The Feast of Booths

The first biblical reference to booths is found here:

Genesis 33:17 Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock; therefore the place is named Succoth.

Moses expanded this idea into a time of celebration for Israel:

Leviticus 23:34 “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘On the fifteenth of this seventh month is the Feast of Booths for seven days to the LORD.

Booths were temporary housing which foreshadowed the church of saints first drawn to the resurrected Christ that we see in the New Testament.

It was not God’s intent that Israel live indefinitely in booths.  Neither was it His intent that the New Testament church go on indefinitely.  It was only to house the believing until the kingdom of God came.  And that was to happen, of course, before the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries had all passed away (Matthew 10:23; 16:28; 24:34).  (If you are in doubt, see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)

See also these posts:

The Feast of Temporary Housing

When Christ Was King of Israel and When He Became King of All Nations

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree As He Himself Would Be Cursed

In Matthew 21:19, Jesus cursed a fig tree.  It withered.

This foreshadowed the withering Jesus was about to experience on the cross.  He was a tree made to bear fruit (Psalm 1:1-3), yet He would bear the curse that we deserved and He did not (2 Corinthians 5:21).

As Paul said in Galatians 3:13, quoting Deuteronomy 21:23, everyone hung on a tree in Jewish culture was considered cursed of God.

Jesus was giving His disciples a way to understand what they were about to witness.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Major Biblical Metaphors

In order to help people understand the sort of relationship He wanted with them, God used certain metaphors from everyday life in the biblical age.  These include the following:

Kingdom –  wherein Christ is the king and we are the subjects.

Marriage – wherein Christ is the bridegroom and we who love Him are collectively the bride.

Covenant – which is very much like a marriage.

Yoke- which itself serves as a metaphor for marriage or covenant: two walking and working together in common cause.

Family – wherein Christ is the father and we are the sons who lovingly seek to imitate Him.

Slavery – wherein Christ is the master and we are the slaves.

What is common to all these metaphors is interaction and mutual commitment.  God does not desire to be divorced from us.  Rather, He desires faithfulness.  We seek Him because He first sought us (1 John 4:19).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The Two Destinies in Zephaniah 3

The destiny of the people of God as outlined in Zephaniah 3:1-7 matches that of “the earthly Jerusalem” described by Paul in Galatians 4:21-31.  The destiny of the people of God as outlined in the remainder of the chapter (Zephaniah 3:8-20) matches that of “the Jerusalem above” described in the same Galatians passage.

Note how dramatically different are the destinies of these two “cities.”  One dies, and the other lives.  One is judged, and the other is able to rejoice.

This prophecy was fulfilled in the time of Jesus.  See Matthew 21:43 where He gives warning to the religious leaders of Israel that God was making a choice in that generation.

In every age there is the false city of God, and the true city of God.  In our age there are those who pursue church versus those who pursue the kingdom of God.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Matthew 12:8

Matthew 12:8 “For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

During the biblical age, the sabbath was a certain day of the week. However, in our age – the eternal age – the Sabbath is the age itself.  That is, we live in the eternal age which represents God’s rest from all His creative work accomplished during the biblical age.

This work that was accomplished includes not only the original creation, but also all the work of redemption accomplished through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the Son of Man, the firstborn from the dead, the firstborn of the new creation.  Thus, Jesus Christ is Lord of this eternal age.

When Jesus originally spoke the words of Matthew 12:8, He spoke them in anticipation of His coming resurrection.  That resurrection would take Him to heaven where He would fulfill Daniel 7:13-14.  Thus He is Lord of all, and His dominion is everlasting.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

The “Law of Moses” Became the “Law of Christ”

The New American Standard Bible has 23 verses using the expression “law of Moses,” and 2 that use the expression “law of Christ.”  These latter two occurrences refer to the transition that took place during New Testament times, in which Jesus used the Scriptures to proclaim His teaching.

The words had always been there, but Jesus brought the dimension of spirituality to Moses words and thus altered the focus of the sacred texts.  Thus five times in the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount we hear Jesus, quoting the Old Testament in each case, say, “You have heard…but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44).  He was using Moses’ words to make a far more spiritual point.  Thus we also see verses like these in the New Testament:

Mark 7:18 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him,
Mark 7:19 because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

1 Corinthians 9:9 For it is written in the Law of Moses, “YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?
1 Corinthians 9:10 Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher to thresh in hope of sharing the crops.

By such passages we see that the Law of Moses had a focus on physical aspects of life that would ultimately be translated into a spiritual focus through Jesus Christ.  Thus the Law of Moses became the Law of Christ.  And here then is how that Law of Christ can be summarized:

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Romans 13:9 For this, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

and

Galatians 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

The Law of Moses was intended to regulate the nation of Israel until Messiah came, at which time it was converted to Messiah’s royal law (i.e., “the law of Christ”), which is…to love.  None of the words of Moses changed – just the meaning.  And the new meaning did not violate the initial meaning.  Rather, the meaning was elevated and intensified.  That is, the moral requirement was raised.  For example, under Moses murder was wrong.  Under Christ, even nursing anger in your heart is wrong.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible.

For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom. Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Life Is a Passover for the People of God

Christ is the Passover lamb, and thus He is the nourishment for the people of God as they weather the storms of life.

We who seek to live for God in this world do not seek a life of pleasure:

Hebrews 11:25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

And we know that the judgment of God begins with us:

1 Peter 4:17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

Therefore, it is not a life of ease we are expecting.  It’s just that our lot will be better than that of those who forsake the Lord:

1 Peter 4:18 AND IF IT IS WITH DIFFICULTY THAT THE RIGHTEOUS IS SAVED, WHAT WILL BECOME OF THE GODLESS MAN AND THE SINNER?  [quoting Proverbs 11:31]

Thus earthly life is to us a Passover.  With difficulty all around us, we take refuge in our Lord who protects us and sustains us.  For this reason the prophet said:

Jeremiah 45:5 ‘But you, are you seeking great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I am going to bring disaster on all flesh,’ declares the LORD, ‘but I will give your life to you as booty in all the places where you may go.'”

Therefore, let us live life as our Passover, feasting on the lamb provided by God Himself.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Genesis 11:4 – We Gather to God but Scatter to the World

Genesis 11:4 They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top will reach into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Every time a new church starts today, this describes the underlying motivation.  And it’s not a good one.

We should be trusting in the name of the Lord instead.  And we should not be afraid of being scattered, because this is just what the Lord commanded we should do:

Genesis 1:28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth…

God reiterated this command as Noah and his family came off the ark, not too many years before the Tower of Babel was built (Genesis 9:1).  Thus the very building of the tower was in defiance of God’s command.

From the beginning, God’s plan was that we would “go into all the world” (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19).  That’s where we can act as salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  We gather to God but scatter to the world.  This is God’s way.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

The Bible Is a Book for Jews at Heart

Romans 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.
Romans 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.

With the coming of the kingdom of God, the age-old distinction between Jew and  Gentile was erased.  A new creation came.  In this new creation, your physical descent matters not.  What matters is your heart before God.

God has always looked at the human heart, but in this new age of the kingdom of God heart matters more than ever.  It’s no longer the physical descendants of Abraham who are heirs of the promises and who are assigned the task of showing God’s light in the world.  Rather it’s those who through their love for God have proven themselves in God’s sight to be worthy spiritual descendants of Abraham.  These are “the true Jews” in our day.

Thus the Jewish people which produced the Bible, and about which we read in the Bible, were a type (i.e. a foreshadowing) of the people to come who would bear faithful witness to the one true God.  This “people to come” would not be Jews outwardly, but rather they would be Jew inwardly.  Their circumcision would be of the heart by the Spirit.  and they would seek praise only from God and not from men.

If you aspire to be this kind of Jew, it is a good thing you desire.  These are the true people of God in our day.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

When God Makes Things Obsolete

Whenever God makes something obsolete, there are always some people who want to hang on to it anyway.

We’ve seen how God rendered obsolete the practice on anointing with oil a king for Israel.

Christians can recognize this mistake in Jews who want to hold on to old covenant understandings, but don’t seem to recognize the same tendencies in themselves.  Some Christians cling to communion, even those it is obsolete.  They cling to water baptism, even though it is obsolete.  They want to cling to church, even though it is obsolete.

Jews and Christians alike recognize that God has rendered animal sacrifice obsolete – why can’t they recognize that animal sacrifice is not the only biblical practice that biblical principles have rendered obsolete?

Hebrews 8:13 When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.

Yet how can what’s obsolete ever disappear if people keep clinging to it?

Leave behind the types and shadows, and pursue the reality of Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God!

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who  read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.  

Zion – The Place of the Lord’s Interest

The glory of Zion was a theme of Psalms and the Prophets.

Zion is sometimes called Mount Zion.  In either case, it is often used as a synonym for Jerusalem, or as the heart of Jerusalem since it is considered the location of the temple.  Zion was a place always considered near and dear to God’s heart.  See, for example, Psalm 48.

When Jesus was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God, however, an entirely new light was cast on this subject.  Specifically, the Zion God was interested most in was in heaven, not on earth.  For David had prophesied of the day God would say of His Messiah in the second psalm:

Psalm 2:6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King
Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

And God fulfilled this promise when He raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at His right hand (Acts 13:32-33).  Thus began the watershed moment in God’s great plan to permanently turn our affections away from things on earth so that we might place them on things in heaven.  Thus Paul could write:

Colossians 3:1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
Colossians 3:2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

and

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

There are many other verses along these lines, but none more notable from the standpoint of Zion than this:

Hebrews 12:22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels,

And thus the place of the Lord’s greatest interest moved from earth to heaven so that the place of our greatest interest might follow accordingly…and that we might say, along with those who have walked this earth in faith before us:

Hebrews 13:14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Ecclesiastes 9:14-15

Ecclesiastes 9:14 There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it.
Ecclesiastes 9:15 But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man.

The “small city” was the world and the “few men in it” were the human race.  Satan was the “great king” who “surrounded it and constructed large siegeworks against it.”  Jesus was the “poor wise man” who “delivered the city by his wisdom.”  See John 3:16.

Who will remember that “poor man”?

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

The Kind of Thing Jesus Does to the Old Testament

Jesus interprets the Old Testament spiritually rather than physically.  Consider, for example, what Jesus does with the Old Testament’s dietary laws [emphasis added]:

Mark 7:18-19 And He *said to them, “Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?” (Thus He declared all foods clean.)

Colossians 2:16-17 Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day–things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

Romans 14:16-17 Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

This does not mean that such provisions are to be ignored, for Jesus said:

Matthew 5:17-19 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Instead of a fleshly orientation, we are to read food and drink passages in a spiritual manner, as is demonstrated in Paul’s letter to the believers in Corinth:

1 Corinthians 5:7-8 Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Let us therefore by all means read the Old Testament – but do so through Jesus’ interpretation, not our own.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB unless otherwise noted.

Our Pearl of Great Price

Matthew 13 relates a string of parables Jesus told.  Among them was a very short one about a pearl merchant who found one particular pearl so valuable that he sold all that he had in order to buy it (Matthew 13:45-46).

To whom can this pearl refer other than to our wonderful Lord Jesus Christ, for whom we should sell all that we have in order to gain Him?  Paul thought so and thus wrote the words of Philippians 3:1-11, in which he declared that he had given up all in exchange for Christ.  To trade everything for Christ is also what Jesus advised the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-27 – that is, Jesus said to him, “Go, sell all that you have and come, follow Me.”

Jesus is indeed the pearl of great price.  He is precious – and everything else is worthless in comparison to Him (Jeremiah 15:19).

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Breaking the Adam-and-Eve Pattern

Christ helps us to recognize – and break – the Adam-and-Even pattern in our lives.

The story of Adam and Eve’s sin is told in Genesis 2-3, but the framework is seen over and over in the Scriptures.

For example, in Joshua 7 we find the story of Achan who in the conquest of Jericho took things God had put under a ban – just as Adam and Eve partook of the food God put under the ban.

In 1 Samuel 15 Saul “rushed upon the spoil” and kept things God had devoted to destruction – reenacting the same pattern.

Then in Psalm 107:10-14 we see the pattern outlined in poetic terms and generalized.  We fall into this dismal cycle when we accept the word of God only briefly.

The pattern is simple: 1) God gives His word, 2) Satan tempts us to disregard that word, then 3) we must resist the temptation…or be caught up in sin.  The way to break the pattern is to hold fast to God’s word in the face of temptation to let it go.  The process of temptation is outlined in James 1:12-15.  It’s not the temptation per se that does us in, but rather our lusts upon which the temptations play.

John summarizes the lusts of the Adam-and-Eve pattern in 1 John 2:16 (that is, the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life).  These three match up with the categories deployed on Eve in Genesis 3:6.  Paul says we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11), and that they are common to humanity (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Nevertheless, within these broad categories Satan employs a variety of temptations.  Consider the parable of the sower sowing seed in Matthew 13, Mark 4, and Luke 8 – all of which describe a variety of forces brought to bear against the word of God sown in the human heart.  James and Peter also testify to the variety of tools Satan has at his disposal (note the terms “various trials” in both James 1:2 and 1 Peter 1:6).  Do not be fearful, however, because the variety means you have passed out of the first stage when one doesn’t even grasp the word of God given to him (Matthew 13:19; Mark 4:15; Luke 8:12).  (If Satan could immediately take away the word, he’d have no reason to bring the subsequent trials and temptations –  this is why James says to consider it all joy.)

Of course, the most important and all-containing word of God for you to grip without releasing is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.  His name is the Word of God (Revelation 19:13).  Live for Him, and resist every temptation to do otherwise!  If you do, you’ll one day be strong.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Christ Is a Type of God

The Bible is filled with types of Christ.  (A type is a representation or pattern of something; a foreshadowing.)

Enoch is a type of Christ (because Enoch “walked with God” and “was taken up”).  David is a type of Christ (because David was a triumphant king).  Solomon is a type of Christ (because Solomon was a regent of peace).  The Scriptures explicitly declare that Adam was a type of Christ (Romans 5:14) and that Isaac was, too (Hebrews 11:19).  The book of Hebrews gives an extended explanation of how Melchizedek foreshadowed Christ.

There is a category of posts in this blog titled “Types and Shadows” which, as of the current date, identifies over 50 types of Christ in the Bible.  Many books have been written about biblical types which list far more than I have.

Thus seeing types of Christ in studying the Bible is neither new nor original.

However, it is worth noting that Christ Himself is a type of God.  As Christ suffered on the cross from the rejection of His people, so God Himself suffers daily as His creation rejects Him.  Just as Jesus uttered no threats from the cross, so God utters no threats as we have our picnics, watch our television shows, and enjoy each other’s company – all while generally disregarding anything He might want to occur in any of those settings.

God created us and all that we see.  How is it right that we live life as if He were absent?  Who acknowledges Him as if He were present – other than an occasional perfunctory prayer (and even those are being eliminated in public meetings)?

It is long past time to stop rejecting the presence of God.  He is everywhere.  We should act like it.

As Christ rose from the dead so God rises in our consciousness that we might acknowledge Him every moment of every day.

As is Christ, so is God.  For Christ is God.

For more on the  subject of Christ being God, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

GICNAT

Noah’s Ark Won’t Do Us Any Good Today

Noah’s ark would provide us no protection from the judgments of God today.  It wouldn’t matter if archaeologists found the original and refurbished it, or if we took the instructions in the Bible and built a new one.  The ark that Noah built was designed for salvation from a specific judgment at a specific time in the earth’s history.  Fortunately, hardly anyone today thinks that Noah’s ark would provide deliverance, so people are not wasting their time pursuing it.

Unfortunately, people are pursuing church today which is just as useless as an instrument of salvation for us as Noah’s ark.  The apostles’ church, that is, the church we read about in the New Testament was designed for salvation from a specific judgment (or set of judgments) at a a specific time in the earth’s history.  Attempting a reconstruction of that church will do no more good than an attempted reconstruction of Noah’s ark.  Each vessel was an instrument of God designed for a specific time.

Noah’s ark and the original church are useful to us as types of God’s deliverance for us who live in the days of the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 10:1-11; Romans 15:4).  Yet people are forever trying to imitate the forms of God’s prior salvations instead of their spirit (Hebrews 11:29).  It is the spirit that prevails; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63).

The purpose of this blog is to praise Jesus Christ in biblical terms.

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Jezebel

Jezebel – she who used her identity as the king’s wife to wield power over God’s people, steal from the defenseless, and live in disobedience and defiance of God’s commandments.  She trusted in worldly cosmetics instead of inner moral beauty.  The name Jezebel is universally considered despicable today, but in her time people were intimidated by her power and yielded to her persuasion.

Likewise, the post-apostolic church (that is, the church as it has existed after New Testament times and still exists today) presents herself as the bride of Christ.  Yet, she is not faithful.  She serves her own needs.  She dominates the people of God, putting them into service for her own purposes.  Most church leaders don’t realize that they are caught up in this antichrist spirit.  Nonetheless, they are.  Their naive intentions are used by the church to enhance its reputation and authority.

The Lord asks, “Who is on my side?’  His next words are a command: “Throw her down!”

Live for the Lord Jesus Christ and throw down the harlot who devours God’s people (Revelation 2:20).

Vashti and Esther

King Ahasuerus was holding a feast with his entire court, as well as dignitaries from his vast empire and officers from his formidable army, in attendance.  As the banquet was reaching its apex, the king sent for his wife to appear before the assembly.  He was proud of her and wanted to show her off.  Queen Vashti refused to come.  This created quite a stir and it was ultimately decided that the king was going to have to get a new queen who would be more collaborative.  A search was launched to find the very best candidate.  Eventually, that turned out to be Esther who proved herself to be a blessing to the king and the country.

Similarly, King Jesus called His subjects to come into His presence that He might have His court and angelic dignitaries see their glory.  Yet they refused.  So King Jesus decided to choose a new queen.  It is supposed that this happened when Israel rejected Him and He chose the church.  Rather, it happened when the church (which was spiritual Israel) rejected Him.  They preferred to walk in each other’s presence rather than His.  Thus He chose for entrance into the kingdom of God only those believers who were worthy.  This is what the final warnings were about in the messages to the churches in the book of Revelation.  Those who were found worthy entered the kingdom of God, the rest had to stay outside.  This is also what Jesus had predicted in His parable of the wheat and the tares.   All this happened at the expiration of the generation in which Jesus had lived…just as He had promised.

Our lesson today is to always walk in the presence of the Lord and His court.  We human beings are on display.  God Himself sees every secret of our hearts.  We must walk before Him constantly as an open book if we are to please Him.  Walking in the presence of other believers is meaningless; it is His presence and piercing eyes that cleanses our hearts from sin.  May we have the spirit of Esther and not of Vashti.

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“Great Is Artemis of the Ephesians!”

Artemis was a great Greek goddess of antiquity.  Some Bibles render the name as Diana, which was the similar Roman deity.  During New Testament times, there was a great temple to her honor in the city of Ephesus.  As the apostle Paul won converts among the Ephesians, artisans in the city became alarmed.  Silversmiths made lots of money producing idols for a consuming pagan public.  Worship of a God who disdained objects of worship was a frightful prospect to these entrepreneurs.  At one point, a great commotion arose as the tradesmen, quite fearful of losing business as more of the public abandoned such idol worship, stirred up the citizens by appealing to their civic pride.  “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” they would shout.  Certainly the reputation of the city of Ephesus was elevated by hosting a temple whose glory was known far and wide in the ancient world.  The crowd was worked into a frenzy at the time, but was eventually calmed.

The same spirits at work in those days are at work today.  That is, there are those whose livelihood or sense of well-being depends on the trade associated with the church.  Just as people were provoked to shout, “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” some today are provoked to claim, “Great is the church of Jesus Christ!”  At the root of it all, however, is still the love of money.  Church is a business and many people make a living from it.  Thus church is today’s version of idol worship.  It substitutes objectification of God for loyalty to God.  It substitutes worship of structures, organizations, and relationships for worship of God.  It substitutes practice of religious rituals and participation in meetings and programs for the practice of the commandments of God.

When you hear people shout, “Great are the works of our hands!” (regardless of what those works are) know that it is God they are rejecting for the sake of their works.  Don’t join them, and don’t be dismayed by them.  They are fighting against the truth, and that is always a losing battle.

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Noah’s Ark in the New Testament Flood of Judgments

The church of the New Testament was God’s chosen vessel for delivering those who were willing to be delivered from the flood of great judgments upon Israel and the world of that time.  So great was the judgment against the nation of Israel that its third great temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.  Not one stone was left upon another.  The judgments upon the rest of the world were also severe: wars, famines, earthquakes.

As Noah built his ark, Christ built His church.  As Noah led in those to be saved, so Christ led in those He was saving.  As Noah led everyone off the ark to live in a new world after the flood, so Jesus led everyone out of the church to live in the kingdom of God on earth.  Noah’s ark was not built for reuse.  Neither was the church designed for multi-generation use.  It was designed for apostolic times only.  Jesus had promised that some who had seen Him in His earthly life would see Him coming in His kingdom.  We can be confident that it happened just as He said it would (2 Corinthians 5:16).

We who live after Noah have no more need of an ark.  We who live after Christ and His apostles have no more need of a church.  We have the kingdom of God which endures forever.  Let us seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and anything else we need will be provided to us.

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Paul’s Ship

In the closing chapters of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke describes how Paul was transported by ship as a prisoner under guard from Caesarea across the Mediterranean Sea to Rome.  The trip included shipwreck and was almost fatal, yet every person on board – all 276 of them – came safely through.  Although Paul had sensed in advance that their sailing would meet with great difficulty and peril, he was unable to convince the authorities to scuttle the trip.  Nonetheless, when the difficulties came, Paul prayed for everyone aboard the ship.  God assured Paul that his request had been granted, and Paul reported such to his shipmates.  Subsequently, during one of the darkest nights, several of the sailors attempted to use the ship’s small boat to abandon the ship and save themselves.  Paul told the centurion and soldiers guarding him, “Unless these stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.”  This time they trusted Paul’s guidance.  They cut away the small boat, removing that temptation for the sailors.  Ultimately, the ship ran aground on the island of Malta, but all 276 made it safely to shore…just as God had promised Paul.

The salvation that God brings to the passengers of the good ship Earth is similarly comprehensive.  He ultimately brings them all safely to heaven.  If God had wanted to grant entrance into heaven selectively, He had many opportunities to do so.  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Deborah, David, Esther, and many others in Old Testament times acquitted themselves admirably.  God could have chosen only people of that caliber and the rest of us would have had no basis for complaint at being left out.  Instead, He planned that all should be redeemed.  As for those who seek a salvation for themselves alone, their selfishness is apparent.  Fortunately, Jesus has kept everyone in the ship and thus everyone will be saved – yet through much difficulty, especially if we do not heed His advance warnings of trouble.

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Another Pharoah Who Knew Not Joseph

During Joseph’s time in Egypt, his wisdom came to be appreciated by the country’s leader.  Joseph was elevated to Pharoah’s right hand, ruling over the entire Egyptian realm.  In a subsequent generation, however, another king arose to rule Egypt who did not remember or appreciate the benefits Joseph had brought to that land.  Thus this pharaoh enslaved the descendants of Joseph and his family – that is, the Hebrews.

Similarly, in our generation we see spiritual leaders who do not exalt Jesus.  They subjugate people in the name of God.  Those strong in faith do not subject themselves to such human rule for the resurrected Lord is able to rule through His kingdom all those who trust Him in this generation.  However, the weak in faith yield to these pharaohs, giving them prominence which distracts from the glory of the Lord.  By doing so, the weak in faith enslave themselves and do not enjoy the ever-increasing glory of  God.

Let us not live in the bondage of an Egypt which has believers ruling over other believers.  Instead, let us live in the promised land of the liberty of the Lord where each believer answers only to God Himself.

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When the Egyptians Attempted It, They Were Drowned

In the book of Hebrews when great feats of Old Testament faith were recalled, the writer spoke of the great miracle at the Red Sea.  The Israelites had fled their slavery in Egypt, but Pharoah’s army was in hot pursuit.  It appeared that the Israelites were cornered at the Read Sea, but God split the sea such that the Israelites were able to cross as though they were passing through dry land.  Subsequently, the Egyptians attempted to chase them through the path God had made.  However, the Egyptians were drowned in the process as God allowed the waters to return to normal.  The lesson was obvious: faith makes a way that unbelief cannot follow.

We see this pattern reenacted before us in the experience of the church since the days of the apostles.  Church in New Testament days was an instrument of God.  It resulted from the preaching of the apostles who bore witness to what they eyes had seen, their ears had heard, and their hands had handled of Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected Son of God and Messiah of Israel.  The apostles bore witness to Jesus and this church bore witness to the apostles, leaving as inheritance to every generation since, the documents we call the New Testament.  These documents not only are the written testimony regarding the Lord, sworn in blood, they are the key to understanding the Old Testament.  Praise be to God for this church, for they escaped the slavery of sin and of the law and glorified the God of Israel, Creator of heaven and earth, and Redeemer of all humanity.

Churches in every generation since have attempted to follow that same path, but without the same spiritual success.  That is because churches in generations since the apostles have made their attempts in the flesh and not in the spirit.  That is, they have not acted in faith, but rather in unbelief.  They have not believed the Lord’s promise that He would return before the generation of Jesus and His apostles had passed away.  Thus they continue to look for a Jesus according to the flesh.  Though humanity has known Jesus in the flesh, we know Him thus no longer.  He is God Almighty…and He is here in our midst, reigning in His kingdom!

Church is useless in this age.  Let every believer in Jesus Christ believe.  He is the invisible God and we should walk before Him in humility all the days and hours of our lives wherever we are and wherever we happen to go.  The glory of His kingdom cannot be contained by a church.

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The Heavens Are Telling of the Glory of God

These words from Psalm 19 have often been used to evoke awe for God’s hand in the work of creation.  And, indeed, His work is worthy of all such awe.

There is, however, a greater meaning to which the words refer – that is, the glory of the heavens to which Jesus ascended after His resurrection.  At that point, the heavens began declaring the glory of God in a whole new way.  The seed of the woman, who had been bruised on the heel, had overcome the seed of the serpent and was now sitting at the right hand of Power.

That was nothing, however, when compared to the shouting and praise that occurred when he who had the power of death was cast down and the sea gave up her dead to the heavens.  Then Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the dead in Christ were raised to be seated at His table in the kingdom of God.  So great were those shouts of praise that they’re still resounding today.

Yes, the heavens are declaring the glory of God with a passion, clarity, and brilliance that is even greater than the physical skies we see.

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The High Places

Are you sacrificing on the high places as if the Lord has not established a central place for the worship of His name?

The Lord has no need of high places.  He has proclaimed that since the coming of Jesus we are to worship in spirit and in truth.  Not in Jerusalem.  Not in Samaria.  Not in any high place you may choose.  We are to worship Him in spirit and in truth which is to say at all times and in all places.

If you have a place that you call church, you have a high place.

Forsake the high places of your gatherings – and worship in the spirit of His gathering.

 

 

The Houses of Baal

Every locale in the land of Canaan had its house of worship.  Though the Israelites were given but one place to worship, they took up this practice.  It was a curse to them because it detracted from the true worship of Yahweh.

In the earth today there are houses of “worship” set up for the Lord God of heaven and earth.  He does not want them.  He wants the light of the glory of the knowledge of Jesus Christ in every place.  He wants His omnipresence honored; He does not want it limited by these “houses.”

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.  In the coming of His kingdom, He reclaimed it all for His name.  This is His house in which we are to worship Him all the days of our lives.  We should not try to build Him a smaller one.

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A Den of Thieves

Some translations render the phrase as “robbers’ den” but the meaning is the same as “den of thieves.”  Jesus used it when He was confronting the money changers and those who were buying and selling at the temple in Jerusalem.  The temple was supposed to be God’s house.  Perversely, it had become place of business instead.  In judging the behavior, Jesus was borrowing this phrase from Jeremiah who had used it on behalf of the Lord hundreds of years before when a similar perversion was taking place.

There were probably lots of conventional thieves or robbers dwelling in Judea and surrounding regions in those days.  We have no record of Jesus confronting any of them.  Someone could say, “Why didn’t He go after the real crooks?”   The reason is that everyone already knew that what the “real” crooks were doing was wrong – even the crooks themselves.  When it came to business affairs in God’s temple, however, Jesus had to make it clear that such activities were not God’s will.

The religious leaders who allowed the money-making activities in the temple were doubly wrong (that is, twice as wrong as the “real” crooks):  they were stealing and they were doing it in God’s name.  It’s bad enough to have your money confiscated from you by a thief, but to have him say that he’s doing it in God’s name is demeaning to you and blasphemous of God.

Think of how much business takes place in the church today.  I’m not just talking about the books, tapes, CD’s, etc.  I’m also talking about the tithing sermons, pledge drives, and capital campaigns.  There’s no meaningful difference in these two categories, for both take money and return a product or service which must please the consumer.  All this money changing hands has nothing to do with serving God and everything to do with funding a way of life for man-made organizations.  We justify it all, telling ourselves that God’s ministry cannot go on without the money.  The reality is that our ministries as we’ve conceived them cannot go on without the money.  God’s ministry is never constrained by money.

Please stop and think about how many figurative tables the Lord would have to overturn today if He were to re-enact the scene at the temple that day.  In what ministry today does money not change hands?

God’s Temple in the Book of Revelation

In the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the apostle John describes God’s new and eternal temple.  Unlike the first temple which had but one entry point, this temple has twelve gates.  There are three on each of the temple’s four sides, so that there is abundant access from any direction.  These twelve gates are always open – they never close.  Only repentant ones may enter, for liars remain on the outside and cannot enter.  The temple is in fact the Lord God Himself.

This is the kingdom of God in the midst of the earth in which we dwell.  His gates are always open to us, but we cannot enter with unclean tongues or hearts.  God invites us into His kingdom.  We are foolish to settle ourselves in tents outside that we call church.  What He calls His church are those who dwell in this temple, who walk in the light of the Lamb.

Those of us who preach Christ should preach the current presence of this temple for all who will believe in Him and live a life of repentance from their sins.  God forbid we should say it is only for when they die, or for a later age.  Jesus gave His life to provide it, and His followers died to tell about it, so that it might become available to all those who would be obedient to the Lord in any age thereafter.  This certainly includes us.

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The Tower of Babel

At the dawn of creation, God had commanded humanity to fill the earth and subdue it.  There were, however, those who resisted the directive and sought to build for themselves a tower that would reach to heaven.  These people did not want to be scattered.  They wanted to remain attached to each other more than they wanted to remain attached to God.  They were determined to make a name for themselves.  The Lord’s judgment was to confuse their language so that they did not understand each other.  As a result, they abandoned the building and were scattered across the earth – the very scattering they had sought to avoid.

This story speaks of the church in our age (which is actually the kingdom age).  Its leaders have sought to make a name for themselves and keep the people together – all this in spite of the fact that Jesus commissioned His followers to be salt in the earth.  Salt does its work once it is scattered and applied.  These leaders seek to keep it in the bag.  The Lord’s judgment is to confuse their language and indeed there are over 30,000 Christian church denominations.  Even within a given denomination strife and confusion is commonplace, not rare.  So the Lord scatters them.  Church splits are as common as church formations.

What is the Lord telling us?  Serve His kingdom.  Do not try to build towers to heaven, which are really just kingdoms of men.  Rather, go into all the world and live righteously, giving praise to the name of Jesus Christ.  It’s just that simple.  It is we who have complicated it.

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The Feast of Temporary Housing

Depending on which translation of the Bible you use, it may be called the Feast (or Festival) of Tabernacles…or Booths…or Shelters…or Tents…or even something else.  While the translators have had difficulty settling on a single English word, all these words speak of temporary habitation.  The Lord designed this feast to commemorate the time when He brought Israel out of the land of Egypt and just before they were to enter into the land of Canaan.  While the Passover was to celebrate Israel’s deliverance from slavery, the Feast of Booths (just to pick one of the names) was to celebrate the temporary living quarters and resources the Lord provided on the way to the promised land.

The Feast of Booths therefore represents the church age – that time described in the New Testament, when the people had been delivered from their bondage to sin and the Law and were on their way to the promised land of the kingdom of God.  Today’s church with its bricks and mortar has a hard time fitting with this motif of temporariness.  Even house churches and small groups, if they seek commitments to the group from its followers, do not fit this motif.

Though Israel, because of its unbelief and disobedience, ended up spending forty years wandering around the desert between Egypt and the promised land, it had not been God’s intention for them to spend such an extended time in this state.  Similarly, there are churches today still waiting for the kingdom of God, wandering around in the desert of unbelief.  If they believed the Lord, they would disband, for who keeps living in a tent when a mansion has been provided for him?

The kingdom of God came exactly when Jesus, His apostles, and Israel’s prophets said it would come – at the end of the New Testament age (to use our terminology).  Thus the kingdom of God is in our midst now.  We don’t need to live in temporary shelters because the eternal temple of the kingdom of God is our designated habitation.  We enter the kingdom of God not by joining any group of people but rather by joining God – living before Him with an honest heart and an open ear.

The New Testament church stood up to the leaders of the nation of Israel and declared that something greater than Israel’s temple was present.  That same New Testament church would be the first to stand up today and say that the kingdom of God, which came after them, was greater than the spiritual structure that housed them.  That the church was a Feast of Booths preceeding the great and eternal promised land of the kingdom of God was a glory to Peter, John, Paul, Stephen, and all the rest.  That we would seek temporary shelter when permanent shelter has been provided for us at the cost of blood is a shame.

We are depriving people of God’s sanctuary if we are directing them to church instead of the kingdom of God.

Saul Should Have Waited for Samuel

Samuel made an appointment to meet King Saul in Gilgal within a specified time period.  However, when the Israelites began scattering from him, Saul decided to go ahead and offer the sacrifice himself lest the people continue to abandon him.  As priest, Samuel was the appropriate person to offer the sacrifice.  The Lord was displeased with Saul’s cowardice and arrogance, and so He decided to replace him as king.

Similarly, some of the shepherds of God’s flock in the late first century A.D. grew weary of waiting on the Lord’s return and sought to prevent the scattering of the flocks upon which they had come to depend.  As a result, they took upon themselves activities which were rightfully only the Lord’s.  Thus they displeased the Lord and did not inherit the kingdom when it came.  Rather, they were relegated to overseeing the sheep who clung to them.  Their house was desolate, though they have handed it down from generation to generation.  The sheep who would follow only the Lord’s voice heard it when He came and walked away in peace with Him.  His sheep still walk with Him today.  Sometimes the sheep and goats are side by side, but the Lord has no problem distinguishing them.

When the Lord said that He would return before the entirety of His generation had passed away, all of His shepherds should have believed Him – though not all did.  And certainly all of us today should believe that He performed what He promised when He promised it – though not all will.  The Lord invites you to be among those who will believe.

GICNAT

Let His People Go!

The Israelites had become slaves in Egypt, assigned to the construction projects of Egypt’s king.  Moses came to Pharoah on behalf of the Lord and demanded, “Let My people go so that they might celebrate a feast to Me in the wilderness.”

Even so, the Holy Spirit today speaks on behalf of the Lord to all church leaders and commands them to let God’s people go that His people might celebrate a feast to Him in the wilderness.  What is today’s analogue to the wilderness?  Elsewhere.  That is, away from the rituals of church and into the course of daily living where the Lord longs to see righteousness.

God’s idea of worship is not a praise band or an organ.  Rather, it is a heart enthralled with Him.  God’s idea of teaching is not a sermon by a human to a congregation.  Rather, it is the Lord Himself sharing His thoughts with a quiet human heart.  God’s idea of service is not an hour up and down in a chair or pew.  Rather, it is every act of life performed as a loving sacrifice to the One who has given life to us all.

Pharoah did not want to let God’s people go because he had construction projects to complete.  Forsake your construction projects and free God’s people to worship and serve Him.  This is the kingdom of God – and the church of the New Testament gave its life that we might receive this glorious kingdom!

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The Golden Calf of Church

When the Israelites saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain where he was receiving the Ten Commandments, they gathered about Aaron saying, “Make us a god who will go before us for we do not know what has become of Moses.”  Aaron took their gold and made from it a calf for them to worship saying, “This is the god who brought you out of the land of Egypt.”

Similarly, in the last days of the apostles, believers grew weary of believing in the Lord’s return.  They turned to their leaders, also weak in faith, who received offerings and built the man-made church we see today.

That is, as Aaron made a golden calf for the Israelites, so the generation of leaders after the apostles established a permanent man-made church.  The apostles had said that the Lord would soon be coming in His kingdom and therefore had no reason to give instructions about how the church was to operate from generation to generation.  In fact, not only did they make no provision for the management of the church through successive generations (that would have been to doubt the Lord’s return), they specifically said that apostasy would mar the church in its very last days.  Thus the vulnerability to the error of Aaron.

Jesus intended the church to be a temporary structure which anticipated the kingdom of God.  There is indeed a permanent church – yea, an eternal one!  Its rolls, however, are invisible to the human eye for it consists of all those whose hearts truly belong to the Great Shepherd.  This is the kingdom of heaven and it quietly rules in the earth today.

In every generation there are those who worship the golden calf, and there are those who worship the living God.  Let us be among those who seek first the kingdom of the living God and His righteousness, casting aside every idol.

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GICNAT

Sitting at the Gates of the Kingdom of God

Multitudes are taught by today’s church leaders to sit at the gates of the kingdom of God.  Not intentionally, of course.  But when Lord bids us to seek His kingdom, and we do not teach the people how to enter, then we have effectively made them wait outside.

How does one enter the kingdom of God?  By living righteously…from the heart…in the light of Jesus our Lord.

By urging people to enter church instead of entering the kingdom, we do a disservice to them and we dishonor ourselves.  We’ve made them beggars when they were predestined to be children of the King, walking in His courts and basking in His presence daily.

Yet the Lord is able to bring them in even after all this.  Declare the glory of Jesus Christ.  Sing Him your praise.  Let the people and all the world hear your praise of His greatness and His majesty.  Let His house be full!

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Circling the Desert Instead of Entering the Promised Land

Like the Israelites who circled the desert in unbelief, today’s churches survive on manna but do not experience the milk and honey of the land of Canaan.  Each generation has its opportunity to enter the promised land of the kingdom of God.  Will our generation enter, or will we continue going around in circles?

If we are to go in, we must follow our Joshua (i.e. Jesus).  And we do not enter as a group, but rather individually.  Follow Jesus – He will take you there.

Church-Building Is Idolatry

The apostles left no instruction for how the church was to be organized after they all died.  The reason for this was that they expected the Lord to return before they all died.  Therefore, they only had to give instructions to the church of their generation.  After that, the Lord would have arrived in His kingdom and He would give whatever direction was required.  Indeed, that’s just the way it has happened.  The kingdom of God has come.  Jesus is reigning on His throne and shepherding His flock.  He has separated the sheep from the goats and He is not confused about which is which.

Meanwhile, weak humans, lacking the faith to accept these things, have sought to build Him churches.  Peter before them had tried to build a tabernacle for the Lord on the Mount of Transfiguration.  The usual blueprints are the New Testament documents.  The problem is that no church has ever successfully imitated the New Testament church – much less surpassed it.  The reason for all the failure is that the New Testament church was a tent of waiting for the indestructible temple of the kingdom of God that would be descending from heaven.  Since that temple came very soon after the apostle John in the book of Revelation said it would come very soon, it has been in our midst sheltering all who love Jesus Christ with an undivided heart.  God doesn’t need the structure of the church because He has the structure of the kingdom.

This same apostle John warned us to guard ourselves from idols.  Man-made churches are idols for they distract from devotion to the living God.  Like the idols of old, they are objects of our making to which we become devoted.  They are like the high places in Israel, or the houses of Baal (meaning “lord”).  How can we establish such places of worship in the light of what  Jesus said to the Samaritan woman about places of worship?

Jesus Christ is everywhere and He wants to be worshiped everywhere.  He wants no representation of Himself to stand between us.  He wants no house made with human hands whether that be a cathedral building, a megachurch congregation, or a house church small group.  He doesn’t want families to come to one of these places and offer rituals in His name.  Rather, He wants the husband to love the wife, the wife to love the husband, the parents to love the children, and the children to honor the parents.  In other words, He wants righteousness.

We the leaders have tried to draw the people to ourselves when we should have been directing them to Him.

Our idols inspire rituals.  The living God inspires righteousness.

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Cisterns

Speaking for the Lord, Jeremiah said that God’s people had forsaken Him who was a fountain of living waters.  As if that wasn’t enough, they had hewn for themselves broken cisterns which could hold no water.  Their foolishness was staggering.  In a land where water was precious, they had turned away from a never-ending source of fresh water.  Then, and this was even more stunning, they had dug cisterns for themselves to hold rainwater – only the cisterns were broken and thus did not even work!

Likewise, we have forsaken the Lord.  Moreover, we have built for ourselves church after church – which can hold no water.  Oh, our hopes are always high when the new church starts.  But that hope always dries up as human frailties become manifest in the life of the congregation.  In the end, it is a gathering of human beings like any other – with no evidence of distinctively Divine blessing.

Let us forget about hewing cisterns – for our man-made cisterns are always broken.  Instead, let us seek the cisterns of the promised land.  Moses said they would be hewn cisterns which we did not dig.  That is, these are cisterns of the Lord’s own making.  These are hearts that have been circumcised by Him.  From the innermost part of each cistern shall flow rivers of living water.  This is the promised Holy Spirit in the heart of every believer.

Spiritual cisterns can be man-made or God-made.  One kind is useless; the other is dependable beyond measure.

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New Wineskins

Jesus pointed out that people did not put new wine into old wineskins because the old wineskins would burst, and the wine would be wasted.  Rather, people put new wine into fresh wineskins so that both the wine and the wineskin would be preserved.

Similarly, fresh outpourings of God’s grace will not be put into the structures of organized religion.  They cannot contain it, and will burst.  Rather, this grace will be poured into human hearts whose only organization consists of their individual connections to God.

This is the kingdom of God.  Since the New Testament, no church has been able to contain God’s grace.  All have burst.

New wine demands new wineskins.  Let God pour His grace where He will.  He who made the wine has also made the wineskin.

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