Saturday, July 30, 2011

The spirit of heaviness

We just got back from a ten day trip to Memphis to visit my wife’s relatives. One thing that I noticed profoundly was what I would call a spirit of heaviness over the region. It has been a couple of years since I visited the bible belt. In thinking about this spirit of heaviness that I experienced I thought of Isaiah sixty-one. Jesus introduced verses 1 through 2a as his immediate mission statement. It underscores his redemptive-gospel focus. He stopped at 2a because 2b was descriptive of his other mission which was to come into play after the cross and his rejection by the majority of Jews. The ensuing forty years with the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem would be the vengeance of God proclaimed in Isaiah 61:2b.

However, that brings me to the rest of the Isaiah 61 passage focusing on verse 3. This describes what he was going to do for each and every one who embraced the gospel.
Isa 61:3  To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified."
The spirit of heaviness was from the crushing weight of a legalistic system that demands obedience to the letter of the law to gain acceptability to God. The law was not given to make man acceptable to God ever. It was given for two reasons that are different than a system of read and do obedience that makes one righteous. It was given to drive humanity to God’s mercy for acceptance and to present a way of living, that when followed, would bring about a healthier, happier life. I am in agreement with Paul in saying that the law is good (Romans 7:12.)

But, when it is used as a method of being righteous and acceptable to God it becomes a heavy task master. This is why the redemptive-gospel focus that Jesus and his apostles taught is so very important. Without the solely redemptive focus the law brings about the spirit of heaviness.
I find it amusing, that when Isaiah prophesies that Christ will bring the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, that most of the evangelical churches make praise a legal requirement which in turn makes praise and worship service a drudge. The spirit of heaviness comes from a legalistic approach to God’s law and praise has become a spoken legal requirement which is quite ironic in my view.

The church does not lessen the bonds and chains it rather makes them tighter and more formidable. The Jews had 613 mitzvahs or laws and the church has over 800 and it is growing. This comes from not recognizing the method of transformation in the gospel message. The method of transformation proscribed in the gospel is to simply rest in the validity of God’s mercy in Christ, and from a place of certain rest, allow the love of God to begin its restraining and constraining function. This process never even begins today as it is still birthed by the legal requirements put on believers and this brings about a spirit of heaviness that at times is insurmountable. In other words, the law is not being used lawfully (1Tim 1:8.) As long as that is true there will always be a spirit of heaviness without the true garment of praise, and if we rest in Jesus, the garment of praise will be automatic 24-7!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Holiness Fallacy

-Here is a re-post of an article that I wrote fifteen years ago. I think it makes an important point.

I am going to bring to light an idea that has been germinating in my mind for some time now. I will call it "The Holiness fallacy". While I know that if this is read it will stir up some hostility, it is my belief that it is much needed. So it is with this in mind that I will boldly jump forward. This idea comes from reading in the scripture. The entire text can be found in   Matthew 7:15-23 but in the beginning I will just focus on verses 21-23.

21 "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in Heaven."  22 "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?"  23    "And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!"

 You might ask; Why do you think this points to the holiness church? Well, I have several good reasons. Reasons, that I can defend with an accurate reading of Scripture. After all, we are cautioned to study to show ourselves approved unto God, a workman without need of shame, being able to rightly divide the word of Truth.

Let's take these verses line by line. "Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven."  This clearly states as a warning that there will be some who say "Lord, Lord" who will not enter the kingdom of heaven. The next phrase becomes the qualifying statement; "but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."  The qualifying statement then is he who does the WILL of My Father in heaven. The people alive in Jesus' day who this would pertain to were the self-righteous Pharisees who rejected Jesus. They were not doing the will of the Father! John 6:40 says this: "And this is the will of Him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day."

It could not be made plainer the will of God is a belief in Jesus, period. It is not a belief in Jesus plus a certain way of walking and talking! It is not belief in Jesus plus talking in tongues, although there are those who twist the scripture to prove this point; to their own peril I warn. The holiness brethren, I call them brethren, because I  truly believe that many are brethren (although deceived brethren.) They are caught in the faulty belief that God  accepts them on the basis of their behavior, and even if it is in response to redemption, and not to keep it,  they are simply incorrect.  It is WRONG to conclude that the holy life is a life kept holy by walking in the law after salvation. The WILL OF GOD is strictly and simply faith in the cleansing blood of Jesus.

The scripture predicts here in Matthew that many will say " Lord didn't  we prophesy in Your name, didn't we cast  out demons in Your name? Didn't we perform many wonders in your name?"

Think about this. The only people on this earth who are doing these things are those in the Holiness Church. Further, the only ones who have done these things since the original Apostles, in the last two thousand years is the Holiness Church! This scripture can be directed at NO ONE ELSE!
"And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!"

In order to clarify this verse we must once again go into the book of John. John 15:10-14 and then again verse 17. 10 "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love just as I have kept My Fathers commandments and abide in His love.  11     "These things have I spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13.   "Greater love has on one than this than to lay down one's life for his friends. 14 "You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.......... 17   "These things I command you , that you love one another." 

This is a place where Jesus refers to the law. He clearly states in verse 10 that we should keep His commandments just as He had kept the Fathers commandments (the decalog). What is Jesus' commandments then? Simply to love one another. But is that so simple? It's not that simple because He adds the phrase love one another as I have loved you. How did He love us? The answer is simple; completely. Can we love others that way? The answer would again be no. But, we need to look further into what scripture has to say about it.
Deuteronomy 6:5
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength."
It is impossible for man to keep this commandment on his own! I may fear God, but I can't truly love Him out of fear. And from man's vantage point, there is no other possible way to view Him. I, as a man am at His mercy. Only when I see the true extent of that mercy, can I love Him.! Now I'm going to cut right to the point. If we are in constant fear of displeasing Him then we don't love Him. We are afraid of Him, but when we say we love Him we're lying! The Apostle John chose to say it this way in 1 John 4:10-11  "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins . Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 

We can't love. Not God, not our neighbors, nor ourselves, unless we truly know the extent of God's grace and my friend I can testify that it is limitless!
So let me bring this back to the Holiness Church. They shout and say they love God, but their beliefs and practices show that they are afraid of God!  Now the truth of the scripture is this; the only ones who should be afraid of God are those not trusting in Jesus and His cleansing blood. See, if I'm trusting in how I dance: if I'm trusting in how I speak in tongues, or what Church I go to, or how many times I go to Church; if I'm continuously caught in secret self-condemnation, or wondering if someone else is really up to par spiritually, or thinking that if I could only be as Spiritual as so and so, that this would make me holy enough and acceptable to Him, I am fooling myself! I should be longing to be as spiritual as Jesus. I should be enjoying the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus died for my mess.

THINK ABOUT IT PLEASE! Do you think that Jesus suffered on the cross just so that you and I could get saved, only to be put in a situation, where we could not live HOLY enough to keep our salvation. ARE WE SO EGOCENTRIC AS TO BELIEVE THAT OUR SALVATION DEPENDS ON US? PLEASE! Let's use our minds!
What I'm trying to say is this, for us to keep the commandments of Jesus we have to love one another the way He loved us. The only way we can ever possibly do this is to realize how limitless God's love and mercy is toward us. The Apostle John made it perfectly clear in 1 John 3:20-23:
20 For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep his commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment; that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
These verses explain the "Law of Christ." Under the New Covenant (Matthew 26:28), humanity has been given the the "Law of Christ."  This new covenant is a covenant of agape?. It is referred to as "the perfect law of liberty" by James (James 1:25). This is the law of LOVE!

Face the fact. The only condemnation that Jesus ever spoke anywhere in scripture was directed at self-righteous Pharisees. Even, in the second and third chapters of Revelation His strongest criticism was to those who were of the synagogue of Satan again the self-righteous.

While the Holiness Church spends its time condemning fornicators and drunks, the neighborhoods round about them, continue to sink into the black hole of despair. Where is the love? The fact is no one can love from a place of fear and condemnation. Sadly, the scripture has been twisted and perverted by the leaven of the Pharisees. My hope is that God's people will truly get SAVED and fall on the stone to be broken, and then remain broken of self-righteous and condemning attitudes and trust in the BLOOD OF JESUS!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A fresh look at the parable of the sower; the seed, the word, the gospel

I have used up a lot of key strokes in this blog showing you that Jesus and his disciples redefined the phrase, the word of God,  with gospel and himself the incarnate gospel. With this in mind I have posited Mark 4:11-20 and have substituted the term gospel for word. Gospel is in purple font and italics.
Mar 4:11-20  And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,  (12)  so that "they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven."  (13)  And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?  (14)  The sower sows the gospel.  (15)  And these are the ones along the path, where the gospel is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the gospel that is sown in them.  (16)  And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the gospel, immediately receive it with joy.  (17)  And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the gospel, immediately they fall away.  (18)  And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the gospel,  (19)  but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the gospel, and it proves unfruitful.  (20)  But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the gospel and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."
So what exactly is the gospel? In short, it is the redemptive action and purposes of God being fulfilled in the earth. God has set to rights the entire creation in Jesus Christ. He did it by the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. As Paul explained it, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself (2Cor 5:19.) Jesus, the last Adam restored the relationship that the first Adam had before the fall. Further it is a done deal… accomplished (John 19:30.)

Faith is the method of apprehending this gospel reality. It all begins in the mind… that is, in a renewed mind. The key then, to having the word/gospel stick enough in order to bear fruit is faith. It will produce thirtyfold, sixtyfold or a hundredfold depending upon the level of faith developed and faith is a process of growth ever increasing as it ebbs and flows. This is the secret or mystery of the kingdom of God. The fruit is restoration.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Biblical Obedience; the obedience of faith

When one looks at the English definition of the verb obey, one finds the following; to carry out or fulfill the command, order, or instruction of; to carry out or comply with (a command, for example).   Likewise, the term obedient has this definition in the English dictionary; dutifully complying with the commands, orders, or instructions of one in authority.  Therefore, the main thrust of obedience as we understand it, is an action or actions.  In other words, it is compliance with a command or doing something.

The biblical definition of obey, obedience, obedient, obeyed is somewhat different.  The difference is in the method of compliance and motivation for the obedience.  The idea is most clearly explained in Romans 1:5.  The verse reads;through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, In the Greek it is HUPAKOE PISTIS, which is best translated as the attentive hearing of faith.  The translation above, which is from the English Standard Version (ESV), is the correct one and it is translated incorrectly in the King James Version as well as some other versions.  In the King James Version, Romans 1:5 reads obedience to the faith.  Obedience to the faith more clearly means a series of obedient actions as opposed to the obedience of faith which means that faith is obedience or the act of obedience is faith.  Now here is an interesting fact about the phrase HUPAKOE PISTIS; it is found in another place in Paul’s letter to the Romans.  It is also found in Romans 16:26.  I will quote it here from the King James Version: (Rom 16:26)  But now is made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faithSo then, we see that the King James translators rendered it obedience to the faith in one instance and the obedience of faith in another.  The fact that is interesting about this is that both instances Paul is generally stating the gospel.  This is true of Romans 1:5 but is equally true of this passage which is a benediction pronounced in verses 25-27.  
Rom 16:25-27  Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages  (26)  but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith--  (27)  to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.
Notice that Paul is once again announcing that the gospel had been kept secret for long ages but was now revealed to all nations to bring about the obedience of faith to the gospel.  Therefore the obedience of faith is the obedience of believing the gospel.  The obedience that God demands is faith in the gospel message.

This is indeed interesting.  In Romans 1:5, the KJV translators translated HUPAKOE PISTIS as obedience to the faith and in Romans 16:26, they translated it obedience of faith.  Please forgive my apparent skepticism, but it seems to me like there was an agenda in this translation.  In fact, except for the Amplified Version, the KJV stands alone with the Douay-Rheims (Roman Catholic) and the Good News Translation, again (Roman Catholic).  In all of the other major translations, i.e., the NASB, NIV, NRSV, etc., it is translated the obedience of faith
What does this mean?  Well, it eliminates the very legalistic view of scripture and it also eliminates the necessity of absolute action obedience.  This would be a good time for clarification.  It is not that the obedience of faith, HUPAKOE PISTIS, will not produce obedient action.  It will.  But, the action is not the obedience.  The action is a response to the obedience.  Some further clarification, the phrase is obedience of faith (HUPAKOE PISTIS) therefore, faith is the obedience.  Thus, the more obedience of faith present, the more a response in obedient action will be seen. 

Let’s look at Romans 6:17 with respect to this discussion about the obedience of faith.  (Rom 6:17 NKJV)  But God be thanked that [though] you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  Obeying from the heart to a form of doctrine is putting faith and trust in the doctrine, or in other words, it believes that the doctrine is the true doctrine.  Likewise, obeying from the heart is brought about from love. One would never say that one who obeys out of fear was obeying from the heart.  Obedience that is generated from fear of consequences is not heart obedience.  Heart obedience is the type of obedience that comes from a heart of love as would be given to a loving parent.  For example, a child has been born into a family where the parents love them very much.  Rules are made for the well-being and safety of the child.   One such rule may be; do not touch the stove; it will burn.  Now then, the child obeys from the heart by believing that the parent loves them, knows best, and has their welfare in mind.  It is not simply following the command; do not touch the stove.  If the child stays away from the stove it will be because of heart obedience.  Now then, suppose that the child touches the stove and is burned, the child will not be driven out of the family for the disobedience.  The child will experience the pain of the burn. It is important to understand that when Jesus introduces God as the Father, he is establishing the metaphor of the loving functional family as the pattern or type for the family of God in Him.  Therefore, it is reasonable to think of obedience in the light of a loving family.

However the loving family illustration is not sufficient to explain the good news properly.  The good news is what one must believe from the heart.  This is the good news of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus and the way in which these events reconcile the sinner to God.  In order to understand obeying from the heart, one must understand the definition of faith.  Faith is not just an acknowledgement of fact but rather is an abiding trust.  True faith completely rests in and trusts the blood of Jesus and his atoning sacrifice for all sin, past present and future.  True faith completely rests and trusts in the fact that the person of faith is made righteous and given the very righteousness of God as a free gift for placing trust in Jesus.  True faith is obedience from the heart and it is the obedience of faith

The obedience of faith is more important than action oriented obedience.  Back to the KJV and the predominant teaching of Christendom for the past 2000 years which is explained by the phrase obedience to the faith instead of the obedience of faith.  This teaching is centered on the idea of the obedience to the faith.  Obedience to the faith includes following a set of rules that defines what the faith is.  The faith becomes a term to describe a religious system.  The faith is a life-style and mode of behavior.   Ones being obedient to the faith will produce through specific actions, the life-style/mode of behavior that is associated with the faith.  On the other hand, the obedience of faith focuses on faith.   In this case it is faith in God through Christ Jesus.  Obedience of faith, properly exercised and understood, will produce the same kind of godly behavior as the obedience to the faith will; But, without the fear of failure and disobedience.

Fear of failure and disobedience robs the saint of God from the joy of salvation.  Thus, the one who is obedient to the faith, will never experience the joy of the one who understands the obedience of faith.  The obedience of faith builds faith.  We stated earlier that increased faith increases obedience.  The answer to living a godly life is more faith.  The way that faith is increased is by the trials and testing that are experienced.   As we see the faithful love of God expressed in His total forgiveness in Christ and as we see him deliver all of our needs according to His riches in glory, our faith in Him grows, our love for Him grows, our fellowship with Him grows and likewise our godly behavior grows showing an outward appearance of greater and greater obedience.  This is the obedience from the heart and it is the obedience of faith.

What about obedience in the Old Testament?  Well, the word used for obey and obedience in the Old Testament is the Hebrew word SHAMA pronounced shaw-mah’.  It means to hear intelligently and thus is akin to the Greek word HUPAKOE which means to hear attentively.  There is very little difference and so obedience in the Old Testament was also the obedience of faith.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Is orthodox doctrine the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Part II; Read and Do vs. Be and Believe.

In the last post we looked at Jesus warning concerning the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. We showed how their doctrine of scripture was a main part of the leaven. In this post we will look at the method of reacting to scripture. The Pharisees and the Sadducees had a *read and do* concept of obedience. On the other hand, Jesus, his followers, especially Paul taught a *be and believe* concept of obedience. The *read and do* construct brings about reformation in an individual and the *be and believe* facilitates transformation. However, in order for the *be and believe* construct to work; the *read and do* construct has to be completely eliminated.

The foundation of the *be and believe* construct is imputed righteousness. It is the result of the righteousness of God imputed to individuals based upon their trust in God. Being declared righteous is the all important ingredient in the *be* component of *be and believe.* It brings about “state of being” righteousness. It also allows one to truly love God. From this love of God comes the fertile ground for *be and believe* obedience.

Likewise, the *be and believe* obedience is brought about by relationship with God via Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is the definition of transformation; It all stems from faith and trust in God. Jesus desires to have intimate relationship with each of us. When one believes this and participates in the relationship with Jesus via the indwelling Holy Spirit or Spirit of Christ The closeness of the relationship blossoms and, the fertile ground for *be and believe* obedience is enhanced and transformation takes place.

Conversely, the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees in orthodox Christian doctrine has the believer locked into *read and do* obedience. It was never meant to be this way but this is the precise reason that the metaphor of leaven is so perfectly descriptive. Just like yeast permeates dough, the doctrine of *read and do* obedience has permeated Christian doctrine completely.

Certainly our common sense, the knowledge of good and evil that works in us tells us that *read and do* obedience is correct and that *be and believe* obedience is silly. Certainly we cannot just be and believe we think. There must be a read and do that we must perform. This is precisely the problem that Jesus came to overcome. He came to overcome our commons sense; The common sense that realizes that God could not possibly love or approve of us; The common sense that tells us of course we must *DO* something to be acceptable to God. Yes friend, the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees is the common sense that has us improperly interpret scripture. It is the common sense that demands that reject the redemptive focus of Jesus and his followers and adopt the *read and do* method of Moses.

Why the gospel is important in the transformation process

Rom 8:6  "For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace," A very misunderstood passag...