Sunday, January 18, 2009

61 - More from the journey

Obviously anyone who gets up in the middle of the night DESERVES to be called strange, but others just ARE strange. So - if my thinking is a little off the beaten path - chalk that up to lack of sleep and inherent weirdness.

I have long struggled with all those verses that don't fit in with some folks take on spiritual things. So - allow me to struggle with that in your presence. We can usually find a version which says it in an almost incoherent way. I am not trying to do that. However - I DO wish to take the different phrases which represent different original offerings and try to see if they may share a slightly differing perspective and teaching.

Paul taught us to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" 2 Corinthians 10:5 and no one talks about what the "obedience of Christ" has to do with my taking thoughts captive. However - if you realize that we are saved by Christ's obedience, then making THAT our focus is quite cogent. In fact, in the original, being saved by the faith of Christ is mentioned several times. If we ignore the concept - we'll also miss out on many verses which comfort us VERY much. Like that one I have mentioned about having FULL confidence on judgment Day - 1 John 4:17. Many of us just ignore that teaching and go on.But - God means for you to have confidence every day and even on judgment Day - so why not do it? Ah - but can we with our present theology? Maybe we need to augment our knowledge bank somewhat.

My contention is that Jesus is the New Covenant and HE invites us to be HIS BODY because HE is the Savior of the Body and we realize at a very DEEP level that the focus is Christ - HE gets all preeminence and we can be very satisfied with that. We also realize that HE is the Savior of the body, but somehow we compartmentalize those concepts to make the focus be on us and what we believe and that we CAN be saved if we have all the proper "positions" on all those Theological arguments.

Does that sound even CLOSE to JESUS being The Way, The Truth, The Life? Does that sound like Paul saying he did not want a righteousness of his own - but only that which comes from the righteousness of Christ? (Philippians 3:9)

What's the problem?

Well - Hebrew thinking has been ignored and canceled - for one thing. The old concept of a Promise Covenant is almost totally lost. Even though most of us know some of the ideals of a marriage covenant, we cannot seem to think of God loving us in a covenant structure. BUT - He did that toward the nation of Israel and that ended up in ruins. (Read Deuteronomy again sometime and check out the fulfillment especially of a section of chapter 28 - verses 47-53.) We are destined to that if we think WE can keep covenant with God.

However - God didn't structure it that way for US - the NEW covenant is DIFFERENT. (Jeremiah 31:31ff.) This is a situation much MORE like that of our children - they must be born into the family to be IN - and their relationship to us is one of DNA - not performance. Then - like Jesus, they LEARN how to be sons of the living God as one witness to the world that a God of LOVE is our focus and our guarantee of heaven. HIS character is impeccable; His promises are assured and we KNOW He will take care of it, as Paul taught - because "HE has given US assurance by raising Jesus from the dead." (Acts 17:31)

But - that doesn't totally answer our original conceptual query - how do we get involved with the "obedience of Christ"? Answer - His ultimate obedience was "obedience unto death" - and we are buried into that performance by baptism. We bury dead folks - and they are raised to "newness of Life". (Romans 6:4) But - instead of allowing the teaching to take us to JOY - we argue about baptism. Well - go ahead - but I won't argue with you. I don't fully understand any OTHER birth process either - but I do enjoy being born and I just REJOICE at the birth of my four children. I saw that experience - and I still am clueless. And - I don't even care - I am thrilled at God's miracles. If I am joined with His death, Paul taught, then I also know FOR CERTAIN that I will be joined with His resurrection.(Romans 6:5)

AND - all the time I know the focus is JESUS - HE is the LIFE and I am united with HIM - and I am very satisfied with that and I recommend it - because confidence on Judgment Day - that is really SOMETHING. I am ready for that because Jesus IS MY LIFE - and I am part of HIS body of which HE is the Savior. More to come

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

60 - conclusions about LAW

As we say “Good bye” to a LAW study – let’s review the concepts. We noted that the hardest part was simply understanding the concept. Just remember here that LAW is meant to GIVE structure to life – and I emphasize GIVE – it is to SERVE us – to assist the order of our lives. Paul referred to the Mosaic Law as our “schoolmaster” or “servant” to get us to Christ – so that once we are “to Christ” – we don’t need the servant to bring us anymore. So – law then is not in charge of us NOW – Christ is. That is Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:23ff. Well, he said “We are no longer under a schoolmaster or custodian” verse 25. That verse SHOULD have settled some understanding of LAW – but there are always those who claim we are under and NEW LAW. Paul obviously said, “We are not under a schoolmaster” – but we translate that as “under THE schoolmaster” and we get a new schoolmaster or custodian.

PROBLEM – Paul mentioned more than once that we are not “under law” but “under grace” – and that may be the concept we need to clarify. (Check Galatians 5:18 for the best explanation – also mentioned in Romans 6:14f. and 1 Corinthians 9:20 to give Paul’s activity as a free man.) How do we have any structure if we are NOT UNDER LAW?

The answer – figure out what “under grace” means. AND – in this regard a serious mistake has been part of my life – I just didn’t ever define that – so I could make it whatever I wished. Many have a working definition of “we try the best we can and God makes up for our lack” as how grace operates. And – guess what – God DOES make up for our lack – but what we miss is – LACK is all we have.

NO – under grace means the concept of GRACE is totally in charge. The focus of “ourselves” comes under one phrase – “NOT of ourselves” and “NOT of works” (Ephesians 2:8-10) – and just so we know it applies to ALL of life – plus salvation – Paul uses a great contrast in verse 10 – “we are HIS workmanship” – so we don’t work – we are worked on.

One other concept includes remembering that we are BORN again – and are God’s children because HE created us anew – “all this is from God” 2 Corinthians 5:17f. so we must focus on GOD – not ourselves. Don’t forget – JESUS paid it all – so what was it HE paid for – the breaking of LAW – and then HE offers Himself to us to be our new life – a new identity and a new Spirit. HE is now responsible for us – and HE is able to take care of us – so we can “STAND IN GRACE” – as both Paul and Peter wrote.

God’s kids are very confident about their standing with God – they come BOLDLY before the throne of grace (yes, many do miss the fact that it IS a throne OF GRACE) and the text of Hebrews says “KNOWING that we will find grace and help for our time of need. Shouldn’t we LIVE that way- as God’s kinds?

Let’s allow Scripture to guide us and point the way to relationship with God as FATHER and our relationship to HIM being based on receiving HIS life – which is HIS life and we NOW have it. More to come . . .QUESTIONS?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

59 - LAW Pilgrimage - (7)

"INTO THE VINE in 2009" - is my greeting and motto this year. As I am discussing the concepts of LAW in my sharing of my pilgrimage, I realized that for me, it was accentuating the positive of God's plan which dealt more fully with my tendency to be a legalist. GOD means for me to be a SON - in prophecy and fulfillment - and doing that helped explain my error to me. We can read such things and jump right past it to get to our favorite negative - or our felt need of a CONVICTING statement of my wrong. Many of us Christians have suffered from that problem - always needing a new STRONG statement to keep us on the straight and narrow. (Cf. 1 John 3:1-2; Romans 8:15-17- and the prophecy of Hosea 1:10 fulfilled in Romans 9:26)

I don't put down conviction - far from it. However - if we ONLY focus on being convicted of our failures or our "wrongs" - do we next convince ourselves that we are STILL doing everything for encouragement? I think I substituted being convicted of wrong as "encouraging" to harmonize my "convictions" with verses like 1 Corinthians 10:23; 8:1; 14:5; Romans 15:2 and others. That 1 Corinthians 8:1 convicted me - Paul wrote "Knowledge puffs up; Love builds up" - and I lost part of my legalistic structure right there. BUT - when I studied 1 Corinthians 13 - and ran into a verse that teaches, "Love doesn't keep a record of wrongs" - well, I began to stop thinking God had His list of mine - but was still LOVE. BUT - that didn't end it - I still would cling to "conviction" with both hands. It was when I realized that God forgave ALL my sins - the positive began to take over. I began to see that whenever I see the word LOVE - agape in the Greek - that was a description of GOD and HIS nature, I could BEGIN to realize I had come to the understanding of Scripture from wrong information. LAW had been "almighty Master" - when God wanted LAW to be our great SERVANT. The servant "LAW" was to bring us to Christ - where its role in my life would change. A new lifestyle would begin - with Christ as Savior and Lord. Some great material about being "in Christ" and Christ being "in me" changed it all forever. I began to see myself as a son of God - and "law" took its proper place as my servant. And - no one can scare me with reference to areas I am not perfect in yet - that's all part of my ROYAL training - very appropriate for God's kids to grow and mature - to improve and develop. I embrace that now as part of "growing up into HIM who is the head" - Ephesians 4:15.

That guarantees the NT picture of law being UNDER us - but we are not "lawless" - in fact we learn "law" better than most. We just know that it is part of maturity - not a matter of heaven and hell. Obviously a lawless "Royal" is a contradiction of proper decorum; but one who thinks that if he keeps law, he becomes ROYAL - is deluded about royalty AND law.

Final nail in the coffin of "Law-legalism" - came in two parts - first, salvation is the GIFT of God, Ephesians 2:8-10; so receiving it is in the structure of GIFT RECEIVING - (but I still didn't GET the concept of "unconditional love") and then the idea that "GOD was IN CHRIST - reconciling the world to Himself" - 2 Corinthians 5:19 - which means reconciliation is PREPARED for us - already an accomplished fact. I join HIS reconciliation in Christ; then I invite others to join what I have received. That makes it MIGHTY GOOD NEWS for me to simply announce to my world. Ah - a Scripturally balanced mind - at least in THAT regard. More to come