Monday, April 30, 2012

How should new covenant people fast?

Ok, so we’re looking at the New Covenant prophecies, specifically lately, Isaiah chapters 40 – 66. I am going to posit parts of Isaiah 58 in a bulleted list, and I would invite you to look at all the bullet points and consider the church as you experience it today, and perform a mental inventory to see if most of the list actually fits your experience. I am going to eliminate the verse numbers and just place it in a bulleted list:
  • Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?
  • "Is not this the fast that I choose:
  • to loose the bonds of wickedness,
  • to undo the straps of the yoke,
  • to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
  • Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house;
  • when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
  • Then shall your light break forth like the dawn,
  • and your healing shall spring up speedily;
  • your righteousness shall go before you;
  • the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
  • Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
  • you shall cry, and he will say, 'Here I am.'
  • If you take away the yoke from your midst,
  • the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
  • if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
  • then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong;
  • and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (Isa 58:5-12)
There is a whole group of evangelicals that are fasting and praying all the time. They have shut ins and group fasts. Perhaps they would do well to look at this bulleted list. How much of this list could just as easily be applied to evangelical Christianity, especially the Pentecostal wing. Is it just me or have self righteous people always been angry, judgmental and cruel?

Removing the pointing of the finger could be universal to both the Pentecostal,  and non-Pentecostal evangelical institution. Evangelical Christianity as a whole is pretty judgmental and they base it on their particular read of the scripture. More often than not they do not even consider that they perhaps are reading scripture wrong.  Likewise, it would be prudent to consider Matthew 25:31-46 and Matthew 5:16. Jesus encouraged them to let their light shine before men that others may see the good works, and thereby glorify their Father which is in heaven. I am not saying that there is no group in institutional, evangelical, Christianity which promotes social justice, but they are far more rare than should be the case… especially given the above scripture passages. Is it possible that fasting as practiced today is an attempt to manipulate God much like in the day of Israel?

What if we really are new covenant people, completely under the new covenant? What if much of current Christian doctrine and dogma is in fact the strong delusion mentioned in 2Thess 2:11? What if now is the ripe time for the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God? Not some supra holy group of people that follow all of the biblical laws to a tee, but rather, men and women, boys and girls that are certain that they are children of God… that they love God so much, and are at complete peace and rest with him, that they begin to love supernaturally. The supernatural love is the characteristic that makes them the obvious (synonym for manifest) sons and daughters of the living loving God?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

An everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David

Isaiah 55:1-4  "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.  (2)  Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.  (3)  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.  (4)  Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples.
Writing on to the new covenant people… We learn in Acts that David was a man after God’s own heart. What was it about David? First and foremost it was his faith in God’s love and protection. He was set apart to be a commander of the people and a type of Christ. It is through the linage of David that the kingdom of God gets its king. The kingly prophesies of Christ Jesus always included David.

The interesting thing about this prophecy is who is addressed… “come EVERYONE who thirsts” It is not just a promise to the nation, natural Israel. It is a promise to everyone, Jew or gentile who thirsts. Jesus said the following: Matt 5:6  "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” He is explaining what was meant by Isaiah 55:1. Thirsting for righteousness is really thirsting for justice. It is one who desires in his or her heart to be just and righteous. That will be the trait of new covenant people. Even when they fall short, none the less they still thirst for righteousness.

I have known addicted people, that is, people with addictive personalities hunger and thirst for righteousness. Conversely, I have known many who think that they have achieved righteousness by their behavior that have no apparent hunger or thirst. Remember Jesus’ parable about the two that went to the temple to pray… I would sincerely watch thanking God for helping us to be righteous. What we need to do is thank God and rejoice for declaring us righteous right where we are!

Further down the passage in Isaiah, we Gentiles are included in the promise of Isaiah 55. Isaiah 55:5  Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Here again is ample proof that the new covenant people are neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, but rather, a new creation/creature.

Right now, if you are struggling day by day, but if in your heart you hunger and thirst for righteousness… like for a cold drink and a plate when you are parched and hungry, know this, you will be filled. New Covenant People are filled by the blood of Jesus Christ and that makes them love… they love God… they love each other… and they love and seek everyone who hungers and thirsts.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Your God Reigns; a promise to new covenant people

Isaiah 52:7  “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns."
Proclaiming the kingdom of God is as easy as saying your God reigns. The reign of God, the government of God, and the kingdom of God are all the same thing. To say it in today’s language you could simply say “God rules.” The above passage is descriptive first and foremost of Jesus and his mission. He came to bring the good news of the kingdom. That is the message, your God reigns. One could not say God reigns without meaning that the kingdom of God is a now thing. It is a present reality.

I have already stated that the decrees of Isaiah chapters forty through sixty-six are promises written to the New Covenant People. That is the reality of who we are. We are new covenant people, completely under the new covenant. The covenant is made by God’s declaration. It is entered into by apprehension on our part. Not apprehension as in anxiety but apprehension in relationship to apprehending or arresting.

Let’s go back to the beginning of the book. Let’s take a look at Genesis. Gen 1:27 & 31  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  …..  (31)  And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”  There you have God’s point of view, man was created good in God’s image. In the reign of God, God’s view is the correct one. With the knowledge of good and evil, man doubted God’s original decree, and wondered if humanity was bad and not good. In the long run, humanity concluded that they were essentially bad. Christ came to this earth believing God’s original decree that he was good. He was willing to die to prove it, knowing that God would raise him from the dead. This was proof of our eternal nature. Because of Jesus, we can believe that we are eternal, and loved by God, and that God thinks we are very good. That is in a nutshell the gospel… that is the good news of the reign of God. Believing that specific gospel message restores us to the original state. That is what redemption is.

It is truly good news to find out that our God, your God, everyone’s God (I say that because there is really only one true God) reigns. God reigns and therefore despots do not. However, the reign of God is spiritual. It only moves into the natural realm when we subject ourselves to his reign. The first step in this subjection is to apprehend the gospel and the kingdom. We must, as I have said over and over again, latch on to, hold on to, firmly grip this truth. We apprehend it and do not allow it to go.

So then, the beautiful feet on the mountain top are the feet of Christ Jesus. But, when we are united to him by apprehending faith, and we begin to proclaim the love of God, and the message that our God reigns in love, we begin to have the beautiful feet ourselves. No matter what may come, our God reigns eternally. No matter what may come we are eternally connected to our reigning God. We can rest in the fact. If God merely reigns for this earthly life what good is that? It is THE eternal reign that makes us bullet proof.

Now then, eternal awareness should not cause us to cop out from achieving all that God wants for us here. It should free us up to grab for the brass ring. It should free us to reach for our highest achievements; all the while proclaiming our God reigns!

Accounted Righteous

Isaiah 53:11  “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.”
I remember from the sixties a song with the line… when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn? As I sit at the keyboard right now, I hear that line playing over and over in my head… when will they ever learn? The scripture is replete with the concept of accounted or imputed righteousness. Paul plainly states that one of unbelieving Israel’s main faults was that instead of accepting God’s accounted righteousness, they were busy trying to establish their own righteousness and as a result of that, they MISSED God’s righteousness…. the song continues in my head, when will they ever learn?

Recently, there has been a group of theologians that are critical of Luther’s understanding of imputed or accredited or accounted righteousness. They insinuate that imputed righteousness is not really imputed. That no one is really righteous without acting and behaving righteously. That makes a lot of sense to the human mind… and the song goes on… when will they ever learn?

As I have come to understand the spiritual transformation process, imputed righteousness is the only thing that makes sense to me. It is the source of Sabbath Rest. God’s declaration that one is righteous based upon faith frees one up to love and trust God completely. Remember the first and greatest commandment according to Jesus. “Thou shalt love the Lord they God with all thy might and with all thy strength.” That means that one must really truly love God! There is absolutely no fudging on that point. It is something one either does or they do not.

There is no room for saying well, I love God, but I am afraid of him…. People, people, people… when will we ever learn? Can I get some honesty? One does not really love and trust someone they fear. I will guarantee, that the fear of God that most evangelicals harbor, secretly for the most part, causes them to be unable to really fulfill the greatest commandment. It is impossible to love with all your heart, mind and strength someone you fear. If you fear you do not love…. Yet, pastors think that they must teach their people to fear God… a little fear is healthy they say…. There goes the song again; when will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

Let me make this really clear. Imputed righteousness, accounted righteousness is the ground… it is the foundation… it is the true catalyst for love for God. Love for God is the motivation for real, genuine, true, sincere, transformation. It will not happen short of complete trust and complete trust cannot happen without absolution. One must be given the righteous status freely without merit in order to completely trust.

And on and on the lyrics play… when will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Friday, April 27, 2012

New Covenant Promises to the New Covenant People II

In the last couple of posts I have begun to explore the New Covenant promises as written in the Old Testament Prophets. Let me expand on my point. The New Covenant promises are what I call sovereign decrees of God which are guaranteed to the target audience of new covenant people. They are decrees that can be counted on completely. To use a metaphor, they are decrees that you can take to the bank or bank on. Let me give an example from Isaiah 54.

Isa 54:16-17  "Behold, I have created the blacksmith Who blows the coals in the fire, Who brings forth an instrument for his work; And I have created the spoiler to destroy.  (17)  No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue which rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness is from Me," Says the LORD.

If you take the time to read Isaiah 54 and put these verses in context you will see that it is a promise to new covenant Israel. This brings up a legitimate question; who is new covenant Israel? What constitutes new covenant Israel? Paul takes a side trip in Romans, in chapters nine, ten, and eleven to explain this. He uses the olive tree metaphor. Branches are cut off for unbelief. Wild olive branches are grafted in, and some of the cut off branches are re-grafted in the original tree. All of the branches are grafted in because they believe in Christ Jesus. So then, New Covenant Israel is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. The New Covenant people lose the status of being either Jew or Gentile. They are in fact a new creature/ creation in Christ.

The truth is that the new covenant promises are for the new covenant people and there are neither, Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, slave nor free… rather they are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28.) Verse 29 goes on to explain that all in Christ are heirs of Abraham and the promise. The promise is a New Covenant based upon better promises. It is important to realize that all of us Gentiles have to be grafted in via Christ or we could not be part of the covenant people.  There is a provision in the Old Covenant for Gentiles joining in to become Jews. It is found in Exodus 12.

Exo 12:48-49 And when a stranger dwells with you and wants to keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as a native of the land. For no uncircumcised person shall eat it. (49) One law shall be for the native-born and for the stranger who dwells among you."

The plain simple fact is that if the New Covenant is not completely in force, Gentiles could not be part of the people of God unless they were circumcised and obeyed all of the Mosaic Law. If in fact, non-Jewish people are in covenant with God at all it must be via the new covenant. Therefore, all those in Christ Jesus are new covenant people and, they can rest assured that God has not formed the weapons that come against them… not only that, they (the weapons) will not prosper. Furthermore, any tongue that rises in judgment will be condemned by the new covenant people. It is the heritage of the new covenant people. And finally, look at the imputed righteousness clause… their righteousness is from Me says the Lord.

Shouldn’t we want to be the new covenant people? We will look further into this and the implications in further posts.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The New Covenant Promises to the New Covenant People

In the last blog post, Repairers of the breach, I began to look at the idea of being New Covenant people. The New Covenant promises in the Old Testament Prophets are addressed to New Covenant people. Who are the New Covenant people anyway? The simple answer is they are all people who have truly apprehended Christ and his provisions. Peter states it this way; 2Peter 1:3-4  “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,  (4)  by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” The great and precious promises are all of the divine decrees proclaimed in the New Covenant passages of the Old Testament Prophets.

Just to name a few, Isaiah 40-66, Jeremiah 31;31-34, and Ezekiel 36:26 come to mind. How does one become a partaker of the divine nature and therefore become new covenant people? The answer is “in Christ.” There is no other way. What I mean by that specifically is there is no other way to be certain of New Covenant status. That is only obtained through union with Christ who is the promised seed of Abraham. Gal 3:26-29  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.  “(27)  For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  (28)  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  (29)  And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.” One is baptized into Christ by simply apprehending the gospel. I like the word apprehend because it is descriptive of real true faith. It is more than mental assent. It grabs a hold of the promises and does not let go. It is the obedience of faith.

Notice it is not obedience to a set of principles. It is a faith that holds on to promises and will not relinquish. It is like the faith of Jacob wrestling with the angel. He would not let go no matter what and that is exactly the description of apprehending Christ Jesus; holding on and not letting go no matter what.

It is in the apprehension of Christ that all of the New Covenant promises come into play. Apprehending Christ is NOT grabbing hold of a specific doctrinal stance. It is NOT talking a certain way, walking a certain way and being in a building every time the doors open. That is NOT the sign of New Covenant people. The promises DO NOT come as the result of church affiliation. They come by apprehending Christ and becoming an heir of Abraham through the promise.

We shall continue to look into what it means to be New Covenant people in subsequent posts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Repairer of the breach

As one who is close to being a full preterist, I have long believed that Isaiah chapters forty through sixty-six are very important to new covenant people. Actually, I think that they are perhaps more pertinent than the actual first century writings in the New Testament. My reason for this is that the New Testament writings chronicle the lives and times of the early church in a transition period between covenants. Isaiah forty through sixty-six was written specifically to new covenant people. With that said, I would like to begin my examination with the promises in Isaiah 58.
 Isa 58:10-14 NKJV:  “If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday.  (11)  The LORD will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.  (12)  Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.  (13)  "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your own words,  (14)  Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of the LORD has spoken."
 I include the passage on the Sabbath for this reason. It is important. Not the day Saturday, but what Saturday was a metaphor of. It is important because of the Sabbath Rest (Hebrews 3&4.) The entire purpose of the Sabbath was to point to resting from work and trusting in God. There is so much in this passage and as the days go on we will look at other passages in Isaiah 40 – 66 but this is a good place to begin. What the world desperately needs today is new covenant people; People who are willing to be repairers of the breach.

There is a double entendre in the phrase repairers of the breach. First, it is a metaphysical breach between man and God. This is precisely why God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting sin. Repairing the breach also has a natural and physical component.  It is well defined in this passage and in Jesus words in Matthew 25:31-46. Repairing the breach is also the process of bringing social justice to the poor and disadvantaged. It is a way of off-setting greed. Gordon Gekko was completely wrong. Greed is not good. Greed is a symptom of humanities pathology.

I hope this is helping a light to click on for you. We are not necessarily the church, nor are we just the kingdom of God. We are the NEW COVENANT PEOPLE. As such, we house the potential to be repairers of the breach. More to come on this subject.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What does it mean to be a doer of the word?

What is a doer of the word? Is it one who reads the bible and obeys its edicts? Well, when you look at the definition of *the word* by Jesus and his first century followers it changes the meaning quite a bit. Jesus and his followers redefined the term word, word of God, to be either the gospel, or Jesus the living gospel. Let’s examine James to see how he defines the term word. James 1:18  “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of His creatures.” In James view, the word of truth is the gospel which is what brought him and his followers forth to be first-fruits. However, James goes on to really nail down what he means by the term word. Look at this passage; James 1:21  “Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” The implanted word, which is able to save your souls is the gospel.

So when James states in verse 22 “don’t be only a hearer of the word, be a doer of the word also” He is saying be a doer of the gospel. Let’s rephrase the verse with this proper understanding. James 1:22  “But be doers of the gospel, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” So now let me ask this question. What does it mean to be a doer of the gospel? How does one do the gospel? The first thing that should come to mind is this; to be a doer of the gospel one must apprehend the gospel and believe it with all their heart. The first step in doing the gospel is believing that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting sin. Doing the gospel is *believing* the gospel in spite of what you see. Doing the gospel will create peace with God, and provide one the opportunity to really love God based upon being at peace with him. Being at peace with God because of the gospel will promote a Sabbath Rest. The term resting in Jesus is doing the gospel. The epitome of the gospel message is resting in Jesus.

It is the gospel that will produce all of the fruit and works. If you pay attention to James, you will see that doing the word is loving your neighbor as yourself. When James goes on in chapter two to say that faith without works is dead being alone… the works that he is referring to is love works; it is feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, housing the homeless and visiting the sick and prisoners.

It amazes me that we have so misunderstood the scripture. Most evangelicals believe that doing the word is reading the bible and following its instructions. I have shown beyond doubt by James own words that doing the word is believing the gospel and allowing peace with God to transform one into a loving person. Still, people use the passage to cause people to fear. My prayer is that we will shift our paradigm to the one that Jesus and his first century followers had.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

To root out, pull down, destroy, throw down, build and plant

Jer 1:4-10  Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:  (5)  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations."  (6)  Then said I: "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth."  (7)  But the LORD said to me: "Do not say, 'I am a youth,' For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  (8)  Do not be afraid of their faces, For I am with you to deliver you," says the LORD.  (9)  Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: "Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.  (10)  See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms, To root out and to pull down, To destroy and to throw down, To build and to plant."

Do you believe that each of us was put here on earth for a purpose? I do. I think that it is very important for each of us to fulfill this purpose and complete our mission. The question to ask yourself is what are you passionate about? The answer to that question could well be your purpose, your mission in life. Fulfilling it will bring you happiness and joy… In a way, it will help complete you as a person, and it will also fulfill God’s purpose for your life.

I bring this up because I want to share my passion with you. Actually, every time I write a blog post I share it, but I want to take this opportunity to state specifically how I see it and why I write this blog.  I guess you may call me a Christian mystic. By that I mean that I believe that I commune and communicate with God via his Holy Spirit. Most evangelicals are mystics in one way, shape or form. As I think about my ordination service, I recall the speaker that day, Dr. Lacy, coming from the above quoted passage. No doubt this is a common passage to be used for ordinations. But, I take it more personal than that. I believe that the Holy Spirit inspired Dr. Lacy to bring the ordination sermon from this passage and that it was a personal message to me. Yes, I realize the historical context. It was written about the prophet Jeremiah. It explained his purpose. I just think that the Holy Spirit wanted me to think about having a similar purpose and mission.

Let’s look at it for a minute in bulleted list form
  • Before I formed you in the womb I knew you
  • Before you were born I set you apart
  • I ordained you to be a prophet to the nations
  • Don’t be afraid of their faces
  • I am your deliverer and with you at all times
  • I have put my words in your mouth and on your finger tips
You are here to
  • Root up and pull down
  • Destroy and throw down
  • Build and plant

With the Lord’s help and grace I will continue to write without fear. I will share openly what the Lord has given me. I will rethink and reexamine orthodoxy, dogma and tradition. I will try to, lovingly if possible, to root up, pull down, destroy, and throw down false doctrines, those that go against what Jesus and his followers promoted; even when it is unpopular; even at the risk of alienation. And by the same token, I will try to build and plant the pure gospel of the kingdom of Christ.

There, I have plainly stated my mission and life’s purpose as I see it. Thanks for taking the time to read it and I welcome any interaction.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Accepting the kingdom of God as a child

Luke 18:17  “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."

We are in a series of posts that I call “in search of the kingdom of God.” Over time I have established some interesting and challenging facts. Jesus and his followers defined the phrase “word of God” as either the gospel, or Jesus the living gospel, and not scripture. Jesus and his followers gave scripture a solely redemptive purpose. Jesus and his followers believed and taught that the kingdom of God, and the end of the age were contemporaneous with them… that is, within the forty year generation that was alive during Jesus ministry.

It is well accepted within evangelical dogma that the exodus was a metaphor for the spiritual exodus that Jesus brought about. The book of Hebrews likens the believing Jews to Joshua and Caleb. They are a type of the believer. They were able to enter the Sabbath rest after the death of the unbelieving Jews. Hebrews (chapter four) says that the believing Jews in the time of Christ are able to enter the Sabbath Rest for believing the gospel. Let’s look at Joshua and Caleb. They believed God when he told Moses that the land of rest was given to them, and that all they had to do was lay hold of it. They were fearless. The reason is that they trusted God and his word to Moses. They had childlike faith.

Let’s look for a minute at childlike faith. Some people think little children are gullible. Why? The answer is simple; they believe what you tell them and take it at face value. Little children are wired to trust. They do not easily see the danger that the world poses for them. They are trusting, and have simple faith in everything. They easily believe in Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny. It is part of their nature to trust, and only as they are let down… only as they are hurt for trusting, do they begin to build up the distrust that is very prevalent in adults.

Yet, Jesus says that unless one becomes like a little child… that is… develops childlike trust in God, they cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Again, let me reiterate that the kingdom of God is simply the reign of God. One cannot enter into a trusting relationship with God without childlike faith. What exactly must one believe? The answer is simple… believe the gospel; Believe that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting sin. This is very difficult for adults to do. It doesn’t make sense… religion does. Religion makes sense because it gives us a set of rules to follow… it gives us something to perform to become acceptable to God. That is antithetical to the gospel message. It is antithetical to the Sabbath Rest.

The problem is this… without childlike faith, one cannot really trust God to give him or her the Sabbath Rest. I have observed an interesting phenomenon in my lifetime. Most of the people that I know who were told of Jesus when they were young; who really believed in him as a child, hold on to that throughout their life, and if they per chance have periods of doubt, they always somehow return to a deep and abiding faith.

What does all of this mean for the kingdom? It means that the kingdom is established solely by trust devoid of religion. If one is trusting in religion… Trusting in a formula… Trusting in a mode of behavior … Trusting in tradition… trusting in any obedience except the obedience of faith, they are lacking the childlike trust and completely missing the kingdom (reign) of God.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness

Matthew 6:33 says this: Two directives are given.“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Two things show up in this verse:  1. first, seek the kingdom of God 2. seek His righteousness. If one wants the abundance added by God, they must first seek the kingdom and then His (God’s) righteousness. Interesting… How many church folk ever even speak of the kingdom of God let alone seek it? Are they too busy seeking and building the kingdom of church? This is an important question to ponder.  Are church folk so busy with programs and auxiliaries that they do not have time for the kingdom of God? Are they so consumed with the government of church and church authority that they neglect the rule of the King?

Further to the point, there is little real agreement as to the make-up of the kingdom of God, the timing of the kingdom of God, and the rule of the kingdom of God. I think that it would be very important indeed for most churches to begin a sincere quest for discovering the kingdom of God. Since Jesus said that the kingdom of God was at hand… right around the corner… two thousand years ago, is it not a legitimate question to ask where it is?

Moving on to point two; the righteousness of God. What does it mean to be seeking the righteousness of God? What is the righteousness of God? Let’s look to Paul for the answer. Rom 3:21-26  But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,  (22)  even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;  (23)  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  (24)  being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  (25)  whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,  (26)  to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Yes, that’s right… the righteousness of God is imputed righteousness. It is the righteousness that comes from faith. It is NOT righteousness that is achieved by obedience to the law. What? Did I hear that right? Paul has so much to say about imputed righteousness… the righteousness of God. A lot of *new perspective on Paul* theologians  have tried to downplay the idea of imputed righteousness but, I think it is a serious mistake. Even N.T. Wright, and I love what he has done theologically, misses this important point. Imputed righteousness is the foundation of the Christian transformation process.

Why do I say that you ask? Well, because of Romans 10:1-4. This is one of my favorite go to passages of Pauls. Romans 10:1-4  Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved.  (2)  For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge.  (3)  For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.  (4)  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Here it is made plain. It cannot be twisted. This passage can apply to most of evangelical Christianity today. People are still trying to establish their own righteousness by following the law and what they think the law is.

Even when you understand Greek, and realize that the word translated *end* in verse four is telios with the best meaning being goal… and, if you read the verse as Christ is the goal of the law for righteousness it removes the legal sense in which Christians follow the law with fear and trepidation.  In the kingdom of God, one is granted righteousness for faith in a loving Father who was in Christ reconciling the world to himself and who was not counting their sin against them. This is the source of peace with God. Yes the righteousness of God is the source of peace… and the peace is the source of love for God and the love for God brings about the obedience of faith.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel

Mark 1:15 represents the first words Jesus spoke after returning from the wilderness after his baptism. The message is very simple. First the kingdom of God is at hand. That means that it is very near the time. The Greek word translated as at hand, eggichen means near at the time of the hearers and readers. It is not near 2000 years later, and cannot be construed to mean that. The kingdom of God came essentially by two things. First, one must change their minds from their current belief system, and second, one must believe the gospel. Faith in the gospel is more than mental assent. As I have stated in the past it is apprehending it. Believing it so much that one holds on to it no matter what.

Notice also that Jesus says that the time is fulfilled. The Greek here is important. Time is kairos, the ripe time, and fulfilled is pleroo, complete. So, the statement is this…. The ripe time is complete, the kingdom of God is near, change your mind and believe the good news. How is anyone going to push that into the distant future and have it be a true statement? It simply cannot be done. The kingdom was near, the time was complete and ripe. This is very easy to understand. So, if that was two thousand years ago and if the kingdom was near back then, where is it today? Is the kingdom the church? No, I don’t think so. The church is the called out ones the ecclesia. The kingdom is the reign of God. That means that God is in charge. Since God is in charge what should be done? Jesus answer was to change one’s mind and believe the good news.

So then let’s look a little farther into this matter. The called out ones, the assembly, is to believe the gospel that God reigns. That is, the called out ones individually, and corporately. The reign of God becomes evident when individuals in community believe in the reign of God, and agree what that means practically. This is precisely why the church is not the kingdom of God. There is no essential agreement on what the reign of God means practically. Rather, there are thirty thousand various denominations all believing differently. That is merely the kingdom of confusion.

Has prophecy failed? Did the kingdom fail to materialize? Or… did the prophecy of the strong delusion come about just as prophesied? Did the church miss out on the kingdom of God and instead build the kingdom of church? I think this is precisely what happened. While it is true that the kingdom of God was available from the first century forward, the fact is that Christians did not really believe it. They missed the signs and are awaiting the fulfillment of the kingdom promise; still waiting today. They are looking forward to the establishment of the kingdom and it is available by merely changing the mind and believing the gospel. So then, in a way Jesus is still saying to anyone who will listen, “the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel. What does repent mean? It means to change the mind and embrace the reality that the kingdom is a spiritual kingdom and it is here for the apprehending today.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

My kingdom is not of this world

I have been thinking a lot about the kingdom of God lately. The gospel according to Jesus is the gospel or “good news,” “glad tidings,” of the kingdom. I want to be real clear; I am not referring to the kingdom of church. We as believers should be in the process, about the business of, establishing the kingdom of God. In order to do that it is imperative that we know exactly what the kingdom of God is. I will be doing a few posts that will be in search of the kingdom of God. Hopefully, they will discuss both what the kingdom is and what it is not.

I want to begin with Jesus exchange with Pilate. He clearly told him that His kingdom, the kingdom of God was not of this world. It must therefore be transcendental. It must transcend the kingdom of this world. We hear the phrase “in the world but not of the world” all the time. What bible verse is that found in anyway? Oh… it is not in any… at least that particular verbiage is not to be found anywhere. The concept is found in John chapter seventeen. Specifically in John 17:14 -15:

John 17:14-15  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (15)  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.

Something that I have come to realize lately is, that when in John’s gospel one sees the term world, it does not mean the world as we have defined it in church doctrine. It is not the world that does not know Christ and is non-religious. When John uses the word world, in context, he always means the religious unbelieving Jews. It was the religious unbelieving Jews who hated Jesus. It is very clear that Pilate did not hate Jesus (John 18:28-38). He was basically oblivious to Jesus. It was not the pagan world that hated Jesus, and he was not referring to the pagan world when he spoke the words in the above passage of John. We really need to re-evaluate our use of the term world in Christianity.

At any rate, Jesus says that His kingdom is not of this world. He does not go on to say that it will one day be of this world. The kingdom of God, is the reign of God. The reign of God has always been and always will be so the kingdom of God, reign of God is eternal. The good news of the kingdom of God is that God reigns. Added to that is that God loves humanity. Added to that is the forgiveness of sin. Sin is separated from humanity as far as the east is from the west. God will remember sin no more. We are reinstated in a relationship with God because of Jesus and the cross. We can believe the truth about us, and about God. He thinks we are very good (Gen 1:31.) He is happy he created us and wants a relationship with us.

This is the knowledge that will help transcend the kingdom of men. This will transcend the kingdom of church, and religion that has a death grip on so many. We can be smack dab in the middle of the kingdom of men and still be citizens of the kingdom of God. We can begin to follow the rules of the kingdom of God. We can love. We can love one another. We can control our greed. We can feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and clothe the naked. We can see that the kingdom of God operates in the man-made kingdoms whether it is the kingdom of earthly government or the kingdom of church.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Fear not little flock for it is your Father’s good pleasure to GIVE you the kingdom!

I watched our DVD of the movie “The Secret” a couple of times today, and it pointed out something that will help me change my MO (modus operandi.) I have been critical of evangelical doctrine and dogma, and unfortunately in so doing, have brought more of the same into many of my readers. I shall try from here forward to write about what is good, proper and motivates improvement. In other words, I will emphasize as Jesus and his followers did their new definition of the word of God and explain the redemptive focus of the scripture, and will leave the criticism to others if there is to be criticism at all.

It is fitting that we focus on this glorious promise that Jesus made in Luke 12:32. It should bring joy to our hearts and minds to realize that the God of the universe, our loving Father... by the way as Jesus assured us, has made such a grand promise. The kingdom is ours for the establishing. If it is in fact the Father’s good pleasure to GIVE us the kingdom, then it will behoove us to explore exactly what the kingdom is and what it means to be a citizen thereof.

We can rest assured that the main emphasis of this kingdom is the gospel of grace. Father God has righted the wrongs in Christ Jesus, and has restored us to the fellowship that Adam enjoyed before the fall. We once again can walk and talk with the Father in the cool or warmth of the morning, noon, afternoon or evening. We are in relationship with Him based upon the faithful act of Jesus his beloved son and our elder brother. We have been afforded a grand opportunity. We can love if we trust in the gospel message. We can find real peace with God and develop a deep and abiding love for God that we can show by loving each other.

The kingdom which the Father desires to GIVE us has only one rule. It is the rule of love. It is not a rule that must be followed, nor is it a rule that can simply be followed. We can only genuinely obey the rule of the kingdom if we actually love. It must be that we first love God, and then an offshoot of that love will be the impetus for our love for one another. Yes, my dear friend, I am afraid that we must genuinely love one another. So much so that we would be willing to lay down our lives in that love. This cannot be accomplished because we have read somewhere that it is a rule. We must genuinely first and foremost love one another. It must be in the way in which the Father and Christ have loved us. This is supernatural love, and we cannot achieve it on our own. It has to be infused into us from the Father by his Spirit, and that must needs be the result of genuinely believing the gospel. I hope you will go along with me on this journey in search of the kingdom of God.

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...