The Kingdom of Heaven Versus the Kingdom of Earth

When John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth came preaching the kingdom of heaven, they were announcing the end of religious hierarchy.

Since the time of Moses, the Israelites had been governed by priests, judges, kings, and governors whom God used to oversee the people of God. Even in the run-up to the kingdom of heaven (that is, the time of the New Testament), He used apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, elders, bishops, and such to oversee His people.

In the kingdom of heaven, however, the Lord alone would be exalted (Isaiah 2:11, 17). When the kingdom came, all human authority between God and man was forever abolished (1 Corinthians 15:23-24). This is why you can relate directly to God and do not need a church, a pastor, a priest, or any other earthly intermediary. (As to the fact that the kingdom of heaven has indeed come see Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again or The Kingdom of Heaven Is Here and Now.)

Those today who say they have authority to stand between you and God are simply building a kingdom of earth. You don’t have to concerned with them. In other words, there is no official church of God today. No churches are sanctioned by God, and certainly no other religions are sanctioned by God. Every human being is a child of God and “the people of God” refers to the whole human race. Jesus died and rose again from the dead that all people might belong to Him.  The Lord will know if you pay attention to Him (2 Timothy 2:19)!

Jesus Christ our Lord is present everywhere and you are encouraged to trust Him in faith and live righteously. This is the kingdom of heaven and has nothing to do with human intermediaries. Yes, there are those of us who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ (Would that every human being proclaimed His name!), but we have no authority, no title, and no place of honor. We are just like you: subjects of the kingdom of heaven.

[You may have noticed that today’s post was identical to yesterday’s (The Kingdom of God Versus the Kingdom of Man), except that I substituted the word “heaven” for “God,” and the word “earth” for “man.”  My purpose, in addition to reinforcing the original point, was to demonstrate that the terms “kingdom of God” and “kingdom of heaven” are synonymous.  Whenever you read either of them in the Bible, they are referring to the same reality.  Thus “kingdom of heaven” speaks to a reality of this life, not just the next one.]

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.

Why Do You Who Believe in Hell Not Try Harder to Keep People Out of It?

I occasionally hear from people who cling to the traditional and unbiblical theory of heaven and hell.  That is, they believe that at death some people go to heaven and others go to hell.  (For my belief and its biblical support, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven).  Such people are often vehement in their assertion that hell will last for eternity and that it is unmitigated in its physical and emotional pain.  What’s so strange – aside from the fact that their biblical support, once examined, is so weak – is that they spend hardly any of their lives warning people about this place!

I recently had an extended online debate with two friends who disagree with me strongly on this issue.  At the end, I checked their own web pages and there was not a single word of warning on either one about hell.  They posted their thoughts on politics, on sports, and other subjects.  They both even warned people about issues they should vote on or register an opinion on.  Yet not one word of warning about something they believed would  be of infinitely greater danger than anything that could happen in this life.

So, my challenge to you who believe in an eternal hell for some people is, why – if you love people as Jesus said we should – do you spend time talking to people about anything else?   How can we take you seriously on this subject if you don’t even take it seriously?

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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How Today’s Church Advertises Its Disobedience

Today’s churches declare that Jesus is Lord, but then demonstrate that they are not in submission to Him by how they are divided.

In New Testament days there was only one church.  Oh, they met in different places but it’s clear from the apostle’s writings that there was only one church in each city.  After all, there was the epistle to Rome, Corinth, Ephesus, and so on.  There were not letters to the Ephesian Baptists, the Ephesian Methodists, the Ephesian Presbyterians, and so on.  In fact, when the church in Corinth showed the initial signs of dividing along such lines, the apostle Paul rebuked it sharply (see 1 Corinthians chapters 1 through 3). 

Today’s churches exist in over 30,000 denominations, proving they they are no longer subject to a single Lord.  The first part of Ephesians 5:24 says that the church was subject to Christ.  Well, it has long since abandoned that subjection and gone off entirely in its own direction – or rather, directions. 

In the night before He was crucified, Jesus prayed that those who believed in Him would be one (John 17:22).  Earlier in His ministry, Jesus taught that any kingdom divided against itself would fall (Matthew 12:25).  How can today’s churches claim with a straight face that Jesus is their Lord?  Alas, when I was a pastor I used to claim that He was Lord of me and my church, too.  But He opened my eyes and I saw that I was serving myself more than I was serving Him.  Therefore, I repented.  That is, I changed.  I’m no longer a pastor.  I no longer have a church.  I no longer go to church.  Rather, I seek to obey the Lord.

The church doesn’t need reforming – it needs to be abandoned.  Instead of going to church, obey Jesus.  He said that we should turn from selfishness and love one another.  He also said that we should be humble.  Therefore, don’t associate with any group that thinks it’s holier than everyone else.  Instead, be holy in your behavior.  Husbands and wives, love each other and your children.  Children, honor your parents.  Live for morality, not for gain.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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.

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Is Leaderless Christianity Desirable?

Would it be desirable for the leaders of the over thirty thousand Christian denominations (and the untold number of churches that belong to them, as well as the untold number of nondenominational churches) to forsake their positions of leadership that Jesus Christ might fully reign over His people?  Absolutely!

Think of the glory if these leaders were to forsake lording over the Lord’s flock and instead simply began to praise His name!  Just imagine tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of these Christians singing His praise day by day, declaring the glory of our Lord!  What an advance Christianity as a movement would make!

The Lord does not need our institutions and our organizations but He will inhabit the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3).  Let us therefore proclaim Him with all our might.  Let us shout ‘Hosanna!” to the Son of David.  The world would be far more impacted by this sort of behavior than by all the church building that is going on in God’s name.  God doesn’t need us to build churches.  He wants us to love Him and live for Him.  He builds the one true church of those who trust in Him with their whole hearts.

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

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Your House Is Left to You Desolate

In Matthew 23, Jesus made it abundantly clear that none of us should try to take His place as the leader of God’s people.  He denounced the Pharisees for taking the seat of Moses.  Then He instructed His disciples to avoid positions and titles of leadership.  Yet in spite of this clear warning we have thousands upon thousands of Christian denominations today, each with its own human leadership. 

The apostle Paul foresaw these divisions and spoke out against their first manifestations (1 Corinthians 1-3).  Yet he knew usurpers would come out of hiding after his departure (Acts 20:29-30).  It is upon the foundation of such self-appointed leaders that the institution of today’s Christian churches stand.  Yet Jesus is not ruling them.  Instead, He is ruling the kingdom of God which neither has nor needs any human leadership.

Thus, the houses of worship we see in the world today are left desolate by the Lord.  Be sure that when His word is preached and His name is glorified, He will be faithful.  But He is not being faithful to that institution; He is being faithful to His word, His name, and to those who believe in Him.  This faithfulness of His will be shown wherever His word is preached – whether in a church or not.  Churches have no bearing on the efficacy of His word.  As He said to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem so He says to every leader of a church today, “Your house is being left to you desolate!”  (Matthew 23:37-30)

Repent of your loyalty to any person, group, or name other than Jesus Christ Himself.  He alone is worthy of our obedience, and His name alone is worthy of glory (Zechariah 14:9).

The purpose of this blog is to praise 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, look to the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Psalm 69 – A Psalm of Christ

In Acts 1, Peter quoted from Psalm 69 (and from Psalm 109 as well) as he spoke of Judas.  He said that “the Scripture had to be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit foretold by the mouth of David concerning Jesus.”  If you read the psalm in its entirety, you see that its central subject is ostensibly David (the psalm’s author).  But, as with other psalms, David was looking ahead and prophesying of his descendant, the Messiah.  A reference to the enemies of the psalm’s central figure was where Peter made the connection to Judas.  Thus, the psalm “had to be fulfilled” regarding Judas because Judas had aligned himself against the Messiah.

The important point to see in Peter’s words is that Psalm 69 is being designated by his words as a “psalm of Christ.”  As you read the entire psalm, you will recognize other verses which are applied to Christ elsewhere in the New Testament.

Read this psalm for a greater appreciation of how Jesus constructed His interior thought patterns in His service to the Father.  This will enable you to similarly construct your thought patterns in your service to Christ.

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

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Psalm 16 – A Psalm of Christ

In Acts 2:25-28, Peter quotes verses Psalm 16:8-11.  He makes the point that David was not speaking of himself, but rather prophesying the resurrection of the Messiah.

There are a total of 11 verses in this psalm.  Are we to assume that the first seven verses were about something else and only the last four refer to Christ?  Of course not.  Read the whole of Psalm 16:1-11 and see how the whole psalm speaks of Jesus and how He lived.

Remember: the apostles were with Him day and night.  If there had been discrepancies between what the Scriptures said and the way Jesus lived, they would not have been willing to lay down their lives for Him.  I am not speaking of their time with Him prior to His resurrection, for indeed they had their doubts on occasion.  However, once He was raised from the dead and showed them all that had been written about Him in the Scriptures – that’s the point at which they would have questioned any discrepancies.  No such questioning is reported.  Instead, they boldly declared that He was the One of whom the prophets had written.

There was no earthly glory for Jesus to grant His apostles – no riches, no honor, no spoils of war.  All He had to give was heavenly approval.  Therefore, we may know by their testimony that this psalm of Christ portrays Him accurately.

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

The Similarities of David and Peter

The similarities between David in the Old Testament and Peter in the New Testament are striking.

David exhibited more zeal for God than anyone in his time.  Peter exhibited more zeal for Jesus than anyone in his time.

David was willing to take on the giant Goliath for the honor of God when everyone else was too afraid to fight.  Peter was willing to step out in the storm and walk on the water to Jesus merely on His command when everyone else was cowering in the boat.

David became the leader of the people of God because of the greatness of his heart for God.  Peter became the leading figure among the twelve apostles because of the greatness of his heart for Jesus.

David took up the sword for God.  Peter tried to take up the sword for Jesus.

When David sinned with Bathsheba it indicated his human frailty.  When Peter denied three times that he even knew the Lord it indicated his human frailty.

When David sinned, he repented and accepted his forgiveness…going on to serve his God.  When Peter sinned, he repented and accepted his forgiveness…going on to serve his Lord.

When David came to the end of his life, he made sure his entire legacy – both physical and spiritual – went toward furthering the cause of the Lord.  Consider, for example, how he laid out everything necessary for the temple’s construction before his son Solomon.  When Peter came to the end of his life, he made sure his entire legacy – it was entirely spiritual – went toward furthering the cause of the Lord (Read of the inheritance he left in 2 Peter 1).  Both men were determined that their service to God should survive them.

If David was a man after God’s own heart, and if David and Peter were this similar, what does it say about the identity of Jesus that He would bring into His inner circle someone so much like David?

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

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For Whom Is the Tithe?

When God cried out through Malachi for the tithe to be given so that there would be food in His house, whose interest was He seeking?

Pastors today love to quote Malachi, which they use to equate the withholding of tithes from them to the robbing of God.  They believe God intended this Scripture for the material sustenance of the church.  Yet, the New Testament does not support this view for there are no passages that use Malachi to make this point.  Neither for that matter are there any verses that make this point on any other basis.  There is a reference to tithing in the book of Hebrews but its point would be that the tithe belongs to Jesus as the high priest according to the order of Melchizedek – not to the church.

Jesus should indeed be the recipient of such giving.  We live in the time of the kingdom of God.  Therefore, the house that God wants to have plenty of food is His house, which is the human race.  Therefore, when we give to the hungry or the thirsty, when we clothe the naked, when we invite the stranger, when we serve the sick, or visit those in prison we are giving to those in Jesus’ house.  He said when we have given to the least of His brethren, we have given unto Him.  (He made no reference to the church.)

The time for church ended with the coming of the kingdom of God.  For man-made churches (which all of them are today) to take from God’s tithe is to rob from the least of Jesus’ brethren for whom this surplus of abundance was intended.

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

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Is Your House Doing Better Than God’s House?

If your family doing better than God’s family? 

By answering this question affirmatively , Moses left Pharoah’s palace to live with his fellow slaves, the Hebrews.  By answering this question affirmatively, Nehemiah forsook the comforts of life in the Persian capital and returned to Jerusalem to rebuild it.  By answering this question affirmatively, God Himself left the glory and honor of heaven to walk the earth as one of us.

God does not always ask us to do such dramatic things.  Perhaps He will simply ask us to share from our abundance with those who have need.

God’s house is the human race.  Is your family doing better than the human race? 

If you answered in the affirmative, do whatever He tells you.

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

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Whose House Will You Serve?

Do you exist to serve God’s house or does He exist to serve your house?

Many today who proclaim Christ do so seeking their own houses.  They seek the growth and betterment of their own churches, their own ministries, their own families, their own lives.  And often they seek all these things in material terms: more people and money for their churches and ministries, more material goods for their families and their lives. 

If you would seek the good of God’s house you must seek spiritual blessings and you must seek for them to accrue to others.  Material things are indeed necessary for this life but are always to be kept in a place of lesser importance than spiritual things.

What makes this issue all the more confusing for many people is that what they perceive as God’s house is, in actuality, their own house.  Thus they think of their church as God’s church, their ministry as God’s ministry.  They are blind.  They cannot see God’s house and God’s ministry.  God’s house is humanity.  His ministry is that which edifies human beings.  I am speaking of the entirety of the human race – that which only God can be over. 

So I ask again:  Are you seeking God’s blessing on your house or are you seeking to be a blessing to God’s house? 

Here is good news:  If you seek to be a blessing to God’s house, He will take care of your house.

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

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Do You Know What You Are Asking?

So often when we pray, we do not know what we are asking.

The mother of the sons of Zebedee (the apostles James and John) certainly did not know what she was asking when she asked Jesus if her sons could sit on His right and left when He came into His kingdom.  She thought she was asking for her sons to sit at a place of honor like that which was arrayed around King David in the earlier days of Israel.  She knew Jesus was the son of David and that He would reign over Israel.  What she did not know was that His path to the throne of glory led through the cross.  If she had known it, this mother may not have made this request for she was, in effect, requesting that her sons be persecuted to the point of cruel death.

Christ’s glory is the measure of underserved suffering He took upon Himself for the sake of God.  Similarly, to be close to Him in heaven James and John would have to take on considerable suffering beyond what they deserved as common sinners.

Earthly glory is one thing; heavenly glory is quite another.  Heavenly glory comes at a huge earthly price.  Those who love God, as James and John did, are willing to pay that price.  Let us try to be sure of what we are asking when we pray.  But neither let us shrink from suffering if it will bring Him glory.

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

There Is No Longer Any Sea

Everything in the physical creation represents a spiritual reality.  The whole purpose of creation is to teach spiritual truth, so it is quite reasonable that every aspect of creation should be a teaching tool.

For example, the three-tiered arrangement of creation reflected the spiritual structure of the unseen realm.  There was the earth in which mankind would dwell, with the heavens above and the sea in which to descend.  This reflected the reality that above man were God and the angels.  Below man there was nothing, but the entrance of sin into the world altered that.  The depths now became the place to which the dead were consigned.  The Hebrews called it Sheol, the Greeks term was Hades.  The living at least had a fighting chance, if only they did not sin.  But once sin came, and it always did, one eventually had to go below…to the lowest place one could go in creation.

When Jesus Christ returned to earth in the kingdom of God at the close of the New Testament age, He brought in a new heavens and new earth.  The book of Revelation tells us that there was “no longer any sea.”  This is because the dead were all raised to heaven.  Therefore, the earth was now the lowest place in spiritual creation.  Satan was cast out of heaven.  Satan had thus gone from the highest place in creation to the lowest.  We, too, are in this lowest place with him as long as we live, but at death we rise above him!  Even on this earth, our authority is higher than his but our key to exercising that authority is righteousness.  If we do not walk in the spirit free from sin then our relationship with God is compromised and our authority in the earth is impaired.  But if we walk in the light, as Jesus Himself is the light, then Satan is bound. 

All of us on earth shall die, but none of us will descend.  There is no longer any sea.  You could also say that God has made us all to walk on water.

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

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Satan’s Fall

In the original order of creation, Satan and his host were above humanity.  For this reason, he controlled the abode of the dead as well as the abode of the living (he is “the god of this world” – 2 Corinthians 4:4).  In the kingdom of God, however, resurrected humanity is above Satan.  That is why Satan no longer controls the dead – they have a higher authority than he does.

God created this universe to demonstrate His righteousness to the entire angelic realm – both the obedient and disobedient.  Through this creation, God demonstrates the superiority of faith, hope, and love as governing values – especially love.  He demonstrates that through mercy and forgiveness, true righteousness can be achieved.  He demonstrates in the most powerful way imaginable that good overcomes evil.  There are many other things He demonstrates as well, including the idea that trust in God trumps any knowledge that one might have.  This creation is all about teaching the angelic realm about the nature of God.

You and I have important roles in this drama.  What qualifies us?  We are human beings!  We are able to trust God.  We are able to personally demonstrate the power of faith, hope, and love in this world.  We are able to triumph over any obstacle that faces us through trust in God.  And that trust protects us in any area about which we are ignorant of God.

Jesus Christ is the central figure in this drama.  Through Him the order of the universe was rearranged – a new heavens and new earth, you could call it (in fact, that’s exactly what the Scriptures do call it – Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1).  Many who were first are last (e.g. Satan), and many who were last are first (e.g. humanity).  All praise to Jesus Christ who has lifted us from the ash heap of earth…to an eternity in heaven. 

Satan began falling the moment God said “Let there be…”  You have no enemies in the human race, no matter what they or you may think.  Your only enemy is in the unseen realm, and it is Satan and his host.  Yet, he has fallen and you have more authority than he does.  Evil may triumph for a day, but mercy endures forever.

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

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The Last Days

When the apostles wrote of “the last days,” it’s clear that they thought they were living in them.  Given that we are looking back on those days some two thousand years later, it is clear that they did not mean “the last days of the human race.”  What, then, did they mean?

They meant the last days of Israel.  The last days of the church.  And the last days of the human race as it had been known up to that time.  For in the twinkling of an eye, the kingdom of God would come and the New Covenant would be eternally established.  That new covenant would mean a new spirit deep in the heart of every human being (1 Corinthians 15:45).  God’s law would be written on every heart (Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Hebrews 8:8-12).  Every person would  benefit from God’s law being instinctive to them (Romans 2:14-16).  There would no longer be any distinction between Jew and Gentile (Colossians 3:11).

Those last days are long since over.  We live in that eternal kingdom which prophets, apostles, and the Lord Himself all prophesied.  Let us seek the King in everything we do.  He is worthy!

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

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Preparing Church for the Day of Judgment

The apostles had a great sense of urgency about their mission.  They were preparing disciples for the coming of the day of the Lord.  This impending event was also called the day of Yahweh, the coming of the kingdom of God, the coming of the kingdom of heaven, the Lord’s coming, and the new heavens and earth.  It has also been called the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

The apostles wanted to be sure that the disciples were prepared to live in the new order of creation that was coming.  Time was of the essence and the goal was to prepare each disciple for his or her relationship with God – the only thing that would protect the individual from the wrath to come in God’s judgment. 

Jesus had made clear that the kingdom would not be coming with signs to be observed.  No man would know the day or the hour.  And it would happen in the twinkling of an eye.  In that moment,  the spiritual composition of the universe would be radically changed.  The dead would all rise to heaven and every human being who died thereafter would ascend into heaven instead of descend into Sheol (as had been the case since Abel).

The apostles would soon be all gone and no longer able to give their unique witness to the Lord.  The church would cease to be God’s instrument for salvation because all power would reside in the kingdom.  If the disciples were to survive and thrive in the new order God was bringing, they would have to know how to live by faith in an unseen God. 

If church had any usefulness today it would be teaching people how to enter the kingdom.  Instead, they teach people how to come to church.  This offers no help to people who need deliverance from their sins and the judgments that are in the earth.

Go back and read the New Testament.  Embrace the values it teaches.  Seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Seeking church in the age of the kingdom of God is missing the point entirely.

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

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The New Testament Church Was Unique

The church of the New Testament was different from all the churches which have followed it…in several important ways.

First of all, the church of the New Testament was a church.  That is, it was a single, undivided entity.  The apostles would have it no other way.  They were quick to condemn any divisions in the church.  The churches since that time are just that – churches.  They are not a single entity.  They are markedly factional., with innumerable denominational and non-denominational churches.

Another point of distinction is that the church of the New Testament focused on the righteous behavior of its participants.  Believers in Jesus were expected to imitate Him.  Today’s churches focus on having the right statement of faith.  Everyone is supposed to believe and say the same things.  Focus on righteous behavior is limited, primarily because it would cut down on attendance.

Yet another major difference is that the leaders of the New Testament church gave their lives for the church – literally.  Today, the churches exists for the support of their leaders.

The New Testament church expected the return of the Lord and the coming of the kingdom of God in their lifetimes.  Today’s churches think the New Testament church was wrong about that.  That is, today’s churches say that the return of the Lord and the coming of the kingdom of God still lies in the future.

If you would trust the church to tell the truth about Jesus, trust the original church – not the pretend-churches that have come after it.

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

The New Testament Is About Righteous and Holy Living

The New Testament is about righteous and holy living – not church administration or church growth. 

If you take the time to read the New Testament, you can’t help but be struck with its emphasis on righteousness.  It’s as if its writers believed the whole point of Jesus’ ministry, including the Old Testament scriptures that led up to it, was to inculcate godly living and eradicate sin among human beings. 

Righteousness, holiness, godliness, goodness – these are matters about which the New Testament is incessantly explicit.  Church government, church planting, church growth principles – all these concepts that guide church thinking today are not explicitly taught in the New Testament.

Why should we ignore what the New Testament makes explicit in pursuit of subjects about which it is relatively silent? 

The apostles told people to repent and the Lord added to the church.  Today’s church leaders add to the church and leave it for the Lord to make people repent. 

Church leaders today are more interested in growing their churches and ministries than they are in acting on and teaching what the New Testament teaches. 

If we would please God, let us repent, read the words of Scripture, and act on what they deem important.  Forget church.  Instead, give all the diligence of which you are capable to living righteously in the sight of God.

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

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Possessing the Gate of Your Enemies

In Genesis 22, after the Lord proved Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice the life of his only son, God spoke a promise to Abraham saying, “Your seed shall possess the gate of your enemies.”  In Genesis 24, as Rebekah was preparing to leave home in order to be married to Abraham’s only son, her family blessed her saying, “May your descendants possess the gate of those who hate them.”

In antiquity, possessing the gates of one’s enemies was a sure means to peace and tranquility in life.  In those days, cities were usually fortified, with its gates controlling entry and exit.  Therefore, whoever controlled the gates, controlled the city.  If you controlled the gates of your enemies, then their destiny was in your hands.

Up until the time of Jesus Christ, Satan controlled the gates of death.  All who passed through those gates belonged to him.  Jesus, before His suffering and crucifixion in Jerusalem, promised that these gates would not prevail over the following that He was building (“gates of Hades” was another name for “gates of death”).  Indeed, three days after Jesus died, He rose from the dead, breaking through those gates.  He was the first to have ever done so.  (His friend Lazarus had only been given a temporary reprieve from death.)  Jesus triumphed over death, for He went on to ascend into heaven.  Micah in 2:13 had prophesied that “the Breaker” would go through the gate, and before the rest.  Jesus was “the Breaker.”  Paul confirmed in 1 Corinthians 15 that there was an order to the resurrection, with Christ being first, and the rest to follow later.

In the coming of the kingdom, which occurred according to the biblical timetable around the late 1st Century A.D., the gates of death were, in effect, moved, such that death would no longer lead below to Hades but rather above to heaven.  Indeed, Abraham’s seed possesses the gates of His enemies – in a way far more grand, glorious, and eternal than anyone on earth had ever imagined!  Death is now merely a doorway into a greater life in heaven.

See also Everyone Is Going to Heaven.

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

Our Zerubbabel

Zerubbabel is a type of Christ.  We can thus learn about Christ in him.

Zerubbabel was of the tribe of Judah.  So was Jesus.

Zerubbabel was in the line of David and thus entitled to kingly rule.  So was Jesus.

Because of Israel’s state of decline, Zerubbabel did not reign with David’s earthly glory.  Neither did Jesus.

Nonetheless, Zerubbabel became governor of the people of God.  As did Jesus.

Zerubbabel had to deal with serious contention from God’s enemies.  Jesus encountered even greater opposition.

Zerubbabel laid the foundation of a new temple.  Jesus laid the foundation of a temple in the spirit that would last for all eternity.

Zerubbabel lived to celebrate the completion of his work.  Jesus lives forever to celebrate the completion of His eternal work.

It was a matter for rejoicing when the plumb line was in the hand of Zerubbabel.  It is a matter of unspeakable glory that the measuring stick for all humanity is in the hand of Jesus.

If the day of small things was not to be despised when Zerubbabel began his work, how much more so when Jesus laid the foundation for an entire new universe by planting Himself in the ground as a single seed.

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

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Our Solomon

Solomon is a type of Christ.  Therefore, Jesus is our Solomon.

Solomon was the son of David.  Jesus was the Son of David.

Solomon built the temple of Israel.  Jesus built the temple of the people of God.

Solomon built a great legacy out of the inheritance his father left him.  Jesus established an eternal legacy out of His Father’s inheritance.

The Queen of Sheba came to Solomon based on the reports she’d heard of his wisdom.  Magi came from the east to Jesus merely on the reports of His birth.

Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived.  Jesus was wiser.

Solomon was the richest man who ever lived.  Jesus’ spiritual riches will feed all the universe beyond eternity.

Yes, Solomon was a type of Christ.  But as with all types of Christ, Christ was greater, as Jesus made explicit in Matthew 12:42.

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

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Our David

David is one of the more well-known types of Christ.  Thus Jesus is our greater David.

David was a man after God’s heart.  Jesus was God’s heart.

David was anointed by Samuel.  Jesus was anointed by the Holy Spirit.

David was king of Israel.  Jesus is King of the Universe.

David’s throne was in Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  Jesus’ throne is in Mount Zion, in the heavenly Jerusalem.

David was zealous for God.  Jesus’ zeal for God consumed Him.

David sought to build God a house.  Jesus built God a house.

There were challenges to David’s rule.  Such challenges always failed.  There are challenges to Jesus’ rule.  Such challenges will always fail.

David took his lineage from Abraham seriously.  Jesus took His lineage from David seriously.  And from Abraham as well.

Messiah was descended from David but also would be David’s lord – a riddle which Jesus loved to pose to His rabbinical antagonists.

David was not just a type of Christ, he was a physical ancestor of Christ.  Everyone expected Israel’s Messiah to be reminiscent of David.  The crucifixion was thus a stumbling block, but the resurrection surpassed all expectations – and solved the riddle.

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

Not the Hearers, But the Doers

Romans 2:13 makes clear that it is the doers of God’s word, not its hearers, who are just in God’s sight.  James 1:23-25 makes a similar point. 

The world today is filled with a lot more hearing of God’s word than it is with the doing of it.

If you read the Bible, be sure that you act on what you understand.  Otherwise, you will be like churches.  They constantly seek to get more people to hear the word, but to do the word is of less interest to them.

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

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The One Pastor Who Won’t Fall to Sin

Unfortunately, it has become commonplace to hear of some pastor who has gone astray morally.  Such downfalls are often financial or sexual, but pastoral failings are not limited to these.  The shepherd’s flock is usually devastated by such revelations.  Some wounds take a long time to heal.  How many more such debacles have to occur before people realize that church is no longer a divine institution as it was in New Testament days?  The kingdom of God has come but today’s churches go on as man-made and, literally, godforsaken institutions.  They should put “Ichabod” on their doors (1 Samuel 4:16-22).  At least that way, the sheep would be warned.

There is one Shepherd who will never fall to sin.  His flock will never be scattered, or depressed, or devastated.  His name is Jesus and He lives today to pastor all who will submit to His loving care.  If you can have His care, why would you seek anyone else’s?

Jesus was struck down once – not for His own sin, but because of the sins of others.  He was raised from the dead, however, never to die again.  As He is lifted up, He draws all men to Himself.  He shepherds the one true flock of God. 

Stop putting your trust in human pastors – trust the One Pastor who will never fall to sin.

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

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Our Samson

Samson foreshadowed Jesus for us.

Samson’s birth was announced to his mother by an angel (Judges 13:3).  Jesus’ birth was announced to His mother by an angel.

Samson was born to a previously barren wife and was designated for a lifetime of special service to God (Judges 13:5).  Jesus was born to a virgin and designated for a lifetime of special service to God.

The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson mightily (Judges 13:25).  The Spirit of the Lord was poured out upon Jesus without measure.

Samson moved the gates of a desert city to a mountaintop (Judges 16:3).  Jesus moved the gates of death so that they no longer led below but rather above.  (See more at The Gates of Gaza.)

Samson killed more Philistines in his death than in his life (Judges 16:30).  Jesus caused more demons to flee in His death than He had in His life.

As Samson was endowed with supernatural strength so that he could deliver God’s people from their enemies, so Jesus was endowed to be able to deliver us from any and all evil.  Thanks be to God for our Samson!

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

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Our Noah

Jesus is our Noah.  What Noah was and did, Jesus was and did greater.

Like Noah, only greater, Jesus has given us rest from our labor from what God had cursed (Genesis 5:29).

Like Noah, only greater, Jesus prepared an ark for the salvation of His household from the judgments that the world had brought on itself (Hebrews 11:7).

Like Noah, only greater, Jesus was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5).

Noah did great things for God, providing a foreshadowing of the even greater things God would do through His Son the Messiah.

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

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Psalm 97:6

The verse had rich meaning as it was written under the Old Covenant.  The heavens, whether viewed at night or during the day, are glorious beyond description.  Their predictability and reliability only add to that glory.  Truly these works of God have been seen and admired by all peoples.

Though we could rest content with this understanding, God would have us see this verse in light of His great redemptive work through Christ.  That is, Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into the heavens.  At the last trumpet, He brought up all the dead to be with Him.  The angels of God marveled at this feat!

All heaven had witnessed the righteous life He had lived on earth – not reviling when reviled, not threatening when suffering abuse.  He was indeed the sinless, spotless, worthy Lamb of God, given for the sins of the world.  The angels rejoiced without measure when He was restored to His heavenly home in stupendous glory.  Just as the prophets had written in the Scriptures: the Christ was to suffer, and then would enter into His glory.  H was revealed in the flesh; He was vindicated in the spirit.  He suffered on earth; He was glorified in heaven.

The heavens spoken of here under the New Covenant understanding, as you can see, are the spiritual heavens.  Thus this verse, as so many did, foretold the Messiah to come.  Beginning from this Scripture – reminiscent of Philip in Acts 8 – you can preach Jesus to anyone.

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

The Revelation of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was revealed progressively.  Like the sun which makes its gradual entrance at dawn, Malachi’s sun of righteousness could not be revealed all at once lest His light blind every eye.

There were prophecies mentioned at the birth of Jesus of Nazareth but not much more until His baptism by John.  Even then, Jesus told no one He was the Messiah.  He simply did the things that Israel’s prophets had done (though to a greater degree) and was content with people’s description of Him as a “man of God.”  Even when His closest disciples realized (through Divine revelation) that He was the Messiah, He instructed them to tell no one.  Only after He was raised from the dead did the fact that He was the Messiah become a part of the kingdom gospel message He was preaching.

Throughout the apostolic age, more was revealed about Him.  The apostle Paul talked about the revelations he had received.  The apostle John began the last book of the Bible, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ.”  The full revelation of Jesus, however, was not to be given until the coming of the kingdom – that event which all the apostles said was imminent in that age. 

Looking back on this time from a two-thousand-year perspective, we can see what they were talking about.  Jesus of Nazareth hadn’t just been the Messiah, He had been God Himself.  The apostles had often come close to saying this in their writings, but they kept separate Father-Son construct because of its importance to our instruction.  Jesus fully demonstrated the role of the Son so that when He assumed the role of the Father, we could imitate before Him what He had done as a son.

Of course, Jesus Christ is still being revealed to us today as He will be for all eternity, for there is no end to the glories of our God.  The great sun of righteousness, however, has indeed dawned on humanity – that is, the truth that Messiah was God.  When you become aware that Jesus was God, you are having an experience like Peter did at Caesarea Philippi.  That is, something is being divinely revealed to you.  And you are not far from the kingdom.

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

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The Messiah Is God and That’s Why He’s Not Coming Back in the Flesh Anymore

Yesterday’s post, The Messiah Is God, described how God designed ahead of time a human identity He would use to walk among us.  This design was revealed over several thousand years of human history and recorded in the Scriptures which were written before Jesus’ birth.  This identity described how Messiah would live on earth (His sufferings) but also how He would reign in heaven after His resurrection (His glories).

Only after God had lived through the sufferings of Messiah, did He focus the attention of his followers on the glories of Messiah.  Those glories would bring in the kingdom of heaven, the day of the Lord, the new heavens and new earth, and incorporate all those events usually called the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.  Once the glories were completed at the end of the apostolic generation (which could also be called the New Testament age), God was free to remove the veil and reveal that He Himself had been Messiah. It is a wondrous thought that enters the human heart – the realization that Jesus Christ was none other than God Himself in the flesh.

Because Messiah was an identity that God assumed for a period of time in order to accomplish His purposes, and because He has now revealed that He Himself was Messiah, there would be no reason for Him to assume human form again.  Therefore, the hopes of those who expect to see a Second Coming of Jesus in the flesh will continue to go unfulfilled.  They should have listened to Paul who said in 2 Corinthians 5:16 that while “we did know Christ in the flesh, we know Him thus no longer.”  (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again)

Just as it was not possible for the prophecies of Messiah to be fully understood apart from the resurrection, so it is not possible to understand the fullness and finality of Christ’s work apart from acknowledging that He was, and is, God.  The whole thrust of Jesus’ work through His apostles was to convert believing Jews and Gentiles from a fleshly orientation in the Law of Moses to a spiritual orientation.  To bring back Jesus in the flesh would run entirely counter to this thrust.

“God is spirit,” Jesus told the woman at the well in Sychar, “and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  He came into a world where people focused myopically on earthly things with a goal to shift their gaze heavenward.  It is high time we took His words seriously, stop looking for flesh, and start worshiping in spirit and truth the one and only God, our Messiah.

God doesn’t want a relationship with you in the flesh.  He wants one in the spirit, because that is far more intimate.  In the flesh, He could be close to you – but still always outside you.  In the spirit, He can dwell inside you.  Thus, He stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20).

For more on this subject, see:

There Is No Trinity; There Is Christ

Posts to Date on the Trinity Versus Christ

Types of Christ in Acts 7 and Hebrews 11

Stephen’s message before Jerusalem’s Council in Acts 7 constitutes a great history of Israel.  Similarly, Hebrews 11 lists individuals who acted in specific expressions of faith throughout Bible history.  Both of these histories are fascinating, instructive, and inspiring.  However, there is more to them than just this, for each contains many types of Christ.

For example, in the beginning of Stephens’ speech he recalls God’s words to Abraham, “Leave your country and your relatives and come into the land that I will show you.”  This was a type of God calling Jesus to come out from His family and nation according to the flesh, and go to the cross which would take Him to “a new land.”  If Abraham’s journey required his faith, how much more did Jesus’ journey require His faith.  And this is how types of Christ work – the actuality of Christ is always greater than the type that preceded it.

At the beginning of Hebrews 11, mention is made of Abel who was killed by Cain.  This typifies Jesus because He, too, was killed by His own brethren – and for the same reason: His deeds were righteous and His brethren’s were not.  Thus Jesus has obtained a greater testimony than Abel.

By the way, one other quick example is Hebrews 11:17-19 which explicitly states that the story being told is a type of Christ.

See how many types of Christ you can find in both these passages.  Don’t strain.  The Holy Spirit will make them know to you as you consider each story in which they occur.  The more patterns we see of Christ in the Scripture, the more inspired we become to imitate Him because they enable us to see Him better.  It took thousands of years of Bible history to produce the biographies required to fashion a composite photograph worthy of Jesus Christ.  We’ll be studying the facets of that portrait forever.

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Acts 13:22 (A Man After My Own Heart Who Will Do All My Will)

This passage explicitly describes King David, but it is clearly a type of Jesus Christ.

David’s great passion for God foreshadowed the heart of Jesus.  We see David’s enthusiasm for God in every phase of his life.  He was devoted to God as a shepherd boy, fending off lions and bears to protect his father’s flock.  He was devoted to God as soldier, slaying Goliath with a minimum of weaponry and a maximum of courage.  He was devoted to God as a king, putting Israel on the map with military victories and wise alliances.  He was devoted to God as a poet and musician, being the major figure behind the book of Psalms.  He was devoted to God as a benefactor, enabling Solomon to reign in unparalleled glory and peace.  But David was just a foreshadowing of Jesus, whose devotion greatly exceeded David’s.

We see Jesus as the person who is the ultimate fulfillment of these words: “A man after My own heart, who will do all My will.”  He who knew no sin was made to die on a cross for our sins, yet while suffering He uttered no threats and while being reviled He did not revile in return.  He didn’t surpass David’s example, however, that we might merely admire Him.  He did so that we might imitate Him.

As Jesus inspired this accolade from His Father (in typified form), let us see what kind of accolade our behavior might elicit from Jesus.  Oh, thanks be to God and praise be to God for His awe-inspiring example to us!

2 Chronicles 15:3

Hard times came on Israel when they went without the true God, teaching priests, and the law.  We face similar hard times today.

The true God – There are many false gods today:  gods of worldly success and gods of false worship.

Teaching priests – There are many faithless priests today: priests loyal to their own finances and not to the living God.

The law – There are many alternatives to the law of Jesus taught today: every sermon topic imaginable except Christ and Him crucified.

Things ought not to be this way.  We live in the kingdom of God.  The one true God reigns over it.  His name is Jesus and those of us who know it ought to be able to praise His name clearly enough for others to follow.  As for the law, He could not have been clearer:  we are to love one another as He loved us.

Let us cast aside our church and Christian identities and return in humility to our respective places in the family of man.  Let us live for the invisible King and thus demonstrate to all those around us that there is one true God, that we are faithful priests, that His law is love, and that all humanity is His kingdom.  That will be the beginning of the end of hard times.

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Judges 21:25

These days are like the days when there was no king in Israel: everyone does what is right in their own eyes.

Jesus is the one person worthy to be king over all the earth.  His moral character and selfless nature make Him the obvious choice.  Moreover, He is the one person capable of being king over all the earth.  His omniscience and omnipresence give Him the ability to be everywhere He needs to be and know everything He needs to know.  So why don’t make Him king?  Actually, He already is.  He is “King of the Universe” – that is, over all the earth and every other planet as well. 

What then is the problem?  We are not obeying Him as king.  Even those who profess His name, as a general rule, do not obey His rule even in their organizations they call by His name: churches.  If churches were treating Him as king, there would only be one church for how could the One who said “No kingdom divided against itself can stand” presided over a divided kingdom?  Thus churches call Him Lord, but do not treat Him as Lord.  Unless our righteousness surpasses theirs, we shall not know what it’s like to be obedient in the kingdom of God.

There is only one thing left for us as individuals to do: sanctify Him as Lord in our hearts being ready always to give an account for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15).  I cannot control whether anyone else obeys His commands.  I can only control myself, and so that I must do.  Perhaps my reverence for Him will inspire someone else.  And perhaps that someone else’s behavior may inspire yet someone else.

Maybe if someone did act like there was a King in Israel, Israel would come around to that truth.

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He Is Our Manna

God gave His people bread out of heaven when they were in the wilderness.  This foreshadowed the giving of Jesus from heaven in the wilderness of our wandering from God.  God gave that bread of Jesus’ earthly life, death, and resurrection… and it is still feeding the multitudes.

While on earth, Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.”  Manna was a daily provision.  Jesus said that we should not worry about tomorrow.  Today, today, today.  Jesus wants us to reach out to Him and embrace Him daily – embrace Him like the very bread we need to survive.  Even on the night before His crucifixion, a day for which He had been preparing His entire life, He still expressed the need to pray.  Could there be any more profound demonstration of the need for daily bread?  If this is what He required, how much more do we need such manna.

This daily bread comes down from heaven like the rain and snow.  If we give Him the time, He will be sure we receive what we need.  Most importantly, that manna will be more of Him.  That’s what we need every day – more of Him.

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What Is Eternal Life?

Some people think that eternal life is what you get after you die.  Jesus made it clear, however, that eternal life is something meant to help on this side of death.  Yes, eternal life extends through death into all eternity.  And for that we shall be eternally grateful (appropriately so).  Yet eternal life is meant to be manifested on the earth and we are the ones who are meant to manifest it and benefit from it.  Who are we?  Human beings.  There are no other qualifications required – Jesus died for the whole world.

Jesus defined eternal life very simply in John 17:3:   “knowing God.”  He didn’t mean just “knowing about” God.  Lots of people know about God but aren’t experiencing eternal life.  Neither did He mean “praying the sinner’s prayer.”  Lots of people have engaged in that exercise, too.  But even if it was completely heartfelt, it is one transaction with God and doesn’t constitute the “knowing” that Jesus has in mind here.  It is only the beginning of knowing. 

The “knowing God” that Jesus is talking about is knowing in the sense of “being aware of.”  Jesus himself had eternal life – He was eternal life (1 John 1:2).  As we know Jesus – that is, as we stay aware of His surrounding presence through all of creation – we experience eternal life.  This includes being aware of His true nature: love, righteousness, peace, joy, gentleness, discipline, and more.  Eternal life is a way of life.  Some people only attempt to be aware of God at certain times and places.  God, however, longs to be experienced continually – that is, eternally.  That’s why it’s called eternal life. 

Are you aware of Him now? 

If you experience eternal life, your days of reading this blog will diminish and end.  Let this blog decrease, let Him increase.

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We Are the Sons of Men

The biblical expression “sons of men” can simply be a synonym for “men” or “people” or “human beings.”  But it can also refer to the new creatures we have become in the work of Christ.  In this sense, the sons of men are the sons of God.  These are the seed of the last Adam, Jesus Christ.  The sons of “the Son of Man.”  This is a new humanity, a new breed, and new human race.  Birthed in the new heavens and new earth of Messiah, we have a better covenant based on better promises than those who proceeded only from Adam.

God expects us, as these sons of men, to live up to our powers and privilege.  We have benefit of knowing about the life of Jesus.  We have benefit of living in a world that He shaped by His life, death, resurrection, and second coming.

Jesus came to demonstrate what a “new man” should act like.  In short, he should act like God. 

Be alert to scriptural references to the “sons of men” or even to the “Son of Man.”  Let’s see what God expects to do through us because of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit – two unlimited resources inaccessible to the fullness of humanity prior to the 1st Century A.D.  They are ours today!  Let us partake.

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Who Is Your Brother?

Jesus died and rose from the dead so that He could be Lord of both the dead and the living.  Until the Second Coming, He sat at the right hand of the Father waiting for all His enemies to be made a footstool for His feet.  Once that happened, He became (once again) King of the Universe, Lord of all humanity, and Father of the brotherhood of man.  Therefore every man is your brother; every man is my brother.

Do you remember the story of the Good Samaritan and what provoked Jesus to tell it?  A lawyer had challenged Him by asking what was necessary to inherit eternal life.  In response, Jesus asked him what his reading of the law seemed to say.  The lawyer answered with the commandments to love God and neighbor.  Jesus commended his answer but the lawyer went to on ask, “And who is my neighbor?”  You can almost hear Christians asking today, “And who is my brother?”  Both questions attempt to diminish the scope of God’s commandments.   

Jesus is not Lord of some – He is Lord of all.  Every knee shall bow; every tongue shall confess.  It is not our business to know when and how that happens for each of our brothers.  It is our job to love them.  And honor them.  All of them.

Let us repent of all spiritual arrogance and not waste any more time wondering if someone is our brother.  He is.

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Evidence That Demands a Lifestyle

You have heard that the evidence for the truth claims of Jesus Christ are so abundant that they demand a verdict. Indeed, they do…but they demand so much more than just a verdict.

Many people have rendered a verdict for Christ as if they think that this is the main thing Christ wants from us.  Is this “the big question” of life – who Jesus is?  And does He judge each of us primarily on the  basis of our answer to this question, rendering to secondary status how we lived, how we treated others, how we responded to His commandments?

If the only thing Christ wanted from us was a verdict, He would be making us judges and not doers.  He would be the doer of life and we would be the judges of life.  This idea is repugnant.

Jesus Christ is indeed the Doer and Judge of all life.  We, however, are also to be doers – not mere judges of His doing. 

If the evidence of Christ has compelled you to a verdict, fine.  But recognize that your verdict is to be the beginning of something not the end of something.  God is not looking for your approval.  He’s looking for a relationship whereby you may walk in a way that honors Him…and thereby add even more evidence to what has already been accumulated.

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Galatian 3:3 (Perfected in the Flesh?)

Paul asked the believers in Galatia why they were seeking to perfect in the flesh something that they had begun in the spirit.  Even today, many seek to perfect in the flesh something they began in the spirit.

A man begins, or resumes, his intimacy with God by turning his eyes and heart toward heaven – toward the Jesus he cannot see with his physical eyes, but whom he trusts is there – and asks for forgiveness.  He also promises obedience to the Lord he cannot see.  Then, however, he turns his attention to a group of people who call themselves by the name of the Lord for the purpose of growth and improvement (i.e. the perfecting process).  This group of people cannot look into his heart where the roots of sin exist.  They do not have “eyes like a flame of fire” (Revelation 1:14) which can “disperse all evil as a king who sits on a throne of judgment” (Proverbs 20:8).

How odd – this man looks to God for the beginning and foundation of salvation but to other people for the completion and capstone of that salvation. 

As Paul said elsewhere in Galatians, if we have begun by the spirit we ought also to live by the spirit.  As he said in Colossians, as we have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so we ought to walk in Him.

Turn your eyes to the invisible dimension where God dwells and forget about seeking approval in the eyes of mankind.  If you obey the unseen God, humble people will rejoice while the proud will criticize you.  Love and serve them all without making distinctions. 

He who birthed you is able to mature you.  He who began a good work in you is able to perfect it.  Don’t look to anyone else for the completion of your salvation.

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1 Corinthians 3:11

Of course, Jesus Christ is the only foundation of faith.  Anyone who reads the Bible with devotion or who professes to be a Christian would heartily agree.  Yet, if you read Paul’s statement in context you will see that he was arguing against those people who rallied around specific Christian persons:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas.  Even “Christ” was the name of one faction who sought to have their purity humanly approved.  Paul’s argument for one foundation was not made in a vacuum – he was challenging these factions.

How are these factions any different from those which we see today in the self-described church?  They are not different.  And those who today promote themselves in Christ’s name are of the same spirit as those who promoted themselves in Christ’s name at Corinth.  What was only a handful of incipient denominations in Corinth has become over 30,000 in the early 21st Century.  Division is one of the most common marks of organized Christianity today.

Paul felt that to redress the Corinthians divisiveness, he must cut to the central issue:  People had begun to preach themselves instead of Christ.  And what was nascent in Paul’s day has been full-grown ever since: rampant self-promotion in the name of Christ. 

I call you to return to your roots.  Is Jesus Christ your foundation?  If so, why do you tell people they need to come to your church or follow your ministry?  Be true to Him and fulfill 2 Corinthians 4:5.

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The Gates of Gaza

Samson had come to the city of Gaza.  The Gazites had decided to gather near the city gate and spend the night there so as to attack Samson in the light of morning.  Yet Samson arose at midnight and, with his great strength, lifted the gates of the city, transporting them on his shoulders to the top of the mountain opposite Hebron.  Thus he not only foiled the plan of his enemies to kill him, he made a mockery of them by removing their city gates and placing them prominently on a mountaintop far away.

Similarly, Satan and his host had planned to hold Jesus in death after His crucifixion.  Yet Jesus rose from that darkest of pits in the greatness of His strength and moved the gates of Sheol below to the mountain of heaven above.  Thus He triumphed over His foes, removing the sting of death by causing death to become a gateway to heaven.  Thus Jesus is our Samson.

When I Read the Bible, I Sometimes Understand Parts of It

When I read the Bible, I sometimes understand parts of it.

Since this is the case, what shall I do?  I shall obey those parts.  As I do, I will come to better understand those parts.  I will also come to understand other parts. 

Will I ever come to understand all of the Bible?  I don’t know.  If I do come to understand all of the Bible, what will happen then?  I don’t know.

Obeying the parts of the Bible that we understand – even if it is only one sentence – is the very best we can do for God and for ourselves.

If you were to summarize everything you know from all the parts of the Bible that you understand, what would it say?  Jesus Christ is our Lord.

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Immanuel

As you probably know, Immanuel (sometimes rendered Emmanuel) means “God with us.”  Matthew’s gospel quotes this prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, noting it as being fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ.  Of course, Matthew did not mean that Mary literally named her baby “Immanuel,” but rather that the meaning of his birth was that God was with us.

We know that God has always been “with us” in the sense that He supports us.  His desire for intimacy “with us,” however, goes much deeper.  Jesus walking the earth as one of humanity was a profound expression of that desire.  God in our flesh, dealing with our limitations, experiencing our life…and our death.  This, however, was just the first installment of His intense intimacy with us.  “Immanuel” meant much more.

Through the new covenant He has made with mankind, God now dwells in us and walks among us.  He is our God and we are His people.  Under the old covenant, it was Satan who freely walked the earth as we saw in the book of Job.  Now, however, the evil one is under our feet (Rom 16:20).

God’s is the voice we hear whispering in our hearts (1 Kings 19:12).  From there He judges the secrets of our heart (Romans 2:16) so that we may live for His approval and not the approval of others (1 Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 1:10; Romans 2:28-29).

We come to realize, therefore, that God’s desire to be with us is so great that He will pursue this end until the two become one (Mark 10:8).

Let us therefore repent of this hardness of heart and stop resisting Him who desires to be with us all the days and moments of our lives.  Let us answer the knocking He makes at our door (Revelation 3:20).

All the Families of the Earth

God promised Abraham, “In your seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”  Paul makes it clear in Galatians that because the promise speaks of “seed” and not “seeds” that it assuredly applies to the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  We know that after being raised from the dead, all authority in heaven and on earth was given to Him.

If in Jesus Christ, “all the families of the earth shall be blessed,” how do some say that only some go to heaven?

(For more on this subject, see the post Everyone Is Going to Heaven  or the book The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.)

In the Twinkling of an Eye Everyone Was Born Again

Paul was letting us know that it would happen in an instant and few would even notice.  He was speaking, of course, of the last trumpet, the coming of the Lord with His host of holy ones, the coming of the kingdom of God, establishment of the kingdom of heaven, the dawn of the day of the Lord, the fulfillment of the new covenant – that day of all days when the time of Israel will have been fulfilled and God’s Messiah would rule over all the nations.

Precisely when is the moment that night turns into day?  Only God can know because it happens in the twinkling of an eye.  Yet in that instant of which Paul wrote, the night of Adam became the day of Christ.  The night of Satan’s dominion became the day of Christ’s kingdom.  The night of stars in a dark sky became the day of the sun of righteousness – Jesus Christ our Lord.  From that instant, He became not just the King of the Jews, and not just the head of the church, but the King and Head of every single human being.  Every single one.

In that twinking of an eye, everyone was born again.  God gave a new heart to every person in the human race, for all generations to come (Jer 31:31-34; Heb 8:8-12).  From that instant forward, God would be judging the secrets of men through Christ Jesus (Rom 2:16).  That moment was rapidly approaching in the waning days of the apostles.  The book of Hebrews says that what was obsolete and able to be shaken was about to be discarded (Heb 8:13; Heb 12:27) and with this the words of the prophet(Hag 2:6), the psalmist (Ps 102:26), and even the Lord Himself (Mark 13:25) agree.  So much happened in that instant!

It happened sometime in the late 1st Century A.D., invisible to human eyes but perceptible to pure human hearts.  This was according to the timetable that the Lord, His prophets, and His apostles had laid down.  That was the dawn and we have been living in the day of Christ ever since.

Oh, yes – and the eye that twinkled was God’s.

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Do You Struggle with the Invisibility of His Kingdom?

Since apostolic times, we are to seek Jesus Christ in His kingdom, not in the church.  Does it cause you to struggle that the kingdom is invisible and that there’s no physical place to go to find it?

It is entirely to your benefit that the kingdom is this way.  If the kingdom were accessed in a physical location then its power would be limited.  It invisibility means it is universally accessible.  You can reach it from wherever you are.

Your keys to the kingdom are the name of Jesus and your faithful obedience to His commands.  You both know His name and know His commands, and His commands are not burdensome. 

This should help you: when you sought God in church, you were a watcher of God.  But true faith is constant acknowledgement that you are being watched by God.  Therefore, transition yourself from being the watcher to being the watched.  As the watcher, you could never see God anyway because He can’t be perceived through sight or any of the other four physical senses.  As you stay aware that you are being watched by a righteous and loving God, you are “seeing” Him in a different sense.  You are “seeing Him who is unseen” – which is how Moses saw Him (Heb 11).

In the church you are watched by people (which is really no different from the world at large).  In the kingdom, however, you are watched by God.  In other words, the best way to come to know God is to start by being known by God (Gal 4:9).  Are you willing to stay conscious of the fact that every thought you have is passing before His eyes?  If so, you are not far from the kingdom.

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Samson’s Riddle

Samson’s riddle spoke of Jesus Christ in a number of ways.

You recall the riddle:  “Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.”  Certainly what came out of the great and awesome Creator of the universe was the Bread of Life Himself.  And what came out the Almighty King of the universe was Someone sweet: gentle and humble in heart.  You could even say that it was from the carcass of the Lion of the tribe of Judah that the nations will feed themselves for eternity for He is their salvation.

The story in Judges says that Samson’s companions could not tell the riddle in three days.  Neither did anyone know of Jesus’ resurrection until it happened after three days.  Neither the riddle of Samson nor the riddle of Christ was solved by anyone who heard it – they had to be told the answer by the only one who knew it.

Consider also that Samson’s riddle itself was a type of the mystery of the gospel.  Both gave clues, both had only one solution, both were eventually revealed.  Of course, the gospel was a far more extensive and intricate riddle, woven throughout the Old Testament scriptures, but Samson’s riddle paved the way.  And Samson’s story itself was part of the Old Testament’s foreshadowing for he likewise killed more of God’s enemies in his death than he had in his life.

In our relationship with God, we sometimes face a paradox, a riddle, a mystery in life.  It is okay for us to be perplexed at such times, but we should never despair.  In due time we shall reap an understanding and God will reveal Himself strong…and sweet.

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The Kingdom of God Means Victory Over Our Enemies

Through the kingdom of God, we have victory over all our enemies.  Our enemies are not anyone we can see.  Our enemies are entirely unseen.  Every person we can see is on our side – even if they don’t realize it.  Jesus bought the entire human race; we all now belong to Him.  For this reason He died, that He might be Lord of both the living and the dead.  That doesn’t leave out a single human being.

When God delivered the Jews through Esther and Mordecai, He provided a decree from the king and weapons with which they could fight and defeat those who hated them.  Some people thought the Second Coming would be a time when God would vanquish all our enemies.  He has vanquished them in heaven.  Satan has fallen to earth like lightning.  It is we, however, who are to vanquish Satan and his host on earth.  The decrees of a king cannot be changed and so Satan and his kingdom operate with the authority they were originally given.  We, however, have been given even greater authority.  Satan is under our feet.  We have a salvation into which angels long to look.  If the rulers of this world had known what they were unleashing upon themselves by crucifying Jesus, they would not have done it. 

Thanks be to God who always gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no victory without a fight.  Be at peace with all men, but be at war with the host of darkness.  In heaven we will rest from such battles for the war in heaven is over.  Satan was thrown down. 

Keep your relationship with God close, for from that He will supply all you need for victory on earth.

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The Kingdom of Satan Has Become the Kingdom of our Lord

As Revelation 11 heralded, the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.  As Jesus had prophesied, the ruler of the world has been judged and cast out.  We are no longer to walk according to the kingdom of ignorance.  Instead, we are to walk according to the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).  Our Lord sees us!

Satan ruled the world from the beginning in cunning and darkness.  Whereas the Lord has always been willing to reveal Himself, and has done so repeatedly and in many various ways – most of all in His Son Jesus Christ – Satan continues to veil himself Acts 26:18).  The only power he wields in the world today is through that which our sins give him (Proverbs 5:22).  But that can be a lot.

Nevertheless, the Lord’s kingdom prevailed in the great war of the heavens at the Second Coming which occurred on schedule at the close of the apostolic (i.e. the New Testament) age.  (See Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.)  Therefore, we are no longer to make distinctions among humanity as if this one belongs to the Lord and that one doesn’t.  Before Jesus, we all belonged to Satan.  That’s why death had a sting.  That’s why everyone who died went below to Sheol (Hades).  Since Jesus, we all belong to God.  Death no longer has a sting.  Everyone who dies goes up to heaven.  (See Everyone Is Going to Heaven .)

Satan is weak.  Each human being is a son of God, and creation had long waited for the revealing of the sons of God.  Yes, many of us are blind and many are weak – but these are conditions which can be changed through the grace of the Lord.  Call to Him.  Let Him equip us with every spiritual weapon by which we might resist all temptations and do what is right in our daily lives.  This crushes Satan under our feet like powder for the Lord has already made him subject to us. 

Stop seeing the world (i.e., the kingdom of Satan) as dominant.  Indeed, it once was.  But it is now subject to the kingdom of God which is in our midst.  Let us repent of our sluggishness and take the world like the promised land, with Joshua of Nazareth at our head.

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“The Last Days” of the New Testament

It’s strange how people can lift scriptural phrases out of context and imbue them with an entirely different meaning.  Take, for example, the phrase “last days” (including synonymous terms like “the end”).  Most people today, including churchgoers, hear this phrase from the Bible out of context.  As a result, they assume it means something future to us.  It’s doesn’t.  It did indeed mean “something future” to those in the New Testament.  But future to them could very well be past to us.  In this case, that’s exactly what it is.

The “last days” were the last days of ancient Israel, the last days of the world as they knew it.  It was the last days of polytheism.  The monotheism that ancient Israel had stood for since the days when Abraham shunned idols and Moses had given the Israelites the Shema – and stood against the entire ancient world in doing so – would come to be practically universal.  It was the last days of the temple, as it was completely destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.  It was the last days of the distinction between Jews and Gentiles from God’s point of view.  The New Testament church was spiritual Israel, and it still had largely the face of Israel as the Lord and His apostles were all Jewish to the core – even as it was bringing Gentiles in.  This was the transitional structure God was using to bridge to the new world of the kingdom of God when there would be no distinction at all between peoples.  Thus it would be the last days of the church as well – at least the last days of the church God was tending.  The kingdom of God would soon be coming and that was what the New Testament church was waiting for.

If you will, go back and read the New Testament, noting carefully every reference it makes to the end, the last days, the last hour, the coming kingdom, the coming day of the Lord, or any such phrase.  You will find that these references are consistent in expecting something that is imminent – at most, only decades away, and, more likely, only years away.  The book of Revelation almost screams at its beginning and end that the time is “soon.” 

Therefore, “the last days” in the New Testament is ancient history to us, not looming future.  Once you understand this, your faith in the New Testament will grow. 

On the other hand, if you insist on believing the prophecies of end times are yet to be fulfilled, you have created a credibility problem for the New Testament authors.  For how can you believe them on other points, if you think they were mistaken on this point about which they were so clear, so consistent, and so emphatic?

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Satan’s World Turned Upside Down

One of the most stunning aspects of our salvation through Jesus Christ is that He literally turned creation upside down to save us.

In the original order, angels were over mankind.  Through the resurrection, God was going to raise the human dead to angelic status (Matt 22).  There was a precursor to this when Jesus’ disciples were treading over all the power of the enemy and Jesus saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning (Luke 10).  This was quite a change from the days when Satan walked wherever He wished on the earth and foisted havoc on God’s favored ones such as Job (Job 1:7; 2:2).

Even those who had expected God to raise the dead had not had the nerve to hope that resurrection would be all the way to heaven and over angels!  Thus angels went from lords to being ministering spirits for all those who would inherit salvation (Heb 1).  Angels themselves had no advance warnings of this plan and longed to learn of it as they heard the gospel being preached by humanity (1 Peter 1).  Thus this eternal purpose was made known to rulers in heavenly places through the New Testament church (Eph 3).   

As the day of Christ was drawing near (Heb 10), the saints contemplated their coming elevation into the angelic realm (Heb 2).  Paul even wrote that Satan would soon be crushed under their feet ( Rom 16).  Had he understood the ultimate outcome of Jesus’s crucifixion, Satan might not have inspired it (1 Cor 2).   On the basis of this astounding turn of events, people were turning from Satan’s dominion to trust the Son of God (Acts 26). 

At the last trumpet, at the coming of the Lord, when the new heavens and new earth were brought in, Satan was thrown down to earth and the dead were raised from Sheol to heaven – never to return again.  All this took place away from fleshly eyes, but we may know that it did by testimony of the word of God.

Satan’s world is upside down and ours is now right-side up.  The Jewish Thessalonians who protested that the gospel of Jesus was turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6) had little idea how profoundly accurate they were! 

For a longer post on this subject, see Everyone Is Going to Heaven 

For those who would like a fuller explanation from the Bible that everyone is going to heaven, I am posting online a book:  The Biblical Case for Everyone Going to Heaven.

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“You Must Be Churched” = “You Must Be Circumcised”

Those who insist that believers should be involved in church are like those in New Testament times who insisted that believers should be circumcised. 

For a fuller comparison, read the book of Galatians substituting the words “church involvement” for the words “circumcision” or “circumcised.”

The rationale for each is identical.  In New Testament times, some people pointed to the Old Testament scriptures and, seeing circumcision practiced, said, “The Lord and His Scriptures call for circumcision.”  Today, some people point to the New Testament scriptures and, seeing church practiced, say, “The Lord and His Scriptures call for church involvement.”

In both cases, the readers are assuming that a practice God required in the previous age will also be required in the current age.  Moreover, they overlook that we live today in the kingdom of God in which no ritual practices are required.  The practice God wants is righteousness.  In fact, righteousness is what He has always wanted but He had to get humanity there by stages – particularly through the establishment of Israel and its Messiah.  This required the use of some rituals to help convey truth and have it passed from generation to generation.  Once Messiah had come, however, and His kingdom established, such practices could be discarded…and so they have been.

Church was a practice instituted to help people wait for and prepare for the kingdom of God.  Since the kingdom has already come , we no longer wait for it.  We must cleanse ourselves to enter it, but it is always here for us.  And even when we are not in it, we are still subject to it for it is the rule of the universe.

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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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We Were in the Cleft of the Rock

In Exodus 33 God gave Moses a picture of how He would reveal Himself through Jesus Christ over a thousand years later.

God hid Moses in the cleft of a rock while He made all His glory pass before him.  He also hid Moses with His hand during this time.  Afterward, God took away His hand and said Moses could see His back, but that no man could see His face and live.

In this way, God ultimately took upon Himself flesh and became Jesus of Nazareth.  Though Jesus’ followers knew that He was “of God” while He was among them, they did not know the full extent of His identity until afterward.  Jesus instructed His apostles not to proclaim His identity as Messiah until after He was raised from the dead.  Similarly, the Messiah was not fully revealed to be God until the church age ended in the coming of the kingdom of God with the passing of the apostles.

It was difficult enough for us to cope with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ when we thought God was with Him.  Had we known that He was God Himself in the flesh…well, we could hardly have coped with that thought.

Only after God has passed by, can we fully open our eyes and digest the event.

GICNAT

Distinguish the Word of Grace from the Commandments of Men

Even in the days of the apostolic church, just before the coming of the kingdom of God, the apostle Paul had the foresight to make an important distinction between the word of grace and the commandments of men. 

In the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians he took his stand on the word of salvation he had declared and  thanked God he hadn’t gotten to involved in baptism.  He thus made clear that the word of the gospel was the means of salvation, not the act of water baptism (and he certainly didn’t call it a “sacrament”). 

After the departure of the apostles, church hierarchy formed and sacraments were instituted as an expression of man-made religion that has come to be called Christianity.  The true spirit of Christianity, however, has nothing to do with church or sacraments – anymore than it has to do with temple priests and sacrificial lambs.  The spirit of Christianity has to do with faith in an invisible God whose face is the Jesus Christ who walked the earth among us, showing us how to live in this fallen world.

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Don’t Tell Others They Must Read the Bible

It is good that you benefit  from reading the Bible.  Let us not, however, turn it into a commandment for others.  God may not be calling them to read it.  All of us have the same Master and the same commandments, but we do not all have the same callings.

We live in the kingdom of heaven and God has written His law on every human heart (Rom 2).  He is therefore able to direct the life of every human being who will listen to Him – without reference to the written word of God.  There are wonderful people in the world who have never read the Bible.  Some of these wonderful people have never even heard of it. 

Let your Bible reading  bless others by the way it makes you behave with them.  That is, be a doer of the word, not just a reader only (James 1).  As you grow in grace, you will be an even greater blessing to those around you.   

If others show interest in the Scriptures, by all means help them as Philip did the Ethiopian on the road to Gaza.  Be happy to share with others that which has been a blessing and treasure to you.  But never lay it on them as a requirement.

God’s commandments are sufficient.  Let us never add to them.

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Read the Old Testament the Way the Apostles Did

In the time of the apostles, the Old Testament was their Bible.  It wasn’t until after they died that their own writings were collected, assembled into what is called the New Testament, and added to the Bible.  Therefore, whenever you see the apostles referring to, or quoting the Scriptures, they are talking about what we call the Old Testament.

The apostles had a particular way of reading the Old Testament.  It was the way Jesus had taught them.  In the last chapter of Luke, Jesus makes clear to His apostles (and Luke makes clear to his readers) that the Old Testament was full of information about Jesus.  The apostles, like all good Jews of that day, had previously seen the Old Testament as a collection of law, history, and some prophecies about Israel including some references to a Messiah.  In the light of Jesus’ resurrection, however, they came to see almost the entirety of the Old Testament as describing the work of Messiah.   

Through the gospels and letters of the New Testament, we see examples of how the apostles came to see Jesus in the Old Testament by the way they quoted it.  They didn’t merely see Him in the obvious prophecies that had been made about Messiah being born in the line of David.  They saw Him as the Passover that Israel celebrated, the manna in the desert, the rock that followed them, the serpent that Moses lifted, the ladder that Jacob had dreamed, the Shepherd that David extolled, the temple that Solomon built, the wisdom that the Queen of Sheba came to hear, and much more.  In fact, even the entire New Testament itself is incapable of explicitly reporting every reference to Jesus in the Old Testament.  The left us the path, however, to finding the rest. 

Learning about Jesus nourishes our faith.  Why should we study anything else in the Old Testament except to look for Jesus?

The apostles had a particular way of reading the Old Testament.  They abandoned the historic method of reading it according to the flesh.  Instead, they read it in the light of what they called the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We would do well to read it the same way.

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“After My Departure”

The apostles did not expect good things to happen to the church after they departed.  On the contrary, they frequently warned of the apostasy that would come in the absence of their direction.  The comfort was that the Lord was coming soon in His kingdom and therefore each believer should hold firm to what he’d been taught, looking for the day of the Lord (also called “the day of Christ”).  Thus Paul had warned the elders at Ephesus about what would happen after his departure.  Sure enough, by the time John wrote Revelation, the church at Ephesus was receiving a rebuke from Jesus.  Yet He told them to return to their first love, reminding all who had heard the Olivet discourse of His prophecy that the ones who did not let their hearts grow cold could endure to the end and be saved in the coming of the kingdom.

Jesus and His apostles were unified in their view that the demise of the church would coincide with the coming of the kingdom.  Paul and Peter became convinced that they would not survive to see it.  There was always the question about whether John would live to see it, given what Jesus had said to Peter about him.  Since the apostolic witness on this point is consistent and abundant, why do people act today as if the Lord or the apostles had established some sort of transfer of power that would allow the church to be administered generation after generation waiting on a kingdom whose coming was still supposed to be considered imminent almost two thousand years later?

It’s much easier to believe the New Testament on this point:  The kingdom of God came in the midst of an apostate church at the end of the apostolic age.  All church traditions handed down from that point, which would have been around the late 1st Century A.D., would therefore be questionable.  The kingdom has been in the earth since then.  If we’re seeking Jesus, we’ll find Him in the kingdom, not church. 

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Reading the New Testament in the Spirit of Grace

When you read the New Testament, you can see the conflict between the historic perspective of God’s law and the spirit of grace that the apostles brought from Jesus.  As the apostle John had written, the law came through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  Both schools of thought appealed to the same set of written words, but interpreted them in totally different ways.

The Judaizers believed the message of Jesus but clung to the law of Moses according to the flesh.  That is, they wanted Gentile converts to be circumcised just as the Jews had always been circumcised.  Paul spent much of his ministry arguing with them, pointing out that salvation was by the spirit of grace and that clinging to the historic practices was antithetical to truth faith.  This took great conviction on the part of the apostles because they were disregarding millennia of practice that had begun with Abraham.

Let me ask: Do you read the New Testament today in a spirit of grace or in the spirit of law and flesh?  By that I mean, do you – like the Judaizers – think that proper Scriptural interpretation means that people must be baptized, must take communion, must attend church, must tithe, and so on?  If you read the New Testament in a spirit of grace, you don’t see it that way.  Rather, you see that the New Testament saints engaged practices appropriate for the unique period of time in which they lived.  Our inheritance from them is to imitate their faith, not their actions. 

Without reading in a spirit of grace, we would be fighting with slingshots and the jawbones of donkeys.  Without grace, we would be calling down fire from heaven on supposed enemies.  Do you think it is only the Old Testament that we should read in a spirit of grace? 

Notice that the more legalistically someone reads the New Testament, the less grace you see in their lives.  Don’t be like them.

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The Spirit of the Judaizers

The spirit of the Judaizers animates the church today. 

In New Testament times, the Judaizers objected to the gospel of grace that Paul and the others apostles preached on the grounds that faith alone was not enough.  Judaizers believed that converts should also practice circumcision according to the Law of Moses.  Their argument was that circumcision had been established by God and could not be abandoned.  The book of Galatians provides a clear, complete, and compelling view of the apostolic argument against the Judaizers.  In summary it was: the grace of God is sufficient.

Today, the spirit of the Judaizers is still alive in those who practice and preach church attendance.  They say that trusting God is not enough, believers need to be in subjection to other believers.  They also say that church was established by God and cannot be abandoned.  In spirit, the book of Galatians provides a clear, complete, and compelling view of what the apostolic argument against this sort of thinking would be.  The apostles are not here to speak for themselves so we must read their words and catch their spirit.  Their message was of liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17). 

Today’s church leaders claim the Bible as their authority for mandating  church.  But they overlook the fact that in New Testament times the Old Testament was all the Bible that people had – and the Judaizers claimed its authority for mandating circumcision.  I urge you to re-read the book of Galatians and see that the spirit that animated the Judaizers then is the same spirit that animates church leaders today.

Be like the men of Issachar who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.

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Yes, I Am a Recovering Christian Leader

Yes, I am a recovering Christian leader (to borrow from the 12-step lexicon).  I was a pastor.  I sought to get people to come to my church.  I thought I was doing it for God, but I should have known better.

I told people that they needed God.  That was true, and I believed it.  What I wasn’t admitting to them, however, was that I needed them.  I needed them in the church when I preached because I would be embarrassed if my church was empty or only had a few coming.  I needed their tithes because without them I couldn’t pay the bills.  I needed them to volunteer because without their time commitments we couldn’t have enough programs to attract more people.

I liked to think that I had surrendered my life to a calling to preach the good news of Jesus Christ, but there was so much I that I had to do to sustain the church that only a fraction of my time went to the original purpose.  There was new member visitation, worship team practice, board meetings, and programs of every description: for youth, for women, for men, for couples, for singles, and on and on it went.

There are successful churches and there are struggling churches.  I’ve been part of both.  Those that do well operate on sound business principles, those that struggle don’t.  In other words, church success has nothing to do with Divine presence and church failure has nothing to do with Divine absence.  Church was an instrument of God in the New Testament, but it’s been a strictly human arrangement ever since – as evidenced by its divided nature (“A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand”).  Any church’s success or failure today can be explained by sociological, not theological, principles.

The point is that church is a structure God has not used since New Testament times.  He blesses faith wherever and whenever He finds it in a human heart.  If that person happens to be in church, fine.  If that person is somewhere else, fine.   People pay attention to church structure, but God doesn’t care.  He’s looking for faith in individual human hearts.

Once I realized that God had abandoned the structure of the church, I did, too.  I have never regretted it.  It is a beast that consumes the resources of people who want to serve God.  I know this not just from the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, but from my own personal experience.

Having repented of my pastoring, I am now free to praise His holy name – which is precisely what I was wanting to do all along.  Only now, I don’t need people to give me anything or do anything for me in order to accomplish that.

I explain more about how I walked away from being  a pastor in I Left My Church by Letting It Leave Me.

“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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The Yoke of Grace Versus the Yoke of Law

The Scriptures speak of the yoke which Jesus gives: the yoke of grace.  His yoke is easy and His load is light.  The Scriptures also speak of the yoke of the law of Moses – a yoke which according to the apostle Peter, “Neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear.”  The Jews of Jesus’ day had good reason to speak this way about the yoke of the law for they had attempted with great effort to keep it.  Do not think that they brushed it off.  They embraced it and gave themselves to it as completely as they knew how.  Yet this still was not enough.  It was an onerous burden.  The process turned many of them into Pharisees, including the apostle Paul.  Thus when Jesus came offering the yoke of the kingdom of heaven they grasp it with all their heart – none more famously than Peter. 

Believers did not grasp the yoke of grace simply because it was easier.  They embraced it was better and because it was God’s plan.  The yoke of the law had prepared them for it.  Therefore, when God said the time for the kingdom had come, they were ready.  Yes, some, like Paul, were slower to accept.  But once they understood that the lighter yoke actually resulted in greater service and glory to God, there was no reason not to accept it with all one’s heart!

Today people are pursuing God as if under a yoke of law.  They go to church regularly, they endure religious rituals, they put their faith in their piety.  As a result, they are burdened and joyless.  Would that they threw off the yoke of law and embraced the yoke of grace.  This yoke of grace is still easy and the load is still light.  It consists of the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  

Live in the light of Jesus.  Acknowledge His presence wherever you go.  Do not bow down to religious institutions or authorities of any kind.  Be done with lesser things and serve the King of Kings.

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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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Factions Are a Deed of the Flesh

According to Galatians 5, factions are a deed of the flesh.  They are not, therefore, a fruit of the spirit.  Thus you can know that churches today are not of the spirit but rather of the flesh.

The flesh has to do with the world that can be seen, of course, while the spirit embraces the heavenly dimension that we cannot see.

It is clear that today’s church, having factions, is “of the flesh.”  There are thousands upon thousands of denominations of Christianity.  The number of these factions is almost uncountable.  More fundamentally, however, today’s church in total is itself a faction because it separates itself from society at large.  To make matters worse, today’s church considers itself holy while it considers society at large unholy.

Some will argue that the church of the New Testament separated itself from society at large and it was called holy.  This is true, but that was before the kingdom of God came which removed all distinctions between Jew and Gentile in its complete renewal of creation.  The New Testament church longed for and looked for the kingdom which is now ours to enter.  God’s kingdom came at the end of the apostolic age and has been available to all humanity every since.  The church of the New Testament was privileged just as ancient Israel was privileged, but in the better covenant of the kingdom of God, all nations receive the privileges.  As evidence of the difference, remember that the apostles would not allow the church to be divided under their watch; once they were gone and the kingdom had come, the church has never stopped dividing.  The New Testament church – which can also be called the apostolic church – was truly an organism created and sustained by God.  The church (or churches) since are, by contrast, institutions of man.

Consider the united church during New Testament days and the divided church ever since.  Doesn’t that indicate to you that a profound change took place between those two time periods?  What else could account for it save the coming of the Lord in His kingdom which the New Testament had prophesied.  It even prophesied the falling away of the church in the last days of the apostles that would birth the divisions.  That “falling away from the Lord” still animates the church today.

When the perfect came, the partial was to be done away – the partial would simply become a faction.  Indeed, that’s what the church after the apostles became and thus it has remained down to our day.  Let us abandon all factions for they are a deed of the flesh.  Walk in the spirit and be one with your brother and sister human beings.  There is but one family of God.

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Do You Know Who Is Obeying God?

Christian leader, do you know who in your congregation is obeying God and who is not?  If you do not know, how can you be their spiritual leader?

You not only don’t know who in your flock is being obedient and who is being disobedient, you don’t know it about the people you are seeking to visit and join your church either.  For all you know, they could be living relatively righteous lives without going to church and then fall into sin with a member of your church.  It’s happened.

You cannot see the secrets of human hearts, and therefore you are in no position to know whether a congregant needs a rebuke or a pat on the back.  A person’s thought life alone is completely out of your purview.  And then there’s the fact that they are only in your church for a portion of the 168 hours in a week.  You don’t know what they are doing the rest of the time.  Are you beginning to recognize that you are completely inadequate to be a spiritual shepherd to these people.

I will tell you who is not inadequate:  Jesus our Lord.  Let Him shepherd the sheep.  And while your at it, join the flock.  You need shepherding, too.

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Do You Teach Holiness?

Christian leaders, do you teach holiness?  You know from the book of Hebrews that holiness, or sanctification,  is required for anyone to see the Lord.

As important as holiness is, none of us is qualified to teach it. We can tell people about the one who is holy, but only He can teach it, and only He can impart it to them.

“You shall be holy for I am holy.”  You know these words of the Lord.  Yes, they are sobering.

Because we know that holiness is essential for God’s people and because we know that we ourselves are not capable of teaching it, we should recognize that the Lord must teach His people.  Therefore, we should stand aside and let Him.  Equally important, we need to sit for this teaching ourselves because we need His holiness as much as anyone.

How strange that some people should call men of the cloth holy – as if our institutions could impart holiness by designating someone for ministry.  It is not those who are affiliated with human institutions who are holy but rather those who are affiliated with the Lord.

Let us abandon these God-forsaken institutions and walk in His cleansing light.

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Why Do You Lord It Over God’s Flock?

Why do you accept a role overseeing a portion of God’s flock when He said that whoever would be great in His kingdom should be as a servant and a child?

You have not usurped His role as shepherd maliciously or even consciously.  It was just tradition.  It’s the way things have been handed down to you. But the Scriptures tell us differently, and it is the Scriptures to which we must be true.

Deep down you know that you should not be lording it over God’s people.  You are one of God’s children, but He has not put you in charge of others for He is fully capable of being Father to them all.  Besides that, you have spiritual struggles of your own – which makes you the blind leading the blind.  Tradition has misled you, but God’s word will guide you rightly.

Tradition told you that this role of leadership was appropriate, but God’s word tells you not to be called rabbi, teacher, father, or leader.  Do you think that because your title is a synonym and not literally one of these four words that you will be excused?

Peter said that when the Chief Shepherd appeared, He would award the faithful shepherds.  He did appear, just when He said He would, and all who were sanctified saw Him as He was: God Almighty.

Seek God to learn how He would have you to serve people without having spiritual authority over them.

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Where Does Repentance Fit Into Your Ministry?

Do you tell people they should repent?  Do you emphasize the point, or gloss over it?  Are you afraid people won’t follow you if you talk too much about repentance?

As a Christian leader, you know that repentance was an essential element of the good news message.  From John the Baptist, through Jesus, and all the apostles, the gospel was consistently preached:  Repent and believe!  This came from a rich tradition, for the Old Testament prophets were noted for their consistent call for wayward Israel to return to the Lord.  Of course, their work was built on the foundation of Moses who could be quite strong in his denunciations of the Israelites.  In fact, his frustration with them on one occasion caused him to be deprived of personally entering the promised land.  Even Moses, however, wasn’t the beginning, for Noah, and Enoch before him, had also called for repentance.

Thus the Bible reveals the centrality of repentance to the message of God.  How could anyone speak in God’s name and ignore it?

Let me ask also about repentance in your own life.  How important is it to you in your walk with God?  How can you walk with God without it?

If repentance is not relevant in your personal life, it would not likely be relevant in your ministry.

If We Are Faithless, He Remains Faithful

Christian leader, you remember these words written from Paul to Timothy.  Given the context, it sounds rather like he was quoting them in the same way we might quote a poem or hymn.  Do you trust these words?  They are powerful!

These words confirm what we know deep in our hearts:  that God’s faithfulness to us does not depend on our faithfulness to Him.  If it did, what straits we would be in!  On the contrary, our faithfulness to Him depends on His faithfulness to us.

Let’s assume you’ve bought a present for one of your children.  Would you tell them that if they will believe that you bought it for them, then you will give it to them, but if they don’t believe then you will throw it away?  Of course not.  You tell them that you have bought it for them.  If they believe you, they can be excited and happy immediately and look forward to receiving, opening, and using it.  If they don’t believe you, then they have no immediate joy and hope.  They’ll still eventually receive the present from you and enjoy it, but they will have missed out on some of the hope and joy they could have had.

Even so, the atheist will receive life in heaven just as we will.  The difference is that we who believe have been given the privilege of knowing and looking forward to it.  The atheist deprives himself of joy and blessing in this life.

Jesus Christ is faithful, even when we are faithless. 

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There Are No Factions in the Kingdom of God

In the last days, the church was a Jewish sect.  Even before that, there was a division between the descendants of Abraham and all the rest of humanity.  With the coming of the kingdom of God, however, all factions, parties, and divisions were done away.  The kingdom came at the close of the apostolic age in spiritual glory and wonder, away from the fleshly eyes of worldly viewing.  No more would God be dealing with the one race, the descendants of one man.  The kingdom of God brought a renewal in which there was no such thing as Jew or Gentile, slave or free, Greek or barbarian.  We are all one in Christ and hence all divisions have been washed away.
 
Therefore, when you separate yourself from your fellow-man claiming that you have the God that they are without, you become a faction, a party, a division.  You thus separate yourself from the grace of God – doing yourself and your neighbor a wrong.  Instead, you should see Christ in your neighbor.  If he does not see Christ in himself, then be patient with him until He does.  Remain one with him in spirit and in heart.  Do not lord your awareness over him.
 
When you present yourself to the world as the church or as a Christian, you present Christ as a faction in the world.  He is not a faction.  He is the God who fills the heavens and the earth.  He gives us each breath we take.  In Him we all live and move and have our being.  Therefore, speak of Christ as a shared inheritance of humanity – not as the province of any subset of humans.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
As the New Testament saints looked to the Old Testament for types, so we in the kingdom must look to the New Testament for types.  The church in the New Testament is a type of the kingdom of God.  That is, as the apostles urged the New Testament church to live in peace without divisions, so should we as a human race seek to live in peace without divisions.  As God perfected the church, so we should let Him perfect the human race.  As Paul told the church in Corinth, they should not divide – not even in the name of Christ (1 Cor 1:12).
 
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The “Instead of Going to Church, Pray” 30-Day Challenge

Christian leaders, here’s a challenge for you to issue to your flocks:  Ask your people to spend the next 30 days giving all their church time directly to God.  That is, if they would spend two hours total on Sunday morning at church (service time, commute time, and prep time), then have them spend that time alone with the Lord.  Have them do the same for every church program and activity over the next month.  In other words, you won’t see them for thirty days, but God will be seeing them instead.  If you have a media or traveling ministry, ask your followers to give the time directly to God that they would spend reading, watching, or listening to your materials.  In both cases, have them give all the money that they would be giving you directly to the poor.  When the thirty days are up, ask them what they learned from the experience.
 
Do you think it would be acceptable to God for you to conduct such an experiment?  Would He mind having the people come directly to Him?  Would He protest if the money would be going to the poor?
 
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Why Do You Distract Believers?

Christian leaders, why do you distract those who believe in the Lord?  You seek them for your congregations.  You lay the burdens of volunteer work and financial responsibility for your ministry on them.  You thus rob them of two precious resources: time and money.  The Lord wants to be able to direct the deployment of their treasure Himself.  
 
And why do you tell the people they must relate to you as their pastor and to fellow believers as their brothers – as if you were all part of some elite subset of humanity?  Do these people who are interested in Christ not have enough human relationships already?  
 
Recognize that you have not just distracted these followers of Christ – you have distracted yourself as well.  Your ministry is a beast that requires your constant feeding lest it consume you.  Return yourself to the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  He will bless you beyond measure if you do.
 
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In Christ

Many of you are familiar with the “in Christ” scriptures.  This refers to passages where this brief phrase (and similar ones such as “in Him”) occur.  Paul used them extensively to make known the great things God has done for those in Christ.  You’ll recall that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature; old things have passed away and new things have come.”  And this is but one example.

In New Testament days it was believers who were in Christ, who thus were the first fruits of God’s harvest, the earnest on His inheritance, and were consequently allowed to taste the powers of the age to come.  When that new age came, with the coming of the promised kingdom, the whole world came under the authority of Christ.  Therefore, it was no longer just the church who received these benefits, but the whole of humanity.  All things became new.  Jesus wasn’t just at the right hand of God anymore; He was sitting on the throne.  Yes, there was a place of refuge in the midst of the judgments of the earth for those faithful and obedient to the Lord.  But even those who were disobedient were only a process of repentance away from entrance into the temple of the Lord’s peace. 

Thus today, every person is in Christ and every person is new inside.  No, they are not all showing it – but then for years you’ve seen professed believers in your ministry that didn’t always show it.  For years, we have told believers who they were in Christ so that they might be encouraged.  Knowing of the kingdom’s reach, you should now tell every person who they are in Christ that they might become believers.  Believing won’t make it so; rather, they can believe it because it is so.

The whole world is in Christ.  If this is not so, then Jesus did not come when He promised and we are all still in our sins.  Yet He did come when He promised, so I say again: every human being is in Christ.

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Are You Great or Least in the Kingdom of God?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out for us the qualifications for greatness in the kingdom of God.  They are to keep and teach all the commandments of the Law.  How are you doing with that?  Of course, Jesus meant to keep and teach them in the grace and truth He brought through them, not the fleshly way they were originally laid down by Moses (i.e. circumcision of the heart not the flesh, unleavened bread of sincerity and truth and not literal crackers, Jesus as our lamb and not a woolly mammal, and so on).  Even so, how are you doing with that?

That, by the way, is only a rhetorical question from me because it’s none of my business where you stand.  I ask because I see hardly any Christian leaders today who seem to measure themselves in these terms.  It is an awesome standard Jesus has laid upon us.  We should at least acknowledge that this is the measuring stick.

Instead of pursuing Jesus’ standard, it appears many Christian leaders have simply constructed alternative forms of Christianity.  Some focus on building the biggest, most successful church.  Others focus on having the purest doctrine.  Others focus on having the warmest fellowship of believers.  It’s amazing how many alternatives exist, and how zealously they are pursued.

If you are one of those Christian leaders, I hope you will reconsider Jesus’s words and your own direction in life.  There may be time to make things right before you see Him in heaven.

I Want to See Christian Leaders Become Christlike Servants

Who am I to hope that Christian leaders will be transformed into Christlike servants?  I am a nobody.  Just a person, an ordinary human being.  In spirituality, I’m a little child, hardly knowing how to come in or go out – at best, one of the least of His kingdom.  This modesty is in no way false.

Yet I do long to see this transformation.  Christian leaders are over believers; Christlike servants are under them.  Christian leaders seek to draw the Lord’s believers to their respective causes; Christlike servants send believers to their Lord.  Christian leaders trust in their Christian identities; Christlike servants trust the Lord.

The transformation I hope for is possible, for the Lord wants us all to be Christlike servants.  And, of course, nothing is impossible with God.

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Lone Ranger Christian

The epithet “Lone Ranger Christian” is often tossed from the pulpit in an attempt to stigmatize any believer in Jesus who does not honor church.  Church is a social phenomenon so it’s natural for such a point to be well received by this audience.  They’re there – they want others there with them.  Rare is the church that doesn’t want to grow.  The more the merrier, and all that.

Consequently, the pastor’s argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is relatively weak and doesn’t consist of much more than the epithet.  Oh, he’ll throw in some lines about how we all need each other, but neglect the fact that most people who don’t come to church have plenty of relationships and aren’t recluses.  He’ll also throw in some Scripture, but not too much since the New Testament lacks any commandment regarding church attendance.  The closest it comes is Hebrews 10:25 which no church today practices because they all assemble separately when the verse calls for assembling together.  (For more, see my post on Hebrews 10:25.)

Aside from the weakness of the argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is the fact that this is exactly the kind of Christianity that was practiced by its Namesake and Founder.  That is, you do not see Jesus submitting Himself and His plans to others.  You do not see Him with a “home church” as base.  He does not have a pastor or elders to whom He submits.  (Well, He did eventually submit to elders but they had Him crucified – in part precisely because He had been a Lone Ranger and had not submitted His teaching to their authority.)  Jesus’ ministry was primarily conducted from town to town and on the roads in between.  Yes, He would go to a synagogue to teach and, yes, He would go to the temple and celebrate Israel’s feasts, but as for what we call church life today – He practiced none of it, taught none of it, and commanded none of it.  Therefore, the Hero of our faith was…the original Lone Ranger Christian.  How then do we follow in His steps without taking on His attitude?

Church is no longer of the Lord, and hasn’t been for a long time.  Seek His kingdom and His righteousness instead.  It is better to be alone and serving the Lord than together with others serving someone else.

See also:  How to Be in the One True Church

The Sin of Diotrephes

John’s third letter tells among its few lines the even shorter story of Diotrephes.  And a disturbing story it was.

It seems the apostle John couldn’t even get a hearing in Diotrephes’ church.  And indeed it was on the verge of becoming the church of Diotrephes instead of the church of the Lord.  Paul had warned the elders of Ephesus that some from among them would draw away the disciples after themselves.  John, in another letter, had warned that antichrists would arise in the last hour.  Diotrephes is a specific example of that which the apostles – and the Lord Himself – had warned: the falling away of church leaders just before the Lord’s return. 

If you seek followers for your church or ministry, you have inherited the sin of Diotrephes.  You probably are not drawing disciples of the Lord to yourself knowingly.  You think you are doing it for Him.  But recognize now that the Lord has chosen His people for Himself, not for us. 

Let us be done with the sin of Diotrephes.  That is, let us be done with the sin of wanting to be “first among them.”  Jesus Himself had warned us not to be called “Rabbi, Teacher, Leader, or Father” – all titles He reserved for Himself.  Again, let us flee from being over any disciple of the Lord.  They are His.

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The Church Is in Rebellion Against Jesus

The church proclaims that Jesus is Lord, but it does not practice this truth.  In fact, it rebels against Him.

Jesus says “Come unto Me,” while the church says, “Come unto us.”

Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” while the church says, “Seek first church.”

Jesus says, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine,” while the church says, “If you abide in church, then you are Jesus’ disciples.”

It is the saddest and strangest irony that the church works at cross purposes with the very Lord it professes to serve.

It was not always this way.  The church of the New Testament – that is, the apostolic church – was faithful to Him.  Since the end of that age, however, the church fell away and God’s kingdom came to replace it.  Wherever an individual walks yoked with Jesus – there is the kingdom of God.

We Who Had Sweet Fellowship Together

Such sad words that David writes here.  He describes a very painful moment. 

This is not the distance that separates two who do not know each other.  Rather, it is the estrangement of two who were once very close.

Imagine how Jesus felt, having been with the apostolic church every step of their persecuted and glorious journey.  So intimate was He with His church, and so closely did He identify with it, that in His challenging rebuke to Saul of Taurus He had cried out, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?”  The church was His bride.  He loved her as He loved His own flesh.

Imagine then how He felt as the apostles dwindled in number due to their faithful witness in the face of the ultimate persecution.  The love of many of the remaining grew cold and church leaders, loving to be first, began to draw the disciples to themselves.  He was not surprised for He had foreseen the apostasy, and He had warned through His apostles that it would happen.  Yet as with Judas, knowing ahead of time did not lessen the severity of His wound.  This rejection did not come from those who never knew Him.  Rather, it came from His companions and familiar friends, those who had walked with Him in the house of God in the throng.

Then there came the moment when there was a great separation of sheep and goats, invisible to earth but fully visible to heaven. The Lord chose His glorious church which was without spot or wrinkle, gladly giving them the kingdom; He simulataneously cast aside those who had chosen earthly structure and worldly power, and left them outside His kingdom. 

Decide today whose spiritual descendants you will be: whether those who set their minds on a heavenly Shepherd or those who set their minds on earthly shepherds.  Least of all, should you be like those earthly shepherds who sought the sheep for themselves.  Peter denied the Lord, but he did not betray Him and he did not take money for his betrayal as Judas had.  May God have mercy on us all.

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Reform the Clergy or Eliminate It?

You may wonder if I address Christian leaders in hope of reforming the clergy or eliminating it.  My hope is that it will be eliminated in the flesh and reformed in the spirit.

By eliminated in the flesh, I mean that I hope the church and all its clergy go away.  The church robs believers of their God-given liberty and enslaves them to the needs and purposes of the church.  This is true whether the church is worldwide in scope, is a local nondenominational church, or even a house church of a few people.  Church was only ordained by God for New Testament times.  Since then His kingdom has prevailed.  And since then, the church has fought the kingdom for the hearts of believers, telling all who would listen, “Those of you who would serve God must serve me.”   

By reformed in the spirit, I mean that every person in the clergy who knows Jesus Christ will praise Him daily and tell others of His goodness.  This does not require a paid position in a church or ministry.  In fact, spreading the gospel should not be a way of making money.  Otherwise, those of us who speak of Him are simply peddlers of God’s word.  We who know something of the Scriptures can freely share what we know as we have occasion.  But we must always respect every other person’s relationship with the Lord and never insert ourselves between Him and the person (which is what church does).

Therefore, I urge all of you who are considered Christian clergy: cast aside your ministerial title and status.  Live for the Lord, and sing His praise.  And if that means that you will sell hot dogs instead of passing the offering plate for your income, then know that you will have exchanged shame for glory.

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The Perfect Has Come

The great love chapter of the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) tells us that “when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.”  Of course, Paul was speaking of the discarding of church structure (including all the communication protocols he was in the midst of describing when he digressed on the subject of love) that would occur when the eternal kingdom of God arrived.

This doing away with something of lesser value when something of greater value comes on the scene was very much in keeping with biblical standards.  Moses’ tabernacle replaced the occasional altar of sacrifice offered by the patriarchs.  Then the temple replaced Moses’ tabernacle.  Then the church of the New Testament replaced the temple.  Lastly, the kingdom of God replaced the church.

The reason that church life has been such a frustration to people who love the Lord ever since New Testament times, is that God did away with it when He brought in His kingdom shortly after the last of the New Testament documents was written – just as He promised.  The church was a partial structure, intended only for apostolic times.  For this reason, the apostles never gave instructions for its perpetuation beyond their generation.  And for this reason, the structure of church has bedeviled believers for generations.  Jesus has offered Himself – and been found – through every generation since the apostles, but as soon as believers shift their focus from Jesus to church, the mischief begins.  Instead, believers should be seeking Jesus in His kingdom.  He is its king!  (As for the church, they allow Him to be king in name only.)

The kingdom of God is perfect.  It cannot be shaken.  The reason is cannot be shaken is that it is not administered by human hands.  Because it cannot be shaken, the kingdom has endured through every generation, even when the church has been violently shaken.  Church needs to go the way of the patriarchs’ altars and Moses’ tabernacle.  That is, it needs to be lost to history.  Unfortunately, it continues with us to this day like the ruins of the temple called the Wailing Wall with the hopeful chanting of prayers for the coming of a Messiah who has already come, and for the restoration of a Jerusalem that already sits secure from any human encroachment or corruption – fortified and glorified in the heavenly dimension.

Be done with the partial.  It consumes attention belonging to the perfect.  Let the partial burn on the ash heap outside the gates of our glorious Jerusalem.

Among you stands One whom you do not know!  He is the Perfect One.  Bow down to Him.  And to Him only.

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. 

He Sets Aside the First Covenant to Establish the Second

Jesus set aside the original covenant which included animal sacrifice and temple worship.  He replaced it with a new and better covenant wherein worship consists of doing the will of God in our daily lives (Romans 12:1-2). 

It was inevitable in that in the generation that followed the apostles, leaders arose who did not know Jesus.  Like the pharaoh who arose not knowing Joseph (Acts 7:18), these leaders subjugated the disciples (Acts 20:30) to themselves.  By doing so, these leaders shut off the kingdom of God from the disciples and did not enter themselves (Matthew 23:13).

God had intended all along to replace the first covenant with the second because it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin (Hebrews 10:4).  It merely a system instituted for a time until the more permanent administration of the eternal covenant could be established  (Hebrews 9:9-10; 13:20-21).

Apostolic Covering

Have you ever been asked if you have an apostolic covering?  Not all segments of the church have had to deal with the issue of “covering” so you may not be aware of this.  Yet the argument takes other forms in other segments of the church so that it is found in some form everywhere. 

Here’s a universal way of stating the issue: “To whom will you, as a Christian, be submitted so that you are protected from entering into spiritual error?”  The premise is that an individual cannot live his life exclusively with the Lord.  He must be in fellowship with other believers lest he go astray. 

Of course, all this is pure folly.  If fellowship or covering was sufficient to protect against error we wouldn’t have all the sin we have in the churches today: child molestation, adultery, divorce, greed, and on and on the list goes, including every sin known to mankind.  Sometimes the churches with the most covering have the most sins.

People who press you about covering are after something.  They either want your money, your allegiance, or your praise – and maybe they want all of these things. 

The next time someone asks you about your apostolic covering or fellowship, tell them that the apostle and high priest of your confession is the Lord Jesus Christ and you enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

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Go Back to Your Beginnings

Go back to your beginnings with the Lord.  Remember that sense of blessing that you had? 

Go back to the gospel of Jesus Christ that was preached to you.  Remember how you thought and felt in that moment?

It is other gospels you have heard since then that have blown you off course.  Other influences have entered into your life and brought you into bondage whereas it was Christ who had made you free.

Go back to the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus Christ that you once had.  You loved Him above all others and you were prepared to do anything to serve Him.

You did not learn about church and all its trappings from the Spirit who taught you about Jesus.

If you go back to your beginnings, and reinforce those truths that He Himself has made known to you, then you can walk closely with Him once again.

Remember:  Jesus first.  Jesus last.  Jesus always.

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Indivisible Kingdom

The kingdom of God cannot be divided.  It is the kingdom that cannot be shaken.  This is what we have needed, because everything that can be shaken is being shaken.   And certainly the church has demonstrated in every generation that it can be shaken.

The church was even shaken at the end of the apostles’ generation.  The Lord had told them this would be so.  Thus they were not surprised.  And thus they warned those to whom they spoke and wrote. 

Because they knew the church would be shaken and divided, they gave no instructions for its maintenance and operation after their deaths.  Did Noah leave instructions for how his ark was to be used for future journeys?

Here is the choice before you, Christian leader:  a divided and ever-dividing church…or an indivisible kingdom?  Which will you have?

Choose this day whom you will serve.  As for me, I will serve the Lord and His indivisible kingdom.

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Do You Love Church More Than the Kingdom?

Why do you cling to church instead of embracing the kingdom?  Was not the church God’s ark of salvation to carry His people into the promised land of the kingdom?

When the perfect is come, the partial is done away.  Why do you continue to hold fast to the partial?  Do you need more evidence that the church is not the perfect?  Look around you.

What have you thought, or even said, about the Jews who would not let go of the temple when He who was greater than the temple came on the scene?  Because they loved the temple more than the new thing God was doing, they were left with what they loved – only it had become empty of the Lord.  Ichabod.

He who gave the tabernacle in the wilderness gave the temple to replace it.  He who gave the temple gave the church to replace it.  He who gave the church gave the kingdom to replace it.  Embrace the kingdom.  That’s where God is now.

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Disband the Brothers

If you are a Christian leader, you probably have a band of followers.  If so, disband them.   Disband them that they might be of a band with the Lord instead.  He is the only true Christian leader (Matthew 23:10). 

The Lord does not bond to people through you.  He bonds to people directly.  He is the living God.

Jesus desires all men to live together in harmony.  That goal is hard enough without you or I taking people and binding them to ourselves in the name of the Lord.  This only creates more relationships and more temptations for them.  Now they have to spread their energy across double the human demands.  Moreover, they’ll be expecting your band of brothers to treat them better than their natural band of brothers – and in that regard they will often be sorely disappointed. 

We have no call to try to create the family of God.  The true family of God is humanity – of which people are already a part.  Our role is to praise Him, calling attention to His omnipresence and His moral excellence!  If we do that, brothers will bond and the family of God will find peace.

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The Parable of the Unjust Steward

If you have believers in the Lord devoted to you as their spiritual leader for the Lord, then you would do well to mimic the steward in Jesus’ parable who was found squandering his master’s possessions. 

Let the Lord’s servants go to Him that they might serve Him.  During their time with  you, you laid burdens upon them, usually in the name of the Lord.  Maybe it was about church attendance.  Maybe it was about volunteer service in church, ministry, or organization programs.  Maybe it was financial commitments you asked them to make to you or your organization for the Lord’s sake.  In any case, free them from these obligations.  Set them completely at liberty and you will find other comfort and care for yourself when they have all gone.

Above all, however, be sure to let them go.  They are the Lord’s sheep and you and I should never have taken them – even if we were well-intentioned.  We may have been blind, but now we see.  The earth is the Lord’s and the sheep are the Lord’s.  He is able to care for them.  We may proclaim Him.  In fact, we should proclaim Him.  But we cannot take His place.  He alone is the Shepherd, the Pastor, the Ruler, and the Teacher of the people.

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Israel Is a Type of Humanity

If you are a Christian leader, you know that the Bible is filled with shadows and types.  Israel in the Old Testament is a type of humanity in the kingdom of God.

When Jesus is king, Israel flourishes as it did under David and Solomon.  When people disregard Jesus and seek other gods, the experience resembles that of Israel under its weaker kings.  When every person does what is right in their own eyes, the earth resembles Israel in the days of the book of Judges when there was no king in Israel.

Note that I did not say Israel was a type of the church.  Rather it is a type of all humanity.  In this context, the northern kingdom of Israel which split off from the house of Judah is a type of today’s church. 

Thus the post-apostolic church needs to forsake its separated identity and return to the Lion of the tribe of Judah as its King.  If it truly wanted to serve the Lord’s anointed, it would serve only Jesus and not set up kings (be they called pastor, pope, or anything else) of their own, declaring (falsely) that they are the true kingdom of Israel.

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The Divided Kingdom Is a Sign

If you’re a Christian leader, you know your Bible.  You know that the Lord gives signs.  The divided church is a sign to us.  Specifically, it’s a sign that the kingdom has come to replace it.

The prophets and apostles, and the Lord Himself, told us that the church’s last days would be marred by apostasy even though some believers would remain true.  The beginnings of this were even documented in the New Testament, especially the book of Revelation.  That fracturing has never stopped.  Today there are over 30,000 Christian denominations.  Do you now see that this is a sign that the physical church is not the kingdom of God?

A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.  There is no more divided kingdom on earth than the self-identified church!  How could it possibly be the Lord’s?

There was one who restrained the divisions in the days of the apostles, but once He was taken away there was nothing to prevent the continual dividing.  Thus the splintering continues even to this day. 

The kingdom of God, by contrast, is not divided at all.  It would be impossible for the Lord’s kingdom to be divided.  Thus, let the sign of the earth’s divided church alert you to stop seeking the church…and start seeking the kingdom!

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Why Are We Surprised That We Misunderstood the Kingdom?

Some of you know that the kingdom came long ago, right on time.  Many of us, however, took a while to get that truth.  We should not be surprised, however, that we initially misunderstood the kingdom of God.

After all, even though the kingdom of God was Jesus’ primary teaching theme, even those of us who’ve been devoted Bible teachers have shied away from it.  Isn’t that odd – that those of us who proclaimed the supremacy of Jesus the loudest, shied away from His central teaching?  How about the Sermon on the Mount, which could be considered the Magna Carta of the kingdom – how many of us majored on that as a sermon text?

Jesus taught the kingdom by parables.  Even the twelve apostles had a hard time comprehending them, especially at first.  The kingdom is indeed a mystery that only God can reveal.  Human intelligence and education are of no value in the quest to understand.

Therefore, having now the benefit of hindsight, it should be no surprise to us that while we initially thought the coming of the kingdom would be with signs to be observed (even though He explicitly said it wouldn’t – see Luke 17:20-21), the truth turned out to be something different than our expectation.  And it should particularly be no surprise that His coming in the kingdom was spiritual, not physical or fleshly, events.  After all, have we not boldly declared to anyone who would listen that spiritual things are more important and lasting than physical things?

Thus it is very understandable that we should have missed His second coming, just as the Jews missed His first coming.  Only let us miss it no longer.  Let us turn completely to Him whom physical eye cannot see.  Let us honor Him by faith…for He once asked (as if He foresaw our problem), “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Do Not Withhold Good

You know that the Scriptures say that we should not withhold good from those to whom it is due when we it is within our power to do it.  Therefore, if we see a man in need and have the resources to help him, we should help.

You also know that the Scriptures tell us that hope deferred makes the heart sick.  Therefore, if we do not have the present ability to help the man but promise to provide it later, we should send the help as soon as we are able.  It almost goes without saying that we should not continually put off fulfillment of our obligation.

It’s clear that God led the early church to expect the return of the Lord and the coming of the kingdom before their entire generation passed away.  Almost every page of the New Testament pulsates with this hope.  The sense of expectation is palpable.  Yet here we are, dozens of generations since that time, and some people say that the Lord still has not fulfilled that promise.  That would mean that He has led generation after generation to expect something that He promised, but has still not delivered – almost two thousand years since He said the time would be “soon.”  How can this be?

The answer is that it cannot be!  It cannot be that God would make the hearts of His people sick…time after time.  It’s always been in His power to effect the coming of the kingdom.  How could He withhold what He Himself had promised and led His people to expect? 

The good news is that God has not withheld from us the good that He promised.  He has not made our hearts sick by a repeated deferring of our hope.  Rather, He did everything He promised in the time frame that He promised.  The Lord has come…and has reigned over heaven and earth ever since!  (Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again )

Therefore, do not proclaim the Lord Jesus who is to come again.  Instead, proclaim the Lord Jesus who has come again just as He said and who reigns forevermore.  Those who have eyes of faith see Him now…and serve Him gladly!

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2 Timothy 2:19

For those of us who name the name of the Lord, our number one responsibility is to abstain from wickedness.  It is not to build churches, manage ministries, wage evangelistic campaigns, or build great organizations for God.  Rather, it is to abstain from wickedness.  If we cannot do that for God, nothing else we do matters.  In fact, if we cannot do that, we will bring dishonor on God’s name by everything else we do in His name. 

If you cannot abstain from wickedness, cease mentioning His name until you can.

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Psalm 130:5

Jesus Christ is our hope.  He is also the Word of God (see John 1:1, 14; Luke 1:2; 1 John 1:1; Rev 19:13).  It’s in Him that we hope, and we thus find rest for our souls (Matt 11:28-30).

The Scriptures are about Jesus (John 5:39-40; Luke 24: 27, 44).  They will sing His praise at every opportunity we give them.

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Psalm 119:38 – Seeing Jesus as the Word Who Inspires Reverence

God established Jesus as His ultimate promise.  That is, Jesus is God’s Word to us (see John 1:1, 14; Luke 1:2; 1 John 1:1; Rev 19:13).  It is this very personal Word or Promise that evokes the reverence of God in our hearts.  Without Jesus, we could not imagine that the heart of God was so merciful.  Jesus, however, is the confirmation of such a hope.  Thus we hold Him in reverence and awe.

The Scriptures are about Jesus (John 5:39-40; Luke 24: 27, 44).

Psalm 107:20

God sent His Son into the world.  That is, God sent the Word (John 1:1, 14; Luke 1:2; 1 John 1:1; Rev 19:13)

The Word healed all manner of sickness and disease.  Most of all, He healed our sinful hearts.  He delivered us from all our destructions in the process.  His deliverance is enduring and eternal.

The Scriptures are about Jesus (John 5:39-40; Luke 24: 27, 44).  We certainly see His glory in this word picture by the psalmist.

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