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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Winning Our Own Souls

Today, I want to expand on a statement I made in my last post:

“I have to say that I felt totally unprepared for trials and suffering with what I had been taught in church…” I am sure many can relate to feeling motivated to pursue our inheritance in Christ and then disillusioned when we don’t see it manifest in the way we thought it should.

I think it is easy to get people excited about who they are in Christ, given the glorious hope and power we have in Him. I also think it is easy to get discouraged when things don’t look so full of glory.

Do we throw in the towel during those times? Do we say, “Well, the good life in Christ might be for a few select superhero saints?” Do we start to become more moved by what we haven’t seen than by what He has said? Has God forgotten about us when we face trying circumstances or does it mean we have sinned and are reaping consequences?

Paul understood that believers could get confused by the trials they encounter in light of the finished work of Christ which has brought us victory. He explained how we should respond to this tension in the following passage:

 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation (Rom. 5:2-4, NLT).

Maybe its not that God’s Word is not true or that we have done something wrong, but that we just need some simple endurance. This goes against the grain of our instant potato society, but also many of the common attitudes in the church. Much like the Jews of Jesus’ day, we tend to think of someone being outwardly blessed as someone who is doing all of the right things. Someone who is going through hard times is sometimes viewed as having some sort of failure, usually directly related to performance.

But perseverance and endurance are key to experiencing the reality of salvation in our souls. Jesus said, “By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls.”  (Luke 21:19, AMP)

He is not saying that endurance is how you get saved (neither am I). He is saying it is how the salvation we already have rises to the surface.

Who we are in Christ gets concealed in our Spirit when we first receive Him, but gets revealed in our soul as we grow in Him. Peter talked about this in his first letter. He begins by declaring how we have been spiritually reborn.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Pet. 1:3)

That is a spiritual experience, as Jesus explained to Nicodemus in John 3 (that which is born of the Spirit is spirit). But look at what Peter says a few verses later:

Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Pet. 1:8-9).

Wait, I though going to heaven was the outcome of my faith? According to Jesus and Peter, the outcome of faith in Jesus should be becoming fully alive in our souls. The life in our spirit is supposed to affect our everyday “soul life” here on Earth.

What is also interesting, and also lines up with what Jesus and Paul said, is  that between the time of receiving Christ (becoming alive in our spirit) and experiencing salvation in our souls, there is that aspect of running into trials.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7).

Again, trials have a way of bringing what is deep in our spirit to the surface of our souls. I have experienced this first-hand and even realize that trials can be necessary, as Peter says, to give us that little push into faith so that God can further his work in us.

This does not mean God is a spiritual masochist or that we need to look for trouble. We will find plenty of opportunities by simply facing life while trusting the Comforter without retreating in our man-made comfort zones.

To sum it up, we as believers know that our Spirit WAS born again and our body WILL BE made incorruptible when Jesus returns. But what happens between those two events is all about God being revealed in our souls.

So whether we are in a glory or suffering moment, we have only reason to get happy because of the great love which our Father has for us. We can look forward to more and more of the life of Christ in our souls, both now and forever.

 I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.] (John 16:33, AMP)

Note: By spirit, I am referring to the eternal part of us that is aware of the spirit realm; the deepest part of our being. By soul, I am referring to the conscious part of our being; which commonly includes our mind, will, emotions, and imagination. The soul can be influenced by the spirit as well as our body/surroundings (which I will discuss further in a future post).

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Freedom From the Fear of Death

I know I’m a week late, but I have a word about resurrection power that has been burning in me.

What we believe about the resurrection is paramount to the life of the Christian. So much so that Paul said if there is no resurrection, then our preaching and faith are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).

For some, this is viewed as an escape, rather than a hope. “God, rescue me in the rapture! This old world will be burned up, but I will survive,” becomes our anthem, rather than “I can walk through this life without fear of death. Bring it on!”

In reaction to the passive and fearful attitude I described above, some Christians avoid talking about the hope of resurrection as they say we should focus on being blessed and impacting the here and now. One says live for eternity. The other says live for today. But what about living  from eternity today?

This is clearly what is modeled in the life of Jesus and the early church. Ol’ Paul didn’t always stay in a five star hotel while speaking to friendly Christians in conferences throughout his ministry. He was faced with death all the time. Yet, because of the hope of the resurrection, he knew death was powerless over him. He told his young protégé:

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.  For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day (2 Timothy 1:8-12).

Does that sound like someone who wanted to “fly away” and get out of here? He faced the suffering unashamed because he knew his real life and treasure were safe in Heaven. He then got to crush the kingdom of darkness, knowing there was nothing anyone could do to truly harm him.

But I think we in the modern Western church measure our spiritual success by the amount of prosperity we have or how comfortable our lives are.

While God does prosper and bless us with Earth goods, I also see the tendency to lose heart when these things are not in abundance. This quickly shows us what we are trusting in. I am not trying to rebuke anyone as I have been guilty of this and am trusting God for His grace in that area. While I assume personal responsibility for my choices, I also have to say that I felt totally unprepared for trials and suffering with what I had been taught in church.

I think the reason we avoid talking about suffering and even dismiss people who do is because we do not have a clear grip on resurrection power.  This allows a fear of death to remain in our lives.

To fear death is to fear loss. Of course the loss of our physical lives is a concern for most, but there is a fear of death we can experience while living that I believe has even more of a crippling effect on people.

Many of us, without realizing it, have placed our security and trust in people and things rather than the Lord. When we worry that something might happen to said people/things, we experience this “fear of death”.

For example, let’s say you are on your job. You want to be fearlessly telling people about Jesus as opportunity comes, but you fear that you might lose your job if you do so. The real issue boils down to trust. If you are trusting God, then why worry when He promised to supply all your needs and you are part of a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Even if you do lose your job, you will not lose the favor of God, which the Bible says is better than silver and gold.

From what I have seen, possibly the biggest source of the fear of death is relationships. The thought of losing a relationship or even being bumped down a notch in someone’s eyes can be an enslaving fear. So we do and say things in a way that will provide security in our relationships by not rocking the boat. This leads to manipulating people’s emotions so that we will stay in their good graces or make them feel bad about upsetting us.

This is the wisdom of the fallen age that James calls earthly, sensual, and demonic (James 3:13-17). This will keep us from believing and obeying our wonderful Father as we place our security in maintaining people’s respect and allegiance. This is how the Pharisees of Jesus’ day operated. He asked them,

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God (John 5:44)?

They sought the approval of men and thus feared them rather than God because they valued human praise above pleasing the Lord. Fear and trust are intertwined. If we fear someone or something, we will develop trust in it according to the power of influence it has over our life. That does not mean we are wanting to actually place our trust in a negative thing. But because we deem it as something that affects our well being or lack thereof, we trust its power. The good news is, that trust can be directed towards our awesome Father.

The Last Enemy

As grace oriented people, we know that the Lord Jesus conquered death through His finished work, but people still physically die all the time. The Bible says this is the last enemy to be defeated.

For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death ( 1 Cor. 15:25-26).

What I find to be awesome is that Jesus already destroyed him who had the power of death.

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil… (Heb. 2:14)

Why did he do that? To deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. (Heb. 2:15)

The word “destroyed” in that verse does not mean He killed the devil, but means to “bring to naught,” and  “render impotent as though not existing;”. So that means the enemy is paralyzed from producing fruit in our lives. He is powerless over the believer. So we have every reason to not fear death.

We know that sin is what brought death. We also know that Jesus saves us from sin and we will actually never truly die. So we could say that the last enemy to be destroyed in the soul of the believer is a fear of death.

As we get to know Jesus and the power of His resurrection more, the more fear of death will not be an influence. So whether we are experiencing outward blessings or trials, we can be just as secure in our heavenly status through the power of the resurrection.

When we are living without the fear of death, we will be dangerous. When someone has nothing to lose, nothing more can be done to them. When we do have something to lose, we will fight to hang on to it.

Here is a summary of what I have discussed:

  1. The hope of the resurrection is what motivates us to live fearlessly in the present, rather than causing us to want to escape to the after-life.
  2. Death itself is the last enemy to be destroyed and this will happen when Jesus physically returns to Earth.
  3. The one who had the power of death HAS been destroyed; the devil’s power is paralyzed in the life of the believer.
  4. Therefore, believers can live free from the fear of death, which is a type of slavery that people are bound to throughout life.

Happy resurrection life my friends!

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Should we only do what God says?

Often you hear preachers say we should only do what God tells us to do. In the Charismatic circles, what is implied is that God will communicate directly to you through an impression, a vision, dream, by speaking to you, etc.

I too am all about receiving personal revelation from the Lord and have had the privilege of living in that for most my life. However, when it comes to actively living out the gospel, there is more to the equation than doing something only when God gives you a specific word. As I explained in my last post, hearing from God and having the Spirit come upon us was an event in the Old Covenant. In the new, this is to be our 24×7 lifestyle.

Should we do what God tells us to? Of course! Should we not do what He tells us not to? Um… yeah, unless you like living miserably. But the question is, should we not do what God does not tell us to do?

This is where I have gotten confused. What should I do if I want to do something but God has not “told me” to do it or not told me not to do it  (this is turning into a tongue twister)?

Many of the non-Charismatic parts of the church would say to just go by the Bible. Without getting into a big debate, although we should continually read the Bible and live out of a Biblical approach to life, the Living Word (Jesus) told us the Spirit would guide us. The Spirit will work with the written word but this does involve specific, timely revelations.

On the other end of the debate are people who say we should only do something IF we hear or see something from the Spirit. They might bring up how Jesus said He only did what He saw His Father doing.

However, Jesus was not conducting a Charismatic meeting on how to move in the Spirit when He said that. He was defending Himself to religious Jews who found fault with Him for healing a man on the Sabbath  (see John 5).

These religious leaders needed to know that their beef was not with Jesus, but with the God they claimed to know. Their idea of Him was all wrong. Jesus was saying He knew what the Father liked. They obviously did not as they valued keeping  their traditions a certain way above healing a hurting individual. So Jesus explains to them that they don’t know God because they don’t recognize that He and the Father are one and He is simply about His Father’s business.

There are indeed plenty of Scriptures in which Jesus instructs His followers on Kingdom living and doing the works. But these are more broad; He doesn’t say not to move unless we get a specific revelation. For example:

“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15-18) Where in the world? All places. Who should we preach the good news to? Everyone. You might even wonder if your neighbor is half-beast, so Jesus makes it clear by saying we should preach to “every creature”.

Here’s another one. Jesus said whenever we are received in a city, we should heal the sick there (Matt. 10 & Luke 10). Which sick people should we heal? The ones who are… SICK.

Now I am not saying that the Holy Spirit will not guide us as we go about doing the works of Jesus. I love it when He highlights a person to pray for or gives me a clear word. Often, I’ll feel compassion and anointing rising up for a specific person. The problem is, we have assumed that means God is NOT concerned about the other people and have limited the works of the gospel to special occasions in which God tells us to do what should be our normal  lifestyle.

My main point in all this is not that we have to flag everyone down and preach to them or go to the hospital to pray for every patient there. Preaching and healing are fruits of our relationship with God. I am trying to talk about the root. We as Christians do not have a God switch that gets turned on only during special events. Christ is in us as a full-time resident. Letting Him live through us is our privilege and calling. If He is in me, then should I not have His heart for the person in front of me? Shouldn’t His heart be my heart too, even if God doesn’t say “I want you to love that person!” specifically?

A Lesson from Paul

Paul was a man who lived in obedience to the will of God, right? Well he did not model a life of sitting around until God said to do something. He was captured by God’s heart and the power of the gospel.

One time, he was going from place to place with the gospel and the Spirit forbid him to go to Asia. Okay, so he thought it might be good to go to Bithynia. Nope, the Spirit said no again. Then he had a dream about a man in Macedonia needing help. Yep, that was the Spirit re-directing him (Acts 16:6-10). But did God ever rebuke Paul for not waiting to hear what to do originally? Nope. As Bill Johnson put it, the light is green unless God says red, not vice-versa.

God’s main objective in our lives is not to get us to listen to a command and then do it the way a worker simply follows orders. Yes he wants us to learn His voice, but the main goal is to become like Him through experiencing relationship with Him.

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you (John 15:15).

This is a life of adventure and excitement, not passionless rule following. In fact, He longs to be able to do our will! Rather than restricting us, God wants to free us to be like Him so we can truly be who we were created to be. When someone asks us, “Was that God or was that you?”, God wants us to be able to honestly answer with a “yes”.

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