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The Suffering Servant

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

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

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

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

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

Be blessed my friends, thanks for reading.

 

 

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

 

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Knowledge Beyond Knowledge, Strength Beyond Strength

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Ephesians 314 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

As I was reading this amazing prayer of Paul recently, I noticed the a paradox, in which Paul prays for the Ephesians to “know” the love of Christ which “surpasses knowledge.”  Paul also writes that this knowledge beyond knowledge would enable the Ephesians to be filled with “all the fullness of God,” which is another incredible statement I may look at in another post!  I think paradoxes often represent deep truths, so let’s look a bit closer.

As is evident here, Paul’s desire for the Ephesians was not primarily for “correct behavior,” but inward enlightenment and rich spiritual experience.  I believe Paul was very aware of perhaps the greatest deception of religion; namely that righteousness can be found in the flesh – that is, in proper behaviors and observances.  This emphasis on outward behaviors naturally leads to (among other errors) an emphasis on having a correct set of knowledge and “rules.”  In desiring the Ephesians to know a love which surpasses knowledge, Paul is saying he desires the Ephesians to devalue “mental assent” of facts, and instead to receive and walk in an inward, spiritual revealed knowing.  We can know facts about things, and we can know other things by inward experience and revelation…the latter is the way of the Kingdom of God.

Paul also desired the Ephesians to be “strengthened with might (power) through His Spirit in the inner man…”  This leads to the question: power for what?  For so many of us, our carnal minds and tenacious religious indoctrination lead us to continually see sin and temptation and the devil as our chief enemies.  Therefore, we automatically think any strength God may give will be so that we can resist these things.  However, you’ll notice not once in this passage does Paul mention or even imply any of these.

It seems to me Paul was praying the Ephesians would be strengthened with power through God’s spirit because it takes a divine touch and power, beyond mere human power, to break free (and to stay free) from the ways of the flesh, the most deceptive of which is religiosity!  By the same token, it takes a divine touch and power to grow up in the divine nature, knowing (connecting with in a deep way) a love which surpasses knowledge and living that love out in the midst of darkness.  Let’s not forget, this power has already been provided – we simply must connect with it and let go of the old (repent) to walk in it.  If this is fulfilled, and we see believers begin to walk in spiritual knowledge, empowered to let go of religion and to suffer whatever loss is necessary, and to literally become the “body of Christ” and stones making up the temple of God, then the church and then the world will be so much more amazing and glorious than we can imagine.

What I see beginning is an exposure, weakening, and removal of those things which have masked themselves with spirituality and love, but are founded on selfishness and carnality.  The greatest deception is darkness and selfishness masked with light and good (perhaps with Bible verses).  I include most traditional “churches” in this category, but it’s far bigger than that.  I don’t know how gradual or sudden this weakening and destruction might be, but I see it beginning already.  The foundations and motivations of all things WILL be exposed in God’s time1 (which takes no concern for our natural lifespans), and only what is truly Spiritual will remain.  Right now, that’s not very much of what we see, but it’s there and it’s growing.  As I said last time, since everything that is not Spirit in origin will be consumed anyway, let’s not be afraid to question, to go a different way, to be radically different from the ways of flesh altogether, whether the extreme of religious devotion or hedonistic debauchery.  Love is its own way, and the Spirit goes where It will.  

Suffer now willingly in love, or suffer later by force, but know that in the end, love wins, God is good and we’re all heading there.  Take heart, let go of fearful self-preservation, and jump aboard what is inevitable and what, deep down, we all know is the way of righteousness.  Love, honor, humility, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, healing, truth…  

  1. 1 Corinthians 3:11-13

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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The “New” Commandment?

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)

Do you find it a bit odd that Jesus referred to the command to: “love one-another as I have loved you” as “new?” Didn’t he tell a Pharisee that that the greatest commandment in the law, which in their day had been around for roughly 1,600 years, was to love God and to love one’s neighbor as oneself?  I was a bit confused by this, so I looked closer, and saw that the word “new” in the Greek actually means something closer to “fresh.”  Jesus “new” commandment wasn’t new in the sense that it had never been heard of before, but it was new in the sense of being fresh, timely, invigorated.  I believe Jesus intention was to reintroduce and revitalize something that had been set aside, forgotten, and become stale. This forgotten, stale thing was the beauty, centrality and necessity of love.  It appears that above all else, as he was leaving earth, Jesus wanted his followers to know clearly that IF they would love one-another, then people would recognize that they, like he, were walking as manifested and obedient sons and daughters of God – in other words, his disciples.

As all answers tend to do, this raises more questions.  The first question that comes to mind is why Jesus specifically chose to emphasize love above everything else, like hell or holiness or prayer or witnessing?  Love must be of the utmost importance, especially when you consider that this was essentially Jesus’ final exhortation to his followers.  I believe the answer to this is first and foremost that Jesus emphasized love because he wanted his Father to be known, and love is the love is the true nature/essence of God, a nature which had become obscured and forgotten over the centuries, largely due to the ruthlessness of the law, which is another subject itself.  Not being connected to law, the new covenant enables and encourages authenticity and inward spiritual reality, not outward piety or rigid rules that result in hypocrisy and self-righteousness.  The second reason I believe Jesus emphasized love is because he knew that without it, the church/body of Christ would quickly begin to divide against and attack itself, becoming inept, blind, hypocritical and hardened, which is sadly what has happened, to the great detriment of the expression of the Kingdom of God/Heaven on the earth.  

I’ve said this any number of times, but while most of us would agree that love is vitally important, we really don’t realize or appreciate how radical genuine love is.  Love is just as different from religion’s rules and constraints as it is from hedonism’s pursuits and excesses.  Love doesn’t fit well into categories, as it is not for or against anything, but is simply grounded in the fact that Christ has reconciled all things.  Love steadfastly waits until the reality of this is fully manifested.  Love is pictured very well in the life of Jesus, who was merciful and kind toward those who religion had rejected or wounded, but was very harsh toward the self-righteous, who with hardened hearts laid burdens on others and misconstrued the true nature of God.  The suffering that accompanies love is largely because love is immovable, neither compromising truth, nor coercing or demanding its own way. Love remains patient in the midst of suffering, repaying good for evil and looking past the fearful ignorance of men, which unfortunately remains the foundation of most of what we see in the world today.

So, I suppose my point is that those who are Christ’s should realize that in his own words, love is absolutely necessary for believers to have toward one-another.  Love is THE fresh commandment Jesus gave to his followers, then and now.  Love is so vital because without it, the body of Christ will remain sick and the Kingdom cannot be expressed on earth.  IF this is so, it is of the utmost importance that we be sure, as John wrote, not to merely SAY we love, or merely BELIEVE in love, but to let the Spirit of Love penetrate us, permeating our perceptions until it is naturally the driving force behind our actions. This might mean reconciling with an enemy, or asking forgiveness when the other side won’t. It might mean getting rid of possessions we are fond of in order to help another who has less. It could mean showing mercy to someone who continually screws up and is extremely frustrating and disappointing. It could mean speaking truth when the consequences will be severe. It can mean joining, leaving, staying, going, and innumerable other things.  Let’s simply let love have it’s way, realizing that it is the way of Christ. I believe that as we do, the Spirit will be with us and new, fresh manifestations of Life will begin to be seen on earth!  I have written many other posts about love, so I would encourage you to look them up using the right sidebar if you are interested.  God bless you.

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Leveling Up (Spiritual Sowing Pt. 1)

Sometimes I feel I have written about “flesh vs. spirit” too much, but I want to share what is on my heart, and I still don’t think I understand or have expressed clearly the nature and importance of this issue.  All of us, to some extent, still have “darkness” that needs to be removed in our minds and hearts in order to walk in the Kingdom of God more fully.

I want to look at a passage in Galatians, which I think summarizes the main emphasis Paul taught pretty well:

Galatians 5:13-26 WEB (R):  “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 (true love creates no “gain” for the self-preserving flesh).  For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don’t consume one another (“biting and devouring” are the opposite of edification/building up, and are not the way of love).  But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh (such as biting and devouring others, including brothers and sisters). For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire (mixture of natures causes impotence and prevents fruit-bearing). But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (only flesh is under law, but in Christ we have “leveled up” to a new way of being, that of Life in the Spirit.  That’s all that matters now). Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God (in listing these “works of the flesh” Paul isn’t merely listing things we “shouldn’t do,” but things we WILL do if led by the flesh.  Practicing these things doesn’t condemn us to “hell,” but they are a sign we are abiding in the flesh, outside of the Kingdom of God.  If you truly love and want to honor the Father and Son, then living contrary to their way/nature is as bad as the typical understanding of “hell”).  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law (the law only applies to flesh –  to expose its weakness and sinfulness.  The spirit exists on a higher plane, above law). Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts (it’s not that we “need to” crucify the flesh.  “In Christ, it’s been done already.”  -That simple statement is the death of religion and law.  If we would/could truly understand and embrace it, then so much time and energy wasted on religion could be saved, along with inexpressible amounts of needless guilt, fear, psychosis, confusion, on and on.  We could then be free to “seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” rather than propping up the institutions of men and our own image/reputation.  In fact, because the flesh has been “crucified,” we are “obligated” in a sense to walk in the spirit, as Paul says next). If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.”  

There is a lot to this passage.  Notice at the very end, Paul says that if we live by the Spirit we should walk by the spirit, and immediately says we should not “provoke” or “envy” each-other, things he just mentioned as “works of the flesh.”  If/since we have been baptized with Christ into newness of life, as Paul discusses in Romans 6, then we have spiritual Life within, a nature of servanthood, love and forgiveness; a nature which desires Truth and the honor of God.  Not only that, but a nature which despises the hypocrisy of religion, despises the corruption of the powerful and the oppression of the weak, and embraces hardship to walk a contrary path when necessary.  A nature which is in no way self-serving.  

The issue then becomes recognizing that Life and letting it become our driving force, which is much of what Paul meant by “walking by the Spirit.”  Simply “having the spirit” isn’t enough, we must let it reign in our hearts and lives, replacing the darkness and fear that we have clung to.  What good is potential or access if the valued thing is never taken out or expressed?  It’s actually better not to have access to something great than to have access and fail to use it.  Again, condemnation has no place, and isn’t helpful.  The flesh has been condemned already, that’s the point, and is largely why Christ died as he did.  The point is to really embrace that fact.  We can’t live honestly until we get past the “obligations” of religion, which then become our “god,” receiving our devotion.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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The Love Economy (Love Perfected pt. 2)

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But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 ESV)

“By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.”  (1 John 3:10, 4:20-21 ESV)

I recently noticed that when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, he answered with TWO commandments, both of which center on love.  The greatest commandment in the law is essentially to love God fully and with all of your being.  That would seem to pretty much take the cake, but Jesus says there is a second commandment that is “like” this greatest one, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  The word “like” here is the same word that Jesus uses when telling parables, such as when he says the Kingdom of heaven is like a field, like a seed, etc.  In saying this second commandment is “like” the first and greatest, Jesus is not merely saying it is similar, but that the second somehow explains or completes it, showing us what it is like in a more full, tangible and concrete way.  This means that loving God fully cannot be separated from loving your neighbor as yourself, and that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is, in a way, loving God.

Scripture (and the writings of other holy men) says in many ways and places that the mark of a true believer and disciple is love for others.  Here is a small sample:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5 WEB (R)):  “…but the goal of this command is love, out of a pure heart and a good conscience and unfeigned faith…”

  • 1 Peter 1:22-23 ESV:  “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God…”

  • Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

  • John 13:34-35 WEB (R): “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, just like I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  • 1 John 4:7-12 MLV:  “Beloved, we should love one another; because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born from God and knows God. He who does not love, does not know God; because God is love. In this, the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atonement on behalf of our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God is abiding in us and his love is perfected in us.”

1 John 4:7-12 is, to me, especially incredible and shocking.  John says that God and love cannot be separated – where one is, the other is, and where one is missing, the other is missing.  Just as Jesus said that loving one’s neighbor as oneself is an extension and completion of loving God, John, speaking by the same spirit, wrote that when/if we love one-another, God is present and active within us and His love is fully matured in us.  Notice this: God’s presence and love in us will be permanently hindered and immature unless and until we love one another as ourselves!

Lately, I have learned a bit more about how the world’s financial system is very much founded on debt and greed.  Because of this, it is a mathematical certainty that without huge changes, this system will become so bloated it will collapse.  I don’t know how or when this will take place, but that’s not really the point.  What I was reminded of is that while believers are in the world, we are not of the world.  Even while we use the money of the world, we can and should operate according to a different economic system, one founded on love instead of fearful greed/selfishness.  I’m not saying it’s wrong or evil to spend money on things for yourself, I’m saying that the “economy” of those who are “rooted and grounded in love”1 will be based on giving and sharing at the expense of self-gain, instead of the other way around. If we truly operate in such an economy of love, caring for others as and above ourselves, we will have nothing less than the presence and love of God as our foundation and life, and it won’t too much matter what happens if the worlds economy collapses.

Again I say, there is no condemnation for where you or I are today.  None.  It doesn’t matter what you’ve been doing or not doing. God is not holding any of that against you, of that I’m confident.  Feel free to invite the God of love in, ask and seek His Spirit to help move your awareness and mind away from the OLD, PASSED AND TAKEN AWAY (the Bible’s words, not mine) system of law, which feeds a reward/punishment mentality, trapping you in a deceptive, endless roller-coaster of various forms of self-centeredness in the name of God.  May you be enlightened with spiritual understanding to comprehend and be permeated with the Father’s goodness, mercy and love.  Then realize that these same things are within you as His child!  Give as you have been given!

To anyone reading this I say this: right now, you are justified, redeemed, and reconciled to God!  I’m sorry that Christians have brought the law against you and made you feel exactly the opposite – guilty, damned, and at odds with God.  I also understand that it may seem impossible for you to be justified and reconciled with God, given the way you’ve been living.  But I’m telling you, God doesn’t look at things like we do, based on outward appearances.  He sees mankind according to the “one for all” death and resurrection of Christ, not according to their flesh.  He is not counting sins against anyone.  Yes, flesh has to go, and it will.  Some will begin to walk in the spirit in this life.  Others will cling to the flesh and cause others to do the same, and will be purged by painful fire.  But know this: what God is doing, through His son (which includes you and I as members, with Christ as the head), is bringing all of creation into alignment with what has been accomplished.  In other words, the Kingdom of God is coming to earth.  If we love instead of criticize, and forgive instead of retaliate, and speak Truth instead of doctrine, this will be a sign to the world that our message is true and divine, and the power and presence of God will accompany us.

Bless you all, thank you for reading.  More to come.

 

  1. Ephesians 3:17

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Love Perfected, pt. 1

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But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Something I’m noticing about love is that it is all about relationship.  As I’ve said before, I think love is essentially viewing and relating to others based on the finished work of Christ, even when they are dwelling in and acting from their selfish, fearful, ignorant, and often ugly flesh nature.  Within the finished work of Christ, ALL men have died and been reconciled.  It’s true, of course, that many are unable or unwilling to accept this truth and walk in it (fear resists doing so, as it continually requires giving up what had been known as your “life”).  The thing about love is, even if another can’t or won’t accept their reconciliation and walk in it, we can accept it for them, and deal with them accordingly.  This is what Paul meant in 2 Corinthians 5:16 when he wrote that we are to “regard no one according to the flesh.”  I believe that doing this is the essence of what is known as “mercy”! 

Again, love is all about relationship, so if love is present, it will have a drastic effect on the way we view and treat others, with foolishly extravagant kindness and patience and generosity and forgiveness.  For example, let’s look at 1 Corinthians 13, verses 4-8 (WEB).  This chapter famously points out several of love’s attributes, nearly all of which have to do with the way we relate to other people.  My comments are in blue:  Love is patient and is kind (toward others); love doesn’t envy (what others are or have); Love doesn’t brag (doesn’t focus on itself); is not proud (doesn’t look down on others); doesn’t behave itself inappropriately (toward others); doesn’t seek its own way (but the way of others); is not provoked (by others); takes no account of evil (done to it by others); doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth (notices and cultivates whatever is of the truth in others); bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (for the sake of others). Love never fails (it can’t, because it’s based on an unchangeable, FINISHED work).  

1 Corinthians 13 is unique, but there are other scriptures which make this same point nearly as clearly:

  • 1 John 3:16-18:  By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers (“our life” largely consists of the rights and demands of our flesh, including many that are legitimate and acceptable!). But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? (Divine love will never see a brother in need without helping as it is able). Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”

  • 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.”  –I don’t understand all this perfectly, but it seems to me the reason the greatest love is laying down your life for the sake of others is because doing so IS love, in it’s matured/perfected state!!!  We should love one-another as ourselves, remembering that though we don’t all have the same faith, or the same gifts, we are all part of one new birth into one spirit, and none of us have life outside of this.  As 1 John 3:16 says above, we “know love” because it was first expressed by Jesus Christ, who dealt with us not according to law or our weak flesh, but according to the mercy, grace and will of God.

  • 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.”  -The “incense” God truly enjoys is the expression of genuine love, founded on truth and wisdom. 

  • Colossians 3:12-14: “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.”  -Love is what underlies these virtues, ensuring they endure and mature.

  • Luke 6:31-38: “As you would like people to do to you, do exactly so to them.  If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? (None). For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.  If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive back as much. (Such love is immature at best.  It isn’t based on the death and reconciliation made by one for all).  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back; and your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High (you will be following the example of Jesus Christ and living according to the spirit which was poured out due to the reconciliation initiated in and by him); for he is kind toward the unthankful and evil. “Therefore be merciful, even as your Father is also merciful.  Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Set free, and you will be set free.  “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be given to you. For with the same measure you measure it will be measured back to you.”

I hope to make a “part 2” soon, in which I want to take these things a bit further, examining Jesus’ reply when asked what the greatest commandment was.  Interestingly, asked to give the one greatest commandment, he replied with TWO.  As you probably know, the first is essentially to love God with all your being.  Jesus then gives a second commandment, saying it is LIKE the first, which is to love others as yourself.  Why did he give two when asked for only one, and what does he mean that the second is “like” it?  I hope to look at those things in a second part to this, hopefully soon.  God bless you guys!

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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Power Perfected (Our Body pt. 3)

Francisco_de_Zurbarán_006

“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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