Pondering Truth In Christ
Galatian 5:13,14. AMPC. “For you, brethren, were [indeed] called to freedom; only [do not let your] freedom be an incentive to your flesh and an opportunity or excuse [for selfishness], but through love you should serve one another. For the whole Law [concerning human relationships] is complied with in the one precept, You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.” (Lev 19:18; Mt 5:43-46; Gal 5:19… more!)
Jesus is clear that there are no exceptions. “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, to show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven…”
We must learn and practice this in the simple times, when the “enemies” the Lord places in our life are, shall we say, easy targets. Christ love is not just for when it’s easy, when I feel like it, or when it’s convenient. The times when it challenges our feelings, perhaps even to the very core of our being, will be the ultimate tests - that we are not running on the fuel of ordinary human love, but on the Love of Jesus Christ Himself, because the circumstances will call for that.
The little practices that lead to such things? When one’s spouse is sour and moody. Intend love. When the cat is inordinately demanding attention and whiny. Intend love. (Yes, even pets are there to be loved as God loves us! And often show far greater devotion to this than their human keepers.) Someone calls at an inconvenient time and needs to talk, when the talking for them may be in that moment an expression of their loneliness. Intend love. Exercise patience. Transcend self by tuning in to their need.
The Savior says, Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto Me! We really need to let that sink in.
What the Gospel calls us to is to love as God loves, reflecting His image, and increasing in His likeness. No exceptions. No excuses. No additions, deletions, or corrections. The good news is that Christ has set us free to love as He loves, unconditionally, and He has empowered us to do the same by His very own Holy Spirit within us.
A wonderful video someone sent today on reconciliation (“coincidentally”?) that dovetails nicely with the foregoing thoughts.
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After yesterday’s post http://www.at-the-crossroad.com/430065897/6677263/posting/the-whatevers I felt compelled to expand on it a bit more in its context. So here goes.
Beyond the "whatevers" posted last evening (See Philippians 4:8) - all the things we’re encouraged to think on or DWELL on - there is more. That was verse 8, and while there's nothing wrong with keeping on the sunny side, this verse goes way beyond “positive thinking,” as it continues with verse 9, which says (as St. Paul goes on with the rest of his thought), "The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you." But who today, with the cherry picking mentality of much of the church, wants to even go there? We’d rather be told what feels good.
A lot of people figure that by "thinking positive," they can ward off trouble, or even earn their salvation. It's almost like a magical practice to them whereby they think life can be manipulated; but clearly witchcraft (the spirit of control) is not what the Apostle had in mind here. He certainly knew better. Self sits on the throne in lives where positive thinking becomes a magical practice of manipulating others or circumstances.
Certainly it’s not necessarily evil to stay on the bright side, as having a better mental outlook can not only make us feel better, but a good attitude can determine one’s “altitude”, as far as emotionally getting through difficult things. But this isn’t the point of what Scripture reveals to us. Without the Gospel, such attempts at manipulation amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs aboard one’s personal Titanic. What if instead we were to simply lay it down at the feet of Jesus?
A higher view comes along with the opening verses of Colossians 3 - “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, (implying an actual rebirth by the Holy Spirit) keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them.” This is not about a cherry picking kind of Christianity where I simply want God to bless what I want, or believe I can “think” my way to it!
Paul is advocating for an uncompromising devotion to Jesus Christ in Philippians 4:9, in single minded discipleship and surrender to the Lord. That's the practice! It’s not just about so called positive thinking, although we know that Paul and Silas sang hymns and prayed (Acts 16:25) after being beaten and jailed. So if we're going to practice what Paul practiced, it's important to be informed from Scripture what that looked like. What was the content of message? How did he and the other Apostles react to their difficulties and even persecution? What was their prayer life like, and for what did they pray? Were they full of self will, or a will surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Way of the cross?
Comprehending these things we can come to a balanced understanding of the relationship between verses 8 and 9. Scripture should always be taken in context of not only the verses around it, which complete a thought communicated, but also the entire message of the Bible, which is to reveal Jesus Christ and His sublime love of us and His authority in our life - won by the shedding of His blood. We are not our own!
The fact that we’d rather look at verse 8 without its complete context in verse 9, shows how much New Age / New Thought positive thinking - in some cases more than the Gospel and its implications for our lives - has infiltrated the churches and the minds of Christians. That should make us stop and think, and question where it’s going to take the church, and who’s behind this subtle infiltration. We need always to pray for complete understanding as we read and study Scripture, and that we be cleared of any previous notions founded in worldly religions or philosophies.
Sometimes it helps me to stay positive, or to pull my mind away from things that are bothering me, to choose a Scripture passage and make some art with it. Digital is convenient late at night when I'm aimed at relaxing with my feet propped up. This is one of my favorites. You wind up asking, What are some of the things I can focus on that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, or praiseworthy that are going on in my life and in the world? Goodness knows the world is full of news that's seldom any of these things. So, even the color and the play of designing something winds up being a blessing that uplifts the spirit. It helps to consciously realize that there is a lot to be thankful for, in spite of the challenges, or to switch from grumbling to gratitude. I hope that sharing this helps you too!
Point for meditation: 1 John 3:2,3 (from NASB, emphases mine). “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.”
There are only two churches that exist on earth - the church of self effort and the church of the finished work of Jesus Christ. That’s it. Let me explain why I believe this is so.
In reviewing this passage, I was once again reminded that, first of all, since now we are God’s children, our imperfections do not diminish His love for us any more than the imperfections of our own children disturb or anger us. It is the fact that our hope fixed on the vision of Christ’s perfection and ourself in Him (“faith”) becomes the means of our growing up into Christ likeness. The “vision” to be grasped is that of beholding ourself in Him - as co-crucified, dead, buried, and raised up from spiritual death, and seated with Him in the Heavenly Places.
This work - bringing us to maturity, to Christ likeness - is His, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. It is not by means of self effort (works of the flesh) that we are sanctified (set apart and made manifestly holy). but by surrender to the work that God has already made of us in Christ that we are saved (salvaged for a new life).
When we “see” / perceive this with the eyes of faith, then we no longer practice sin (which means to live a lie, suppressing the truth in unrighteousness). If we are practitioners of sin or a deceitful lifestyle, our gaze is on ourself rather than the Son of Man lifted up on the cross. This was “enacted” by Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness - all who gazed upon it for healing from the venom of the serpent bite - would be healed. Nothing more was required of them. This is what we need to see - the power of the works of the devil / serpent crucified in Christ, which we behold by faith.
This was shown to me a number of years ago and is the “vision”, the revelation, that permitted me to cease striving with something Christ already dealt with - my sin condition - through His incarnation and His passion. Oddly, the key is less struggling and striving, and simply surrendering to what is in Christ now.
What we “see” is now, and what we see is what shall be!
If all I see is a mountain of sin with which I must struggle, then my eyes are on myself and my own efforts against “mission impossible,” or on hiding this from myself by cover ups and hypocrisy. In either case, my gaze is always fixated on me and my effort, not on the Lamb of God Who has already taken away the sin of the world and Who has finished the job! It is by this that He was glorified, according to the opening lines of His great prayer in John 17.
It is through this completed work of the Cross - that metaphysical moment on Golgotha where He was slain from the foundation of the world, yet spanning all time and eternity - that I am saved and transformed into His likeness more and more. Sin has been "done in" through the cross!
This cannot be explained very well to anyone who has not perceived it for himself - this vision (eyes of faith) of God’s absolute amazing grace in Christ Jesus. Yet if there is anything that I might offer to the table of the Ekklesia, it would be for all who name His Name to receive this vision, this view and perspective, in his innermost being.
I’m convinced that this is the “spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him” (see context of Ephesians 1: 15-23) for which Paul always interceded for the Body of Christ, and for which we must heartily make supplication now! For, “where there is no vision (revelation), the people are unrestrained…”, according to Proverbs 29:18. (Or “the people perish,” KJV.)
To this John the Baptist points as he says, “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” This is the view which puts an end to both sin and the futility of self effort against it! Herein is the end of all struggle and striving - in simple surrender of self and all its efforts to combat what amounts to a ghost that never seems to go away, against which flesh and self effort can never win. But the victory is now in Christ.
When we Christians perceive and receive what is in Christ, right here and right now, we are able to let go and cease striving, and let God be God Who is mighty to save, Who has already raised us up in Christ Jesus and made us living new creations in Him. Then this reality becomes effectual in our life.
May it be so now and forever. Soli Deo Gloria! Amen!
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There is a vision to be embraced, not a woo woo moment, but a clear understanding of what has needed to be perceived from the beginning. Psalm 115:16 reveals to us that “The heavens are the heavens of the Lord, but the earth He has given to the sons of men.”
How’s that been going for us?
Clearly this has not been taken seriously, as this little blue green gem in the sky has not been well managed, nor have her peoples been loved and cared for on a consistent basis. The first directive given to humankind was - to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Gen 1:28. To subdue means to bring it under subjection to the Lord. And when the Lord mentions “ruling over” we know from Jesus’ own words it is not in the way of the kings of the earth, but His way - that to “rule” is to be the servant of all! For it is the “meek” who are promised the earth.
Man instead handed the domain given him by God to the evil one, thus relinquishing the claim to all God gave him to be responsible for. This was the plan behind the temptation of Eve, by way of deception. From there came the greatest source of THE conspiracy to end all conspiracies! And it was also the reason we needed to be redeemed, and restored - what we call Christification, one soul at a time. To be made ready to be heirs and joint heirs in Christ. This is why we needed and need and will need a Savior - to deliver us from the power and authority of the evil one to whom we were captive, to be set free from the works of the devil.
How well is this “vision” disseminated in the churches?
We have “religion” and religious forms, but how does that fit into the Master’s plan? I would offer that, rather than embracing just the "sacramental stream" of religious life, it is also necessary to revive and embrace the living, moving Spirit of God in the "charismatic stream" - that real flow of Living Water - of the Christian faith, as evidence - per Jesus and Scripture, "signs of those who believe" - of its evangelistic work, if there is any. The gifts of healing and restoration, per Jesus, come about as evidencing the claims and reality of “believers.” So, we need the Sacramental, Charismatic, and Evangelical (conversion) streams - the last two being the Spirit working through the priesthood of all believers, not only the clergy.
What's symptomatic also of the lack of understanding of the mission is that we Christians have become very comfortable in the world and taking God's blessings for granted. We, as the presumed "bride" “take His name in vain” by faithless adultery with the world. Our hearts are divided and unclean! We idolatrously rely on everything worldly, but not His promises and His power in life, which are an outgrowth of branches abiding in the Vine - the Direct Current of the Holy Spirit.
We are dependent on secular systems of this world, in which we find far too much convenience and security, often modeling churches on a corporate business template, and then simply adding the sacramental components, but ignore the rest of the power of the Lord, promised right before His Ascension, according to Mark 16. (When did Cessationists decide that this ended with the book of Acts?)
We defy Christ Who said that we cannot serve God and mammon. Christ Who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. But oh how we love having one foot in the church and the other in the world, idolatrously touting its claims and offers of security and wholeness, instead of being sold out to the Lord Jesus, and continually asking and seeking and knocking for the Holy Spirit. Could this be one big reason why we have “churchianity” and not christianity?
This will not change until judgment begins in the house of God, and - just like ancient Israel - all the "props" of our little drama are knocked right off the stage of our presuming upon Him. The pattern is clear as seen in Scripture and history. Nothing will change, and we will not see anything truly supernatural - revealing the connection to the Vine - until this pruning takes place.
Where is the weeping of repentance? Where is the “baptism of anguish” over our idolatrous hearts and ways? Or will our lament take place by the rivers of Babylon as we undergo full captivity.
It may be too late, and what is about to unfold is not going to be very pretty. Look around. It has already begun, with the implementation of unrighteous laws legitimizing murder of innocents and every perversion, as well as the Trojan Horse of so called immigration.
We should wake up and weep for the Holy Spirit. And if God permits, let us not be cursed forever like the fig tree!