Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Radical Grace

I am pondering the meaning of Grace. The Apostle Paul starts many of his letters, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ". Grace. What is this? Is it possible that I am so entangled with religion that I can't see what grace is? I suspect this is so.

By the grace given to us in Christ, we are set free, Gal 5:1. Yes, "he whom the Son sets free is free indeed". Yet a man who does not do what he wills to do, is not truly free. This is the struggle of Romans seven. Paul has yet to discover that his victory is already won in Christ. Under his own power, all he can get is chapter seven. The bridge verse is "But thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."Then he concludes, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, for the Law of the Spirit has set them free from the Law of Sin and Death." The Law of Sin and Death cannot be broken, but as brother Nee says, it is also subject to a higher law, the law of the Spirit.

I asked the Lord about this, and he led my spirit to Galatians 5:16. "Walk in the Spirit and there's no way you will be gratifying the lust of the flesh". Walk in, rely upon, cast oneself in - this is part of walking in the Spirit. Mostly I think ultimately it's TRUST. Jesus says, "You can't be my disciple unless you deny yourself". This is what Father has in mind. No more striving. Psalm 46:10. Yet I observe much unbelief in the members of the Body. We claim to trust Him, but in reality fear leads us. Seeing is not believing, saints. Believing is seeing. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the (revealed) Word." Rom 10:17.

The Apostle Peter tells us that Paul's letters are difficult to comprehend. I believe this is because the message Paul preaches is directly from Heaven (Galatians 2) and no carnal mind can get it. If I am preaching the same message he preached, I too would be accused of "easy believism" or some sort of antinomian heresy (See Romans 6). Grace that is truly unconditional has no part in human rational thought. I mean, yes, we understand the word, but instinctively reject the word's meaning. So take your pick. If you reject unconditional grace in favor of some sort of ethic, you get legalism (Revelation letter to the Ephesians). If you embrace a cheap grace, your life will be overrun by selfish desire.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Jesus revealed

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:” (Joh 1:11-12 AV)

Who is this Jesus that we worship? I suppose many have often wondered what it would have been like to have lived in Palestine when Jesus walked on the earth. How might He have touched our lives? Surely we would have seen Him, known Him, walked with Him, loved Him. And maybe we would have, but here's a thought: The people who DID live in Palestine in the first century didn't even recognize Him. Why not? His teaching was as "one with authority". His miracles could not be denied. John the Baptist, whom they held to be a prophet, said "Behold the Lamb". All the signs were in place, but His own people rejected Him.

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?” (Isa 53:1 AV)

Isaiah here indicates that when Messiah comes, people would not know Him, unless the LORD makes Him known to them. Who is this Jesus? A man of sorrows, acquainted with our grief. A sheep led to the slaughter. A man who would not defend himself, but allowed evil men to have their way with Him. And this is our King? To those who would receive Him, He is. And also, one day, every knee will bow, every tongue confess, that He is Lord. But now, as it were, He is disguised in the cloak of humility. Only to those to whom the LORD has revealed Him can receive Him.

Jesus said to His followers, "If they rejected me, they will reject you, too". If we are walking the Jesus way, we will at best be misunderstood, and at worst killed. But I ask, "What Jesus are we presenting to the world today?" Some make Him to be a God of Prosperity. Others try their best to religiously follow his commands. But these things the world understands. What it doesn't get is the man who, when slapped down on one cheek, turns the other. It doesn't understand a Peace that transcends human understanding when a trial overwhelms. The world is offended by one who overcomes by allowing himself to be overcome.

Our brother Vern Kuenzi wrote about this before the LORD took him home. "Restoring the Vision of the End Times Church" is a recommended read. As far as I know, Amazon still has the book for sale, if anyone would like to check it out.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Self Denial

23 And He said to them all, "If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for My sake, the same shall save it.” (Lu 9:23-24 KJ21)

How can we best understand these words? This is Jesus' condition for discipleship (If any man would come after me".

1. Deny yourself
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow me

Deny yourself. Many men have tried to live a self-denied life, depriving themselves of food, or fellowship, or love, only to find that self is an overwhelming opponent. What we have failed to see that "self-deprivation" is ITSELF an act of self. There is no holiness achieved. Self-righteousness, to be sure, but not the holiness that God demands. What does Jesus have in mind here, then? Is it possible that He has commanded His disciples to do the impossible? Yes. Impossible for man, but "with God all things are possible". Says the Apostle Peter:

His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2Pe 1:3 KJ21)

The key then is Knowing Him who called us, and turning away from reliance on ourselves. I always share with my wife that the gospel is as easy as ABC. Admit you are powerless. Believe that Jesus has already won the victory. Confess these things with your mouth. Simple, and yet . . . How many of us are given the privilege of the revelation of our utter helplessness?

Take up your cross. I would understand this via James chapter one.

2 ¶ My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, 3 knowing this: that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4 KJ21)

How can we consider suffering and trials joyous? How can we never, ever complain, or try to maneuver our way out? Could "take up" = accept with joy? If we see it, saints, yes, if we but see it! This is why we live not "by bread alone" but by every Word that comes from Father. Read the eighth chapter of Romans. Comparing this present suffering with the glory to be revealed in us, well, Paul says, it's all worth it. If I am giving up what I cannot keep to gain what I cannot lose, brother Elliot, I have walked wisely.

Follow me.

The Christian life is not difficult. It's IMPOSSIBLE. Only one man has ever lived it. But here's the good news: HE"S ALIVE! And He continues to live his life through his body, the church. Only by abandoning trust in ourselves can we achieve what God requires. Even Jesus Himself learned obedience as a son, and could do only that which He saw His Father doing. In this we follow in His steps, trusting not in ourselves, but in Him who has overcome the world.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The battle

Outline of Spiritual Warfare

I.                   Weapons the enemy uses against us

A.     Temptations
1.      Pride.                          I Chronicles 21:1, Acts 5:3
2.      Apostasy .                   I Tim 4:1
3.      Natural thinking         Mt 16:23, Mk 8:32, Js 3:15
4.      Lust                            I Cor 7:5
5.      Vanity                         Mt 4:5, Gen 3:1-5
6.      Power                         Mt 4:8
7.      Affliction                    Job 2:7, Luke 13:16

B.      Strategies

1.  Collaboration               Luke 8:30, Mt. 12:43-45
2.  Persistence                   Job 1:7
3.  Theft                            Mk 4:15, Luke 8:12
4.  Possession                    Luke 22:3, II Tim 2:26, Mt 4:24
5.  Trials                            Luke 22:31, I Cor 5:5, II Cor 12:7, I Tim 1:20, Rev 2:10
6.  Darkness                      Acts 26:18, II Corinthians 4:4
7.  Ignorance                     II Cor 2:11, Pr 29:18
8.  False signs                   II Cor 11:14,  II Th 2:9
9.  Obstruction                  I Th 2:18
10. Deception                   Rev 12:9
11. Condemnation            I Tim 3:6-7
12. Worship                      Dt  32:17, Ps 106:37

II.                Strategies we can use against the enemy

A. Scripture                             Mt 4:10
B. Let God do it                     Zech 3:2, Jude 9
C. He is subject to us              Romans 16:19-20, Luke 10:19
D. Give no ground                  Eph 4:27
E. God’s armor                       Eph 6:10-17
1.      Truth on your belt
2.      Righteousness over your heart
3.      Gospel of peace on your feet
4.      Faith over your body
5.      Salvation over your mind
6.      God’s word in your hand
F. Resist him                           Js 4:7
G. Cast him out                       Mk 16:17
H. Be humble!                         I Cor 10:12

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Bridge

16 ¶  "A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me, because I go to the Father." 17  Then said some of His disciples among themselves, "What is this that He saith unto us, ‘A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me,’ and, ‘because I go to the Father’?" 18  They said therefore, "What is this that He saith, ‘A little while’? We cannot tell what He saith." 19  Now Jesus knew that they were desirous of asking Him, and said unto them, "Do ye inquire among yourselves of what I said, ‘A little while, and ye shall not see Me; and again a little while, and ye shall see Me’? 20  Verily, verily I say unto you that ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21  A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come; but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for the joy that a man is born into the world. 22  And ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
John 16:16-23

The light came on this morning, listening to someone expound on John 16. He was contrasting the sorrow the disciples felt with the news of His imminent departure with the joy they would soon know with his resurrection from the dead. Can there be joy in sorrow? Can we exit the existential cycle of conditional happiness and enter into unconditional joy, that cannot ever be taken away by undesirable circumstances? Yes. Jesus promised us this, that the joy He gives is eternal, and one that the world knows nothing about.  Yet, honestly, my observation of believers today is that we are almost always existential; happy when things are going well and in despair when they are not. This is not what Jesus intended. There are those few who walk at peace no matter what, having entered the Rest spoken of in Hebrews four. What do they know that most of us don't?

If I could draw a word picture, I would have you imagine a great chasm. On the one side is suffering and sorrow. On the other side is unconditional joy. But the chasm is deep. One cannot go around it, or through it. The pain of the moment seems so awful that joy should never be ours. But though one cannot naturally escape the existentialist reality, there is another way: GO OVER THE BRIDGE!

What bridge, brother? I don't see any bridge! You are imagining things, Indiana Jones! O, but the bridge is there, the "bridge over troubled water". You don't see it because to see the purpose of your suffering and sorrow one needs FAITH. Faith is the bridge that enabled our Lord, for the JOY set before Him, to gladly endure the shame of the cross. So will faith be the bridge that will transform our perspective. Look, faith did NOT deliver Jesus FROM the cross. He still had a mission to accomplish. But from the moment He, by faith, was able to pray, "not my will, but Thine" the victory was already His. So our unconditional faith avails much. We might NOT be delivered from our cross, either, but we can see the reward beyond that cross. Having seen this, we also, for the JOY set before us, gladly endure. Sometimes, we will be granted a miracle, but if not, it does not matter, for His grace is sufficient for us, His strength perfected in our weakness.

This is the same faith that comes "by hearing, and hearing by the revealed Word of God". This is why Jesus tells us to pray, "Give us this day our Daily Bread" and reminds us that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God". Saints, our walk here on earth simply will NOT make any sense unless we receive Faith from God through his revealed word (Rhema). Having received, we will then be able to walk in the joy of the LORD.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mercy not sacrifice

 But if ye had known what this meaneth, ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice,’ ye would not have condemned the guiltless. Mt. 12:7

But go ye and learn what this meaneth: ‘I will have mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."” (Mt 9:13 KJ21)

For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Ho 6:6 KJ21)

Lately these verses have been on my heart. Recently, my daughter asked why only the Christians should go to heaven. In her mind, good people go to heaven, and evil ones don't, no matter what their religion. I explained to her that, in the end, God decides who is good. If man would be good in God's sight, God has shown us the way. Is that way Christianity? No, for before there ever was a Christian religion, God revealed that "The righteous shall live by his faith (Hab 2:4).

Sadly, many who call themselves Christian will not be found in Heaven. Jesus Himself said so. But could the converse be true? Could those who do not claim to be Christian, yet who "do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with the Lord thy God" (Micah 6:8) be saved, even if they have never even heard of Jesus? If they obey the Light that they know, I believe this is possible. None of the Old Testament saints had ever heard of Jesus, either, and many of them are named in the "Faith Hall of Fame" found in Hebrews 11.

Paul writes about having an eternal weight of glory in an earthen vessel. This way, there can be no confusion. The Glory belongs to God, of course. I believe in the end what God is looking for is broken people who confess their need for His Life and eagerly invite Him to provide that life in them. Is this not the meaning of the first beattitude? A broken man, who acknowleges his need for God, is he not the man who is poor in spirit?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Visa for Heaven

For our abiding is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

My wife woke up with a dream this morning. She was alone, contemplating moving to Heaven, or Hawaii (what's the difference, anyway?). She knew that she needed a visa, and that the visa would be very difficult to get, very costly and a lot of hard work. She wanted to invite her sisters and brothers to come, but they were indifferent. Nora knew that it would be safer to make the journey with others, but her family was not willing to come, they were not understanding why they would want to leave their country for Another one. 

This dream blessed my heart! For indeed, there is a Visa into Heaven, very costly, and no one could pay the price on their own. But God "So loved the world, that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever might believe in Him might not perish, but have eternal Life" (Jn 3:16). Surely Heaven is a wonderful place - OK, even better than Hawaii! Why wouldn't anyone want to go there? The Proverbs tell us that for lack of a vision, the people perish. Indeed, the god of this world has blinded the eyes of the unbeliever, telling them that God is not good, and Heaven is not anyplace they would want to go to. So they don't see that there is value, being blind to the Love of God in Jesus Christ. 

Doubtless we all know people who are like this. They are enamored with the here and now, and know nothing of Another country. Many times we witness to them, but to no avail, for we are answering questions that they are not asking. Any salesman knows that unless he can create value in the eyes of his customers, he will never make a sale. Surely, they are watching us, we who are in the church. They know the difference between phony religion and Life, not being impressed with the former at all. Our message, though, is not religion but Life (I John 1:1-4). As we abide in Him through disappointment, suffering and sorrow, His Life is formed in us, a life that is indestructible and eternal, and this life the world cannot deny. Having seen true value in the Kingdom of Heaven, they will want to know more. When they are ready, the Holy Spirit will be there to "guide them into all Truth"