Monday, May 15, 2017

Works of the flesh, or Spiritual Fruit?

Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance--as I told you before--that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23 HCSB)

It always amazes me how passages of scripture are totally ignored, especially in their context. Galatians chapter five is certainly no exception. This is a most important passage in its greater context, especially when asking the question that always follows the gospel. What question you ask? How then shall we live? Paul answers the question in verse 16: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16 HCSB) What I would like to unpack in this post is what it means to WALK in the Spirit. Paul clearly states that if one is walking in the Spirit they will NOT carry out the desires of the flesh. Why? I believe the answer to be a change of mind.

For the sake of clarity, let's look at the works of the flesh in a bullet list:

  • sexual immorality
  • moral impurity
  • promiscuity
  • idolatry
  • sorcery
  • hatreds
  • jealousy
  • outbursts of anger
  • selfish ambitions
  • dissensions
  • factions
  • envy
  • drunkenness
  • carousing
  • all other things similar
When one looks at this list it should become OBVIOUS that much of evangelical doctrine and practice is way off the mark. Paul's main message in Galatians 5 is that the believer is NOT under the Law but under Grace! While he is speaking about circumcision, he is in reality speaking about every fleshly way of being made right before God. The list he gives however, is not an exhaustive list of the works of the flesh. He points out at the end, that it is EVERY fleshly endeavor. Every fleshly endeavor is a work of the flesh. The contrast he makes in verses 19-23 is the between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the spirit. First, look at the words works and fruit. Work is something one does and fruit is something that grows naturally.

Now then, if you look at what a new Christian is taught, you would think that the fruit of the Spirit is simply NOT DOING those things on the list. Further, you will find that evangelical doctrine puts most of the emphasis on just a few. The Christian right, seems to believe that selfish ambitions is a fruit of the Spirit, but that is for another post. Isn't it obvious, that all of our religious denominations are factions? That alone renders most of the efforts of evangelical Christianity as a work of the flesh. People in factions are NOT walking in the Spirit! Hmnn----interesting. In case you prefer a different version of the bible, Let me make clear that the Greek word Paul used for factions is hairesis which means sect, or faction.

Again for clarity, look at the fruit of the Spirit in a bullet list:
  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faith
  • gentleness
  • self-control
The fruit of the spirit is made up of qualities not actions. While it is true that the qualities will result in certain actions it is NOT action focused. I also think that fruit singular, and not fruits plural is very significant. They all emanate from truly believing the gospel.  First, it is caused from God's love for us found in Christ. It is in peace with the Father from believing the gospel of grace. This in-turn creates love for the Father, and joy from believing the gospel. The presence of the top three, love, joy, and peace, naturally produce all the rest. It makes the person believing the gospel patient, kind, good gentle, and it also provides self-control. However, it must come from faith in the gospel of grace. This is precisely why it is so important to make sure that the gospel is preached over and over; even to seasoned saints. It is also the reason that the continual preaching against sin is so ineffective, and why all the preachers who do so are so misguided.

This is why the Apostle Paul wrote that he was determined to know nothing among the saints except the gospel, Jesus Christ crucified. This is yet another proof of how far off the mark evangelical Christianity really is. It is also the reason that ALL that ever should be preached by preachers is the gospel. The Spirit uses the gospel to produce its fruit.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spiritual but not religious: Christianity and Mysticism

What is the difference between spirituality and religion? To jump off on this post we will look at definitions of both words:

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. A particular system of faith and worship.‘the world's great religions’

Spirituality: The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.‘the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way’ ‘a deep sense of spirituality that connects them to the natural environment’

You hear a lot of people these days saying that they are spiritual but not religious. I think that is equally true of many who claim to be Christian or are believers in Jesus Christ. In the 1970's I read a book by Maslow, entitled "Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. The point of the book was there were those who followed religion having vicarious experiences of others, and there were those, he called "peakers" who experienced spirituality on their own.

In my view, religion is the structure and form that a spiritual person uses to express their spirituality. Therefore, people who say they are spiritual but not religious really mean that they do not follow another's form of religion. Spirituality is personally experiential and religion is corporately experiential. So when you hear someone say they are spiritual but not religious, what they are saying in effect is my religion is solely experiential. Religion in and of itself is not bad or good. It is merely a way in which to acknowledge ones idea of God and the purpose of life/existence. 

The damaging aspect of religion comes into play when people are forced to follow without questioning, a leader, or a group. They are thereby, often times, forced to actually go against their spirituality to be acceptable to the standard of religion. Moreover, religion tends to give people creeds to believe, know and follow. By creeds I mean a formal set of beliefs that are necessary to adhere to by the group. It creates the atmosphere where there is orthodoxy and heresy. However, orthodoxy and heresy are merely two words that mean either acceptable by the group or not acceptable to the group. Think about that for a minute. Orthodoxy is merely a set of beliefs that have been deemed acceptable by the group.  Still it has such a profound strength for many within religion.

Here is something to consider. Jesus was not orthodox. Paul was not orthodox. Martin Luther was not orthodox. John Calvin was not orthodox. Zwingli, Tyndale, and Menno Simmons were not orthodox. In fact, all of those mentioned above were called heretics. Interesting! You should understand that heresy is merely a word. It is a word used to control and so is orthodoxy, it too is a word mean to control.

Here is something else to consider. A person can be profoundly religious and spiritual, and not conform to the demands of the group. Here is a passage of scripture that those who want to control your life and your purse ignore a lot.... But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don't need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true--it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. (1 John 2:27 NLT)

Yes indeed, the prime teacher of spirituality is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God. Each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is continually trying to produce spiritual fruit within us. The fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control.


Friday, May 5, 2017

Jesus use of "this generation" in Matt 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13; Part 6

I have provided a list below of all of the verses in the New Testament with the word generation in them. If you take the time to read through all of them you will find that all of the verses except Matt 24:34, Mark 13:30, and Luke 21:32 definitely mean generation in the forty-year sense of children growing up and having children become of age. I also believe that is the meaning in the three verses I have cited, and have shown that to be the case in previous posts in this series. However, theologians throughout the history of the church have tried to preform linguistic gymnastics that remove the very plain sense of the text. Their reason for doing so is that they cannot see how all the things prophesied in these passages were fulfilled, and they find it necessary to change the meaning of generation in these three verses to keep the integrity of the New Testament writings.

I would like to draw attention to the verse below from Matthew 23: 36 I assure you: "All these things will come on this generation!" In Matthew 23, Jesus is speaking to the crowds assembled and his disciples, and he is upbraiding the Pharisees. Here he brings his harsh criticism to a climax: "and you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we wouldn't have taken part with them in shedding the prophets' blood.' You, therefore, testify against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers' sins! "Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell/Gehenna? This is why I am sending you prophets, sages, and scribes. Some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues and hound from town to town. So all the righteous blood shed on the earth will be charged to you, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. I assure you: All these things will come on this generation!" (Matthew 23:30-36 HCSB) He is not addressing a future generation of scribes and Pharisees, he is speaking specifically about that generation of scribes and Pharisees that is alive at his speaking.

It is really absurd to take three verses out of 28 and claim that generation there does not mean generation but rather it means "this kind" of people. It is also absurd to claim that it is the generation alive at the time of the end. So then, perhaps it would be wiser to find ways that all of Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 were fulfilled. These three chapters are known as the little apocalypses. Take for example Jesus' words: Snakes! Brood of vipers! How can you escape being condemned to hell/Gehenna? When Jesus was speaking about Gehenna he WAS NOT referring to eternal torturous punishment, but rather, the impending judgment that was immediately to come on that generation. I have written a couple of blog posts on Jesus use of the word Gehenna that is translated here as hell. I am not suggesting that everyone is saved though as it is possible that some will simply be annihilated at death but he is definitely not referring to eternal torture as so many claim.

Here's the way I see it. I have had a long term personal relationship with Jesus spanning most of my life. I know he is real, and I know that the real gospel is true. Therefore, he cannot, as so many liberal theologians say just be plain wrong about this prophecy. The only alternative, is to try to find a way in which it all came to pass. Jesus, not some groups interpretation of the scripture is my focal point. Many of those that insist that he meant something other than "a generation" in the main definition of the world, do so because they are actually more interested in the integrity of the scripture than the integrity of Jesus. They insist that the end of the world has not come. That is true. But, Jesus was NOT predicting the end of the space time universe. He was predicting the end of the age. Most specifically, he was predicting the end of the age of the Mosaic Covenant with the replacement of it by the New Covenant. The Old Testament equates the Old Covenant with heaven and earth (Deu 4:26 & 30:19.) Heaven and earth is the witness of the covenant. Therefore, the "New Heaven and Earth" is a witness to the New Covenant. It is indeed that simple. The scripture is full of figurative language, and this is especially true of apocalyptic writing. Taking the plain simple interpretation is perilous when it comes to things like Heaven's being rolled up and fire rained down. And, not taking the simple plain interpretation of words like generation is equally perilous.

Here is my challenge: Read all the passages below, in context if you are willing, but read the verses for sure. Then ask yourself what did generation mean in each verse. Then look in the mirror and consider your integrity as a honest person.

The Verses in red show all the uses of generation in the New Testament:
Mat_11:16  "To what should I compare this generation? It's like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to each other: 
Mat_12:39  But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 
Mat_12:41  The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation; and look--something greater than Jonah is here! 
Mat_12:42  The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look--something greater than Solomon is here! 
Mat_12:45  Then off it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that man's last condition is worse than the first. That's how it will also be with this evil generation." 
Mat_16:4  An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah." Then He left them and went away. 
Mat_17:17  Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 
Mat_23:36  I assure you: All these things will come on this generation! 
Mat_24:34  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 
Mar_8:12  But sighing deeply in His spirit, He said, "Why does this generation demand a sign? I assure you: No sign will be given to this generation!" 
Mar_8:38  For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels." 
Mar_9:19  He replied to them, "You unbelieving generation! How long will I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring him to Me." 
Mar_13:30  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place. 
Luk_1:50  His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear Him. 
Luk_7:31  "To what then should I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? 
Luk_9:41  Jesus replied, "You unbelieving and rebellious generation! How long will I be with you and put up with you? Bring your son here." 
Luk_11:29  As the crowds were increasing, He began saying: "This generation is an evil generation. It demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 
Luk_11:30  For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation. 
Luk_11:31  The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look--something greater than Solomon is here! 
Luk_11:32  The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation, and look--something greater than Jonah is here! 
Luk_11:50  so that this generation may be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world -- 
Luk_11:51  from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. "Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible. 
Luk_17:25  But first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 
Luk_21:32  I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all things take place. 
Act_2:40  And with many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, "Be saved from this corrupt generation!" 
Act_8:33  In His humiliation justice was denied Him. Who will describe His generation? For His life is taken from the earth. 
Act_13:36  For David, after serving his own generation in God's plan, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and decayed. 
Php_2:15  so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world. 
Heb_3:10  for 40 years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation and said, "They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known My ways." 
Jud_1:14  And Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied about them: Look! The Lord comes with thousands of His holy ones 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Jesus use of "this generation": Part 5

This is the fifth post in a series on Jesus use of the phrase "this generation." It is a phrase he used often throughout the synoptic gospels. The main reason for looking at this is to determine the most likely meaning when Jesus said it in Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32; Mark 13:30. In this post we will look at the passage posited below:

"Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at Jonah's proclamation; and look--something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look--something greater than Solomon is here!"
(Matthew 12:38-42 HCSB)

First off, let it be stated that Jesus did in fact come in the flesh to a specific generation. It was the generation of first century second temple Judaism. Secondly, when you look at the Old Testament, and when you see the word generation it is always the result of the Hebrew word DOR/dore. The meaning of DOR/dore is always a forty-year generation. And, it should be noted that in the Old Testament, much was made of the forty year period of a generation. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years because of the disobedience of a specific generation. Further, Jesus being a Jew, raised as a Torah Observant Jew, attending the Torah school that all young Jewish boys attended, it follows that his thought and speech patterns would be akin to first century, second temple Judaism. He would have a strong knowledge of Hebrew, Hebrew thought and language, and would be very familiar with the language of the Old Testament.

Secondly, when the text refers to the scribes and the Pharisees, it is actually referring to rabbis who spent their time studying, discussing and teaching the Torah and Tanakh (Old Testament.) So then, when he addresses them, and goes on to say that they are an evil and adulterous generation, he is directing their thought processes back to Deu 1:35. In Deu 1:35 the reference is definitively to a forty-year revolution of people. It is the pronouncing of the sentence on the unbelieving who would not enter the promised land. There is such a strong connection between the Old Testament promised land of Canaan and the spiritual promised land of Sabbath Rest. The writer of Hebrews devotes chapters three and four to this premise.

Thirdly, in the above text, Jesus is replying to their request for a sign. He very frankly states that they will be given no sign other than his death, burial, and most of all his resurrection. The Ninevites repented from the preaching of Jonah and they (this generation) have a greater than Jonah in their midst. Further, the Queen of Sheba will stand in judgment of them (this generation) as she came seeking King Solomon, and a much greater King than Solomon was in their midst. One by one as we look at Jesus references to "this generation" we will see that he meant a generation of forty-years.

Now then, it becomes absurd when theologians try to jump through linguistic hoops to deny that Jesus meant that whenever he used the phrase "this generation" and most especially, in  Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:32; Mark 13:30. I am convinced that whenever Jesus spoke the words translated as "this generation' he meant the forty-year revolution of time that makes a Jewish generation.

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...