Friday, April 11, 2014

Form Without Power and a Church Without God

'These signs will follow those who believe. . . (Mark 16:17)'
'He confirmed His word with the signs that accompanied it. . . (Mark 16:20)'
'You will do even greater things than I have done. . .  (John 14:12)'
'Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons; freely you have received freely give. . (Matthew 10:8)

The very idea of God revolves around the understanding that there is something, or someone, supernatural (above nature).  Jesus, the incarnate God, is supernatural intervention itself. His life was marked by the miraculous because He was a walking miracle; God in human form. In the verses above, Jesus commissions His disciples to walk in the miraculous power of God.  In fact, when He ascended back into heaven He instructs them to 'wait until you have been imbued with power from on high (Luke 24:49).'

Here is the principle; miracles will always be where God is simply because He is 'super'natural' himself. Although He created the natural world He is above it as well. This principle of God working supernaturally in the 'natural' world is seen to be true throughout biblical history; the creation of the world, the supernatural conception of Sarah, the plagues in Egypt, supernatural provision in the wilderness, the manifest presence of God on Mt. Sinai, in the tent, and later in the temple; we have the prophets who heard from God, and dreams and visions are regularly given to God's people. Then Jesus comes onto the scene as Mr. Supernatural himself, God in human form, healing, casting out demons, knowing people's thoughts and intentions, multiplying food, walking on water, walking through walls, and being resurrected! The same principle runs true with the early church; where believers are the miraculous follows. People are healed, new tongues are spoken, demons are cast out, and the church is recognized to have God with them.

Now it doesn't take much critical thinking to compare and contrast your own experience to the 'norm' that is displayed here. It may not be the case, but chances are your life is not marked by the miraculous power of God, mine isn't very often.  Oh sure we are very good at justifying behaviors, thoughts, and coincidences as being ordained by our sovereign God, and sometimes they are; but it seems we are often just trying to convince ourselves that He is doing something!  If we are honest, we can agree that much of the evangelical world has dismissed supernatural intervention and replaced it with the deistic notion that God just sets things in motion, takes a step back, and lets the whole thing play out. If you continue in this vein of honesty, you might be able to admit that you are downright frightened about the supernatural; and for good reason! If God is alive and active, able to turn the world upside down in an instant, it messes with all the controlled comfort we have managed to create with our Christianity.

Since we started there, in the name of honesty we must continue, there is no backing out now. We have opened a can of worms that cannot be closed until we realize they are not the dirty, slimy, kind you put on a hook, but the sugary gummy kind that everybody clamors for. For a myriad of reasons we have created a Christianity that is sentimental about the miraculous power of God, but is otherwise completely disassociated with it.  This is not only portrayed as a paradoxical incongruity in scripture, but there are many reasons and consequences for this being the case.

Let us analyze this problem from a simple level first, revelation (I lied about the simple part, this may be very challenging for you). Revelation is wisdom or knowledge that is given to us by God.  It is not just a new idea or experience we have when we come to learn something we didn't know before. It is specifically God given knowledge. You might protest and say that 'all knowledge comes from God', without explaining that in depth it will suffice to say that you are just making excuses to avoid the uncomfortable reality of our inadequacy. Now in the church we rightly associate scripture as being given to us by God,  but we wrongly assume how it is we come to understand it.

We subconsciously, sometimes consciously, believe that God doesn't speak to us anymore. That all the revelation He desires to give us is in the scriptures.  Although this is a very common belief, there is a deep, yet subtle, deception hidden there. When we see scripture as the encyclopedia to the Christian life, we make the assumption that we have the the intellectual capacity to rationalize the truths that are in there. Our confidence is founded on our ability to reason rather than on God's ability to communicate.

Christianity all of a sudden becomes intellectual.  It becomes a matter of the mind, of thought, of reason and logic.  We have academically institutionalized Christianity until it doesn't have a lick of God left in it. Sure we say God is speaking through scripture, but deep down we just have confidence in our interpretation. Think about it, when someone says, 'I only believe the bible', what do they really mean? Well they mean of course that they believe their 'interpretation' of the bible.  You can have a lot of high opinions of scriptural truth and yet never know God.  You can theological, rationalize, and argue yourself blue in the face, but that doesn't mean you are in relationship with the King of Kings. If you step back and realize the many different opinions that wise, intellectual, and honest people come to about different biblical truths, you may become rather depressed and conclude that there is not truth to be found. We will touch on that later, for now, check out these passages.

"You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life (John 5:39-40)."

"They are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7)."

This is the kind of knowledge that puffs up (1 Cor. 8:1) and when we make an assessment of the church, we realize it is the puffer fish of all fish that have ever puffed.  So many Christians are threatened by the smallest idea that goes against their theology.  Fear, caution, and pride motivate thought and practice rather than love, hope, and righteous conviction. Just look at the reaction the church has had to things in the world that threaten their 'precious understanding.'  I separate myself in language only to make a point, but I too have struggled with our self dependent theology. The only reason we are afraid of other's opinions or practices is because it is 'our' rationalization that is being threatened. We are confident in God in as much as we are able to logically explain our ideas.  It isn't faith and trust in Him, but rather pride in ourselves.

Now the bible is irreplaceable, it is the word of God! I believe that there is absolute truth and that God never contradicts His written word, but He does love to contradict our understanding of His word. After all, how can you have peace that passes understanding if your confidence is founded completely in capacity to understand? Many Christians believe that direct 'revelation' has ceased since the canonization of scripture;  now that we have the bible, God no longer interacts with us like we see Him doing in every other era of history. We are so quick to justify our mediocrity, rather than rising putting ourselves before God to seek that which we do not seem to have.

In Luke 24:25, Jesus opens the disciples minds so that they could understand the scriptures; you see, it is still all about revelation, it is all about encountering God Himself.  You may say that all Christians have the Spirit and so have the capability to understand; but I think this is another effort to intellectually allow for our lack. I am not saying it isn't a true statement, but what we 'mean' by justifies control and manipulation.

So what is theology? It is simply the way you think about God. Everyone is a 'theologian' in their own right. Now you can have good and bad theology and you can have right and wrong theology.  Your theology can put you in a position to encounter and know God, or it can hinder that relationship. You can have great theology and not know God, and you can have poor theology and know God intimately.  This 'know' is not merely intellectual, but experiential (check out the Greek word epignosco). Theology is important, but it isn't everything. Just as in other areas, our theology of the miraculous has limited our experience of it.  We have crippled ourselves in our thought life and thereby fail to lay hold of the inheritance that we have in Jesus. Most of the time, Christians are not known for displaying the power of God, but rather for being stuck up narrow minded religious types that have high ideals that are rarely lived up to.

We have created a Christianity that has a 'form of Godliness' but denies His power (2 Tim. 3:5). Sure we might give lip service to the power of God, and we will strain to find something in our lives that we can attribute to Him, but we probably won't expect someone we pray for to be healed, or for demons to actually manifest around us.  Intellect, reason, and systems of thought, this is what we have diminished Christianity to. Just think about our Sunday services and how they revolve around ideas.  We are given good advice every week, we hear about God's goodness, His forgiveness, and there might be a sermon talks about the power of God to make you 'feel' excited about how big He is. Yet, we leave on Sunday talking about the 'good message' we heard and continue on living our lives like we did before.  The good ideas, and pleasant feelings of being a Christian didn't change the way we lived day to day, didn't change our interaction with God Himself.  If our pastor isn't interesting enough we will go somewhere else, if the music doesn't capture you emotionally or intellectually, you will probably leave; or at least you will complain in the parking lot. Rather than becoming like God, we have resorted to having opinions 'about' Him.

The world sees it better than we do. Youth don't want to go to church because it is a boring academic ritual that is a form without power.  God doesn't seem to be there, it just seems to be an idea that all the old people find comfort in.  The world has turned against the church, and for good reason. Most of the negative opinions we as believers receive from the world is not the righteous persecution and suffering that Jesus promised us; it is the genuine opinion of honest unbelievers who see Christians in a clearer light than we see ourselves.

You don't need to 'convince' someone God is real if you can lay your hands on them and see them be healed.  You don't need to defend God when He is the one that searches the heart of man and can reveal things to you that will shock them. You won't feel threatened by opinion when you are secure in God Himself rather than in your own opinion of Him. We are not on the defensive but on the offensive, we don't need to be offended by people, we are secure in who we are in God, or at least I think that's what faith is supposed to be.

We must become Christians, those who demonstrate God to the world rather than pointing to Him. John the Baptist was the last 'sign post' that pointed to Jesus.  We are those who have the Spirit living in us and working through us; first fruits of the new creation, of the same type as Jesus.  We do what He did; after all, He is living in us, right?!

This post is not meant to be helpful, It is not meant to give you answers or make you feel comfortable. We care way to much about how we 'feel' already. I want to make you uncomfortable, to make you ask the hard questions. I don't want to give you all the answers.  I love the church, all of it, but I am willing to shake things up when we get 'settled' in the wrong position.

There have been great movements of God throughout history where the power of God has been displayed. Where cancer is healed, the dead are raised, and demons cast out.  There are many believers around the world who are walking in this reality, tuned into God and anointed by His power. Not everyone fits into the picture I painted above, I was speaking in a stark manner on purpose. What did it produce in your heart and mind? Anxiety, frustration, offense, excitement, wonder, purpose? I am alright with all of those responses, what are you going to do about them?

There are three responses one can have when facing a powerless church. 1) We can reset the standard by defining the 'normal' Christian life according to our experience rather than scripture. Thereby creating a culture of compromise, weakness, and powerlessness. 2) We can reject supernatural intervention completely and create a Christianity that is utterly humanistic, relative, and universal. 3) Or, we can become dissatisfied with our experience and keep the biblical standard, thereby relying solely upon a touch of the Holy Spirit to do the impossible.

In my opinion 1 isn't far away from becoming 2, and 3 is the only antidote to a form of religion that denies God's power. What is created will always reflect the nature of the one who created it. If we build a ministry based on our own talents and abilities than people will only end up seeing us. True ministry is allowing God to supernaturally work through us, so that people encounter Him rather than only meeting us.

When we let go of our 'form', our 'control', we make room for the Holy Spirit. We need to put ourselves in situations, to have dreams, such that if God doesn't show up they will fail. The world needs God, not our best efforts at doing ministry. They see through the facade, they see that the church is little different than themselves. The church today mainly relies on psychology, sociology, and philosophy to guilt trip and motivate people to try and religiously regulate their lives to mimic a moral standard. Although all of those things are useful and beneficial they are not the primary avenues which God has given us for ministry; rather He has given us Himself.

Will we surrender and let go of control so that God can speak, direct, and reign? Will we live with an expectancy that defies human reason? Will we live out of His strength and power rather than our own?

God give us faith so that we can live from a heavenly perspective rather than an earthly one.

Ask the hard questions and don't settle for pat answers that keep you in stagnancy.

Who am I in Christ? What is spiritual authority?  Who is the Holy Spirit? Can I hear God's voice? Why don't we experience God like people did in the bible? How do you pray for healing? What if people don't get healed? Start searching the deep things of God and He will reveal Himself to you in wonderful ways! Have fun!

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Greatest April Fools Joke Of All Time

April fools day, the 1st day of the month of April, is a day where practical jokes are not only expected but encouraged. It is where you try to outwit, mess with, and prank those around you. Of course the best pranks are those that you don't see coming. In order to truly make a fool out of someone, your prank needs portray them as silly, incompetent, or stupid. . . at least that is how we traditionally view it. Some classic April Fools jokes include, but are not limited to, the rubber band on the spray nozzle, a bucket of water above the door, rearranging a room, or saran wrap on the toilet seat.

Yet there is something, or someone, that has made the population of the world over look like an even bigger bunch of fools. The greatest April's fools joke of all time is still offending the proud and overly serious to this day. Besides April Fools, the month of April is also when we celebrate Easter, the death and resurrection of our Lord!

Some of you may be calling me to stop, ‘a joke you say, never! The Gospel is not a joke.’ Although I recognize that we do not want to be irreverent, let me shed light onto the the most scandalous, irrational, unexpected, and surprising scene to ever take place on Earth. All in all, it is one big joke.

1 Corinthians 1: 18-31 “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is write, 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that they may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord!.”

Wisdom of the World
' Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age?

Since the beginning of time, humankind has been obsessed with one thing, living. Our questions, concerns, efforts, struggles, and emotions revolve around living. Think about it, happiness, fulfillment, joy, peace, success, anger, pain, struggles, consequences. . . all these things, the questions that come with them, all have to do with life. How we live, how we live together; we are obsessed with life, and controlled by it.

Take anxiety for instance, is it not fear that life will not go as expected? Isn't it produced out of a desire to control an manipulate our environment? Anxiety stems from living; the futile attempts at managing, controlling, and manipulating our environment and circumstances to achieve a specific result. In scripture we are instructed to be 'anxious about nothing', and to not worry about tomorrow (Philippians 4:6). That seems pretty impossible doesn't it?

Even though freedom is 'supposedly' found in Jesus, those of us who 'believe' in Him keep on at our attempts at living. We hold on tightly to the idea that our lifestyle or circumstances will dictate our happiness, fulfillment, or freedom. I am not saying we shouldn't seek good advice or be obedient to the Lord, but much of the time our Christian culture pursues good living more than the rest of the world. Our sermons revolve around self-help in changing your circumstances, we are excellent at utilizing psychology, philosophy, and sociology to motivate people to change their lives around a moral standard. Victory then, is still thought to come through a certain lifestyle rather than through the cross. In all honesty our self-help programs are not working; our striving attempts at living well have never produced their desired result.

We have had good advice for the last 5000 years, from the philosophers, to theologians, to our very own parents; and where has it gotten us? I would suggest no better off than before. Everyone wants advice, instruction, and guidance, because we selfishly want to dictate how our life is going to play out. We want to 'know', to control'. We shouldn't dismiss advice, or count it completely irrelevant but all of our striving and straining, trying to grasp hold of what we have, actually leaves us empty and only wanting more. If we are honest with ourselves, our attempts at living have only produced anxiety, worry, and depression. Living causes us to fall into comparison, makes us discontent, and produces bitterness, resentment, and insecurity. Living ultimately puts you in the book keeping business, where you keep record of all the wrongs and rights of both yourself and other people.

The Paradox of the Wisdom of God
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”

If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul (Matthew 16:24-27).”

Jesus takes the wisdom of the world, the idea that our living will ultimately save us, and turns it on its head. Jesus came because our best efforts at living weren't making the cut. Not only that, but He shows us how our deeply rooted desire to control and manage our lives is the very reason why we fail. Then he says that it was not our ability, but our inability to live that mandated His coming; it is our failure, not our success that attracts Him. Even though we are 'hell bent' on dictating our stance with God through living, he says it is our very failure at this attempt that mandated His involvement. In all our attempts at being wise we are ignorant of the fools we have actually become. The joke of the Gospel reveals to us the truth of this foolishness.

The road to victory isn't an upward climb of living, but it begins and finishes when you understand that you are completely bankrupt before God. You have nothing to offer. Struggle, brokenness, suffering, coming face to face with your inability is most of the battle! The reason you are trying to live so well is to hide your inability to do it. Insecurity, anxiety, anger, jealousy, comparison. . . they are all ways for you to hide from yourself! All of our attempts at good living place us into bondage, the gospel sets us free, because it convinces us that we didn't have it in us in the first place.

Come, let us rejoice in our inability, knowing that it is your weakness that is your only redeeming quality! Haha! How crazy! Come to realize that and you will be free. It is this blissful freedom, the detachment from all of your living, that actually positions you to live well. It is actually how true righteousness is produced, not by works but by grace. If you don't know that you are incapable then you will continue on with the shackles of self-help and external motivation slapped tightly around your wrists. Always straining, striving, and learning, but never actually coming to a knowledge of the truth.

"You get worried and worked up about so many things. It's a wonder you don't kill yourself with all the effort it's taking you to hold your life together. Let it go. As long as the most important thing in your life is to keep finding your way, you're going to live in mortal terror of losing it. Once you're willing to be lost, though, you'll be home free. Your lostness is the one thing no one will ever be able to take away from you. The only ticket anybody needs is the one ticket everybody already has." - Robert Capon

The Gospel, the good news of Jesus, allows you to live without pretense, for there is no need to pretend. When you realize that you deserve nothing, are completely incapable, and yet have been given everything, you are set free from you. The Gospel is what sets you free to be able to do this. . . more on that later!

Life out of Death
For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

I have come to give you life and life to the full (John 10:10).” Life is still important! Jesus came to bring life, life to the full; but in the greatest April Fools Joke of all time he makes it so that life can only come out of death. How backwards is that! This is the polar opposite to the 'way of the world' and absolutely messes with our minds! We want life to be fulfilling, we want to be happy, but the only thing that will truly produce the freedom to engage in life the way we are supposed to is to lose our lives in Jesus. Detached from the world, yet completely connected to it, that is the life of a Christian.

The Apostle Paul was set free with the revelation of the cross, and he was thrust into living abundantly out of his participation in the death of Jesus. We see Him as a great example of the blissful lifestyle that is only found in Jesus' death and resurrection.

I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me, the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).” In fact, everyone who is in Christ has crucified the flesh along with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).” “You have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:4).” “If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations. Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch (referring to things that all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23).” “Or do you not know that your life is not your own, you have been purchased at a price, therefore glorify Christ in you body (1 Cor 6:19-20)”

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).” “In fact I claim to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2).” “I have come to know the truth, and the truth has set me free (John 8:32).” “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).” “In any and every circumstance, I have learned to be content (Philippians 4:12).” “For my life is but a mist, here today and gone tomorrow (James 4:14).” “Therefore I do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).” “In fact I am anxious about nothing, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, I present my requests to God.”

Abundant Life
When you live dead you are able to experience and engage life without being 'owned' by it. You become a passive receiver rather than a active pursuer. That is not to say you don't have purpose or responsibility to step into things God is calling you to, but it does mean you can live without worry or anxiety. How can you enjoy money, food, friends, family, or work when they are the materials that make up the cage that holds you? When you are set free from life you are capable of putting everything in its proper place. You own life rather than life owning you.

Of course we 'adam'antly still think that our happiness will change with our circumstances. Yet the bliss of Jesus rings true even in the most miserable of circumstances. In fact the more miserable it gets the more glorious life becomes! When we live from His death, towards heaven, everything in our lives become an opportunity to experience Him and to be a witness of what life in Christ looks like. Forget our petty 'struggles' of insecurity, our first world problems of 'inconvenience', and all of our self imposed depression that stems from 'entitlement'. Paul and Sila's worshiped in prison, Stephen saw Jesus stand in respect as he was being stoned, Peter and John rejoiced after being put on trial, and Jesus endured the cross for the 'Joy set before Him!'

"Consider it pure joy, brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds. . . (James 1:2)"
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings. . . (Romans 5:3)"

When Paul boasts in his weakness in 2 Corinthians 11, he is not boasting in his insecurity, emotional problems, or his bitterness that other people have it better off than He does. He is boasting in his tribulations for the sake of Christ. The beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and insults. When he says, 'I die daily' in 1 Corinthians 15:31, he is not talking about putting off selfish desires. He is literally facing the chopping block everyday! In all of the struggle and persecution, life has never been more enjoyable for him.  Paul died with Christ, he was crucified to the the wisdom of the world, and entered into the life of abundance. 

The Gospel: Your Death and Your Liberty
Jesus, God Himself, comes into the world to save those who cannot save themselves. He came into a worldly system where everyone is earnestly trying to live; boost up the morality, look down on the tax collectors, wash your hands, and make sure you don’t tie your sandal on the Sabbath. The world has been submitted to a yoke of slavery, where we try unsuccessfully to liberate ourselves. Keeping tabs on every thought and action, desperately wanting to know who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’, we scramble to make something of the mess we call our lives.

The bond that holds us is the lie itself, the lie that good living will ultimately save us. That makes the truth the key that will set you free. The truth is that Christ died for you while you were still a sinner (Romans 5:8). God gave all judgment to the son whose whole deal is non judgment, He didn't come into the world to judge the world but to save it (John 3:17). He doesn’t hold our transgressions against us (Hebrews 8:12).’

This rattles our brains and causes us all the manner of anguish when we consider our good attempts at living, because we realize that we had nothing to do with it! The Gospel proves that we are incapable of living well, but paradoxically, when we catch onto that revelation good living is actually produced in us! Not from striving but from resting.

On the cross Jesus undermined the system of good living and worked salvation completely set apart from you! He doesn't hold our transgressions against us; He died for the sins of the world and reconciled us to the Father. He proclaims from his mercy seat, “Behold I have overcome the world (John 16:33).” You are in because He died and rose again, it has nothing to do with you or your living, good or bad. In fact it doesn't even have to do with your response, your a response is simply faith that it is true. Your response is not the price tag for forgiveness, but it is simply the acknowledges thereof.

That is why the truth will set you free, it sets you free from keeping tabs, from pretending to be good when you aren't. It sets you free from you, from the way of the world, and brings rest, bliss, and contentment. Those are what give faith flavor. You hear the Gospel, the good news of what Jesus did for you as you, and you say, “Well that’s easy, heck I might as well have been dead for all the good my living did me.”

And there you have it folks, your death. There is your rest, your security, your trust. That is freedom. The revelation of Christ in you, of what He did, is freedom. You are simply set free by the recognition of your salvation.

"Come to a conclusion (Katergozomai) on whether or not you are saved. When you get the facts lined up, you will experience a fear and a trembling self-distrust realizing that it was God who saved (Energeo) you apart from you. That revelation will set you free and will bring you to a place of trust in God who gives you both the desire and ability to carry (Energeo) out His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13)." - New Revised Dan Translation

"And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory (1 Corinthians 2:1-7)." Read the rest later!

What is that secret wisdom? It is the truth that your salvation and relationship with God has nothing to do with your behavior, in fact it has everything to do with your poor behavior! That is why Jesus came for you, because you screwed it up, you botched the job, and made a mess of life. Once you catch the drift, once you are ‘in’ on the joke, once you realize that all of your frightful living has been a joke, and you a fool; you can sit back and laugh your way into heaven.

Now you might be feeling condemned because you realize you don't have faith in Jesus and are living by performance! You are still running on the same hamster wheel of unbelief. Just turn to Jesus and you will see the author and perfecter of you faith, you will see salvation itself.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, 'Let Him who boasts, boast in the Lord!.”

Does Grace Give License to Sin?
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with Him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over Him. for the death He died He died to sin, once for all, but he life He lives He lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus our lord (Romans 6:1-11).”

Does grace increase where sin increases? Yes it does (Romans 5:20)! In fact if you don't get this question then you aren't preaching the gospel. If it doesn't seem too good to be true then it probably isn't. However look at how Paul responds to this question. . . 'That is stupid talk! How can you understand God's grace and still sin?'. It is a paradox, an impossibility. Grace isn't freedom to sin but freedom from sin. Any other understanding isn't understanding at all. 'Sin?' Paul asks, 'How can you sin? Dead people don't sin.'

Death is so easy it is hard. Hard because of how much we try to live. The Gospel isn't just about Jesus death, but about your death with Him. We say things like, “Believe in Jesus and He will set you free”; but that isn't really true. If you believe in Jesus then you know the truth of who He is and what He has done. That revelation, that 'knowing of the truth', is what sets you free. Christ is freedom embodied.

"But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way (1 Corinthians 3:1-3)?"

Paul was living in this beautiful revelation of being crucified with Christ, but others clearly weren't. They just could not see the truth through all their attempts at living! Sadly this is how most of us are, comparing, performing, filled with envy and strife; we just need to die!

Unfortunately, to motivate people to live dead, the church has made life with God a process of 'dying'. Kill off your old man, reject the physical to gain spiritual benefit, and do everything you can to live in accordance with God's plan for you life. Out of our 'good' intentions for living well, we again miss out on the good news of Jesus. Dying does not produce freedom, it is not life, rather it is the most miserable form of living! The good news is that you are dead not that you have to kill yourself!

Consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus our Lord.

What About Hell? (Luke 14:16-24)
Now some of you may be asking some questions. If God saves us apart from ourselves, does He save everyone apart from themselves? What about hell? What about our beloved secret knowledge about who is in and out? Scripture clearly communicates that there is hell, but it is shrouded in mystery and is often not portrayed the way we want it to be.

A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, 'Come; for everything is ready now.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ' I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.' Another one said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.' Another one said, ' I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.' And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lam.' And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.' “If anyone comes to Me, an does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”

All these people who were concerned with life and good living, missed out on the party. Remember it was the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal who was so set on good living and book keeping that he couldn't enjoy himself either. All you need to do to enter the party is to participate in the death of Christ. It is your lostness, lastness, and weakness that gives you entrance into the kingdom, nothing more and nothing less. That is good news! It is so easy its a joke.

It is so simple, but many remain firmly fixated on the idea that their living should have some influence on God's decision for them. If you want to insist on having some say in your eternal standing, if you insist on dictating your stance with God through your behavior, keeping tabs on rights and wrongs, then you can go right ahead and pout about the good time everyone is having based on no merit of their own. If you want to do this whole thing through good living, then Jesus will pull out the book at the end and give you exactly what you want. For everyone else He has the book of life, which just has their name, not their good deeds or their bad.

If you are concerned with your right standing with God, then you don’t understand the gospel. The Gospel is all about your inclusion apart from yourself, therefore questioning your salvation means you are still depending on your performance to give you assurance. Shame and condemnation only exist in a pre-faith, un-renewed mind state. “There is now no condemnation for those who are ‘in Christ Jesus(Romans 8:1)’.” 'In Christ Jesus' does not mean your silly attempts at being a Christian. You just understand that he loves you because he loves you, and that you are in because he said so.

The whole basis of being a Christian is that you have faith in Jesus, that you are saved apart from yourself. This is the secret knowledge, the hidden wisdom talked about in scripture. Some of you are still asking the same questions the disciples did, “So then what must I do to be saved? Jesus answered them, ‘Believe in the one that was sent.’

Jesus died for you while you were still a sinner. He died for your sins before you ever sinned. He does not hold your transgressions against you. This grace is what will set you free, not more efforts at gaining victory. You already have victory because it has already been won for you.

"In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37)."

This is an invitation to die, not to kill yourself, but to be set free by the truth of your inability and His ability. Not to go on a process of dying, but to rest in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. You are loved, you are forgiven, you are set free, and it is not your fault! We can rejoice right here right now! We have been given victory, liberated by the blood of the lamb. There is no more separation and we are ministers of this reconciliation; proclaiming that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Engage God, invite the Holy Spirit, live for eternity. After all, your life is not your own, you have been purchased at a price."

"We will overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. For we do not love our lives even unto death (Revelation 12:11)."