Hebrews 8:10 and 10:16). Carnal/fleshly man cannot discern what is and isn’t spiritual, it takes spirit to discern spirit.

So, I have no specific directions for you, other than to seek to know the presence of God within you, nurture it and listen to it and desire its growth, and patiently follow its leadings and promptings.  Sadly, this is what most of Christianity has failed to do, choosing self-preservation and religion over sacrificial love and the walk of the Spirit.  What I can say is that following spirit will lead you into love and sacrifice and truth (and persecution from the religious who are threatened), and away from religion and pride.  For me, as I’ve (very slowly and still very imperfectly) learned to follow the Spirit, I am finding love and peace and kindness and compassion present within me, coming forth more and more without effort.  When I’m walking in the spirit, I’m not TRYING to love – it’s just there within me. I’m not TRYING to be patient or kind, I just AM. I’m also not worried about God’s wrath or judgment if I screw up, because I know that God has already judged and condemned those same things I want to be rid of. If I fall short, I am thankful to recognize it, and I simply press onward.

I realize I’ve written about this same essential idea in most of my last several posts. But for whatever reason, this is what I am seeing and what is coming out of my heart right now. I hope it blesses and challenges you. Others are saying these same basic things more powerfully than I am, but there you go.

I love you with the love of Christ, and am in this with you : )

 

  1. 1 Corinthians 15:45
 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Foolishness

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My brother and I sometimes laugh about the word “fool,” because it is so potent and descriptive, and we can all relate to it to one extent or another.  To me, the essence of a fool is not someone without understanding, but without the ability or willingness to be corrected and to gain understanding.1  In that way, foolishness is empowered by pride.  If you are on the wrong path but refuse to even consider another way or receive correction, what hope is there for you?  Until you are humbled, there is none.  A few weeks ago, I came across this clip from the TV show “The Office.”  While funny, the catch is that a true fool or “idiot” wouldn’t genuinely stop and reconsider their ways to begin with, and many life their entire natural life in such a foolish state, with some calling it righteousness, others “reason.”

What I really want to explore is the idea that the ways of God/the Spirit are and always will be foolish to the “world” (meaning all that has its origin in Adam through the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil).  On a practical level, this means that if you are walking in the Spirit, in righteousness, and loving your neighbor as yourself, your actions and values will very often appear foolish, both to others and even to (the rational/soulish/fleshly part of) yourself!  Decisions and actions which don’t take self into account in any way seem foolish to everyone and everything outside of the Spirit and love.  But read the scriptures below, especially Jesus’ words, and you’ll see that to love, you have to be “foolish.”  As I’ve said many times, the way of self/Adam/the flesh/the world is always selfish at its core,  in one way or another.   

Elaborating further, I’m convinced that the ways of God/Spirit do not take self into account at all.  Scripture attests quite plainly that in the eyes and mind of God/Spirit, self (also called Adam or flesh or soul or the natural man or the old man or the world) is dead, irrelevant, crucified, put out of sight and out of mind.  This isn’t to say self/flesh doesn’t still have some place within us or exert an influence on the earth, it just means they have no influence or effect on the Spirit.  The Spirit doesn’t reward good flesh, punish bad flesh, or have any other “response” to flesh – it bypasses flesh totally because flesh is dead.  In this way, the law has no claim on a son of God.  Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t smite us right away when we “sin,” or clearly reward us when we’re doing good?  God doesn’t relate to us based on our religious devotion or lack thereof.

The apostle Paul has a reputation as intellectual, deep, blunt and harsh, all of which are true.  But, if you read his letters closely, you’ll see he was also first and foremost a man of deep love.  For example*:

(1 Corinthians 4:10-13)“We (those sent by God) are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You have honor, but we have dishonor. Even to this present hour we hunger, thirst, are naked, are beaten, and have no certain dwelling place. We toil, working with our own hands. When people curse us, we bless. Being persecuted, we endure. Being defamed, we entreat. We are made as the filth of the world, the dirt wiped off by all, even until now.” 

(Ephesians 5:1-2)“Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.”

(Romans 12:10, Romans 13:8, 1 Corinthians 16:14, Galatians 5:13-14, Colossians 3:12-14)

  • “In love of the brothers be tenderly affectionate one to another; in honor preferring one another…” 
  • “…owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.” 
  • “…Let all that you do be done in love.” 
  • “…For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don’t use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 
  • “…Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. Above all these things, walk in love, which is the bond of perfection.”

Jesus also emphasized the way of foolish love:

(Matthew 5:39-48)“But I tell you, don’t resist him who is evil; but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. If anyone sues you to take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and don’t turn away him who desires to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

(Matthew 20:25-28):  “But Jesus summoned them, and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

(John 15:12-13):  “This is my commandment, that you love one another, even as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

Ok, so let’s make this practical again. There is no way that in ourselves, in our old nature, lower nature, nature of Adam, our flesh, our religion, whatever you want to call it, will ever be able to do this in sincerity.  Instead, the self tends to create or follow a religion or belief system which allows for righteousness without faith and without love.  The result attracts the soul and ego of men, but not the Spirit.  One way to discern between religion and the Spirit is that religion compels men with duty, threats and rewards.  If you are “loving” with any of these things mixed in, what you are calling love isn’t love.  Genuine love, in the Spirit, doesn’t compel, it is a nature, it’s natural

We MUST both see and walk in the Spirit, no matter what appears “right” or “logical” or even “scriptural” to our natural minds.  Only in the Spirit is the flesh nullified and faith, hope and love exist.  If we can connect with God within, with our higher nature there, we will find love is at the core of who we are.   As those who truly follow Christ walk in this sacrificial, radical love, especially for one-another, Jesus said men will know we are truly from him and not just adherents of another man-made religion with lots of dogma but little substance.  Get alone with God, humble yourself, seek Him without any selfish agenda, and genuine changes will start to happen  : )

 

  1. https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?qs_version=KJV&quicksearch=fool+heart&begin=24&end=24

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Origin vs. Appearance (Progress is Perfection pt. 1)

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There is very often a selfish motivation behind our service to God.  This becomes evident when one realizes that any way you cut it, self (aka “flesh”) is the primary concern and aim behind a mentality which consists of fear of punishment or desire for reward.  Because God has no dealings with flesh, having ended it at the cross in Jesus Christ, the gospel of His son negates this “reward and punishment” system completely.  So rather than serving God fearfully or selfishly, or trying to make the flesh better when God has rejected it completely, let’s try to start from the ground up in understanding how to walk in the Spirit and please God.

I think one of the hardest things for many believers to see and accept is what Jesus meant when he said in John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  Understanding this foundational truth will tend to WRECK a religious person’s whole world, which may be why it’s rarely given a thorough examination by those who earn their living preaching and teaching (and thus rarely thought about by believers who follow these people).  As Upton Sinclair once said: “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”  

To me, the essence of this statement by Jesus is that the origin of something determines its permanent state – either flesh (the mind and heart of natural man), or the spirit (the mind and heart of God).  Men tend to wrongly label as “spiritual” things which appeal to sight or reason – things which seem good and sensible and efficient and useful.  However, all of these things may actually originate in the heart and mind of man, and according to Jesus, will always be flesh and thus of zero spiritual value, being dead and worthless to God.  Jesus said in John 6:63: “It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing.”  Similarly, something which may appear strange or bad or inefficient or useless may actually be born of the spirit of God and thereby full of life and glory.

Think about it – hasn’t God always worked in ways contrary to men?  Does it really seem logical or “good” to save the world by sending your son as a baby, who will grow into a man, live a life of obscurity, suffering and persecution, and then be humiliated, tortured and murdered?  Does that really seem to be the best way to cultivate the salvation of mankind?!  I don’t think any sane person would come up with or condone such a plan.  Those who look at things according to the flesh still see this plan of God as utter foolishness. What’s amazing is God set up such a foolish plan on purpose. 

In 1 Corinthians 1:18-25, Paul wrote this: 

“For the word of the cross is folly (foolishness) to those who are perishing (those in the flesh), but to us who are being saved (those in the spirit) it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (The wisdom and ways of God/spirit are opposed and seem foolish to the wisdom and ways of man/flesh). For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, (God designed it so that the wisdom of men would not be able to discern spiritual truth!) it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles (a message which the natural man/flesh can not accept), but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 

Again, what Paul is saying is God DESIGNED it so that the fleshly mind will never perceive wisdom or truth in the foolish message of “Christ crucified.”  Why?  Because even in simply believing, God will not have any flesh to take part.

If you or I want to start walking the way of Christ, one good place to start is to begin thinking in terms of origin (flesh or spirit, Adam or Christ) instead of appearance (good or bad, useful or useless, efficient or inefficient).  Doing so isn’t always easy, and I’m certainly not saying I have mastered this myself.  Yet I want to walk in the spirit, I want  to help establish the reign of God instead of the reign of man (which includes religions like Christianity).  Don’t you?  However, do we really think this won’t require any drastic changes, diligent seeking, or hardship?  Have we somehow thought that our particular religious upbringing or group, unlike the thousands of others, is the correct one?  Do we really think we are immune to deception still?  WRONG!  We have to repent, over and over.  These things will be a process, and not always an easy one.

Now, I’m not saying we should be constantly examining every little thing we or others do or say, fearful about whether it’s pleasing to God or not.  Like I said earlier, the mentality of “reward and punishment” is entirely fleshly anyway, and plenty of fleshly things are fine and even necessary right now.  What I’m saying is simply that we need to be mindful that no matter appearances or feelings, only what is born (originates from) the spirit (divine nature of God, His essence) will remain and have worth.  The rest, including the vast majority of the religious thinking and activity and that encompass the world today, is the “wood, hay and stubble” that is being and will be burned up1 by the fire that IS God!2 

Hard as this may be to accept, the most dangerous things are those things which are born of flesh but claim and appear to be spirit.  This is primarily the majority of religious teaching and practice all over the world.  It is these often pleasant or inspiring things which deceive ignorant3 souls into wasting their energy on things that will be burned up.  This is what Jesus was referring to when he said in Matthew 6:23: If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  What he meant is if what you know as “light” (spiritual truth/understanding) is actually darkness (things born of flesh/man), you’re actually in a deeper, more powerful state of darkness.  These souls who cling to things born of flesh, I believe, will be saved, but “so as through fire.”4  That’s not a light thing.  And the souls who know better but continue to label flesh as spirit and influence others to do the same…well I don’t want to be there, that’s for sure.  

Finally, I believe what 2 Peter 3:10 (and 1 Corinthians 3 below) discusses is actually beginning now: But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.”  This is actually a very telling passage, which I wrote more about here.  It’s referring to spiritual things, not physical.  The “elements” aren’t things like carbon or iron, and the “works” in the earth aren’t physical structures.  This is literally saying that the “day of the Lord” is a day of purification by fire (i.e. the presence of God), and will ultimately consume and destroy EVERYTHING that is founded on flesh instead of spirit.  That might include some physical things, but more than anything this day will destroy man-originated doctrines, ideas, religions, power structures, etc.  And if someone’s whole inward life is founded on flesh, all that will be burned up too!  Read the link above for more evidence of this.  It’s actually quite plain if you have ears to hear and eyes to see.

God bless you guys.  The spirit once told me, clearly and out of the blue: progress is perfection.”  One thing essential to (or even the same as) progress is purification.  By it’s very definition, purification is a process of removal; identifying and getting rid of things which aren’t desirable, so that only the desirable (spirit) remains.  That sounds a lot like 2 Peter saying that in the day of the Lord “the elements will be dissolved with fervent heat.”  It’s going to burn, bad, if you have chosen to hold to things of flesh/Adam, instead of humbling yourself, repenting, and letting them go.  Read the link above!  God bless you.

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:12-13 WEB (R)):  “But if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or stubble; each man’s work will be revealed. For the Day will declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself will test what sort of work each man’s work is.” 

  2. Hebrews 12:25: “For our God is a consuming fire.” 

  3. 1 Corinthians 12:1: “Now concerning spiritual things, brothers, I don’t want you to be ignorant.”  Ephesians 4:17-18: “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles also walk, in the futility 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 hearts;

  4. 1 Corinthians  3:15 WEB (R)):  “If any man’s work is burned, he will suffer loss, but he himself will be saved, but as through fire.”

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Deceitfulness of “Sin”

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Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”  (Hebrews 3:12-15 ESV)

It’s so easy to lose focus on the central issue in one’s walk with God – the inward, invisible heart.  In the passage above, the one thing we must take care to avoid is a “falling away (literally: departure) from the living God.”  We’re told that this departure is a result of an “evil, unbelieving heart,” and that an evil, unbelieving heart is a heart which has been hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  That all sounds great, but WHAT DOES IT MEAN???

I don’t think this was intentional, but I see a general progression given in these verses: deceitfulness of sin → hardened/evil/unbelieving heart → departure from the living God.  The starting point seems to be “the deceitfulness of sin.”  I think sin remains greatly misunderstood.  You can quit or avoid all kinds of bad actions, but still remain in “sin.”  Sin isn’t a set of actions, it’s an inward nature or power.  For example, scripture says that sin can dwell within us and that it “desires” certain things.1   Under the old covenant, sin was essentially the violation of the law as given through Moses.  Sin had to do with behavior.  But in the new covenant, Christ has redeemed us from the old way of the law to the new way of the Spirit.  He has become our one, final propitiation (sacrificial offering) and “taken away” our sins.2  Sin now has to do with the one’s spirit.

Within the new covenant, sin could be defined as anything which does not conform to the heart of God or the love of the Spirit.  Sin is the nature of the flesh, the fruit of the carnal mind.  In that light, sin is actually much more broad and dangerous than a bad attitude or behavior.  In God’s eyes, sin could look like following the law instead of the spirit, or promoting religion and judgment instead of love and mercy.  It could look like refusing to consider or accept another viewpoint, or holding to tradition over revelation.  Sin in God’s eyes could be many of the “good” things which religious men promote.  A prophet once said: “maintaining truth without revelation is deception.” 

Sin and what Paul referred to as “the works of the flesh” are related, but not the same thing.  Galatians 5:19 says that the works of the flesh are “evident” or “manifest,” meaning they are easily seen and recognized; things including violence, drunkenness, sexual deviance, jealousy, debauchery, etc.  If you see those things, you immediately know the flesh is at work.  However, sin is different.  Sin is said to be deceitful, meaning that it can be very subtle and difficult to recognize.  The serpent in the Garden of Eden was said to be extremely “subtle” or “crafty.”  His temptation wasn’t for Adam and Eve to do something outright evil, but simply to be like God!

All that said, let’s look again at the phrase  “the deceitfulness of sin.”  First of all, in chapters 7-10 of Hebrews you’ll find the most plain statements in the entire Bible that sin (as it was known to a Jew 2,000 years ago) is no longer an issue which believers need worry about.  In these chapters we are told things like: Jesus purged our sins, made reconciliation for our sins, that God will not remember our sins and iniquities anymore, that there is no more sacrifice for our sins after Christ, that there is a “remission” of sins, that sin has been “put away” in the offering of Christ, that we need have “no more consciousness of sins,” and that we have been “perfected forever” by the offering of Christ.  So, I don’t believe the “deceitfulness of sin” is simply being somehow tricked or tempted into doing bad things (“sinning”). That’s “sin” under a covenant of law.  Hebrews 9:15 (ESV) says: “Therefore he (Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

I think falling away from the living God begins with sin’s subtle nature (deceitfulness) causing us to mislabel and fail to recognize it.  Therefore we may remain in sin and darkness, all the while being satisfied with our behavior/performance or preoccupied with issues which God has put away from Himself in Christ.  This causes a “hardened heart,” meaning a mind which resists new truth or ways, because we’ve been deceived into thinking we’re following God already.  The result is “falling away from the living God,” meaning ceasing to commune with God and walk by fresh spiritual revelation and insight (faith) into current righteousness.  Righteousness is by faith, and is maintained by fresh faith.  Because our human nature, which is inherently sinful, is always bent toward the natural realm and way, including law and behavior as a means of righteousness or judgment, we are to “exhort each other daily” to live in the new way of the spirit, abiding in Christ, and refuse to return to the natural way of law, fear, and deception.  

 God bless you, thank you for reading.  I hope this was edifying.

 

 

 

  1. Romans 6:12, 7:20
  2. Galatians 3:13, Romans 7:6, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 3:5
  3. Titus 3:9-11
 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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What the Law Could Not Do

communion-bread-and-cup

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4 NAS77)

I want to look at just one portion of this incredibly deep and important passage. I want to know what it was “the law could not do.” Like most Christians, my upbringing led me to assume that Paul meant that the law could not fix my issues, my bad behavior (which is mostly true). There are depths I haven’t seen yet, but what I have seen confirms that as always, it’s so much bigger and deeper than just behavior-modification.

Paul’s statement that the law was unable to do something is in the context of a discussion about the power and impact of a new law that arrived in Christ Jesus – the law of the spirit of life. Paul says that this new law sets us free from an old law, the law of sin and death.  Romans 8 is all about living under the new law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.

In short, “what the law could not do” is give LIFE.  Here are some things Paul wrote elsewhere:

  • Galatians 3:21: “…For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”
  • Romans 7:9-10: “And I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive, and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me…”
  • Colossians 2:13-14: (God in Christ) canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us…”

Life” as used in scripture needs to be redefined. Generations have taught that the eternal life Jesus gives is the privilege of spending an eternity in heaven. But Jesus himself defined eternal life as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he sent.1  Maybe the essence of it is really that simple.  The law cannot bring intimate knowledge of or communion with God.  Isn’t that what it’s about?  If two people are in love, for them there’s nothing better than intimate communion with each-other.

At least one reason the law could not do this, Paul says, is that man’s flesh made the law “weak.” Since Adam, man’s flesh has been sinful, corrupt, blind, prideful, self-preserving. Therefore law always led to failure and guilt, shame, and condemnation.  Sin was actually empowered by law.2  Therefore God “condemned sin in the flesh” by the offering of Jesus, once for all. God did this in order to translate all of mankind into an entirely different realm, one in which Jesus Christ is the firstborn, not Adam.  ALL flesh, (flesh being defined as man’s natural part, especially his natural mind and will), whether good or bad, is dead in God’s sight.  

Life is a really big deal to God. When we understand and taste what Life is, we can more easily recognize what both life and death in God’s sight are.  Do you want that? 

Thanks for reading. May God’s grace be upon you.

  1. John 17:3

  2. 1 Corinthians 15:56
 
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Posted by on November 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Walking on Spiritual Paths

 800px-Coast_trail_at_Boardman_SP_P4176a

The admonition to walk or live “according to the spirit”  is given in a few places in scripture, primarily Romans 8 and Galatians 5.  One can only walk one of two ways:  according to the flesh, or according to the spirit, and the two are opposed.  

Let’s be careful not to become too casual or familiar with spiritual concepts.  If you think you’ve grasped a concept or idea, you quit looking any deeper into it, and the deep places are where God’s heart is.  It’s also true that anything one encounters regularly tends to seem less important.  

Along that line, I strongly encourage us all to refuse to accept pat answers and dumbed-down understandings.  We have to be careful here too, because many of these make a lot of sense to the natural mind and are given by well-respected, talented men.  My question is this: what exactly does it mean to live or walk “according to the spirit?”  The dumbed-down answer (to this and most every spiritual question) boils down to “acting better and believing the right things.”  Often, this consists of some combination of reading the bible, praying, attending church or Bible studies/small groups, quitting bad behaviors (“sins”), and witnessing to others about Jesus.

One problem is, it’s possible to do all those things without truly pursuing or loving God.  The classic example is becoming (emotionally) “hyped up” at a church retreat of some sort, or to get (emotionally) “convicted” after listening to a hellfire sermon, causing one to clean up behavior, attend church, read the Bible, pray, or witness more.  But once the emotion fades, the old ways are back in full force.   In these cases, there was no spiritual change, because the spirit doesn’t fluctuate like emotions do.  Likewise, I’ve seen people who do truly love and seek God, whose behavior was sub-par at times and who were not involved in church activities and did not have a set “devotional” time.  Thus, walking in the spirit has to be more than a reformation of behavior, change of beliefs, or an increase in religious activity, even if there is a zeal for God behind them.

What does scripture actually say?  Romans 8 gives some interesting insight into this issue.  Keep this in mind as you read: Flesh = natural things, whose origin is man, whether good or bad.  Spirit = supernatural things, whose origin is God, and are beyond “good” or “bad.”  Romans 8: 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally (fleshly) minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”  Galatians 5:25 adds: “If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.”  The essence of living according to the spirit is to be spiritually-minded: to think, see, perceive, and understand all things according to the spirit of God – His light, His life, His understanding, which are given or imparted to His sons through Jesus Christ.  The essence of walking in the spirit is to stay in that place; to refuse to let the natural (“fleshly”) mind influence one’s understanding and perception.  Rather than behavior, it’s about the location one’s awareness and source of life is rooted in.  Again, in every single case, this will either be: 1). In the flesh, meaning according to logic, reason, human understanding, and anything originating with man, or 2). In the spirit, meaning according to revealed truth from the spiritual realm, apart from logic and reason (though not necessarily contradictory to them). 

If these things are so, we have to unlearn our old patterns of looking shallowly at behavior which never reaches God, but only brings guilt, pride, or quiet hopelessness.  Instead, let’s see and believe that Jesus dealt with sin once for all, and truly BE free to get our focus off ourselves and onto establishing the kingdom of God, where those who live and walk in the spirit are to get spiritual treasures and bring them to bear here and now.  In other words, cast off every appearance of the flesh, whether good or bad, and like a baby, learn all over how to walk with spiritual “legs” on spiritual paths. 

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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