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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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The New Covenant Pt. 1: Judgment Unto Victory

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…”I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry aloud; Neither shall any one hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed shall he not break, And smoking flax shall he not quench, Till he send forth judgment unto victory.”  (Matthew 12:18-20 ASV)

Toward the end of the “eschatological debacle” blog I recently posted, I wrote: “In some ways, the nature of the “new covenant” that began with Jesus is probably the most important reason of all to not look for an imminent tribulation or wrath on the earth.” I knew it was an important statement even as I typed it, and I feel compelled to look at it more closely.  I get a bit wordy (big surprise, I know), but stick with me, because there’s some really good stuff at the end of this post.

As I began to look at what scripture says about the new covenant, it made sense to begin with Jesus’ own words, as recorded in Matthew 26:27-29 (WEB):  He took the cup, gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, “All of you drink it, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.”  I see three main things said about the new covenant here: 1). it was somehow associated with Jesus’ blood, 2). it secures “remission of sins,” and 3). it does so for “many.”  Ok, that sounds neat, but what does it mean??!! 

The book of Hebrews seems to have far more to say about Jesus’ blood and the new covenant than any other book in the Bible.  This is surely because Hebrews was written specifically to Jews living in the first century, who were intimately familiar with the covenant of law and its blood sacrifices.  I could quote dozens of verses from Hebrews alone about these things, but for the sake of space, let’s look at Hebrews 9:13-15, which is maybe the single best “summary” of the issue (my comments in blue):

For if the (old covenant sacrifices such as) blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify to the cleanness of the flesh (a surface-level “cleanness” which had to be repeated over and over): how much more (incomparably more!) will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit (a spiritual offering, not merely a physical one) offered himself without defect to God (a perfect sacrifice), cleanse your conscience (a deeper, inward, permanent cleansing) from dead works (taking our awareness off of law-keeping as a means of righteousness) to serve the living God (in spirit and Truth)?  For this reason he (Jesus) is the mediator (peacemaker, enforcer) of a new covenant, since a death has occurred for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, (here’s the reason): that those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (this inheritance is a position in the Kingdom of God as a son or daughter – one who is accepted, free, and is given authority).  I believe the blood of Jesus was shed simply to fulfill the law’s requirement for blood, and because of Jesus’ eternal nature, it only needed to be offered once to provide a complete, permanent, deep cleansing, which the repeated sacrifices of the law were unable to do.

So what about “remission?”  Remission seems to be one of those spiritual words which gets glossed over without really being understood.  It’s translated from the Greek word aphesis, which comes from a root meaning roughly “to separate, to send away.”  Aphesis is also sometimes translated “forgiveness,” but it’s deeper than just forgiveness; it’s a state of profound freedom which comes after a former bondage has been utterly broken and removed.  In Christ, such a state of profound freedom is available right now to all men, though many don’t believe or understand what this means.  So who or what was it that held God’s people in bondage?   The scriptures are quite clear, the (now removed) agent of bondage over God’s people was the old covenant system of law, which empowered sin and brought spiritual death (1 Cor. 15:56, Romans 7:5, 8:2).  The good news, which many religious people find hard to accept, is that Jesus’ blood has secured remission of sins – a complete removal of the old way of law-keeping, sin, and punishment from the equation of our lives!1 (see footnote 1 for more on this).  I know there are a few verses that seem to say otherwise, but you have to read them in light of the new covenant (again, see footnote 1).

Here’s a “nutshell” version of the fuller argument which the author of Hebrews spends several chapters demonstrating:

Jesus embodied the eternal, spiritual realities which the temporary outward rituals of the law only symbolized (Galatians 3:23-26).  His blood was shed once for all2 (see footnote 2) as a spiritual, eternal offering and sacrifice, thus ending the miserable Old Covenant cycle of attempted law-keeping, sin, wrath, and ineffective, temporary, repeated animal sacrifices.  Because such an eternal offering has been made “once for all,”2 law and transgression (“sin”) are no longer concerns of God whatsoever(!), and all men may and should have an awareness, a consciousness, a mind or thoughts which are free (remitted) from law (do or don’t do) and self (I’m good, I’m bad, I’m I’m I’m…), and thus separated and free from guilt, shame, and condemnation.  With an awareness free of these things, we can connect with God in spirit and Truth, partaking of His grace which will overcome all darkness and opposition.  To fail to partake of such an offer would be worse than to break the law, because there is no other sacrifice than the “once for all” sacrifice of Christ.  This is the subtle danger of law: it brings great self-awareness, producing either self-righteousness (I’m doing great!) or guilt, shame, and condemnation (I’m not doing what I should be!).  Ironically, Christians become LESS like Jesus in their religious efforts to be like him, because they become more self-aware!  This self-aware, performance mentality, which law feeds into, creates a relationship of servanthood, but the spirit creates sonship (I wrote about that more here).

The verse quoted at the beginning of this blog is actually an Old Testament prophecy which says Jesus would come and “send forth judgment unto victory.”  That’s not an easily understood phrase, but maybe this helps: the word for “judgment” means “to make a distinction,” or “to decide.”  What I believe “judgment unto victory” means is that God’s decision and declaration (judgment) for mankind, which was accomplished by His son, is that they have overwhelming victory over self-awareness, sin, condemnation, and fear, all of which are empowered by law.  In Christ, these are replaced by freedom and the indwelling life of God’s spirit.  God’s grace then naturally produces genuine inward love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.  This is really good news to those who desire God and desire to see peace on earth!  Our old nature isn’t gone, it’s just not part of the equation anymore, and a new nature begins to take root and grow as we are aware of it and heed it.  I believe it’s not man’s bad behavior that prevents him from partaking of this freedom and life, but rather the “darkness” of the human mind/soul, which can manifest as blindness, ignorance or pride, and which often leads to religion.  I’ve heard that fear is the foundation of all darkness, but I think a more accurate statement is that self-awareness is the foundation of all spiritual darkness, and that if God’s love is received through His spirit which has been poured out on all flesh in the new covenant, it will deal a death-blow to such self-obsession, and will eventually shut it out entirely if allowed to grow.

There’s so much I don’t know or understand, but I’m thankful for what I’m shown and I hope this has blessed someone.  Thanks for reading.  By the way, I plan to make a “part 2” of sorts sometime, which will look at the ramifications of the “new covenant” even after death!

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1.  (Hebrews 10:16-18): (God says)“This is the covenant that I will make with them: ‘After those days,’ says the Lord, ‘I will put my laws on their heart, I will also write them on their mind;'” then he says,”I will remember their sins and their iniquities no more.” Now where remission (forsaking, removing all thought or memory) of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (nothing left to “do” about sin, because it’s in a permanent, eternal “remission).       (Hebrews 10:1-3, 9b-10): “For the law, having a shadow of the good to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. Or else wouldn’t they have ceased to be offered, because the worshippers, having been once cleansed, would have had no more consciousness of sins?” But in those sacrifices there is a yearly reminder of sins. (“No more consciousness of sins” is entirely appropriate under the new covenant, though it was impossible before, partly due to the constant sacrifices bringing a reminder of sins).  “…He (God) takes away the first (the old covenant), that he may establish the second (the new covenant), by which will (the new covenant actually expresses God’s will) we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Once for all means our sanctification is an unchangeable eternal fact, regardless of what we do or don’t do, because it’s something already accomplished by another on our behalf).       (Hebrews 8:10-13): “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days,” says the Lord; “I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. They will not teach every man his fellow citizen, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness. I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more.” In that he says, “A new covenant,” he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away.”       (Romans 7:5-6): “For when we were (in the past, under the old covenant) in the flesh, the sinful passions (desires contrary to the law) which were through the law (without law there is no sin), worked in our members to bring forth fruit to death. But now we have been discharged from the law, having died to that in which we were held; so that we serve in newness of the spirit, and not in oldness of the letter.”       (Romans 4:5-8): But to him who doesn’t work (doesn’t obey law as a means of righteousness), but believes in him who justifies the ungodly (God’s unearned gift of righteousness), his faith is accounted for righteousness. Even as David also pronounces blessing on the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works, “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whom the Lord will by no means charge with sin.”        (Romans 4:15-16): “For the law (the foundation of the old covenant) works (produces) wrath, for where there is no law, neither is there disobedience (sin is the breaking of law, but you can’t break a law that has been removed and doesn’t apply). For this cause (because men always break laws (sin), bringing wrath upon themselves) it (the new covenant) is of faith (spiritual, divine), that it may be according to grace (God’s work, not ours), to the end that the  promise may be sure to all the seed (God can’t fail, though man does), not to that only which is of the law (Jews/physical Israel) but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all (Gentiles too).”       (1 Corinthians 15:56-57): “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (As said before, Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all, nullifying the law of sin and death).       (Colossians 2:13-14): “He (Jesus Christ) made (past tense, already done) you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, wiping out the handwriting in ordinances (the law) which was against us (brought burden and wrath); and he has taken it out of the way (literally: “lifted it out from among us”), nailing it to the cross…”

2.  Three times, Hebrews says Jesus’ sacrifice and victory was “once for all.”  By doing so, the author is emphasizing that Jesus’ work was and is permanent, unchanging, can’t be added to or taken from in any way.  Therefore, the old covenant way of repeated sacrifices, repeated cleansing, repeated NEED is no longer in effect, and we can simply just move on to worship God in spirit (instead of trying to please him by our behavior), knowing our sins are remitted and God doesn’t hold them against us or even remember them!  Here are the three verses:

  1. (Hebrews 7:26-27): “For such a high priest (a spiritual priest like Jesus has become) was fitting for us: holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; who doesn’t need, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. For he did this once for all, when he offered up himself.
  2. (Hebrews 9:11-12): “But Christ having come as a high priest of the coming good things, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption.”
  3. (Hebrews 10:9-10): “then he (Jesus) has said (to the Father), “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He takes away the first (old covenant based on law and sacrifice), that he may establish the second (new covenant based on God’s promise and grace by His spirit), by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
 
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Posted by on October 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Steer Clear of the Law, Son

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This post is a little long, though I think it’s enlightening, thought-provoking and well worth reading.  However, for those who don’t have the desire or time to read it all, I’ve made a “TLDR” summary.  If you want to know more, you’ll have to read on. 

(TL;DR) Summary

  • Jesus’ primary purpose was to reclaim the Father’s Kingdom on earth, not to get us to heaven.
  • Living by law will prevent one from following Jesus in sonship and should be avoided just as we should avoid following the flesh.
  • Jesus didn’t just free us from Moses’ law, but from any and all forms of a law-based relationship to God, because…
  • …a relationship of law creates servants, while love-empowered faith creates sons.  God delights in sons and earth needs them.  
  • Sonship is the higher calling.  Like on earth, sons are intimately involved with their Father in running His Kingdom, while servants just thanklessly tend to it.
  • Love empowers faith and enables grace, which are elements of sonship.  Law prevents them.

 

Ok.  Here’s a big question, which someone I really respect posed recently:  Which scenario honestly makes more sense and is more God-honoring?

  1. The son of God came to earth, lived a life of suffering, and died in agony in order to get us to heaven.
  2. The son of God came to earth to reclaim his Father’s Kingdom, which Adam lost.

Although almost all of Christianity is focused on scenario 1, I am convinced the answer is scenario 2, and scripture proves it.  The thing is, the tendency toward self-focus in the heart of man is so strong that unless it’s displaced, all scripture or other testimony of God’s will which don’t involve self in some way will be pushed aside.  The Father’s purpose in sending Christ was not for you or I personally, it was for His Kingdom.  Everything else, including our salvation, is secondary and merely a part of that bigger purpose.  Our primary value and honor lie in participating in the Kingdom of God as a son (or daughter – sonship in this sense is gender-neutral).  For us to truly follow Christ (which is all he asked) as a son, inheriting and participating in their Father’s Kingdom, some radical changes must take place, transitioning the church from servanthood into sonship and darkness into light (one could also say Adam into Christ).  One of these changes is coming to avoid law as much as or even more than avoiding the corrupt, sinful flesh.  Maybe that sounds strange or flat wrong, but bear with me and it might be more convincing.

The issue of “law” is really interesting.  Jesus mentioned it more than once and Paul wrote about it extensively, but I still don’t think we really understand it.  Many times in scripture when “the law” is being discussed, the original text simply says “law.”  This is actually a big point, because it demonstrates that we’re not just freed from THE law, as in the law of Moses which all of Israel was familiar with around Jesus’ time, but from law entirely – free from a law-based relationship with God – and freed to a relationship of sonship!  

If you or I follow our flesh, we will be cut off from the Kingdom of God (though this doesn’t mean we burn for eternity).  Likewise, if we embrace and follow law, we will be cut off from Christ and separated from grace.  This essentially means believers who persist in a relationship of law, though their sins are atoned for, will never rise from the status of servants to sons and will thus never be able to intimately co-operate with God.  I don’t know about you, but I want to avoid both of those outcomes. Law produces servants, not sons, because it only deals with flesh and external behavior.  Faith and love deal with the spirit, affecting the heart and producing a relationship of sonship.  Law and faith are forever opposed, just as flesh and spirit are opposed.  I could probably give a dozen or more relevant scriptures supporting these statements, but don’t have room.  Here are just a few:

  • (Gal 5:19-21 MLV): “Now the works of the flesh are apparent, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, carnal indulgences, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, selfish ambitions, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revelings and things similar to these; which I told to you beforehand, also just-as I did say to you beforehand, that those who practice similar things– they will not inherit the kingdom of God!”
  •  (Gal 3:10-12a MLV): “For as many as are out of works of law (“out of” is the literal Greek translation, meaning works of law are the basis of relationship) are under a curse; for it has been written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not remain in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.’ (If you break one commandment one time, you are irreversibly guilty as a law-breaker.  See James 2:10).  Now it is evident that no one is justified by law (not only “the” law, but law generally) before God; because, ‘The righteous will live by faith.’  And the law is not from faith…”  There is no right relationship/standing with God from law, only from ongoing faith. Law is “do this, don’t do that, or else.”  Faith is a moment-by-moment walk in the spirit by divine revelation.
  • (Gal 5:2-6 WEB (R)): “Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law (a relationship of law is all or nothing). You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace. For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but (all that really matters or has importance in the spiritual realm is what comes from) faith working through love (literally: “faith which is energized by love”).
  • (Php 3:9 WEB (R)):  “…and be found in him (Christ), not having a righteousness of my own, that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”
  • (Rom 10:3-8 ESV):  For, (Israel) being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness (righteousness in God’s eyes isn’t connected to law). For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) or “‘Who will descend into the abyss?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). (In this sense, Christ as the word of God, isn’t “up there” or “down there.”  The word is a spiritual reality within you.  “Christ IN YOU, the hope of glory,” Paul wrote).1  But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim)…”

Law is very familiar to our thinking, and it’s influence can be very subtle.  The minute our walk with God becomes based on do’s and dont’s, we are relating by law and cut off from Christ.  It’s not that doing bad or following the corrupt desires of the flesh is acceptable – I already mentioned that doing so will get you shut out of the Kingdom of God (which is as terrible as a burning hell for someone who loves Him).  It’s that do’s and dont’s are the basis of law, and faith and love never enter the equation, thus grace is prevented and sonship is thwarted.  For us to walk as a son, love, faith, and grace aren’t optional, they’re essential.  Grace is God’s influence on our heart, and faith is a divinely-given sight and conviction, given to the spirit.  Love empowers faith and enables grace, so above all, seek to love one-another with love that is generated from the divine presence within you and around you.  Amen.  

 

1.  Colossians 1:27

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Love’s Boundary

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“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God, and knows God.”1

Lately I can’t get away from the statement: “love is of God.”  Other translations say love is “from” God. This literally means that all genuine love has it’s origin with God’s Spirit!  If “God is love” and all love is from God, it makes sense that: “everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.”  The implications are amazing, one of which is God is present where love is present, and God is absent where love is absent.

As with all spiritual things, the best that words can do is describe love, but they cannot convey what it is.  Love is a characteristic of God, a spiritual dynamic which, to really be understood in any real way, must be revealed, encountered, and experienced within.  I think genuine love is far more radical and shocking than most of us realize.  Let’s look at some scriptures:

  • …When Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end  “…You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” (John 13:1, 13-16 ESV)   Love is servanthood, honoring others above yourself. 
  • “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35 ESV)  Loving others as Jesus loved us is obedience to him; therefore love is the hallmark of his disciples.  Jesus’ love included self-humiliation, servanthood, and willingly suffering to speak the Father’s heart.
  • “Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren’t tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:1-2 ESV)  The law of Christ is love, which includes bearing the burdens of others.  These burdens could be guilt, weakness, flaws of all sorts.  HOW we do this is an interesting question; I think it has to do with putting up with others patiently and speaking Truth to them, pointing their awareness to God’s presence, the life of Christ within them.
  • “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 KJV)  A “walk” is a lifestyle, a constant pursuit.  To “walk in love” is a crucial part of following God as His son.  The best example of love is Jesus Christ laying down his life as a sacrifice to God for others in life, death, and resurrection. 
  • Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)  The greatest love is great self-abandonment for the sake of another.  This can take many forms.
  • “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-2 WEB)  Love puts up with others, valuing peace and unity over being correct or having your own way.
  • “And above all things be earnest in your love among yourselves, for love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8)  Similar to this, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 13 that love “keeps no record of wrongs.”  Love which is of God doesn’t relate to others based on the faults and flawed behavior of their corrupt flesh, but based on the purity and newness of the seed from God within.  That’s what God sees and deals with, so that’s what love sees and speaks to.

The sign of a disciple of Christ is love.  The sign of a disciple of the law is supervision, judgment, and condemnation.  Law is unchangeable, it is and always will be “do this, don’t do that, or be punished.”  It cannot touch the heart, connect with truth, or give LIFE.  Law will always remain outside of the new covenant and new creation which came in Jesus Christ.  I do believe there will be suffering and “wrath” toward those who refuse to follow Christ’s example of love and honor the Father, but I don’t believe in the “eternal conscious torment” idea of hell like many Christians do.

Love is so different than law.  Love’s boundary is the finished work of Christ; it always sees and relates to others based not on their flesh, but the seed of God within them, because in Christ’s one offering for all men, all men died, old things passed away and all things became new.2  (Edit: A few days after publishing this post, I noticed Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 5:14, which very much corroborate my statement that love is bound by the all-encompassing finished work of Christ.  Here’s what he wrote: “For the love of Christ constrains (literally: “compresses, binds”) us; because we judge thus, that one died for all, therefore all died.”We don’t see the manifestation of that yet, but it’s true!  Speaking law is not speaking Christ, and will only make men be aware of separation from God, which prevents them from coming to him.  Correction is simply pointing people back to God’s spirit/presence/seed within them; even treating them as a new creation, in love, regardless of how they treat you.  Be so so careful then in what you share and speak toward others.  Our words hold great power in the consciousness of others (I may write about that next).

God bless you, until next time.

  1. 1John 4:7 WEB
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:14, 17
 
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Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Servanthood vs. Sonship

 

prodigal son modern

I wrote part of the following on my facebook page recently and it brought about some good discussion and insights.  I’ve mentioned these ideas before, but I think they came out particularly clearly and concisely in this instance.

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I believe there are two ways of relating to God: as servants or as sons. The relationship of a servant is one of keeping laws and fearing punishment, but not of receiving reward for obedience.  Law doesn’t give any rewards, it simply waits to punish those who step out of line.

Sons, on the other hand, while they may need to grow and mature, are still considered equals with their Father, being members of His household. They are not under the laws of the servant, so they do not fear punishment or rejection. They love their Father, honoring Him, learning His heart and ways, and helping run His kingdom by fulfilling the tasks He gives them. They cooperate with the Father and inherit all that He has. The relationship of a son is one of honor, cooperation, peace and freedom.

Although they deeply want to please their Father and further His purposes (Kingdom), sons aren’t even aware of laws – they know they’re accepted and loved members of the family, so with freedom and without fear they live and go about their Father’s business and tasks, enjoying the benefits of being in His household.  Servants, however, are and should be very worried about breaking the laws and rules. Strictly obeying them is their entire life and purpose.

LAW CREATES SERVANTS, AND SERVANTHOOD IS AND WILL ALWAYS BE  IMMATURE AND INFERIOR WHEN COMPARED WITH SONSHIP.

Jesus, the firstborn Son, made himself a servant in order to elevate us to sons.  Now, by saying sons aren’t under the law, which is true, I’m not saying that following the flesh is ok. If you’re following the flesh, you’re not following the spirit. But “flesh” can also be very good, religious and devout.  If you’re walking in the spirit, you’ll naturally be aware of love and freedom, not the self-examination that comes with law-keeping as a means of righteousness.

So what about sin?  I think it’s important to understand that “sin” literally means to “miss the mark.” For servants, the “mark” or goal is the law, and therefore sin is a violation of these commandments or laws. But for a son, who aren’t under these commandments and laws, sin is different. For a son, the “mark” is love and conformity to the Father’s heart/will at the present time. Therefore a son can keep law perfectly, can refrain from all outward forms of sin, but still very much “miss the mark” (sin).  Have you known someone who outwardly seems very righteous, but who can be harsh, critical, unloving, and self-focused?  That person is not walking as a son, though they may be seeming to “keep the law.”  Sonship is actually a higher call, harder and more costly in many ways, but also much, much more glorious.

I could go on an on, it’s a huge topic, big enough for a book. I can’t make anyone “see” these things, but I pray these words can be used to open some eyes and feed some hungry hearts. Many scriptures testify to these things and highlight the distinction between servants and sons. But others, it’s true, seem to be directed toward those with a servant mentality.  Perhaps it’s true that some scriptures are directed at servants, and others at sons. I suppose both have a place.  But I’d rather be a son, even if it’s harder.

By the way, I think the scripture which mentions “sinning willfully after receiving a knowledge of the truth” in Hebrews 10 is referring to one who rejects the sacrifice of Christ and the sonship it brings, and instead continuing to try to relate to God by law and self-righteousness. It’s exactly like Paul wrote in Galatians 5:4: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by (literally: “in”) the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

The difference between servanthood and sonship is truly radical.  Galatians 4:4-7 KJV says this: “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Likewise, Hebrews 10:12-22 KJV says this: “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having an high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience (no awareness/consciousness of sin, see Hebrews 10:2), and our bodies washed with pure water.”

Amen…

 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Nullified

131320602_82d3eaf285_z

“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he (Jesus Christ) also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 KJV)

I will be examining two questions from this passage:

  1.  How was the devil “destroyed?” Isn’t he still alive and active today?
  2. What was it that the fear of death held people in bondage to or from?

Regarding question 1: The Greek word translated “destroyed” here is katargeo, which actually means “made void, ineffective, nullified.” Jesus didn’t eradicate the devil, he nullified him.  In particular, Jesus’ death nullified the “power of death” which the devil had. I’m not entirely sure all of what that entails, but I do know we have to look at this spiritually, and Paul said that the mind of the flesh (the natural mind) is death, while the mind of the spirit is life and peace.1 I think the power of death has to do with keeping men naturally-minded and religious.  This is done by continuing to offer fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, using law to keep men aware of their sins, and thus keeping men in a state of guilt and self-awareness (death).  In short, the power of death is the power of accusation and guilt, fueled by law, which keeps one naturally-minded, self-focused and fearful of/withdrawn from God.

I believe that the devil’s power is nullified because there is no longer a legitimate claim of guilt or condemnation (or even “sin” in the sense of violating a written law) for those in Christ.2  The law’s purpose was to symbolize Christ, but because of the weakness of our flesh, law also functioned to bring natural-mindedness (spiritual death) through an awareness of sin, which fostered a fear of death and judgment.3  But in Christ, there is no written law, condemnation, guilt or “sin.”4 That’s an unchangeable fact. As Romans 8:33-34 says in the literal version: Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? God is the One justifying! Who is he condemning? It is Christ who has died, but rather also is raised, who also is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession on our behalf.”  Christ conquered death and is a permanent intercession. Having been nullified, the devil’s primary weapons are now deception and accusations which have no basis.  I realize that some may worry this creates an excuse for people to “sin.”  Maybe it does.  But regardless, one who truly loves God and His Kingdom would abhor using God’s mercy as an excuse to gratify their flesh or dishonor Him, and God would not trust one with a selfish heart like that.  If simply “getting to heaven” is your goal, then in reality you’re serving yourself, and God is just a means to get what YOU want.    

Regarding question 2: what was it that the fear of death kept men in bondage to or from? I think the answer is simple, though it can be expanded upon greatly. The fear of death is the awareness and fear of judgment fueled by offended law, guilt, and self-focus.  This fear kept men bound to the law and thus stuck in a cycle of sin and death, and bound from the spirit, thus kept away from righteousness and life.5 Bringing men into righteousness and life in the spirit is what the “freedom” in Christ is about. Our being freed from an awareness of sin and guilt is for the bigger purpose of freedom to participate in the spiritual Kingdom of God as sons. Jesus was sent to those who were under the law, who through the law had become spiritually poor, blind, broken and bruised,6 with no real relief in sight.  He fulfilled this law and ended it in order to institute a “new way” of relating to God, in righteousness, spirit and truth, with God-awareness, not self-awareness.  A return to a relationship with God as Father, not simply “master.”7  Hallelujah!

Now, let’s remember it’s not enough for us just to see and acknowledge these truths (and I only see them partially as it is); we must allow them to shine within us and cast out the darkness (deception, manmade ideas) which we have called light (truth, wisdom from God). This will seem very much like allowing our way of thinking and understanding to be cast away and replaced as the spirit reveals to us God’s heart and will.  This is repentance. Being diligent in this by God’s grace will bring change, freedom and joy.

 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 KJV)

  1. Romans 8:6
  2. Romans 7:4-6, Galatians 2:19
  3. Galatians 3:19-25, Romans 3:20; 5:13,20; 7:4-7; 8:3, 1 Corinthians 15:56.
  4. Romans 4:15, Romans 8:1-3, 1 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 9:26, 1 John 3:5-9
  5. Romans 8:2
  6. Luke 4:18
  7. Galatians 4:4-5; Romans 7:6; John 4:23-24
 
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Posted by on March 21, 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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