The Truth and the Lie

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

To those who would follow Jesus, the first thing He says is to deny yourself. Many think of this as a call to a lifestyle of endless self-denial and misery whilst we try to do the right thing. But we miss the higher truth that man was never created for self. So Jesus is asking us to deny something we were never made for in the first place so we can get back to the life God originally had in mind.

See, you were not created for “self”. Self is the language of fallen humanity, which is tuned in to station WIIFM (What’s in it for me). You were created for relationship and oneness with God. This is why the idea of a self-centered and self-seeking life is so foreign to our created purpose and therefore, something that needed to be removed.

God created you in His image and knew you before the foundation of the world. God is not asking you to deny that. Why would God ask you to deny God’s image? But all have been born into Adam and need the salvation the Second Adam brought to mankind. The main purpose of that salvation is to “seek and to save that which was lost”, meaning the image of God in man.

…who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 1:25).

Romans tells us that the downward spiral of the human condition involved man exchanging the truth of God for the lie. Many translations say “a lie”, but it is actually “THE lie” in the original language. This is because God IS the truth, which in the Greek means reality. Everything outside of that is considered a lie. Therefore, THE lie is the idea that life outside of God (the self-life) is possible.

Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. Many have wanted to make Jesus into “a path, a good teacher, and someone that can help your life” instead.

But the truth remains that life is in God. To reject God is to reject life. Many people view the Christian life as a set of morals, beliefs, and principles that should be followed as opposed to a different set of morals, beliefs, and principles. This is why many do not see the need to accept Jesus as they think He is simply a figure in one of many different paths to life.

Rather, Christianity is the announcement of the true God (who IS life and truth) to His creation that all can know Him because of Jesus. Sure this involves morals, beliefs and principles, but these come as a result of encountering and knowing God. We come to know these things because of our relationship with God; we do not come to know God because of these things.

As I mentioned earlier, life outside of God just does not work. Sure people may think that they are living a good life or even living in their purpose outside of the knowledge of God. But they simply need to meet life Himself to see that what they have is based on a lie. How can we have reality apart from the person of reality (Truth)?

For this reason, I think it is futile to try to convince people that their standard of morals is wrong and ours as Christians is right. Rather, if we show them life, if we give them Jesus and not just talk about Jesus, perhaps His goodness will lead them to repentance. I am not saying we should not speak up about God’s standards, but we must never divorce them from the reality of a relationship with God. After all, the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power according to 1 Corinthians 4:20.

Something I have heard is that Christianity to too exclusive. I would say that is inaccurate. To address the issue of whether or not it is inclusive or exclusive, the first question that must be addressed is “who do you say Jesus is?” Is He THE truth or is He not? To say He is exclusive is to suggest that He is the correct answer in a biased multiple choice quiz. But when we see Him as the only One who is true, the only Giver and Redeemer of life, we realize He is wanting to include everyone in His life as He already tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9).  There simply are no other choices. There is only the truth and the lie.

To those living outside of this reality, it looks like a narrow way since THE lie has manifested itself in so many forms. There are so many religions, so many philosophies and self-help methods that promise life and peace. In that sense and under that mindset, broad is the way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13). But to those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good, we actually realize how big He is since all life and truth are in Him. The heavens cannot contain Him. He made Heaven in the first place. In Him all things consist.

Yes there is only one Source, but it is a never-ending fountain of pleasure and purpose whereas every other well will dry up, leaving us thirsty again. This is because the self-existence is based on a lie.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

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To Give Or To Get?

I want to talk about a simple yet deep message that has been on my heart for the past few years. In life, there are two big motivators: wanting to give and wanting to get.

The self-existence, as I refer to it, is aimed at getting. This does not refer to obtaining God’s promises through faith (Heb. 6:11-12) but trying to get for ourselves without going through God. It is a getting at the expense of others so we can consume what we get in our self-made reality. This is what the Bible refers to as “lust” (even though many people only associate that word with sexual stuff).

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:4).

We have been given access to the divine nature of God, who is love (which involves giving at one’s own expense). Therefore, we have escaped the corruption which is in the world because of lust (which involves getting at another’s expense). Now, we simply need to walk in the new nature and put off anything associated with the old.

that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:22-24).

There are many ways that we can try to get from people and many things we can try to get. The visible things we can try to get from people are obvious; possessions, money, service. However, most of these things are invisible. It is obvious when someone is aggressively trying to get something, but getting from people often takes on a more passive form.

One of the main things we try to get is acceptance and approval. We want validation. There is a  feeling of safety this brings us; a false  sense of being “okay”. We will then “give” to them in order to get. For example, we will try to please and appease them, but it really is not love. It is so that they will give us their acceptance in return. This is a subtle form of manipulation.

Of course we were made for love and acceptance. But this must come from our Father in Heaven as He is the only One who can give us the pure and real thing.

Sometimes, we simply want people to give us the opportunity to stay in our comfort zones. We want them to give us another moment in our present rut, which gives us a temporary measure of comfort. If they shake the boat, this will cause us discomfort. So we want them to not challenge us.

From experience, I know that I have wanted to be comfortable and escape the hardships that were ahead of me. There have been times when the desire for convenience has dominated my motives. These are also manifestations of self that tries to get peace from situations and people, rather than “making peace” as Jesus mentions (Matt. 5:9). Our mission is to give life to the world, not try to get it from the world.

“Trying” to Get From God

When we as Christians are still struggling with an orphan or slave mentality, we can try to get blessings from God outside of a revelation of the already finished work of Christ. We then view God’s promises and breakthroughs as means to help us survive in this world system rather than things which help us thrive as sons in our true kingdom.

orphan

Our view of God then remains as our Pharoah who art in Heaven, rather than our wonderful Father. As I once heard a preacher say, a slave thinks in terms of how to give, whereas a king thinks in terms of how to get.

Living From the New Nature

In living out and growing in this new nature, I’m learning that there is a reason that God sent the “Comforter” to earth for us. It is because life is full of uncomfortable situations and the Lord doesn’t want us to try and medicate and comfort ourselves with things from the temporary inferior realm. It isn’t that we can’t enjoy the things in this life, but as Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Corinthians 6:12). 

I used to get bent out of shape about trying to live a perfect life in God, but Jesus has given us His selfless nature, so this kind of life is  ours right now. Our righteousness and holiness don’t come from us, but are a result of us being put into union with Him. So it is perfectly natural for you, Christian, to want to selflessly give yourself for others. If this is done out of our fellowship with God, then we will not burn out as it will be His fire burning through us and energizing us.

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Sin and Grace Are Two Opposite Forces

A common phrase that gets tossed around in the church and on the interwebs these days is “grace is not a license to sin”. I’m sure some of you readers are tired of hearing that by now.

Some people use this phrase to try and get people to not go too far into grace and somehow think preaching grace that will cause people to become lax and just do whatever they feel like. This saying, in my humble opinion, is usually spoken out of a misunderstanding of what grace is.

Before I get into what grace really is, let’s touch on what sin actually is. A religious surface definition of sin usually is that sin is a violation of a God’s laws. However, we read the following in Romans:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law (Rom. 5:12-13).

So sin is something that spread to all (a disease) and it still infected those who did not have a set of laws to break.

Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come (Rom. 5:14).

Sin is an influence that causes people to do wrong, not just the wrongdoing itself. Sin is an influence that came into the world and influenced all of Adam’s kids.

Think of what Adam did as an atomic bomb (an “Adam bomb”) that blasted waves of sin out of the epicenter. These waves of sin and destruction are what impact what the Bible refers to as the “the world”. It is not referring to Earth itself, but a system that impacts the Earth. It is the realm where “the law of sin and death” reign.

But we also see that Adam was a type of Christ who was to come; the last Adam. The rest of Romans 5 goes into comparing what Adam did to what Christ did. We find out that a greater force exuded from the center of the work of Christ and has an even greater influence on the people in His realm (those who are “in” Christ).

But God’s free gift is not at all to be compared to the trespass [His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man]. For if many died through one man’s falling away (his lapse, his offense), much more profusely did God’s grace and the free gift [that comes] through the undeserved favor of the one Man Jesus Christ abound and overflow to and for [the benefit of] many (Rom. 5:15 AMP).

What is this greater opposing force that frees people from the Adam world of sin? Grace! The very thing that some people are saying is not a license to sin. Guess what? They are right! Far from being a cover up for sin in which God is just cool with whatever you do, grace is an overwhelming force that propels you into greater and greater depths of godliness (see Titus 2:12). As the good ol’ Amplified Bible says, His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man!

Before you received the grace of Jesus Christ, you were still under the power of sin. In those days, you might have tried to consistently do the right thing, but the river of sin would end up carrying you away from righteousness.

Now, as a Christian, you might start to sin, but the river of grace is flowing in the direction of holiness. That force compels you back toward right living. In fact, the Bible says that grace is not even worthy to be compared to sin in terms of the influence towards good that it can wield.

 Nor is the free gift at all to be compared to the effect of that one [man’s] sin. For the sentence [following the trespass] of one [man] brought condemnation, whereas the free gift [following] many transgressions brings justification (an act of righteousness).

For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) (Rom. 5:16-17 AMP).

Wow! Look at the language used in comparing the power of sin to the power of grace. The free gift is not worthy to be compared. How much more will grace cause us to reign whereas sin caused death to reign.

So it is quite unbiblical for people to think that using the law to keep people in line out of fear of too much grace is the way to approach right living. That is like shooting yourself in the foot since the law actually stirs up the desire to sin! We see here how the law comes into play in this duel between sin and grace:

But then Law came in, [only] to expand and increase the trespass [making it more apparent and exciting opposition]. But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded (Rom. 5:20 AMP)

The law highlighted and even magnified the sin problem so that the disease would be blatantly obvious, but was never meant to be the cure for it.

Where sin abounded, grace abounded even more (the word used in greek contains the word we derive “hyper” from by the way). This is a verse that gets quoted often in grace circles. It means that the shock waves that emanate from grace will always overpower the waves of sin. There is abundant grace to live free from sin’s power.

Some people confuse mercy and grace. Mercy forgives and cleanses you from the past. Grace propels you into a present and future of reigning over the forces that once subdued you.

This is the good news. Welcome to “Graceland”, where sin’s influence is broken.

So that, [just] as sin has reigned in death, [so] grace (His unearned and undeserved favor) might reign also through righteousness (right standing with God) which issues in eternal life through Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) our Lord (Rom. 6:21 AMP).

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Rom. 6:14).

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Moving Forward in God and the Illusion of Safety

I want to talk a little about where I think we are as a church in these days. What I see is that God wants to bring us into a deeper revelation of who He is by bringing clarity on the difference between the Old and New Covenant.

He wants us to move beyond our present understanding of Him, His kingdom, His covenant. Moving forward can be a messy process, however. It requires that we leave behind old mindsets and may even cause us to loose some affiliations (although we should always pursue peace with all men as the Scripture says).

As we are in this time of progressing as a church to greater depths of revelation, there can be a temptation to stay “safe”. There is a type of safety that is really an illusion. It says that if we don’t rock the boat, if we simply continue doing things the same way (which is considered to be the “right” way), then we won’t be in danger.

Let me give some practical examples of this. In the present time, there is an awakening in the church to such things as the truth of the New Covenant as well as a positive view of the “End Times”.

However, many churches and even whole denominations are pretty settled on what they believe about these matters.

Most churches would say that God will forgive us when we mess up. But what about when we start saying that God HAS forgiven us for all time; that all are pre-forgiven because of Christ’s sacrifice? I guarantee that will not fly in some circles that have an established system of confessing in order to be forgiven after we sin.

Also, much of the modern church is steeped in a negative view of the end times (eschatology), that is crippling our hope for the future and greatly affects us in the present. This is a huge issue as some are insistent that you follow the modern futuristic doom and gloom worldview. Some pastors can apparently even be fired for suggesting different options for end times views.

It can be easier to just not speak up about those things. It can feel safe to blend in with what other believers around you are saying. It is so easy to be wishy-washy and say, “Well, the Bible is unclear about certain things. The important thing is just to love.”

Now is not the time to be silent about fresh revelations from the Lord. Is there a chance that we will miss it in regards to correct doctrine and need to re-evaluate what we believe and teach? Indeed it is, but the lie is that if we just not go for it and agree with whatever the people around us believe, we will be “safe”.

There are people out there who are stepping out and boldly saying things that need to be addressed. Things like this, which go against the grain of the popular mindsets, include:

  • God is not about to judge America because of the stored up sins that have been forgiven already.
  • You are NOT under a curse if you do not tithe since Jesus became THE curse (although we always encourage giving from the heart and are not promoting stinginess).
  • Matthew 24 and certain other “End Time” scriptures are clearly talking about Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD and not some future tribulation.
  • It is not “dishonoring” when you disagree with what your church leaders are saying from the pulpit or to say that a specific person is preaching things that are false, based on Scripture.

Even as I write those things, I feel a need to explain myself into safety :) I feel that inadequacy you can feel when you are not lining up with the status quo; you know, when we aren’t acting the way we’re “supposed to”.

In my own personal life, I am seeing how I have been taking refuge in this illusion of safety. There are areas where I have failed to step out out of fear of failure. If I am not pursuing more and pushing ahead, then I won’t run the risk of failure. If I do not bring things up with the people around me that they might not like, then I will not run the risk of their disapproval.

But if I live like that, I might start to interpret the apparent lack of trouble I experience as some sort of success.

If I don’t pray for the sick, then although I won’t see someone healed, I won’t see someone not healed while attempting to minister healing. If I don’t present the gospel to someone, they can’t reject my message.

This is no way to live (talking to myself here). By facing life head on while trusting the Comforter and filtering everything through our relationship with God, we will accomplish much more than if we sit on the sidelines and applaud the successes and shame the failures of those who put themselves out there.

Paul was a good example of someone who stood for the revelation they were given by God.

To begin, he was not one of the original disciples and even had some of them killed. Then, he gets revelation directly from God about the gospel and goes to meet with the leaders of the church (awkward). It turned out, he had deeper insight and conviction about the gospel then even the top apostles.

 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:11-12).

It seems that he was always pushing ahead, through the limitations of the times, with the truth of the gospel. He even needed to correct Peter in front of the church.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party (Gal. 2:11-12).

We might not be dealing with  issues as to whether or not it’s okay to have pork chops with certain people groups, but we do face issues similar to what Peter faced. Its worse than the peer pressure of grade school. Its pressure to appear “right” in the eyes of those who uphold a standard of what “right” should look like.

Paul was not dishonoring Peter. Nor would it have been the safe thing to do to just not say anything or go along with the pressure to fit in.

 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal. 2:14)

This sums it up. God is getting us aligned “in step with the truth of the gospel”. Things that have held us back or have just not made sense in our relationship with God and understanding of the Bible will fall inline as we move forward. It might be messy and might offend the old mindsets, but where else can we go but where the life is?

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:18)

 

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The Not So Bad News of the Not So Mad God

My spiritual father Bill and I have been talking about how the law has tainted pretty much every aspect of the Western church for the past couple hundred years.

One such area that highlights our Old Covenant mentality is evangelism. This is supposed to be about presenting good news to people that brings life. What ends up happening in the modern evangelical scene is that we preach bad news of the law that leads to death. But we read that God has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life (2. Cor. 3:6). So based on Scripture, we obviously missed it somewhere.

I used to look for good tract cards to hand out to people and what I typically found was that the gospel was presented sort of like this:

“God is holy. You are sinful. The punishment for sin is death. God killed Jesus instead of you. Now He will give you mercy if you repent, confess, and believe the way we do.” Of course, it might not sound exactly like that, but this is the message that gets across to people. Jesus came so now God is not so mad and the opportunity for salvation is not so bad.

It recently occurred to me that we present the gospel through the lens of law. Rather than starting the way Jesus did when He Himself presented the gospel by saying, “For God so loved the world…”, we start with saying how God is a Judge and that He has laws. You, the sinner/bad guy, have broken these laws. But the not so bad news is that there is a way for you to be legally pardoned for your sins.

Where on Earth is relationship in all of that? Where is the emotion of the Father of creation who longs for His lost sons and daughters?

Is it true that God is holy and that we all have fallen short of God’s original intention? Yes, but that is not the good news and we were told to preach the good news, not just the ‘true’ news. The truth that God has loved us with an everlasting love and has made a way for us to be free to know Him is the higher truth than the truth of our fallen condition.

For years, I was hindered in preaching the good news to people due to a mixture of law and grace. But we have been privileged and entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Paul clearly defines what that is in the following passage:

that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2. Cor. 5:19-20).

The motive for sending Jesus was not appeasing an angry God, but satisfying the desire of a loving Father who wanted His creation back. God was reconciling the world when it was hostile toward Him. Rather than having a change of heart and deciding not to kill us, He revealed His heart that He had for us all along. He doesn’t change; the power of the blood changes us.

All of the reconciling is complete from God’s side. Now, we are to implore people, urge them to be reconciled to God. I, like Paul, am not saying that everyone is saved already. That is an unbiblical conclusion that some teachers have made as a reconciliation involves two parties.

But on the other end of the pendulum, you have preachers who portray a God who has His arms crossed and is waiting for people to pray the right prayer or confess the right amount of wrongs before He will accept them.

What we see in Scripture is a happy father who runs to the prodigal when they are still a long way off. We see a God reaching out through His witnesses to people, to get them to join the party He is throwing in heaven; a  party that gets triggered when just one sinner changes their mind.

As I mentioned in my post,  Is God a Lawyer or a Lover?, God’s heart is that of a lover, not a lawyer. The people wanted law, so God conceded (see Exodus 19-21). God is love and because He is, He executes justice and judgment against that which harms His creation.

His plan was always to enter relationship with us through the grace that Jesus brought. But we have taken something relationship oriented, the preaching of the gospel, and have made it law-based. Sure, we might acknowledge that we are saved by grace, but then go on to emphasize the correct way to approach Jesus and appropriate what He did for us. The grace and relational aspect of the Father’s heart gets buried by the demands of the religious, “right” way to come to Jesus. Let alone the pressure we put on believers once they have received the Lord, we make getting through the door pretty tough :)

I say these things not to put down anyone who has been involved in preaching the gospel. I, like others, am starting to see that there’s a whole lot more to this New Covenant than I thought. I am in a process of letting go of the old rigidity and discovering the Father’s nature. I realize that we have been steeped in law and need fresh revelation. I need to know His grace that I thought to have known so many times before, only to be pleasantly shocked.

In conclusion, rather than piecing random verses together and making a law-based gospel (the Roman Road, for example), let’s be free to preach the gospel the way Jesus Himself and Paul preached it. There’s a reason why it is ‘good’.

I  think the reason evangelism has felt so hard for some of us is that God has anointed us to preach good news, but we’ve been going with the not so bad news. The problem is, as Christians, we know deep down that the Father loves us, but have had trouble expressing it through the gospel message. Rather than pursuing the true gospel, we settle for the not so bad news that God is not so mad at us.

However, this announcement of a happy Father gathering His lost creation back to Him is so good that we need revelation to see how good it is (Eph 1:18), not endurance to tolerate it! Paul knew this well. As he told Timothy, his message was:

According to the glad-message of the glory of the happy God, with which entrusted am, I. (1 Tim. 1:11, Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible).

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What does it really mean to be a follower of Christ?

I think we need to define what it actually means to be a follower of Christ. Some people, especially young zealots, seem to have an overly romanticized version of following Jesus. Now, following Jesus is more romantic and adventurous than one could ever imagine.  But we have a tendency to develop an idealistic way of looking at the Christian life. In this deception, we strive to produce particular types of fruit rather than learning to abide in the Vine, which leads to fruit bearing. see John 15

One person insists, “If you follow Jesus, that means you will be spending your time helping the poor.” That might be what Jesus will want to do through you and is very important to the heart of God, but that in and of itself is not what it means to be a follower. Jesus also spent time ministering to the rich.

The next person says, “Following Christ means you will go to foreign lands to preach the gospel. The more dangerous the mission field, the more Christ-like your calling is.” Again, that might be what following Jesus will mean for you. But that in and of itself is not how we should define following Jesus. Maybe your mission field is your seemingly mundane job you are trying to leave in order to become a “missionary” :)

Jesus makes it clear that following Him will lead us down different paths, depending on the follower. Concerning Peter and John, He made it clear that their individual walks with would have different outcomes:

 Truly, truly, I say to you (Peter), when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him, “Follow Me!”

Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on His bosom at the supper and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:18-22)

Where we end up and what we end up doing in God all pertains to the fruit of following Christ, which might be different from person to person. What I would like to address is the actual definition; the core of what it means to follow Jesus.

I believe the key is found in the following passage:

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:3-6).

Jesus said this to His disciples when He just announced to them that He was leaving, which freaked them out. So He comforts them with those words. I know that there is an aspect of how we will be with God for eternity in the passage, but these guys also needed present help. They had been assigned the job of bringing the kingdom of God to Earth. If that was not controversial and impossible enough, now their King was leaving them. But they could still follow Him!

Jesus went to be with the Father and invites His followers to join Him where He is. He explained that we can do this because after He left, He sent us the Holy Spirit to live in us and reveal the living Christ to us (see John 14-17).

It is in abiding in this place as a branch to the Vine, that all fruit happens. I don’t know about you, but I love to hear people who are walking close to God and doing amazing things for the kingdom. When I listen to many of these individuals, they all point back to intimacy with God, experiencing their sonship, as the source of all the wonderful things they are doing.

One day, a thought hit me. I always wonder what it would be like to do the miracle of Jesus in the way that He performed them. However, maybe what I should also be thinking about is what His relationship with the Father was like. Since all fruit comes from relationship, what an amazing time Jesus must have had with the Father during His Earth life.

So don’t be pressured or hyped up into trying to produce fruit. Although this is important and is what we are all called to do, it won’t happen without that intimate abiding Jesus spoke to His followers about before He left the Earth.

I have heard preachers who have basically told their listeners that everyone should be doing what they do in their walk with God. Whether it be their prayer disciplines, the way they evangelize to people, or the way they serve in the mission field, the message is basically this: “You must follow Christ the way I do.”

The problem is, if these people are producing legitimate, Christ-like fruit, they are doing so from a place of relational encounter with God. I cannot take fruit from their branch and then fuse it onto mine. However, I might be encouraged in my faith through their faith to want to connect with the Vine at a deeper level.

Hopefully, this is what people who have walked with God for a long time should be encouraging, but this is not always the case. Especially among young people, I have seen hype used to get people working for God. And while it is possible to move in gifting no matter where you are in your walk with God, if we are not first encouraging an abiding love relationship with Jesus, we will miss the point (just ask the Ephesians – Revelation 2).

Paul said to his spiritual children, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)” However, you don’t read about Paul saying things like, “Why aren’t you lazy Christians out there getting beaten for Christ as much as me? Why aren’t you starting churches and rocking whole cities like I am?”

Rather, we see him say things like, “I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am—except for these chains. (Acts 26:29”

He recognized the truth that abiding in Christ is what produces fruit and so encouraged his spiritual children in that way. He knew that his individual calling had its unique burden to bear; a burden he was not going to try to heap on others, but one he would bear for the benefit of all. He simply wanted everyone to know the Jesus that He did.

To follow Christ is to follow the way of relationship. It is to be with Him where He is so that we can be like Him before men.

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What is the Great Commandment?

So, many of you are probably familiar with the fact that in Christ we are no longer under law, but under grace. But what does that mean? If you start talking like this, all kinds of thoughts start running through people’s minds.

“Are you saying we can sin and get away with it? Should we forget all responsibility to God and man? Don’t preach that lawless grace, brother!”

We as human beings like laws. How else will we keep from falling apart? Don’t worry, there is still one law that Christians are under. This is where much confusion has entered into the church.

Paul, as well as other New Testament writers, made it clear that there is something called “law” for believers. To the Corinthians, he clarified it like this:

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law (1 Cor. 9:21).

What is the “law of Christ”? Many say it refers to what Jesus called the greatest commandments in the law.

And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:36-40)

However, even though Jesus said that the Law and the prophets are summed up in these two commandments, we are not under the Law. He said this to a lawyer, not to His disciples. Yet, I have heard many messages that say these are the only two commandments Christians have. While I see that these messages come from good intention, this is not exactly how Jesus  instructed us. The reason it is not how He chose to instruct His own, as you will soon find out, is very important.

To us, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you”, which is to love others even as He has loved us. (John 13). This is a new thing, not a reiteration of the old.

As I’ve mentioned before, the “Love the Lord” and “Love your neighbor” commands start with us. “You love the Lord” and “You love your neighbor”. From grammar class, I learned that the understood subject in a command is “you”. The problem was, we had a major love deficit and needed God to save us from our unloving selves.  The new commandment requires that we receive the love of Jesus so that we can overflow to others.

Those great commandments in the law are great indeed, don’t get me wrong. But again, they were summations of the Old Covenant, not the New Covenant commandments. The law points to the problem rather than providing the solution. What the law demanded, grace has supplied.

John, who penned the new commandment Jesus gave us in His gospel, later wrote to his spiritual children:

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

So after thousands of years of having the command to love God and our neighbor, love was not truly seen until the Father sent the Son. Love was not found in us trying to love God. Paul puts it this way,

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:6,8)

So while it is great to be zealous to love God and our fellow man, the commandment starts with us letting God love us. Without being fueled by His love, our attempts will just not do. If the law could have produced this, we would not have a need for grace.

Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. (Gal. 3:21).

As I was pondering these things, it occurred to me. We are not keeping God’s commandment if we are not receiving His love. If we find ourselves falling short of any Christian virtue or deed, we need first ask ourselves have we been drinking from the well of His love for us. We need the childlike honesty and humility that trusts only in His love that first loved us and will see us through till the end.

The law we are under is none other than the person of Christ, whom we believe and from whom all good fruit is borne.

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. (1 John 3:23)

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

 

 

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