Saturday, December 6, 2008

58 - More on THE Pilgrimage - LAW - (6)

Much of the contrast of Law and Covenant comes to us in two sections - Galatians 3-5 and Romans 3-5. Obviously there are "principle statement verses" here and there which help - so when we study a subject, we must not violate the principle statements. For instance, when Paul told the Ephesians that "salvation/redemption is NOT OF OURSELVES, it is the GIFT of God" we cannot violate that plain principle statement. When Paul writes that we are "not under law" Romans 6:14; Galatians 3:25; 5:18; but we ARE under grace - what does that mean?

Remember two things Jesus said - "The Sabbath is FOR MAN - not man for the Sabbath"Mark 2:27. He used that phrase to help Pharisees and others realize that commands are supposed to SERVE MAN - not rule over man. Many who try to keep the Sabbath in our day do not receive this teaching of Jesus. The BIGGER concept is that one of NOT being under law - so we don't serve it - but it always serves us - strange concept to many. Sometimes we might say - "Make it PRACTICAL" - which has the idea of "show me how that works in everyday life" - and that is our concept. WE are not under law - law is under us. LAW doesn't rule over us - it serves under us. Traditions, especially in Christ's day, made all laws into a bigger RULER OVER US - and Jesus taught that to be wrong - even before Calvary - and HE used their greatest command RULER - the Sabbath, to illustrate the concept. AND - number two - Jesus taught us that HE desired for US to be UNDER HIM - "as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" so we see the concept of protection from HIM - by HIS protection and we can easily see the concept of Covenant and our hiding UNDER Him for protection from all enemies. (I include having His identity in that as well.)

What about UNDER GRACE? Well - no difference really - we have come under His power and identity for our protection - and it is a grace/gift. So - we do need to STAY UNDER (remember-those of Jerusalem WOULD NOT come under His protection) - or we need to allow Jesus to BE Savior and Lord. Most Christians realize that if we stay UNDER Jesus - then we harmonize those verses about not being under LAW - because as we have mentioned, law was intended to bring us TO CHRIST (Galatians 3:19-25). Do you realize what Paul used to explain that? In Galatians 3:26, he wrote "FOR - in Christ Jesus we are all SONS" - that's the goal of coming to Christ - and sons are not related by being UNDER SOME LAW - but by relationship - by DNA. NT didn't have that concept exactly - but it is expressed in the idea of "receiving someone's spirit" or even "partaking in the Divine nature". Romans 8:9 - 17 explains that if we have God's spirit we are SONS - if not - we are not.

What about law? Well - it is UNDER us now - we still fulfill all Law by "loving God and loving neighbor"( Romans 13:9-10 and an application in 15:2) because Jesus said that that concept was the focus of all Law and Prophets, Matthew 22:40. We do then have a structure for order in our world - and we do NOT forget that law is under us - so we don't serve law - but we do need order - just like a Prince doesn't need a law to keep to make him a prince - but even "the Royals" have principles which are part of their human decorum to serve them in reference to each other and humankind in general. If WE don't see that concept, we have to ignore many scriptures - most of which were included in this discussion.

LAW - our servant - so Paul had to ask the question - does that mean we sin as a lifestyle? Answer - we already died to that lifestyle - so that would be foolish to live that way. That seems to be a principle statement - so if we don't understand that principle, we'll misunderstand how to live. So - under grace, how does that lifestyle look like? Well - "led by The Spirit" is the short answer - more about that - next

Monday, December 1, 2008

57 – More on THE Pilgrimage – LAW – (5)

A "not like the Old" New Testament difference in reference to the Old Covenant - is part of a contrast in several sections of NT Scripture. One pretty PLAIN one is in 1 Peter 1. Beginning in verse 18, Peter shares the concept of being ransomed NOT ONLY from sin, but from the FUTILE ways inherited from the Fathers. Another contrast includes the kind of value the ransoming focused upon - the NEW way was on Jesus' blood - which contrasted to silver and gold which perishes. Then Peter begins to unfold the Promise concept which started BEFORE the foundation of the world, verse 20 and at least one facet of which meant us PEOPLE were not involved - except as RECIPIENTS - so that, Peter writes, "your faith and hope are IN GOD". Quite a concept - God designed His Promise so that HE HIMSELF would take all responsibility for our faith and hope.

QUESTION: Does that sound like some kind of NEW LAW? In ANY Law does the source of HOPE AND FAITH reside in the Lawgiver? By definition the source of safety resides in how the law SUBJECTS respond to the concepts of the law!

So - right away, God's structure puts the responsibility on God Himself . . .what in the world? How can this be? I mean - Jesus said all Law must be fulfilled. And - HE did fulfill its demands - and I conclude and claim that HE - JESUS - is KEPT LAW. Then as God offers HIM to US as SAVIOR and Messiah - KING over all and the one to whom is directed ALL preeminence - God's gift to humanity - THEN your faith and hope are in God and His provision. If not - we are left with faith and hope in how well we keep the New Law - which we cannot keep - so we are DOOMED.

How did I resolve this concept - well, the words of Jesus helps - "Come to ME" - is a covenant invitation which offers protection and REST - and Jesus CLAIMED His yoke to be "light" and "easy" - and we can remember the "baby chick" lifestyle - "How often would I have gathered you as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing - but YOU WOULD NOT". "IN CHRIST" offers us the total protection and identity God wishes us to have - HIS OWN protection and identity. One goal of God from early in Hebrew nation was to allow those who are "NOT MY PEOPLE" to become "SONS of the Living GOD" (mentioned by Peter in 1 Peter 2:10) prophesied in Hosea and mentioned by Paul in Romans 9:25ff. In other words - the FOCUS is on RELATIONSHIP. If we see that God ALWAYS had that relationship focus - even before the foundation of the world - check Ephesians 1 - especially verse 5 "HE destined us in love to be His sons through Jesus Christ".

So - Jesus' claim of being THE way, THE truth, THE life - is literal and true - but only IF He is the New covenant in Himself. The big challenge is to understand that "in Christ" means our trust is in His performance on our behalf. So - one of the concepts I had to understand was - what does "in Christ" actually mean. That got me away from a LAW focus and totally engulfed in a Christ focus. Part of that challenge happened when I simply got my concordance out and read all the verses with "in Christ" in them and saw the track that took. Part of that has already happened when I had to translate Colossians (a pretty common task for second year Greek students) and after that to translate Romans (much too huge of a task for any student in one semester).

The whole BOOK of Colossians has the theme of being "in Christ". Most in Christendom know the concept - but do NOT know the actual meaning of how this happens - how can that be? Well - WE threw out Hebrew thought very early in many cases. So - we believe the scriptures but don't always understand what they teach. We are sometimes like the Pharisees in that we search the Scriptures (and many do not - by the way) because we think that IN THEM we have eternal life - but the scriptures teach us about JESUS - but we don't allow HIM to be our focus - because like the Pharisees we focus on ourselves. (So - we are in danger of having a doctrine of demons - not Scripture.) Scriptures focus on JESUS . . .and even the OT scriptures were actually written down for US - but not much study goes on back in Deuteronomy. Result - we know LAW but not covenant - we know words but not their meaning in reference to JESUS. Even the LAW was meant to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3) - and the laws and feasts, etc. are shadows and the SUBSTANCE of those concepts is CHRIST - Colossians 2:17.

Paul claims that the LAW has a focus that is NOT part of the Promise - but was ADDED to the Promise because of transgressions until Christ came. There is a much bigger meaning to LAW in that part of the study - more to come

Thursday, November 6, 2008

56 - More on THE Pilgrimage - LAW (4)

Let's review the source of the conceptual construct. My pilgrimage led me to observe several shocking changes in God's presentation of Himself and His law. First, we noted that Abram was to focus on PROMISE - and that made it a God focus. (Genesis 15:1ff.) COVENANT ALWAYS does that - it always started with "I WILL MAKE and I WILL DO" - thus being guaranteed by the initiator - in this case God Himself. By the way - that is the OLD COVENANT. BUT - someone says - what about the Mosaic covenant? Well - Paul explained that the LAW (Mosaic) was ADDED, and our first question is - to what?

Galatians 3:19 and the context talks about this subject quite fully. I leave it to you to check out the whole chapter - which basically tells us that the LAW had nothing to do with our getting righteousness. That's not the purpose of LAW. Paul first of all claims that the Law - which came 430 years after Covenant, cannot void the Promise (Galatians 3:17). Then Paul explained that the LAW came to lead us to Christ - act as a Tutor (until Christ came) to make mankind more aware of sin. (Verses 19 - 24). HOWEVER - Paul also claims that being led to Christ was for the purpose of being justified by FAITH.

Don't forget, Jeremiah prophesied in chapter 33 that God would make a totally NEW covenant, not like the first one. (Well - actually Jeremiah is simply repeating God's words on the subject.) Paul picked up on this concept in Romans 3 as he claimed that the new idea was "FAR APART" from the Law - even though it is attested to by the Law and Prophets, (Romans 3:21) and then Paul explains that there is NOW a righteousness by focus on the Messiah - verse 22 (yes, that is totally new) and also would focus on all people who believe. Paul explained that this is because ALL have sinned and now ALL can be righteous through the redemption in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23 - 24). That concept is explained in verse 24 to the end of the chapter plus chapter 4- 5. (This is a section that MANY in Christendom just do not know much at all.)

Now - that concept is at the center of my pilgrimage and I had to ask myself and others - what is this concept that is SO DIFFERENT from the Old covenant position? Since so many have made a LAW out of everything - it is a hard thing to study.

Studying the first covenant is a problem as well - because most folks JUST focus on the Law of Moses as the Old Covenant - that is simply a mistake. Paul plainly says the Law was simply an addition to the covenant to Abram. So - if we don't start with that idea - how can we have a correct concept at any point in our study?

So - let's start there - Old covenant was to Abram - and was a faith in God's Promises kind of Covenant - the LAW was added to get us ready for Jesus. God through Jeremiah said the first covenant was BROKEN, even though God upheld HIS end of it. So - why not use that idea as the beginning of the NEW concept - broken covenant - not able to happen in the NEW ONE? WOW - how could THAT happen? Well - the prophecies about Jesus give us a hint and an understanding. Jesus was sent for a covenant - HE IS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE - (that is what "covenant" originally was sent to offers us - a way, truth, life - under the Protection of the covenant head) Isaiah 42:6; 49:8 at least are inferred by Jesus.

So - to make a long story short - JESUS came and kept covenant and Law - and then offered HIS performance to us to be received BY FAITH (harmonious with Romans 3 and Galatians 3) so the New Covenant is totally DIFFERENT from the Old - in that we get KEPT COVENANT - in Christ. HE really is THE way, THE truth, THE life - and HE gets ALL preeminence in this regard. If we don't see that concept, many verses like 2 Corinthians 2-6 (especially 5:19 - "God was IN CHRIST, reconciling the word to Himself") and those other verses (including the whole book of Colossians) about being IN CHRIST have little meaning to us. We then mistakenly still think the focus is US - not JESUS.

BUT - taking the focus off of us is ONE way the New Covenant is totally different from the OLD. More about that - later

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

55 - More on THE Pilgrimage - LAW (3)

Not all of us can think the exact same way - so I sympathize if I seem to be on a different wave-length. However - please realize that I am trying to speak to ALL wavelengths - an impossible task - but don't GIVE UP! Stay with me - this is important or I wouldn't have spent the past 35 years thinking about this and getting ready to share it with YOU. Give me a chance to share my pilgrimage, PLEASE.

I have heard MANY sermons about "BE PERFECT" - and most of them are not very encouraging. One context helps - even before I realized Jesus is Covenant. Peter wrote that God said, "You WILL BE Holy, because I am Holy" - 1 Peter 1:15-16. The context, however focuses on GOD - His POWER (verse 5) His grace (verse10) - plus everything God did in Christ, especially His resurrection (verse 3) - so the HOLY was a result of what God did in Jesus Christ. So - since the word, HOLY meant set apart for a special purpose - all Peter is doing through the Spirit - is reminding his readers that GOD is in charge of all of this - so receive it and focus on JESUS. That's the background of the concept of Jesus being destined before the foundation of the world to give us REAL HOPE - HOW? (The concept in verse 20 began in verse 3) We are to have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead - Peter calls it "LIVING HOPE" through the resurrection of Jesus. (verse 3) PLEASE - note the focus - what God did in and through Jesus.

If you remember the concept from 1 John 4 about being CONFIDENT on Judgment day - then you know that any confidence is because "as HE is, so are WE in this world". That is a great definition of HOLY - set apart to be like Jesus and be totally dependent on God 24-7. Now I ask you - doesn't that sound more like an invitation to the great adventure with God - than a diatribe of impossible performance to try to "be like Jesus". Guess what? If you don't focus on yourself - and you do BEHOLD JESUS - Paul wrote that by beholding Jesus, you are being continually changed from one degree of glory to another - ever increasing!" 2 Corinthians 3:18. That is for us.

THAT, my Covenant friends is how we are intended to LIVE. (Paul began that theme back in 2 Corinthians 2:14 - stating that we are always being led IN TRIUMPH" - and that is exactly how a Father leads His children - to grow in VICTORY and grace - to grow as CHILDREN OF THE LIVING GOD - as the prophecy predicted in Hosea 1:10; and as it was fulfilled in Romans 9:26 and 1 Peter 2:10. If you remember the Hosea story - Gomer was anything BUT Holy from our usually held definition - but Hosea MADE HER HOLY by buying her off a slave stand and taking her home. He gave her HIS identity and security - she had nothing and actually had no prospects. The context of 1 Peter spells that out as our situation - but God made a LAWFUL PURCHASE OF US - and all we can do is ALLOW IT. Like Abram - we can trust God's Promises - and THAT will be counted to us as righteousness. That, by the way is the definition of obedience - hiding under the promises and power of God in Christ. That is allowing Christ's KEPT Law to cover us - and HIS performance to give us identity and security. I know there is quite a LOT of poetry in many OT books - but read Hosea through about once a week for a year - and you'll see the whole story of God's redeeming us by Himself. Obviously realize, Gomer did go home with Hosea - she COULD have refused or even run off later - but why would she? She had the only one who EVER really loved her - and he had mercy on her when no one else cared for her. I am like that - God has mercy - lovingkindness to me in Christ - and I allow HIS kept law to be my new identity and I allow His spirit to lead me through life. What about LAW? Well - that becomes my structure for a future life - but I try to keep it because that is what CITIZENS and SONS do - they do it Dad's way- the King's way. That's what LAW is for - to serve us as sons of the Living GOD. More to come

Saturday, October 25, 2008

54 - More on the Pilgrimage - "law" (2)

Realize that I am certainly not dismissing LAW at all - in fact I am embracing it fully. God wishes it to be UNDER us - not us under law. That is part of the original concept given to Adam and Eve of "take dominion over the earth and subdue it". VERY challenging thing to subdue the earth - but even more challenging to do it correctly. First thing they did was give it all to Satan. The result was - they HURT the earth. And - we still reap from that - not just thistles and pain in childbirth either, but the TOUGH task of subduing the earth, period. That's one reason why farming is not respected in our society and the focus is only on production instead of working with the earth to be a blessing to ourselves and the world. I am not a prophet or the son of a prophet - but I do believe insights are happening which will almost demand a return to proper farming and natural production of grains and other plants, as well as livestock which are produced carefully and correctly. But - I digress.

LAW is simply structure for life and protection for community. Law is meant to serve as a way to have order and to live practically. Many stories have been told of situations which emphasize the need of a law for general efficient lifestyles and structure for our interdependence with each other - like respecting the community "well" - to have fresh and clean water for that need. OR - simply to respect your neighbor's "well" so he can have clean water. MANY wars of the smaller variety have been fought over something relating to WATER. Apply that to food, or general well-being or the multifaceted parts of our lives - and you have the story of LIFE. Abuses of the concept include over-hunting or fishing; over use of land without replenishing; and we could go on - but the LAW is - know your situation and plan for the future - that is SUBDUING THE EARTH. That LAW is meant to SERVE YOU, as are all laws. Why do we have a certain number on our roads call "Speed-limits"? To serve you to know what is the maximum drivable speed to be harmonious with others - but we all realize that a faster speed may be demanded by an Ambulance (or even by US) to save someone's life - so we allow that as part of our code of structure. That is simply HOW law is supposed to work.

I haven't seen anyone lately lose their citizenship or life because they were going 71 in a 70mph zone. However, most of us have been reminded a time or two to be careful about how quickly we go from point "A" to point "B". The Policeman was trying to help us have a practical lifestyle which doesn't endanger others. That is how LAW is supposed to operate. (OK - I know we should have exceptions for each of us - so we don't HAVE to pay the fine - right?)

Biblical LAW is much the same. Problem is - most Bible readers take on a different mindset when it comes to LAW. They become like a "gung-ho" Policeman who becomes an over-zealous enforcer of LAWS which were never intended to RULE us, but only to SERVE us. All of that because we have a hard time living practically with law serving us. One of our first responses - "Where do we draw the line?" Well - the answer is - make sure law SERVES us. Bible people are OUTRAGED at the idea - after all, "it means what it says and says what it means" - so DO IT.

Why do we act in this way? Simply - we are not taught to THINK. The concept of "DO IT" isn't for adult humans generally - it is for little children who don't realize safety concepts and animals who don't understand most human concepts. However - us Psychologists know that a whole group of people think that way "naturally" - they aren't conceptual people - they only know what we call "black and white" conceptual constructs. Some are taught to live that way - religiously we might call them "legalists" but in truth they are simply misusing LAW. We've all run into people who had a "Triple doctorate" in etiquette and who just went ballistic over every little thing everyone else did which VIOLATED their sense of CORRECTNESS- even to quoting chapter and verse of the Queen of etiquette - Emily Post. It can get so egregious that a person who just doesn't know all these nuances cannot enjoy eating or even partake in any semblance of PEACE. So - see the exaggeration - not the simple concept - etiquette was originally meant to communicate what was thought of as "civilized ways of life".

What happened? A serving concept became a RULING concept. So, as legitimate as the "rule" could have been, when it becomes a non-serving and rigid overlord, it violates the original place in life it was patterned for and the original influence it was designed to have.

God set up "rules" to have a civilized community. And - don't forget, the community already existed to which the rules were to apply. God was simply structuring HIS community which means that on our own, we don't always act civilized. Add to that, after the FALL, we all want to be GOD in our lives AND others - and structure is not only needed, but demanded. So - the tendency to make LAWS rule over us is normal - even if we should see them as practical and serving. Jesus saw the Pharisees tended to abuse the concept by using human reason to make application of law - their focus was "how to avoid breaking them in any way" - thereby inserting human thought into God's principles for life - and religion has ALWAYS done that. The word Sabbath means REST - but they found all kinds of way to get around the original design of God - but they still felt they weren't breaking the Sabbath command. So - just THINKING about it may not get the job done correctly. In fact, it can lead to TOTAL ABUSE of the practical nature of the original dream. More to come

Thursday, October 23, 2008

53 - MORE on the Pilgrimage - "law"

LAW - can be and must be dealt with in MANY ways - so I am trying to be practical and simple. However - the concept won't really let me. PEOPLE have a big problem with "law" - so I had to deal with two major concepts and a few minor ones. First - or maybe LAST - since many of us are real slow to realize what law is, we should start with the idea of law.I started out thinking "LAW is what I HAVE TO DO" - therefore it is very important - maybe even of ULTIMATE importance. I mean, if you break the law - there will be consequences. But - I also realized, nobody ever breaks the Law of Gravity - isn't THAT strange? (By the way - I can share thoughts like this all day - so I realize we just don't have that much time to waste on MY thoughts - so let's get down to the Reader's Digest version.)

In the Bible, the idea is referred to as either "law" or "the Law" (referring to the Law of Moses.) Problem is - translators don't always differentiate for us - so we have to pull out our Greek text - so it looks like a daunting task to many. So - let's jump to the conclusions in this regard - when the NT says we are not under law - it says we are not under ANY law to KEEP for our salvation. Call that LAW number one about law. Also call it the hardest concept of all. The short version is - Jesus KEPT LAW - both the Law of Moses and any other applicable LAWS which we might break which would dishonor God and be called SIN (meaning basically to miss the mark - or be imperfect.) Jesus is then THE OFFERING - and amounts to at least TWO concepts for us: (1) HE represents one who KEPT the Law and, as our Representative, He is "kept law" given to us. He becomes our gift of a performance which was PERFECT - so if we RECEIVE HIM as a GIFT TO US - we have something of VALUE - ultimate value! (2) From God's perspective, perfection is DEMANDED - make no mistake about that. God doesn't grade on any "curve"- it is "BE PERFECT" - and God only had ONE perfect human - Jesus Himself. Luckily, WE get to receive Him and His perfect performance by faith. That is what Jesus as Covenant meant and means - HE took the exam and we get HIS "A+" on our "report card" and therefore God accepts us "in the beloved" Ephesians 1:3-6. That is just THE LAW. But - did you notice how we can then not be under law? NOTE - Jesus is not UNDER LAW - Law is under Him - and we are IN HIM - therefore we are inside "kept law" and it is then under us! Yes - I did mean to write it just that way.

OK - that just sounds weird to most of us - doesn't it? Well - add to that, Paul used the concept of a new law - the law of LOVE being a fulfillment of "the Law" - and several other concepts - how can we ever get a cogent concept here?

Luckily this is MY pilgrimage - so I can be as messed up as I choose - right ?

Well - we also have a LAW of Moses . . .so allow me to share how I put these concepts into perspective - briefly. First - Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders of His day with what I consider THE major concept in this structure - "the Sabbath was made for man, NOT man for the Sabbath." And - that means the LAW of the Sabbath was meant to SERVE MAN - not the other way around. That is the one thought we have to get - and most do not. That's why religious EXPERTS IN THE LAW claimed Jesus broke the Sabbath law while Jesus claimed He did not. I had to solve that dilemma. So - I just took Jesus word for it - and made the proper application to all laws - they are here for us - to serve us. We DO keep them - but only because that serves us and the community in which we live. LAW SERVES US.

So - then, first of all - put law into its proper place as a servant. After all - I can keep all laws without ever LOVING ANYONE at ANY TIME. But - God wishes me to LOVE and actually puts HIS spirit into me and makes sure plenty of LOVE is available to fulfill HIS structure for all of life. AND - even though the Bible says - "IF WE LOVE - we have fulfilled the Law" - we still don't have any true assurance of salvation in that regard. What do we lack? Ah - that's our central concept - we want SALVATION through what WE DO - and it is not available. God provides that separately - as we discussed back many moons ago as we looked at Romans 3-5. "But NOW apart from law God provides salvation by faith in Jesus Christ." It is a totally different concept. LAW doesn't even get to enter into the discussion- except to be dismissed.

But - we'll allow it into OUR discussion, since that is our subject - but we have to put it into its proper place. Don't allow you mind to get confused - wow, how can we not? Simply by putting your focus on JESUS - having TOTAL preeminence - being the ONLY Savior, and being ENOUGH. That is perhaps our BIGGEST problem in all of Christendom. But - that's why I'm writing this BLOG - to help us focus on JESUS. And - very basically, Jesus taught us that LAW is meant to SERVE US - not to rule us. A difficult concept to be sure in every realm - maybe too tough for us - but let's tackle it anyway - more to come

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

52-More on the Pilgrimage

One surprising thing to me about Bible study and reading is how many verses are "missed" or misunderstood. OR - we can talk about "timing" being misunderstood. Let's talk about one situation - involved in timing. This was a big part in my pilgrimage. It started with the age-old argument (really - would I EVER argue?) about James and Paul and their "doctrine" on salvation by faith. James was always allowed to be more authoritative in my religious circle for some reason in that argument. That is - UNTIL one time I was asked to take the opposite side in a debate. Plus - my friends on the other side checked out all the Library books (commentaries) on James. Well, I think I won the debate (and so did nearly everyone else) but I wasn't happy with the reasoning I had to use in which I got the book of James thrown out of the Bible. (Desperate times call for desperate measures!) So - I began to think about WHY this subject is such a quandary. I nearly always had a great respect for the Truth of Scripture and its inspiration (with that one lapse to win a debate!) and always have wished to take it as it is - and use its message to be a reality in life.

I was listening to someone expound the concept of faith/obedience in reference to "salvation/redemption" and realized he was talking about a different subject. I didn't know why at the time, but I just KNEW he was talking about something he didn't realize was not redemption at all. Maybe I could leave James in the Bible after all! Conclusions - James is talking about "sanctification" not "redemption". We translate the word as "save" - but did the context DEMAND that? NO - in fact I just had a strange "aha" moment and said to myself - "James is a Hebrew of Hebrews talking to Hebrews. He said so in chapter one, SPECIFICALLY. In fact it is in the FIRST VERSE - "To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion"

Well - there's something I overlooked for many years - who the book was written to - oh, I knew who - I just didn't realize what that ONE verse meant. It meant James was talking to Hebrew thinkers. So what? Well - I remembered what Jesus said one time, "The one who saves his life will lose it - and the one who loses it will save it" and I then KNEW what both Jesus AND Jews thought in one focus in this discussion. James is teaching about FINDING LIFE. AND - you cannot find life by claiming to believe - for a Jew, life is what is LIVED OUT - one shows what they believe by how they LIVE. That has NOTHING almost to do with redemption - but with finding meaning in our Christian lives. Paul, in most places, at least those which seem to be in opposition with James, deals with REDEMPTION as a primary focus. AND - he underlines the fact that redemption is "not of ourselves, not OF WORKS" Ephesians 2:8-9. But, Paul follows that with a verse about works in the continuing LIFE of a CHRISTIAN - "we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ for good works" verse 10. However, Paul is writing to Gentiles as the Apostle to the Gentiles - and isn't using a Hebrew focus about life - even though he spells it out pretty clearly when it certainly does NOT deal with redemption that we, in fact DO WORK. Look it up - it comes up multiple times - but not referring to redemption - only to Christian life.

BUT - if a person was just reading James, he might get the idea that works have something to do with Salvation. True - especially if we OVERLOOK the people to whom it was written and what they understood James to be writing.

WORKS and LAW - two big words over which Christians just stumble and thrash around - injuring each other and themselves. I don't expect to end the argument - we don't "let go" of our arguments in Christendom - we generally choose up sides and kill or maim - or at least start a new group AND - we have had a pretty solid example from even early centuries. Find the heretic and banish him forever - ah, there's a great way to solve things. Make people CHOOSE who is "sound in the faith" - and brand everyone else as "heretics". (Fill in your favorite word in this context - liberal, radical, of the devil or satanic, legalistic, in error, or whatever the latest buzz-word happens to be.)

Did you note that at NO TIME did the discussion actually FOCUS on Jesus? No - the focus is on US - and that is a primary problem. Paul's focus of works, at least one MAJOR one is - "God is AT WORK IN YOU, to will and to work" Philippians 2:13. (Another of those verses that just jumped up and hit me over the head and totally cleaned out my ears - and rerouted my life.) Why not allow that context to be a MAJOR part of any discussion about life and works from now on - it is what God is doing when HE is allowed to run us. (By the way - that is harmonious with Ephesians 2:10 and the works WE DO when we are HIS workmanship - at least in my translation.) Works are what God does - and HE runs me now.

Let's tackle that "law" concept - next - It won't be the "last word" on that subject either - but I'm simply sharing my pilgrimage - so, more to come

Thursday, October 16, 2008

51 - More on the Pilgrimage

I don't write from a book - or any previous notes - but I do share previous THOUGHTS. Many have asked about focusing more on the "pilgrimage" and actually all of this is simply that.

I remember reading that verse where Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I am HE - you'll die in your sins". I remember bringing that up in a class situation and someone VERY quickly reminded me that what Jesus taught in His personal ministry was Old Testament. My question was, "How did you decide that?" The answer was that everyone already KNOWS that.

So - maybe I am off beam in saying that Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, THE LIFE - or even trusting Jesus' Messianic miracles to show His authentication as Messiah. Hey - Romans through Revelation (or even Acts 2 through Revelation) doesn't use the word "Messiah" - someone reminded me. Well - actually, that is translated as "Christ" - using the Greek word and then not translating it - another rejection of Hebrew terms. I accept that - but to say what Jesus taught is not cogent to our understanding of what we know of New Testament doctrine - is simply wrong headed.

So - to share my understanding I have noted a couple of facts stated more than once in Scripture. Jesus was BORN KING - and He is still KING - and that is a fact. I realize things changed at His death and resurrection - but not His kingship. Notice that Acts 2 teaches that "God has made Him to be Lord and Christ (Messiah)" (Acts 2:36.) But - Jesus DID claim to be Lord and Christ in His ministry years. The FACT is we just do not generally understand the concept of Royalty and Coronation. Result - the phrase "born King" makes no sense. So - we must think of a way to explain it away without denying it. Whoa Nellie - don't do that!

I started to embrace what the Bible SAYS - without trying to say "It doesn't mean that." Fact is - sometimes translations do give the wrong idea of some words and phrases, but we don't have many of those. Plus - the ones we do have usually refer back to a misunderstanding of the Hebrew concept - lost to Christendom after the second century in many cases. That's why studying Genesis through Deuteronomy is pretty valuable - it sets up God's structure for FOREVER! What does a "Silver Trumpet" mean? Well several multifaceted concepts come to mind - about which, more later. For today - realize that my pilgrimage is NOT yours - so maybe you do NOT track with my thinking. Christ (Messiah) was slain from the foundation of the world - but actually died in about 30 AD. Those concepts are harmonious - and so are several others we might reject from time to time. God has MANY things going on at once - however - there is only ONE Eternal Covenant - and Jesus is the personification of it. (Those Scriptures have already been given - but they include Ephesians 1; 1 Peter 1; Hebrews 13:20-21) but don't forget - THAT doesn't address the concept of "I AM HE" of Luke 13. HE was talking to people who knew what the statement meant to come degree. HE also said, "IF I by the Finger of God cast out demons, then the Kingdom HAS COME UPON YOU" Luke 11:20.

But what about . . .? Listen - we have to get the WHOLE story. When HE was asked about being a King - HE answered, "I AM and that is the reason I was born - but MY kingdom is not of this world." Well - maybe we need to understand that before proceeding. Luke 23:1-3; Matthew 27:11; Mark 15:2; John 1:49; 12:15; 18:36-37; 19:21; 2 Peter 1:11 helps us see that the concept of KINGDOM is not what we see - but is wherever the KING is - expressing His power (generally love and mercy.) Since it is ETERNAL - and received by FAITH - Abraham had it and rejoiced in it John 8:56. Sure we can call that the Kingdom in prospect - but we need to understand it is also the Kingdom is actuality. But - we like to see everything from OUR point of view - and sometimes that is just too limited to see much.

Jesus said, "Unless you believe that I AM - you will die in your sins" - so doesn't that suggest if we do believe HE IS - we are become alive? And - doesn't THAT suggest the same concept as Abram believing God IN A DREAM - and being declared RIGHTEOUS? (Wow - maybe Jesus Christ actually is the same, yesterday, today and forever - Hebrews 13:8.)

Ramifications - in every DAY from the beginning, people were invited to trust God and be righteous - and then to live with God as a Friend and live victoriously. (Abraham was called the Friend of God and God was called the God of Abraham.)

AND - Jesus is the expression of God in flesh and Promise - so any expression of faith joins one to the Eternal Covenant - Jesus Himself - and is the template of allowing God to be MY GOD. (And for Him to call me "MY SON"). We are ALL sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus - and that is believing that Messiah IS - the focus of all of the Bible and ALL of life - and if we do that - maybe we'll be closer to giving HIM ALL preeminence. More to come

Thursday, October 9, 2008

50-Christ - from BEFORE the Beginning - (3)

My one very difficult concept in this regard was to see a SINGULAR concept running through the Bible to which EVERYTHING else related and referred. Part of that was due to many who tried to divide the Bible up into different ages and Laws. AND - from one perspective, they have a point. It does seem to have change points in history - and anticipation of changes in regard to how God deals with mankind.

Part of this situation comes from what we generally refer to as THE FALL. Obviously when sin entered into the word by Adam, one part of relating to God changed immediately. However, we should realize that God anticipated that - so the change is not as big as we think - from ONE perspective. God had already planned for this situation before HE made us by way of The Eternal Covenant.

Much structure we SHOULD know comes from Deuteronomy - the book of the Covenant. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy more than any other book. David knew the concepts - Saul did not. BUT - it was simply a writing down of the Promise concepts God began through Abraham. What we sometimes miss is - this book was about the lifestyle of covenant when we allow God to be our Covenant head. NOTE - this was NOT to BE SAVED - redemption - but to be WHOLE - which Hebrew literature expresses by the same word - "saved".

To use a Western example - the Constitution is not a document to get us to be Americans - but a document to help us EXPRESS our lives in an idealized way, expressing our National Dream for how Americans LIVE. We probably never live up to it - but that doesn't disqualify us from being Americans - but there certainly IS a way to violate the Constitution so that we are guilty of Treason - and could well lose our citizenship or at least be quite severely punished for it and possibly lose our physical lives.

NO ONE lived perfectly in reference to the Mosaic Law - except for Jesus - and those who taught Law and were experts felt that HE violated it OFTEN. It's always good to have a REAL expert in our midst to help us understand things - but when God came in the person of Jesus Christ, not only didn't they think He was an expert to be listened to - they were CERTAIN He was "of the Devil" and deserved to DIE. Yet - many scholars STILL think the concept of Pharisee-ism needs to be applied to OUR understanding and allowed to be the final arbiter of how we know Truth. If they are right - Jesus could NOT have been TRUTH - so He doesn't deserve an audience.

THAT is what happens to us humans almost every time we are confronted by ULTIMATE reality - we not only cannot see it, we kill the ones who say they CAN. Us poets come up with some neat lines from that - but generally they are very ironic and sometimes downright DARK.

Jesus from "before the world was" - is a fact to be embraced and held on to - and used to structure our understanding of ANY meaning in our world. So - if that thought is ignored - Truth suffers and error flourishes.

Another generation has the opportunity to study Deuteronomy - and it doesn't look like we're that close to accomplishing it in our time - either. But - as a friend of mine once said, "I thought I heard a Silver Trumpet" - and my response was "How many times did it BLOW?"

Well - at least we got some of Numbers - thank God for that. More to come

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

49 - Christ - from BEFORE the Beginning - (2)

The Eternal Covenant - what a concept! AND - by IT, Christ was raised from the dead. That anticipates to me, Christ DYING, Christ being necessary for God's plan and promises; Christ dying as part of the plan before the world even started PLUS, WE were involved back then and are part of an Eternal Covenant. WOW - what a concept!

Several phrases are part of this teaching to me - "chosen IN HIM - before the foundation of the world" which tells us that the "Lamb slain before the foundation - or FROM the foundation - of the world" is an assumed subject in Scripture. Apparently THEY - the first century readers, knew much better than do we - the structure of God's plans and promises.

People NEED to know that their sin wasn't a situation which threw God for a "loop" - or caught Him unawares. As a Psychologist, I do appreciate counseling Christians as they seem to be SO SURE their sins cannot be forgiven, and telling them - "God anticipated you". HE paid for ALL SINS which could ever be committed. So - did YOU accept the payment? OR - did you think your sin was just too much for God to think Christ's sacrifice could COVER?

NOW - add to that - this all happened before the creation of us humans - can you see this is GOOD NEWS? To use a NT story - when the Prodigal left home - he had a HOME to return to - even though he didn't realize it. The lamb which wandered away - had a sheepfold to go back to - and Someone to carry him there - unbeknownst to him. God is ALWAYS prepared for us.

The concept is an Eternal one - and possibly MORE eternal and present than we realize.

CONSIDER - this might well mean that when God came to Adam and Eve, He was simply announcing the ETERNAL COVENANT in the Promise of Genesis 3:15.

CONSIDER - when God came to Abram, and proclaimed "I am your shield and exceeding great reward - and Abram believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness" - God was simply announcing the Eternal Covenant to come down through the ages as the concept of faith - birthed though Abram as the Father of Faith and reiterated in the NT as "Faith - from first to last" as an Eternal concept of Covenant Grace.

What about the OLD covenant? It was used to contrast the NEW with former lifestyle - but Paul reminds us - "it was added" to THE PROMISE. Don't forget, the PROMISE was made from the beginning - and existed BEFORE the beginning. (BUT - God did come to Abram to force it upon him - but that's not a perfect word since Abram believed - even though it was a DREAM - and believing is not a forced concept - but an invitation.) Added - the Law - so as Paul reminds us in Galatians - it cannot annul the former Promise. (Galatians 3:15-20) Maybe a challenging thought - since God told Moses to give a message to Pharaoh, "Let MY people go" - they were already covenant people. And - even during Christ's three year ministry they were referred to as "Children of Abraham." The same concept is available to all who trust God's promises - and Paul taught about that in Galatians 3 and Romans 3-5. Those who put on Christ are "heirs according to THE Promise" - Galatians 3:29.

I know Western thinking likes to separate and divide Scriptural concepts - sometimes it seems "man-made" to me - and in THIS case a failure to see THE ETERNAL COVENANT - focused in JESUS - from before the beginning and always in place. More to come.

48 - Christ - from before the beginning (1)

I need to focus on the principle a little more intensely as to what seems to be God's overall plan.

Scriptures have been given about Christ slain before the foundation of the world. The same concept includes other scriptures about US being chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. Since the "in Him" idea has always been difficult - we could well say the problem has been around quite a while. Well - let's at least admit it to be around all of OUR lives. I didn't see the little phrase as a difficulty until my first Greek class in the '60's. I then noted that there was more to it than I had guessed, even though a surface meaning was still meaningful.

Until I read some stuff about "covenant grace" I had no clue that "in Christ" had a focus of Christ - not me! (By the way - WE do get a wonderful focus - just indirectly - so, make no mistake, when we get it right, we come out JUST FINE.) The directive seemed to be "make sure YOU are in Christ" - and I don't think that is a bad concept. Problem is - when we put the focus on US - we MISS OUT on the REAL concept, so our understanding is off and we begin down a road which isn't the REAL road. (Substitute the word "WAY" for road - and you get my drift.)

So - back to our theme - Jesus is the focus of History and the focus of the Bible and the focus of Covenant grace. And - amazingly enough, that started before time. So - what exactly started before time. We love to sing about it - "He tells me of the years that went before me - when heavenly plans were made for me to be" - IF the focus is ME. And - that IS one of the focus directions. But - the ULTIMATE focus is what God is doing to get me back and then what God is doing to keep me for all eternity. If we don't see that we cannot understand the Bible correctly. The focus is GOD'S doings. And - God got that started in His plan before time - well "the lamb was slain before the foundations of the world". So - our redemption is an old subject and it focused on what God did, plus, it started before time - so it was an ORIGINAL PLAN.

Covenant takes two parties - and that may represent all of mankind, but the parties involved choose a Representative. Covenant demands a swearing and the Bible says that "God could swear by none greater so He swore by Himself." He guarantees His part of the covenant is KEPT. We can rely on His guarantee - but do we know what He guaranteed? (WE do realize it is good to know the stipulations of a guarantee - do we not?)

First question - and a very important one - who is the OTHER party? I think we realize it is us humans. Problem - who will represent us before time? God anticipated this problem - after all, if we are created to make choices we'll make the bad choice and that needs to be taken into consideration. So - God chose for Christ to die (Lamb slain from the foundation of the world) so Christ is a substitution for US - so HE is our Representative) because we would NEVER be able to make the choice to die, since we would sin and disqualify ourselves. So - the covenant parties had to be God and our Representative. The concepts involved include - OUR sin is anticipated before time; an agreement was made before time; Jesus is our Representative before time and our redemption and future is guaranteed before time. (Verses which help these conclusions include: Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:19-20; Revelation 13:8.) However - the Scriptures which probably help us most is the Book of Deuteronomy - and that presents quite a quandary. Understand that Hebrews were very conversant in Deuteronomy - and understood that the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) as being the foundation for all of life and God's dealings with mankind.

Deuteronomy is quoted from about 80 times in the NT - so it is assumed we know that source as cogent to a full understanding. The Book is a Covenant Document, totally understood by the nations about Israel in their day - in fact the same covenant concepts are used by any number of them in their own experience. I think we understand that far generally - but what we sometimes miss is - God was using the concept before time - AND - God already had something in place with Himself. Very challenging, but that's why we used those Scriptures to teach us the concept more fully.

THE COVENANT was enacted toward Abram - and still is with us. We can talk of other covenants - Adamic, Noahic - but for OUR purposes the NT refers in reference to SALVATION/REDEMPTION to one focus - Abraham as the Father of FAITH. BUT - what we sometimes miss is this covenant was already agreed to before us humans were created - so the NT calls it "The Eternal Covenant" - Hebrews 13:20. AND - about that, more to come.

Friday, September 26, 2008

47 - Conceptually, Christ is . . .(5)

In contrast to the more "symbolic" concepts, there are many very precious pictures which are not focused on enough by Christendom because we are tempted to have a religion instead of a relationship. Religion can be a positive or negative word and I won't get into that today. Instead, allow me to share why the negative is a thing to be concerned about.

As long as we think of ourselves as part of a religion we just don't "do" Sonship very well. So - picture number one for today is - CHRIST was to be the first born of MANY brothers. Covenant concepts show us that we receive the IDENTITY of Christ when we by faith are joined with Him in our baptism experience. By faith we are born "from above" and are now on the earth - sorta like Jesus. SO - conceptually we are SONS OF GOD. We probably need to resist the temptation to not allow that to be real. Think back with me to David as he took on Goliath - and he was having a hard time getting even the King to realize that the battle is the Lord's. But - there are ramifications of the concept. Deuteronomy had taught how to go to war as God's possession, and several concepts were very important. Possibly number one - all fearful should go home. WAIT - that means only David should have been in this battle by God's standards. Well - only David WAS in the battle directly and he represented Israel all by himself. Obviously though, David was there FOR ISRAEL and as Israel. Why would he go out there alone? Because his aim was to show that "there is a GOD in Israel" and "the battle is the Lord's". And - he knew he wasn't alone. (SO - don't worry if others are fearful - or rebellious - be a representative for them.)

So - we see some pictures of those concepts in Jesus - the victor, the fighter, and the one who was not fearful and knew the battle was the Lord's. ADD to that the fact that HE knew He represented humanity and needed to win the battle for them - because THEY were fearful and un-trusting of God and His provision. (As for His focus - Peter writes that "He entrusted Himself to HIM who judges justly".) There has been a tendency to ask "WHY does God even care about faithless rebellious and negative people?" But - the Biblical covenant answer is - those are the ones He came to win the battle for - to secure victory on their behalf- because they are fearful, rebellious and negative. (Besides - that's about ALL He has- we are all the sheep who went astray.) HE is the CHAMPION - the representative - the "needed one" for all of us. So - see the concept of our need to be perfect - and then see perfection coming to us in the Person of Jesus. See us getting HIS perfection - HIS performance and then receiving His victory and the spoils of THE war.

So - for right now - focus in on Jesus as a concept of US WINNING. That is why Jesus is covenant - KEPT covenant. However - to do that we have to correct our idea of faith to some extent. In the concept of Jesus is covenant - FAITH is focused on HIM and His performance and His victory. So - my question at this point is - did HE win - did HE overcome death; did HE pay for sin; did HE raise from the dead; did HE promise to be with us always?

SO - Christ is our need. Christ is all and in you all. God chose to sum up everything in Christ - and then give Him to you and me. So - if we try to focus on OUR lives and behavior - we'll be fearful folks worrying about the latest Goliath to arrive on the scene. Christ has ALREADY fought the war - already won the victory and already assured US of the spoils of battle.

Actually - the concept is very REAL - Christ is our champion. And - once in awhile I like to allow my mind to be creative and picturesque - maybe we can even see Jesus in the battle scene - in David as a picture of a representative - or maybe even as a ROCK! Since Jesus has so many dual roles, why not include both? So - Jesus is the ROCK . . .of provision - not just water, but protection. More to come

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

46- Conceptually, Christ is . . .(4)

"The ROCK that followed them was Christ" 1 Corinthians 10:4. That COULD have been one of those SHADOW concepts - except for the context which talks of their drinking actual water from a SUPERNATURAL Rock. BUT - that is not just "the supernatural Rock that FOLLOWED them" - so we are talking about a POWER of provision, we're talking about JESUS. Not only that - a provision that follows a people - ready to provide. That is a covenant concept - protection and provision. Again, we see Jesus AS the Covenant. (And - that was in what we generally refer to as Old Covenant times.)

Jesus claimed, "I AM the manna come down from heaven" and we CAN make that a spiritual concept of Jesus using an OT picture to make a new Testament picture complete. That is, UNLESS we already saw the concept of God's providence in Jesus in the OT as a continuing fact. Then, it is not JUST a picture, but a personal presence of God in Christ, which is what the "rock picture concept" seems to suggest. To be consistent, then we must see MANY OT things as shadows of Christ - feasts, new moons, sacrifices and even identities in Trumpets and Tabernacles. BUT - there are OTHER things which seem to suggest that Christ Himself was present "in Person" to provide and protect and even direct. Focus on the "Cloud and fire" covering - which was God's way of leading and stopping and doing other covering concepts like "shade in hot sun" and "blanket in cold night" facts of life. The Psalms especially give us that kind of picture. Most of those pictures are not fully comprehended because they are Hebrew Covenant concepts in their presentation and description. For today, let's focus in on ONE concept - JESUS represents Himself as being actual covenant provision for Israel. ADD to that, all those shadows which have their substance in Christ and we have quite an involved activity of Jesus from beginning until incarnation.

Some OT scholars have contended that Jesus is all the expression of God's involvement in all ages. I can see that as a general concept - with exceptions in a limited way. Jesus is the "creator" Paul taught us in Colossians 1:16. BUT - the idea of that scripture includes God the Father - creating through Jesus and for Jesus. We just cannot separate the "Deity" which is spoken of as being fully embodied in Christ (Colossians 2:9) and we don't NEED to. As the Hebrews very basically said, "The Lord our God, the Lord is One" - but they used the term Elohim to express that and it is a plural concept. The almost FIRST time we see the concept of God, He is saying, "Let US make man." Us Western thinkers like to separate concepts that may not be intended to be separated. BUT - separate or non - both concepts are cogent in their own sense. We can encompass both with ease if we try. So - don't hear me saying the concepts of Jesus in the OT have to be a certain way - they include several facets of God's dealings with us humans. The "covenant idea" is part of the picture and without it, many NT concepts loose their force, More on that as we continue.

However - let us see clearly what Scripture DOES say - JESUS was covenant provision for Israel in the water and manna and other pictures - either in shadow or in actuality or parts of both. Jesus used the picture of the brazen snake to picture Himself . . .and I'll try to deal with that down the road - but it is meant to be used for OUR LEARNING - and we can learn facets of Jesus' provision and God's involvement if we try.

When Jesus said, "I AM The Way, The Truth, The Life - nobody gets to God except THROUGH Me" John 14:6 - HE was claiming a singular focus -very narrow. Christians have used a facet of this concept to EXCLUDE everyone in the whole world - even believers in Christ. However - we should use the concept to point to Jesus as OUR EVERYTHING - then we'll be Biblical. Problem is - many Christians do NOT think Jesus is everything - and it has been that way since the first centuries - our doctrine and positions became more important than Jesus HIMSELF. "If one cannot figure out OUR position, then obviously they cannot be TRUE CHRISTIANS." However - Christ is the ONLY everything. HE is the only real or ultimate focus.

So - someone responds - you don't think doctrine is important - right? WRONG - dead wrong.

Doctrine is supposed to SERVE us - to help us understand Jesus and how we became part of the new creation. IT is not THE focus - Jesus is. Don't allow anyone to steer you away from Jesus to some doctrine about what YOU DO or do not do - as Paul said, "These have an appearance of wisdom - but are of NO value." Colossians 2:23. Christ is our "YES" and those who follow Him - those who are indwelt by Him; those who are "in Him" - will be led by the Spirit and WILL NOT yield to the flesh. (Galatians 5:16.) That is simply a part of our "maturation" as God's actual sons. As John would write later - "those of the Spirit cannot continually live in sin" 1 John 5:18.

But - read through 1 John sometime in one setting - about 5 times John says - "life is in the Son" "he who has the Son, has life - he who does not have the Son does not have life" - and frankly I think it is LIFE we are after. So - do you have Christ - that should be our main theme and question. (Especially if we actually believe what John wrote. But - also what Paul wrote about God wanting to give preeminence in everything to JESUS.) My personal belief is that Christendom has failed to some degree in this regard. I plead guilty and promise to focus more on Christ in my future. Join me ?

Monday, September 15, 2008

45 - Conceptually, Christ is (3)

Guarantee - a word we all like sometimes, but as someone has said, "No guarantees, but death and taxes." So - allow me to share ONE MORE guarantee - eternal Life.

BUT - how in the world could that be true? Well - by the theological structure I had at the time - I agree - pretty nigh impossible and actually WE DO NOT WANT IT. WHY? Well, we cannot motivate people if they have a guarantee and, while many do not have it - they then jump to the claim that it is not available. Two problems - (1) a guarantee must mean I am perfect - is error; and (2) if I think that when I have a guarantee I won't be motivated by you or anything you say is error as well. FIRST - the assumption is that I can actually do something to make myself perfect focused on my behavior and beliefs. SECOND - we should realize that motivation doesn't HAVE to come from a desire to be perfect or even to be saved!

The FIRST example teaching (structure for redemption/justification of Abram - Romans 3-6) presents a challenge for some - Romans is too "mysterious" - but my reply is - Romans is first principles of salvation/redemption/justification and its implications. So - principle number one in this regard is: Salvation does NOT come by keeping some law. Paul revealed that in chapter 3-5. Romans 3:21 teaches that salvation comes "apart from Law". Verse 20 tells us why - Law isn't focused on Salvation - but revealing our sin. The answer Paul gives is "the faith of Christ" - Romans 3:22. Well, most "translations" say "faith in Christ" - and that is true, but we generally misunderstand that CHRIST is the focus of the concept. In other words, it is in the Genitive in Greek - possessive - so "Christ's faith - but that was what "faith in Christ" was SUPPOSED to mean to Paul's readers and to us. Our problem is that WE would like to be the focus of Scripture - especially if we can get some mileage out of a guilt trip. Well - that is a wrong assumption in ANY correct approach to Scripture. We are NOT the focus of salvation performance - Christ is.

We are the focus of reception of salvation - but Paul is quick to emphasize that salvation is a gift, not of works, not of ourselves - and God is the focus - it is the gift OF GOD, Ephesians 2:1-10. Verses 6-7 tells us that God wanted to SHOW OFF His grace. ALL of that happened when we were dead in sin.

In the Romans context the focus is to believe in CHRIST - note that is doesn't say "believe about Christ" - even though that is helpful at times. So - maybe our task is to really see what that phrase "believe in Christ" actually says. That little phrase "the faith of Christ" helps us realize that HE is the focus of performance; not we . . .HIS works are what saves, HIS sacrifice satisfied God's justice in reference to sin - perfectly. That is one reason Paul wrote in Romans 8:34 - "It is GOD who justifies, who is it that condemns?"

I guess my sarcastic answer is - "Church leaders of all generations"

BUT - the Bible answer is - "NO ONE, NOBODY and NOTHING"

So - GUARANTEE - Paul taught that if the focus is Christ and His performance - and our trusting HIM - then salvation can be guaranteed to EVERYONE - Romans 4:16. It rests on faith - and that focus is JESUS - more to come

Monday, September 8, 2008

44 - Conceptually, Christ is . . . (2)

So MANY pictures - so little time. One of the difficult parts of STUDY is the attempt to communicate in FEW words the very huge concept. JESUS is THE subject of all of history and most disciplines just ignore HIM or try to relegate HIM to a status of "prophet" or "good teacher" or some-such. It is very challenging to report on a situation which COULD only occur ONE time in all of history - and is the single most important act to have ever occurred and is a concept which is beyond the ability of our minds to even fathom - and yet WE MUST do it. WOW - what a quandary. Talk about "walking on hallowed ground" - BUT THERE IS MORE.

God already wrote the story down in Scripture - did I think I could do Him one better? ADD to that - the BIBLE is the single more discussed and dismissed book of all time - to one degree or another. Us humans just cannot agree on almost any subject the Bible brings up - and then I come along and try to actually make what God wrote BETTER? That's worse than arrogance - it is insanity.

So - call me crazy and lock me up! I am not trying to do God one better. All I simply wish to do is share my pilgrimage to part of an understanding of God's heart and plans for mankind. Much of what I write is demanded because translations are so limited - and PART of that is because we just don't have the courage to actually TRANSLATE the original into OUR language. But - that's another story. After all, language presents that challenge in all disciplines - but this subject is a supernatural one - and Satan is alive and involved in causing much deception since "He transforms Himself into an angel of light" - which to my way of thinking is much like a "preacher of the Gospel" - and THAT IS PRETTY SNEAKY.

The SUBJECT is JESUS - and since He is the "lamb slain BEFORE the foundation of the world" we have a subject which stretches our minds to the breaking point. When the author of Hebrews started his letter he wrote about a contrast: "God who in former times spoke to us in various ways, has in these last days spoken to us in SON" - and as I contemplate this one well-known verse I can see much of my former problem which may still be part of my continuing struggle. God USED to speak in various way - but NOW speaks in ONE WAY - and the way and the message are ONE WAY - a "SON MESSAGE" - a message in a person. Interestingly enough, the concept is not that Jesus came TALKING necessarily, but HE is THE message - period.

That was my challenge to receive. I'm here to share my conclusion that Jesus is HIMSELF the New Covenant - but no one talks about that - so how can it be explained? The Hebrews' author said it - and we just run past HIM to stuff about Him. So - why should I lose sleep over it - after all - I'll get labeled as some "kook" anyhow?

I remember responding to an aquaintance in this regard who finally said, "I think you've gone off on a tangent with this subject!" And - my response (since I'm not good at confrontation) was - "Maybe - or maybe I've gone toward THE CENTER instead! HOW will you decide which one is happening? Let's talk about which Scriptures you feel I am abusing and which Scriptures you think I ignore."

Well - he said he would get back to me on that - and he is still my friend, I think - but that was 25 years ago and I have studied the concepts every day since that time.

For today - allow me to challenge you with a concept already in evidence - Paul taught "the new moons and feasts are shadows; the SUBSTANCE is CHRIST" Colossians 2:17. The new moon celebration was attended by silver trumpets as were some feasts. The FOCUS however was not the trumpet or the feast - but God's PROVISION. The silver used to make the trumpet came from "redemption money" - and focused with each blast, the minds of hearers on the fact that they belonged to a covenant God. The idea is that God cares for me and God will take care of me. AND - our new Testament concept is even more focused. JESUS - is a multifaceted picture of God's continual care and has a ultimate focus on eternal care guaranteed to us for our security and peace. We need a fresh trumpet blast to remind us - JESUS is God's EVERYTHING and HE is God's GIFT to us. He REDEEMED us and He will guarantee the future safety and provision. John discussed it by saying that we even have FULL CONFIDENCE on Judgment DAY itself - 1 John 4:13-17. His conclusion is something to behold - "because, as HE is - so are WE in this world." I have had a couple friends confess they could not believe that verse by any general explanation. I said, "I don't blame you - to be honest - it is just too much." BUT - we all know it is TRUTH - Jesus is our provision on judgment day - but in my short 65 years I have NEVER heard a story told of judgment Day which had any kind of confidence or Jesus focus! (After all, those stories are to "motivate" folks and it is best to make them feel VERY alone!)

For today - just focus on that one word I used - "guaranteed" - and try to check that subject out in your Bible. Start at Romans 4:16 and let me know what YOU come up with.

One last hint - IF John was right - "as HE is, so are WE in this world - so we HAVE TO HAVE CONFIDENCE on Judgment day" - can you share with me a time when we CANNOT have confidence? OR - maybe we can say it - is there a time when we SHOULD not have FULL CONFIDENCE?

Jesus is our confidence - and HE is the full focus of meaning and HE is presented in the NT as - OUR LIFE. I have repented of watering down the story - and this context of 1 John 4 is one reason why. Share with me YOUR findings. The substance is Christ - not words about Christ - Christ Himself - more to come . . .

Saturday, August 30, 2008

43 - Conceptually, Christ is . . .(1)

I remember the day it HIT ME. JESUS is God's provision for mankind's lack. I was reading along and those words just jumped off the page - "the ROCK that followed them was Christ" and my mind jumped to a couple OTHER verses: "I AM the manna come down out of heaven" and "I AM the water of Life".

JESUS is God's PROVISION for man's needs. Well, I knew at a somewhat early age that Jesus was sent to die for our sins - but I did not realize many facets of that concept. I think the first time I saw that covenant idea was in a verse or two that focused on "before the beginning". Paul wrote one in Ephesians 1:4 "HE chose US in Him before the foundation of the world" which generally just gets us into an argument about predestination because even though it SEEMS that WE are the focus of that, it is indirect - the direct focus is CHRIST. "IN HIM" is the phrase we stumble over because we don't understand it to mean JESUS is the focus of all our PROVISION.

The OTHER verse is Peter's writing in 1 Peter 1:20 "HE was destined before the foundation of the world but made manifest at the end of the times for your sake."

God did all of it before HE even made mankind - so I had to look at everything from a different perspective. JESUS is always God's provision - in Peter's context, the LAMB SLAIN - which focuses an ultimate concept.

NOW, I see the concept in a LOT more places beginning with the beginning. Hebrew covenant structure shows that creation is an expression of the creator - and we know from NT scripture that God created everything through CHRIST (Colossians 1:16) so, not to go overboard with a picture, but PROVISION started in Eden when Adam and Eve were given dominion over the whole world. That reminded me of an old song - "What will you DO with Jesus?" Israel complained about "manna" and Moses got himself in a LOT of trouble over "the Rock" and BLOOD always seems to get spilled over mankind's errors. When Adam and Even CHOOSE to not receive and be provided fully by God's PROVISION in Eden - they rejected JESUS in their disloyalty. Well - let's simply call it rejecting covenant provision. The result was they lost the whole thing - but, God will not be put off totally. HE provided them with coats of "skin/fur" and a new PROMISE - SOMEONE would come to be their Savior - and HE would crush Satan, our ultimate enemy in the PROVISION of the "lamb slain from before the foundation of the world."

Covenant structure has ONE huge concept of how the breaking of it happens - DISLOYALTY.

I'm not getting into whether WE can be lost or "re-lost" or any of that argument right now. We're simply seeing the original concept in Eden - we lost PROVISION - in a perfect world. That includes daily fellowship with God - PLUS the tree of LIFE which cannot be available to us in a fallen state - God just cannot allow us to be forced to live forever in our fallen-ness. HOWEVER - HE did make PROVISION for our escape from being FALLEN - in Christ. HE provided "THE PROMISE" - Christ Himself - for solving the problem of being FALLEN, plus HE provided continual LIFE IN HIS SON. (1 John 5:11) ALL the OT shadows find their fulfillment in the substance of CHRIST (Colossians 2:17 gives the principle.) Christ was THEIR "Way, Truth, Life" from the beginning. HE was always the Covenant for mankind. HE was always God's LOVE expressed in PROVISION - water, manna, sacrifice, and identity.

How many pictures are there? Well - that is part of our study, but I don't promise to reveal them all because I keep finding new ones. We can generally focus on Israel because we are commanded to do that. Old Testament Scripture, Paul said - was written for US - examples for US - so we won't sin like they sinned. I am convicted by the concept of "murmuring" which killed MANY Israelites and basically represented their whole history of failure to receive and be satisfied with God's PROVISION. THEY complained about the manna, the lack of water - the Provision of Canaan itself - and the GIVEN VICTORY which they refused. I'm convicted because that is supposed to teach US a lesson in "PROVISION acceptance and enjoyment."

Do WE enjoy Jesus? Do we EVEN DRINK deeply enough to satisfy our DEEP thirst? God provided JESUS to be our EVERYTHING - and us humans have a really terrible habit of getting off the focus of ultimate things and onto stuff that is not Jesus. As I study the history of Christendom and see it more fully it really depresses me - and I only see tidbits of it. If I saw it in its bold stark REALITY - I'd be so depressed, I couldn't continue to live almost. I say almost because I know so little, but I know Jesus is designed to have all preeminence - to be Lord and King - to BE OUR LIFE. But - what Paul called the "Israel of God" isn't doing much better than the shadow did. We fight and devour one another - we murmur and we express hatred to Christian brothers - we raise a personal interpretation above "the one for whom Christ died" Romans 14.

So - as Long as JESUS is covenant to me - I then have "The Way, The Truth, The Life" - I have HIM - so I have everything. But - if I am not satisfied with HIM - and I look for meaning in"things that are not Christ" - I lose the whole thing in essence.

"If we don't learn from History, we are doomed to repeat it" seems cogent at this point. But, more to my focus - IF we don't allow Jesus to be our EVERYTHING - we will be continually doomed for our everything to be something ELSE! And - my covenant friends - that is my definition of TRAGEDY. More to come

Monday, August 18, 2008

(42) "In Christ; Christ in you" conclusions

Many questions start out with a concept which says "What's the big deal about . . .?" and that refers to "covenant concepts", being "in Christ", and even "baptism" - and my response is always pretty much the same. The BIBLE says - "live up to what you know" 1 Timothy 4:6 - so I am trying to do that. I may "attain" to a lower level than some and may actually be at a higher level than one or two - but - the focus is "be fully convinced in your own mind" Romans 14:5.

GUESS WHAT ? We don't KNOW the full meaning of many things - so we "know in part" 1 Corinthians 13:9. So - I am trying to share my pilgrimage of learning - and this area was where I was MOST woeful in understanding Hebrew background concepts which are undergirding our Christian life understanding. I did not understand what a "Covenant Representative" was, so the concept of faith in Christ focused on ME - not Him - what an error on my part ! Part of that error was helped toward Scriptural reality when I learned that the CONCEPT of faith came from three Hebrew ideas put into one covenant response concept. Faith/obedience is one concept - so many of us evangelicals focus on a mis-defined idea of obedience which focuses on PEOPLE. The three ideas: LISTEN toward a speaker, RUN toward the speaker; and HIDE UNDER the speaker's provision - make the correct focus - the one to which we respond for protection. SURE - we need to respond - but it is a faith response to the Covenant Protection of God. He provided it all - He supervises it all and HE provided the invitation, the protection and the security as it continues. We simply focus on that protection IN HIM - and make sure we are THERE by faith !

The actual "Covenant protection" is in what CHRIST did and provides. So - ultimately WE end up under HIM for our covenant security - and it is as strong as HE is - just like a lesser nation would hide themselves in the power and protection of a greater nation - they are as secure as the focus of their trust ! So - their trust is "IN THE POWER OF THE GREATER" - not in themselves - so the only boast is about the power of the greater. Christians have only ONE boast - "in the Lord" 2 Corinthians 10:17 - and we should keep that focus in everything - because God's provision, Christ, should have preeminence in EVERYTHING !

"Christ in you" is the theme of Colossians. Just one thought - the focus is identity (as Christ taught in the "vine and branches" teaching on John 15) and if Christ is our identity, then we have 4 fine books which we access our "family album" for conceptual pictures of our lifestyle and pursuits - Matthew through John. The CONCEPT, however - is simply Christ being allowed to EXPRESS Himself through us - and love the world again - like He did the first time He came here. The focus is CHRIST as Paul explained in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21. We become "ambassadors" - so God is making His appeal through us - and our message is "BE reconciled to God". So - once we are "in Christ" by identity, HE is in us in action ! Paul explained that in Philippians 2:13 - "For GOD is at work - in YOU to will and to work" - and my conclusion is - "willing and working" equals ALL of life - and God designed to be IN our lives to DO THAT - will and work ! Those are my simple conclusions to this part of our study - as Paul wrote "it is faith from first to last" - because we are to LIVE by faith. Both focuses are in the concept - we are "made alive by faith" and "we "live out the rest of our lives by faith". So - one person asked - "Do you have NO place for WORKS ?" And - my response is - if God is AT WORK IN ME - to will and to work" I need to LET HIM RUN ME ! Result - God's works get done as God works in and through His project - me - and that fulfills Ephesians 2:10. Result - God gets the focus and we are ambassadors FOR HIM - ambassadors ONLY do the will of the one they represent - it is not the ambassador's work - it is the one represented whose works are done. But - note that the ambassador is always active . . .on behalf of his boss ! So - God WORKS and hopefully, we make sure HE works in and through US - since HE runs us now ! Note - that is Christ in us - being allowed to continue HIS work of loving the world HE died for and was raised for . . .as Paul wrote so cogently in 2 Corinthians 5:15 - "that those who LIVE might no longer live for themselves, but FOR HIM who for their sakes died and was raised." Our focus is not US - but HIM - more to come

Friday, August 8, 2008

(41) IN Christ/Christ in you

I have heard some who very quickly say - "You're in Christ - so Christ is in you" and I'd like to ask "WHY" do we say things like that with no explanation ?

There are some similarities, but some concepts are partly very different. So - let's separate first. "You're in Christ" is a covenant phrase which means we joined Christ's history by faith. We are "grafted into" Christ's family tree of faith in God's performance and faithfulness. Romans 11 talks about Israel being "cut off" from that tree. But - Paul reminds us - Israel can get grafted back into the original vine - so the Israel of faith can be joined by the Israel of History. And - Paul concludes "all Israel can be saved". But - he makes it clear that FAITH is the concept that joins us to Christ; the concept that gives us righteousness as a gift. So - that is how we get to be "in Christ" - we join Him by faith - first century Christians had a ceremony of faith for that - we call it baptism, a well known initiation ceremony to Hebrew folks.

Christ in you - is something else, but it is one result of the ceremony of initiation. It refers partly to the new identity we get when we receive HIM as our source of hope. We are "sons of the Living God" - and since we are sons, then heirs - joint heirs with Christ, Romans 8:16-17. IF Christ in is YOU - then you are a son of God by identity. If you received HIM to be your life - by faith - then HE is in YOU, through the Holy Spirit. Problem is, the Holy Spirit concept causes all kinds of misunderstandings. And - since it is mysterious, we can only understand it by what the Bible actually SAYS about it - along with our common sense. Since Jesus is the New Covenant (I believe) then when He says He will come to us (as He explained to the Apostles) in the person of the Holy Spirit, then from that point on (John 14-16) we know that receiving the Holy Spirit is the way we receive Christ. And - HE promised to be with them ALWAYS (as opposed to being WITH them in Judea IF He was in Judea) and actually be IN THEM. Later Paul would say, "Christ, who is your Life" Colossians 3 - so it is appropriate to say the Holy Spirit is now our Life because Christ is in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. One complication though is - we CHOOSE to be led by the spirit, Galatians 5:22, and if we use our regular lifestyle principles we also realize that sometimes we allow things that are just "NOT US" to lead us. Paul is challenging the Galatians to not be allowing "the works of the flesh" to have their influence in our behaviors.

Confusing ? Well, it is to me - but I have watched my 4 children be born and BIRTH - the most common experience of all of us - is pretty confusing as well. Even after all those drawings in Biology and experiencing birth firsthand - much mystery remains for me - but that doesn't bother me - in fact, I enjoy the fact that something as common as LIFE - is still beyond our grasp at the same time. I anticipated that a little bit when Jesus talked to Nicodemas about being "born from above - or born again" in John 3. (Speaking of confusing - tell me what was wrong with translating the word "from above" simply and plainly - instead of using the concept of AGAIN - which is true but redundant ? Sorry - my rant - I do that sometimes in the middle of the night.) Anyhow - Jesus uses the wind to talk about the Spirit - and says we don't "see" it but we do see its results - same with the Spirit.

Now - mystery is revealed according to Paul and he claims it to be an original mystery - "Christ in YOU" Colossians 1:27. To a Hebrew, this concept wasn't hidden - as in not able to be known, it was hidden in that God had to REVEAL it in the coming of Christ. Jesus then is the answer to many mysteries - and Paul reminds us that Jesus is the substance of that which the Old Testament was the shadow. That's an area of needed study - we do see some "fulfillment" of OT prophecy in Christ and we do see some pictures in Israelite life and activities in Christ, but sometimes we cannot see that Jesus gets ALL preeminence and HE is everything and we HAVE HIM IN US. So - we get everything. OK - I already said that.

Results - well, being "in Christ" means what He gets, I get and where He is, I am - as Paul said "When Christ who is our life appears, WE MUST appear with Him in Glory" Colossians 3:4. It is simply a covenant concept that what happens to the covenant head, happens to the covenant recipient. That was understood by Paul. We don't "do covenant" the same way, so some things that were very familiar to first century folks are not simple to us at all.

But - isn't that strange language - Christ is in you - but when He APPEARS, then we must appear with Him - like we were not with Him - but we were or at least He was with US - or something ! Well - now He is with us through the Holy Spirit - but then FACE TO FACE ! (That's an old figure of speech which means full knowledge by full intimate relationship.) We may well LONG for that day - but, sometimes that is because we don't have any full relationship with the Holy Spirit now ! And - since the Holy Spirit is our badge of being God's kids - maybe we need to focus a little more in that arena of thought. In fact, Paul teaches that the Holy Spirit is our GUARANTEE of salvation. There is an interesting thought - for now let's say it this way - the Holy Spirit is God's LIFE in us - and God's LIFE in us - is our guarantee of salvation and our cause for full confidence on Judgment Day - as we've already said - as HE is, so are WE in this word - so we have confidence on Judgment Day (1 John 4:17) means that God assures us that our key to entering Heaven is the mark of HIS life in us - His identity that we NOW have which makes us sons - the Holy Spirit (Romans 8) and to conclude for today - I use the DNA concept spiritually - God knows our spiritual DNA and therefore claims us as HIS OWN - so we have full confidence on Judgment day because if we have CHRIST IN US - and WE are in HIM - we are RECOGNIZED by God as belonging to HIM. Awesome - and mysterious - just terrific ! More to come

Monday, August 4, 2008

(40) - "in Christ" thoughts

Several of my so-called friends have challenged me to continue this thread a little longer. And - since I have called it "ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE" - well, I can't argue against it. Just remember - JESUS is what is of ultimate importance. So - after an hour or so of thinking - I am ready to dig deeper. (Why do people get up at hours like 2 or 3 am to think anyway - sounds real suspicious to me.)

As I contemplate going back to our ROOTS of covenant thought, it seems cogent to actually make a case for PRIORITIES of thought. I admitted openly that I feel very loyal to the concept that Jesus gets ALL preeminence - since God chose to do that. However, once I do that - then there's no going back to situations less than Jesus getting all preeminence. So - from now on - I have to stay there and allow Jesus to be EVERYTHING. Well - not non-things like sin and rebellion (God certainly doesn't ignore any of those things either) - but the concept of our word TRUTH is not the original focus of Greek or Hebrew thought. Truth for them is much closer to our idea in the word REALITY. So - what I'm getting to is an idea of "reality" which focuses on Jesus as ULTIMATE reality and the source of reality. He did claim to be The Reality - along with being The Way and The Life. Those concepts are confrontational to me - in a good way seemingly - but very challenging. Our world would love for us to use "a way, a truth, concepts of life" - for Jesus - but to say "THE" - well, that's a horse of a different color (colour for my friends of Canadian and other European roots !) The concept of the word "THE" is just a challenging conceptual construct. "THE" means a focus on singular concepts. It gives Jesus a singular place in several areas of REALITY.

Then, when we quote the verse about what happened when Jesus came to our dimension, it becomes even more challenging. The phrase I have mentioned and now mention again for emphasis was "God was in Christ" 2 Corinthians 5. Wait just a minute - God was IN Christ - and now I am IN CHRIST ? That means we're TOGETHER !

Yes and no - is the answer to many questions for me - so let's have a go at that. "YES" - God was represented in Christ - and He was there to get us back ! He wanted us - He designed a way to GET us back - and it was a one time happening. It was an ONLY begotten son - the only time the spirit was involved directly in causing a pregnancy (well - it's sort of hard to say healing a womb or opening a womb was indirect - so pardon my failure for words in reference to these concepts.) First year Greek students learn the concept of a word happening only once in Greek or in the Bible - we call it a "hapox legominon" - a "one time said" word - one time used - therefore there are not any other contexts to help with the meaning. My contention is that God's dealing with US is a "hapox" concept - ONE TIME happening and therefore not a lot of contextual help from Philosophy or any other knowledge sources. Don't forget then - those other sources of knowledge cannot help us with MUCH of the Bible meanings and happenings. The idea of "in Christ" is known in human understanding in one aspect - we know we were in our ancestor thousands of years ago - so if something had happened to him, we'd never be born the way we are or even born at all. That concept helps - but there is so much more to it. Just the idea of us being in Christ when He was on the Cross - is challenging - but I think we sometimes get it by "spiritualizing" it to say - "Well, He represented me and all the human race in God's eyes" - and that is true. However - we must get farther into this - He took MY personal place on the cross - "He took the hit" for me in the cause of JUSTICE. He received and absorbed MY punishment for sin - on the cross - HE paid for it. Keep that very personal for each of us. It makes a difference then for us to read "God was in Christ" - and realize that God was taking the hit for our sin - and HE was so much FOR US !

OH MY - I am so in awe of God's great agape. Is there any way to grasp that ?

But - once I continue this "hapox" situation - I have to receive the reconciliation fact into my reality awareness. God did it - but I GET IT. I am NOW "hid with Christ in God" Colossians 3:3. And - it is not a "figure of speech" - it is a reality concept. How can we make it more of a reality on a day to day basis ? Problem - for our thinking - it is always a "hapox" situation - not available in our world for comparison - not available in our knowledge banks to access. Not only are we saved by faith (trusting what God DID) we understand life on that basis and we live on that understanding and commitment. The focus is not us, but HIM. But - isn't it amazing that when we focus on HIM we notice that HE is focused on us - so we get the blessing of ultimate reality ? By the way - I think that is a template for life - God didn't focus on Himself - but gave up all He had for us - and He then got the blessing of seeing us as sons of the Living God ! So - as we live we "might no longer live for ourselves for for Him who for our sakes died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:15) and we can give ourselves away and get the fulfillment in life of God's design where love gives unconditionally and that kind of love is not always accepted or appreciated, but it has an effect on some who then discover their ultimate reason for being alive. That is the faith life - the life of knowing we have plugged into an ultimate concept - THE reality - THE life - in Christ. In the end another concept is necessary to "see" - and maybe to some degree "understand" - "in Christ" means that HIS perfection is my hope - HIS performance is my identity now - but that awareness and reality causes me to know that even on Judgment Day itself - John writes that we have NO FEAR because - "as He is so are we in this world" - so as I stand on that day - I can know that His performance is mine by faith so God must receive me or reject what Jesus did - because that is my plea - what HE DID ! And - His performance, Paul said was authenticated by God in that "HE raised HIM from the dead" Acts 17:31.

"In Christ" is reality - and that reality is now my life - so resurrection is a heaven affirmed reality for me - and since I am in Christ - heaven is my guarantee, because Christ gets in and I am in Him.

I don't SNEAK in - I don't fool God - it was simply God's plan to give Christ all preeminence and I am IN HIM - so I get His performance and His inheritance - just like God planned. He planned to give Him ALL PREEMINENCE - and He will and does - I got in on that my trusting Jesus to be THE WAY, THE REALITY, THE LIFE - and by the way - when you add up those concepts, you get everything. We get it all - in Christ and God wouldn't have it any other way. That is the eternal plan from before the foundations of the world. (note Ephesians 1:3-10 gives a wonderful thumbnail sketch of the whole plan.) More to come

Thursday, July 31, 2008

(39) Going DEEPER into "in Christ"

Before going back to our ROOTS of covenant concepts, let's refine part of this concept of being "in Christ" as it refers to our overall theme.

I recently received some material my dad wrote back in the 1920's as he contemplated his future and made choices - mostly about what he decided to NOT do, but ultimately choices were also made about what he actually ended up doing and some of the priorities of his life. One very serious choice was to embrace a spiritual awareness and an allegiance to Christianity. Pretty serious when deciding to be on your own at 16 or 17. Those are my roots as well and I was "in dad" as he made decisions to come to Canada from Denmark. There is a literal concept there - but from our study perspective, we realize that what our ancestors decided controlled their lives AND ours in several focus points. We sometimes remind people they cannot help where they come from - but they can have some control over where they are going. They cannot help what kind of parents they had - but certainly can have some influence over the kind of parent THEY are. I thank God for my dad and His choices of priority - but when I share in them - it's even more cogent. If he had not made his choices - you would not be hearing from me at this point - probably. His choices influenced - and some controlled my life.

Compare that to being "in Christ" - several choices have already been made by HIM. Your forgiveness is already a "done deal". Your CHOICE in receiving that is yours to make - as you are made aware of His choices and results. Several other things follow from Jesus being made our NEW Covenant. He is The Way, The Truth, The Life - so everything of ultimate value and identity is wrapped up in Him - HE gets ALL preeminence. You have a choice to make - allow HIM to be your ultimate reality - or try to find it some other way. His choices and performance are an historically focused fact. That presents the choice about what YOU will do about Jesus as a major part of whether you live in reality or not. You CAN embrace the future God has prepared for you - or you can choose like Adam and Eve and all humans since - to be God in your own life. Wait - we've already done that. So - we have to decide to STOP being God in our own lives.

So - does that mean all of life is planned out and set for those who decide for Jesus to be Lord ?

Actually - the answer is always "yes" and "no" to those kinds of questions. YES - if you have chosen to live "in the palace" with Jesus, you do have a structure for life. But - NO - if you have entered an adventure with Jesus and Abba - it is an adventure daily - just like it was for Jesus in His ministry and life. As HE said, "I only do what I see the Father doing." "I do NOTHING on My own." HE responded to life as it happened, but He knew He was heading to a Cross.

If we are "in Christ" - then Paul challenges us to realize that we now have HIM as our life and He is still loving and sharing His life with the world He loved and died for. Paul explained that as we are "no longer living for ourselves, but for Him who for our sakes died and was raised." From an understanding of Jesus as Covenant, we then go where He goes and allow Him to live in and through us - so we live that adventure. Many folks have objected to this concept by bringing up an idea that we don't have Jesus with us at all times - or in all places. My response is - how did you get separated from HIM ? Their response - "Well - I don't think Jesus wants to be with me in the bathroom." My response - "I don't think you have a choice." The marriage covenant tells me I am married to my wife - 24-7-365 - except on Leap Years - then it is 366. No Choice !

But - we CAN live like Jesus is not with us at all times - but that is not REALITY. We can live like we are not "in HIM" at all times - but then we are not living up to our privilege. But - even more to the point - we are living an illusion. (Like many do in reference to their marriage !)

Paul taught that "The things that are SEEN are temporary, the things that are NOT seen - are Eternal." So - if we don't get plugged in to the unseen things, well, we'll be focused on things that cannot and will not last. AND - since Jesus is THE Way, THE Truth, THE Life - well - what else is there ? HE is our reality - our ONLY reality. So - when we are "in Christ" - we've come to reality. As Paul taught - "In Him ALONE dwells immortality" 1 Timothy 6:16, and WE are THERE !

Three thoughts: (1) - Jesus has done it all for us - "It is finished."
(2) - HE ALONE has the offer of reality for us - so our choice is important.
(3) Being in Him - is one key to important stuff . . .and HE invites us to be "in Him and He in us" - as finding "the Way, Truth, Life" - because NO ONE comes to the Father - but BY Him.

I consider that to be of ULTIMATE IMPORTANCE - and being "in Christ" is at the center of that importance ! Don't settle for "religion" - when HE wants relationship - intimate relationship. In that situation He promises to give us - life and that abundantly. More to come