Saturday, May 21, 2016


The results of people who love the grace of God, who embrace the grace of God, who want the grace of God without counting the cost is a people who justify living a sinful lifestyle that is contrary to what Jesus has revealed to us in the New Testament.

The other day I ran into a couple who claim to be citizens of the kingdom of God to the person of Jesus Christ. In our conversation it was revealed that they lived together outside of the marriage covenant. One of them had a sense of guilt that caused them to react a certain way. I never confronted them about this lifestyle or even mentioned the topic of sexual immorality however, I did mention the quote from Jesus when he told the woman who was caught in adultery that he didn’t condemn her but told her to leave her life of sin. After this was said one of them, with a sense of indignation, told me that they would come over to my house every day and remind me I was a sinner. (I wonder if this person would say something like this to Paul?) This person was not familiar with scripture such as, Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. - Galatians 6:1 (NIV) However, I wasn’t attempting to restore anyone, I was just trying to get to know them at this time.

I told this person I wouldn’t mind that reminder at all. However, this comment was not for my benefit, it was their way of trying to make me feel that I had no place to speak about sin within the lives of those who claim to be citizens of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ the Lord because I was a sinner also. With this statement was the cry of legalism. Meaning Jesus saved us from living by the rules or laws therefore you cannot tell me what I can and cannot do when it comes to God’s will for my life. I have been set free from the law and I can now lean on the grace of God without consequence.

This kind of thinking is contrary to God’s word. Here’s what Paul said to believers, I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.” – Gal. 5:21. This statement was directed towards believers not unbelievers therefore, it is directed towards us today.

Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking that hides behind the cry of legalism to justify a sinful lifestyle. If I was a thief before I became a citizen of God’s kingdom I would be asked to stop stealing in order to become a citizen of the kingdom of God. I could not continue to be a thief and at the same time be an ambassador of Christ as a citizen of his kingdom. Jesus said no one who puts his hands to the plow and looks back can be of service in the kingdom of God. In other words, if we want to be followers of Jesus and citizens of his kingdom was we must leave our former life behind and take on the life he has for us. His kingdom come, his will be done on earth as it is in heaven. If I was a thief I must steal no longer. If I was a liar I must now tell the truth. If I was living a sexually immoral lifestyle I must now live in a lifestyle which is acceptable to God. If I was a greedy person I must stop being greedy. If I was an idolater I must now turn away from idols. If I was a slanderer I must stop slandering. If I was a drunkard I must stop getting drunk.

If you are a citizen of the kingdom of God through the person of Jesus Christ and do commit a sin that is contrary to the will of God but it is not a sin that is result of a certain lifestyle, we can say thank you Jesus for your grace. Thank you for your forgiveness. Thank you that you give me the opportunity to repent and change in order to please you. Thank you that you have set me free from continuing in this sin I committed. Thank you for making me a new creation and giving me the power, through your Holy Spirit, to resist my sinful human nature. Thank you that you have given me the ability to continually grow in your grace and reflect you to the world around me, your Holiness, your image, your godliness, and most of all your love.

People will be lovers of themselves, proud, without self-control, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. – 2 Timothy 3:2-5

I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. - Romans 16:17 (NIV)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Institutionalized Religion of Modern day Christianity in the USA

Is modern day Christianity, in the USA, a reflection of what we see in the New Testament? Jesus left behind the apostles to make sure His message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God was passed on from one generation to the next until His second coming.

God, from the very beginning has established His relationship with humanity in the form of contracts or covenants. This is the reason we refer to the Old Covenant (Old Testament) and the New Covenant (New Testament). It is in these frame-works that defines and spells out His requirements for people and Him to enter into a relationship or covenant.

Essential to these covenant structure is that God is Master, King, Lord, Suzerain or Ultimate Leader or whatever supreme title of leader there is. And the people He makes this covenant with are His servants, vassals, or whatever subservient title there is. Without exception God called these people out of their surroundings to himself and away from the kingdoms of man and the world.  “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”2 Corinthians 6:17-18 (NIV)”

Why? So that He could reach out to all of humanity through those He called to Himself. These people where to reflect the purposes and character of God. It was when these people began to enter into covenantal relationships with people without God and His Son, we find God’s message clouded, diminished and institutionalized religion takes hold.

The bible testifies to the fact that God has never broken these covenants He made with humanity however, people have never faithfully kept their side of the covenants. Adam and Eve violated their side. Noah and his descendants violated theirs. Abraham failed to trust God and His promises. The nation of Israel violated their covenant with God over and over again. However, God always kept His end of the deal and continues to do so.  “if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)” Even though people broke their covenant obligations to God, God still reaches out to people and invites them back. However, He never forces them to change and return to Him.

These violations took the form of rejecting God’s leadership and entering into covenants with themselves and the governments or nations that were not a part of God’s kingdom. We see this in the Old Testament and the New. Since those that call on Jesus are in the New Covenant we are therefore citizens of His Kingdom here on earth. This kingdom is not of this world. It’s from another place. It is structured in a completely different way from the Old Covenant nations and the nations of this world. As a matter of fact, Jesus told his disciples He didn’t want them to adopt any of the worlds way or the Old Covenant ways of living as citizens of His kingdom. To do so would allow yeast into the batch of dough. [28] He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” - Luke 11:28 (NIV)

James states, “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. - James 4:4 (NIV)” Paul had a companion named Demas. If Paul was a senior Pastor, Demas would have been an assistant Pastor. Paul mentions Demas in three of his letters to the church. Two of those references were positive. Where we would surmise that Demas was in good standing in the New Covenant. In the third reference, Demas is excoriated. Even though Demas didn’t sin against Paul directly, Paul called him out to the Christian community.  [10] for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica…- 2 Timothy 4:10 (NIV)” If being a friend with the world is hatred towards God, what is loving this world? At the least it is making God your enemy and hating God. John states it this way, “[15] Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1 John 2:15 (NIV)” Do we see this taking place in churches today that claim Jesus as their Lord?

Jesus stated very specific terms in the New Covenant for those that wish to enter into this New Covenant God has made with humanity through His Son, Jesus Christ.
One of those terms was to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2 Cor 6) What does this look like? It is when we enter into a contract with the kingdoms of man, local governments, worldly institutions, as a body of believers (church), we promise to meet their demands even if it violates God’s word.

The most blatant violation of this New Covenant that God has made with those that call on Jesus as Lord and Savior is when the church makes a covenant with the kingdoms of man and invites worldly governing bodies to dictate to the local church how it will organize itself and demand who can and cannot vote on church issues. This contract, that churches enter into, is 501C3. The state mandates a constitution, a board of people and specific positions on that board. It also dictates who can vote event if a person shouldn’t be allowed to vote on church issues because they are too young.  This covenant is entered into for the purpose of money. “He (Jesus) said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued (money) among men is detestable in God's sight. - Luke 16:15 (NIV)” Jesus also tells His disciples to pay the taxes the kingdoms of man want from them however give God’s what is His and don’t surrender it to the world. i.e. His church and how He wants it to live.  

One of the results of this partnership is we give the devil a foot-hold into the body of Christ. The devil is still the god of the kingdoms of man.  

[6] And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. - Luke 4:6 (NIV)

[19] We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. - 1 John 5:19 (NIV)

[4] The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. - 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)

Jesus warned us about what the pursuit of money could do to His people. The devil knows that through money he could get a foothold into the people of God and influence the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

[24] “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. - Matthew 6:24 (NIV)

That is why after this statement Jesus reassures us by saying, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. - Matthew 6:33 (NIV)”
Jesus told us His kingdom was not of this world. (John 18:36) We are to be citizens of that kingdom and aliens within the kingdoms of man. That kingdom for Christians today is the body of Christ throughout the entire world. (1 Pet 2:9) Jesus wants the citizens of His kingdom (which is not of this world) to be content with their basic needs being met. (Matt. 6:19-21, 25-32) We see this same sentiment expressed by Paul to Timothy. [8] But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. - 1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV) The context of this verse is Paul speaking to Timothy as to how they could lead a life that doesn’t cloud the message of the gospel of the Kingdom of God by money. When he states “we” we know specifically Paul is referring to himself and Timothy for sure. Can we expand this verse to include all believers? I would say yes. Because as a citizen of God’s kingdom we are all on the same level playing field. Every part of the body of Christ is as valuable as the next. No one has any privilege that another doesn’t have. The writer of Hebrews reflects this same sentiment. 

[5] Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” - Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

[2] Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; - 1 Peter 5:2 (NIV)

[10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. - 1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV)

Early in church history, the enemy of the church, has used the kingdoms of man and its wealth to entice the church to enter into an unequally yoked relationship. This resulted in the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God to become clouded and the church that Jesus wanted to leave behind has become an institutionalize religion. Where communities of believers adopted the Old Testament hierarchical system. Which in turn instituted the practice of tithing. In the New Testament tithing is not required of the saints. It was part of the Levitical OT. However, because the institutionalized church has adopted the ways of the world to govern itself, it needs the same thing that the world needs to maintain its ways of doing things, money. Therefore, by necessity the institutionalized church leaders needed to convince and justify the demand of the tithe from the saints.
When we survey giving in the NT the collecting of money from the saints was to meet the needs of the saints in the body of Christ only. Jesus and Paul spelled out what “needs” look like. These needs were not six figure salaries. It wasn’t to profit off the message of eternal life which was given to humanity for free. It wasn’t to start Christian banking institutions so that they could charge interest to fellow saints. It wasn’t to build large buildings and all the accessories that go to maintain them. It wasn’t to put on elaborate stage shows or massive holiday displays. The collection of money from the saints in the NT was to meet the needs of the saints. Do we see this in the church today? Yes but it is a minuscule part of the giving.

[13] Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. [14] At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, [15] as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” – 2 Cor. 8:13-15

Today we have this hierarchical system in the local churches where the senior pastor tells the congregants whether poor or rich to tithe, because it’s God’s will. Without exception every church I’ve been in on a Sunday service, there was a call coming from the stage to prepare for the giving of our tithe and offerings.  In the meantime, that pastor stands in line for the next iPhone and people in his church stand in line for food stamps.  But they still need to tithe because God has commanded it and to be a really obedient Christian you will do this so that your communication line to God won’t be clogged and you become an ineffective Christian. Remember the widow’s mite, they preach it to justify their non-new testament expectation of those that follow Jesus and the writings of the New Testament to tithe.

The story of the widows two copper coins was not about tithing. As a matter of fact, the word ‘tithe’ isn’t even used in the story. It was an illustration Jesus was using to teach us that a citizen in the kingdom of God should put their very existence in God’s hands. It’s easy to give God our thought life. You know that thing we call “correct doctrinal understanding”. We convince ourselves that if we understand what God wants and declare I believe that in my heart, it somehow gives us a pass so we really don’t have to go and sell everything we have and give it to the poor and really follow Jesus. Could you imagine if every follower of Jesus really did this. We would have to get along if not just to survive. Sin would be less of an issue in the church because we would suffer. We really would know what effective prayer is. You know how we sometimes make that event in our life about money or possessions a total God thing when it really was a flesh thing, however, we label it a God thing so we can feel better about ourselves and fit in with the other Christians. They in turn encourage you in this delusion. I’ve been there and done that.

What would it be like if we were in this sermon on the mount environment? We would see God feeding us like he does the birds. Would that be enough for us? Most we have more?
We would see our sandals never wearing out. Would that be enough for us? Or must we have more?
We would always have water to drink. Would that be enough for us? Must we have more?
I can imagine it but the world has gotten a tremendous foothold in the churches across the USA today. My concern is the echo of Jesus words about when He return. “Will he find faith on the earth?”  When I’m confronted with the truth of Jesus statement, I immediately go to “Thank God for His grace!” Now Do I say this as an escape hatch to justify not changing? If I get enough people to think this way, I’ll feel even more justified in not changing. Is this a way the devil gets a foothold into the body of Christ? However, if I was sincere change would be a part of my life style. Would it look like what we see in the NT? It’s hard to do alone.  

Now that we have these churches amassing great wealth we began to justify killing people to protect this thing that God finds detestable, especially when it diminishes Jesus and the message of the gospel of the kingdom of God. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle* within you? [2] You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.James 4:1-2 When Jesus says give even more to the person that wants to rob you. He means it. However, Since the nation I live in says I can, the church leaders like their wealth so they play mental gymnastics with God’s word, now I know that’s not what Jesus really meant because in the first century they did things different. Therefore, I can take up arms a kill that intruder and be justified.

People still stole back then as they do now. Killing others in self-defense was justify in the nations of that time.  Remember Jesus said that He wanted your very life. [28] He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” - Luke 11:28 (NIV) It’s a requirement to be a citizen of His Kingdom, which is not of this earth. If your death meant the salvation of your robber or killer, would their eternal life be less valuable then your material possessions, your loved one’s or even your physical life? Will he find faith on the earth?

[26] “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. - Luke 14:26 (NIV)

[37] “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; - Matthew 10:37 (NIV)

[30] “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. - Matthew 12:30 (NIV)

It just seems like a numbers game with the way evangelism is done in order to get more bodies in the church seats. People are invited to a “Bill Graham” type of event. The altar call is given. People respond. People are asked to give a sinners’ prayer and mean it and then they’re saved. They go home saved, supposedly. I can’t remember ever witnessing someone (me included) being lead to the Lord and not once did I here that part of the gospel of the kingdom of God were someone spelled out the cost. I volunteered at a Graham crusade. My job was to lead responders in the sinner prayer. In my preparation for this event no one told me to make sure the individuals praying understood the cost of becoming a citizen of His Kingdom, as Jesus spelled it out.

[28] “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? - Luke 14:28 (NIV)

The gospel of the kingdom of God, that Jesus preached from the beginning and the apostle carried on, has become the gospel of the individual plan of salvation. There is a plan of salvation however it’s just one part of the gospel of the kingdom of God. What is left out is the cost. The institutionalized religion that is done in the name of Jesus has failed to show people the whole contract. People are signing on without really knowing what it will cost them. The individual plan of salvation is the beginning. It’s the entry point into becoming a citizen of the kingdom of God. But the individual plan of salvation without the cost is no plan of salvation at all. Since Jesus didn’t leave it out why do we think we can? It’s probably the reason for the sin that’s so rampant in the church today. Just ask a pastor. It’s probably the reason for the false doctrines we see today, that have invaded the body of Christ. No one is telling the truth about the cost therefore people are just at the doorway for most of their walk before they fall away or they just put on a facade. There are a tremendous amount of unfinished building dotting the landscape in the evangelical world of the USA.  
This is the result of people being seen as a source, which in turn dehumanizes them, therefore their eternal well-being becomes secondary. When we dehumanize fellow brothers and sisters in Christ it becomes easier to adopt the ways of the world. Which tells us it’s ok to kill them in order to protect your possession, family, country and your life. All for the things of this world. Jesus said, “I am not of this world.”

The institutionalized religion done in Jesus name has taken the New Covenant has adopted the Old Covenants ways. The New Covenant has become the individuals plan of salvation instead of the gospel of the Kingdom of God and all that it entails. We reflect a clouded gospel message. We’ve adopted the ways of the world. Will he find faith on the earth?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Is the Church in America Unequally Yoked?

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ... “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” - 2 Corinthians 6:14, 17 (NIV)

No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. - 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)

The other day as I was entering the building where I fellowship someone handed me a lapel pin. It was a cross with an American flag filling it in. I handed it back. Could you imagine this kind of thing happening in the 1st century church? 

You're in Ephesus. Its evening and your on your way to brother Caius' house for fellowship. Paul the apostle is there. As you approach the home Paul is out front greeting people. As he is greeting people he hands each person a small cross and in the middle of the cross is a little roman iron eagle symbol. 

I hope you are saying to yourself. "No I don't see that happening." Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. Its from another place." I can't find anywhere in the NT were the disciples were instructed to go and make the nations of this world into christian nations. If you are a follower of Jesus Christ there is only one nation that is christian on this planet and it belongs to Jesus and that is his bride. It is the body of believers throughout the entire world. Peter calls us a holy nation. In modern day american evangelical Christianity the moto is God and Country. However, Jesus tells us its Him alone and His kingdom. It's His kingdom we live for and it alone. When someone is saved they become citizens of a new nation, a new kingdom who's king is Jesus. It is his rule we follow. We are to follow his lead no matter what the cost. When he tells us to love our enemies that doesn't mean kill them in self defense. He tell us to not resist an evil person. 

People ask me the question, "What if someone breaks into your house and you have a wife and kids, shouldn't you defend yourself and shoot them before they shoot you?"  That is what you would call a hypothetical. Then I must ask myself should I interpret scripture in light of hypotheticals? The answer is no. That would be bad exegesis. Hypotheticals do not determine how we are to read the NT. We read the truths of scripture and filter the world around us through it. 

Here's a hypothetical. Imagine the 12 apostle living during the civil war of the USA. 6 of them lived in the south and the other 6 lived in the north. The authorities of that time, on both sides, tell them to take up arms and shoot each other to secure justice for their particular side. Do you think John would point a musket at Peter and shoot him dead because the authorities tell him that this is God's will and you must obey the authorities because our cause is just and right? The honest answer is NO. Hypotheticals can be made up for either side of an argument. That's why we don't interpret scriptures in light of hypotheticals. 

We must let the NT speak for it's self. As followers of Jesus Christ we are to live for His kingdom alone and not the kingdoms of the world. 

You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. -  James 4:4 (NIV)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.- 1 John 2:15 (NIV)

We cannot create Jesus in the image of an earthly kingdom. That is exactly what we do when we wrap Jesus in an American flag. We yoke the kingdoms of this world with the kingdom of God. This is not part of the gospel of the kingdom of God we see in the NT. If it's not there, it shouldn't be here.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Who Are God's Chosen People?

Who are God's chosen people? The quick answer is those who are in Christ. Are the Jews God's chosen people? Yes and No. They where and are no longer, unless they are in Christ then they are. In the Old Testament they where. Their origins begin with Abraham. From there we have the tribes, the nation, the Law and the prophets. God's main purpose for choosing this ancestral line of humans was to bring salvation to all of humanity through the person and work of Jesus Christ.

God's chosen people in the OT where defined as Jews or Israel. God made promises to them and covenants with them. These were for the purpose of introducing Jesus to the world. When we look at all the promises and covenants today they are to be filtered through the person of Jesus Christ and what He has established. The new covenant. Because it is through Jesus that God is now accomplishing his plan for all of humanity.

We always interpret scripture in light of scripture. With the new covenant in place we see in the writing of the New Testament the redefining of terms as the writers were moved along by the Holy Spirit. For example; Paul in the letter to the Romans redefines a Jew. In the OT a Jew had a human ancestry, an ethnic origin, a blood line. However, Paul, as he was inspired by the Holy Spirit wrote, "A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God." (Romans 2:28-29 (NIV) Then later on in this letter Paul says, "It is not as though God's word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham's children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring." (Romans 9:6-8 (NIV) The nation of Israel today is not the country in the Middle East. It is the people that believe that Jesus is the Christ and who are born again by the Holy Spirit. These are the Israel of God as Paul testifies too.

We see this same Holy Spirit inspired sentiment from the Apostle John where he states, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God." (John 1:12-13 (NIV) Then as we continue to read the gospel of John we come to a story he tells that illustrates this truth of who are God's chosen people, His children. Jesus has an encounter with a Jew, a Teacher of the Law, a Pharisee named Nicodemus. If there was a person that from all outward appearances, as measured by the OT standards, this person would probably be considered a person that would be apart of God's kingdom, a chosen one. However, Jesus tells him that unless he is born again he would not be able to see or enter into God's kingdom. That he would be excluded from citizenship into God's kingdom. His national heritage no longer counts. Later on John quote Jesus as saying, "Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36 (NIV) There is no nation of the earth from the time of Jesus till now that is God's chosen nation or a Christian nation. Because Jesus' kingdom is not of this world or from this place.

The question might be asked, What about all the promises and covenants made by God through the prophets in regards to Israel's possession of the land forever? All these must now be filtered through Jesus and what he communicated to his apostles as written in the NT. Jesus is the fulfillment of all the promises and covenants that God made. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them." (Matthew 5:17 (NIV) With this declaration by Jesus all the OT must now be filtered through Jesus and what he established. That includes what God's chosen people now look like.

The only nation that is made up of God's chosen people is the body of Christ. This is confirmed by Peter where he states, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 (NIV) Peter is writing to believers in Christ. They are the chosen people. They are God's holy nation. A nation without borders. However, at the end of the age when Jesus returns he will take up residences somewhere on this planet but it will be made up of those who believed in Jesus and where born again and not because of belonging to a certain blood line.

When we read Genesis 12:2-3 (NIV)
“I will make you into a great nation
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
We must interpret scripture in light of scripture. This great nation promised to Abraham started with Israel and is now fulfilled in the body of Christ. As Paul said Israel is now made up of those who are only believers. As Peter said we believers are God's holy nation. This new nation is made up of both Jews and Gentiles in Christ and Christ alone. God will bless those who bless his body and curse those that curse his body.

Paul clarifies the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 12:7, 13:15, 17:7,8,10, 24:7 in Galatians 3. It is Jesus and not a group of people that God's promises was meant for. So that it is through Jesus and not an ethnic groups of people that we interpret the promises of God. Because of this all his promise still stand. Paul goes of to say that, "You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Gal 3:26-29)

Therefore God's chosen people are now those who are in Christ. These are the real Jews. These are the real Israel. These who are saved by grace through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. It is not because a person that has a certain human ancestry. There is only one group of not two who are the chosen people of God.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why Does God Allow Evil?

2 Peter 3:4,9-10 (NIV)
[4] They will say, “Where is this ‘coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”…  [9] The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  [10] But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.

The other day while I was driving my car as an Uber driving, I picked up three people. They were familiar with Christianity but only in a superficial way. They were all related, two brothers and a sister. Maybe in their late 20s to early 30s. They noticed the crosses hanging from my rear view mirror. The sister asked me if I was a Christian. I response by saying I was a follower of Jesus Christ. The reason why is because in today's American culture the word Christian can have a wide meaning.

She asked if she could ask me another question. I said sure. (I never turn down an opportunity the share Jesus. Not the Jesus of the media or the Jesus of the institutionalized religion of the day. Or the Jesus that mainstream Christianity has created in the image of their patriotism.)

She ask me why does God permit all the evil we see in the world today? My first response to this kind of question is "That's a good question.” However, when I hear this question from everyday people it's usually not from an academic or philosophical perspective. It's more of an emotionally charged question in response to the world around them. Since mankind really can't do anything about it so why doesn't God? All the money, education, philosophies, psychologies or science hasn't solved the problem so why doesn't God just step in and end it?

From here I try and reframe the question for them to look at it from more of a personal perspective. I asked them if they have ever heard of the butterfly effect? Made popular by an Ashton Kutcher movie called The Butterfly Effect. It is something this age group is somewhat familiar with. It's an exercise in the law of cause and effect. Which states, for every effect there is an antecedent cause.

In theory if we had the resources and ability we could theoretically measure the causal effect of one flap of a butterfly's wing in California to a typhoon is Southeast Asia. With this illustration in mind I ask the question if God were the stop all evil in the world today can he start with you?

The great evils that humanity perpetrates on itself begin with some mundane, what we might consider innocuous wrong. Such as a little lie or a small theft or an unkind remark. Maybe a selfish act or mild exercise of pride. Most people are familiar with the expression, "stick and stone may break my bones but words can never hurt me." These are our flap of a butterflies wings. If God were to stop all of these he would have to do away with the entire human race. Because we are all guilty in some way or another of causing a butterfly effect for evil. God would has to destroy free will in all humans. However, since God is love and true love does not force another to follow or believe, he will not force people to make the right decisions.

The answer was, “No I don't want him to start with me.” Which is indirectly saying I want mercy not judgement right now. That is exactly what God has been extending to all humanity, mercy. As individuals we all want to see the other guy get their just dues. However, when it comes to us we typically have our personal excuses as to why we shouldn't be judged. Paul in Romans says it this way, “So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?
God will bring an end to all the evil in the world today. This means that his mercy has a limit. So we need to stop kicking against the goads with excuse questions like Why doesn’t…? And start asking that personal question, “Am I ready?”

Jesus answered a similar question when some people came to him and ask why did certain tragedies happen to these people? The people were of the mindset that they must have done something wrong for this bad thing to happen to them. In today’s culture we would call it karma. Jesus dispelled this idea of Karma or God’s judgement caught up to them. He told them that essentially that we live in a broken world and that evil comes at us through the hands of people or because of the circumstances of life and the world we live in is imperfect and we feel the effects of it all arounds us. Given these truths our concern should be “Am I ready?” Am I ready to suffer the ultimate tragedy of death and then stand before my Creator and be judged? Or Am I ready to receive mercy?

Luke 13:1-9 (NIV)
 [13:1] Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. [2] Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? [3] I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. [4] Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? [5] I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
[6] Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. [7] So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
[8] “‘Sir,' the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. [9] If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'”

We all are on spiritual death row. We don’t know when our time will be up. Have you accepted God’s pardon in the person of Jesus Christ?

 John 14:6, 11:25-26 (NIV)
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Jesus proved the truth of his claims by his resurrection. Because of this he still asks every person this same question, “Do you believe this?” 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Are Christians to keep the Mosaic Law?

Jesus said in Matthew 5:17-18 (NIV] “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. [18] I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

In other words, Jesus came to clarify the initial intent of the Mosaic Law. God’s meaning had been perverted by those that were entrusted with His revelation. The Law was intended to set the Israelite's apart from the other nations around them. The form of this was drafted in the context of a Suzerain/Vassel covenant. Within this framework it showed people their need for atonement before a holy and perfect God and His love for them and the whole world. All of this was ultimately to point us to Jesus. Who was going to bring a new and perfect covenant that could never be violated. Jesus didn't come to tear up the contract that God had made, with it's promises, but to fulfill humanities side of the covenant that the Isrealite failed to keep. Jesus' death served two purposes. One was the fulfillment of the part of the covenant that required death for its violation and two the beginning of the new covenant between God and all of humanity. This is God's grace in action. 

Galatians 3:24 (NIV) So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. 

However, His love and the Isrealites obligations in the covenant had been replaced with a religious system based on threats and a political oligarchy. What the law and the prophets were intended to do became clouded and obscured by institutionalized religion. Much like what we see today in denomination and churches across the USA in regards to the New covenant God made with the descendants of Adam through Jesus.

Jesus was saying to the Jews that the original intentions of the law that God gave Moses was still in effect. It was meant to point to him. Luke 24:27 (NIV)[27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. 

It was also meant to show people their need for a solution to their inability be keep a covenant with God and shining a light on the problem of sin and our guilt before God. Romans 3:20 (NIV)...through the law we become conscious of sin. He came to fulfill and make plain the true interpretation of God’s message versus the religious system that the leaders (e.g. Pharisee, Sadducees, Essenes…etc.) had created. It was the restoration of what Adam and Eve lost in the beginning, Eden. Where the people of God dwell in the place of God and eternally thrive in the presence of God. What would be called the Kingdom of God.

Israel was going through the motions of religious piety by following the Law but ignoring it's intent. Jesus challenged them because they were perverting the original intent of the Law.  The Law was not about checking off religious acts but rather to point people to their need for redemption and the solution being found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who brings us back into the kingdom of God. The kingdom we gave up in Eden.
Paul in his writing also alluded to this fact.  Paul writes, “But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death....What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. (Romans 7:8-10, 24-25 (NIV)
Jesus fulfill all the requirements of the old covenant  that we could not. Jesus was the fulfillment of all the promises and covenants God made in the Old Testament. 

The Mosiac Law was a covenant made with a specific people, the Israelites. 
For example: 

Jesus did not come to abolish the Sabbath. He fulfilled the reason for it, therefore it is no longer binding. Because the Sabbath was a sign of the Old Covenamnet God made with the Israelites. This was not translated into the New Covenant in Jesus. The Sabbath is now found in Jesus not on a particular day. A clearer view of the intent of the Sabbath for believers in Hebrews 4. In the New Covenanent we have the sign of the Lord's supper. 

It is clear through Scripture, that Jesus did not come to do away with the intent of the Law (Luke 22:44). Which was to show humanity that it stands condemned before a perfect and holy God and their need for someone outside of itself to rescue them, a Savior and that Savior is Jesus. He was against many of the mis-interpretations of the Law especially by the religious leaders (Matthew 6:1-4).

Matthew 23:1-4 (NIV) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: [2] “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. [3] So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. [4] They tie up heavy loads and put them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 

Since the law was intended to reveal our sin and our need for a Savior.  Which it still does today therefore it is not done away with. It still is used to point us to Jesus however, we are not bound by it.

Romans 3:20-21 (NIV) Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.

As believer we have been freed from the tyranny of the law and are now to live by the Holy Spirit.  Romans 7:6 (NIV) But now, by dying to what (the Law) once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Someone might suggest that the written code or law that Paul was speaking about in Rom 7:6 was the ceremonial laws. However, we must always read "words" in verses in their context. So if we keep reading the verses that follow, Paul makes it perfectly clear what he meant by the law or written code. In the next verse he tells us the law he was referring to was the Ten Commandments by referring to the tenth commandment itself. Romans 7:7 (NIV)What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet. 

If you are in Christ the Law is not what we obey. Because we can't. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Now that Jesus has rescued us from this dilemma it is by the Spirit we now live. 
Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV)But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.….. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

No law can produce the fruit of the Spirit and no law can be produce that can stop the fruit of the Spirit.  In short, we are to obey God’s Spirit not the Mosiac Law.  There is no law that can create this kind of obedience or stop this kind of obedience. 

Jesus told the woman at the well that God is looking for people that will worship Him in Spirit and in truth not the Law.

If I'm living by the Holy Spirit I will love God, the saints, my neighbor and my enemy.

Hebrews 8:13 (NIV) By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.