Thursday, February 19, 2015

What Did Jesus Fulfill?

I've been thinking about Jesus coming to fulfill all the Law and the Prophets. Jesus said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 (NIV). Paul said this, "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. (Romans 13:10 (NIV). Paul reminds us of the story that Jesus told of the good Samaritan, defining for us our neighbors. All people. Which speaks to the second and greatest commandment "Love your neighbor as yourself."

People say that Jesus fulfilled the judicial side of the law for God on behave of humanity. He came to fulfill the promises of God. He came to fulfill the covenants. Saying that just feels so clinical. Like truth without love or the sentiment one attaches to love. However, when you read what he went through to achieve these goals it is anything but clinical. This is when "For God so love the world" starts to come together for us, when we read the story of Jesus.

We were first and foremost created out of love. The promises and covenants made and the laws that were given were born out of love. Jesus is this love personified. The ultimate display of this love is seen in sacrifice. Sacrifice without love is meaningless. I can imagine me sacrificing my life for my family or maybe even a friend. I've had those boyhood fantasies about saving the presidents life however, I never died and I usually ended up me getting recognition and some kind of reward. Again this is what I imagine because I haven't been tested to see if I would. However, when it comes down to other people, whether they are "good" people or bad people I don't see myself sacrificing my life for them. Because I don't love them the way I love my family. That's why Jesus' sacrifice is extra-ordinary. I was not a part of Jesus family. As a matter of fact I was an enemy of Him and his family. I might have been a to each his own kind of person I still didn't want to have anything to do with Jesus. Jesus said that “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. (Matthew 12:30 NIV). That was me however, despite myself, he still stuck out his hand of friendship and still asked me to be apart of his family. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NIV) It was as if I was like one of those people on death row that deserve to be there just waiting to be executed for the evil I did. Except I was on spiritual death row with no chance of a pardon because I was guilty. And the death that was ahead of me was either non-existence or eternal conscience existence in a place devoid of light, joy, life, happiness and no community. Either way, I didn't want. Then I learned that there was a pardon available to me. The call was coming in all I had to do was respond. I had to be sincere. You can't buffalo God. he can tell the difference between a heart that is sincere and one that may appear to be sincere but the reality is that God is going to be nothing more then a monopoly game get out of jail free card. Sincerity shows humility. Humility shows a desire to change. A desire to change means a willingness to learn new thinks and jettison the old things. When the new things begin to take hold transformation begins. This transformation is seen in how you love Jesus and your neighbor.

Love doesn't kill its neighbor.  Jesus loved all of humanity. The entire world was His neighbor. Since we are being transformed to be more like him,we also should consider the whole world our neighbor. Even the neighbors that hate us, remember we once were enemies of Jesus and he still love us and didn't kill us, though we deserve the penalty of death.

One of the reasons we need to look at things this way is because as followers of Jesus Christ we have been called out of all the nations of mankind and are now citizens of the Kingdom of God. The nations of mankind are not our residence. We are aliens within the nations of mankind. Our promise land is in the future. In the meantime the gospel message must thrive in all the nations of mankind. The only christian nation that is on this planet is the body of Christ. The USA is not a christian nation. It's a nation of mankind that has Christians in it. Jesus didn't come to or tell his disciples to prop up the Roman Empire or restore the nation of Israel but he came to invite all people into his kingdom. Into his holy nation. He showed us that this is done in love and not buy force of arms.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:17 NIV).

I just cant buy into a conclusion that, for example, during the civil war or even the revolutionary war that as followers of Jesus Christ within these nations and knowing what the scriptures teach us about Christ love and who our neighbors are, that Jesus wanted his disciples in the south and the north or from England and the colonies to take up arms and shoot each other in the name of Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him for the nations of mankind. I'm not convinced that is loving your neighbor or "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35 NIV). Does the love that Jesus told us to follow, kill its neighbor and then turn around and tell the loved one of the person just killed that Jesus loves them and wants them to repent and follow Him?

The body of Christ is to survive and thrive in all nations. We are to show the love God has for them in the person of Jesus. We are not to be so politically party minded we become no gospel good. Patriotism is good up until it comes up against the holy nation. National pride doesn't trump Kingdom values. After all we are aliens but to often we desire the praise of men so much we twist the scripture to align with our personal agenda or a nations politics.

Which also means there is only one nation that represents God's chosen people and that in the body of Christ.  All the promises, covenants and laws were fulfill in the person of Jesus Christ. God's chosen people are not a result of an ancestry or ethnic background anymore. As a matter of fact in Christ God's chosen people have been redefined. It use to be the Jews. "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) Even Nicodemus couldn't see God's kingdom and he was a Jew and a religious leader. Neither his ethnicity, his title or his knowledge of scripture gave him any kind of unique access to God.

Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, redefines a Jew and Israel.  "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) and "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) So according to Paul a Jew or an Israelite is a follower of Jesus Christ. Nothing more, nothing less, Abraham descendants, after Jesus' resurrection, are no longer a matter of someones physical blood line, that it is no longer even a factor, but a person is a descendant of Abraham is they put their faith in Jesus alone. The church is Israel. The individual in Christ are now the Jews.

Eph 2:11-3:6

Monday, February 2, 2015

Devoured by Self

I shall now recite the manner in which an Eskimo kills a wolf. The Eskimo coats his knife blade with blood and allows it to freeze there. Then the Eskimo adds another layer of blood, and then another. As each succeeding smear of blood freezes to the blade of the knife the Eskimo adds an additional coating until the blade is concealed by a substantial thickness of frozen blood. Then the knife handle is buried in the frozen ground with the blade up. The marauding wolf follows his sensitive nose to the scent and tastes the fresh- frozen blood. . . . And licks it. . . . More and more vigorously the wolf licks at the bait until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, he licks harder. . . . In the arctic night so great becomes his craving for blood that he does not notice the razor- sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue. Nor does he recognize the instant at which
his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. . . . “More!” his carnivorous appetite craves, “more!” Until dawn finds him dead in the snow.

If you’re finding satisfaction in your sin, you’re licking the blade. Eventually, you will reach the razor- sharp edge and fail to recognize the danger. Sin always creates greater desire for itself, and it always leads to heartbreak. It could even lead to your demise.

Deceptive Beauty

A facade of deceptive beauty blinds the spiritually dead from the worlds true nature. A nature of death and destruction. At first it's seems sweet however it soon sours. Your eyes are filled but its essence is darkness. It feels so pleasant but it never lasts and you have nothing but sand and thorns to hold. Its sounds seem to free you however, in silence we're still in prison. The smells lift you up but when the smell fades you fall hard. Jesus said, "ever see but never perceiving. Ever hearing but never understanding." The god of this age has blinded the minds of those who don't believe.

When we see Jesus healing the blind, he wanted us to understand and see that the healing of a blind person is an earthly illustration for a heavenly healing he wants all people to experience. It is the opening of our blind spiritual eyes so that we can see our real spiritual condition and the eternal nature of that condition. Plus the true and living God and his loving grace, In order for us to have a real choice. Not just a one sided choice. That's why the bible describes Jesus as the light of the world. The life that lights up our lives. Because of him we are free to chose now between this world and what it offers or our Creator and the gift of eternal life he offers. To live the way we were meant to live, In the light of his love. Worshiping him and serving each other more than wanting to be served. Forgiving each other the way we want to be forgiven. Not wanting what someone else has. Being content with what we got. Wanting to please the Lord despite how we feel. Here is where we taste and see that the Lord is good and that the world is bad. Here is where we smell and hear freedom in this life and the life to come. We understand that the world is a prison for the dead and Jesus is freedom for the living.

By his stripes we are healed.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Avoid Unnecessary Tragedy by Chuck Swindoll

You will avoid unnecessary tragedy.

By slowing down, by taking life step-by-step, by deliberately walking through the journey in tune with the Lord, you will not create consequences that bring you shame or saddle you with grinding regret. Almost without fail, whenever I rush ahead, I regret it later. Even when the way is clear, I overlook details by rushing forward. I miss critical nuances that would have made my decisions even more effective.

The late Billy Rose, a syndicated columnist of yesteryear, wrote a short story that drives home the point for me. It helped me change the way I viewed time, circumstances, the world, and my place in it.

There was once a fellow who, with his dad, farmed a little piece of land. Several times a year they would load up the old ox -drawn cart with vegetables and go into the nearest city to sell their produce. Except for their name and the patch of ground, father and son had little in common. The old man believed in taking it easy. The boy was usually in a hurry . . . the go-getter type.
One morning bright and early, they hitched up the ox to the loaded cart and started on the long journey. The son figured that if they walked faster, kept going all day and night, they’d make the market by early the next morning. So he kept prodding the ox with a stick, urging the beast to get a move on.

“Take it easy, son,” said the old man. “You’ll last longer.”
“But if we get to market ahead of the others, we’ll have a better chance of getting good prices,” argued the son.

No reply. Dad just pulled his hat down over his eyes and fell asleep on the seat. Itchy and irritated, the young man kept goading the ox to walk faster. His stubborn pace refused to change.
Four hours and four miles down the road, they came to a little house. The father woke up, smiled, and said, “Here’s your uncle’s place. Let’s stop in and say hello.”

“But we’ve lost an hour already,” complained the hotshot.
“Then a few more minutes won’t matter. My brother and I live so close, yet we see each other so seldom.”

The boy fidgeted and fumed while the two men laughed and talked away almost an hour. On the move again, the man took his turn leading the ox. As they approached a fork in the road, the father led the ox to the right.

“The left is the shorter way,” said the son.
“I know it,” replied the old man, “but this way is so much prettier.”
“Have you no respect for time?” the young man asked impatiently.
“Oh, I respect it very much! That’s why I like to use it to look at beauty and enjoy each moment to the fullest.”

The winding path led through graceful meadows, wildflowers, and along a rippling stream— all of which the young man missed as he churned within, preoccupied and boiling with anxiety. He didn’t even notice how lovely the sunset was that day.

Twilight found them in what looked like a huge, colorful garden. The old man breathed in the aroma, listened to the bubbling brook, and pulled the ox to a halt. “Let’s sleep here,” he sighed.

“This is the last trip I’m taking with you,” snapped his son. “You’re more interested in watching sunsets and smelling flowers than in making money!”
“Why, that is the nicest thing you’ve said in a long time,” smiled the dad.

A couple of minutes later he was snoring— as his boy glared back at the stars. The night dragged slowly, the son was restless.

Before sunrise the young man hurriedly shook his father awake. They hitched up and went on. About a mile down the road they happened upon another farmer— a total stranger— trying to pull his cart out of a ditch.

“Let’s give him a hand,” whispered the old man.
“And lose more time?” exploded the son.
“Relax, son . . . you might be in a ditch sometime yourself. We need to help others in need— don’t forget that.” The boy looked away in anger.

It was almost eight o’clock that morning by the time the other cart was back on the road. Suddenly, a great flash split the sky. What sounded like thunder followed. Beyond the hills, the sky grew dark.

“Looks like a big rain in the city,” said the old man.
“If we had hurried, we’d be almost sold out by now,” grumbled his son.
“Take it easy. . . . You’ll last longer. And you’ll enjoy life so much more,” counseled the kind old gentleman.

It was late afternoon by the time they got to the hill overlooking the city. They stopped. They stared down at it for a long, long time. Neither of them said a word. Finally, the young man put his hand on his father’s shoulder and said, “I see what you mean, Dad.”
They turned their cart around and began to roll slowly away from what had once been the city of Hiroshima.

Slow down. Learn to wait on God. Deliberately devote yourself to walking with Him instead of making decisions and then expecting Him to ratify your choices. Let Him be your advocate. Let Him remove your anxiety as you lean on Him for everything. Surrender to Him control over every matter; you have little control over them anyway. Slow down. Grow deep.

Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 1409-1454). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Telling the Truth

When it comes to a persons position before God, love doesn't  sugar coat the truth. Sugarcoating has the flavor of dishonesty. I don’t think its wise or loving to plant seeds of dishonesty while trying to, at the same time, tell about the honest truth. The only one that benefits is the sugarcoaters desire not to be hated. 
        Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their            fathers treated the false prophets. (Luke 6:26 NIV)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sex in Christianity

Before being a follower of Jesus Christ we had certain views on life around us. We all have a perspective on sex. We have a perspective on politics. And we have our own personal philosophy on how to live life. Then you become a follower of Jesus Christ and you bring all these perspectives with you into this new life. These are part of you. They are not separate compartments inside of you. They filter how you look at life on this earth. However, when you change from living the life apart from Jesus to living a life as a follower of Jesus you begin to want to change things in your life. These particular perspectives need to be put under the microscope of the New Testament to determine if they can stay the same or must change.

Practically speaking, as we continue to sojourn on this earth, in these bodies, these changes typically go from imperfection to less imperfection. Usually it’s a gradual change, sometimes it’s an immediate change and then there is every degree of change in-between. The main idea is change and this change being in the right direction. True perfection will not be attained until we receive our new resurrected bodies. Until then we are on a journey forward towards perfection. Never to be attained this side of heaven however always moving closer to it.
The sexual morality debate has been going on throughout recorded history. There are those who want no rules when it comes to sexual behavior. There are those who want some rules when it comes to sexual behavior, although defined subjectively. Then there are those who really want the right rules when it comes to sexual behavior. For this we will look at what the Bible teaches us about the sexual side of human beings.

Before someone becomes a follower of Jesus Christ, typically their views on sex are result of the culture around them. These views are typically shaped by one’s home environment, the people they hang out with and what the media communicates. Now there is overlap between the world’s view of sex and the biblical view of sex. Typically in our culture, within the United States of America, cheating on someone is considered to be wrong. Meaning that two people who have come together to form a monogamous relationship, if one of them seeks a sexual partner outside of this relationship against the will of their partner this is typically considered wrong behavior.

One thing that must be understood in all its clarity is that it doesn't matter if you are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual or poly-amorous we all stand before God condemned as sinners apart from Jesus Christ. Whatever your sexual perspective is these reflect what’s in your heart. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus Christ our whole being is given over to him. That includes what we do, our talents, our strengths, all that we are or could ever hope to be are set before Jesus Christ to be the master of them all. Under the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ we can determine what our sexual views are: a prison, a thirst that is never quenched or a joyous aspect of life that is not measured by how many orgasms we have. It is not measured by what kind of sexual thought life we have. It is not measured by what the culture around us has determined what is manly or what is feminist.
In the culture of the United States the underlying philosophy of life that drives the culture of sex is “to each their own”. On television and in magazines there is a proliferation of ways to increase your sexual prowess and a urging of individuals to claim their sexual rights. These, so called, sexual rights are used like political footballs. Our culture says, “If you can get the upper hand sexually on the other person do it, therefore they will be depended upon you for the gratification.” By this kind of philosophy one person is above another. This is the model of what a winning sexual relationship looks like in the world. And within this model the exchanges are done through contracts and conditions with the constant threat of sex being withheld. This kind of relationship also gives birth to a constant war for control in this and other aspects of human life. The bible teaches us to esteem others as above you. The world says take the high ground so that you can be above others and thereby use people as your own personal stepping stones to satisfy your personal agenda.

If you are living for this life only then there really are no sexual barriers other than what two or more people agree on. This would be considered a worldly perspective. However, when you become a citizen of the kingdom of God through the person of Jesus Christ your views on how you live your life change. Because, as followers of Jesus Christ we understand that we don’t live for this life only. There is a life outside of ourselves, which is more than what our senses can take in. That is why Jesus said that a person must be born again if they want to see that life which exists apart from our five senses. Unless your spiritual eyes are opened sexual boundaries are a foreign idea and something to be resisted. Unless the Holy Spirit gives birth to our spirit sexual boundaries are ambiguous and ever shifting. It is this citizen of the kingdom of God, with the help of the person of the Holy Spirit, which is able to make judgments about how a child of God should live within the body of Christ and the world around them.

Paul tells us in the book of Ephesians that a husband is to love his wife even to the point of laying down his life for her. Wives are to respect and follow the lead of their husbands. (Eph 5) The Bible also teaches us that in this marriage covenant relationship that the spouse’s body belongs to the other spouse and that sexual intimacy is not to be withheld as a weapon to emotionally manipulate the other spouse into doing their will. There is a time and a place for withholding but that’s arrived at by mutual consent. (1 Cor 7) Sexual relationships and sexual activity are only condoned within a heterosexual monogamous marriage covenant for life. The Bible tells us that marriage is good. It is the first institution among people that was started by God. We see in Genesis that God called it good. However, so is celibacy. (1 Cor 7) As followers of Jesus Christ we should avoid all forms of sexually immoral behavior with our bodies. But, it doesn't stop there. God says your thought life about sex or what we call today fantasies must be brought before the cross and examined.

People with a worldly perspective will do all they can to dismiss biblical sexual morals. They will use terms like outmoded, repressive, unscientific, preposterous, arbitrary and contrary to how humans have lived throughout recorded history. As followers of Jesus Christ we understand that this would be a perspective from the world. We should not be offended however, we cannot back down if we claim that Jesus is truly the Lord of our life. We understand from an experiential point of view (because we've been there, done that) that humanity is broken and because it is broken its wisdom's and philosophies are broken. This would include it’s philosophies of sexual behavior.
Romans 1:32 (NIV) Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

Sometimes as Christians we don’t want to give up certain aspects of our life. And we think of ways to justify our sexual behaviors. We might say that the word of God is about the spirit of the law not so much the letter of the law and that the bottom line is really “love”. Someone might say, “I could tell people about Jesus in bed or on the subway that’s what really matters.”

Some of the consequences of engaging in sexual behavior outside of the parameters that God is established will impacted are: feelings of anxiety, fear, and confusion. (The bible tells us the author of confusion is Satan.) Which means that you are not experiencing God’s presence of peace in your life. The energizing life of the Holy Spirit is diminished in your life. You begin to see the reality of what the writer of Psalms said, “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” (Psalms 66:18 NIV) For a follower of Jesus Christ this is a terrible place to be.

Jesus wants to be that person who you trust in and rely on for peace and happiness and satisfaction. And it is through the agent of the Holy Spirit that he helps us to overcome and move forward not backwards in our walk with God and each other. Maintaining that forward progress is not a result of some magical compelling power but a result of choosing, an act of the will. This results in maintaining the presence of God in your life. It is better to be a slave to God than a slave to our passions that come from our sinful human nature. Peter writes that a person is a slave to whatever has mastered him. (2 Peter 2:19) Before Christ I was a slave to my sexual thoughts, my sexual motivations and my sexual actions. It’s kind of like that person who wants to give up smoking and they make that statement, “I can stop anytime I want.” But they never really do. My views on sex controlled me and my behavior therefore I was a slave to that.

Most people enter into a sexual relationship not for the purpose of releasing sexual tension, because masturbation can do that, but to overcome a sense of loneliness or isolation. We use sex as a means to overcoming loneliness. The world tells us it’s the best way to temporarily find something that “looks like” a committed caring communicating relationship. It is nothing but a feeble attempt to find something that no human being could give, perfect love in a committed relationship that will not fade. There is this emptiness that resides in each and every person. Solomon says that eternity is been placed in every person’s heart. Pascal says that we all have a God shaped void that’s longing to be filled. Jesus said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” (John 7:37-38 NIV) This living water will quench every thirst that comes from the soul of the human. The true answers to life’s loneliness is found in that which cannot be shaken, on a rock that is mightier than any mountain, in a well that will never run dry, in the person of Jesus Christ alone.

Typically if a Christian is engaging in sexual immoral behavior with another person they might get a commitment and some communication in the beginning however, it will not last. The relationship starts off with an explosion of romantic feelings. Along with those feelings comes a sense of connection however, this would soon fade into emptiness and repetition. It becomes a relationship that’s just going through the motion and emotions. These relationships eventually become strung along. Games are played. Eventually one would leave. Then there would be some kind of internal mental gymnastics that gets you to set goals that the next relationship will be better. It usually isn't.
 We begin to learn that the feelings of loneliness and isolation that we’re so desperate to avoid do not disappear, even when we are shacked up with someone or pretending to be married. You could be lying in bed with someone, that is sound asleep, and you are feeling like the loneliest person in the world. People experience this in crowded rooms. The person next to you probably wanted the same things as you did. They wanted communication, be cared for, and an unshakable commitment. When people spend their energy and time to get this from the other person the result is we end up with even less and the loneliness is uncovered. It never really went away. It was just swept under the rug, so to speak. The relationship between a man and a woman was never meant to be fueled under our own power. The real fuel is Jesus in the center of each person’s life individually 1st and then within the context of marriage Jesus becomes number 1 in that relationship.

If sexual contact before marriage is not God’s will for someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ than what’s wrong with masturbation. The Bible doesn't address the topic of masturbation directly. Because of that some Christians say that it is an acceptable safety valve. Before this becomes an acceptable safety valve one issue must be addressed. What is your thought life or what are your fantasies? The mental images that take place are thoughts that usually produce lust. Lustful thoughts according to Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount tells us that they are equal to committing the act itself.

Masturbating for the reasons of a good safety valve or practice for when you enter into the marriage covenant will damage that sexual part of your human nature that God wants you to bring into that marriage covenant. That’s probably most of us. That’s why we have such an amazing God. He can repair ALL things. I’m not saying he will. I’m just saying we need to ask Him. God wants his people to come together intact and not damaged.

Our 1st sexually aroused experiences can condition our behavior when it comes to sex in the future. Sexual feelings attached themselves to that thing that is causing the stimulation. If repeated enough times it can become something that is essential in order to experience sexual satisfaction in the future. For example, a boy experiencing his 1st sexual stimulation while seeing women’s underwear. When he wants to experience that same euphoria he conjures up women’s underwear to aid him while he masturbates. Eventually after a multitude of events as described he begins to find he cannot be sexually aroused unless he has women’s underwear around. This is not sexual freedom this is sexual bondage. This is the danger of masturbation or pre-marital sex. These stimuli become imprinted on that part of our soul that deals with our sexual nature. Sexual freedom is experiencing sex within God’s design. We humans, when we try to do it outside of God’s design really mess things up.
Now what happens is that the fantasies becomes a type of sexual reality. Then when reality comes along it will never be as good as the fantasy. You begin to look for the perfect experience but only find a disappointing experience. This will definitely go against what the world says. However, a matter of fact, going into the marriage bed sexually naive will produce a relationship where sex is not just an event, and you’ll probably experience more of a reliably mutual mental, emotional and physical satisfaction.

If you are a follower of Jesus Christ you just have to ask yourself do you want more of God’s spirit, than temporary physical pleasure.

Is God as good as his word? Is he the God of history? The history of the world and each born again follower of Jesus Christ? Do you believe that God desires to work all of life’s realities, both pleasant and unpleasant, in a Christian’s life were the end result is to bring glory to God and to be more like Jesus for all eternity?

If the answer is yes then we don’t want to miss out on any of the good things that he has in store for us, even if it means sometimes doing spiritual exercises when it would be easier to grab onto an immediate pleasant moment of satisfaction in order to evade or postpone some boring task or anxiety provoked commitment. There are moments when we believe our solutions are better than God’s but those are just moments and they will pass with the help of the Holy Spirit. We must abandon the worldly view of sex and allow God to replace that view with his wisdom and love.
Jesus came to give us life and to give it to us more abundantly than what this world could ever do. Sexuality is not bad. God created sex. He created the feelings of sexual arousal. He only asked that we trust him with that part of our life. Just like we would trust him with our material wealth, our employment, the friends we make and even our family members. We must release the old so that we may receive the new. He wants to pour new wine into new wine skins.

Thank you V. Mary Stewart





            

Friday, January 16, 2015

Money in Christianity

What does the New Testament say about collecting money from individuals that are part of the body of Christ? When we survey the New Testament we see a few passages that refer to believers giving of their worldly assets and what value should replace on these assets.

The first thing I want to do is examine what Jesus taught us in the Gospels about money. In the Sermon on the Mount in the gospel of Matthew chapter 6 Jesus addresses the subject of collecting treasures. Treasures can come in all kinds of different shapes and sizes. I specifically want to address money. Jesus tells his disciples, which would include all the members who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ, not to live for money.

Each and every one of us before we came into a relationship with Jesus Christ were part of the world. In this state most people lived for and put their faith in money as a means to an end. As the things that will provide security and happiness in life. The pursuit of money controlled the way we lived our lives. To the point where it reigned as the motivating factor of our hearts desire. This motivating factor of our hearts Jesus referred to as darkness. (Matthew 6:22-23) He also said that this darkness was a person’s Master or Lord. Therefore, if you want to be his follower money can no longer be our Lord and Master. When something is our Lord and master it becomes our life. We worship and serve this Master. We give our time and energy this Master. Jesus goes on to tell his disciples that though the world says we need money in order to survive he told us that was a lie. He told us not to worry about our life in regards to what we eat or what we wear because life is not those things. Life is more important than those things.

Nothing has changed in the world since Jesus’ is time. Our culture, in the United States of America, still reflects the same values that the world did during Jesus’ time in regards to money. On Television some of the most popular shows are ones based on food and fashion and the pursuit of those things. The packaged food industry itself has science developing ways to create addictive tastes. In the raising of children the love of fashion starts in the elementary school years. I remember kids would get teased if they were wearing fake brands of Converse sneakers. Or if someone found out that your parents shop for your cloths at a Goodwill store or even a Kmart. Now in order to get the best foods, wear the most fashionable clothing you need money. Money was the means to live life according to the world. As followers of Jesus Christ the Bible teaches us that friendship with the world is hatred toward God. (James 4:4 NIV) Money has an assigned value to it. That value is what produces happiness and security. When we assign a value it begins to control our world. However, in the institutionalize churches today money has taken, if not the throne of Jesus, it has set up another thrown next to Jesus.

When we look at the New Testament in regards to believers giving their money it was specifically to meet the needs of other believers. It wasn’t to fund a Christmas lights display outside of our church buildings during the holiday season. It wasn’t to fund a building project. It wasn’t to fund a new sound system or flatscreen TVs. It wasn’t for the purpose of a group of believers to buy real estate in this world. Or to start a banking system to loan to fellow believers and then charge them interest. And it wasn’t to pay pastors a salary to run a church.

We see the first evidence of those who were followers of Jesus Christ selling their possessions and giving to the body of believers to meet the needs of those who are without. (Acts 2:45, 4:34-35)  You might ask without what? Jesus only addressed the meeting of the needs of food and clothing. We see the same thing mentioned when Paul was instructing Timothy about money. “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” (1 Timothy 6:8 NIV) We should notice the pronouns “we” in this verse. We see Paul speaking about himself and Timothy and I would suspect that this “we” would also include all of those within the body of Christ. Then I would like us to notice that the two items that Paul mentions that are the same things that Jesus spoke about in the Gospels when it comes to the needs of life on this earth which are food and clothing. Nothing more nothing less.

As the body of Christ is growing in the known world of the time of the church’s beginnings, we see Paul taking up another collection. He’s passing around the offering plate, so to speak, for the purpose of meeting the needs of those who are in the body of Christ. He says in 2 Corinthians about God’s people in one place were serving Gods people in another place, that “this service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” (2 Corinthians 9:12 NIV) Here again we take notice of the word “needs”. And let me repeat what those needs are, according to the New Testament, are food and clothing.

The purpose of collecting money from believers was not so that one believer would have more than another believer. It is a sad thing when you see a pastor waiting in line to get the next iPhone and people in his flock are standing in line to get food stamps. Then this same pastor goes to the pulpit and tells God’s people they need to give when the collection plate comes around because it’s God’s will. That even if you are poor you still need to give something, preferably a tenth of whatever you are getting. They tell the story of the widows and her small copper coins (Mark 12:41-44) to justify them asking even the poor within their congregation to give even if it hurts so that he can maintain his lifestyle all under the guise "It's Gods will". So he can buy the next iPhone or flat screen TV that comes out. John Bunyan in Pilgrims Progress stated, "How abominable is it to use Jesus as a stalking-horse to get and enjoy the world! This is were we find heathens, hypocrites, devils, and wizards, that do these things." A stalking-horse is what hunters use to hide behind to kill their unsuspecting prey. Jesus said something about people like this, "They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.” (Mark 12:40 NIV) 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)

They really emphasize the tithe and being God’s will for the New Testament believers. Even though it’s not mentioned once in any of the epistles or Acts. Why? Because the tithe was part of the Old Covenant. Someone might say Jesus mentioned it in Matthew 23:23. Yes he did. However, we must remember the tithe was for the Levitical priesthood. Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees, not for the letter of the law but the more important parts on the law they neglected. If Jesus said the Pharisees, “you offer the right animal sacrifices but neglect justice” would we then say we still need to sacrifice animals. No. Because Jesus put an end to the Levitical requirements of the law and that included the dietary restrictions and the tithe.

Paul said that when it comes to the body of Christ, “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. 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, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15 NIV) It is because of the institutionalization of Christianity that we see this one head figure ruling over a group of others in the body of Christ. This is the way of the world. We are so steep and entrenched (what is a trench but a grave with two open ends) in this system that people would rebel against this kind of biblical thinking, because they no longer live by faith but by sight. The institutionalized religious system is all that they can see when it comes to having their needs and wants met. 

There is only one Lord and that is the person of Jesus Christ. However, the world and its system has crept into the body of Christ to where money is the driving influence of the churches today. Some churches refuse to preach the entire gospel message for fear of losing people that give to that particular church. We have set up people who are at the head who will vilify those who challenge their form of institutionalize religion so that the challenger may be silenced in order that the money that they receive will not be diminished.

Some may point out Scriptures such as, “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.” (1 Corinthians 9:14 NIV) as a justification for receiving a salary with benefits from a local body of believers. Or they might even quote, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” (1 Timothy 5:17 NIV) as a justification for them to receive more than those who are under their care who have much less. So what does “living” and “double honor” really mean? When we look at these particular words they must be filtered through what the rest of the New Testament teaches about money. Not how the institutional religions of the day have adopted the systems of the world to govern that denomination or local churches of the day. One thing we must understand is that during the time of the writing of these letters and Gospels the majority of the population was illiterate. Those who could read and write Greek were few. These were the people who were most likely the teachers and preachers within the body of Christ. Therefore their time would be spent serving the body of believers by teaching them the word of God. So that their renumeration’s should no longer come from necessarily their own business pursuits but from the body of believers they were serving. Now how much should they get? They should get enough to meet their needs so they wouldn't have to do secular work. And in some cases that would include rent not a mortgage. (Acts 28:30) However, they shouldn't get more than that.

Some quote the passage, “the worker is worthy of his support” (Matthew 10:7-10) but they fail to include what Jesus said in the sentence before where he says freely you have received freely give. Jesus wasn't talking about renumeration’s for preaching the gospel message. If we read that passage in its context it was about their needs being met and nothing more.