Monday, December 17, 2012

Rest in Jesus

Life is not complicated  struggle is not without reason.  In some way, shape, or form, everything boils down to living life from a works based mindset or from a revelation of Christ and His grace.  We either try to achieve what we see is lacking, or we look to Jesus, where wholeness has already been given to us. Striving leads to disappointment, condemnation, exhaustion, and ultimately uselessness.  Faith in what has been accomplished on our behalf leads to peace, joy, hope, and a very fruitful life.  We are meant to do good works naturally, since we have been given everything pertaining to life and Godliness.  We actually work harder when we rest in the fact that God has done it all, then if we think that we need to try hard to please God obey Him.  'You cannot please God without faith.' We have faith that He is already pleased with us because of what Jesus has done, we then walk in the Spirit, fulfilling His will naturally.  Faith in the finished work of Jesus brings us to a place of rest and satisfaction, rather than striving.

It is time to rest from our work just as God has (Hebrews 4).  Let us enjoy our intimate relationship with our Father; for as we look upon His glory we are increasingly transformed into His image.  It is then and only then that we shine like lights tot he rest of the world because we are mirrors that reflect His light.  As we gaze at God our faces reflect what we see. Our only 'job', our one true joy, is to become entranced with God, to become overly passionate about Him.  After all, what we are passionate about is what we worship.  God wants our affection, our adoration, not our lip service.  From this place of abject worship we begin bearing fruit, against such things there is no law, no effort.  As long as we stay connected to the vine, we will passively bear the sap that produces that fruit.  We do not use God, we do not seek His face so that we will do His works.  God is not a means to an end but the end Himself.  For God has set us free from dead works.

There is bliss in Jesus, rest, peace, and joy unspeakable. Faith in Jesus changes everything.  Faith changes our perspective, experience, and expectation.  It changes our desires and our motivations.  Faith is a gift and it comes from hearing of the word of Christ.  Hearing that Christ finished the job, that he did what we could not do.  He fulfilled the law, and we were given righteousness because of it. Christ took what we deserved so that we could have what he deserved.  It is humility to receive His full blessing, pride to reject it.  For it is in Him that we live, move, and have our being.  He is the one who works so mightily in and through us, and He will complete the good work He started.  It is His work, His effort, and His victory that we have access too.  We live as 'more than conquerors'.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Am a Child of God!

Jesus, who knew no sin, became sin for me, that I might become the righteousness of Christ.  Jesus bore the sins of the world in his own body.  His body died, and with it went my sin.  His resurrection marked the end of the old and the beginning of the new! I have shared in the baptism of Christ's death and therefore also shared in his resurrection.  For I was crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me.  My sinful nature has been circumcised away, and I have now become a partaker of the divine nature!

I now live in a reality where I have authority over all evil.  God has taken away the power and punishment of sin.  He has reconciled me to himself through Christs flesh and I am no longer predisposed to sin, but a slave of righteousness.  Through hearing the 'good news' God has renewed my mind so that I am no longer deceived in thinking that He and I are enemies.  God has removed sinfulness itself, thereby making me completely righteous and Holy.  I have a righteousness that come by faith not by works; now I only can boast in the Lord.  I now live peacefully in His victory rather than fighting to win my own; I am more than a conqueror!

The spoils of this victory are magnificent; God has granted me everything pertaining to life and Godliness, and has seated me in heavenly places with Christ.  His victory has granted me full access into the presence of God, into which I step boldly knowing that I have been sprinkled clean by the blood of the lamb.  Christ himself is the source of all knowledge, wisdom, and authority.  I have the mind of Christ and a heart of flesh; anything I ask for in His name shall be given to me.  Because I am in Him and He in me, I can know the deep things of God, those things which Angels long to look.

The greatest treasure of them all is the gift of the Holy Spirit, who lives in me.  He teaches me all things and reminds me of everything I have already been taught.  The Holy Spirit attests to my Spirit that I am a child of God; He will not let me forget.  Because the Spirit of Christ lives in me, I will work the same works that He did; and even greater things will I do because He is back with the Father.  As  child of God, imbued with power from on high, whatever I touch prospers, and I release the kingdom of heaven here on Earth.

As Jesus was sent, so to am I. I am anointed to preach good news to the poor, to set free the captives and proclaim the year of the Lords favor. Today is the day of salvation!  I have been sent to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and caste out demons.  All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus and He now lives inside of me.  All of creation has been groaning, my family and I, the sons of God, to release it from bondage.

I am a stranger, a foreigner in this land, sent out to tell all people that God reconciled them to Himself through Jesus.  I pray that they believe it!  Living in this foreign place, no matter the circumstances, I have learned to be content in God alone.  People may hate me, persecute me, or even kill me, but the Joy of the Lord is my strength   Therefore I will exalt even in my suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance character, character hope, and hope doesn't disappoint because God has lavished His love on me.

In this life I move from Glory to glory as my mind is renewed by His grace.  I ever increasingly reflect the image of God to the world; my face as a shining light in the darkness.  I grow in grace until that day when Christ comes again to judge those who judge themselves; for they do not believe.  It is then that my physical body will no longer limit my ability to contain the glory of God.  Oh how I wait for and hasten His coming; for every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord.  The joy unspeakable! He brings peace that passes understanding!  He is Lord, King, Almighty God, and I am His child; an ambassador to the nations, seasoning to a bland people, a first fruit of salvation, life midst death, and a light in the darkness! The kingdom of God is at hand, it is among us!

Friday, October 26, 2012

If We Believe In Jesus, Will We Stop Sinning?

Jesus accomplished something on the cross that completely altered our relationship with sin.  When we believe in Him, we step into a whole new reality.  As Christians, our relationship to sin has completely changed.  In 1 John, John writes some very challenging statements about our relationship to Jesus and how that affects sin in our life.  I think that John wrote this book to make people ‘question’ their salvation.  This is opposite of how many teachers interpret it however.  In 1 John 5:13 it says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.”  Many times this verse is used to assure people of their salvation, but John says he ‘writes these things’ so that you may be assured.  So that means we have to look at what he wrote; and this particular book has some of the most challenging verses within scripture.

Here are a few of the most challenging verses:

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1:6).  “The one who says, ‘I have come to know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (2:4).” “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him (2:15).” “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him (3:6).” “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God (3:9).” “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him (3:17).” “The one who does not love does not know God for God is love (4:8).” “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (4:20).” “We know that no one who is born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him (5:18).”

         So these are challenging verses for us, the main focus that John takes is on sinning.  It seems very clear that he is stating that if we ‘know’ Jesus then we do not and will not sin.  For the vast majority of us this statement is ‘obviously not true.’ Why do we respond that way? It is because it contradicts our experience of sin.  For many of us, our experience reveals that we do sin, and at the same time we say we know Jesus.  This puts us in a very uncomfortable position, because either we have to re-think and re-work our understanding of these passages or we need to question our faith in Jesus, and therefore question our salvation. Although this is can be an uncomfortable thing to dive into, it can also be a very ‘freeing’ and joyous revelation as well.

         These are the questions we are forced to answer; 1) is it possible not to sin, and 2) How does belief in Jesus affect our relationship with sin?  The first question is easier to answer then the second, and although it is not taught in many churches, and in fact I was never taught it till this last year, scripture does seem to say it is possible not to sin.

        “How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death (Romans 6:2-3)?” “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it (1 Cor. 10:13).” “For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble (2 Peter 1:9-10).”  “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin (1 John 2:1).”

         There are many more passages than this, and if you like you can dig into scripture and discover them yourself, but it will suffice to say that it is at least possible to live a sin free life.  Not by our own strength, but because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.  If I say that I will sin, then I am falling into unbelief; having more faith in Satan’s temptation then in Gods ability to keep me from that temptation (1 Cor. 10:13).  I was never taught this, rather I was taught that we will always struggle with temptation and always fall into sin.  I think that the ‘old teaching’ was birthed out of unbelief; because people realized that their ‘experience’ didn't match with scripture. They then created theology to match their experience.  Because some of this theology was created to accommodate common experience, the church actually stopped having actual ‘faith’ in that area.

         Our theology has been wrong because we have aligned it with our experience. We do not create our beliefs based on experience; and in fact much of my theology still does not match with my experience.  However I know that it should match, that God has equipped me with every ‘spiritual blessing’ in the heavenly places.  I want my life to match the life that scripture portrays/says I should have.  There is a standard of living in scripture that seems impossible to live up to; it is.  Whenever we realize that we are not living in the fullness of what we have been given, it’s not a point to strive harder but rather to wait on the Lord for a revelation of the truth.

        Faith itself is the ability to believe outside of experience, which ultimately transforms experience to another level.  “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).”  Throughout scripture the people of faith were able to live above and beyond their circumstances; as well as above their own capabilities.  Faith allows us to ‘exalt in our suffering (Romans 5:3)’, to ‘be content in all circumstances (Phil 4:11-13)’, and to ‘Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ (1 Thess. 5:16-18)’.  We see this multiple times throughout scripture where the reaction of Jesus and/or the disciples seems contrary to their circumstance.  When Paul and Silas are thrown in prison they end up singing and praising God! Paul says he exalts, he doesn't just grudgingly say ‘thank you God’ for this trial, but literally exalts in it! That is crazy faith.  Jesus tells us that faith is taking God at his word and basing our expectations on his ability rather than our own.  When we do that we do seem ‘other-worldy’.  The nature of God is to ‘call things that aren't as though they are (Romans 4:17).’  By faith scripture shows people doing the impossible and living radical lives for God.  Is there struggle? Yes, but that is not what defines them.  “With God all things are possible; I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Paul actually rebukes the church in Corinth for acting like 'mere men' (1 Cor. 3:3).

         Our theology cannot be based on our experience.  Experience is not to dictate faith, but rather the other way around.   Experience tells us that mountains are static, but the faith of Christ makes that mountain move. It is very important to understand how experience fits into our theology, because the two are very connected. It isn't about our experience, but our experience aligns with our faith.  Language is very important for us as ‘believers’; we can either adopt a language of faith or a language of unbelief.   It is not the language itself that gives us power over our experience but our words can bring life or death (Proverbs 18:21).

        Jesus altered the entire cosmos when He died and rose again.  He is the ‘lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).’ This alteration revolves almost entirely around sin; and even more so our sinful nature. What is it? And do you we still have it?  It seems clear to me that scripture says we do not have a sinful nature anymore! Alleluia! Sadly this isn't taught, and instead we are told that not only will we inevitably fall into sin, but that we are naturally preconditioned for it.  Here is a short look into our sinful nature, the law, and sin.

        Paul says that the law brought about an awareness of sin. “I would not have come to know sin except through the law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, ‘you shall not covet’.”  He goes on to say that when the law came, sin came alive with it (Romans 7:9).  At the beginning of Romans seven we see Paul give a metaphor of our relationship with the law.

         For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband.  So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulterous; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulterous through she is joined to another man (Romans 7:2-3).”

         So we too are married to the law, the commandment of ‘do this do that’, the husband we are unable to please.  It also says that this covenant is established until there is a death that breaks the agreement.

Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for God.  For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Romans 7:4-6). Notice that Paul is writing in the past tense when he says when ‘we were in the flesh’.

  The whole point of law was to show us that we were unable to do what we wanted to do.  Why can’t we do it? Because of our ‘flesh’ or in other words our sinful nature.  “For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did (Romans 8:2).” We were predisposed to sin, we couldn't help it. Even if we knew what we should do we couldn't do it.  Since the time of Moses, Israel tried to do the things that God wanted to do but failed.  That is what Paul is emphasizing in Romans 7, his inability to obey the law.  If he is emphasizing the normal Christian life then nothing has changed after Christ’s sacrifice!  If we still have our ‘sinful nature’ then we are still predisposed to sin and are still under its bondage.  So now we need to look to scripture to see what it says about our sinful selves. In Romans 7 it says that we ‘died’ to the law and now are in a new covenant with Jesus.  In enters Romans 8 that is set up by Romans 6 and 7.  “For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sins.  He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:3-4).”

The sinful nature is what made us predisposed to sin and what made it impossible to do what we wanted to do.  There is a mystical exchange that takes place on the cross with Jesus; our sinful nature was crucified with Him!  Many teachers will admit to some degree that something died with Jesus on the cross; but rarely have I heard that teaching contain the actual conviction/faith of believing it.  In other words, if someone stresses that their sinful flesh is no longer there, and they are free from sin completely; they will be called a heretic by many other Christians. This burdens me as I see it being the central truth to the Gospel. Here are passages about our sinful nature being gone and the new reality we live in because of Christ’s sacrifice.

“How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death (Romans 6:2-3)?” ‘However you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit (Romans 8:9).” “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ (1 Cor. 6:15).” Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17).”  “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is not longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (good sarx) I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).” “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).” “And that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Ephesians 4:24).” “And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:11).” “For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3).” “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).”

The interesting thing to note is that these are all past tense definitive statements.  They have happened, it is completely true.  Now I understand that this doesn't necessarily make sense to our ‘experience’, and again that is where many people run into trouble and are misled.  Your experiences might contradict the truth that your sinful nature is dead, in fact, everyone, when they first accept Jesus, will think that their sinful nature being gone is a preposterous statement! That they died to sin and are no longer a sinner seems ridiculous to everyone who comes to Jesus.  It is a promise and a reality that seems impossible and improbabl; and that is exactly why we need to have faith.  Faith in the truth is supposed to radically change our experience.

Faith allows us to live in a reality outside of our experience, and true belief can actually dictate our experiences.  So scripture says our sinful selves no longer exist, what do we do when our experiences don’t match this reality? Which is more true? Are they both true? No.  Paul gives us instruction on what we should do when our experience isn’t matching up with reality.  “Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11).”  “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity. . . (Colossians 3:5).”  Even if we are not experiencing it, it does not make it any less true, it just shows we are struggling to ‘believe’ this reality.  We still died with Jesus, what we need is faith to believe it, for faith will produce what works could not. Faith is powerful!  “Faith without works is dead (James 2:17).” If we aren't ‘experiencing’ something we claim to believe, it is only because we actually don’t believe the truth as much as we thought we did.  The issue is ‘faith’.  We cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6).

Thankfully it is not even our faith that saves us, but rather the faithfulness of Jesus! Jesus saved us 2000 yrs ago, we have just need to be given grace to believe in it.  How do we get faith? “Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).” Hearing what? The good news.  What is the good news? The good news is that you have died, that Jesus paid the entire penalty for your sin, and took away sin itself! When the truth is spoken over us it is only the Spirit who is able to give us grace to believe it.

So sin is dead in me, where does that place me in relation to God? “That I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:9).”  ‘He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).”  Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law (John 3:17). The full righteous requirement of the law has been met in me, and you (Romans 8:4)! Alleluia!  I am righteous, I am holy, I no longer live from a place of lack but from a place of complete fullness.  We are ‘more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) because Jesus finished the job.  It’s not based on our performance anymore.  I don’t need to get rid of sin, Jesus already did it! I don’t need to become righteous, Jesus made me righteous!  The objective reality occurs before the subjective one.  I am given the gift of faith to believe what Jesus accomplished; and then I live out of that accomplishment not for it.

I cannot take away from my righteousness and I cannot add to it.  The question is do I believe it.  When I believe I am the righteousness of Jesus then I will manifest it.  If I believe I am predisposed to sin and that I am a sinner, then I empower that lie and allow sin to reign in my life.  After all, God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4), to ‘know the truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32).’  What is the truth? That you have already been set free 2000 yrs ago on Calvary!  It is finished.  If I say that I am a sinner, than I am agreeing that sin has power over me, which isn't true anymore! I am either agreeing with God (the truth) or with Satan (lies).

So finally bringing this all the way back (thanks for bearing with me), we must agree with 1 John; that when we ‘believe’ in Jesus we will not sin anymore.  This of course is not based on our ability to fulfill the commandment not to sin, but in living by faith the life that has been made available through Jesus.  When we are struggling with sin, we are struggling with unbelief; therefore if we do ‘actually believe’ in Jesus then we will not sin.  But remember, it isn't our job to increase our faith, or even to have faith in the first place!! Alleluia! There is no condemnation, none. So we just wait upon the Lord and let Him do the work for us!  Paul writes to the Philippians, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).”  In verse 12 the ‘work out’, means to narrow down or come to a conclusion of.  It’s like ‘working out’ a math problem.  You find the answer and agree with it.  In verse 13, the ‘work’ that God is doing is the actually process and/or interworking of salvation itself.  We come to agree with God on what He worked out through Jesus.

There are a few more things that helps to solidify what I have already written; primarily having to deal with what sanctification is, and what role repentance has in our lives.  Ask the Lord about them yourself, and dig into scripture!  But know that you are set free, you have been redeemed, evil has nothing on you.  You don’t need to sin another day in your life! Amen.  Oh and don’t worry, ‘if you sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).’  Sinning just means we have room to grow in our faith in Jesus.  I definitely do, I struggle with unbelief, but the promise of the finished work of the cross has set me free unlike any other.  I am still learning about this freedom, and having my mind ‘renewed’ to God’s perspective, but it is a glorious journey; a journey that, in fact, is one of moving from ‘glory to glory’ (2 Cor. 3).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Thorn in Paul's Flesh

"Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-- to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness (2 Cor. 12:7-9).'"

The 'thorn' in Paul's flesh is a mystery to the church.  There has been much speculation and debate about what it could be, but ultimately we can't confidently assert a definitive answer.  Probably the most common assertion is that Paul had some sort of sickness or physical/mental disability.  That is primarily because of the words 'torment and weakness' that are used in that passage.  The other common assumption has been that Paul had a sin or temptation issue that he continually had to deal with.  Utilizing these two explanations, many Christians have used this passage to sanction sickness and sin struggles in their own lives.  Without explaining in depth, I don't see God every blessing sickness, and especially never blessing sin! I think Jesus always wants to heal, period. So what is the thorn? Again I don't know for sure but this it what I think.

First off, the reason that the thorn was given to Paul was because of his 'great revelations.'  So unless you have exceedingly great revelations, this passage probably doesn't pertain to you.  Therefore your sickness or sin issue is not a 'thorn' given by God to keep you humble.  In the passage, it says that it was given to keep him from exalting himself.  We normally read that, and say that God was keeping him from being prideful and arrogant. But it says it was a messenger of Satan! Not from God! So why would Satan want Paul not to exalt himself?  1 Peter 5:6 says, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time." James 4:10 says, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you."  What if Satan didn't want Paul's ministry to be exalted because he was coming against the work of God in Him!  God does exalt people, and their ministries, for His glory of course!

Satan sent messengers, people and/or demons, to torment Paul; to make his life more difficult.  They may have been preaching against him or questioning him.  Maybe it was even James or Peter, who we see in conflict with Paul at different points in scripture.  If Paul was less impeded by others, then more people would have listened to his message, but if his reputation was spoiled by others, then people wouldn't listen to him as easily. Satan was trying to keep Paul from being exalted in the minds of the people.

The other word that messes with our understanding of this passage is 'weakness'.  The word in this passage can also be translated as 'infirmity', and is definitely used in scripture to mean sickness.  But it isn't always used that way.  In 2 Corinthians 11:30 Paul again says that he boasts in his weakness. Previously in that passage, verses 23-28, he lists his 'weaknesses'.  Sickness is not included.  Rather it has to do with his beatings, imprisonments  and persecutions.  He says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 12:10, "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." Sickness is not mentioned, rather his weakness is other people persecuting him! They are messengers from Satan  working against God, and therefore from Satan.  "He who is not with me is against me (Matthew 12:30)."

There are a few other passages in scripture that talk about 'thorns'.  Each instance references people being that thorn; it never talks about sickness, ailment, or sin.  "It shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live (Numbers 33:55."  Other 'thorn' passages include Joshua 23:13, and Judges 2:3; in each case the thorn is a person or people.

Paul didn't ask for sickness to leave him, but for persecution to be lifted from him! God's response was 'my grace is sufficient for you.'  This is similar to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane asking God to let the cup of torment pass from him.  We need to properly assess this passage so that we do not let a lie trick us into agreeing with the powers of darkness.  God does not sanction sin and he does not sanction sickness.  I do not think Paul was dealing with either, but rather persecution from other people, by which he was able to participate in the 'suffering of Christ'.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jesus: The Law Preacher

Jesus was the greatest law preacher of all time! Most of His ministry was dedicated to frustrating people's attempts at getting into heaven/following Him.  He raised the bar so high, in many situations, hoping and waiting for people to give up entirely on their own ability to 'achieve' salvation.  Much of His earthly ministry was not one of grace but of law, so that people would recognize that their own personal attempts at perfection were futile.  He preached law so as to prepare people for a savior, himself.  He taught law until His death and resurrection, when He reconciled the world to Himself; He then gave the message of reconciliation to His disciples; especially to the apostle Paul.  Lets dive into the teachings of Jesus, the greatest of law preachers.  In doing so may the Spirit empower us to leave behind the law and step into His marvelous grace!

As we look at these passages it is interesting to note that Jesus tailor made His messages to match His audience.  Whoever He was speaking with, he nullified the very things they relied upon, thereby frustrating their own performance and effort.  "A ruler questioned Him, saying, 'Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?'  And Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone  You know the commandments (Luke 18:18-20)."  Jesus goes on to tell Him to obey the commandments, the man surprisingly says he has obeyed them.  Jesus catered his message to him by saying, 'One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come follow me (Luke 18:22)."  The man became sad and did not follow Jesus.  The disciples are shocked by this encounter and ask Jesus, 'Then who can be saved (verse 26). For if you recall, the disciples gave up everything to follow Him. Jesus answered simply, 'The things that are impossible with people are possible with God (verse 27)."  Do you see it?! Do you see that Jesus was trying to make the rich young ruler and the disciples admit that it was impossible to attain to salvation.  Not only that it was also impossible to truly follow Him!

"If anyone wishes to follow me he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but however loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it (Luke 9:23-24)." So does this mean I have a cross to bear?  That is what many pastors teach.  But if I have my own cross who's cross did Jesus die on?  Did he sin? No, so he bore my sin? Yes!  So He died on my cross?  That is exactly right.  This is just another instance of Jesus trying to frustrate people's attempts to follow Him and attain to eternal life.  You want to follow me? Well you will have to go out and die every day, good luck!

In the book of Matthew, chapter 18, we get the 'Sermon on the Mount'.  It is here that Jesus instructs people to pluck out their eyes and chop off their hands if they cause them to sin, for it is better to dismember yourselves then to miss out on eternal life.  What is He doing? We know that nobody takes this literally.  He is saying that if you want to perfect yourself you will have to go to such drastic measures as cutting off your body parts; after that you might have a better chance of making it. . . not.  Ha! Just imagine the way that the Jewish people took these teachings?

We see Pharisees in Matthew 22 trying to trap Jesus.  They know that obeying the law is necessary for gaining eternal life.  In Matthew 5 Jesus elevates the law and makes it harder to follow.  Instead of committing murder he says if you have anger in your heart you have already committed murder; likewise if you lust then you have committed adultery.  The same thing is happening here in chapter 22.  The Pharisees ask Jesus what the greatest commandments of the law are.  Jesus answers them, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and foremost commandment.  The second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets (Matthew 22:36-40)."  Does Jesus expect people to say, Oh that's easy! I'll just do that and then get to heaven! No!!! He just made the law a heart issue, He made it even harder to obey the law!  Who can love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength? I can't!  He is still trying to exasperate those who are trying to save themselves.

The disciples, who struggle with the issue of the law throughout the gospels, ask Jesus, "What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God? 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent (John 6:29)."  We do not 'try and follow Jesus' anymore, we do not 'try and obey Jesus', we are not attempting to 'live the Christian life'.  Jesus was very clear that these things are impossible to attain.  We cannot get to heaven, we cannot follow Him, and we certainly cannot love God with our whole being.

 So what must we do? Believe in the one that was sent.  Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17).  Because of Jesus, the whole righteous requirement of the law has been met in us (Romans 8:4).  I do not live a righteous life because of effort, but by faith! I am righteous! Faith Jesus did a good enough job, that it is finished; faith that I have been re-created, seated in heavenly places, and that my old sinful self has been put to death with Him!  I no longer strive to please Him or to attain nearness with God, for Jesus already did that for me.  When I actually believe in Jesus then I naturally manifest good deeds and a holy lifestyle; after all faith without works is dead. Me being like Jesus doesn't come from my effort or my moral code, rather we learn from Paul that the 'Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22-23)!!"  No law! Therefore, if I am not living a holy lifestyle, or struggling with sin in some area, or am not experiencing the fullness of joy/peace in Jesus, it does not mean I need to try harder. It means I am lacking faith!  It means that I need a revelation of what Jesus has already accomplished on my behalf.  And there is no condemnation for that since faith itself isn't a work but a gift! Thanks be to God!

"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one my boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10)."

How do we increase our faith? Faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17).  Hearing what? The good news. What is the good news? That your sinful self was crucified with Jesus (Gal. 2:20) and now partake of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), that you have been given everything pertaining to a life and Godliness (2 Peter 1:3), you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3),  Jesus is our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption (1 Cor. 2:30), Jesus finished the job.  Now we enjoy restored unity with our Father, drinking the wine of the new covenant that contains every divine pleasures; with Him we preach the message of reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins. Amen!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Only Covered? The Difference Between Faith and Unbelief!

     There is language that is often times used that unintentionally allows for unbelief to reign in our lives.  There are many ways of thinking that cause people to live on the brink of faith without actually having any (Hebrews 11:1).  There are two 'sayings' used in the church that need to be completely thrown away.  God wants us to have faith, conviction, that leads to freedom.

 1) "The blood of Jesus 'covers' our sin." 
 2) "God 'sees' us as righteous."

     These statements are used all of the time, and although they carry some truth they do not fully grasp the fullness of what Jesus paid for on the cross.  Jesus didn't only cover up our sin, he separated us from it as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).  He actually cleansed us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  I don't know about you, but when I wash something, I literally take away the dirt and the grime.  You can keep spraying cologne on something that is dirty, but it doesn't make it any more clean.  Jesus actually did a good enough job in cleaning you up, He literally took away the dirt/sin itself.  "Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29)."  Not only that he also equipped you not to get dirty again! "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able (1 Cor. 10:13)." "I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin (1 John 2:1)." 

     The second statement is probably the one that most frustrates me.  God 'sees' us as righteous.  Why does God see us that way? Is it because He is blind? Or is Jesus just fooling God by standing in front of us so God can't see us? No of course not, God is not so foolish.  He sees us as righteous because we actually are righteous!  The requirement of the law has been fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4).  We have a righteousness that comes by faith not by works (Philippians 3:9).  That means I don't need to become righteous, I just accept the fact that Jesus already made me that way!  That is what faith is! 

    God has established us in a new reality, a new covenant that has nothing to do with our ability to perform.  I do not get righteous, I accept that Jesus made me that way on the cross 2000 yrs ago.  I do not battle sin, I consider myself dead to it (Romans 6:11, Colossians 3:4).  Why do I consider myself dead to sin? Because I actually am dead to sin; "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24)."  "For how can we who died to sin still live in it (Romans 6:2)."

    The problem with using language about our salvation that isn't complete or definitive, is that it still allows for unbelief.  If I believe I am a sinner and naturally inclined to sin, that is exactly what I will manifest.  If I believe I am the righteousness of God and a slave to righteousness I will manifest it.  I cannot be righteous on my own I can only accept that it has already happened.  The reality is that very few people actually believe this; still fighting the message of grace they cling to sinful theology and language to justify their own unbelief.  Yet even they have been made righteous!!  Living a holy life is only a reality when we believe in Jesus, the lack of holy living is directly proportionate to our faith in the Gospel!  Reality is reality whether we believe it or not. Jesus separated our relationship with the law by completely fulfilling it; "It is finished (John 19:30)."  We do not need to strive anymore, but effortlessly sink into the reality of the finished work of the cross. 

   God is stirring up in His church true and radical faith.  Faith where we actually agree with God and allow our minds to be renewed to match His own.  God is revealing the lies that we have believed and giving us the option to accept the truth.  "Know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)." After all, God wants "All men to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4)."

"To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (1 Peter 1-4)."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

No Condemnation. . . None (Part 3)

    God has forgiven you, he loves you, he does not condemn you. He wants you to accept His forgiveness and reinstate you as His child and friend so that you can be more than a conqueror. This takes humility, humility to give up completely on your own ability to attain.  You must simply accept that he has finished the work He set out to do on the cross. Humility comes from the Latin root Humus, which means grounding.  Humility is not feeling bad about yourself it is knowing where you come from.  If you agree with God that you are from Him, there is never any reason to feel poorly about yourself.  If you think you are a sinner unable to be forgiven then you have become an enemy in your mind against God.  The extreme of this is to blasphemy the spirit, which is the only 'unforgivable sin' (Matthew 12:31).  It really means to come to a place where there is no possibility of redemption for that individual because they have totally bought into the lie that they are condemned and cannot be forgiven.

    Where are you claiming to have your grounding? In Adam or Christ? There is no half-way, you cannot be both.  You are not a saint and a sinner, you side with one or the other and only one is true. "He who is not with Me is against me (Matthew 12:30)."  The reality for everyone is that they have been forgiven, to reject this and live in the old nature is to live a lie existence.  Did you know that God is not even disappointed in you? He can't be, because He never put any expectation on your ability to perform in the first place!  He knew from the beginning that we could only succeed from a place of dependence on Him and not a dependence on ourselves.

    Guilt, shame, and condemnation have no place in the Kingdom! In fact those feelings reveal that we still have confidence in ourselves!  How silly that is, since that is why we needed a savior in the first place! To struggle with sin means to struggle with 'works righteousness' ; which, ultimately, a struggle against grace itself. "For we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3)." When we feel guilty it is because we failed, and for whatever reason we feel like we should have been able to do it! That is an anti-Gospel mentality, in fact even an Anti-Christ mentality.  Oh the lies of Satan that he has mixed among the Holy Brethren.  "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out Abba! Father (Romans 8:15)!" Or have you forgotten that Christ is always for you, he is never against you (Romans 8:31).  "For it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1)." 

   That means that even repentance can be a joyful, even fun thing! Because it is acknowledging that the very thing we did isn't us! Repentance literally means to go back to the top, to accept the mind set of Christ within a situation.  Repentance is only a painful thing outside of a relationship with Christ.  In faith, repentance is a glorious occasion as we revel in the grace of Jesus!  

   Sadly much of the modern churches theology has stemmed from unbelief.  Many of God's children struggle under the spirit of condemnation, fear, and uselessness because of demon inspired theology. They believe they will always struggle with sin, that they are in continual need of salvation. Sadly their 'humility',or grounding, is in the false self rather than true reality.  This has made the church weak, and has a form of Godliness but denies its power (2 Tim. 3:5).  Much of the church is still kneeling at the foot of the cross rather than coming out of the tomb resurrected! Paul's teachings were centered around faith, God's strength not our weakness, Jesus' forgiveness not the fall of Adam, us being Saints not sinners.  We ultimately need a faith revival, where we stand upon the word of God and say it is true regardless of our experiences.  We need to stop fighting salvation and accept it, stop belittling ourselves and take up the armor of God to step out as the brave and holy warriors He has created us to be.

   Through faith, a renewed mind, we know we have become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), and have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3).  Remember that faith comes by hearing, hearing what (Romans 10:17)? The good news.  The good news is the finished work of the Christ. Hear it, know it, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you the faith to believe it! Christ has given us freedom from the penalty of sin and from sin itself.  In fact we don't even have a sinful nature anymore, ha! That is the new identity, living in, with, and through Jesus!  Be free, be joyful, and rest in His presence that doesn't condemn, isn't disappointed in you, and loves continuously!

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10)."

No Condemnation. . . None (Part 2)

  So who is 'in Christ'?  Paul, in speaking to citizens of Athens says, "HE made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of you own poets have said.  'For we also are His children.' Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or sliver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man (Acts 17:26-30)." Paul here is talking to Pagans! To unbelievers! Yet he is speaking the truth to them,  he is preaching the message of reconciliation! He is preaching the finished work of Christ!  He is viewing them and speaking to them as they are forgiven already, because they are.  He is speaking to their true identity in hopes that they will come to believe the truth. We don't say they need to be saved we tell them that they need to accept the fact that Jesus already saved them 2000 yrs ago.  They have just been beguiled into thinking they need to save themselves in one way or another. But that lie, is a lie, which means that it isn't true. 

"Therefore from now on we recognize no one according tot he flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  HE made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)."

     God, through Christ reconciled the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).  He died for the sins of the World (John 1:29)! Jesus was sent because God loved the whole world (John 3:16).  And He desires everyone to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4) as He gave himself as a ransom for all people (1 Tim. 2:6).  A knowledge of the truth? What is the truth? Jesus says that you will 'Know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).' Knowing it will set you free, the truth itself will not.  

    The crazy implications of all of this, is that all people have been paid for, their sins have been forgiven.  It is not longer an issue of forgiven or unforgiven, saved or unsaved, but rather believer or unbeliever.  "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive (1 Cor. 15:22)."  

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.  The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:6-21).

    We literally, in every way, live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).  We call things that are not as though they are (Romans 4:17).  Faith exposes the lie and replaces it with the truth.  Reality is reality whether we agree with it or not.  "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2-3)." 

No Condemnation. . . None (Part 1)

    This is one of my longest blogs, but I think that it contains very important revelation. God has been teaching me a lot about His grace and its power.  I have tried to compile these things into a cohesive message using mainly scripture passages.  I pray that this helps you gain a new perspective on what Jesus accomplished on the cross, and that the Holy Spirit renews our minds as we carry out the ministry of reconciliation.  Grace is so wonderful!

    God does not condemn you or anybody else for sin. Does that sound strange to you, it did to me at first. The law condemns sin in sinful man, but it is only because they do not believe in Jesus. "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  This is the judgement, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were veil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed (John 3:17-21)."

     Those who are against God are 'enemies in their minds' only.  They are believing a lie.  "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven (Colossians 1:19-20)." He has reconciled all things to Himself!! All things!! But that doesn't mean we believe it. Paul explains this crazy reconciliation further, "And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in min, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Colossians 1:21-22)."  The issue that the world faces isn't the power of sin, its the lie that sin still has power, and that it is still necessary to do something in order to reconcile ourselves to God.  The truth is that we are already reconciled we just aren't agreeing with what Jesus paid for 2000 yrs ago!

     It is common to not want to step into the light because of fear of condemnation.  We feel bad for doing bad and not doing good, and so we are afraid to bring things to God because we are believing a lie about how he views us.  Look at the woman who was caught committing adultery.

"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people were coming to Him; and He sat down and began to teach them.  The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the center of the court, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act.  Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?' They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him.  But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.  But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, 'He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.' Again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.  When they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the center of the court. Straightening up, Jesus said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'I do not condemn you, either.  Go. From now on sin no more (John 8:1-11)."

     Do you see the lie? The lie is that if we expose our deeds we will reap condemnation, but the truth is we will reap forgiveness and the power over sin, to 'sin no more'.  "Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life (John 8-12)." Now that is good news!

"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.  For those who are according tot he flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those whoa re according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself tot he law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:1-8)."

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Realizing Holiness not Sinfulness

God has recreated you! 'Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, the new things have come (2 Cor. 5:17)." We are commanded in two places, Romans 6 and Colossians 3, to consider ourselves dead to sin.  Why should we reckon ourselves dead to sin? Because we actually are! You are now righteous and Holy because the full righteous requirement of the Law has been met in you (Romans 8:4). Your actions no longer affect this reality, and agreeing with the truth actually sets you free so you no longer have to sin (John 8:32).  The only thing that will set you free from sin is knowing the truth, what is the truth? That you have already been set free!

Now I am writing this blog to correct a misconception.  Many believers, as they begin to learn more about the Lord and increase in knowledge, begin to perceive more and more sinful habits or thoughts that they didn't notice before.  Many times we understand that as revealing how sinful we actually are, that our sinfulness comes in layers, deeper and deeper.  This is a deception! You have been made new, you have been born again.  Your awareness of more sin is not a reflection of your depravity but of your holiness.  Do not give power to the devil by believing he still has a hold on your life.  Your increased awareness and disgust of sin is a revelation of how Holy you have actually been made.  You are realizing how righteous God has made you! Hallelujah!!!

Break away from the lie and enter into the truth.  Be encouraged, not discouraged. In this way repentance is a joyous occasion, because it reveals the finished work of Jesus inside of us not the incomplete work.  Do not own your sin, as soon as you own it you fall into unbelief.  Yes you did it, but even your repentance shows that the action wasn't you! So repent freely, without guilt.  "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

It is finished: 2 Misconceptions

The finished work of the cross is the most important thing to understand . . . period.  There are a number of things that are included in the finished work of Christ.  1).  That Jesus not only paid the penalty for our sin but that he actually defeated the power of sin itself.  Because of that we can live outside of sin's control and power; in other words it is possible to not sin. 2). That in Jesus we have actually been made into new creations, holy and righteous.  This is not a righteousness from ourselves from works, but by faith in the finished work of Jesus. I am righteous because Jesus paid for me and made me righteous.  This holy standing with God is not affected by my actions, good or bad, and it is in believing this truth that I can actually begin to manifest a holy lifestyle. 3).  That Jesus sacrifice has given us access into living the way that he lived.  Not only in holiness but also in the supernatural.  His sacrifice purified us so that we could receive the Holy Spirit, and just like Him we are commissioned to destroy the works of the devil. That means that we have been given access into healing, prophecy, and all the other spiritual gifts through His authority that is in us.  We also have access into the fullness of joy, peace, and character that he himself possesses.

The finished work of the cross is rarely taught however, and many believers are beguiled into thinking that they still have some part to play in saving themselves, climbing up into the glory, or making themselves pure.
There are two major ways that the church has fallen into deception in regards to what Jesus accomplished on the cross.  I do not mean to categorize every church or believer but to give a rough outline that may help you better understand where you are at in terms of the fullness of Christ's sacrifice.  The first deception comes in thinking that Jesus didn't actually 'finish' the job and that we will always struggle with sin and never walk as Jesus did until we go to heaven. The other misconception is that Jesus made a holy divine life available, but that we still play a part laying hold of it.  This group believes that one must fast, pray, strain, or make some sort of effort to grasp hold of the inheritance that is actually given to them freely.

The first deception occurs within many of the evangelical churches that are spread across the country.  Within these these communities, their theology limits the work of the cross, believing that the fullness of the kingdom is reserved for heaven alone.  Much of their theology formed based on their own experience.  Because they never experienced freedom from sin, theology was created to make room for continual struggle.  Likewise since they never experienced the miraculous, they never expected that it should be a normal thing, or even possible for that matter.  In this way many people have built their theology around unbelief rather than faith. The nature of faith is that it believes beyond experience and beyond circumstance.  It literally pulls the reality of heaven into a collision with the reality of the world. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1)."  These communities always tend to, unintentionally, give more power to the devil than to God.  They will justify sickness, death, and tragedy to the will of God.  They believe that they will never understand the will of God, choosing to live in the Old Covenant reality rather than the new (Isaiah 55:9, Colossians 1:26)." This mind-set always leads to uselessness, ineffectiveness, and feelings of inadequacy, unworthiness, and insecurity (2 Peter 1:8).

In some cases these churches have theology that seems to include the fullness of Christ but they still do not expect it experientially.  They will say that it is through Christ's sacrifice that we have a relationship with God, but they never actually experience that relationship because they think it is primarily cognitive in nature. Even though they honor Him with their lips, their hearts are far from Him (Matthew 15:8).  If someone actually begins to experience more intimacy or breakthrough in certain areas, and then goes to encourage others that there is 'more' to a relationship with God then they have experienced, conflict, bitterness, and envy will arise because they 'intellectually' believe they have experienced everything there is.

The second misconception is often times found in more 'charismatic' circles. In these cases they believe that God has made available every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  They believe in all of the spiritual gifts, manifestations, and the tangible fruits of the spirit.  Their mistake comes in thinking they still need to do something to enter into this reality.  They fast, pray, strain, and altogether make a big effort to become more passionate and radical for God; in so doing they expect that after their effort they will be blessed with more breakthrough in areas of purity, healing, joy, or other such spiritual realities.  Although these groups often do see miracles and experience more of the fullness, they are deceived into thinking it resulted from their own effort. This group has a tendency to be prideful because they think it was by their effort that they now have authority over demons, or peace that passes understanding. In reality, their efforts have only led to accepting a reality that needed no effort on there part in the first place.  God came to pursue man because we could not pursue God.

This is the truth, that Jesus paid it all.  He has given us access into the fullness of the divine life (Ephesians 1,  2 Peter 1).  His sacrifice has allowed us to live as he lived and to do the things that he has done (John 20:21, John 14:12).  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one may boast.  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10)."  If you are not experiencing part of the fullness of Christ's sacrifice, the answer is not to try harder.  For you are a citizen of heaven seated in heavenly places.  What you need is a renewal of your mind to help you agree with the reality that already fully exists.  This is a work of the spirit that inspires us to live in faith that manifests the kingdom of heaven in our lives.  The only process we are promised is to move from glory to glory into every increasing glory (2 Cor. 3).  This process is only unpacking the incredible reality that we already fully exist within.  We come to know the truth and the truth sets us free (John 8:32). 

Faith comes by hearing, hearing what? The good news. What is the good news? That Jesus has cleaned you up, placed you in heavenly places, and put you right at the center of the presence of His father. Now you can effortlessly sink into your identity in Christ, and begin to see the fruits of heaven produced in your life!!

"To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:1-11)."

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"In Jesus Name"

"Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son (John 14:13)."
"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst (Matthew 18:20)."

   We have a funny way of viewing this passage sometimes.  In our prayer life, whether we are asking for something or declaring something we say 'In Jesus Name' at the end.  There is nothing essentially wrong with that but we often times do it as if stamping that statement on the end of our prayer validates and give authority to what we said. This is a sad representation of what the scriptures are saying.

   When Jesus talks about asking in 'my name' he literally means to, 'ask as me'.  Because of Jesus we can relate with God and the world with the same authority that He had.  When our identity is rooted in what Jesus accomplished on the cross we have accepted our right standing with God.  We have confidence in the presence of God because of where we have been established in and through Christ. "Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming form ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:4-6)."

   Saying "in Jesus name" and having confidence that this statement gives validity to our prayer is silly and is not based in faith.  Faith and authority come from being established in the grace of God, knowing His will, and understanding our purpose.  There is no formula for proclaiming the kingdom of heaven or talking to God.  We have confidence because we are His children, He is our Father, and Christ is our Redeemer.

   So be assured today of your standing with God.  If you are unsure go read about God's promises about who you are! You belong to the heavenly family and that is why your prayers carry validity and are heard.  Walk in authority, proclaim the kingdom, and rejoice that your names are written in heaven!!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Knowing the Will of God

      I have noticed a tendency in many Christian circles, where we approach God as if his will is unknowable; or that our will is always opposing His. We say things and approach situations as if God's will is a mystery, and at best we need to pray for long extended periods of time before we can begin to fathom what God's will is in a situation.  This is a silly, non-biblical way to relate with God, and we need a renewing of our minds to see what Christ really accomplished on the cross in this area.

     "Greater love has no one this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:13-15)."

     So Jesus has revealed 'everything' from the Father.  Jesus is famous for doing 'only what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19); and then he sent us as he was sent.  "He gave you the Counselor, the Holy Spirit who will teach you all things and will remind you of everything he has said to you (John 14:26)."  This is a promise, that means that sometimes our thoughts our his thoughts; because we have been abiding in Him and He in us!  "For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:15)."  If we are spending time with God, chances are that he has been shaping your thoughts, intentions, and desires the whole way through.  When we continuously come into places of indecision and doubt, it is a reflection of our lack of faith in the Holy Spirits work inside of us.

      It is important to say that our will can be against God's will, whereby correction would be necessary; but if we are spending time with Him we do not need to question our motives or doubt our initiatives as long as they don't fall outside of the boundaries of scripture.

      I also have found that we expect God to have specific plans for every situation in our lives, and we get caught up in many decisions because we are unsure about what God's will is.  God can have specific intentions for a given situation, but for the most part his will is simple and general. We are sent as Jesus was sent, so it is important to see what God's intended purpose was for Him. "The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)."  What does that entail? We can find that in Luke 5:18-19, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives.,  and recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." Furthermore Jesus gives this commission to his disciples and to us, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons (Matthew 10:8)."

   Here are some examples; if you are in a conundrum about which college to go to, or even if you want to go to college at all, ask yourself which one you want. Pick that one, and then go preach the good news, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.  Are you wondering if you should get married or not? Do you want to? If you do, get married.  Then preach the good news, heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons.  God wants you to destroy the works of the devil, but he wants you to partner with Him in that! So what are your desires? What are your plans? How do you get excited about doing it? Chances are God agrees with you, after all he picked you to be with Him.  He wants you, all of you.

    So lets move from inaction and indecision into purposeful action that fulfills the will of God!  We know what His will is, He revealed it to us in the person of Jesus and reminds us of it through the Holy Spirit. Don't allow doubt to make you ineffective because that reveals that you still consider yourself to be an enemy of God rather than a friend.  Stop questioning and just seek the Lord.  "Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will make your path straight (Proverbs 3:5)."

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Heavenly Thinking (2): Sinful Nature

           The renewing of our minds!! What a wonderful thing.  God is adapting us to a new environment; he is aligning us with a completely different reality.  It looks illogical, seems irrational, and only makes sense once He has transformed our minds.  There is one truth that is at the very center of the saving work of Jesus Christ, and is central for us to experience the fullness of God.  This mind-shift has to do with our sinful nature that previously separated us from God, but that because of the death of Jesus, we too now share in newness of life.  Understanding ourselves to be dead to sin but alive in Christ Jesus is the foundation for heavenly thinking. 

                “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirt.  Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’  The wind blows whether it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit (John 3:3, 5-8).”

                So what does this mean? How is one born again? What does that look/feel like? Jesus answers this in the following verses, which is the most well known passage in the bible.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).”  In another passage Jesus says, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).”   Jesus paved the way for us to be with God, which we were previously unable to access. 

                The thing that separates man from God is sin, or more importantly the nature of sin itself.  God’s requirement for relationship is complete holiness; or another way to look at it is to say that God is so holy that he cannot coexist with unholiness.  That means that even the ‘smallest’ most ‘minimal’ sin is in complete contradiction to the nature of God.  “We have all sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God.”  God expresses to people what it takes to be in relationship with him through the ten commandments.  Be perfect, and enter into the kingdom.  The sinful nature that all humanity is born into means that our tendency or natural inclination is towards sin.  Even if we want to do what is right we can't because our nature is opposed to it. Romans 7 speaks of the futility of trying to obey the entire law and how it is impossible to please God because of our sinful nature.  

            We then need a savior because we are unable to achieve the standard, even with the greatest and most heartfelt intentions.  Thankfully Jesus came and did what we could not.  “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.  For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did; sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4). 

                At the beginning of Romans 7, Paul gives an analogy of marriage to to explain the transition of the old covenant to new.  Just like a woman’s husband needed to die for her to be able to marry again, so we were made to die so we could enter into a new covenant as well.  “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death.  But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter (Romans 7:4-6).”

                It said that we were made to die! This comes into accordance with what Jesus said  to His disciples.  “And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 10:38-39).”  This same thing is found in Matthew 16:24, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself , and take up his cross and follow Me."  In Luke's account Jesus says that we must pick up our cross 'daily'.  This makes sense due to the sinful nature, for with it we are unable to please God.  But here is the kicker, not everything Jesus said was new covenant, rather he was transitioning from the old covenant to the new.  Those passages don't apply to those who are in Christ Jesus.It is just like when Jesus preached law to show how impossible it was to achieve righteousness on our own! He is saying that the requirement to follow him is to die daily, but this is just as impossible as obeying the law. 

         If I have to have a cross and die then who's cross did Jesus die on? His own? No, He was sinless.  So who's cross did he die on?  Mine!  "Behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)." Jesus died with my sin on the cross, he broke my covenant with the law and brought me into the new covenant.  I don't need to die daily anymore because Jesus died for me.  Jesus took what I deserved so that I could have what he deserved.  I can do nothing to add to His completed work, we do not add to the cross, it is finished.  

          "What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?  Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?  Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised form the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin (Galatians 6:1-7)."  Likewise Galatians 5:24 says, "Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires."

         Did you catch that? Our sinful nature was put to death on the cross with Jesus!  Jesus died on the cross bearing our sin.  Just like the beginning of Romans 7 shows, only death could break the old covenant.  In that analogy the husband died, in our reality we died in Christ's death! This is the promise that is given through salvation, this is what it means to believe in Jesus!! To believe that it is finished, that we cannot add to or take away from Christs work on the cross, that he saved us 100%, and that we have been given full access into his glorious riches and presence.  God changed our very nature, we are no longer sinners but saints! 

        This is a hard reality to swallow because it is completely based on the promise of God through his mercy and grace.  It completely has to do with a renewed mind; faith. It won't match our experience right away and it definitely seems unfair and even irrational.  But it is this reason that God needs to renew our minds, to transform the way we view Him and ourselves.  "Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though e have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer.  Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Cor. 6:16-17)." 

        So if this is true, That, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it  is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20)."  Then what do we do with it? God asks us to simply agree! "Even so consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11)."  "Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (Colossians 3:5)."  When we align our minds with His, and correctly identify ourselves with the way he sees us we start to manifest that reality.  When God says I am righteous and I believe I am righteous then I will manifest righteousness.  If I believe I am a sinner then I will manifest that very thing.  That doesn't mean we cannot sin or that we can't be tempted, it just means we don't have to anymore; it is no longer natural for us to sin (1 John 2:1-2)."  "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)."  What is the truth? That we are dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus, that the old is gone and the new has come, that we have crucified the flesh along with its passions and desires!!!

         Many Christians don't agree with the assertion that our sinful nature has been put to death.  They address it minimally but will not fully accept it. Peter sheds light on the consequences of not receiving the fullness of Christ's mercy and grace. 

 "To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of THE DIVINE NATURE, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.  Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge self control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness brother kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.  For if these qualities are your and are increasing, they render you neither USELESS NOR UNFRUITFUL in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For he who LACKS these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having FORGOTTEN HIS PURIFICATION FROM HIS FORMER SINS.  Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, YOU WILL NEVER STUMBLE; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you (2 Peter 1:1-11)."

          So lets agree with God and consider ourselves dead to sin, knowing that we cannot add to our salvation.  Jesus finished the work, he broke the old covenant.  He imputed His righteousness into us and removed the root of sin from our lives.  Now we get to confidently step into God's presence; no shame, guilt, condemnation, or fear.  Heavenly thinking revolves around this revelation, the saving work of Christ that killed our sinful nature and gave us access into the Kingdom.  "For the Kingdom of God is righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). " 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who blessed us with EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING in the heavenly places with Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be HOLY AND BLAMELESS before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He FREELY bestowed on us in the beloved. In Him we have REDEMPTION through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.  In ALL WISDOM AND INSIGHT He made known to us the MYSTERY of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of ALL THINGS in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth (Eph. 1:1-10)."