Saturday, May 31, 2008
Similarly, the whole system we call the New Covenant, spoken about by Jeremiah and referred to by the author of the letter to the Hebrews - is just filled with ideas about which my feeble mind cannot fathom, and about which I can only "receive" - and barely comment. John seems to refer to it in 1 John 2:25 when he wrote "And this is the Promise He Promised us - eternal Life". That Promise is relegated to a person and a place - Jesus and being in Him.
The concept of a Promise Covenant in Jesus forces us to consider what promise actually means. After all when God "promises" He must deliver so if our "total hope" rests on God's promises" - then it simply MUST happen. Sometimes we don't realize that this is the only way to have total assurance - by simply trusting Him to keep His promises. However, many Christians don't realize that God set up His relationship structure with us so that He takes responsibility totally for those who put their trust in Him. No pagan religion ever comes up with that concept.
Don't forget though - all pagan religions came from a twisted understanding of God's real structure to a great degree. Obviously, twisted ideas can and do come out of pockets of ignorance, but very few humans are totally ignorant. Like Adam and Eve, humans wish to be "god" in their own realm and that cancels out some of God's story and some of God's reality in human life. God always breaks back into human history with a Promise of one kind or another. Ultimately, The Promise refers to Jesus and to those who trust God because of Him.
That boils down to a "one-time" historical event. "God spoke to us in 'son-language' by Jesus" Hebrews 1:1-2. Jesus was the Message. Jesus was God's focus of ALL His messages throughout history. So - if we leave Jesus out of the concept, we've just canceled the main focus.
One small illustration may help: We may notice a phrase which was quite common in Hebrew thought - I call it the "son of" concept. Jesus called some of the Hebrew leaders "offspring of vipers" - and we realize that offspring of vipers are vipers ! Hebrews used many figures of speech to express important thoughts and this is one. If I have a son - he is "me" in a new generation - we might say "not literally me" but they would claim - YES - LITERALLY ! So we have to see the concept a little differently. The son is the father in a fresh expression - bringing about perpetuity. So - when Jesus said, "I and The Father are ONE" - He had a literal concept in mind. Modern man doesn't think much differently, but has lost some of the concept. That's why the continual argument over "Is Jesus actually God ?" doesn't seem to get solved - since we just do not think as "Hebrew mind" people to that extent - all the while we are trying to understand statements made by Hebrews ! The other side of the coin - we say "Well, that was a Hebrew concept" and we just ignore it like it means nothing - that doesn't help at all.
What DOES help ? Well - can we say "literally but not ultimately" ? Jesus as Son of God - is God in every way possible except He is not "The Father". Many times we refer to God when we don't realize that the God we have in mind is Jesus - for instance - some pray - "All-wise Creator God" - not realizing Jesus created the world (Colossians 1:16). What we do not realize about the God-head makes us try to limit it to our own understanding of how it simply must work. Not a good decision. Why ? Because that is not simply how it must work. It must work how God decides for it to work - and He is able to make it work without our total or even partial understanding.
PROMISE - might give us some of those same "partial understandings" - so receive what you can - and trust God for the rest. Peter taught his audience that God's design was so "your faith and hope are in God" 1 Peter 1:21 - in fact the whole of chapter 1 of Peter's book teaches on the structure of God's plan - check out the context.
For today - note the following verse - "since God could swear by none greater, He swore by Himself" (Hebrews 6:13-20 gives the context.) And - that whole section is meant to give the reader assurance that our confidence (or our "sure and steadfast anchor - a hope") is in what God did - period. We trust Him to keep His promises - that was the dynamic concept of Abram's righteousness-producing-faith - and it is the only Biblical concept given for ultimate hope in this life which helps us look to the next Life. But - if our "faith and hope are in God" we know it is biblically harmonious - plus we also know it is exactly as solid as God himself. That seems to be a cogent approach to ultimate concepts - and a solid place to stand. More to come
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Then, Paul comes along and writes that God has a "totally different" kind of plan - not like law at all (Romans 3:21) and for some reason humans make it into law ! (At least let's try to make it into a concept which cannot be broken !)
How can these things be ? Well - Principle number one - Jesus is the New Covenant - "I AM The Way, The Truth, The Life" (all covenant concept fulfillments) and fulfillment of Isaiah 42:6; 49:8 of His being sent for a covenant.
Principle number two - Jesus is a gift of God to us as a Representative for God (and us) to bring about "reconciliation - 2 Corinthians 5:18-19.
Principle number three - Jesus is kept/fulfilled law - and His LIFE is given to us for a new identity and forgiveness for sins - so His death AND life are given to us. (Romans 5:10ff.) Our connection to this is simply faith in Jesus Christ. BUT - that is the full Hebrew concept of faith/obedience - "listen toward, run toward, hide under for protection" - and the focus is JESUS - "listen to Him; come to Him; hide under Him." Faith in Him means faith in His life and work, or what we might call faith in what God did in Christ. So - as Peter wrote about it - "Your faith AND hope are in GOD" 1 Peter 1:21.
Why does this concept succeed while others may not ? Simply - when Paul wrote - "NOT of yourselves, NOT OF works" PLUS "not by Law" and "apart from Law" - it required specific exclusions. As he wrote - "What can we boast about ? Boasting is excluded !" Romans 3:27ff. but notice his reasoning - "On what PRINCIPLE ? Of works - NO ! BUT - on faith's Principle !" Romans 3:28. What is faith's Principle ? Simply that the focus is always on God and honoring Him - never on us. It is the Abraham principle of "believing God". (By the way - since we are to have faith - that is a seemingly small focus on us - but since the principle of faith focuses on God - it wouldn't be a self-focus to Hebrews or Greeks. It won't be to us either - unless we somehow make faith what we DO - instead of a focus on what God did/promised. That would violate the whole context of Ephesians 2:1-10 as well as Romans 1-5.)
God designed everything to make Jesus preeminent, Colossians 1:15-20. When we do make Him everything and we "hide under Him" - we do come to the fullness of the Godhead - so having done nothing but receive, we should be very humble and appreciative - but the focus is always Jesus and what God is doing and has done - so many problems are eliminated. Competition, envy, jealousy, gossip, party spirit, slander and many others are not possible because that would simply not be honoring God as God. As Paul wrote "how do you treat the brother for whom Christ died ?" Romans 14:15. (That simply must honor God as God.)
That is true in Salvation - but also true in Life - "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" Ephesians 5:21 - starts with the example of Jesus - giving Himself up - and applies to all. When Jesus gave the secret to being great, He shared the concept of "the greatest is the servant of ALL" Matthew 20:27. Servants of NT times made their focus "what the Master wants" - not what I want - so the focus is set. If we have a servant church, we will change the world. If we do not - then it won't be Christ's bunch anyhow. His "friends" are known for loving one another.
How can we have that happen ? By realizing that Jesus is everything - and He runs us now. It won't mean we are necessarily more successful than He was then - but it will mean the right thing is happening. When Jesus is thought of as "Covenant" - we actually can get our minds on Him - not ourselves. Otherwise - we are always concerned with US - when we should have "died" to that - and if HE is covenant, HE is "at work in us, to will and to work" Philippians 2:13. If not - then we are simply NOT "His project" at all. (Ephesians 2:10.) I believe it is good to do it the Biblical way - and I confess, I have run into verses which convicted me about error for over 60 years now - and this way does not do that. Jesus is the New Covenant - which cannot be broken - but you do have to take it or leave it - even though all sin is now paid for, it must be received to be enjoyed. However - maybe you have a verse or two you think is still not included - or a cogent concept which may be violated. Ask away - more to come
Principle one - Romans 3:20 - "NO human being will be justified by works of law"
But - does that mean God's "faith concepts" violate law ? Of course not - the concept is explained by a distinct word "apart" - which has a couple facets. First, the word "separate" - from which we get our word "chorus" - the group separated from the crowd which sings to the crowd - so separate. The main part of the concept includes the idea we say as "without" - as the chorus sings without the crowd - therefore we can conclude several things: the activity of the "apart from" thing is in many ways opposite (but not opposed) to what it is separated from - it is just different.
Principle two - Justification comes by faith in/of Jesus Christ. The focus is always Jesus. HE is the power of salvation to everyone - the Jew first and also the Greek, (Romans 1:1-6; 16-17.) Do not forget - this is "apart from or without law" - and therefore we examine the faith in Jesus concept and focus that on Abraham's obtaining of righteousness as a template for us.
That's why Paul had to say "why then even have the law?" or "Is law opposed to God's Promises?" (Galatians 3:21ff.) His answer - of course not - different concept. (Galatians 3:21ff.)
Principle three - a BIGGER concept is at work - which controls all smaller ones: God's plans are to honor Himself as God. Note Romans 2:7; 1:28; 1:24; 1:21-23. So - what does NOT honor God as God is a violation of relationship with God. The plan of salvation is God's righteousness being revealed (Romans 1:17) in the faith concept. Faith means trusting God to keep His Promises - so very basically any breaking of law has to do with not trusting God to keep His promises. Adam and Eve may not have realized all the ramifications of their act of rebellion - but they should have known that God needs to be God and His promises are enough for our lives ! (Their sin amounted to making themselves God in their own lives - "YOU shall be as gods" caused them to act in a dishonoring way to GOD) So - God tells us that our faith in His Promises are what makes us "right" with Him - period. AND - He tells us through Paul that this concept is what was always in place from the beginning - so those who do not trust His promises choose other things to live by and are "without excuse" (Romans 1:18-20). All expressions of "not honoring God as God" Romans 1:21 are rebellion - so many "religions" are in rebellion and all those who focus on something other than God being God are "dishonorable" and "deserve to die" Romans 1:32. Many applications appear in Romans 1-3.
Principle four - FAITH - is simply honoring God as God and any definition which avoids or detours from this concept is not Biblical faith. It may be ignorance and as such, not rebellious - but many times it is a commitment - which is troubling indeed. For our purposes - JESUS is the focus of faith - so we need to honor God's Promise (which is Jesus) - purposefully and specifically. If we do not - then the Romans 4:16 concept is violated - it is by faith and it simply MUST rest on Grace and thereby be guaranteed. That was one benchmark or God's plan. One other was that it was not based on law - and cannot involve law as a means of salvation. ALL are simply saved (counted righteous) just like Abram was - by trusting God's Promise - therefore honoring God's Promise and plan. More on that next.
Monday, May 26, 2008
What does it communicate ? Simply that what is done by the Representative "happens" to US. (Remember - David's victory over Goliath was for ALL Israel.)
Even today in some parts of the world, the Representative is treated like the King he represents. Especially if they hold in their hands the "Scepter" which signifies Kingly Power in the one who holds it - if they are on King's business. So - we might say wherever the Scepter is - the authority of the King is as well. In that regard, we are ALL ambassadors for the King - and we carry His authority with us. So - we might call that concept - "HE is in US" - because His authority rests in us and His identity is in us. One verse context helps us very much. Colossians - the "in Christ" book, explains that Jesus has all of the Godhead in Himself "bodily". (Colossians 2:9) and we just KNOW that to be truth. However, the following verse - which is part of the same sentence, gets almost ignored or explained away. Permit me to emphasize the concept with part of my own translation: "and You have come to this very fullness in Him" - wait - that's quite a concept - don't go on - STOP ! Think and thank !
Do you mean we have the identity of the Godhead in Christ ? NO - but I think Paul meant that - don't forget - I may think all kinds of stuff - if Scripture doesn't say it - then just forget it ! The "fullness" Paul is talking about is the same fullness he already talked about one verse (and the same sentence) earlier. Do we generally change meanings of the same word in two parts of the same sentence ? Of course not ! (As a language student - context is more important than even definition - because context controls definition. Remember, though - I said "Language student - not language "expert" or "authority".) I can't see any other concept allowed. We get Christ's identity since "HE is the firstborn among many brothers" and 1 John 4:17 "As He is, so are we in this world." We already know the concept of the "ambassador" - and in this case, Jesus uses "brothers" to represent Him and His anointing.
"In Christ" - means we get our identity as we join Him by faith - as Paul wrote - "You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God" - Colossians 3:3. BUT - there is much more - our being "in Christ" or even getting in to Christ was how we got saved in the first place. Salvation is "in Christ". 1 Thessalonians 5:9; Acts 4:12; Luke 2:30. Originally the baptism symbol was meant to convey the "joining with Christ's life" and "rising to walk in newness of Life" and Jews used that ceremony to begin a new life a various stages of their development. We are privileged to use the ceremony to identify with Jesus - though many groups totally miss this original concept. Don't forget - the focus is Jesus - not ourselves. We are to be "buried with Christ" and "raised with Christ to walk in the newness of Life" - as Romans 6 teaches - but the conceptual construct is very simply portrayed in Ephesians 2 - "NOT of yourselves, NOT of works"- the focus is God showing off His grace - we get to "play dead". All of that to make sure the focus is CHRIST - but many groups make the focus on people - sad, very sad !
Once we receive the identity of Jesus - it is appropriate to continually focus on Jesus - as Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 3:18 - as "we are being changed from one degree of Glory to another - ever increasing !" That is the Christian life.
Don't forget though - we get Jesus' identity - we get Jesus' inheritance - we get Jesus' relationship with God (that's His relationship with God while He was here - the love from God towards us is just like the love God had for Jesus - is that amazing ? John 17:23)
The focus is Jesus - yes, I already said that - but we feel so special or un-special - and either way we focus on US - when God designed our lifestyle to be a Jesus focus continually - giving us security and peace. That was the context of the reference to 1 John 4:17 - peace and confidence even on Judgment Day itself - and I ask you now - do you know that ? Did John write that for nothing to Christians ? Is part of your privilege from God simply not claimed or enjoyed ? If you know that Jesus is "kept Covenant" and you are "in Him" - "not having a righteous of your own" (Philippians 3:9) but His actual righteousness - can you dare to not feel wonderfully and humbly proud of the God who bought you ? And - can you actually still think the focus is YOU ? How far does God have to go to show us that He is the one and only source of payment for sins and identity for those who trust His performance to be enough ? In the words of our Representative - on the Cross - "tetelusthai" - "It is totally paid - paid in full" and He is now our Life ! We are "children of The Promise" - more to come.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
One of the neatest and hardest is that phrase I have mentioned "the faith of Christ"
It shows up several times in the NT Scriptures. That should have settled it - but those who translate had the difficulty of using another construction which can sometimes lead us off the track. When we say "faith in Christ" we generally put the focus on OUR faith in believing Him to be Messiah. Certainly not a bad thing - but 16th century construction was not exactly the same focus. When they said "Faith in Christ" - they focused on Christ and what He did for us. We believe in His performance "on our behalf" - so our security is focused on the quality of His performance. (I mentioned the verses before - but a couple of them are: Galatians 2:20; Romans 3:22)
Paul wrote a phrase several times which the KJV translated "the faith of Christ" - and used the Genitive (Possession) to write it. We might say "Christ's faith" to express how we use that today. That is what "Faith in Christ" used to mean. However - one can (if they don't focus on the Genitive/Possessive) use that translation to be the quality of our trust in Jesus, shown by our lifestyle. Then the response is - "Do you really trust Jesus ? If you really do - then you must live THIS way - or I don't think you really trust Him."
There is some truth in the statement - we live on the basis of our faith and a lifestyle will show that. PROBLEM - that isn't salvation - it is lifestyle of maturity. James (using a Hebrew mindset) might well talk about that - but he wouldn't be referring to "Redemption" - but living the "saved life" of "Sanctification". Study the James section about Abraham - it isn't the one Paul refers to as when Abram's "faith was counted to be righteousness." It is MANY years later as God sought to teach him about trust to bring maturity.
The focus on Jesus as promise Covenant is simply that HE came to be our Savior and Deliverer - our Champion. Our hope was in His performance and victory. If we use the example of David vs. Goliath, we see clearly that David's performance is the focus of any victory for Israel. Listen - NO ONE believed David would win - except David and God ! But - when the people saw Goliath FALL, they got involved in the VICTORY. Mankind is much like that always - we don't really trust God to provide; to protect; to pursue us in His love. In fact, we have a hard time with concepts like the seeking shepherd, the celebrating Father as it pictures God. However - it is still FACT. God won the victory in Christ for us. Then, He offers Christ's victory to us freely as a gift of His love which we call grace. That is the point of Romans 3:21ff. "a righteousness apart from law" "to be received by faith"- that is what sharing the "Good News" means.
Jesus won the war we didn't even want to think about fighting. And - if we had thought about fighting - we wouldn't qualify to save anyone - to pay for anyone else's sin. That sacrifice had to be "perfect". HIS faith had to be perfect. And - it was - it focused on God, the Father - continually. Part of our problem is our misunderstanding of "FAITH" as a concept. The original Biblical concept meant trusting God to keep His promise. That faith in Jesus' life is our source of salvation. And - that is what we have faith in . . .His faith and performance. So - we have faith in the faith of Christ.
Conclusion - The "faith of Christ" presents a source of being right with God for all. Fact is - if the focus is us, we have no security, no hope and only fear. If the focus is Him - the victory is won, the destiny is secured and heaven is guaranteed. (I know, we don't like that word - guaranteed - check out Romans 4:16 again . . .what word would you substitute for it ? Maybe we can talk about the concept - next !)
Monday, May 19, 2008
Concept number one - Jesus IS Promise Covenant. That was the hardest idea to find because I wasn't looking for it. I just assumed Jesus came with a covenant. AND - if you know He IS the covenant - then obviously He came with a covenant wrapped up in Himself - so another tricky interpretation quandary presented itself. Translating words into English doesn't seem to be an impossible task, but many, many times a word or phrase has about three to five layers of meaning and translators feel the need to choose one. Then they stay with a limited meaning throughout their task. I have a few friends who teach Greek - and I am constantly trying to get fuller meanings and to understand the original context better. (Just because I got "A" in my Greek courses doesn't give me authority to decide what concepts mean - it just gives me a little - LITTLE access to do more study - and that is never over. Oh - one of those courses I got an "A" the second time I took it - after I learned a little more about study.)
When God talks to us, He uses "words" - which in that context (God's actual mind) is impossible to totally "get". However, God does try to "accommodate" us because He is trying to communicate to us. So, we must try to see the concepts in their original setting, all the time realizing that some of God's qualities are impossible to define or understand fully, so we "make do" and realize our own foibles and frailties. The subject of Covenant itself is the best example. Researchers go back and study ancient civilizations to see what kind of covenant God would chose in order to deal with mankind. Helpful - but we must not forget, God and people in Covenant agreements - cannot be like people and people in covenant. So - we have to allow the text to tell us what actually happened and what it meant - serious study; serious thinking !
When God came to Abram and directed him to leave Ur and Haran and go to an unnamed place where God would make him famous (Genesis 12:1-4) and very blessed, Abram left and journeyed to Canaan. There God appeared to Abram in a dream and "made covenant" towards Abram. "God said, 'I AM your shield and exceeding great reward' "(covenant overtures) and we understand almost nothing of this concept because it is God doing the covenant making - and He did it like NO man could. So - right way we are left with a difficult interpretation quandary. Do we call this a "Canaanite covenant" since that is where Abram was - of course not. What do we call it ? We call it God's covenant towards Abram - since God took it upon Himself to be a Blessing to Abram. Some call that a "forced" covenant, since God seemingly gave Abram no choice - but it isn't what is referred to as a "forced covenant"in historical study of covenants. (That would be when a King dominates a person or group and tells them "This is how it will be - do what I say or die !" So - to save your life you surrendered to the much more powerful King.)
Since NT writings associate this with God's Promise, let's call it The Promise Covenant. God promised certain things to Abram and he responded by surrendering to God's directive. From our perspective of History, we can call it The Promise to Abram's descendants actually, because we know Abram never lived permanently in the place we call the Promised Land. However - from Galatians we also know the Promise was to Abram's seed and that is CHRIST. Now we see that this is not a simple situation and we have to understand it from a perspective of a believer in God, not just a person living in Genesis history. When God deals with humans, all regular understanding is challenged and we simply have to allow God to explain Himself - if He does. God is not forced to explain much of His nature and doings - but He doesn't try to fool us either. Study is required and study is rewarded. That is why I used the word "strange" in our introduction - it isn't always apparent what words on a page mean - we simply must allow the story to unfold and see what God is "up to". With that in mind, let's just say "God is 'up to' Jesus - He is thinking of a way to sneak into the human race and get us back !" I'll try to show that fully - for now, when God came to Abram in Genesis 15:1 and said, "I AM your shield and exceeding great reward" and the Scripture records that Abram "believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness" we see part of God's dealing with people is for people to believe God's Promises - and that produces righteousness. How do you see that idea in any other nation, tribe or civilization ? God didn't set up a template for salvation on the basis of how He came to Abram - but He DID set up a template at the same time. Confused ? Sure - I didn't want to be alone in that ! Seriously, believing God's Promises bringing righteousness is a good "conceptual template" - but having God come to us in a dream is not required of everyone.
Someone asked, "Why don't you call it a forced covenant ?" My answer was "Well, because of John 3:16 - "God SO LOVED" - doesn't fit part of the concept of a regular forced covenant. BUT - make no mistake - when Jesus says, "I AM The way, The truth, The life" - it simply means "If you do not believe I AM He - you'll die in your sins" so - that is a forced covenant concept - another of those double or triple layers of meaning. The required response is a surrender - but God loves you before and after that decision is made - and He does wish for us to see that we better get under Jesus protective sacrifice or we cannot have to protection of it. So - I call it The Promise Covenant, since that is God's conceptual construct for humans to respond to Him-just like Abram - the Father of Faith. Don't forget, Abram believed an "impossible" statement of Promise - does that seem like a template ? Amazingly enough - it IS ! Dealing with God can be - interesting and challenging ! More to come
Friday, May 16, 2008
Pictures - are worth a 1000 words - that helps.
A good story - is great at illustrating concepts.
God uses it all - but ultimately, John writes that no one has ever seen GOD, but Jesus revealed HIM. That means words only help in this subject by painting a picture. So - we rely on words - but have to see past them. PLUS - we have to rely to some extent on "eyewitness" - which has always been a good source of information. Recently we have learned that eyewitness "testimony" is not always reliable, one reason God always demanded to have "more than one eyewitness" when finding out truth. Hebrew judges expected some conflicting testimony - in fact if everyone agreed the case was generally thrown out because full agreement could be proof of conspiracy.
That presents a quandary to us - we tend to throw out all testimony if all do NOT agree. Of the 71 judges in the Sanhedrin, even if only a quorum (23) were present only 13 would be needed to convict; while 11 votes would acquit. Hebrew structure not only allowed for different opinions and conclusions they had a saying for it: "Wherever you find two Jews, you'll find three opinions." However - they also had another common conclusion - "There is no contradiction." They found a way to include other opinions.
Generally, I do not try to simply preach or teach my own opinion. However, we do need to realize that opinion sneaks into our judgments and statements. And - we should be able to "receive one another and not dispute over opinions".
So - I am trying to rely on "pictures" and words about pictures without simply stating opinion.
Stories are in the Bible for a reason - to teach NT believers about eternal principles. Paul mentioned it two different ways. Both times he admonished us to pay careful attention to "stories" which were recorded to give us an example. Even if we do have the story, the lesson might be open to interpretation. So, I am careful to keep that in mind as we talk about Covenant being Jesus. Paul was very specific in saying the the OT presents "shadows" while the substance of those shadows is Christ Himself. (See Colossians 2:17ff.) That will be part of our study as we finish the "fly-over" and get down from our plane and begin to explore more closely. It will be focused on Jesus being everything.
Jesus is the main subject of both parts of the Bible - and if we don't see HIM, then we might check, double check, recheck and then check it again. Sounds like a good "Doctoral study" to me - and having been involved in a couple, I could wish I had the opportunity to try that challenge on for size.
For today - remember, Jesus didn't come to be against us - He came FOR US. He came to take on our "lost war" and win the victory and then offer His victory to us - freely - that's salvation by Grace through Faith. Celebrate the victory and enjoy the spoils !
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
That verse helped me focus on Jesus as the only one who gets preeminence ! Plus - HE gets it ALL. (Colossians 1:18)
Jesus is God's story of LOVE - HE is our doctrine, our leader and our friend. (I tend to like the concept of Him being our everything) He paid the price and became "the firstborn among MANY brothers"- Romans 8:29. One covenant concept in this regard is that we "share the same inheritance equally with Jesus, since we get our new identity in HIM" But the context of that thought also says that like Jesus, God works continually on our behalf. And - one conclusion is that if God is FOR us, who could be against us to any real threatening extent ? As a psychologist of 35 years, I can tell you that many, MANY Christians will not allow themselves to think of God being really fully for them. That is one word we just must do better with - the word "FOR" - the context of Romans 8:31 challenges us to think about who can bring a charge against God's kids - once God has justified them ! The answer is nobody and nothing in all creation. However, those who cannot allow themselves to think these thoughts come up with loop-holes for God to not really be FOR us. OK - I know it is a very high thought - but will you just let God be FOR you ? Maybe like Peter said after God poured out His Spirit on Cornelius - "Who was I to withstand God ?"
I have a message to our world due to this thought - and I invite you to join me in a special invitation to all sinners - "Please - will you let me love you ?"
If we take seriously the concept of our being Ambassadors for God and God is making His appeal through us (2 Corinthians 5:17ff.) - isn't it very normal to BEG (that is Paul's concept word in v.20) people to be reconciled to God ?
I can't guarantee things - but I do feel strongly that asking/begging people to "be reconciled to God" is a much more Biblical way to share good news that will have an effect !
That word "reconciled" is one I'd like to see us feel more and use more. God has gone to a LOT of trouble to pay for reconciliation for every creature - so it is something bought and paid for - and available to all. Maybe we don't feel the power of a "reconciled to God" life - at least not enough.
The concept of "covenant grace" makes these words very kind, loving and appealing. Remember David seeking to "show kindness for Jonathan's sake" towards a child of Jonathan's ? Remember the invitation ? We'll deal with that more fully later - but for today - "Come into the Palace and be treated like a King's KID" is just a wonderful invitation to offer on behalf of the King of the Universe !
Allow me to ask you to enjoy your bought and paid for inheritance - and let God's invitation be allowed to be made known in its kindness and excitement ! YOU get to share that glorious invitation - and it is second to none. Well - I assume you might be able to enjoy Palace LIFE yourself and have that experience to talk about. Sounds appealing to me . . .
Words - I haven't had to argue much - but hasn't our subject just made YOU proud of God ? Don't you just almost jump off the ground at how much HE is for you ? (That word phrase - jump off the ground - was a definition of what the phrase "Good News" meant - it was the kind of message that made people leap right off the ground for JOY. I for one think we need an emphasis toward that concept. I plan to live the remainder of my life sharing that with those I talk to - I do know I have Scripture for it - some other approaches I do not feel nearly as comfortable with. Plus - I don't have to argue over words - generally. I know - we can find a way - to argue - I think we can also find a way to NOT argue ! More to come
Monday, May 12, 2008
Stories are to communicate something beyond the story itself - a "spiritual meaning" or "heavenly meaning" - and Jesus is God's way of saying "I LOVE YOU - and don't you forget it."
So - when we ask what God's love means, we have a visible example - an illustration - which communicates concepts deeper than language itself. When we define agape - we have a "story" in our experience which shows something of what He is saying. Don't forget, though, God's ways are beyond "language" and "stories" and even Jesus Himself - when we try to comprehend God's love, nothing this side of heavenly wisdom approaches reality. When Jesus said, "If you've seen ME, you've seen The Father" - He meant a picture; an effort by God to show us something of what HE is like. But - even Moses only got a glimpse of "God's back" - which means "identity is from the face - and Moses didn't get to see much more than a shadow". We on the other hand - see Jesus - and as we "behold Jesus" - we are changed increasingly from one degree of Glory to another" 2 Corinthians 3:18.
Pictures and stories help get a glimpse. So - instead of saying we can't see Him, let's see what He gives for us to actually see something of Himself. Check the Life of Jesus - see His gentleness with "sinners" and don't explain away the story. See His sacrifice for US and allow it to HIT us full in the face. Matthew Mark, Luke and John told their story and that "picture album" really helps us SEE Jesus. We can love Him and believe in Him and know why He came and how much He loved us. Then - He designed us to continue to share "the Story"- to assist others in seeing Jesus.
Language is inadequate - study of Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic helps - but only to refine the story - to explain and paint a better picture of His life and how He showed us God. We simply must get to the picture - Pharisees and friends studied Scripture - but missed the story of God's "covenant Kindness expressed in Messiah" - so they hated Him with their whole beings. That wasn't because they needed more study of scripture; it was because they didn't "get the picture" of His story behind everything. They thought they knew Messiah - but only in reference to trying to avoid a broken Law - and they were convinced Messiah would make Law even more rigid and would "close all the loopholes". So - when it came to mercy, they were wanting - and so clueless they just knew Jesus couldn't be Messiah. And - later Judaizers persecuted Christians and later "Christians" killed each other because they missed the picture-story Jesus' life painted.
Much of the problems of Jesus' day and since could have been avoided if we realized Jesus was our Representative and offered Himself to us as a GIFT - and trusting HIM would be a guarantee of our salvation. (Romans 4:16) But - how can we know that ? All I can tell you is what the Bible pictures for us, so we'll try that part of the picture next. As John wrote - "These things are written so you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah - and believing you might have LIFE in His name." The FOCUS is Jesus.
Friday, May 9, 2008
But - then there is application. If we don't like someone's definition, then just make it irrelevant or not applicable. That settles it for us - forever !
Problem - Bible study does help us see accepted meanings of words in their original setting. There will be those who invent their own setting and are rigid about it, but generally, people who care about study will wait to make conclusions until the study has happened and all sides are shared. Proverbs 18:17 teaches us - "one side is thought to be right UNTIL the second person gets a chance to cross examine." Get the WHOLE story, and then make up your mind.
God has made some things a matter of wisdom, not fact. Read Proverbs a few times - it tells us to sometimes even throw a dice to settle a matter of opinion and avoid trouble. (Proverbs 18:18.)
What about DOCTRINE ? Well - if Jesus is The Way, The Truth, The Life - which equals everything - then we should be careful about where we are drawing lines. Jesus said, "Love God; Love neighbor - on these two concept the whole Law and Prophets HANG" so be very careful about matters which do not fall within these two principles. It seems that they could well be irrelevant in reference to eternal Principles.
How does that effect the concept of "Covenant" ? If the concept is not Jesus or loving God or neighbor, we better be careful. This subject is the essence of God's presentation of LOVE - and the Love for God and neighbor is why Jesus went to the Cross - to bring reunion to God and neighbor separation to get to reconciliation and celebration.
Priorities - the WHOLE Bible is about bringing God and man back together and Jesus is God's plan to do that. OT Scriptures talk about how the problem happened and who God chose to be the nation who brought us Messiah and the NT teaches how it ultimately happened and what that means for mankind. The Hebrews' author called it "THE Eternal Covenant" (13:20) and it involved the "lamb slain before the foundation of the world" and those who are recipients of what HE did. That is referred to as "Faith of Jesus" "Faith in Jesus" and "Faith in His blood" - again some possible language difficulties. However - God uses stories "for OUR admonition" and Jesus used many to encourage us to know God - since that is one reason why HE came - John 1:18.
Luke 15 has 3 stories about the God who loves - a seeking shepherd, and worried woman and a Father with a party ready for a rebellious son to even think about coming home. ALL the stories emphasize God's willingness to SEEK - and to RUN and to CELEBRATE. The lengths God will go to in order to get us back is awesome. But - the rejoicing He invites all others to share in is just unbelievable. It is out of character to some degree for a man of that day to EVER run. But, that is God's picture told by Jesus - undignified and very lavish in celebration. (By the way, that is the definition of the word "prodigal" - so the story could have been labeled as the Prodigal Father - referring to God Himself.) It defies logic; it stretches the mind.
Allow me to make the "Covenant" application: a "pig-smelling-boy" heads back to his hometown to ask about becoming a "hired servant" - obviously, he shouldn't ask for more. A hired servant didn't live on the property - he simply waited in town until this man (the dad) might need a day laborer. The son knew enough about his dad to know he provided "food and to spare" for day laborers. That was what brought the son toward home - the possibility of maybe getting in on a meal some day. But the Father RAN and kept on kissing this pig smelling boy and put His robes of identity on Him and gave him His ring - and put His shoes on the boy and killed the special feast calf and demanded a party begin . . .and if you read the last verse of the story you know "they BEGAN to be merry". The party never stops with God.
So - the Father GIFTS the boy with "identity"; "riches" and "position of a SON". Why ? The boy deserved NONE of these things. Simple - "covenant love" is based on the heart of the Father, not the goodness of the sinful son. And - God has a party ready for anyone who just happens to remember His goodness. And He will gift that one with a fresh identity, and guarantee of His glorious riches, and a continual party. The point Jesus made was - That is what God thinks of "sinners" - the ones the religious folk of the day thought were worthless. God already invested all he had to show how valuable people are to Him - so we respond to His goodness. Romans 2:2-4 teaches us that "the Goodness of God is designed to bring us to repentance." That means I have to change my definition a little on the meaning of "repentance". How can we say it ? Responding to God's goodness - or His kindness ? That was the covenant concept which brought a rebel named Mephibosheth into the Palace of King David to live as a "Friend of the King". The Prodigal got to come into a Home of a Father - the one he rejected relationship with and wasted the money of and abandoned earlier provision - as a full blown SON - dressed in Father's clothes, wearing Father's ring; and enjoying Father's party.
If my Theology violates that story - I don't have much trust in it. Plus - it defines what agape is actually like in practice. It is beyond my mind's ability to describe and I cannot ever get over it. Oh, what a wonder - the LOVE of God ! More to come.
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
"Covenant" is one of those words which gives us continuing trouble because not only do we not study ancient civilizations, we also have many "Present traditions" to interfere with us ever getting there. Evangelical language (E-language) controls so much that in many cases we need a new word entirely with which to label original concepts. The "short" version is: the covenant structure of the Bible is totally different from God covenanting with us. It is harmonious with God covenanting to us. Some of the original language is helpful - if we have not already directed our mindset to ignore plain statements of Scripture. If we begin to see that Jesus is covenant, we can begin to see the meaning coming through. Isaiah 42:6; 49:8 indicate Jesus will be sent for a covenant. If we think His teachings ARE the New Covenant, we have to ignore Scripture. HE - HE is the Way, Truth, Life. HE is the way to Father. We must believe HIM when HE said, "Unless you believe I AM HE, you'll die in your sins" is a concept for all of History (although applied a little differently) and we do need to study how that is true. We are not the covenant keepers, we are covenant recipients.
E-language to some degree thinks of "covenant" as an agreement between mankind and God. Please realize - that can never happen with any focus on our keeping covenant. It does happen in the sense that Jesus was our representative and died for the punishment of covenant-breaking but do we know why ? Short answer - because IF we make a covenant like a LAW which we must keep to be saved (and many do) then obviously we have no hope ! Galatians 3 proves that hands down. Very basically it is like God said, "LAW - I need someone to keep it - well, no one can, so I'll have to go to earth as a human and do it for them - then I can offer My own performance as a gift to be received by faith." That is what happened in God's covenant grace. If we cannot see this concept, then much of the New Testament is explained away - and Olde English is used to escape plain language. NT use of the concept "the faith of Christ" is twisted to simply mean our faith in Christ. Baptism into Christ means what I DO to be saved, since God did His part. MANY errors, many misunderstandings. Major problem - we have a mankind focus in the Bible instead of allowing it to be God's story of redemption in virtue of our own helplessness.
A verse or two from my pilgrimage - the context of Ephesians 2:7 "that in the coming ages He might show off the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus" - is the essence of Covenant gift . . .the context shows the focus to be on HIM and off of us. It goes overboard to plainly teach that we are recipients of His grace, and we have nothing to offer in reference to our salvation. Do we allow God to show off (in a positive conceptual focus) His grace - if we continually put the emphasis on US ? Paul ends up in verse 10 explaining even the Christian life gets a God-focus. "We are HIS workmanship" - simply means HE works on US . . .and we are His project (workmanship). The Greek word is the word we use for "poem" - defined as the production of a creative mind to express His dream. God's focus is us - the helpless, the unable, the hopeless, the disabled, the totally weak. He wants to show off His grace by making something out of what appears to be nothing. I hope we are allowing that today. The other side of that is - HE invested everything to make us into something because His logic thought us to be worth that to Him. Wow - what a wonder, that God LOVES me. As the Olde saying goes - "When a King picks up a trifle, it is a trifle no longer". Ah - but He decided man was not a trifle before He even made us. Jesus was invested at that point - the "lamb slain from the foundation of the world". More to come
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
David and Jonathan made a covenant life commitment. It has been called everything from homosexual to unbelievable. BUT - the actual concept was well known - a covenant agreement is proposed for one reason or another - in this case, several parts are involved, but our focus is Mephibosheth, so this part referred to future possibilities. The concept is : WE who make this covenant make provision for the other's future and present family as if they were our own. If something happens to one member of the agreement, the other takes responsibility for the other's family and their future security. (1 Samuel 18:1-4; 20:14-17; 20:42; 23:17-18)
Don't forget that the "regular" way that one king treated the other's family was to kill them all, so this "covenant" was different from other nations' practices. But - we know Jonathan was an unusual man - he actually knew God's will for David to be King and wished to be David's Prime Minister. Pretty good for a crown Prince and very Godly on his part. However - the others who were part of David's loyalty acted like the Covenant didn't exist and Jonathan's (Saul's) family ran for their lives. (One result of Jonathan dying and chaos resulting.) Only Mephibosheth survived, and that as a cripple in both legs. He "holed up in Lo-debar" and basically acted like Royalty mistreated. When David became King he said, "Isn't there any of Saul's family I can 'show Kindness to' for Jonathan's sake." This was David's way of expressing covenant application. He did hear of Mephibosheth finally and sent an armed guard to bring him to the palace. Mephibosheth feared for his life - fell on his face and called himself a "dead dog" - very humble - but David basically said, "I will show you kindness for your father Jonathan's sake - you get all the lands of Saul, his servants and you will eat at my table forever."
Mephibosheth entered the Palace, and ate at David's table just like he was Jonathan.
The saying, "For Jesus sake" is part of Scripture - but those who don't understand basic covenant concepts miss it generally. It applies to us. God acts on Jesus' behalf for us.
Short form - God and Jesus made covenant before the world began (Hebrews 13:20f.; Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20) and even showed the concept in Abram's life. When it came time to walk between the pieces of bloody meat, Abram was put to sleep and two "entities" took that walk - "a smoking oven and a flaming torch passed between the pieces." (Genesis 15:17) representing the two who covenanted in reference to Abram - God and Jesus. (My conclusion - shared by several, not all.)
Now - conclusions - first I apologize for this brief "flyover" of this concept - I hope to enlarge on all parts of today's session - but that is my basic understanding conclusions of God's ORIGINAL plan. I do conclude that Ultimate Covenant was made before the world began and reaffirmed to Abram - since Abram was asleep, he was not the partner of the covenant Promise - only the recipient. The language "I WILL do and I AM the one who" indicates God is announcing the continuation of the Promise and it involves Him using Abram to be the Father of faith and his lineage to be the one the Promise comes through to bless the whole of mankind. The focus is Jesus.
One other conclusion - since "They" walked through the pieces of meat - then WE did as well, since Jesus was intended by Covenant Promise to be our representative as well as God's. As God's representative, He did not need to walk between pieces of meat - only as OURS. He was and is our Champion, and this is the first recorded act of His representing us. Ultimately He took the punishment for us on the Cross as our Representative. More on that next . . .
Monday, May 5, 2008
This is my pilgrimage . . .so I focus on sections of Scripture that changed my life. That's the only source I have for Philosophical change of any kind - sure I have studied several subjects at the Doctoral level, but the Bible is the only Source for ultimate Reality. So - thanks for allowing me to share another rock on the hill called my journey - rocks are what you use to climb on going up a hill.
Paul taught the Galatians and us something about the New versus the Old in Galatians 3. Basically my take is this: (Gal. 3:21) If a Law COULD have been given that saved, then the Old Law would have been it, because it was the best. But - that is not the purpose of law - its purpose is to point out sin. That could be a help because until we know sin, we cannot do much about it. So, as Paul says, Law increases sin. As far as freedom from sin though, Law is helpless - release takes a sacrifice. That was part of the Mosaic system, so in that way it was the Greatest of all time. BUT - the Mosaic system (even though it was the best) had to be underwritten by the Covenant Promise of Jesus, because "bulls and goats sacrifices cannot take away sin." So - if the Covenant who is Jesus was not a reality, the Hebrew nation would have been fooling themselves by killing animals or offering grain.
Let's call the OLD a stepping stone to get on the NEW path - helpful, but certainly not a path on its own. But - we're talking about the new - and if we don't, we can't see the concept of not being UNDER law. So - think for a moment what it means to be UNDER GRACE ! That is the answer to our dilemma - but we hasten to explain away "cheap grace" and deal with an abuse - a self-focused approach to life (which means we don't know we DIED - Romans 6:1ff.) instead of listening to Paul teach us about being under grace. The word "grace" simply means GIFT. Now, if our focus is gift - can we earn a gift ? No - it would be an insult to try. What do we do with gifts ?
Well - first, we receive graciously, and then we enjoy fully. My example is Mephibosheth which I'll deal more with next - for today, Mephibosheth received the gift of being like one of David's own children - life in the Palace, eating at the King's table - gift totally. Requirement of reception - loyalty (which Mephibosheth didn't totally do - at least not near perfectly) but David's commitment was to Jonathan - so from His side HE kept on taking care of Jonathan's son. Yes - more to come
Saturday, May 3, 2008
Besides - LIFE is pretty complicated psychologically, biologically, sociologically, and even meteorologically, but if we don't make knowing all about everything ultimately important, we can even enjoy the process of discovery. Problem is - we make Biblical discovery a matter of heaven and hell - and sometimes it IS ! However - much of our study is simply maturation processes.
So - "not like the Old" is a study - but "knowing Jesus" is what the Salvation concept is all about. My problem is - if we do not know about how processes are Biblically explained, we may very well be repeating someone else's misunderstanding and needlessly burdening people with guilt and fear. Allow me to use one concept to explain. Paul taught "we are not under law, but under grace" and many in Christendom HASTEN to teach that indeed we ARE under law after all. Well - I wonder why Paul even bothered to write that. Let's just leave out Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 5:18; as well as most of Galatians 3. Wouldn't it be better to study what it means to be not under law, instead of dismissing it ? My personal opinion is - "many" Christians are so afraid of grace they teach against it. After all, if we cannot "guilt motivate" our bunch, we'll loose them to _______ . (Fill in the latest cult, liberal agenda or even atheism or agnosticism.)
Well - sorry, but I think God wrote it down through the Holy Spirit as He influenced people, and He wants it down the way it is written. So- how do we explain "not under law" and why do we need to ? First-there must be a reason why God did it. But - the BIGGER point is, as long as we focus on us, there is another truth concept we are missing out on entirely which is God's way of doing it and explaining it in the Bible.
Romans 3:21 introduces a "totally different" concept from law in which God revealed His righteousness. Paul wrote it down as "the faith of Jesus Christ" . . .verse 22 - which we access by faith in what Jesus did - or faith in God's promise - Jesus ! Notice how verse 24 explains it - "they are justified freely by His grace as a gift, through the Redemption which is in Christ Jesus whom God put forward as a propitiation through faith in His blood to be received by faith"
Result - verse 27 - "what becomes of our boasting ? It is EXCLUDED" (Explained by Paul as how faith operates - v.27ff.) Problem is - we sometimes think faith focuses on us . . .but the original concept focuses away from us. Notice that Paul calls this "faith apart from works of law".
So-what does "under grace" mean then ? It goes back to our definition of faith - we "put ourselves under" the one to whom we respond - with the basic concept of Mary's response - "May it be to me, even as You have said" so as Paul later explained (Romans 6:1ff.) - we have died to running our own life - and as Mary exampled - we let God do as He will for Life - Paul referred to that in Philippians 2:13 as "God is at work in you to will and to work" - that is the normal Christian Life. (Note that "willing and working" is how to say ALL - and God does it !)
So - what is God's plan for your life - to run it Himself ! (After all, He did buy and pay for it - seems like He has the right to run it - doesn't it ? That is explained a little more in Ephesians 2:10 - "we are His project" - so maybe we need to allow God to continually work on His project !
Under grace also means we are not under law - so that is why there is "no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus" - we're freed from law . . .and are totally under grace . . .more to come
Friday, May 2, 2008
Some concepts are MUCH harder to write about because they are not like concepts we now know. One Greek word talks of "new" as an updated version of the old - sort of like a "new" car when we know it is simply the latest year version ! Another word for "new" would refer to a concept of transportation really new - like flying compared to driving or even "beam me up Scotty" as a whole different concept of getting from one place to another. So - when God said, "I will make a New covenant" some of the meaning comes from a definition of the word and part comes from "context" . . .making it very short, note the explanation phrase - "not like the one they broke" . . .that opens it up to a new concept of covenant. AND - if you check the full context, it is very easy to see it was to be a different covenant totally . . ."law on their minds" "My people and I be their God" - some concepts aimed at in the atmosphere of the Old Covenant, but note the phrase - "I WILL MAKE" - a little key phrase for a "forced covenant" idea. More later.
Conclusions - the context seems to teach a new kind of Covenant, not like the Old. One idea which is different is - "which they broke" - indicating possibly a covenant which cannot be broken. HOW could that happen ?
If Jesus is covenant, and Isaiah seems to suggest that to be the case, then it would be "totally different" from the one they broke. PLUS - if HE is covenant, then it cannot be broken - only received or rejected. Jesus becomes the great GIFT (which is what the Greek word for "grace" actually means) to be received - a wonderful New Testament concept talked about especially in Romans 3-6; Colossians 1-2; Galatians 3. (Plus those "saved by the Faith OF Christ" verses.)
Those who wish to make it simply another concept covenant like the Old, but a little better, can't really fulfill the prophecy fully. Hebrews 8 helps in this regard - God Himself guarantees results for those of faith - see Hebrews 9:15ff. as well. (Hebrews 7:22 helps too.) The focus of faith is Jesus.
BUT - wait a minute, if Jesus is covenant, how could we ever be lost ? Well - it wouldn't happen by accident would it ? But, as far as I know - gifts can be rejected and even thrown away. I don't wish to get into a Calvinistic/Arminius debate . . .both sides seem to ignore the other. I'm simply trying to be true to Biblical plain teaching and not explain away the other person's texts.
It is easy to see, if we don't accept what Jesus did - we cannot get what He paid for - so let's leave it there for now.
If Jesus is "kept covenant" - He fulfilled the Law perfectly, so His performance would be a 100% on the report card. So - if I have faith in Him, then by faith God transfers 100% to my report card. That's the message of Romans 4 . . .like Abram, we trust God's promise (in this case Jesus Himself) and bang ! Righteousness is imputed to us . . .just like to Abram. Part of this is explained in Romans 5 - especially the part of this happening while we were still enemies.
The Promise Covenant is much more like God's dealings with Abram - no wonder his name keeps showing up - in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 especially.
Well - let's chew on that for a while . . .