You Don’t Need More Faith

Faith. It is a deep part of my journey that I haven’t shared much about, but that has really been just below the surface all along. You see my journey began with asking the questions, “How can love be greater than faith?” and, “How can a self-professed Bible-living religion speak more emphatically about faith than love?”

And when I took the plunge into grace there were three camps; the first of course cried hysterically from behind me that I could not possibly leave the safety of the foundations upon which I had been raised and not end up in hell. The second informed me that my grace was good and all, but the church still expects you to strive toward perfection. And the third said come as you are–as long as you utilize your faith to accomplish the perfection we expect.

I chose what was seemingly the lesser of the three evils, because the idea that we must believe to receive is a classic in the church. But my dilemma has always been this: I don’t have nearly enough faith for salvation, let alone what I want to receive beyond that. I don’t have enough faith to live right or to entrust my righteousness to; I don’t have enough faith to pray with power; I don’t have even enough faith to speak in a group of people. The Bible states that we are made righteous by faith, but my faith falls short every time.

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 KJV

I’ve read this verse before – I’ve read all of Galatians clear through many times. But the King James makes a seemingly minor difference in wording that totally changes the meaning of this verse – ‘by the faith of the Son of God’ 

Can someone say ‘Boom.

Now there is faith in Jesus and there is faith of Jesus:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:8‭-‬15 NKJV

Which is as much as to say, you can’t really make a meaningful agreement with something or someone you don’t believe–or, have faith–in.

And suddenly Jesus’ statement next to a withered fig tree about mustard-seed-sized faith begins to make sense–‘if you just have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to that mountain, go throw yourself in the sea’. Because you’ll have to believe the truth–and if there is one thing Father will not do it is to make you believe the truth–but the only truth you need your own faith to believe….is that the rest is on His faith–He’s got this one.

Let’s go back to the context of Galatians (and as always, please – read the chapter. Read the book. Devour the context)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 2:16‭-‬21 KJV

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life in my physical body. I haven’t really put it to myself that directly until now–I’d always just let there be a vagueness there and I know I’ve been pondering things that directly relate to me, me being someone in this world who lives in a physical body. But I’ve always struggled with the tension of faith, and good works, and sin, and rest… And that might be a surprise for some people because in the beginning of all this I was all about the grace and the rest and the not having to do anything anymore. But the reality has always been this tension because my heart says ‘Yes, I rest in the finished work of Jesus,’ but my mind goes, ‘But what about…’

Because I still live in a physical body and I’m learning more and more that this body is exterior to who I am but it is so flawed and I am still so in it, and what do you do when your spirit wants to live one reality but your body wants to live another? Do you just keep repenting and asking forgiveness every day for the things your body does like the church has taught for time immemorial?

And if I’m honest I can say I know I don’t have enough faith for the trouble my body gets me into in this world.

And I know Father doesn’t expect me to keep repenting–as if I had turned away in the first place. And that’s the thing about a person being made holy and righteous and perfect because that happened 2000-some-odd years ago but if we don’t see exactly what we think is good and right and perfect in a person we deem them unsaved, unrepentant, sinners destined for the wrath of God (and well-deserving of punishment)–or perhaps more often we say they are living a licentious life based on ‘greasy grace’. Yeah, it’s dawning on me now where that concept comes from.

And Church I’ve had a lot to say to you lately and I want you to know that I’m saying this as much into my own heart as to yours, but repenting and ‘having more faith‘ are not the answers to the people you are disqualifying. The solution to greasy grace is not a realization that ‘oh yeah, you actually do have to do something, and actually it’s all the same stuff as before but now Jesus’ power will help you do it,’ no Church… The solution is living dead to your body.

Because listen, go back and look at Galatians 2 again: the law doesn’t justify anybody, and sorry but a new-covenant-esque take on the law is still not going to justify. Anybody. Ten commandments? Not a chance, and that’s an easy enough pill to swallow maybe, but repentance and faith-works? No. You can’t prime the Presence-pumpBut what then justifies? Your faith in what Jesus did for you? No. Jesusfaith in what Jesus did for you.

Because the real issue here Church, is not about stopping people from living sinful, worldly, licentious lives. It isn’t about giving them the twenty steps to right living. If the only solution you can give them is that they need to work harder and have more faith–faith harder–you’ve missed the gospel. And you’ve missed the meaning of the death of Jesus, because that is the moment where humanity was spiritually circumcised, cut away from our sin-riddled bodies for the rest of eternity.

And I finally totally get this whole concept of a death being required before a covenant can come to an end; I always thought the law was supposed to die with Jesus, but it was we who died with Jesus. Now if we resurrect our old selves, Mr. Law is still alive–guess what; you’re back together under that old covenant, a slave to sin and death, rebuilding what died with Jesus on the cross. But if we are alive by the life and faith of Jesus? 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I liveyet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

…The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God…

Do you want to know, Church, why you are experiencing so little victory over sin in your members? Because you’ve been teaching them that the life they life in the flesh they live by their own faith. It is all up to them and if they aren’t experiencing victory and favor it must be because they aren’t believing hard enough, or maybe it is because they have believed in ‘greasy grace’.  I’ll tell you right now Church, you’ve hurt and confused a lot of people because their faith was not strong enough for you.

You don’t need more faith. You don’t. You don’t need more faith. But I know, religion says ‘Be careful of greasy grace, some of this has got to be on you,’ but it doesn’t because it’s already on Jesus.

A weight lifts off my shoulders when I realize that it isn’t up to me believing hard enough anymore.

The thing that flung me into all of this was this story that I’ve never had an easy time understanding. It’s the story of a demon-possessed boy who met Jesus:

And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”  Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”  Then the  spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:14‭-‬27 NKJV

Mark is the only author who records the depth of Jesus’ discord with the father of the boy. And notice something; Jesus saw a a faithless people, but all he expected from that boy’s father was belief. But belief in what? Because Jesus didn’t even say ‘Believe that all things are possible,’ no, he said ‘Just believe. All things are possible to people who believe.’ And the father cries out ‘Lord I believe; help my unbelief.’

And I recall several occasions that I prayed and I said “God I know it’s your desire to heal so bring healing now!” And I saw broken bodies mended. But more often I think of all the times I said to myself “No… it won’t work this time, I can’t believe enough for that,”

But Jesus has faith. And he knows that his faith is enough for an entire generation–an entire human race–if they will just let His faith do the acting for just a moment. Help my unbelief in Your belief.

I hate the term ‘greasy grace’. I really do with a passion. I hate that Father’s character has had such a demeaning caricature drawn of it. And I hate the abuse that church leaders have been responsible for in disqualifying people because of so-called greasy grace or licentiousness. And I’m not saying licentiousness isn’t a thing somewhere, but when I hear ‘greasy grace’ being tossed around I see people being bombarded by insecure Christians who seem so afraid that Father’s goodness is not enough. I see leaders requiring more than a simple recognition that Jesus died on the cross and spiritually circumcised our old natures making every person perfect in the sight of God. I see churches afraid of losing their monopoly on self-faith-based goodness and the control they hold over their members by it, and I begin to understand the sort of people Jesus must have been looking toward when he declared, ‘o faithless generation…’

You don’t need more faith; Jesus has enough.

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To Die Is Gain

“I used to be afraid to die…” I began.

I went on to explain how the truth and faithfulness of Jesus had won out in my story over fear and death and fear of death. The truth is, I really did used to be afraid to die.

And I’d heard that line Paul wrote to the Church in Philippi over and over but the reality is you just don’t know you don’t know till you know; unless you know Jesus personally, you can’t understand the strength and courage and peace behind the words of someone who knows Jesus personally–it’s just words.

19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For[c] I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

 – Philippians 1:19-24

But for me, to live, Christ! To die, gain!

Why is living Christ? Because I live by Christ’s life. Why is death gain? Because death is the end of this sin-riddled flesh, but only the very beginning of Christ’s life. Why does that mean anything? Because I want to know Christ!

It’s something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately–particularly after a friend recently announced the death of his grandmother–and death doesn’t scare me anymore (if anything scares me it’s decay; growing old and turning to mush). I don’t fear anymore either, the possibility that I could die and end up in hell for some unrepentant thing, or for exploring too far–grace and truth gave me a new security in my life now hidden in Christ; love.

And that’s the thing: if you’ve chosen to follow Jesus and you’ve been baptised, symbolizing your acceptance to share in his death and new life, then where, oh Death, is your sting? Where, Hell, is your victory? My hope is hidden in the Lord, the King of Glory, the King above all kings, who was and is and is to come! And it goes right back along with the deep question, “Do you really trust God?” Is your hope in him? And could it be that the hymn spoke of a true hope?

We have this hope that burns within our hearts / Hope in the coming of the Lord / We have this faith that Christ alone imparts / Faith in the promise of His word

– We Have This Hope [Wayne Hooper]

But it’s even better than the words Adventists still sing–better than maybe Mr. Hooper ever knew; because Jesus is alive in me and in every Christian who has shared in His death and resurrection and proclaims Him Lord. I understand now why Paul was able to make such a bold statement about his uncertain future, because I now know the One who he was talking about.

Grace Opportunities

Well this is the time of day when you ought to be getting excited–I know I am, it’s peak-thinking time! Alright, alright, most of you are probably off in the land of Nod by now and I can’t say I’ve had too many fantastic thoughts running through my mind any time of day for the last couple months. Yeah that’s right, the last couple months. I’ve been channeling most of my creative energy into drawing. I say ‘most’ but I haven’t had much energy to begin with–I guess I need to get back into the Word!

Alright, so enough with the prelude, something’s been tossing around my head today and it all came together when I went out for coffee with a friend. It’s roll-up-the-rim time at Tim Hortons and as we were getting ready to go we took a look to see what we’d got. He didn’t get anything, but I got a free coffee. And I shrugged and threw it out.

Now I’m going to stop my soul-thought right now, because in that moment and even as I reflect back now all my mind wants to do is make up excuses as to why I didn’t cash in on my free drink. “Well I never go to Tim Hortons anyway / I don’t play roll up the rim seriously (does that even make sense?) / I’ve never done this before, what the heck to I do with it?!” Those were the kinds of things running through my mind. But as I was reflecting back on it afterwards I had a thought. I don’t cash in on most of the opportunities God gives me–and my soul makes excuses for me to feel okay about it. How many of you can say “Amen” to that?

How many can but don’t want to admit they can say “Amen” to that?

That’s alright, because I’m not here to shame anyone about their shortcomings. They’re my shortcomings too. And this is so ridiculous! I mean, who doesn’t like free stuff? I know I do. So what is it that stops me from receiving from God? He’s there going “Hey, free coffee right here, I got your free coffee” and I’m like “Psh. I don’t drink coffee, dude.” And He says “Well alright, I’ve got a free hot chocolate right here (though I really think you should try the coffee!)” and I’m like “No thanks dude, I don’t need that.”

And I already know, deep down, why I don’t take opportunity. I’m afraid.

Fear is a fine paradox; it drives us. But it doesn’t take us anywhere. It might take you backwards, back to where you were last comfortable. But never forward. So my soul makes up all kinds of fine excuses as to why. “Oh, I don’t want to make a scene and look foolish / I’m not comfortable doing that / What if that’s just my own thoughts I’m hearing / I don’t want to intrude on anyone / What if I miss it!?”

What if you miss a Godly opportunity?

Peter just about missed out on an opportunity. Grab your Bibles and take a look at John 13 (I’m going to be reading from the New King James tonight):

13 Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.

And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.”

Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”

Now let’s give Simon a break – he didn’t understand what was going on. Jesus knew that. But if Peter didn’t get it with Jesus kneeling right in front of him with nothing but a towel on ready to wash the filth from his feet (and I’ve heard feet weren’t a pretty sight back in those days), how much more can we expect to understand everything God is longing to do for or give us? Peter flat-out said no.

But oh, the grace of Jesus. He knew pebbles don’t move anywhere fast on their own.

Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” John 13:8b

And then it clicked. Or maybe it didn’t – I don’t know if Peter immediately understood it all – but he trusted Jesus, and if Jesus says ‘you won’t have any part with Me unless…’ then you better believe Peter’s gonna make that ‘unless’ happen in a heartbeat a thousand times over if his body will handle the heat! Alright, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but I see Peter as a pretty radical guy, and it shows all so clearly in his response in verse 9:

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”

Peter was all over that thing. I don’t know what made him say no–maybe he didn’t think Jesus ought to be doing that, maybe he was offended. He didn’t understand what was going on, but Jesus knew, and when Peter realized that his relationship with Jesus was jeopardized you better believe he changed his mind right quick and then some! And Jesus was like “Whoa, slow down dude, we’re still cool if I just get your feet from now on.” Man, Jesus and Peter were tight.

There’s something deeper I want to explore here, along the same lines as what I began with but a little bit deeper. See, I don’t believe Jesus was just telling Peter about physical cleanliness or servitude, I think Jesus had something more in mind, which he alluded to in verse 10:

“He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean … “

This is new covenant stuff right here, and it’s something that I’ve seen people have a hard time grasping as they’re transitioning from old to new covenant thinking. See, Peter had been with Jesus throughout His entire ministry. Luke’s account of their meeting has Jesus just striding up and saying, “Hey guy, let me get in your boat and push me out into the water so I can preach to all these people here,” and afterward, “Hey guy, take your boat out and throw the nets in the water.” And Peter’s response? “We worked hard all night and didn’t catch anything–but if you say so, I’ll do it.

What? Just like that? Yeah, really. Check it out in Luke 5, cause I’m just going to paraphrase this. And by the way, when Peter’s nets filled with so many fish he had to call for help to bring them all in, he repented right there. He said “Lord, leave me, I’m too great a sinner for you to be around!” And Jesus was just like “Don’t be afraid Dude, from now on you’re gonna be fishing for people!” and just like that, Peter was hooked; as soon as they landed he and James and John who were his fishing buddies left everything to follow Jesus:

 1 So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him.        

                      – Luke 5:1-11

Faith in Jesus followed by repentance for sin. That’s how the new covenant works. That’s how sinners become saints, disciples, set apart. See, I think this moment is what Jesus was alluding to as he was preparing to wash Peter’s feet, because this is the moment when everything changed for Peter. This is the moment when he repented, and because of his faith in Jesus – the author and finisher of our faith – God counted him righteous from that moment on. He got his bath among the miracle catch. And because God considered him righteous, the only further cleansing Peter needed was his feet–the part of him that connects him with the world, that place in him where the flesh still has a foothold (I’m just laying the heat on the puns tonight oh boy!). Because the truth is, all Peter’s sins were forgiven by faith when he repented, and in deed at the cross when Jesus paid for everyone’s sins – past, present and future. His future sins were forgiven because he was going to sin in the future–until Jesus comes back to deal with the world there will still be sin trying to gain a foothold in your life. The only thing left for Peter was to remain in relationship with Jesus, and to let Jesus do whatever cleansing was needed. Notice, Jesus washed Peter’s feet for him. Peter didn’t even have to repent of his dirty feet, Jesus just did it, because Peter already repented that day in the boat. And Jesus didn’t give him a full re-baptism either, even at Peter’s request. It wasn’t needed!

How many of you believe your future sins are already forgiven? How many of you don’t think that could be right? In perspective, how many of you think that Jesus must suffer death again and again each time you sin, so that your sins can be forgiven? Does that seem right? See, when Jesus gave up his spirit he said, “It is finished.” Either he paid for all your sins, or he didn’t pay for any. Either he paid for the sins of the future, or your sins aren’t covered by his blood. Think about it; you are now 2000-some years into Jesus’ future; if Jesus’ sacrifice didn’t cover future sins, not even your past sins would be now covered by the blood of Jesus. But Jesus suffered for all your sins–past, present and future. I cannot emphasize this enough; all your sins are forgiven.

BAM.

But some will pass up such an opportunity of grace just as I threw out that free drink, or pass up the opportunities God brings me daily. They will make excuses, saying that they have to repent again before their sins will be forgiven. Brother let me tell you, after you repent the first time for your sins, repentance is no longer an issue. I’m not advocating a once-saved-always-saved attitude, don’t misunderstand, but like Peter, you don’t have to turn again from your sin – you already abhor sin! That’s why it’s on your conscience now! You don’t have to have your whole body washed because your spirit is now the Spirit of Christ. All that you now need is to accept and trust the active work of the Spirit of God in your life. Your body is already clean, it’s just your feet that are a little messy, and that’s okay because Jesus is ready and waiting, kneeling at your feet to wash the daily grime off. Keep saying you’re sorry; everyone needs to hear and say that more often. But know that your sins are already forgiven, and it’s not about what you do anymore, it’s about who you know, and who you know will change what you do. Who you know will change that soul-man to desire to do the things that please God instead of doing things against God.

So here’s your opportunity. Will you take it? It’s not about you anymore, it’s about Jesus.
Jesus will deal with the sin in your flesh – just let him wash your feet.

For Those I’ve Left Behind

Close to two years ago I spoke in front of my now previous church. I shared a dream I’d had some time prior, and a vision. I spoke from my heart about the generational divide that church had been experiencing for some time and the response I received was phenomenal. But my question today is, what happened? What happened to my vision of a united body of Christ? And what happened to the seed that I scattered? Did any of it make it to good soil, or did it fall where it only withered away? Something I’ve learned is that humans cannot be entrusted to your dreams; they will fail. I’m not cynical (I don’t think) just a realist. Thank-you Father that You are faithful!

I just want to lay out a bit of my heart tonight in reflection, so if you’d rather read something educational or logical this might not be the post for you.

I know I slacked off. I phrase it in that way because 1) that’s how the voice in my head says it and 2) because saying it that way shows me the realities of the works-based strongholds still remaining in this old man. I never thought about it in this way before, but satan is continually condemning me with a works spirit, and that has been the case in these years since I gave that message. When I look back and question why it didn’t “work”, satan says, “You didn’t carry your end through..no wonder it never lasted.”

I rebuke you devil in the name of Jesus whose blood has done the work for me. Go back to your pit; Christ has granted me DOMINION over you.

But really now, why didn’t it work? Or perhaps I should ask, why did nothing appear to change? Because being led by the Spirit, anything I step out in faith to do works, because He works. We’re getting really deep into the works here but just bear with me (and no puns intended!). So I can assume that because I followed the promptings of the Spirit, the purpose was complete, and the outcome is in His hands because that is where I left it.

But what those who heard that message that day don’t know, especially considering my recent departure from them, is that my heart still has a place with an ache for them. And it only became stronger the more truth I learned, the more I allowed the love of Christ to love them through me.

This, I suppose, is why I wonder at all in the first place what became of those seeds that I scattered there.

The nature of that system was that it never really took much to scrape through the superficial surface and start dealing with root issues, because people are always real people – you just have to go deep enough. But deeper was rarely an initiative, because deeper means change, eventual discomfort, vulnerability… oh that they could have the heart for themselves as I do now. Oh that they could have the courage to step outside of the mold and feel the vulnerability and the discomfort–and the life more abundant–that cannot reach them in their doctrinal coffins.

Because they have many fundamentals to wrap around themselves to keep the unpredictable, uncontainable wind of the Spirit out, but Christ only required two: “Believe in Me, and love everyone the way I love you.”

Oh if they could see that freedom lies beyond the fog, that following Christ is always a hardship, but never a burden.

But the flames that I saw for a moment flickering to life, they died down again. And I’ve wondered, why doesn’t such change last there? If I could only make a difference, tear a hole through the veil covering the sonlight… And that old devil comes back and whispers suggestions to me, “Well do something–oh, but you can’t do anything.” And the truth is, I can’t do anything. I can’t do anything, but I don’t need to. Because maybe there are still seeds waiting in good soil for the rain, for the Spirit to pour Himself on them. Maybe the more that I ask, intercede and agree, the more good soil those seeds will be given, and the sooner will come the rain. Maybe I’m still planting though I might not realize it. Because the truth is I can’t do anything, but the Holy Spirit can do everything.

And so I will take up that armor, it’s all I can do to put on the helmet which is salvation and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to discourage, the breastplate which is righteousness and the defense against my enemy’s attempts to dishearten, the belt of truth which upholds, the sandals which are peace, that I would go in peace wherever I go. The shield of faith, which covers all again, and finally the sword which is the Spirit, because every warrior needs a weapon to fight with. And this is when I relate with Romans 8:26, because I don’t know what to pray. Not for myself, not for my wife, not for that people on my heart, not for anything.

So Spirit, make intercession for me. I don’t know what to pray, my mind only gets in the way. But I’ll speak it and agree, if You will put it in my mouth.

$3.80 and the Goodness of God

I was working on my budget on Friday when I came up short. Exactly $6.60 was missing. I was baffled, because I could not account for that extra $6.60-expenditure anywhere. Even after I added in the missing A&W receipt (which I had to calculate the price of using nothing but all my other receipts and change – thank goodness I save all the change rather than reusing it), even after I included that it still wouldn’t balance, but now I had exactly $3.80 extra. I tried to reconcile that number; it just didn’t make sense – it’s just too small a number to be a mix-up in bi-monthly grocery receipts. Finally I just sat back, completely confounded. And then I thought of something.

What if God gave me $3.80–just to mess up my budget so much that I would never be able to explain it any other way?

Of course, my inner-cynic went wild at that–

“God wouldn’t do that, especially not to you,”
“You probably just missed it in your calculations, you should do them again,”
“That’s a dumb idea, why would God do that?”

But I looked back over all my figures and $3.80 just didn’t fit anywhere. It couldn’t be in the cash since there’s nothing smaller than a $5 bill there, it couldn’t be in the change jar because I’d already calculated out the change to get the exact price on the missing A&W receipt, and it certainly couldn’t be in the bank because I can look back on the account for as long as I’ve had it and see that everything is accounted for. Everything is accounted for and I still have $3.80 more than I should. What’s going on?

So despite my inner-cynic, I dropped an extra $3.80 into an empty income field on my budget. And I laughed.

Why? Because even if it’s just $3.80, it’s $3.80 more than I had at the beginning of the month, and God was there in that moment saying, “Look son, I’m taking care of your finances, and the more you entrust to me, the more I will entrust to you.”

Someone said recently about tithing, “You can live better off 90% than off 100%”, and I can testify to that. Yes, I “tithe”. It’s not 10%, it’s actually a little more (I haven’t done any precise calculations, I just set aside so much). Last month I got a rather large bill in the mail, but in spite of all the expenses, I still somehow had $200 left over which I took to the grocery store for a good restocking of my shelves. Between tax returns, free groceries and money multiplying to meet every need, I have more than enough on my eighty-something-percent. And I can’t help but see the providence of God for a cheerful giver living with open hands rather than clenched fists.

Because I believe God rewards the good steward, and entrusts more to him. And I continue to be amazed by even the smallest show of His goodness–even if it’s “only” $3.80.

Feeding On Christ

I just finished watching Joseph Prince’s web-cast for today and was it ever good! Actually it was exactly what I needed to hear and it was so refreshing to hear it. He spoke on the power and authority of the word of God; it was a glorious counteraction to the ideas creeping into the Body that would demote the Word of God to mere human words, subject to chop and change over time. But Pastor Prince also spoke about the refreshing, re-energizing power of the Word, the power in the Word that separates mere human soul from Spirit in-dwelling, and I think now about how worn, discouraged, sick and burned out I’ve been. How energy-devoid I’ve been. I’ve been barely scraping along. And I haven’t been feasting on the Word. Because Jesus was right when He said, (also quoting the Word I might add,) “Man does not live by bread alone.”

Sometimes I think the denomination I came from (and probably many others also) have been so concerned about eating the best bread and the most healthy diets that they’ve missed out on the Bread of Life in the Word. I’ve been starving myself on food.

This is a perfect opportunity to share a little graphic I saw in church a couple weeks back.

The Threefold Nature of Man

This illustration comes from a man named Clarence Larkin, and as an aside you might be interested to do some research on him. He compared what he referred to as the threefold nature of man to the tabernacle – I haven’t read much about it yet, but it sounds pretty cool, and I might just have a post for it later on.

Anyway, onwards! What do we have here? Well, we have a wealth of thoughts bouncing around my head all related to this illustration and all waiting to come out for you, but I’ll go slow and leave the less-relevant subjects for their own posts.

So we are three parts: body, soul, and spirit. Our spirit is where the Spirit of God presides. Larkin compares the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle to our spirit where God now presides. Our soul is our mind. This is the part that’s still got the sin problem, because Christ replaces our sinful spirit with His spirit of perfect righteousness, but our soul is a work in progress. This is our mind that we need to renew through the Word of God and in continual prayer. And the more we feed on Christ, the more He flows out to our soul. The body is of course that hunk of meat you’re packin’ around.

We have the life of Christ on the inside of us, in our spirit. But our physical bodies will never see that life unless we feed on Him. Our souls will never see that life unless we feed on him. The Holy Spirit’s regenerating work in us is an inside-out process; we receive His life, we feed our soul on His life, and our soul speaks life to our body.

So what do I mean by starving myself with food?

I’ve been neglecting to feed my soul on the Spirit of God.

This is how the New Covenant works. We believe, and God gives us His spirit. If I do something wrong, this changes little, because the Spirit of God is still in me – He will not repeal this gift, because Jesus paid for it; I believe in Jesus and what He did for me, and I believe in the Spirit of God at work in me. Now my response is not self-condemnation, instead my response is to feed even more on the Spirit of God. The nourishment that God offers me in this way revitalizes and strengthens my soul to do what He asks of me, and my soul commands my body to act.

And how do we receive this nourishment? In communion with God. In the Word. In prayer–in praying in the spirit. Yes, I pray in the spirit. I’ll get into that in another article.

But what if we allow our food to come from other sources? What if we feed on teachings contrary to the Bible, our own ideas, the latest romance novel, un- and anti-godly movies and music, pornography (and pornography is ingraining itself in all of these to become culturally approved)… these are the foods that speak to our soul and overpower the Still Voice in our spirit, when we give reign to them. This is when we step away from God’s understanding and rely again on our own understanding as we did when we were still lost.

And what if we are already immersed in such worldly voices? This has been my confession time and time again. Not a confession of “I have sinned, please redeem me,” no, for Jesus needed only to die once, but a confession of “Jesus, I have been listening to other voices; please speak into my life again, I give you the right to be my nourishment again.”

This is my prayer now, because I haven’t fed enough from Jesus. I haven’t drunk enough from Life-giving streams.

How about you? Is this your prayer as well? I’ll stand in agreement with you over this. “Jesus, I’ve been listening to other voices than Yours. I want to only listen to you from now on. Please speak into my life again, and teach me to live on Your words alone. I declare that You are my sole–and soul–provider.”

Amen. Amen.

And Jesus, thank-you!

Love Notes from Faithful and True

Being yet rather encumbered several years back by a debilitating inability to cook, I one day had made myself a rice casserole. Back then–those were the dark ages–if I had to cook for myself, it was pretty basic, and I held primarily to those staples I could actually make something of, being rice, potatoes and pasta. Needless to say, most meals weren’t too exciting.

Anyway. I had gotten rice pretty well down to a science and after devouring half the pan I reasoned that I would have eating for another meal–hurrah! The next day I spread the rice back out in the dish and put it back in the oven. Once it was heated I commenced to eat the other half of the casserole, roughly the same amount as the day before.

And when I was finished, there was half a pan of casserole left.

In fact, from taking the pan out in the first place I’d noticed a general full-ness going on in my meager lunch plans. So I said–paraphrasing–“Thank-you Jesus for more than enough,” and went on to eat my fill. The day after that I had my third meal of rice casserole.

Yeah, so God might’ve just multiplied my least favorite food.

That’s just the trivial part of the story. I just happened to throw up a comment to my Facebook profile saying something along the lines of “God just multiplied my rice”. It might’ve been more in-depth than that, but you’ve already got the gist.

Someone whom I had respected and looked up to for some time (who will of course, also remain nameless) commented on my post and basically discredited the whole thing with an attempt at a natural explanation. I immediately felt about 2o founds lighter as I heard my respect hit the floor.

Bam.

So that’s what you think of the goodness of God.

I wasn’t devastated. I knew not to put infallible stock into a person. But I was surprised and my eyes were opened; previously if anything I would have expected some positive affirmation from this person in particular. But now I realized something: faith bigger than a mustard seed misses God’s romantic subtleties.

Let me explain why I use this expression.

I looked up to this person because I perceived that they had a lot of faith–and I still believe that they did. They’d been into God’s presence and seen some mighty things–movements of the Spirit, healing, hearts changed.

But where there is no doubt, where there is no weakness, where there are no visible cracks, there is that much less room for the goodness of God to be manifest fully.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t desire faith, strength, or even perfection. I’m not condoning the idea that being under grace, we should sin to increase the power of God. That’s not what I’m getting at.

What I mean is simply this: God spoke to me in a little thing. He wrote a love note to me in rice and veggies and signed it with a wink because just maybe He saw the humor and the irony in me eating rice for three days instead of two, and challenged me to accept His goodness as it comes new every day.

And the miracle was passed over by this one who was more interested in moving mountains. But what they never knew was that it was more than just a little extra rice for another day, it was God showing up in the white noise of my doubts.

I don’t look at people the same way any more. I don’t look up so much to those people that are on the “cutting edge” of Spiritual moves of God. I look at people who hear God in the silent moments, in the small things. I look at the man who said “Lord, I believe; help now my unbelief!” and the man who said “Lord, forgive me, I’m a sinner.” when the “leaders” around him waere standing tall to boast of what they had accomplished for God, to boast in what they were and what they were not. Those Pharisees missed Jesus in the minute things, in the sparrows and the lilies of the field dressed more radiantly than King Solomon. And it seems to me, that people missed when Jesus said “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” for a meal for 5,000 from five loaves and two fish.

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.

Covenants: Revisiting Jesus

There is one point that those teaching old-covenant Law with new-covenant faith (or pseudo-covenant as I like to call it) always come back to, and one which has been the near-forced subject of several discussions I’ve been watching. Sabbath-keeping. Does New Covenant belief continue to observe nine commandments and toss out the sabbath law? Or are all New-Covenant believers liars, cheats, murderers, adulterers, idolaters, rebellious, etc. etc… The sabbath is under attack as they say; not from us, but from their poor understanding of the Word of God.

I’ve heard some argue for the sabbath day by saying that God instituted it at creation, so even if the other nine are done away with as Paul continually preached, the sabbath must still be in effect. Alternatively I’ve heard it argued (and often from the same lips that said the Sabbath was separate from the law) that God gave Adam and Eve the Law–the ten commandments–at the Fall. I haven’t read that anywhere in my Bible and till I do I won’t uphold that belief. At the Fall Adam and Eve already knew right from wrong because they had eaten from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In essence, the tree had the same purpose as the Law, but God didn’t hand the ten commandments over to them when He evicted them from the garden. So here’s the question to jump-start our conversation today:

When did Sabbath begin?

As I’ve pointed out in previous posts and to individuals on occasion, the Hebrew word translated as “Sabbath” doesn’t show up in the Old Testament till the Israelites are picking manna in the wilderness. But that’s not a good enough starting point. We have to go back to the beginning, 6 days after God said “Let there be light.” Everyone knows that God rested on the seventh day, and He made it holy. That’s in Genesis 2:2-3:

[2] And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. [3] Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  – Genesis 2:3 [NKJV]

But notice something: God didn’t call the seventh day “Sabbath,” the only thing He did was blessed the day and sanctified it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not discrediting or undermining what God did here. But this wasn’t an institution of the sabbath day–Adam and Eve didn’t need a sabbath day anyway; God was readily available to them at any moment of any day before the Fall; He created them to live in communion with Him and that is what they had available to them.

So where did this sabbath thing get started? If you’ll remember my previous post, Jesus Christ, Our Sabbath Rest, the Bible first mentions Sabbath in Exodus 16:23-29. You may want to return to that post to refresh on the earliest mentions of the sabbath in the Bible. The second place the sabbath is mentioned is in Exodus 20 when God dishes out the Old Covenant to the Children of Israel (that’s the guy that used to be Jacob).

The thing is, God didn’t make the seventh day at creation to point forward to the sabbath law, He gave the Israelites the sabbath to point back to His rest after creation. I’ll say that again: God’s day of rest after creation didn’t point forward to a sabbath law, the sabbath law pointed back to God’s day of rest–initially, as God declared to Moses in Exodus 31:17:

” ‘It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.’ ” [NKJV]

Further, the sabbath was a testament to God’s ability to sanctify not only a day, but an entire people, as declared in verse 13 of Exodus 31:

” ‘Speak also to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Surely My Sabbaths you shall keep, for it is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.’ ” [NKJV]

Also notice that keeping the sabbath day was a sign between God and the Israelites – a sign of what? A sign that they continued to observe this covenant. God tied observance of the sabbath day right into the core of the Old Covenant, as He also did the ten commandments, which were not just Law, but these were the terms of the covenant.

All this should be merely overview by now if you’ve been studying and believing New Covenant.

I’ll answer the question now: I don’t keep any of the ten commandments, including the fourth one regarding the sabbath day. The Law was not meant for me–or for you.

Before you sharpen your moral pitchforks, no, that doesn’t mean I approve of killing, stealing, lying, covetousness, idolatry, adultery, disrespecting my parents, being rebellious, or any other thing you want to throw in there. Living without the Law does not mean we live lawlessly. Living under the New Covenant rather than the old simply means this: I leave the knowledge of what is good and what is evil up to God, just as Adam and Eve should have done in the garden. I don’t live under the Old Covenant Law because I have the spirit of Jesus Christ in occupation of my life, and He satisfied the requirements of that Law so that all I have to do is believe in Him. It’s as simple as the gospel which Paul and Silas shared with the jailer in Acts 16:29-31; “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved–you and your whole household!” I no longer live up to a Law system, but Christ lives in me, and His spirit produces good works in my life – this is what James was talking about when he preached faith+works, because real faith in Jesus leads to an indwelling of the Spirit of God and it is the Spirit of God which causes good works.

But what about the commands of God we see all throughout the new testament, and in the New Covenant? Again this should be review. The Old Covenant “Law” is not the same as the “commands” or “commandments” of God that we see in the New Covenant. Adam and Eve had a command from God: “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”, though they did not have the ten commandments (and they were not even in a fallen state at that time). Similarly, we have commandments from God still, and we find the core of God’s commandments in the entirety of 1 John (I recommend reading this book in its entirety), and John brings it down to this:

” [22] And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. [23] And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. [24] Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. ” – 1 John 3:22-24

Golly, that’s all we need! Believe and love. And when we believe, Christ lives in and loves through us. And by the way, Jesus showed in his own life that love was the essence of everything in the Law – not that by loving we live under or keep the Law, but there is no contradiction in the New Covenant with the Old, nor is there contradiction in love with the justice of the Law; I may appear to keep the Law because the Spirit of God produces good things through my life, but I do not keep it nor do I live under it anymore.

So where does that leave the Law? Completely unnecessary. And look at it this way, if you will: the Old Covenant was given specifically to the Israelites–to Jacob’s descendants. It was given exclusively to Jacob’s descendants. God didn’t give the Old Covenant to Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, or even Jacob himself, for that matter. God gave it to the Israelites camped around mount Sinai. God gave this covenant to the people who had just come out of a pagan land (Egypt) to show them how sinful they were and to show them that He alone could sanctify them; He had chosen them as a special people, and this covenant He made with them was to show them what perfect righteousness looked like – not to give them a way to enter into perfect righteousness. The whole system pointed towards Jesus’ once-for-all sacrifice–Jesus’ sacrifice to sanctify them and be their perfect righteousness. But what about everyone else? Jesus made it clear that everyone could have a piece of the promise when He ministered to a gentile woman–a non-Jew. (You can find that story in Matthew 15:21-28). But the Old Covenant system was exclusive to the Jews; God only signed this contract with the leaders of Israel on mount Sinai back in Exodus 24:9-11. A new covenant had had to be made; not a change in the old system, but a brand new covenant, the agreement between God and Man that every piece of previous history pointed toward. This New Covenant included not only the Israelite people, but everyone! 

So now we get back to the New Covenant. The good news is that Jesus is and has provided everything in and of himself. He was our perfect sacrifice to fulfill the terms of the Old Covenant so that a new covenant could be made. He shed his blood and provided eternal remission of sin. He became our high priest – not under the Levitical priesthood which the Old Covenant operated by, but under the priesthood of Melchizedek – and He guarantees this New Covenant with God (Hebrews 7:15-22).

And getting back to the issue of the sabbath, remember that we learned that to the Israelites, keeping the sabbath represented sanctification by God. But in the New Covenant, Jesus represents our sanctification, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 1:3,

“But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” [NKJV]

Wisdom from God. Remember what the tree in the garden of Eden was? Knowledge of good and evil. Now Jesus is not only knowledge for us but wisdom as well! That means if we have Christ in us, we can trust him to be our understanding of right and wrong, and to direct each of us accordingly. Really, it comes down to trust; do you trust Jesus enough to lead you into paths of righteousness?

And further, we find our rest in Jesus as well, as He himself declares in Matthew 11:28-29:

” [28] Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” [NKJV]

Life in Christ is abiding–resting–in Christ. That’s what New Covenant is all about, because HE does it all for us.

A Second Helping of Grace

I’ve given up on trying to paraphrase a letter I wrote today regarding some of what I’ve been learning, so I’m just going to put it down like I said it the first time and revise from there. This is what I have been learning today.

Romans 3:31 was brought to my attention today:

“Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.”

We know that Paul declares that the law is good; it is just and right. But what about righteousness by faith? Where does law fit with a new covenant that does away with the ten commandments?

God showed the Israelites his character through teaching them the ten commandments. The law is good, and perfect – it is God’s character, after all, and James shows us the importance of the law, but reminds us that keeping God’s law (works) is a result of faith, (James 2:14-26) and that you can’t see faith in action without the action. John, too, declared the importance of the law, but explained that all the law and character of God culminates into one commandment for us – belief in the name of Jesus Christ, and love to others (1 John 3:23).

Under the old covenant we were in bondage to the law; the ten commandments were the very terms of the old covenant. Paul, however, declares that under the new covenant our salvation is not based on obeying the law we’ll get to that now, as well as Romans 3:31.

Take a look at Romans 3:27 and read on down to verse 31 to get a little more context here:

27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law.

29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 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.

– Romans 3:27-31

Notice as an aside that in the New King James (the above is from the NLT) Paul notes two laws, the law of works which we cannot boast in for our salvation, and the law of faith, which we can boast in (boasting in the saving power of Jesus). And how is the law established by faith? Faith working through love (Galatians 5:6b – … What is important is faith expressing itself in love”). Then could we not say that the law of faith is, as John put God’s command, “That we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23)

God’s character hasn’t changed, and that is why Paul declares that the law is good. But let’s go back to Galatians 5:16-26 briefly.

16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.

– Galatians 5:16-26

We’re called to allow the Spirit of God to work in us, and it is the Spirit of God which aligns our lives with the character of God (of course, because the Spirit of God is God, after all). In verse 16 Paul calls us to walk in the Spirit, explaining in verse 17 that the sinful nature and the Spirit of God are complete opposites, and unless we walk in the Spirit of God, we won’t ever be able to live the good ways that we wish to. But then Paul makes this statement in verse 18 – that if we walk in the Spirit, we are no longer under the law. So as important as the law is, it is ONLY important because it is the character of God. When the Spirit of God lives in us, the written law is no longer necessary, because all the lusts of the flesh that kept us from entering God’s kingdom before (verse 19-21) are the fruits of our sinful spirit, but the Spirit of God living in us produces fruits (verse 22-23) in alignment with the nature and character of God. And we know that the fruits of the Spirit do not go against the character of God, because Paul tells us there is no law against them.

Going back the 1 John 3, we find that John confirms this in verses 4-6:

Everyone who sins is breaking God’s law, for all sin is contrary to the law of God. And you know that Jesus came to take away our sins, and there is no sin in him. Anyone who continues to live in him will not sin. But anyone who keeps on sinning does not know him or understand who he is.

This is from the NLT, but I prefer the language in the New King James:

Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

Sin is lawlessness, and the law is God’s character. But the way out of sin isn’t by keeping the law of works (e.g.: keeping the ten commandments perfectly), as Paul said; the way out of sin is an indwelling of the Spirit of God, as John stated in verse 6, “Whoever abides in Him [Jesus] does not sin.” It isn’t that we stop sinning in order to abide in Jesus, in order to live by the Spirit and have the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, but we abide in Jesus (believe in His name and love others 1 John 3:23) and live by and walk in the Spirit so that we can be sinless. It’s Jesus, after all, that cuts away our sinful nature. And recalling that sin is lawlessness, abiding in Jesus and living/walking in the Spirit fulfills the law without our having to keep it. Lawlessness is the natural result of sin (separation from God); lawfulness is the natural result of abiding in Jesus.

Spirit of God does not live in us to merely enable us to keep the law and produce the fruit; the fruit we produce is no good! But Paul is talking about something much greater, he’s talking about the Spirit of God doing it all; it is the Holy Spirit alone who brings the change in our life from sinful, lawless nature to Godly nature, and that is how the law – God’s character, really – fits into grace.