Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Word became flesh

John 1:14  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Over the last two years, we have looked many times at the definition of the word of God; especially, the definition that Jesus and his immediate followers gave the phrase in the New Testament writings. Since we have proven with the preponderance of evidence that it is the gospel, I think that it makes the most sense to say that the gospel was made flesh, or became flesh, and dwelt among us. Jesus is the living gospel. Many in the Messianic Judaism movement would argue that Jesus was the living Torah. I think that's incorrect. Jesus was not the living Torah or Tanakh. He was not the living Scripture. He was the living breathing good news. This is further evidence that the entire Scripture is not the word of God per se. It contains the word of God because it is a story of redemption. The story of redemption is the good news or the gospel. The good news is that there is a kingdom of God. God reigns, and that we are one and all the children of God; we’re citizens of God's kingdom. God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself not counting trespasses.

This is why John states in verse 17 that while the law was given by Moses, grace and truth, came through Jesus Christ. These salient facts limit the way that we should properly use Scripture. Think about it for a minute, seeing the word of God as the Gospel, and looking at the Scripture in a solely redemptive focus in no way lessens inspiration of Scripture. What it does however, is it eliminates the constitutional, legal reading of Scripture. It helps remove the fear of death from the reading of Scripture. It brings about an assurance of eternal connectedness to God. The knowledge of eternal union with God brings about peace with God which in turn brings about an abiding love for God. Out of the supernatural love for God, close real, supernatural, transformative obedience.

Think about it for a minute please, the Bible, Torah, Scripture, etc. did not become flesh and dwell among anyone. Jesus of Nazareth, the living gospel, God's living good news tabernacled among us. It was his glory that was seen. It was the glory of the only begotten of the father full of grace and truth. That's what became flesh and dwelt among men. It should be obvious that Scripture has been elevated to the place of idolatry in evangelical Christianity. The book has been placed above Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the father for that matter. Christianity has been turned from an eternal relationship with God to a legal constitutional relationship. Travel across the country any Sunday, and you will visit churches that are encumbered by this legal constitutional death. Will we not remember that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life? Why are we so trenched in our biblical idolatry that we end up denying the Lord that the Scripture describes?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Resting in grace equals the Sabbath rest

Heb 3:18-19  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  (19)  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.
A very important recurring theme in my paradigm shift is the role that grace plays in the gospel and subsequently in the transformation process. In my view, the New Testament points out very clearly that the transformation process is brought about by believing the gospel, in other words by faith. In the letter to Hebrew Christians, in chapters 3 and four, the author uses the Exodus and Israel's failure to enter the promised land as a metaphor for believing and resting in the gospel. In fact, the commandment that states remember the Sabbath to keep it holy is a prefigure of the Sabbath rest. The reason that Israel was not allowed to work on the Sabbath at all was because it represented resting in the gospel of grace and God's love.

In the familiar story from the Exodus we see 12 spies sent out (one from each tribe) to spy out the land that God had promised to give them. Instead of believing God when he said that he would give them this promised land, 10 of the spies came back with a fearful report of giants in the land, stating that it would be very difficult to gain the victory. Now, this was when God had already guaranteed that he would give them the land. If they believed God, they would have been willing to do whatever they had to do to enter that land without fear. They would have realized by faith that it was really theirs in the first place. Only two spies, Joshua and Caleb came back with a report stating that they could and should take the land… It would be no problem. The people voted, and chose not to believe Joshua and Caleb. This angered God and he swore that none of the unbelieving generation would be able to enter the land of promise. Moses got to see it from the mountaintop but only Joshua and Caleb and their families were allowed to enter the Promised Land. It was the land of rest and prosperity.

In the Hebrews passage, the writer explains that there is a yet available Sabbath rest for the people of God. Since God had rested from his work from the seventh day forward, the Hebrews writer suggests that individuals in the new covenant era, could rest from their work, just as God rested from his. So what is the work that the believer could rest from? The answer is simply the works of the law. One could completely trust God's grace, and rest in his provision, and thereby stop working to develop his or her own righteousness. It is easy to see that the Sabbath rest spoken of in Hebrews chapters three and four is really resting in God's grace by faith.

It amazes me that so many evangelical Christians work so hard to achieve their own righteousness, thereby not submitting to God's righteousness, when God clearly states through the writer of Hebrews that they should completely rest from their work.

Continue in the grace of God

Acts 13:38-43  Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you,  (39)  and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.  (40)  Beware, therefore, lest what is said in the Prophets should come about:  (41)  "'Look, you scoffers, be astounded and perish; for I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will not believe, even if one tells it to you.'"  (42)  As they went out, the people begged that these things might be told them the next Sabbath.  (43)  And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God.
The entire 13th chapter of the book of Acts presents the story of the calling of Paul and Barnabas to the proclamation of the gospel message. It was in keeping with Jesus original commandment to bring the gospel message to the Jews first before proclaiming it to the Gentiles. Paul explains with scriptural authority that the resurrection of Jesus was the fulfillment of the promised good news. He goes on to promise that this good news freed them from all the things that they could not be freed from by the Law of Moses. I find it interesting that Paul admonishes them to continue in the grace of God. As you read the entire 13th chapter of the book of Acts, it becomes clear that the grace of God, the word of his grace, and the word of God are all terms that mean the gospel as presented in context. This is merely added support for the idea that I have posited, which shows that Jesus and his followers redefined the phrase word of God to mean gospel, and highlights the importance of this paradigm shift.

Here we find an example of continuing in the gospel to be a commandment. So then, what does continuing in the gospel mean? Obviously, it means continuing to believe the gospel. Here is yet another example of how important the obedience of faith really is in the new covenant. It becomes more and more apparent that establishing the redemptive focus and purpose of the Scripture is Jesus and his follower’s sole purpose. This provides reinforcement for understanding the juxtaposition between law and grace. There is a real contrast between old covenant law and new covenant grace.

So here we have another example showing the importance of grace as the driver in new covenant theology. Grace is prime, and holds a foundational position. Law is secondary, something that has been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection is of prime importance. It provides the correct understanding of the good news. Humanity is eternal and eternally reconciled to God by Jesus and the cross. The cross is merely the instrument of death chosen by God to demonstrate the resurrection and thereby demonstrate the eternal reconciliation of humanity to God. It further shows the length that God was willing to go, to reconcile humanity. In other words, it shows God's commitment to reconciling humanity, and provides assurance of the eternal relationship between God and creation.

It should be self-evident that this understanding would promote peace with God based on the ability to rest in his grace. This peace becomes the catalyst for all loveand obedience. Once again simply put, the gospel is the engine driving the reconciliation train.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Amazing Grace

Romans 6:14  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Amazing Grace is one of my favorite hymns. I love the lyrics, and can hear it over and over again, and never grow tired of it. In the above passage from Romans, Paul says, that sin will not have dominion over us… Why? The simple answer is that we are not under law but under grace. The reason that sin has no dominion over us, is directly related, to the fact, that we are not under law, but under grace. Here again, we see Grace driving the train. Grace is the prime mover. That is the way it is in the new covenant.

The mixture of law and grace present in current evangelical orthodox doctrine flies in the face of this truth. It is not stated that by understanding the law, and following its edicts, that one will overcome sin. Further, it is not stated that after understanding the law the Holy Spirit will enable one to overcome sin, but merely by the fact that we are not under law but under grace. It comes down to the word dominion. What does dominion mean? The first definition of dominion is as follows: the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority. So then, one could say that sin does not have the power or right of governing and controlling; sovereign authority because of grace.

Again, this is most important in the proper flow of the transformation process. Grace, unmerited favor from one above our stature, creates within us a natural love for, and peace with the one granting the unmerited favor. I know that over the course of this blog, I have become redundant in stating this idea over and over again. However, this is necessary if we are ever to allow Grace to take its proper place in transformation. It is graces transforming power that makes it truly amazing grace.

Notice that Paul does not say that that sin loses its dominion over us because we no longer sin. But rather, sin loses its dominion over us because we are under grace and no longer under law. He does say however, since we are not under law but under grace, that this provides a good reason to not continually sin. In other words, it is reasonable to look out at our behavior and try to rid ourselves of sin. It is not reasonable and proper however to try to rid ourselves of sin from fear. In so doing, this is the place where the law becomes the law of sin and death. Rather, we should try to rid ourselves of sin because of love for God brought about by grace. This would be possible if we did not have such an unhealthy view of sin brought about by fear from understanding the law. Yes, in my view evangelical orthodoxy has an erroneous and unhealthy view of sin, the law, and proper obedience. This erroneous view, makes grace much less amazing than it really is. It saddens me deeply to see Saints in such bondage to sin by the fear of the law when Paul has made it so abundantly clear that we are not under law but rather under grace.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stop the legal, constitutional reading of scripture now! or, WWJD?

Fifteen years ago WWJD trinkets swept the bible book store scene. Everywhere you looked you saw WWJD lanyards, key chains, and bumper stickers. Just in case anyone has been isolated from society until today, WWJD stands for What Would Jesus Do? I have been writing on this blog for a little over two and one half years, and if I have answered any question on this blog I have answered the question; what would Jesus do about the legal constitutional reading of scripture? The answer is he would say STOP IT! How can I be sure you ask? Simple…  he saw it as the story of redemption  or the redemptive narrative. He told the Pharisees…. “you search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life” (you read them legal-constitutionally so that you think they will instruct you in the behavior and obedience that leads to life, my paraphrase) --- he goes on… “these scriptures are a testimony of me but you are not willing to come to me that you might have life.” (The sole purpose of the scripture is to point to me (Jesus) that you might have life and you have searched it for the wrong reason, my paraphrase) (John 5:39-40.)

One of the main reasons for my position is the fact that Jesus redefined the phrase Word of God. It is also my contention that one of the main reasons that evangelical orthodox Christianity holds so tightly to the legal constitutional reading of scripture is because they believe that the scripture is synonymous with the word of God. It is continually called the word of God. You hear the word of God says this, and the word of God says that, --- they always mean that it must be followed in a legal constitutional way. This elevates scripture to deity. I hate to hear that phrase used in that way because when I do, my ears, hear idolatry.

On the other hand, Jesus, and all of the New Testament writers define the *word of God* as either the gospel, or Jesus, the living gospel. This has been proven over and over again on this blog in post after post (check out the *label* section of this blog and click on scripture, read each and every one and I challenge anyone to suggest that this re-defining did not happen.)

What does this re-defining of the phrase *word of God* from Torah to gospel mean? It should be obvious but it does not seem so. The re-defining of the phrase *word of God* shifts the focus of scripture from a legal constitutional document to the story of redemption, a redemptive narrative. It makes the scripture the inspired holy scriptures but not *the word of God.* Further, you do not take away from the inspiration of the scripture by insisting that it is NOT *the word of God* per se. In fact, when one sees the scripture redemptively it actually takes on more authority. Not authority in a legal constitutional sense but authority in a redemptive sense that brings deep assurance to the individual who is trusting God.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Last Adam and Eve Part I

1Corinthians 15:45  Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
John 17:23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Time after time in this blog, I have proved in many and various ways that we are New Covenant people. We are the New Jerusalem, the city of God coming down out of heaven. The heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of us all and we are in spiritual union with Jesus Christ, the last Adam. In him, because of him, we too are the last Adam and Eve. When God reconciled the world through Christ we returned to the garden experience. Genesis 3:8  And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. We once again are able to walk and talk with God in the cool of the day, in the early morning light, in the midnight hour… that is, we are always in the presence of God.

Yes, that is right. New Covenant people are in the New Jerusalem, in the new heaven and earth, and have been totally restored to the garden experience. We can eat from the tree of life, and shun the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All of this is available to humans now. It is not something that one has to wait for… it can be experienced in the present presence. Isn’t it sad that so many are awaiting, and anticipating that which is already here. When God created humanity and the world he announced that his creation was very good (Gen 1:31.) He proved this belief by reconciling the world to himself in Christ. Think about that…. God… was in Christ… reconciling the world to himself… not counting their sin against them. We have inherited the ministry of reconciliation. A big part of the ministry of reconciliation is announcing that we are in fact the last Adam and Eve in Christ. The story has gone full circle.

Jesus told his followers that – God was in him – he was in us… so then, in a similar way that all of the fullness of the Godhead resides in Christ Jesus… it also resides in us. We have tremendous power that we do not properly explore and exploit. In order for us to feel and manifest the power we need to believe it corporately. Yes, I’m saying that for the real power to manifest, the group (body of Christ) is necessary. Unfortunately, most fellowships are so bogged down with the law, sin and death, and elemental aspects of salvation that they completely miss the goal… they miss the ministry of reconciliation. They have embraced the leaven of the Pharisees’ hook, line, and sinker. They spend all of their time striving for and insisting on legal righteousness. They are not resting in the righteousness of God and in so doing they miss their great opportunity.

My prayer is that fellowships will embrace grace – completely embrace grace, and that they will allow peace with God and love for God to transform them into the last Adam and Eve.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Learning a theology lesson from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On August 23, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, delivered his epic “I have a dream” speech on the mall in Washington D.C. I would like to offer a quote from this speech that shows the brilliant, if not so subtle, criticism of Christianity at the time. It was a reference that he made in the speech. Here’s the quote:
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. *We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only."* We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹” 
The scripture passage that he used in the above quote is from Amos chapter five. The exact clause is “until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” I would like to include the scripture passage where this quote is taken from, so that I may give it the context, that no doubt Dr. King, wanted it to have.

They hate him who reproves in the gate, and they abhor him who speaks the truth. Therefore because you trample on the poor and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone, but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards, but you shall not drink their wine. For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins-- you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate. Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord: "In all the squares there shall be wailing, and in all the streets they shall say, 'Alas! Alas!' They shall call the farmers to mourning and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, and in all vineyards there shall be wailing, for I will pass through your midst," says the LORD. Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him, or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the LORD darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
(Amo 5:10-24ESV)

As you read the above passage, it should become clear that Dr. King was showing any and all who would listen and hear, that the white religious establishment in the south, was truly hypocritical, and that if they would in fact read the warnings that God had given Israel through the prophet Amos, they would have been given pause considering their treatment of fellow African American Christians. The gate is symbolic for government and commerce. Amos was telling Israel that their national sin was injustice.

As I look at the current situation here in the richest country in the world, we have not made much progress since the days of Dr. King some forty-four years ago. There is little concern for the poor and disenfranchised. Taxes are still exacted at the expense of the poorest Americans. Most of our charity efforts, allows too much of the finances meant to help with the distribution to the poor, to be consumed by unnecessary administrative costs. All to often in our courts, justice is not available for the poor but can be bought by the wealthy. If God is the same, yesterday, today and forever, and I believe He is, then we as a country, as Christians, should reflect on the fact that God brought judgment to Israel because of the warnings of the prophet Amos.

When will we let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a might stream?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The sovereignty of God and the free will of humans

Ephesians 1:11  “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,”
Isaiah 45:7  “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
There is an age old debate within Christianity concerning the sovereignty of God and humanities free will. It goes back to Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. It resurfaced with Calvin and Arminius during the Protestant Reformation and it rages on today between Calvinists and Arminians. Luther wrote a treatise on it called “The Bondage of the Will.” This debate becomes very important in theologies that emphasize hell because as hyper-Calvinists teach, taken to the extreme, God predestines some to heaven and others (perhaps most) to hell.

Likewise, it has deep ramifications in the salvation of individuals. If salvation is a choice then mankind must fear that they will not be able to keep their salvation over the long haul… and therefore must always be in fear. If salvation is by the sovereignty of God then one can rest assured because it is not up to them and they can rest and trust solely in God. I would go so far as to say that if salvation is up to the individual no one could be saved. As I stated a couple of posts back, humans participate by apprehension, i.e., they apprehend what God did in Christ

The above quoted passages are two that speak strongly of the total sovereignty of God. God is sovereign in all things. In fact, it is so unpopular to think that God creates evil that all of the modern versions of the bible have substituted the word calamity for the word evil in Isaiah 45:7. If you look at the Hebrew word rahaah it definitely means evil and Young’s Literal Translation backs it up. The fact remains that both of the verses do in fact point to the absolute sovereignty of God in all things. Therefore, those that take the bible literally must see that God is sovereign in all matters… after all, God works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of his will. That pretty much establishes God’s sovereignty and eliminates any eternal choice for humanity.

So, how can it be resolved? I think that it is resolved nicely by the fact that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself not counting sin against anyone (2Cor 5:19.) All have been reconciled to God. This is why the ministry of reconciliation is so important. The gospel preacher should be proclaiming the fact that humanity is reconciled to God. People do not need the sinner’s prayer or the four spiritual laws. They simply need to be told that they are reconciled to God through Christ and allow the Holy Spirit to convince them of the fact and rest in it.

Rather than make this post too long let me list some bullet points that explain some of the questions you may have:
  • What about hell? Well, evangelical-orthodox teaching about hell is not all that sound when considering the biblical record… see post1 & post2.
  • Human choice effects our lives drastically, and what-ever we sow we reap but here in this life and not eternally.
  • If humans are eternal beings then, evil in this life is for a specific time and not eternity and can have a greater purpose.
  • Ultimate reconciliation is to the praise of God’s glorious grace (Eph 1:5-6.)

So you may ask if there is ultimate reconciliation why preach the gospel if everyone is reconciled by Christ? That’s a good question but consider this. There is great benefit in realizing that one is reconciled while here in this life. Predominantly, it gives one peace with God.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Antinomian Accusation

(Col 2:14-15)  “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.  (15)  He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.”
There are a number of self-appointed heresy hunters within orthodox-evangelical Christianity. One accusation that they often level against those that teach the law was canceled and grace is the rule is this… they label them antinomian. NOMOS, is the Greek word for law and antinomian means against the law. So then, in English, antinomian is anti-law. What part of “canceling the record of debt” in Colossians 2:14 do they fail to understand? What was canceled anyway? The simple answer is the penalty of the debt, death. The cancellation of the penalty for all intents and purposes cancels the record also. Still the anti-nomian accusation continues.

The main proof text for their position comes from Jesus words. Matthew 5:17-20 says this; "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  (18)  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  (19)  Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (20)  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” I have and entire blog post that deals with this passage; you can read it here. The crux of the post is that all has been fulfilled and jots and tittles have been removed.

When one looks at progressive revelation, and the way that the scripture unfolds the story of redemption, one sees that Matthew 5:17-20 was said to Jews who were under the law before the resurrection. I have time and again shown here that the New Testament is a document that shows a transition from Old Covenant to New Covenant. It runs the gamut from John the Baptist the last Old Testament Prophet, to Jesus, the cross, the resurrection, Pentecost, the solely Jewish Church, the inclusion of the Gentiles and the anticipation of the end of the age of Moses with the destruction of the temple. This becomes very important in the cancellation of the Law of Moses. Make no mistake it has been canceled.

I wish that the heresy hunters would engage in honest debate. I am quite certain that they will not. We need to become less afraid of the word heresy. It is time that someone unveils the simpleton behind the curtain pulling the levers. Heresy is a word that simply means not orthodoxy. Orthodoxy simply means the accepted theory. I have shown over and over again here, with a PREPONDERENCE  of scriptural evidence that the accepted theory of orthodoxy is grossly in error in so many areas.  Orthodoxy is wrong in their view of scripture… wrong in their view of eschatology… wrong in their view of the transformation process…. ah the lines of that song is coming back… “when will they ever learn… when will they ever… learn?

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...