Wednesday, December 26, 2012

As we have been thinking about what the Garden might have been like with no sin, what would Adam and Eve done?  They might have left the Garden, to go into the world.  So what would they have done outside the enclosure of the Garden?

  We can mention three things.  First, Adam and Even might have gone out of the Garden to follow the Spirit into Palestine, the land flowing with milk and honey.
  Second, Adam and Eve might hae spoken of the knowledge of God they gained while they walked with God in the cool of the evening.
  Third, their family could have been a blessing to the world, that through them all people everywhere would be sons and daughters of God.

  When we read through the OT, we find that God did just those things.

  God did lead Moses and the people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land, Exodus 14 and Joshua 3.14.
  God did give Moses the knowledge of Himself from Exodus 19, the Law, the ordinances and ceremonies.
  And through Jesus every man and woman can be blessed by God with salvation and holiness.

  This is the message of the NT.  So let's look at that message a little closer.

  Salvation in the NT has three time aspects to it.  First, it is a sure thing.  Paul says--that God chose us before the foundation of the world--before we were born, Ephesians 1.4.  In Acts 15.11 Peter is in Jerusalem saying--We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are (Gentiles).  Peter uses the aorist tense, meaning 'we are saved' is a completed action when Peter said it.  In Romans 8.24 Paul says--in hope we have been saved--and this is an action completed in the past.  All of this says salvation is completed, it is finished.

  Second, salvation has a continuing element in it.  The same Paul describes salvation in 1 Corinthians 1.18 as a process: to us who are being saved, it is the power of God (Romans 1.16--power of God).  In 1 Cor. 15.2 Paul uses a conintuous present tense--by which also you are saved if you hold fast the world which I preached to you.

  Third, Paul uses salvation in a future sense.  He says--Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him, Romans 5.9.  In 1 Cor. 3.15 Paul uses the future tense when he says--If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss but he himself shall be saved.

  This may remind us of the expression--You have been saved, you are being saved, you will be saved.  I hope this tells us salvation is not a closed room but a living relationship with a living God.

  So why does something which has been determined before we were even born have to be lived out now and culminated in the future?
  It's like playing catch with your Dad.  He throws the baseball to you so that you can throw it back to him.  God chose you to be His so that you would be His in your life, to glorify His name.  Matthew 5.16 says--Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Notice how Jesus does not say 'glorify God,' a tone of distance and separation.  He says, 'glorify your Father,' your own heavenly Father who made you, gave you breath and His Spirit, to be His glory on the earth.
  The apostle Paul says this to the Ephesians when he says--in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places, Eph. 3.10.

  We are here to show the universe that God has shared His glory with us who believe.  Maybe the purpose of the Garden all along was to show the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places of God's love for those who show His glory.  Halleluiah!

I've written a tragedy in the manner of Shakespeare, about Judas.  Anyone wishing to read it, just email me and I will send it pdf.  Paul

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What if Adam had not sinned?  What would his life have been like?

  If there had been no sin, possibly the world would have been a kingdom of God for God, by God.  When Jesus came preaching in Matthew 4.17, He says the kingdom of God is at hand.  The expression 'at hand' is symbolic but it also conveys a daily living, practical touch concerning an exalted subject.

  Now that the kingdom of heaven was at hand for those who saw Jesus, was there an episode of what it would have been like had Adam not sinned?  We may have such an episode in Luke 18.35-43.  It is a short scene, and a glowing one.  Jesus is well outside of Jerusalem, north toward Jericho.  This city was ancient, having been captured and destroyed by Joshua centuries before.
  The city is over 100 miles northeast of Jerusalem, over a ridge that leads down into the river Jordan in Galilee.  Originally the city was int he midst of a huge grove of palm trees with fragrances everywhere.  Over time, so near the Jordan River, it became the main city of the valley, eventually being fortified.  It was these fortified walls that came down in Joshua 5.6.

  Here, as Jesus comes down the hillside to Jericho, a blind man sits on the roadside, begging.  A crowd is with Jesus, in front of him.  When the blind man hears the multitude of thumping, dust-curled footsteps, one on top of another, he asks who is coming.  Several who hurry by say it is Jesus.

  The blind man calls out--Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!

  He calls this out several times as the footsteps come trooping down on him.  Somehow the blind man knows Jesus is the Son of David.  Had this kneeling man heard of the prophecy of a Son of David to come?  Had he heard this from someone in Jericho?  Word of Jesus could have spread.  After all, Jesus had said to the disciples of John that the proof of His ministry was that--the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, Matt. 11.5.  Miracles get around.

  Had the Holy Spirit told the blind man?  In John 9 a blind man witnesses to his own healing from Jesus.  The Pharisees cannot accept that a blind man was ever healed, John 9.32.  Jesus says they who see are blind to the kingdom of God and--those who do not see may see.  Had God given this blind man the insight that Jesus was the Son of David?  Maybe so.

  Those who led the procession of Jesus into Jericho tried to shut the blind man up but the man would not shut up.  He kept up his calling out to Jesus.  Now Jesus was close enough to hear over the clamor of voices and stomping of feet the blind man's cry.  Jesus stopped.  Everyone else did, too.  Jesus commanded that the crowd bring the blind man to Him.

  The man's faith is evident in his refusal to be quiet.  He will not let Jesus go on by.  So Jesus asks--What do you want Me to do for you?
  The man only asks for his sight.
  Jesus says--Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.

  The blind man did not ask for power, he did not ask to be with Jesus, he did not ask for money or privilege or luxury.  He asked for his sight.
  What happens next?

  This now might bear on Adam's sin in the garden.  The blind man stood and followed Jesus.  He could have run into Jericho proclaiming his miracle, saying he has some special gift.  In Luke 17 twelve lepers call Jesus saying--Have mercy on us.  When Jesus healed all of them, only one glorified God with a loud voice, Luke 17.15.  The rest scattered.  But the blind man outside Jericho does not go off, he follows Jesus glorifying Him.  When the people saw this they began to praise God who had done this through Jesus.

  Now if Adam had depended on God's word to refrain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, could he have then followed Jesus out of the garden, glorifying Him and praising God for this world and his wife?

  Could it be that the inner work which makes a man an evangelist is to glorify God and praise Him forever?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hebrew Sanctuary--4
Believing is not the end of faith.  With our justification we have the capacity to stand before God.  But what is the purpose of standing before God?

  In Exodus 29.38 Aaron and his sons offer the two lambs daily.  This was the duty of their sanctification before God.  Paul says in Ephesians 1.16 that he does not--cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers.  Here we have the continual offering of prayers before God, the incense which Paul burns for the Lord and for the people.
  Paul asks that--the eyes of your heart may be enlightened.  This is the light of the candlestick by which the tabernacle is lit daily.  So through communion with God Paul offers his daily prayers--his incense-- so that the Ephesians could be light to their city.  The communion with God was the incense, the light in the tabernacle, in the Holy Place.

  However this is not our greatest duty to God.

  Our greatest duty is to enter the Holy of Holies, to minister unto God.  In Exodus 30.30 God tells Moses--you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them that they may minister as priests to Me.  Ministering unto god combines the justification of standing in His presence with the sanctification of ministering to Him daily.  We live our lives in the Spirit which He has given us in His place.  Many might practice religious rites but they must be done in the love which the Spirit brings to the believer.

  This brings us to the mystery of faith.  How is it that we are in Him and He in us?

  Of course, cleansing and declaration must have taken place.  When this is so, we stand before God.  As Jesus was fully God and fully man, God and man are to be respected.  When we stand before God, we are not annihilated, nor does He disappear.  He is always God and we are always men and women.  If we are made in His image we have been given the capacity to receive Him as God without our dissolution.  If He came in the likeness of men (Philippians 2.7), God can receive us in the name of His Son so that His holiness is not compromised.

  This is stated in Exodus 24.9-11, where Moses, Aaron and the elders go up the mountain into God's presence.  God does not destroy them, they behold God, they eat and drink.  Such eating and drinking with God will occur again in John 21.12-13.  The way to the Garden of God has been opened to us through Jesus.

  All of this is to say, spiritual worship is receiving Christ.  We receive Him when we love Him.  1 John says if we love Him, we will keep His commandments.  This often fools us into thinking that keeping the commandments is love.  It is not; yet when we remain in His love we will wish to keep His commandments.  It is like the boy who wants to play baseball.  He'll put on the uniform long before the game begins.

  How do we love Him?  Each of us will have our own capacity.  We cannot grasp more of Him, although we can ask for more of Him.  As with love, the more we express our love for God, the more love we will be given by God.
  Love one another, for love is of God. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The tabernacle had three ministrations to the Hebrew believer--cleansing, justification and sanctification.  We will look at cleansing and justification today and sanctification next week.

  First, in Exodus 20 God gives His word, the commandments.  Then in Ex. 20.20 Moses says God has come into their midst--to test you and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.  The purpose of His presence is that He can be holy with Israel, as this is His desire.  Just as in the Garden of Eden, God's word of warning and blessing is because He is with them.  Jesus will say the same thing in John 8.11--Go and sin no more.  The cleansing from sin is the preparation for worship.

  The priest had to cleanse himself of any sin to accept the sacrifice of the people, outside the tabernacle.  The sacrifice cleansed the sinner, but the sin put upon the animal brought sin into the tabernacle.  So the priest had to sprinkle the animal's blood upon the tabernacle, to cleanse it.
  While God considers it necessary for the priest and the sinner to be clean, we often glide over confession too quickly.  We know our cultural preferences, but we forget what weighs heavily on God's mind: cleansing from sin.  Confession is bitter but it is where the blessing is found.  The blessing/curse of the two trees in Genesis became the blessing/curse of the two mountains in Deuteronomy 28, which became the blessing of Matthew 5--you are the light of the world--and the admonition of Matt. 6--do not be anxious, do not be as the hypocrites, do not lay up treasures.  The summary is Matt. 6.33--Seek ye first the kingdom of God.

  Now we come to justification.  We come to presence, cloud, light.  God told Moses He wanted Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, Ex. 19.6.  The Table of Showbread is our communion with God by which He, through the bread and wine, enters us and we enter into His presence.  We are surrounded by the incense which the priest burns at the Altar of Incense, just as Moses entered the cloud o top of the mountain, Ex. 19.9.  We become the light of the world, as the light shone on Moses' face when he came down from the mountain, Ex. 34.29.  This light is not for God--who is light--but for the nation and through the church to all nations.

  This is the declaration part of worship.  As Jesus died on the cross , being the perfect sacrifice, He became our High Priest so that we could in His righteousness stand in the presence of God, Rev.21.3.  What happened to Moses on the mountain we now experience as the kingdom of priests.  In Christ we enter God's presence, we put on His clothes, the white linen of righteousness.  We have His word in our heart, we are obedient to His will, we walk in His path according to His name.

  This is the awesome stuff of life in Christ.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Veil of the Sanctuary--Exodus 26.31
The daily offices of the tabernacle represent the daily life of sanctification which prepared the sinner by cleansing him from his sin.  And the annual entrance of the High Priest into the Holy of Holies represented justification, without which no man can stand before God's presence.

  The veil between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies is the veil that tore at the moment Jesus died on the cross.  This tearing ended the need for a Levitical priesthood as mediator between God and us--
  Matt. 27.51--And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from top to bottom,
                       and the earth did quake and the rocks rent...
The veil represents the body of Jesus.  It is only by passing through this veil that access is gained to the Most Holy Place of Judgment.  You can see the relevance of communion, taking the body and blood of Christ into oneself to have access to God.

  The veil's tearing is the death of the Lamb of God, so that the believer might come in.

  The Levitical priesthood has brought us this far, now with Jesus as our High Priest we no longer have need of the sacrifices and the veil.

The Ark of the Testimony--Exodus 25.10-22
The ark was made of acacia wood, covered with gold.  Inside the ark were placed two tablets of stone upon which the 10 Commandments had been etched.  Later Aaron's rod and a pot of manna were put in with the stone tablets.  The lid of the Ark was called the Mercy Seat, Ex. 25.17.  Above the Mercy Seat, between two covering cherubs, the glory of God dwelled.

  The Mercy Seat represented Jesus as mediator just as the seat was between the commandments inside the ark and God's glory above it.

  1 Timothy 2.5--For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
  Only the High Priest was allowed to enter the Most Holy Place to be in the presence of the ark and Mercy Seat.  And that was only one day of the year, the Day of Atonement.

  When Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, the ark had already been removed.  In 70AD when the armies of the Roman emperor Titus sacked Jerusalem, the Holy of Holies was empty.  The ark has never been found publicly to this day (except by Indiana Jones).

  In Revelation 11.19 the ark is described.  This was written about 95AD, after the Roman army left Jerusalem.  John sees the ark of God in heaven, not the ark of the tabernacle.

  The ark is revealed in Revelation in these passages:
Golden Candlestick--Rev. 1.12, 4.5
Table of Showbread--Rev. 4.2-5
Pre-advent Judgment begins--Rev. 4.6
Brazen Altar of Burnt Offerings--Rev. 6.9
Golden Altar of Incense--Rev. 8.3-5
Ark of the Testtimony--Rev. 11.19
The Sanctuary as the City of God--Rev. 21.22

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

After God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in Exodus 25.8, He says--
  Let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.
With these few words God tells Israel He wants to be with them.  The plan of the tabernacle was a simplified version of the heavenly kingdom.  Its' purpose was to reveal that Jesus of Nazareth is our high priest, our mediator, our sacrifice.  As He was Lord of heaven, so He is high priest on earth.
  The tabernacle will enable us to be with God in four stages:
    Sacrifice for sins
    Declaration of cleanness through the Brazen Altar, Laver, and Menorah
    Daily Offices of the priests through the Veil and Ark
    Judgment and Blessing in the Holy of Holies.

  First, the Sacrifice for sins.
  All of this took place outside the tabernacle.
  The sinner brings the sacrifice to the tabernacle east door to cover sins.  The sinner places his hands on the animal's head, making his confession.  Then he slays the animal, collecting the animal's blood.
  The Brazen Altar
  At this point the priest takes certain portions of the animal to the Brazen Altar to be consumed by flames.  The altar was acacia wood covered by bronze.  The wood symbolized humanity, the brass symbolized suffering.  When the animal was burned, this means Jesus protects the sinner from the fires of God, as they go on the animal.  The altar was square, with four horns at the corners.  According to Psalm 118.27 the animal pieces were tied to the horns, with the blood poured out below.  Leviticus 9.24 says the fire came down from heaven.
  The Laver
  Before the priest burns the animal pieces he must come to this Laver to wash.  This was a basin of water, made from the mirrors of the women.  The priest washes his hands and feet, symbolizing baptism, the mirrors represent our sins, cleansing our souls and receiving righteousness.  If the priest does not cleanse himself enough, he is struck dead, Exodus 30.21.  This is because to reject the righteousness of Christ means the sinner and the priest die in their sins.
  With this done properly, the sinner and the priest are clean before God.

  Second, Declaration of Cleansing
  Now we are just inside the tabernacle.  This rectangular area is the Holy Place.  We have the Table of Showbread, the Golden Candelabra, and the Golden Altar of Incense.
  The Candelabra or Menorah used pure olive oil.  The priest trimmed and refilled it.  The wick was made of old priestly garments.  It was always lit.  It represents Jesus, the light of the world, John 1.9
  The Table of Showbread was a small table made of acacia wood, covered in gold.  It had 12 loaves of unleavened bread, representing Jesus, the bread of life, John 6.35 and the 12 tribes of Israel.  Wine was also kept on the Table, so the Lord's Supper was present.
  The Altar of Incense was before the veil separating the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies inside.  On it was a brass pot with coals from the Brazen Altar.  A special blend of incense was burned here, which filled the tabernacle with a sweet cloud.  This cloud obscured the glory of God over the Holy of Holies, preserving the high priest's life on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16.13.
  The Menorah is always lit, the Table always shows bread and wine, and the altar always shows the incense and the cloud.  This is the eternal nature of cleansing from sin, once declared it is always so.


Friday, November 16, 2012

In the Middle Ages the Jewish rabbi Moses Maimonides wrote the guidelines of who the messiah would be for Israel. Usually 18 OT verses are used to apply proof to his text:  Some of them are:
The messiah will restore justice, Isaiah 1.26
The messiah becomes king so the nations look to him for guidance, Isaiah 2.4.
The world will worship the God if Israel, Isaiah 2.11-17.
He will descend from David, Isaiah 1.11.
The Spirit of the Lord will be upon him, Isaiah 11.2.
Evil and tyranny cannot stand before Him, Isaiah 11.4.
Knowledge of God fills the earth, Isaiah 11.9.
He will attract people from other cultures, Isaiah 11.10.
All Jews will return to Israel, Isaiah 11.12.
Death is swallowed up, Isaiah 25.8.
All Jewish people will have joy and peace, Isaiah 51.11.
He will be a messenger of peace, Isaiah 52.7.
Nations will recognize the wrong they did Israel, Isaiah 52.13--53.5
The world will turn to Israel, Zechariah 8.23.
War is destroyed, Ezekiel 39.9.
  These are the particular points Maimonides emphasized.  According to these texts, the messiah is a future king from the line of David who will be anointed and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic age. He will rebuild the temple, reinstitute the Sanhedrin and animal sacrifices.  All Jews will return to Israel.  And the messiah will lead the Jewish people in what one website calls, 'full Torah observance.'  Modern Jewish commentators say the messiah will be born of human parents, he will have no supernatural qualities, he will not be God.

  While many of the OT passages Jewish and Christian scholars use concerning the messiah are the same, the different interpretations remain apart.

  Jesus said--I am the Father are one, John 10.30.  He said--I am the way, the truth, the life, no man comes to the Father but through Me, John 14.6.  Jesus created the way to the Father--by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, Hebrews 10.20.  The Jews of His day believed they already had a connection to God.

  Jewish scholars say Jesus did not rebuild the temple, institute animal sacrifices or install strict Torah observance.  They say there was no prophet, that all Jews must return to Israel.  Some Jewish scholars say Jesus was not a prophet, did not descend from David, that He did not lead Jews in Torah observance.  
  Christian scholars say Jesus ended the sacrifices as He was the last sacrifice, the Lamb of God, John 1.36.  The Holy Spirit at Pentecost has made every believing soul the temple of God, 1 Peter 2.5, 6.  Jesus said in Matthew 11.9 that John was a prophet and that the prophets and the Law prophesied until John.  In John 4.19 the Samaritan woman at the well says--Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  In Matt. 21.11 the people say Jesus is a prophet.

  But really these are secondary matters which might not change a person's mind.  The significant issue is whether Jesus is God and whether Jews will return to full Torah observance.
  Jesus said He was God, He came to fulfill the Law, that the Law will not pass away until all is accomplished, Matt. 5.18.  What is to be accomplished?  He said---All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I command you; and lo, I will be with you always, even to the end of the age, Matt. 28.18-20.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Several times in the gospels Jesus of Nazareth is called, Son of David.  The Jews knew that was the preliminary form of the title, messiah, because the sign of the messiah is that he would take the throne of David.  Some Jews accepted Jesus as the messiah, many did not.
  A blind man in Luke 18.39 is told Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.  The blind man immediately calls Him, Son of David.  How did he know Jesus was the Son of David?

  Joseph, the husband of Mary, descended from David through Solomon, Matt. 1.6.  In fact, an angel calls Joseph--son of David, in Matt. 1.20.  Six more times in the gospel of Matthew Jesus is called or known as the Son of David, the one who will take the throne of David.--
    Matt. 9.27, 12.23, 15.22, 21.9, 21.15, 22.42.
But calling Jesus the son of David was not true biologically since Joseph was not His true father.  So why was Jesus called the Son of David?

  The identity of the messiah was a well-known theme but not a specific one.  In Psalm 2.6 the psalmist of this song says--
    I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain.
In 2.12 he says--
    Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry
    and you perish in the way,
    for His wrath may soon be kindled.
    How blessed are all those who take refuge in Him.
  Here we see the psalmist, who is not named, say the messiah is the Son, His wrath will be kindled, and those who take refuge in Him are blessed.

  The messiah is the one who fulfills the covenant with God by which the works of the devil are ended, ushering in a reign of peace and prosperity for Israel under God.  This path of the messiah from Genesis 3 through the OT is shown by Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and the prophets.

  So the messiah--
  must be born a man to be the seed of Eve, Gen. 3.
  will be a preacher of righteousness like Noah, Gen. 6.7.
  will be a man of faith like Abraham, through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed, Gen. 12.
  will come through Judah as Jacob announced, Gen. 49.
  will suffer in order to be exalted like Joseph, Gen. 37-48.
  will be a prophet and savior like Moses, Exodus 2-16.

  This is the wider application of the messiah through the OT to Israel.  But there is in the OT a closer portrait of the messiah--
  the psalms say he will be Son and King, Psalm 2.
  Isaiah says he will be born of a virgin, 7.14, son of David, 9.1, the branch who will bring redemption and blessing, ch. 11, and the bringer of joy, 61.1.
  Micah said the messiah will shepherd his people, Micah 5.1.
  Amos said the messiah will be for all peoples, Amos 9.11.
  Jeremiah said the messiah will be the king of righteousness, Jer. 23.5.

  Now the NT writers know of these prophecies and fulfillments.  Matthew says Jesus was born of Abrahamic and Davidic lineage, Matt. 1.2-16.  Luke says the same thing in Luke 2.4-15.  John the Baptist refers to the saving role of Jesus in John 1.29 when he calls Him, the Lamb of God.  Matthew says Jesus will bring judgment as well as life, Matt. 3.1-12.  Luke 1.51-55 says the same thing, that Jesus will bring down the rulers and bless Israel.  Luke and John say Jesus was anointed as messiah at His baptism, Luke 4.16-22, John 4.24-25.

  Then, what does all this mean?

  For us it means the role of messiah was a royal one, taking the throne of David and more than that.  The messiah takes a priestly role in Hebrews 10.19-22--
    Since therefore brethren we have confident to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near...

  He takes a kingly role so that the Magi say when Jesus is born in Matt. 2.2--
    where is He who is born King of the Jews...
and Pilate wrote when Jesus died on the cross--
    Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews, John 19.19.

  And He takes the role of a prophet, as the crowd said in Matt. 21.11--
    This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee..

  All of this is to inaugurate the kingdom of God.  That kingdom came then and through the church as the body of Christ the same kingdom is here now.  Praise the Lord.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A lady I know says she has trouble with the birth of Christ.  Well, so did Herod!  But my friend's trouble is with the understanding that the birth of Jesus was as God and as a baby.  The poet John Milton called Jesus the 'infant God.'  My friend can understand the human side of birth with Mary being pregnant; she can find a way to relate to God as coming to earth, but to put the two together she simply cannot fathom it.

  I appreciate how she has come to terms with her own faith and limitations.  She is like the woman in John 4, she has told the truth.  And I think she represents millions of us who have trouble with Jesus being---both Lord and Christ, Acts 2.36.

  Some of us stay on the side of Jesus as a man.  We search for the historical Jesus, the man of fingerprints and sweat and sandals.  Several attempts have been made in my lifetime to say Jesus never went to the cross, He never died and rose---He just went away with Mary to have a mundane life.  This was D.H. Lawrence's The Man Who Died, Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ, the Passover Plot, and the DaVinci Code.  All of these say Jesus was not God.  Jewish intellectuals have always claimed Jesus was just another rabbi.

  Some of us stay on the spiritual side, claiming Jesus was God but not a man.  This was an original heresy in the early centuries of the church.  Jesus merely seemed to be a man, but like one of the gods in Homer, merely appeared to be human when He never really was.

  So now, to believe that Jesus was God and He was human, that has taken the church a few centuries to understand.

  We certainly can't wrap our minds around it; but we can believe it.  If Jesus were no more than divinity like the Greek gods, the world would have forgotten about Him.  He would be off in someone's imagination, someone's memory, but no more.  If He were only a man he would be in history books as a failed deliverer, one among many.  As a man he might proved some axiom but that wouldn't convince anyone.

  Jesus rose from the dead.  There are many accounts of the risen Christ by His adversaries among the Romans and the Jews.  God doesn't die; humans don't come back to life.

  It is beyond us all that He was both Lord and Christ.  Today we have no mechanism by which to combine humanity and divinity that compliments our own minds, so we don't believe it.  Some of us go toward the divinity side of Jesus by pursuing signs, miracles and wonders, or some form of religion which denies the human.  Some of us go toward the human side, saying if we can't prove Jesus was God He must not have been.  So several writers have taken it as their task to prove Jesus lived.  This can be done, but does it change the heart and soul of a person?  Maybe not.

  We could look at our century, our own times and see one one side the human rationalists saying if something can't be understood by rational processes, it doesn't exist.  I am reminded of one of Shakespeare's lines--
    there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
    than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
And we can look at our century, our own time and see those who only believe in strange spiritualities which have no ground of being.  People who lock themselves in a cell until a wild dream comes through the iron bars, people who have rapturous fits, who don't et for days and abuse their bodies, 1 Timothy 4.3-5.

  Only in Jesus Christ do we have someone who is the ground of being and the fulfillment of truth.

  So how do we believe this?  We do not stand back from Him, trying to hold in one hand His divinity and in the other hand His humanity as if we could balance the two.  One does not neutralize the other.  But if we ask Him to reveal Himself to us, He will give us all of Himself we can receive.

  And we can receive what He will reveal, after all we are made in His image.  The positive aspect of this is that we have all eternity to work it out.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

If allegory is not the right word, what would be?

  The passage in the Bible which is most often called an allegory is Genesis 3, the first sin, the first meal.  What is so rare about Genesis 3 is that we are fallen people reading about a drama of unfallen souls. We will not experience the Fall ourselves, except to acknowledge that it has happened and we are the result of it.  So how could the Fall ever be described in our lapsed language?

  What was it like to be the first Adam?  What was it like to feel the breath of God in your chest, to exhale the spiritual breath of the God who moved over the face of the waters before any world was?  What was it like to feel God's smile on your eyelids, to open them to a blue world above like a girl's eyes and a voice like many rushing waters say, In our image...?  Could anything we might imagine be as pure as golden air or sparkling wind or the feel of your own skin curl into the first fingerprint?  Or to see the first soft fluttering rise of geese from a pond, or the bright standing of a tree leaning over a bank?

  We'll never experience what Adam and Eve did.  But we have been given these few, rare words of Genesis.  How can we read them if we can in a sense never know them?  We can look to other passages in the Bible which may enable us to see sunlight among the trees.

  In Genesis 28 Jacob is sent away from his father.  He comes to what the Hebrew text calls, the place.  That night he puts his head on a stone, laying down to a night's sleep and dream.  The dream is of a ladder to heaven, with angels going up and coming down upon it, from heaven to him.  At the top of the ladder the Lord stood, saying--I am the Lord...  Not only is this the rare time and place before Moses when the Lord says, I am, who He is but this dream reveals to us something out of heaven.  It opens up out of the small, specific place where Jacob slept all of heaven and God's throne and God Himself.  It is the drama of Genesis 3.

  This tells us certain passages in the Bible extend from earth to the glory of heaven.  The words are a spiritual drama unlike human dramas.  The tragedies of the Greeks bring the audience deeper into the character onstage, to reveal something disturbing about the audience.  However, the spiritual dramas of the Bible don't work like that.  They do not open a character, they open the curtain of heaven so that we may see God above in our life below.

  We can remember Genesis 16, with Hagar and Ishmael.  Sarah casts Hagar out of the camp because Ishmael was born before Isaac.  Hagar runs to Shur.  There an angel comes down upon her, saying Ishmael will be blessed of the Lord, that she should return to Sarah.  Hagar then realizes she has seen the Lord--Have I remained alive here after seeing Him?  The drama is not that Shur exists but that there Hagar saw the Lord.  The drama of that encounter, like that in Genesis 3, rises to prophecy, blessing, destiny.  This is the spiritual drama of the Bible.  The words are not allegory, they are spiritual drama.

  The tabernacle in Exodus 25..8,9 puts it in tangible language.  First, the Lord comes down.  He says to Moses--let them construct a sanctuary for Me, that I may dwell among them.  He doesn't just come to be with Moses and the priest, but among all the people.  Then the Lord says--According to all that I am going to show you...The tabernacle will resemble heaven.  The Lord came down so that the tabernacle would 'look up.'  Genesis 25.30 says--You shall set the bread of the Presence on the table before Me at all times.  The word for presence is 'face.'  As Adam took his first breath before the face of God, so in the tabernacle the bread of His presence is before His face.

  This is the God who embraces.  And this is the spiritual drama of so many passages.  They are not only real times and places and things but their inscape, their meaning comes down from God in heaven so that we through them might ascend to His glory.

  So, coming back to Genesis 3 we can say these words are a spiritual drama--not untrue but words which give us the manner in which God has chosen to reveal Himself and His creation in which we belong.  These words have an ascension upon them which we can receive by faith.  As the tabernacle looked up to God and forward to salvation, the words of Genesis 1-3 look up to the Creator who will be our Redeemer.  Revelation 19.9 says--These are true words of God.

  The words of Genesis 3 are not just true, but livid.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An ordained minister said to me, "the Bible is all allegory.  The stories may not be historically true but they have truth in them."

  I've been thinking about this.  If something isn't historically true it won't have any spirituality.  If I say I'm a Hollywood agent and I'll make you famous, you aren't going to believe anything I say about God.  If I say it's raining outside--and it is--then you might listen to me because I told the truth.

  The issue all ancient peoples had to face was, the world is a terrible place in which to live.  Life was frightening to the Greeks, the Romans, the Hebrews and others.  If God did not reveal Himself to them, they only had death in their future.  Men died in war, women died in childbirth.  Men had the psychological horror of war, women had social destitution.  They all knew the abyss is a swallowing throat.

  So we created insular psychological structures in which to hide from our own existence.  We have built governments, works of literature and religion, science and knowledge to protect us from our own awareness.  This is religion but not faith, medieval fables but not history.  The quality faith and history have is they are based on the understanding that something must be historically true for it to be spiritually meaningful.

  Some religions and philosophies have no reality to them.  They are not really believed to the point of the risk of a life.  The great writers know that for drama to exist, something has to be lost.  The tragedies--Greek, Shakespeare, and others--all are bult on the understanding that something must be lost in order for something better to be gained.  But in allegory nothing is lost, so there is no drama.

  Jesus says you must lose your life in order to gain it.

  The movies of today, with their computerized images, have no drama because nothing is being risked.  It is all appearance, not drama.  It is the Bible's historical truth that makes it so compelling men and women have died for it. God does not write allegory with some psychological point to it--God writes truth with great spiritual presence through it.

  But some people say myth is true.  This is like the fellow who said he talks to the clouds.  He might do so but I don't believe in anything the clouds are saying.  If the ancient Greeks concocted that someone named Sky impregnated Earth, producing drops of blood which became man, none of this has anything to do with God.  It doesn't explain anything about us as men and women and it certainly doesn't deal with death.  It might have made the ancients feel less horrified by their own existence but it doesn't alleviate that horror.

  Still, allegory is symptomatic of our age.  We have become multicultural, so we don't want to offend anyone.  As long as Jesus was not a real person, we believe no one is offended and everyone can agree with everyone else.  But if Jesus really did live, and do miracles, and be resurrected from the dead, then we are compelled to believe that He is God and no other.  That will separate us from everyone else, that will expose the emptiness of every other religion.

  Ultimately it goes back to whether Jesus is God or just a man.  In some centuries He was believed as being no more than a man.  In some other centuries He was believed as God, but not a man.  The church went to a great deal of trouble in church councils to establish how Jesus was both God and man.  But today, in our time we don't believe that.

  So each generation must cut their own path back to Biblical times, to see Jesus as truly God and truly man.  If we are tempted to allegorize Jesus, we are no more than speaking to ourselves, not listening to God.  All religions look to a horizon, an ultimate place from which our own life is to be understood.  Allegory does not look to God, it merely refers to the imagination of ourselves, by ourselves.  And that is no more convincing to anyone today than the gods were to anyone in the past.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Now as to our worship in church.  The preparation for worship has a local form as does the end of worship.  However, the three deep elements--Word, Presence, Spirit-- do not have a human form.  They are the gift of God, God Himself.

  First, the preparation.  Jesus gives us our preparation in John 12.24-26.  He says the soul must humble itself as a grain of mustard seed in the ground; if it dies it bears much fruit.  Jesus then gives the interpretation and application.  He says--He who loves his life loses it and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal.  If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me and where I am, there shall My servant also be.  If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

  Then in John 13.3 Jesus washes the feet of His disciples.  That separated them from the world, the flesh and the devil, John 13.11.  It was what the priest did in Exodus 30.19--For Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet from it (the laver).  When the angel of the Lord prevented Abram from sacrificing Isaac, the angel separated Israel from the other nations who practiced human sacrifice.  God is not honored by the dead.  Romans 12.2 says--present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God which is your spiritual service of worship.

  Then in John 14.3 Jesus gives the disciples the foundation of faith--If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am there you may be also.  This is our hope, this is the assurance of faith, the evidence of things not seen, for which the followers of Christ persevere.  If that heavenly place is our destiny and promise, how do we get there?  Jesus says He is the way, the truth, the life.  We can know this because Jesus brings the Word to believers that they would know He was the One sent from the Father.  Our oneness with Jesus, our union with Him is in--where I am you may be also.  So Paul says--with Christ, by grace you have been saved and (He) raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2.5.6.  Our destiny with Him in heaven is our assurance.

  Having said these things to His disciples, Jesus then has the Passover meal with them.  This is the sacrament of Matt. 26.26 and Luke 22.15-20.

  Then Jesus promises the Holy Spirit in John 16.7--I will send him to you.  It is the power of God the Spirit given at Pentecost.

  Then, as if to bring the gift of the Spirit to a high point in worship, Jesus says He has manifested the Father's name to the disciples, John 17.6.  He says He is coming back to the Father, so He asks the Father to --keep them in Thy name, John 17.11.  He gives the disciples His Word, that they may be sanctified in the truth, and not just them but everyone who believes.

  Finally, in the power of the Spirit, sanctified by His Word, Jesus sends the disciples out into the world, Matt. 28.19.  They are to take nothing but the power they've been given, Matt. 10 and Luke 10.

  At this point we can culminate the worship by proceeding out into the world.  In John 10.27-30 Jesus summarizes this in a few words--My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish...
  Now that's secure.

Friday, October 5, 2012


The NT uses five words and a phrase to describe worship in specific ways.  These take us from vain worship to spiritual worship as they are the journey into God.

  Our first word is sebomai.  It gives the meaning of an outsider, looking toward God.  In Acts 16.14 Lydia--a worshiper of God was listening and the Lord opened her heart to respond to what Paul was saying.  In Matthew 15.9 it describes the Pharisees and scribes who--in vain do they worship Me, teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men.  In Acts 18.7 Paul--went to the house of a certain man named Titius Justus, a worshiper of God, whose house was next to the synogogue.

  Our second word is threskia, outward ceremony.  It is used in this way in Colossians 2.18--delighting in self-abasement and the worship of angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflating without cause by his fleshly mind.  In James 1.26 threskia is used to mean being self-religious--If anyone thinks himself to be religious...

  Our third word is not so negative, it is latreuw, to be religious for hire.  It means to be in the paid service of religious worship, as the priests and scribes were.  In Acts 7.42 God--turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven (meaning stars and planets and pagan worship of objects).  The concept of being paid to assist worship is in Hebrews 10.2--they would not have ceased to be offered because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins.  This refers ot the priests who had to keep offering sacrifices unto the one final sacrifice--Jesus--came.

  Our fourth word is eusebiaw, based on the first word, sebomai.  This word, eusebiaw, means to carry out one's religious duties or obligations.  In 1 Timothy 5.4--if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to practice piety in regard to their own families.  It is also used of God in Acts 17.25 when Paul says to the Athenians--neither is He served by human hands as though He needed anything...
  Now with our final word, preskunew, we come to true spiritual worship.  Most of the time when 'worship' is in the NT, it is this word preskunew.  It originally meant to bow to kiss the hand of a lord or superior.  The act of bowing low is frequently implied or performed in NT passages.  In Matt. 2.2 the Wise Men come--to worship Him.  They bow low in giving Him gifts.  In Matt. 8.2--a leper came to Him and bowed down to Him saying, Lord if you are willing you can make me clean.  This word is used in 1 Corinthians 14.25--the secrets of the heart are disclosed and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you...

  Finally we have the phrase, worship in Spirit.  This is in John 4.23 when Jesus tells a Samaritan woman--the hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth.  Paul uses the phrase in Philippians 3.3--for we are the true circumcision who worship in the Spirit of God and the glory of Jesus Christ.
  This final phrase is our standing in Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit which we were given at Pentecost.  It is not our human hands which Paul says that God does not need, it is God the Spirit dwelling in us and through us communing with the Father.  This is spiritual worship.  We see this first in Exodus 29.43--And there I will meet the children of Israel, and the tabernacle will be filled with My glory.  So in the NT Peter says--you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2.4.

  Did you notice the four persons of spiritual worship--ourselves as a priesthood, God, the Spirit, and Jesus Christ.  What company to keep!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Traditional Jewish mysticism says every man has the present with the future coming toward him.  We cannot plan the past, but we hope for the future.

  In Matthew's gospel I have counted 9 times someone had the faith to be given a different future than the present they were living.  A simple example is the centurion's servant, who was in great pain with paralysis.  Jesus says, I will come and heal him.

  But the centurion knows Jesus has great power, that He does not need to come to heal the servant.  So Jesus says--I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.  The servant was healed the same hour the centurion said what he said.  The servant's life was not what it had been: his future was entirely different from his past.

  As we know, the writer of Hebrews says faith is--the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Certainly the centurion had the conviction that Jesus could do what was not seen.  We cannot live in the past in any realistic sense but by the grace of God we can have faith for a future which is different from the present.

  This can be startling.  Normally we think of God as He who does not change--Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever.  We might think our fate cannot change, that we are like the Prodigal Son, stuck in the mud.  And yet Jesus was always changing the life of the one who has faith.

  Two blind men receive their sight in Matt. 9, Peter is saved from the sea in Matt. 14, a woman's daughter is demon-possessed in Matt. 15.  We certainly think about the transformation of the soul in salvation but we don't always realize how different the future can be for the soul touched by Jesus.  And yet Jesus says--I have come that they might have life and life more abudantly.

  What might not be so obvious is the change in the soul can result in changes in one's life.  The woman in Matt. 9 believes Jesus long enough to say to herself--If I only touch His garment, I shall get well.  That led to her challenging the crowd to let her through to touch Jesus so that He might heal her, as He does.

  While we cannot say everyone who is sick will be healed we can seek a different life for ourselves than the one we have.  Two blind men seek their sight in Matt. 20--Lord we want our eyes to be opened.  Jesus is moved with compassion.  He touches their eyes, they receive their sight.  Do they then leave?  No--they received their sight and followed Him.

  The rich young ruler cannot follow Jesus.  Some of His disciples leave Jesus when what He says is difficult to accept.  But these two blind men, kneeling on the side of the road who have the faith to call Jesus--Son of David--these two follow Jesus from that time on.

  Now we hae seen how different someone's life is when they have faith for the future.  This in essence is the gospel, the kingdom of God which Jesus brought.  This is change.  When God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden in Genesis 3, He sent them from a place of no alteration to the world of mutability and change.  Yet that change enabled the first Adam to eventually become the second Adam, Jesus.  That act of sending Adam and Eve out of the garden was what we call grace.  Change is the underlying river of the kingdom of God.  When the angels with Lucifer rebelled, God did not cause them to repent and return; once gone they were lost.

  However, with Adam and the human race we have been given repentance and return.  John, the cousin of Jesus, comes preaching--Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Jesus will begin His ministry by saying the same thing.

Friday, September 21, 2012


In Paul's letters to the Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians he mentions love and truth together.

  In Eph 1 he says, In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ.  Paul prays that God would grant the saints there, a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Eph. 1.17.  In Philippians 1 Paul says Epaphras has informed him, of your love in the Spirit.  For this reason...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

  I've highlighted the words love and knowledge.  Evidently the apostle sees both together.  I wonder if we do.  Traditions which are committed to relationships seem to sacrifice truth; traditions which are committed to the truth seem to sacrifice love.

  Why would the apostle want to put truth and love together in the same people?  Could it be to produce the fruit of righteousness?  To the Colossians Paul says he prays for the saints there, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in every respect, bearing fruit, Col. 1.10.  To the Philippians Paul says the reason is, so that you may approve the things that are excellent...having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God, Phil. 1.11.  To the Ephesians Paul says the reason is that, we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, Eph. 2.10.

  Evidently the truth of God is given to us to do the works of love and love is given to us to receive His truth.  Possibly if we were to consider the truth of our relationship to God as based on His forgiveness we would have a basis for relationships.  And if we would see the love of God as the basis for our calling we would see the truth as the basis for love.

  Paul seems to be saying this to the Ephesians.  In chapter 2 he speaks of the people there that they, formerly walked according to the course of the world.  Did God leave them there to die?  No, But God being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us...made us alive together with Christ.  God forgave them in order to bring them to Himself--this is His love.  Then, immediately Paul says, For by grace you have been saved through is the gift of God. 

  Paul says this to unite the love of God (being rich in mercy) with the truth that God did this.  We know His love by His truth.  He goes on for the entire chapter to privide the details of how God did this.  The truth that God brought us to Himself was to explain His love in forgiving us so He could do just that.

  His truth explains His love; but does His love explain how He chose us?  He chose us before the foundation of the world, so that His love always had us in mind and in His heart.

  If we could teach predestination as love and love understood by truth, possibly we could have the church Paul envisioned.

Friday, September 14, 2012


The passage in Matthew 16 about Peter as the rock has stirred several interpretations, all of which have some value but don't seem to finish our questions.

  When we look at it in Greek, several doors open.  The Sadducees and Pharisees have been challenging Jesus, so He warns His disciples about them. Jesus leaves the region of Magadan, to go to Caesarea Philippi.  Caesarea Philippi is north, near the Mediterranean where cool breezes blow.  It is comfortable, a port of many ships and travelers bringing different philosophies from different lands.

  So Jesus will now ask His own disciples if they know who He is out of all the contending, entangling opinions about God.  Do they know who He is and who God is?  This is the question He will ask them.

  First, the disciples say what other people have said.  Some say He is John the Baptist; some say He is Elijah or one of the prophets.  So Jesus then points His words at His own disciples, But who do you say that I am? Matt. 16.15.

  Peter blurts out, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
  Jesus, ecstatic, then says, ..flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

  Then Jesus continues with the statement which has so many responses.  He says to Peter, You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My church, Matt. 16.18.

  The Greek that Matthew uses opens up several interpretations.  The word for rock is petra.  This word is in the neuter gender.  The Greeks did not like to leave a word in the neuter by itself, they liked to connect the neuter with a masculine or feminine word.  So Matthew has given petra a feminine article, ten, to go with the feminine word, tauten, or 'this' as in 'this rock.'

  So is there a feminine word to which 'this rock' can be attached?  The only feminine word is ten ekklesia, the church.  Tauten is not a personal pronoun, so 'this rock' cannot refer to Peter, or petros. What Peter says is being said to the church.

  What is in the verse just before v.18 is, flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  This leads us to Matthew 14 where Jesus is walking on water.   Peter comes out, falls into the water due to a lapse of faith, and Jesus saves him.  When Jesus and Peter get in the boat, the disciples say, You are certainly God's Son, Matt. 14.33.  Now this was not revealed to the disciples by God the Father, they saw what they saw, concluding that only God could do that.  Nicodemus says something similar when he says, ..No one can do the signs You do unless God is with him, John 3.2.

  But Peter did not say what he said because it was evident, rather he blurted out without reservation as the Father burst it into him.  Jesus will say later in John 17 that, The words which Thou gave Me I have given to them and they received them and truly understand that I came forth from Thee and they believed that Thou did send Me.  In John 8.18 Jesus says, I am He who bears witness of Myself and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.  In 8.29 Jesus says, He who sent Me is with Me..  And yet when Jesus said the Father sent Him, the Jews pick up stones to throw at him, John 8.59.

  We can now say the Father gave Peter what he was to say, Peter said it without hesitation.  Peter said that Jesus came from the Father.  This the Jewish religious leaders could not accept, but Peter has.  Consequently Peter becomes the apostle to the Jews, first in Antioch and then later on to Rome.  However, Peter does not take an spiritual authority away from the men and women in the local church.  In 1 Peter 5.1 he calls himself a sumpresbuteros, a fellow elder with the other elders. Not chief elder or bishop but one of several.

  This could only be done through the power of the Holy Spirit.  What this means to us is that the church is built on the gifts of the Spirit to Christians, not on the authority of the leaders.  Peter seems to be saying this when he says, You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, 1 Peter 2.5.

Friday, September 7, 2012


If you've ever red what the scholars say about Genesis 1-3, you know these few Hebrew words have suggested volumes to our minds.  We have come to realize these 80 verses are carefully written.

  What is written about the creation is simply repeated by the prophets.  But what is written about Adam and Eve is developed by later Biblical writers for all time.

  As we know chapters 1 and 2 describe what might not be able to described, life in the Garden unfallen.  If Paul tells the Corinthians that the natural man--does not accept the things of the Spirit of God--then we could not understand these two chapters of Genesis unless the Spirit of God illuminates them.

  When God created Adam, He breathed on him God's own breath, causing him to be a living being.  Now what does living being mean?  The word in Hebrew for soul is nephesh, a soul which breathes or possible the inner soul of a man or woman, the word for breath is ruach.  The breath of God gave Adam the living soul which would breathe back out the breath of life God breathed in.  What was in God was in Adam.  This is his soul, his likeness to God.

  Probably every living soul searches for that original breath, the satisfaction from within.  When such breath is given to us today we recognize it as the Holy Spirit, the the point of saying, Breathe on me, breath of God.

  Adam saw birds fly on the wind, ocean waves foam with the wind, his own skin refreshed with a breeze.  Today we see sails of a ship filled with the same wind, we see leaves twirl as they fall in winter, we see windmills and feel the wind-chill.  Yet that wind does not satisfy the soul, it only fills the lungs.

  Do I search for that ruach wind of the soul?  I might hear a glimpse of it in the vibrating notes of a Bach adagio.  I might see it in the repose of a church sanctuary filled with sunlight.  But these are but intimations of immortality, shadows of light, the silence after a voice, a remnant of God.

  And yet they are of the Spirit of God.

  I am stirred in my inner being by His presence.  Even as I live in the fallen world outside Eden, I am aware of Him somewhat like the marble feels the fingers of the sculptor

  As breath, music is the vibration of God; the written word is His voice; and life is His being in us.  When Adam and Eve fell they didn't lose that image of God, they lost the capacity to please Him.  And yet, after Adam and Eve left the Garden, God gave them back the capacity to please Him with sacrifices He would accept.  Centuries later, in Jesus God gave us back the capacity to hear His voice, touch His hands, be in His presence.

Can we practice the presence of God?  We certainly don't beckon Him as a demand--He already fills heaven and earth.  But we can prepare our souls for the revelation of Him by asking God to cleanse us, acknowledging His presence in that place within ourselves from which He created our being.  It is that place which first felt His breath.  From that place He sees us--do we turn to see Him?

  The writer of Hebrews said about the Law--for the Law made nothing perfect, and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God, Heb. 7.19.  Later in this same letter, the writer shows us how we can draw near to God--let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water, Heb. 10.22.

  Jesus brought the living water to the woman of Samaria in John 4.10 and He can wash our bodies with pure water, today.

  How can we put ourselves under this pure water?  With a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.  In this case, faith is seeing that we are the image of God, faith is having the desire to draw near to God, to turn to Him.  Are you pressing toward Him?  James the brother of Jesus said--Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Then James said just what Hebrews says--Cleanse your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts, James 4.8.  It is interesting that James uses the same imagery of the well--draw near, cleanse your hands, purify your heart. Hebrews had said, hearts sprinkled clean, bodies washed with pure water

  John the Baptist had said--I baptize you in water...He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire, Matt. 3.11.

  This we can contemplate in prayer: ask God to cleanse us in our innermost being that we might glorify God in His presence.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The axle upon which the NT turns is--
  On earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6.10
This is the principle by which Jesus prays, tells parables, performs miracles and teaches about the kingdom of heaven.  He sees the connection between heaven and earth.  So He has given us the opportunity to do the same.

  The spirit upon which the kingdom of heaven thrives is the Lord's Prayer for His own.  In this prayer we see how Jesus lived such a powerful life.  In Luke 10 Jesus had sent 70 disciples out to the places where He would soon come.  He gave them nothing to carry: no bag, no shoes, no greeting for anyone along the way.  They were to announce that the kingdom of heaven has begun.

  The 70 came back with joy, saying even demons obey them.  So in chapter 11 Jesus' own disciples ask Him how He prays.  They knew the power was not in the exact words the 70 disciples had said, the power was in the prayer of Jesus for them. So the disciples do not say, 'Lord, teach us to say what they said', they say, 'Lord, teach us to pray.'

  Jesus gives them 3 things to say.

  First, open your soul to God.  This is like the inhaling of Adam when the Lord God breathed into him, opening his soul to the breath of God.  Jesus opens the Lord's Prayer by opening His soul to the Father.  He says, Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name.  He is our Father, the One who created the universe.  When we open our souls to Him, we receive the understanding of who He is.  Paul put it like this--
  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
  nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able
  to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

  You can see that Paul has opened his mind to the greatest, widest, deepest vision of which he is capable: life and death, past and present, height and depth, or any created thing.  David had said--
  How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,
  Who has displayed Thy splendor above the heavens.
God in  Christ would be incomprehensible were it not for the Holy Spirit giving us these words.  We can read and meditate on the Scriptures to glow open our minds as flowers open to the sun in spring.  The experience of many is that God opens the mind gradually through images or impressions that mean a great deal to that person.  This is like an individual kiss, from spirit to spirit.

  Paul tells the Philippians to focus on these things--
  Finally brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
  whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy
  of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.

  Second, as God has opened our minds to fill us to the fulness of Christ, so we cultivate that fulness with His words.  We should breathe in His promises, breathe out our circumstances.  In His prayer, Jesus then tells us what He wants us to focus on daily--
  Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done
  on earth as it is in heaven.
  Give us this day our daily bread
  and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors.

  The breathing in is symbolized in--forgive us our debts--the breathing out is--we also forgive our debtors.  The breathing in is--do not lead us to temptation--the breathing out is--deliver us from evil.  The kingdom has come in Christ, do His will, depend on Him daily, and forgive.  These are the things we can concentrate on every day as an act of faith.

  And third, we must live this way.  When we make the kingdom, His will, forgiveness and daily faith our habit, we will be surrounded by the atmosphere of God.  God will not be an abstract being but the atmosphere which we breathe.  Jesus did this and says something similar to it.  He says to do the will of His Father is His meat and drink.  It is what sustains Him as food and drink did every day.  Jeremiah says--
  Thy words were found and I ate them,
  and Thy words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.
To believe, to forgive, to do His will every day is to take possession of His blessings.  This is how we appropriate what He has promised us.  It is how we see heaven in everything on earth.  Jesus says in Matthew 6--
  Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
That gathers in a few words all of what we have been saying.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

In Acts 9.27 Barnabas brings Saul to the apostles, to show them Saul has been converted.  In Acts 13.2 the Holy Spirit calls Barnabas and Saul for the work of the ministry, with the laying on of hands.  In Acts 15.2 Paul and Barnabas go together to the apostles at Jerusalem to settle a dispute.  Paul and Barnabas were brothers in the Lord, ministry partners, fellow travelers and yet they divided.  Because Mark deserted Paul in Pamphylia, Paul does not want Mark with him.  Barnabas is willing to forgive Mark, Paul is not.  So these two brothers in the Lord, these two spiritual warriors  Paul and Barnabas split apart in Acts 15.39.

  This is a tragedy, but one that will be redeemed by the Lord.  After Barnabas and Mark go to Cyprus, Mark comes to Paul when he is imprisoned in Rome.  Paul says Mark was even an encouragement to him, Colossians 4.10. 11.

  If there is one passage in the NT which God may have meant to unite all Christians--Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal-- it undoubtedly is the Lord's Supper.  And yet, the church is tragically divided.  Possibly we could look at John 6 in a way to unite Christians, as Paul and Mark were united in Rome.

  When Jesus speaks of His body and blood, even disciples who looked Jesus in the eye, who heard His voice, even then and there they leave Him.  His words in John 6.48-65 are like looking directly at the sun--we cannot do without the sun but to stare at it will make us blind.  Maybe we can walk in the light of these words and yet see what we have not seen.

  Jesus will begin this entire passage in John 6.39 by saying, that of all that He has given Me, I lost nothing... and HE will end this passage by saying in John 6.65, no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father.  In between, in John 6.46 Jesus says, Not that any man has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.  Jesus is referring to Himself, saying only in Him can anyone see the Father.  He will say the same thing to Philip in John 14.8.  What all of this means is that between 6.39 and 6.65 Jesus will show us how we come to the Father who is in heaven.

  The Father has chosen, Christ will redeem, and the Father will bring us home.

  I have said in a previous post that the Bible has 4 viewpoints--God speaking to God, God speaking to men and women, men and women speaking to God and men and women speaking to each other.  We are used to Jesus speaking to His disciples as He is God.  We are used to the disciples speaking to each other.  But in the NT we have a few rare glimpses of God speaking to men and women from His own point of view.  This is one of those moments.

  When Paul addresses his letters to those in certain cities, he calls them saints.  He does so because they have been redeemed and sanctified by the blood of Christ.  When the Father 'sees' them, He sees them as saints.  When Paul writes to the saints at Ephesus, he says, But God, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ...and raised us up with Him and  seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Eph. 2.4.  How can we be seated in the heavenly places and yet be here on earth?  From God's point of view we are with Him and in Him in heaven.  This is because God is not in time; He sees our future as our spiritual state, not as something which has not yet happened.

  Now let's go back to John 6.  When we partake of the bread and wine of communion, from God's point of view it is His Son's flesh and blood taken into us.  So when the Father sees us, He does not see our flesh, He sees His Son's perfect resurrected flesh.  When we take the wine, the Father does not see our corrupted blood, He sees His Son's perfect blood poured out for us, in us.  We are received into the Father's presence because of His Son's presence in us.

  Here on earth, that bread and wine do not become Christ's earthly flesh and blood, they are seen as His flesh and blood by the Father through God the Spirit in heaven.  So, from the Father's point of view Jesus can say, I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eats of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh, John 6.51.  What Jesus has done is come down from heaven (I am the living bread that came down from heaven); He met us here (If any one eat of this bread); and then He takes us to heaven (he shall live forever).

  When we die and are resurrected to heaven, standing before God, He does not see our sinful flesh, He sees His Son's flesh which we took into ourselves in the form of communion bread.  When we stand before God, He does not see our corrupt blood, He sees His Son's blood which we took in the form of communion wine.  This is what is meant in Eph. 1.7 when Paul says, in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

  Through us, in us God sees Christ who fills all in all.

  So Jesus says this with a nearly blinding sheen when He says, He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me and I in Him.  The heavenly life of the Father, which was given to the Son, is not given to us, as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who east Me, he shall also live because of Me, John 6.57.

  This is how all Christians can be one, as Jesus and the Father are one, John 17.11.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The large institutional churches are losing members by the millions.  The Roman Catholic church has so many buildings, so many priests and nuns but few Catholics come to mass.  France has 48 million people who say they are Catholic and 6 million say they practice their faith.  The Episcopal Church is losing membership rapidly, too.  In the US, the Episcopal Church enrollment numbers make it resemble a small denomination.  Membership in the Presbyterian churches is down 50% from decades past, and they are only typical.

  Can we say something about what is happening, which might lead out of this situation?

  Let's see if we can.  The large institutional churches always taught their own foundational theology.  If we can think of it as a house in a storm, with doors and windows locked so the storm cannot get in, we might understand the issue.  Members can feel secure within the walls.  The basic idea of a system of thought is that it promises, if you adhere to its' tenets--if you stay within its' walls--you will be secure. An example is, if you are good you will prosper; if you are not good you will not.  This is much of the advise Job's counselors gave him.  The foundational system promised security as they always were about the history of that denomination.

  However, if the storm outside--the culture and society--were to ever invade the house, the system then fails.  As long as the denomination taught their own religious system the people were protected, they got some relief on Sunday.  But when the denomination begins to teach what the world is saying, being inside is no different than being outside in the storm.  People don't feel any relief.  They come into the church to get away from society and culture, but if the culture invades them on Sunday, they have no refuge.

  So they no longer believe in the religious system they have been taught.  The walls come down, as they did at Jericho.  Once the people have been abandoned by the church, they scatter.

  Now if a church cannot enable members to find Jesus, the author and finisher of faith, the people are caught between a system to which they no longer cling and a savior whom they cannot find.  Nowadays so many clergy don't really believe in what their church has traditionally taught, so their ministry is the boomerang that simply flies back in their face.  They end up teaching about themselves and their own opinions.  Attendance falls, people are lost and scattered.  So the situation is like struggling on a rope bridge between two mountains--it's as shaky to go back as it is to go on.

  The system no longer protects, but they cannot find Jesus.

  Now the larger churches have become like small ones in attendance and budgets and influence.  Small groups break away,they gain members, they spread Christianity out across the country like blown leaves in autumn.

  If these smaller churches enable people to find Jesus, they will thrive without becoming large.  They won't grow because they don't do the work of evangelism.  Spreading the gospel requires being in contact and fellowship with those who differ from you, those who do not believe what you believe.  Remember when Jesus ate with sinners and immoral women and Pharisees and tax collectors?  In small churches this mingling with the world rarely happens.  The dynamic so often is, if you are not like us, you won't like us.  When the gospel says, Go out into the world, we withdraw.
  So it's a yo-yo dilemma.  The larger churches rise up to become meaningless, the people fall away for small and private places.

  This is painfully ironic because a few decades ago, large organizations like the Southern Presbyterian Church joined the northern Presbyterian affiliations through difficult compromise.  If they gained anything, they lost it when faithful members went off to the PCA or the OPC or the ARP.  Whatever had been gained is now lost.  If budgets and programs were combined, the presence of God was lost.  We tried to combine to be bigger only now to separate to be smaller. 

  Something like this is happening to the Episcopal Church.  The EC in America once was large and thriving; now that it is liberal and no longer Christian, Episcopalians have gone to affiliations in Africa and Asia.  The small Reformed Episcopal Church is gaining those members and priests; the Anglican Church in America is gaining members and buildings; churches that specialize in Anglo-Catholic tenets are growing.

  In the Reformation, the Church of England had Calvinism on one side and Romanism on the other.  Anglicans found their identity in the pressure from both sides resulting in a uniquely English church with an English spirituality.  But in America that situation does not exist.  The Episcopal church is now confronted by the same unbelieving generation, secular society and antagonistic government that every church in the US faces.  The pressure is not from the sides, but from the front.  The issue no longer is,Can we get along, but it is, What do we believe?  The Episcopal Church in the US will have to face unbelief, the failure of liberalism, the economy and a hostile government.  What this means is the EC will divide along the lines of doctrine rather than personality  Some churches are returning to the creeds, the Reformation confessions, the 1662 Prayer Book, the 39 Articles  and the ancient counsels.

  The issue now is, how will a church perform evangelism in the society without compromising to the views of that society?

  The way we've always done it in the past is through young families.  Bring young couples into the church so their children will be raised where the parents attend.  This doesn't always guarantee the children will follow in the parents' footsteps, but it is what most churches did.

  The way God addressed this was to raise up men and women outside the denomination who reminded us all of who Jesus is.  After World War II this was Peter Marshall, Billy Graham, Oral Roberts and Bishop Sheen. They reminded us of who Jesus is and therefore who we are.  That put the church in opposition to the world, the flesh and the devil, it purified the church.

  The bridge has to be crossed.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


I have said the Bible is not like any other book.  I'd like to develop that.  It has been stated by the sages that the Bible is a collection of Jewish allegories.  I think, rather, that poets write allegories with some truth in them.  The Holy Spirit writes truth which resembles poetry.  I don't think the Holy Spirit specializes or expresses Himself in what is fanciful, but in what is true.  The parables of Jesus are not untrue in order to be profound but true in order to be spiritual.

  When I say something which you know is true, you will be likely to believe what I might says on a spiritual level.  If I say something which you know is not actually true you won't believe any spiritual meaning I might derive from it.

  The Greek word lethe means, to forget.  In the Homeric hell, the river Lethe runs through it.  What is meant by that is that to be forgotten is hell to the ancient Greeks.  They always remember the men who died defending the city; if one died dishonorably, that soul would be forgotten.

  In Greek the opposite of lethe is a-letheia, to be true.  If something is not there, it will be forgotten.  if you always encounter something it is true.  If I say it is raining outside, you will encounter that rain wherever you go--it is true.  If I say there is a mermaid in my room named Hermoine, that is false because you won't find her there.

  With that in mind, let's go to the Bible.  The Biblical stories are remembered because they are true; the Greek allegories are not remembered or even believed because they were never true---they are forgotten.  The scholar Bruno Snell wrote a famous scholarly book, The Greek Discovery of the Mind, in which he claims the Greeks ended their belief in the Homeric gods around 700BC.  Today the gods are forgotten.  The Torah has been dated from 1500BC, it is remembered because it is true.

  What all this means is the word of God is that by which the Spirit of God communes with our spirit.  It works within.  As ir radiates the spirit, it overflows until the mind recognizes it, the heart responds to it and the will obeys it (we hope!).

  Let's look at how this works.  An example we might look at is Romans 8--
  There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
How does your rational mind deal with, in Christ Jesus?  How do you get into a man who died centuries ago?  You cannot, however, when the spirit hears these words a resonance occurs by which your spirit communes with and receives the Spirit of God in Christ Jesus.  Now He is not understood as a human frame with an outside skin and internal organs; rather He is divine love clothed with the being of God, the Spirit.  Our spirit can enter His Spirit in the manner in which the wind enters an opened window.

  In Matthew 2 Jesus as a child is taken by His parents from Bethlehem to Egypt.  Then, with Herod dead, Jesus is brought back to Galilee, Matt. 2.19-23.  Why so abrupt?  Because the text is giving our spirit what it needs to believe.  It is not giving our minds what will satisfy every question we might have.  We don't need to know the exact route, the address in Egypt, how Mary felt or how Joseph spoke with God about all of this.  We have what we need as believers.

  This is how the Scriptures work--from inside out--that we would be sent out into the world with faith in our God.

Friday, August 3, 2012

In a world of momentary devices and bloated pleasures, I'm glad we have the Bible.  In this world where concrete cracks and the past disintegrates and souls are abandoned, I'm glad there is the Bible.

  It has remained as it is for centuries, since it was written before it could be altered.  As books go, it is rare.
  The Bible is the only book I know of with four viewpoints--God speaking to God, God speaking to men and women, and men and women speaking to each other.  It is the only book in which God reveals His presence  to conceal His essence.

  The best help in reading the Bible is itself, as it always has the answers for which the reader seeks.  It is written in Hebrew and Greek.  The only ancient languages which produced a grammar and vocabulary list are--you guessed it--Hebrew and Greek.

  The perfect language to contain the thought that God is one who acts is Hebrew, since it is a language of action, not contemplation.  A fine example is Psalm 127--
  Unless the Lord build the house,
  they labor in vain who build it...
The perfect language to convey that God is with us is Greek with its' many prepositions.  For instance, in Ephesians 1--
  You were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise...
If you've never read the Bible before, it is best to read about 15 minutes every day but Sunday.  It is very good to take notes in a journal.  The best way to understand the Bible is to begin in January, reading from Genesis to Revelation.  I did this three years in a row, and I found out that the Bible si not as large as it looks.  It contains the same few messages, told over and over by many people in different centuries, but the same message.

  Thinking about what you're reading is better than memorizing what you read.  The Bible is unique in that each time you read it, more of it is revealed to you.  It is not flat like best-selling fiction; it is not for the scholar only like most philosophy; it was written by ordinary people taken into extraordinary circumstances.  The Bible utilizes your imagination, your feelings, your thoughts, and your good sense of what people are like.

  Let's imagine an ancient man sitting at the door of his tent, watching the stars at night.  Looking up, he writes--
  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
If that man were to sit there beneath the stars, the furthest circumstance of his sight and imagination would be the heavens.  As if he could scribe a circle with his finger with himself as the center, the circle would be the heavens, the stars, the boundless deep purple above his head.  He has circled his outward boundary--the heavens--and the center--the earth.

  Genesis 1 is about filling in that circumference with stars, the sun, the planets, birds, fish and animals.  That is the circumference from the sky down to the earth, culminating in a man and a woman.  The universe around us, ourselves within it as the center.

  Genesis 2 is about that man and woman on the earth, to take care of it and to take care of themselves.

  In Genesis 3 Adam and Eve are in the middle of the earth, the Garden of God.  There a serpent talks.  He tells Adam and Eve a lie about God.  Now the Garden has changed from bower to danger.  Adam and Eve have to leave, to go down to a plain in which change can occur.  Without change, Adam could never be released from the curse of disobeying God.  So leaving the Garden was an act of grace by God for Adam's descendants to be released from the curse.  The first Adam could become the second Adam, Jesus of Nazareth, who did not believe the serpent's lie.

  All of this is told in language which is simple yet spoken in pavilions of thought.

  The rest of the Bible is the story of the family of Adam, to which we relate through generation, to the family of Jesus the second Adam, to which we relate through regeneration.

Part Two will be next week...

Thursday, July 26, 2012

 If we look at the picture of God in the gospel of John we see the picture of filling up.  The Father has given to the Son, the Word that the Son came from the Father.  The Son has given that Word to His disciples and they have believed it.  So we might imagine the Father as the master wine merchant pouring new wine into a perfect wineskin.  Then we might imagine the Son taking that wineskin to pour that new wind into the glass of a guest.
  The picture of God is that of unselfish giving, of emptying the wineskin.  In Philippians 2.8 Paul says Jesus did not try to grasp equality with God.  The Son emptied Himself, He poured Himself out of His Godhead into manhood.  Paul says he is poured out as a drink offering in Philippians 2.17 and 2 Timothy 4.6.

We can think of Hebrews 9.14 in which Jesus--through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.  In the OT Isaiah 8.8 has a passage in which he speaks of the Euphrates River overflowing its' banks--it will rise up over all its' channels and go over all its' banks.  Then the image changes from water in the OT to wings in the NT--and the spread of its' wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.  This in Isaiah might remind us of the wings of a dove which appeared when Jesus was baptized in the waters of the Jordan, Matt. 3.16.

  So we have the picture of pouring out from the Father to the Son to the believers.

  But what would be the opposite of this?  It might be selfishness.  Paul says--Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. Phil. 2.8.  Ezekiel 28.2 describes the king of Tyre as epitomizing this selfishness--
  Because your heart is lifted up
  and you have said, I am a god,
  I sit in the seat of gods,
  in the heart of the seas...
This is the spirit of the father of lies Jesus mentions in John 8.44 as the one who--does not stand n the truth because there is no truth in him.  Did you notice the connection between empty conceit and no truth?  What is being conveyed here is that Satan was not the clear vessel Jesus was.  He did not empty himself, pour himself out or even reflect the light of God's presence.  He took the glory of God which he was reflecting as his own possession (you might say blocking the light) to cast down darkness--his kingdom became darkened, Revelation 16.10.

  Satan tried to be a god without being God--he was a created being; Jesus as God the Son was 'begotten not made.'  The Apostle's Creed puts it as--one being with the Father.  So instead of receiving the Spirit of God as Jesus did, Satan tried to take a kingdom away from God.  Jesus ascended to heaven, Satan was cast down.

  We are called to be clear vessels.  Peter emphasizes the clear aspect of our souls when he writes that we are to be precious stones, 1 Peter 2.6.  These stones, from the crown of David to the heavenly city, are seen when light passes through them; not only is God seen when His presence is in us, but we are seen.  as the precious stones upon which the church is built,we reveal His immanence while He resides in His transcendence.  Jesus seems to summarize this when He says--Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matt. 5.16.

  How can we be what Jesus was, not what the Other Guy was?  Paul seems to answer this at the end of Ephesians 3.  First, Paul says he bows his knee before the Father.  Certainly, Satan is not known for his humility.  Second, Paul asks that we would receive--power through His spirit in the inner man, Eph. 3.16.  And third, Paul says that as we are rooted and grounded in the love of God, Christ would dwell in us so that we would--be filled up to the fulness of God, Eph. 3.19.

  When we humble ourselves before God, we receive His power so that Christ would dwell in our hearts in order that we become filled with God.

Friday, July 20, 2012

We often think that predestination and free will are enemies, like Achilles and Hector battling for the fate of Troy.  However, we might want to consider what the Bible says about destiny and choice.  An example might be 1 Thessalonians 5.1-11.

  The city was named after Thessalonica, the sister of Alexander the Great.  When Alexander's father Philip of Macedon conquered the Thessalonians, his daughter was born on that day.  He named her after them.  When she married Cassander, she rebuilt the city which still stands today.
  The Jews had a synagogue there.  The Jewish community knew the Day of the Lord was coming.  But the other people of the city lived as if life goes on as usual.  Paul here predicts that the Day of the Lord will come on the Thessalonians and--they will not escape, 1 Thes. 5.3

  Paul says the Christians in Thessalonica know this--you yourselves know this full well, 1 Thes. 5.2.  They know what is going to happen beforehand, that the Day of the Lord is predestined.  And yet Paul does not say to stand still, but he calls them to action:
  Let us not sleep as others do,
  let us be alert..
  let us be sober..1 Thes. 5.6.

Paul then says--God has not destined us for wrath but for obtaining salvation...therefore encourage one another and build up one another, as you also are doing, 1Thes. 5.11.  The believers are destined for obtaining salvation but Paul does not say, Rest on your eternal security, my friends.  He encourages them to use their free will to act.

  Probably the reason salvation and action go together is that the world will end.  At some point the times will be too late for evangelism. Salvation is not retirement to the rest home.  Christians don't end the evening playing gin rummy; Christians call upon the Spirit of God to share the gospel because the time is always short for someone.

  At the end of 1 Thes. 5, Paul has 18 consecutive verses of what the Thessalonians should do.  Some of them are well-known--
  rejoice always
  pray without ceasing
  in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God for you
  do not quench the spirit
and there are others.  What this means is that our predestination, our salvation is put to work.  In Ephesians the believers are to--
  walk in a manner worthy of your calling
  show forbearance to one another
  be renewed in the spirit of your mind
  put on the new self
  be kind to one another
  forgiving one another

  These aren't all of what Paul says to do by the dedication of your will to your calling, but they are enough to understand that Paul's concept of predestination is not void.  In Romans 16 the list of what the Christian is called to do with his or her calling is even longer.
  Evidently a believer's calling is the power of the Spirit to live the Christian life.  We can immediately remember the woman caught in adultery of John 8.  When the accusers leave, Jesus says--Go and sin no more.  Would He say that if she could not do so?  In Matthew 6.1 Jesus says--Beware of practicing your righteousness before men...  So we see there is the practice of righteousness.  After Jesus says this He mentions fasting, praying, giving alms, forgiving, laying up treasure in heaven, serving God, trusting God without anxiety, seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Then in chapter 7 He says, don't judge, ask in prayer, enter the narrow gate, beware of false prophets, do the will of God, and finally, act upon His words.

Predestination is a call to action as free will is a call to the knowledge of God.  The difference is the man who hears--predestination-- and the man who hears and then acts--predestination and free will.  To the Ephesians Paul is praying that they would know--
  What is the hope of His calling...
of the saints, Eph. 1.18.  This calling is not to rest in salvation but to act upon it.  So in Matt. 25 Jesus says He will come back in glory.  He will put His sheep on His right hand, the goats on His left.  This had been predicted by Jesus.  The sheep were predestined for the kingdom of heaven, as it was--prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.  They were predestined so that exercising free will to take care of the least of Jesus' brothers is what Peter calls--make certain about His calling and choosing you..  2 Peter 1.10.

  Paul says this to the Galatians--
  For you have been called to freedom, brethren, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another, Galatians 5.13.