Thursday, September 3, 2015

Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation

Forgiveness is for me.  

Reconciliation is for us.

We can't be friends outside of reconciliation 
because that would make one of us codependent.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother."  Matt. 18:15

Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Difference Between Legalism and Knowing Him

The judgement of Solomon


When we read the Bible to know what we should do, the Bible becomes our task master.  When we see those not keeping the law as we have learned, we judge them because they don't do as they should.  When we see those keeping the law we don't keep, we become permissive because we will not judge or add burdens to ourselves.

Jesus Heals a Leper

Knowing Him

When we read the Bible to know Him, we find rest because His yoke is easy and His burden is light.   When we see those who are not doing as we have become, then we're not judgmental because we understand that the process of knowing Him is a journey.  We build them up in gentleness and bear their burdens.  When we see those on the same journey, doing more than we have done, we become inquisitive students, because we want to know Him in a new and wonderful way.

Moving Foward

Our Christian heritage is based mostly in legalism.  When you find yourself judging another, step back and judge yourself instead.  Change your ways, take another path.  Find rest for your soul.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Incomplete Recall

Every once and a while you'll hear a preacher complaining about the fact the parishioners can't remember his sermon.  Somehow, we presume from their commentary on the this subject that if we remembered what they said, then perhaps we wouldn't have so many problems.

Never one to let a sleeping dog lie, then I'll provide my two cents on the subject.

First, those of us who would fret over whether or not someone remembers what we've taught or preached are in a place of pride.

Seriously.  Just admit it now and get over it.  Dress it up in all of the humble platitudes you care to create, but it's still pride.  False humility is still false: it's still pride.  If we actually cared for someone's well being, then we wouldn't mind that people didn't remember our sermons.  We'd simply find another Logos of God to plant in their soul.

So, here's the meat:

Recall is not the measurement of impact. Recall is the measurement of memorization.

When we use recall of Biblical precepts and principles as the driving forces of our responses to everyday pressures, then we are close to practicing legalism.

That being said:
Is there anything wrong with learning precepts and principles?

Is there anything wrong with leaning on them when all else fails?

But occasionaly leaning on them is not what I'm talking about.  I'm specifically addressing the driving forces of who we are and how we respond.  There are some of us who believe the measurement of spirituality is quantified in the amount of scripture you learn and the skill you demonstrate in applying said scripture to your life.  In my opinion, that's just about as close to legalism as you can get.

But is applying scripture to your life wrong?

But if learning and applying the scriptures were all it was about, then the Pharisees would have rocked Jesus's boat.  Rather He said,
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.
You see, it's imperative that you know the spirit speaking the Word to you.  Scripture spoken by Satan is not truth:
For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.  In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:9-13)
So the suggestion he made to Jesus, to just go ahead and throw yourself off the temple and the context of scripture in which he couched it, was not truth, it was a lie.

In the same context, Jesus said:
‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
The problem is that the average preacher will tell you that "every word" refers to the Bible.  But that's incorrect.  The context is "every word that proceeds out of" the mouth of God.  That word "proceeds," is active, present tense.

For if Abraham had only listened to what God said (past tense), then his son would have died.  Consider also that we are to honor our father and mother, but on the other hand, if we don't hate them then we can't follow after Jesus.  Which is it?  Honor or hate?  If you don't understand the word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, you'll remain confused.  Living by the spirit and applying the scriptures as He directs, is the key.

The point is that we must learn to live in the spirit.

Therefore, we can observe living the Christian Life in two ways
  1. Memorizing the precepts and principles as best as possible so that we will know what to do when a given pressure of life occurs. 
  2. Being changed (impacted) by the Word of Life so that when pressures arise, we naturally respond in the Spirit without having to recall or think about the corresponding principle or precept.
In other words, in example (1) we do witnessing, while in example (2), we are the witness.

In the first example, we're living in legalism, the Old Man attaining to a prescribed standard of behavior. We're orphans working to gain an identity and approval.

In the second example, we're becoming Christ like, a New Creature, overcoming through the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. We're Sons/Daughters (we have an identity) working out the Father's mission with authority.

So then, obeying for it's own sake is not wrong.  It can put us on the right path, but it can stunt us like a Pharisee.   

The point is that there's a better way: it's called becoming Christ Like, living/walking in the Spirit. 

In any circumstance, we will either respond in the flesh, respond from principle or respond from Spirit.

You want to be in the grouping of the later two, always moving towards the Spirit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Slaves, Orphans, Sons, Kings and Priests

As a follow on to this post, I would submit for your consideration, the following.
  • A Slave serves from a point of fear, towards the purpose of self preservation.
  • An Orphan serves from a point of loss, towards the purpose of identity
  • A Son serves from the point of identity, towards the purpose of the Father's mission
  • A King or a Priest, serves from a point of identity, exercising their authority in humility and service.
 Only the last two describe the Child of God: we are Kings and Priests (Rev. 5:10),  and Sons of God (Gal. 3:26)

Both the slave and the orphan serve for selfish reasons.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some Reasons Why People are Leaving the Institution called Church

We can't categorically suggest that all former institutional church members can be sorted into the buckets I've provided here.  But these are at least two factors to the mass exodus from the institutional organization called 'church.'

In the video linked below, we observe a congregation who, never owning a copy of the Bible, each receive their own copy.  It's made the rounds in various social media forums for several years.

In those forums, someone almost always prefaces the video with a variation of the rhetorical question, "do you love your Bible this much?"  The implied answer is "no," and self condemnation of  sin follows.  In this post, I'm going to put forth two arguments as to why Americans don't seem to love their Bibles as much as the precious believers in the video below.

Used as a Tool to Enable Power

In America our view of the Bible is, more often than not, corrupted through the process of it being used for control and condemnation.  This is not a new phenomena: the scriptures have been misused in this way for millennia.  It's one of the reasons, outside of the necessity of the printing press, that the Bible remained inaccessible to the common man for so long.  It's why King James decreed that ekkl├ęsia would be translated "church" (a pagan temple) and not congregation or assembly, two words often seen in the Hebrew Bible (OT).

Hence, if you grew up or were indoctrinated in some churches, you could never read or hear the scriptures without a voice of condemnation.  To those people the church represents manipulation and condemnation.  It's easy to see then why these people don't love, read or revere their Bible.

Principles without Spirit

Most Christians have little or no understanding of walking in the Spirit.  We are taught instead to keep the law as describe by the Pastor - to live by the principles of their interpretation of the Bible.  In this endeavor we are to acquire knowledge of the Bible and it's laws.  The more laws you know, the more spiritual you become.  Spirituality is then measured by your ability to act in the correct manner based upon your accurate understanding and implementation of the Bible.

In this framework, the laity is expected to uphold the doctrine of the Pastor and perform within the Church only as the Pastor either dictates or would perform a given function himself.  In this context, the Pastor's desire is law, upheld and established by his interpretation and application of the scriptures.

As such, we view the Bible as a list of rules and laws we can't keep, as evidenced by repeated failures and corrections.  It begs the question, what's the use?

Why the Difference?

The people in the video haven't lived through either of those experiences. They've lived only in the Spirit, being taught by God. To come into possession of the written Logos, the Word you've walked with every day, can only be viewed as a blessing; not an opportunity for condemnation nor an iteration of failures.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iniquity, Sin and Transgressions: Breaking Free from Bondage and Addiction

Around the 2010 time frame, I danced around the topic of iniquity in some other blogs without really understanding it's relationship to sin, transgressions and bondage (or captivity and addiction).  But recently I've been encouraged to study the concept further.

As a result, I'm challenging the defacto teaching around iniquity, sin and transgression that suggests they are just different levels or severities of offense.  In example, one might suggest that abortion and murder is iniquity, stealing much money is a sin, but exceeding the speed limit by 5 MPH is just a transgression.

I'd like to suggest that such a concept of parceling sins into escalating offenses is a corruption that enables us to create standards for behavior contrary to our personal belief systems by which we dispense judgements against humanity.  Just such a thing is what many Christians do best: create sorting systems for sins resulting in varying degrees of judgements, penance and punishments - Dante's Inferno, for example.

Consider then, Psalm 32:5
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Notice the precise construction of "the iniquity of my sin."  The question is this: what is the "foo of my bar"?  Is Psalmist suggesting that God is addressing the silver used to create the jewelry, or He is addressing the jewelry created from the silver?

In Strong's Concordance of the Bible, 'iniquity' is indexed at H5771.  It is derived from H5753, and it means "perversity."  Sin, on the other hand, comes from H2403, and it means "an offense."  So then, does the offense create perversity, or does perversity give rise to the offense?

Lets look at the problem from something a bit more concrete: Adam and Eve.  Adam made a choice, Eve was deceived.  Both sinned.  We call it original sin, the lynch-pin from which humanity is bound in unrighteousness.  So, did the sin cause the perversion, or did perversion cause the sin?  Many people will suggest that the reason Adam and Eve sinned is because satan corrupted Gods word; he created lie, or a perversion of the truth.  From this perversion then, sin and transgression arose.

In the New Testament Paul enumerated a number of sins he called the "deeds of the flesh."
You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth ... For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh ... walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please ... Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Gal. 5:7-21)
The question then becomes, what exactly is the flesh?  Well, for starters, it's not your body.  Although it appears that Paul generally speaks of it in this way, the flesh is instead used to describe a contrary-to-God state from which sin flows, the human nature, or principle of evil, the law of sin that we carry with us.
But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:20-25)
What we find then in scripture, is the concept of two natures: the sin nature, and the Holy Spirit nature.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
So, where does this leave us?  Is there a difference, does God forgive both?  Yes, He forgives both; yes there is a difference.  Therefore, Paul describes the law of sin as the controlling force responsible for sin.  The law of sin, then, is iniquity: and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Just as walking in the Spirit is sourced from the spirit, waking in sin is sourced from the flesh, or iniquity.  And just as there is a relationship with the Spirit, we must put to death our previous relationship with iniquity and give rise to the Holy Spirit within us:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry ... in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside ... since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11) 
The lesson we take from this is that there are two ways to live: from the point of unrighteousness and from the point of righteousness.  While we must deal with sins and transgressions, we also must eliminate the source from which they are birthed: the iniquity itself.  One way this is done is through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6).  Another way we do this is rejecting the lies we believe and knowing the truth (John 8:32).  And yet another way we do this is turning towards God with our heart, so that our minds may be unveiled (2 Corinthians 3:16).  Consider also that we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Col. 5:3) and working to put on a heart of compassion (Col. 3:12).

But most important, we must realize that dealing with sin and iniquity are different.  Sin is the "what."  Iniquity is the "why."  We can confess our sins of lust without dealing with the why of the lust.  And that's where your journey to true freedom will begin: by rooting out the whys of your sins.

But the crux of the matter is that we must learn to live from a point of experience, rather than a point of declaration.  While it's wonderful that God has declared us righteous, it is another thing entirely to live and walk from that perspective.

If you're like me, it helps to see things.  This isn't a perfect model, but it does help us visualize how we live in both the new and the old:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Obedience out of Love or Duty? Neither.

I was recently reminded of a John MacArthur article entitled, "Obedience: Love or Legalism?" wherein Mr. MacArthur makes the argument that while it's better be obedient due to our love of Jesus, it's certainly our duty to be obedient to Jesus.  He goes on to say that that "it is not quite right to say 'we obey out of love for Christ . . . and not out of duty.'"  He further underscores this sentiment by suggesting the Christian relationship to Jesus should be viewed as one of an "abject slave," and that Jesus underscored this sentiment in Luke 17:7-10:
“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?  But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

That’s a nice underpinning to his argument, but that’s all it is: scripture out of context to validate his doctrine.

The actual context of the instruction is that of relationship between one and another, as demonstrated via the parables of the Shrewd Steward, the Rich man and Lazarus, and finally a summation that “stumbling blocks come,” and we should “be on our guard: if your brother sins,” then we are to “rebuke him,” for the purpose of prompting him to repentance. 

The apostles, upon hearing all of these stories apparently believed they were ill equipped to behave properly, thereby unable to produce the fruits necessary for these particular outcomes.   I would presume that Mr. MacArthur would have suggested to Jesus that He perhaps remind them of their duty to God - problem solved. 

Nevertheless, having spent a lot of time with Jesus and having learned a thing or two, they surmised that their faith needed help: "increase our faith," they said.  Jesus simply replied, “if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”

Contrary to popular teaching, Jesus was not suggesting that they had no faith and needed just a smidgen in order to get things done.  He never said, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” rather “if you had faith like a mustard seed.”  The question then is this: what is faith like a mustard seed?  If a mustard seed has faith, what kind of faith is it?  It is faith that affirms it’s nature and that which it is designed to be. 

Which is why we have the parable of the slave following close behind the instruction to forgive.  The slave knows who he is and his purpose in life, particularly in relationship to his master.  In other words, the slave functions in relationship to his master and others from a state of being.  Just as the rich man should have functioned from his state of wealth and helped Lazarus; just as the apostles could have commanded the mulberry tree to be uprooted, and just as a Spirit filled believer will forgive.

Jesus later defined our relationship with the Father not as “abject slaves,” as suggested by Mr. MacArthur, but as friends, saints, kings, and priests:
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.  This I command you, that you love one another.  (John 15:15-17)
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10)

But just as a slave is obedient to his master because of who he is, and the mustard seed has an established nature, then we, who have His Spirit, bear the fruit of faithfulness and self-control because of what we are, not because of how we feel towards Jesus, or due to a sense of duty.

The point then is that we shouldn't have to be obedient from a point of love or duty.  To do so is not to walk in the Spirit, but to walk in carnality - to be doers of the scriptures - as any person can pick up a theology or philosophy and be doer of its writs.

The thing that should be driving the life of the believer should never be the need or duty to perform for God or others, rather the need to commune with Him.

In summary, the best way to serve others in the kingdom of God, as Kings and Priests, is from a position of intimate knowledge of who you are.  It's not something that happens overnight - it's a sanctification process of "receiving the implanted Logos, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21).  It's learning how to accept forgiveness of your sins while at the same time, understanding that the iniquity (unrighteousness) that gives life to those sins, is blotted out.  Follow the Spirit, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, which is love:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-25)