Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Jesus is looking for a hot date

John and Ashley had a great first date. Dinner under candle light. A walk by the ocean under the moon light. They talked for hours about life, love, and everything in between. John was walking Ashley back to her house when he started hinting he might want a kiss to end the night. Ashley wasn't so sure and smiled the subject away. When they finally arrived at her house all the lights were out and it appeared that everyone was asleep for the night. John leaned against the door-jamb and looked longingly into Ashley's eyes. Using his smoothest, most charming voice he asked, "Didn't you have a good time?" Ashley answered back quickly, "Oh, yes! I... I just want my first kiss to be special. To be about love, not just feelings." Thinking quickly John responded, "That's just it. I think I love you more than anyone I've ever known. I just want to show you." Ashley didn't say anything. She was looking at the ground not wanting to hurt John's feelings and risk not getting to see him again. John tried on more time, "It's just  a kiss. It would mean a lot to me." At that moment the porch light came on and the door opened. Ashley's little sister was standing there looking half asleep but said firmly, "Dad says just kiss him. And if you won't that I should. And if I don't want to do it he will come down and kiss him himself. But will ask him to please quit leaning against the intercom button?"

I am having a hard time figuring out why people who claim the name of Jesus don't seem to understand or know that Jesus was very clear in what he was here to do for us and what he wanted to us to do for him. I've heard the Salvation by Grace side. And the Forgiveness by works side. And then there is the Jesus Will Save Everyone No Matter What They Do. That one just makes me laugh. And a whole slew of ideas in between. You would think that what God wants for us and from us would be the easy answer and the how would be the hard one. But for some reason everyone has got this backwards. Everyone is so sure on prayer, worship, church, giving, missions, and personal study. But hell would freeze over if you ever got the same answer from two people about what the Gospel is and what the Gospel requires. It's like knowing what to do while in school, but not knowing how to apply.

I have some shocking news. Salvation isn't by grace or works...technically. Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He also said if you love me you will obey me. So loving Jesus means obedience to the commandments. Whoa! That sounds an awful lot like the Old Covenant! You can hold that order and the chips too, right? But then Jesus also went on to say that once you have done everything he told you to do to call yourselves unworthy servants for you have only done your duty. Ugh... this is getting confusing. Are we under the law or aren't we? Is it grace or obedience? Earned or free? The thing about Jesus and the Bible as a whole is that you have to read it as a whole not in parts. Sounds exhausting, but there is no other way to go about it. And don't trust anyone else to do it for you. Just because  they say they have been to Bible college and read it cover to cover does not mean they are not lying, do not believe them. Read it for yourself and get to know the Shepherds voice. That way no matter who you are listening to you will not be led astray because you will know if it comes from Him or not.

Thankfully, Jesus didn't leave us hanging on this most fundamental, elementary step. The answer is simple, it's just not easy. And He did that on purpose. Those who seek will find. But those who do not seek will not find. No one stumbles upon the truth of God without effort. He doesn't allow it. I'll give you the simple run down, but it is up to you to search out the truth of this. You must know it for yourself in your heart. Knowledge of the head seems the same as knowledge of the heart, but it is not and it is a pseudo foundation to stand upon and you will fall when the storm comes. The truth is it is grace and works. Jesus requires that we give Him everything and He gives us everything in return. Jesus is offering us a trillion dollars in gold and we are staring at him blankly and saying, "I don't have anywhere close to a trillion dollars!" and He replies, "Okay, give me everything in your pockets." and then we pull out a crumpled dirty five dollar bill and he gives us the full reward. People get all fussy about those who say we must do things to qualify for salvation and say, "You can't earn the gift of salvation!" That's true. What you bring to the table is basically worthless. These say that you don't have to do anything to be saved except to believe in Jesus. Don't you know that even the demons believe, and shudder? The other side of the fence gets all fussy when you say that it isn't our actions that give us entrance to the throne room. They say that our actions garner us rewards in heaven. That is also true. But God doesn't owe you anything. It is His generous nature that awards you your rewards. Believe me, you do not want Jesus bringing out the balance sheets of your life and paying out accordingly. The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair. Even if you lived a perfectly correct life it would not equal the value of the trade that Jesus is making. Only the priceless God being offered in payment for the gift is sufficient. You owed the bank. He stepped in and payed your bill. Now He expects you to give-pay Him everything you have got even though it will fall far short of the balance originally due.

If you correlate yourself with the name of Jesus at all it behooves you to find out the truth and sweep of what this means. Don't forget the words of Jesus in Revelations, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.  You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.  I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.  Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." You will know a tree by it's fruit; and salt water and fresh water can not come the same stream. The secret and mystery of salvation is passion. Passionate pursuit of Jesus and all that He is. Jesus judges the motivations of the heart. You can do right with the wrong motives and be condemned. Or you can do wrong with the right motives and be forgiven. But the key is to quit lying to yourself about why you do what you do and your actions will start to change dramatically. Seek the truth, repent, and never look back. We are the Bride and He is the Bridegroom. Jesus is looking for a hot date. I will leave you with this simple, but profound mathematical truth:

         1 x 1 = 1, valuable.
 (-1) x (-1) = 1, workable.
    1 x (-1) = -1, worthless.

Feel free to comment or ask questions! 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

No such thing as free

This subject has been weighing on my heart for a long time. I have prayed and prayed and prayed for clarity from the Holy Spirit for longer than I can remember. And God has honored my pleas. I know that the initial reaction to this for most will be to reject it. But I plead with you ask the Lord to open your eyes, ears, and mind. This a foundational concept. More and more are starting to see that there is something inherently wrong with the Church but have a very hard time pinning down exactly what it is. It is because these spiritual foundation stones that we have laid down in our hearts were either not the proper stone or they were laid improperly and so everything built upon them was skewed and wrong even though the materials with which we built on top of the foundation were good. Not everything is as it seems. Sometimes this is because Jesus used double meanings for the things He taught and other times it is because wolves in sheep's clothing presented preconceived notions before presenting the Word and so altered the understanding for the listeners. Here is an example of the first type of double meaning:

1) "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."

Though the pharisees scoffed at this claim, we now know that Jesus was not talking about the physical temple, but His body and His coming resurrection. This is an example of the second kind:

2) "And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification."

I don't know who had the idea to translate this Greek word as free, but it is grossly misrepresented and has lead to an entire generation standing upon a falsehood. The Greek word here is χάρισμα or charisma. It is the same word we use today that means:
  1. Compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.
  2. A divinely conferred power or talent.
The literal definition of the Greek word from a theological standpoint is:

           A gift of grace, an undeserved favor.

The pharisees didn't want to understand Jesus, I am sure, but I am also sure that when He said He would rebuild the temple in three days His disciples didn't dismiss Him. They probably thought He was about to either do something mind blowing or He must have meant something else and they just were not getting it, as happened often. It is here that the idea of the free gift of God has always left me scratching my head because it doesn't match the very clear things that Jesus also said such as:

"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?...In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

This doesn't sound free does it? This sounds costly, very costly! And what about the series of parables that Jesus told about the Pearl of Great Price, The Hidden Treasure, The Lost Coin? These all speak of people recklessly abandoning their lives and giving everything so that they could possess this infinity more valuable treasure. It was at this point that I did the word study on this word free or charisma.

This is a case of mistranslation, many translations do not even include the word free in the verse from Romans, but simply render it: gift. But I think gift doesn't adequately describe what it is Jesus did for us and gave us. I believe the word should not be translated without price or price-less, but priceless or incalculable or may favorite that the thesaurus brought up: worth a king's ransom. I don't think it could be said any better!

It seems the Church has thought that Jesus was too hard of a man and that we shouldn't make it so hard on people. To all the disciples He asked them to leave their business, wives, and probably children without even looking back. The rich young ruler apparently had lived a very good and moral life. But what did Jesus say that he had to do to receive eternal life? Did He say be charitable? Did He say give 10%? 20%? 50%? No, he said give everything you own away, come follow me and you will have eternal life. We have betrayed the people and have become the perverse and adulterous generation by allowing people to simply sit before a well groomed speech set to moving music and to simply come forward, ask Jesus to forgive their sins, come into their heart, be baptized and so be saved. Have we so easily forgotten what Peter said when asked what we had to be saved?

"Repent and be baptized..."

or Jesus and John the Baptists message while they walked the Earth

"Repent! For the kingdom of Heaven is near!"

How have we so recklessly forgotten the words of the prophet Jeremiah?

"No one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle."

or Moses' charge in Deuteronomy

"When such a person person hears the words of this convent, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, "I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way... The Lord will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man."

I have heard some speak of the New Covenant as if it were a one sided promise. That Jesus will forgive all our sins and let us share in His inheritance if we just do the simple Billy Graham dance. Doesn't matter what happens between here and death, that's what grace is for. That is a lie. How worthless we have made Jesus' sacrifice if we think that the God of all creation who gave everything to be with us would trade it for nothing.

The Old Covenant wasn't flawed or evil. It was simply a typology, symbolic so that when the real thing came we would recognize it. The New Covenant is actually the same as the Old Covenant except that the symbolic parts were replaced by reality. There were three parts to the Old Covenant or Law

1)Laws of Cleansing
2)Laws of Ceremony or Sacrifice
3)Laws of Righteousness

The first two were replace by real cleansing and real sacrifice the third Law still remains. Remember at this point Moses' words when reading the Law to the Israelites,

"Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach."

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was He replied,

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  

And this where most people stop, but Jesus goes on:

All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Obviously, Jesus abolished the Laws of Sacrifice and Cleansing. So what are these laws that describe what it means to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself? The Laws of Righteousness. And, Jesus gave us a definition of the word love in John 14,

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching...He who does not love me will not obey my teaching."

Love is not an emotion, it is an action. And with Jesus, love equals obedience. But as Paul tells us the Law or obedience cannot save you. And yet, it is still a requirement. The deal was always the same, "You give me everything you have got and I will give you everything I have got."

Our righteousness is rags before the Lord and so He has said, "Trade me you rags for my fine linen."
Our spiritual treasure is filth and manure and so He has said, "Trade me your filth for my fine gold."

Remember this, we have no rights before Jesus. We have no right to march into the judgement room and demand payment, our inheritance. This is what Jesus had to say about our walk with Him,

"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

The starting point is doing everything He asks and then we beg for mercy. His gift is not cost-less, it is costly. It is not without price, it is priceless. We must trade Him everything for the gift. No such thing as free.

Feel free to comment or ask questions! 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

The deal never changed, only the terms

I have started a practice in my own time that I think would be very helpful for all Christians in understanding the personality, loves, hates, and desires of Jesus. I read Old Testament passages and insert the name Jesus anytime Lord, God or any other name for God is used. This will dramatically change your outlook and understanding of the man Jesus. I don't believe this is blasphemous as Jesus himself said, "...that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." and John said about Him
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. So with this in mind I want to quote a passage from Deuteronomy 29:19-28. I know this is kind of long, but please stick with me, this is important,

    " When such a person hears the words of this oath, he invokes a blessing on himself and therefore thinks, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.” This will bring disaster on the watered land as well as the dry.   Jesus will never be willing to forgive him; his wrath and zeal will burn against that man. All the curses written in this book will fall upon him, and Jesus will blot out his name from under heaven. Jesus  will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for disaster, according to all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.
 Your children who follow you in later generations and foreigners who come from distant lands will see the calamities that have fallen on the land and the diseases with which Jesus has afflicted it.  The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur—nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which Jesus overthrew in fierce anger.  All the nations will ask: “Why has Jesus done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”
 And the answer will be: “It is because this people abandoned the covenant of Jesus, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt. They went off and worshiped other gods and bowed down to them, gods they did not know, gods he had not given them. Therefore Jesus' anger burned against this land, so that he brought on it all the curses written in this book. In furious anger and in great wrath Jesus uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land, as it is now.”

Jesus said of himself, "I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it." and concerning his disciples, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."

Jesus death on the cross did not abolish all law or any law, but replaced it with a different law. And what is Jesus' new law? "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength" and the second, "Love your neighbor as yourself." All commands rest on these two things. So if this is what Jesus commands us now and this is also a summation of the Old Testament Law, what changed? The terms. In the Old Testament you had to follow the Law and love Jesus to the best of your ability and offer animal sacrifices to atone for your sin. In the New Testament you are to follow the law and  love Jesus to the best of your ability and Jesus' blood atones for sins once and for all. The difference is in the Old Testament the sacrifices never paid the penalty for sin they only pushed it back until a sufficient sacrifice could be made, Jesus' life. The difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant was that Law had many dietary, sanitary, and ceremonial commands and practices. These were all typologies so that when the real thing came they would recognize it. But the laws concerning righteousness never changed. Righteousness is still righteousness. And what God command in the Old Testament He still commands in our day. It has always been saved by grace. He has always accepted His righteous ones(Enoch, Moses, Elijah) that "loved him with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind, and all their strength" and "loved their neighbor as themselves". The rule has always been love me with all you've got, trust in me for everything and I will forgive you the rest. And the things that made Jesus furious with rage still make Him furious with rage today, make no mistake. Loving Jesus with all that you are was the ticket to heaven all along.

People often wonder why Jesus didn't address many social issues that plague our society today such as homosexuality, social norms, and politics. Many assume that since He didn't talk about them He must not care about them. The reason Jesus didn't reinterpret the whole of theology while on Earth is because He still stands by His words that He sent though the prophets.

I have never met a Christian that would claim Jesus didn't command us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength." and "Love your neighbor as yourself." Everyone agrees these are good and right. Where the division comes is the interpretation of these. But we were given the interpretation, remember? "All the Law and the Prophets rest on these two." The Old Testament is Jesus speaking.

Don't think that you can say with the man from above, “I will be safe, even though I persist in going my own way.”  Jesus gave everything for us. He expects us to do the same. Never forget:

"You are not your own; you were bought at a price.'

Feel free to comment or ask questions!