You Know You Are

It was a few weeks back now. I had just gotten off work (right now I work at a landfill picking up the litter that blows off the main dump area – yep, it’s as illustrious as it sounds).

Anyway, I hadn’t even got back out onto the highway yet when the song Revolution by Jars of Clay came on from the album The Eleventh Hour – yep, I can be a little old-school sometimes. Here’re the lyrics:

Peace takes a taxi
To the underground
I wanna love the world
But I don’t know how
Blame it on the d.j.
Playin’ all the fast songs
Ain’t spinnin’ anything
That I can sing along

[chorus]
So if you know the words
Then try to sing along
And when you get the beat
Grab a hammer, bang a gong
Cause you don’t got to fight
Or make yourself belong
To be a revolution, yeah
To be a revolution

[verse]
If you wanna learn
To play the rock guitar
Then thrown down your guns
And come be a star
You got to begin
With who you know you are
To be a revolution

[bridge]
Cause the time is right
To cross that line
To let love find a way

And it was just background music. Until I heard the line, “You got to begin / with who you know you are / to be a revolution” and it stood out so much I had to go back and hear it again so I could write it down.

See the thing is I’ve been studying in Daniel (more to come about that) and this line stood out to me there, too in Daniel 10:

In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.

I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel;

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:

His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.

And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.

Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.

Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.

10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.  – Daniel 10:2-10

This guy shows up and starts speaking, nobody but Daniel sees him but everyone else just turn to jelly and hide, and Daniel just goes comatose on the ground faster than you can say “King of Glory.” But what really caught my attention was what this man said when he touched Daniel:

11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.

12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. – Daniel 10:11-12

A man greatly beloved. I don’t know about you but if that’d been me I probably would’ve just been like, “Buck up Dan, it’s only me,” but no, he says, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,” he doesn’t say, “Fear not,” till the next sentence.

Which leads me to a side-note. I’ve heard people often point out that “Fear not,” is a command given ‘so-many’ times in the Bible and that we shouldn’t be afraid–buck up! But this heavenly man doesn’t say “Fear not,” he says, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,” he starts with an identity. You have to begin with who you know you are.

Back to Jars of Clay.

Three years ago a revolution started in my life. I had a revelation of what love means, and it changed how I saw God, the Bible, and the rest of my world. I say a revolution started in my life, and from that revolution grew the desire to spread the revolution in the world and to be the revolution in the world. It was a real thing to me and it became even more real a year later when the first casualty of that revolution came (but that’s another story).

It’s fizzled a lot since – the road has been primarily a desolate place for me in the last two years. But it all began with who I learned I was – my identity in Christ – a man greatly beloved, consumed and indwelt by the King of Glory. And that’s where it has to begin, and where it has to continue, and end. And maybe the lesson for me in this is further along in Daniel:

15 And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb.

16 And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.

17 For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me.

18 Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me,

19 And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. – Daniel 10:15-19

Daniel just couldn’t lay there and listen to those heavenly voices under his own strength, and how was he strengthened? “Oh man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.”

Oh man (or woman) greatly beloved! There is fearlessness, peace and strength in knowing who you are and whose you are. And that’s where you begin.

I’ve got one final thought to add that came to me as I read over the lyrics:

Peace takes a taxi
To the underground
I wanna love the world
But I don’t know how
Blame it on the d.j.
Playin’ all the fast songs
Ain’t spinnin’ anything
That I can sing along

I can relate to that; my struggle has been, how do I love the world? How do I meet the world where the world is? And my common excuse especially before the revolution was, ‘Well they’re just going to have to meet me where am and ask me the right questions.’ Say it’s the DJ’s fault because he’s going a different pace. He’s going to have to slow down for me.

No. It starts with who you know you are. You learn to love the world by knowing who you are and whose you are. You learn to love the world by learning how Father loves you. And I have. And I am. Slowly. And I’m not done yet. But you have to start by starting, and when you get the beat? Make it big. Because love is all-or-nothing.

Advertisements

Reunited With I AM (The New-Covenant Sinner)

One question in various forms I’ve heard over and over again is, “So you’ve done away with the law – now you can freely do whatever you want without consequence because grace means tolerance?” The thought is that discontinuing observance of the Law is the same as being without moral and free to do every wrong.

I respond to this testing question with a resounding “No. No. No!” I am not preaching freedom to do anything you like! If you’ve ever read James, you’ll see that grace does not now allow us to live in sin and still inherit life. Paul did not preach this belief that grace licenses us to live in sin and lawlessness either.

A regularly-quoted scripture showing this is Romans 3:31 which says, “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.” Now, many people jump in with this verse alone to prove that the old covenant Law is still in effect, but they miss the rest of the chapter in which Paul declares that the purpose of the law is to show sinners how sinful they are, and that they need Jesus Christ’s free gift of righteousness to be righteous before God. The Law was never intended to make us righteous but to show us our unrighteousness. Does Romans 3 prove that the Law is done away with to those who keep the new covenant? Not necessarily, but I’ve covered scriptures that do in previous posts so I won’t go into detail on it here–that’s not where I want to focus today. Suffice it to say, the Law was meant for those still outside of the new covenant, to guide them to the new covenant.

So now we’re getting in on the new covenant, Jesus has saved us, cut away our sinful nature and we find rest abiding in Him. Do we now do whatever we wish? Certainly not! Then are we still living in accordance with the Law? Some may see it that way, but no; we live in accordance not with the Law of the old system, but rather with the Spirit of God.

Let me take you back a while – a long while – to understand this. We’ll look right back to the garden of Eden when God placed Adam and Eve on the earth and directed them to rule and reign. This is something I’ve had on my mind for a few days, and shared briefly the other day. I’ll go a little more in-depth here.

In Genesis 2:15-17 we find God’s commission and command to Adam: 15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

God gave Adam charge of the garden and gave him a command: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat … “

Genesis 3 tells the saddest tragedy we all know – the fall of man, the moment of sin’s entrance into a perfect world. We’ll take a look at verses 1-13.

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

                                                  –  Genesis 3:1-13

Here’s my first question: where is the sin in this picture? I’ll tell you this, the problem was a lot bigger than Adam’s wife eating a bit of fruit. We see the real root of it in the serpent’s first words: “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”He brought into question God’s knowledge and understanding. And when Eve confirmed that God had, indeed, said this, the serpent came back with “You will not surely die.For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And that certainly was what the tree would give Eve – a concept of right and wrong. But we see the sin in the next verse, the rebellion and separation from God’s instruction in the next verse:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”

So when the woman saw. What did she see? That the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. This is, I believe, where it all took place. Eve chose to disregard the instruction of God (based, might I add, on His understanding of His own creation) and trust her own understanding of how things were. She disregarded God’s understanding and chose her own understanding, which seems to have been rather limited. She deviated from God’s direct instruction and took her own perspective from what the serpent had said; that the tree was good food, pretty, and desirable to make her wise. And so, having chosen to rely on her own understanding rather than the understanding of the Creator, Eve at the fruit–and then gave some to Adam who was right beside her, and he ate some too.

And did the tree work? You bet. Suddenly they realized they were naked–and afraid–and they made clothes out of fig leaves to cover themselves.

Suddenly they realized something was wrong–something was missing. And they happened to notice they were naked – that must be it! Let’s fix up some fig leaves, maybe that will help our situation. But then God came along, and they hid from him. Alright, what? They hid from God.

I laugh a little at this – Adam and Eve were so innocent. First they hid from God, and then when God called for him, Adam goes “Hey, I’m right here… hiding from you…” The wave of knowledge and emotions that must have hit them that they had no idea about…

Verse 10 says Adam heard God’s voice in the garden and he hid, because he was naked and afraid. What has happened here? Adam and Eve are in the garden, they’ve realized they’re naked. They’ve probably realized a lot more than that but don’t have any idea what all these other things they’re experiencing even are, they’re practically children. Adam knows two things: he is naked and he is afraid. Why afraid? Probably because now he has a concept of right, wrong, and consequence, and that the wrong he’s done will be followed by consequence – death. (whatever that is?) And not only is there a sense of right and wrong but there is a sense of inadequacy, the real problem behind the nakedness. Why inadequacy? Because they chose separation from their Beginning and End. Choosing to step away from God meant choosing to step away from their completeness in Him. It may have only been a small thing–the choice to disregard one instruction–but the sense of separation it brought them, having never before felt any amount of separation from God, must have seemed massive. Oh, to be so innocent, so sensitive to such separation!

So to finish out verses 10-13,

10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

13 And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

There’s one more effect of the tree; neither Adam nor Eve could give God a straight answer.

God: “Adam, where are you?”
Adam: (doesn’t really answer the question;) “I heard you coming; I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”
God: “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree I told you not to?”
Adam: (still avoiding the question) “The woman that you put here with me gave me the fruit and I ate.”
God: (now to Eve) “What have you done?”
Eve: (definitely avoiding the question;) “It was the serpent’s fault, he tricked me into eating it.”

They couldn’t outrightly admit to God that they had eaten from the tree. Adam even completely overlooked God’s question of who had told him he was naked. Now as a brief aside, who did tell Adam he was naked? Was it the serpent? If so, it’s not recorded, but I’m sure the serpent didn’t need to tell Adam that. It was the tree that opened their eyes to their own nakedness, and this is the nature of the old covenant Law also, that it opens our eyes to our inadequacies. Keep that in mind for later. Now, I don’t know how things were back in the garden, but I can guarantee Adam and Eve’s circumstance would have turned out a lot different if they had come right back to God to say “God, we ate from the tree and now something’s terribly wrong and we don’t know what to do, we’re scared, please help us.”

But it didn’t turn out that way. Instead, they continued to rely on their own understanding of what was happening to them, rather than going back to the Creator to get His assessment of the situation. At this point perhaps we can derive a basic definition of sin; since God is, in essence, life, and sin leads to death (the wages of sin is death) then the core of sin in action must be willful separation from God, from life. This was the root of Adam and Eve’s problem when they chose to go by their own understanding rather than God’s instruction.

To say more I would have to begin repeating myself. So going back to Adam’s nakedness and the Law, the purpose of the Law was to show us our sin, as Paul teaches in Romans 3:19, 7:7-10 for example. The law’s purpose was to give us knowledge of sin versus the perfection of God, just as the tree’s purpose was to give knowledge of good and evil–the difference between ‘sinful‘ and ‘sinless’. So we see that the Law and the tree had the same purpose. The law was given to show the people of Israel that sin was still an issue, otherwise they wouldn’t later understand the need for Jesus to come.

But the Law wasn’t given as the solution. God did not give the Law as the solution to the sin problem! He gave His only son to do that. When Jesus died, He restored our right–which Adam lost–to approach God freely and blamelessly. Because our original position with God is now restored, we live in a similar state to that which Adam and Eve held in the garden. No, the world still is not perfect – yes, there still is sin and satan’s judgement has not been passed. But God has called us righteous and blameless through the blood of Jesus Christ, and if we believe in the name of Jesus then that is what we are. On our acceptance of Jesus’ free gift for us, we receive the Spirit of God who dwells in us, and we abide in Christ through God’s spirit. The Spirit of God produces good fruit in our lives–the works which James declares keep our faith alive–and we live once again complete in our Creator.

Now here’s the crunch: Jesus removed the sin separation problem and invited us back to God; this is the new covenant. The tree of Life–the other tree in the garden that we so easily forget about–was there to provide eternal unification with God. Jesus fulfilled the old covenant and brought in the new – essentially uprooting the tree of knowledge and replanting the tree of Life for all to eat from. And it isn’t that the tree of knowledge wasn’t good–God declared everything he had made to be good. It was that the tree of Life was so much better, and of so much more importance. The Law is of no purpose to the one who believes in Jesus. It is and has always been about our reunification to I Am through Christ, and since Christ’s death, we are united with God in Christ through His blood.

So what does sin look like in the new covenant? Choosing again our own knowledge, as Adam and Eve did in the beginning, and stepping out of unity with Christ. That doesn’t mean stealing, killing, committing adultery and all the rest are now justifiably right, it means that we get to the root of the problem now, while all those things were only ever the after-effects–mere evidences–of the original sin separation problem begun by Adam and Eve in the garden 6,000 some years ago.

The final question is, where then does that leave our morals? At the root of the tree of knowledge. All Adam and Eve had to know about right and wrong was that God knew and would do what was best for them. In essence, by stepping into the new covenant we put the knowledge of what’s right and wrong back at the throne of God where it belongs, and put our entire trust in God to direct us step by step in what is best for us.

I think part of what makes this so difficult for others to understand is that I live this in theory; this is the goal I aim for, and while the work of the Spirit leading me to perfection is not yet complete, and I can’t honestly say I live moment-by-moment with 100% of my trust in God’s knowledge of right and wrong for me, I’ve come a long way, and at the end of the beginning of the story, I’ll be right back where I belong. But this IS the good news, that the focus is no longer on my knowledge of right and wrong but on God’s knowledge of what is best for me, since Christ made it possible for me to be once again completed in my Alpha and Omega, Creator God.

An Everlasting Covenant

Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: – Jeremiah 31:31

My Grace Journey began with a revelation of grace–and what better way? I remember when I was 10 or 11, reading Paul–Galatians in particular–and getting so hung up on his doing away with the law. The law had been so central to what I had been taught to that point It just didn’t make any sense to me that Christians could live apart from the law.

Let’s go back to the beginning briefly. Not quite to the very beginning where my safe, warm world was intruded upon by a doctor performing a caesarean section, but to my days growing up in the Seventh Day Adventist belief system.

I have to hand it to my parents – by the time I came along they were getting a lot more liberal with their Adventist faith, so I was saved some confusion and Ellen G. White quotes. But that’s another story.

I was brought up into the Adventist church, and although I was baptized outside of the church, allowing me to make even further liberal choices aside from Adventism, I was not spared being taught primarily an old-covenant based belief system. That’s not to say Adventists don’t teach salvation through Jesus at the cross, but I was taught that I had to work to be good enough before I could go to Jesus. The old way of being blameless before God through the blood of sacrifices mixed with the grace of Jesus to become a faith which uses the grace of Jesus as an enabler to make one perfect through keeping the law. I call it pseudo-covenant.

I was so well-fed on this belief system that I began to do all I could to be better. It was during this period that I read the New Testament all the way through once. I competed religiously with my peers almost vehemently. At Sabbath school we often played a game in which we put all the books of the Bible in order; one day the teacher decided to stack me against the rest of the class to see who could do it fastest–one boy versus seven girls. I can’t remember now whether I was given the New or the Old Testament to do, but you better believe that I beat those girls, and I was proud.

But sin finds us all no matter how perfectly we try to perform. What would become a 9+ year addiction to pornography began. No matter how I tried to believe what I’d read in the Gospels, Romans, Hebrews and other books, that it didn’t matter anymore what I’d done, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that if I didn’t stop this, I would follow it straight into hell. I continually cried out repentance after repentance, asking for God’s mercy. I chose to be baptized out of fear in order to secure my salvation.

I had never heard the quotes from Ellen White saying that no one could be sure of salvation, and that no one should ever say they were saved. I fell in between the cracks of grace and the Adventist pseudo-covenant and embraced that I was now saved, and that perhaps now I could finally leave the chains of pornography behind me. But I was only weighted down with more–chains of fear.

All that in mind, when I finally started to “get” grace, I was overjoyed. Like David in Psalm 32:1-2 I was saying, “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!”

Take a look at the first 18 verses of Hebrews 10. It is a wonderfully clear picture of the new covenant God made with us. Actually, first go back and read Hebrews 8 and 9 as well.

Hebrews 8:8-12 outlines God’s plan for a new covenant:

[8] But when God found fault with the people, he said: “The day is coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. [9] This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and led them out of the land of Egypt. They did not remain faithful to my covenant, so I turned my back on them, says the LORD. [10] But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the LORD: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. [11] And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the LORD.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already. [12] And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

 And because God has made a new covenant, the old is done away with:

[13] When God speaks of a “new” covenant, it means he has made the first one obsolete. It is now out of date and will soon disappear.

But the justice of God is perfect. The law demands death; therefore Jesus came to fulfill the law in his death in order that he could cancel the first covenant, and put the second covenant into effect (Hebrews 10:5-9).

And that was all that was needed. Hebrews 10:10 goes on to say that “God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” Christ offered himself as “a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time.” (verse 12) When Christ died on the cross, sin was paid for. He knew that his work was done and he cried out “It is finished!” (John 19:28,30) and he died. And when he died that perfect death of sacrifice, once for all, he put the second covenant into effect, and this is that new covenant declared by the very mouth of God: I will put my laws in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people! And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.

The writer of Hebrews sums it up in chapter 10, verses 16 and 17 saying “This is the new covenant I will make with my people on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds … I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

And suddenly everything Paul had to say makes sense! The Sinai law as part of the old covenant is fulfilled in Jesus’ death on the cross. Grace has made us righteous by faith alone, not so that we can go on sinning (see Hebrews 10:19-39), because now God’s perfect laws are written on our hearts and minds and his command to us now is to love as he loved us. Jesus calls us to go above and beyond what Moses’ law demanded, but He has empowered us to live above and beyond Moses’ law.

And so no longer do we have to make ourselves right before we may approach God, no! Since Christ’s death on the cross, we have been made right by the blood of His perfect, eternal sacrifice, to approach the throne of God and cry out “Abba, Father!” Because Christ did not only cover our sins forever, but He covered us with His son-ship, that we might be called sons and daughters of God. Amen.