Sunday, June 30, 2013

To be or to do?

Forgive my wanderings but I was thinking about how it seems so easy for so many of us to get so caught up in all the "rules" that we miss the bigger picture of what God wants to bring to our lives.  
Caught up in all the rules... you know, the "Do this! Don't do that! Can't you read the sign?" sort of things. [Good old one hit wonder from the 70's - Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...!/fivemanelectricalband]  But I digress...
Sometimes it seems that sometimes we are so focused on doing, we forget to just be.  It's real easy to get caught up in the "do" because often that is where we find our fulfillment. We feel that by doing we have accomplished something, especially if we do something spiritual.
We read that Jesus, after a night of intense ministry (Mark 1:29-35) got up well before the daybreak and went to a solitary place and prayed. So what do we want to do? We want to get up early before the break of dawn go to a solitary place and pray. What if God is telling you to rest your body? What if He would rather have you spend time with your wife and kids that morning? Or what if He wanted you to slow down your life and do absolutely nothing for a time? Not reading, not praying, not watching T.V.,not listening to music, but doing absolutely nothing. How long could you last? Five minutes... twenty... sixty?

In all honesty, I'm not sure I could do it. My mind would wander, and I would begin thinking of things I need to do, or things I should do, or things I didn't do when I should, etc.
The Israelites were in the same mindset after 400 years of slavery in Egypt. They were so used to doing that they could not relate to a God who just wanted to spend a little time with them...
Get the picture. They've crossed the Red Sea on dry land, they saw God give them incredible victory over their enemies by drowning an entire army - chariots and all. They ate bread that literally dropped from Heaven. They saw Moses strike a boulder with a staff and water gushed out of it! They defeated the Amalekites as Moses' arms were being held up by Aaron and Hur... And finally after three long months in the desert, they are at Mount Sinai to meet the Lord... 
But they were not ready...
Maybe it was that 400 years of obeying their Egyptian masters had diminished any ability to relate to God outside of being told what the do's and don'ts were. The stories of God's miracles had been passed down. How He had saved humanity through the Flood. They had heard the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They knew that God had set a people apart to Himself, and they were that people...
And yet, they simply could not understand, that He just wanted them. Not their do's. Just them.
"You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself." Exodus 19:4

"Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die."  Exodus 20:18-19

Their relationship with God then became about rules and regulations (do's and don'ts) because the people once delivered from Egypt rejected an intimate personal relationship with God.

When Jesus came on the scene and spoke of His relationship with His Father, it blew the minds of those trying to find a right relationship with God by obeying the rules.
Jesus' desire to show God's heart, and His love for rebellious man, allowed someone like a local prostitute to come and worship Him. Even before He ever told her she was forgiven.
As the woman wept and washed His feet with her hair, Jesus saw her heart. He knew all the junk in her life. And even though her sins were many, He loved her and forgave her. But He rebuked His judgmental religious-law-following host...
In Luke 4:8 the enemy has just tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him. Jesus' rebuke was to quote Deuteronomy 6:13 and say, "It is written, you shall worship the LORD your God and Him only shall you serve."

Service should never supersede worship. Following Jesus is not about the rules and regulations, it's about knowing Him and loving Him. It's never as much about doing, as it is in just being in Him.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

As He is...

God created mankind and gave him dominion over His creation. 

 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion… on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over… every living thing that moves on the earth.’” Genesis 1:26-28

God gave human beings dominion and authority over everything on earth, and then God assigned Adam (with Eve) to care for and bless the earth.

When the first Adam sinned, he released his authority and dominion to an enemy, the enemy of enemies. Jesus calls him a liar and murderer from the beginning, and every time he opens his mouth, he lies; there is no truth in him.

Eve was deceived but Adam disobeyed (1 Timothy 2:14).  The very enemy who had rebelled against God, deceived the woman, and then accused all mankind before God, was now given place in the earth. That is, until the cross!

That is why when the enemy tempted Jesus, after showing Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, he could say in Luke 4:5-6, “All of this authority [dominion] I will give you, and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.”

Who delivered it to him?  The first Adam gave it to him when he disobeyed and rebelled.

[By the way, did you notice that Jesus did not argue that those things had been delivered to him.  Jesus knew it, that is why it was a temptation.]

The good news is that Jesus came to destroy all of the works of the devil, and as the 2nd Adam, He also took back the dominion and authority that the 1st Adam gave away.

After the resurrection Jesus said that “All authority (all power of rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” Amplified (AMP)

Jesus is our Champion who died on the cross for our sins and regained all that Adam 1 had lost, and even more.  Adam was given authority and dominion in the earth, and God told him to have dominion and authority over all of the animal kingdom.  Now in Jesus, He has also given us authority over all the power of the enemy.

Jesus established a new kingdom in His blood, and His dominion covers the universe.

One day He will return and set His feet once again upon the earth.  Until that moment, He has promised to never leave us.  He abides in us and empowers us, and through His Holy Spirit, has given us authority and dominion in the earth to us, His church.

The mission of the church is to reach the hearts and minds of those who haven’t heard the good news, and to make disciples of all nations. We are to be a royal priesthood reconciling people to God.

As believers in Jesus, we have inherited the same authority that Jesus walked in.  We walk in the same righteousness that He walked in.

There was a great exchange that is described in 2 Corinthians 2:21,“For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].” AMP

At the cross, God put all that humanity was without God; all of the sin, all the unrighteousness, all of the unholy and vile corruption of humanity (that came through the first Adam), and He put it on Jesus as He was dying on the cross.

Then He took all that the Lord Jesus Christ was in the earth and now is, all of His goodness, holiness, beauty, righteousness, love, kindness, gentleness and authority, He made us to be. 

We didn’t deserve it, and certainly cannot earn it, but it happened because of God’s love for us.    The bible makes it pretty clear that all of God’s promises are yes and amen to us who believe in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20).  We receive those promises through faith in Jesus.

God put His Holy Spirit in us, which is the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.  Think about that one.  How much power did it take to raise Christ from the dead?  That is how much power you have available to you in Jesus!

You have the creative power of God dwelling in you. It came through the Holy Spirit. It is released the same way that God created, and that is through His words.

The bible also makes it clear that we receive  and walk in those things the same way we receive Christ Jesus, that is, through faith. 

“That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.Romans 10:9-10

“We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak.”  2 Corinthians 4:13

I believed, therefore I spoke…” Psalms 116:10

But the righteousness of faith speaks…” Romans 10:6

If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God…” 1 Peter 4:11

One of the reasons that God gave us the Holy Spirit is so that we would walk as sons and daughters of God, with the authority and presence of Jesus.  He also desires to reveal things to us, and to teach us the things that He has given us.

“But as it is written: “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.  But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit…” 1 Corinthians 1:9-10

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.  These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” 1 Corinthians 11:12-13

We have become children and heirs of God Most High through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, “… As He is, so are we in this world.” 1 John 4:17

Again, we didn’t deserve it, and certainly cannot earn it, but it happened because of God so loved His creation that even though the first Adam messed up, God reached down to us through His Son. 
Receive His love for you today, and begin to walk in the authority and righteousness He has made you to be. 



Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Better Covenant (part 2)

The New Covenant is built on better promises.
Through these promises you will share in the divine nature because you have escaped the corruption that sinful desires cause in the world...” 2 Peter 1:4 God’s Word Translation
The New Covenant is not based on the same conditions of the Old Covenant.
First John 3:23 says, "This is his commandment: to believe in his Son, the one named Jesus Christ, and to love each other as he commanded us."  The commandment you must obey in the New Covenant is to believe in Jesus, and love one another.
Our faith in Him, and in what Jesus did – brings righteousness, justification, and peace with God. He no longer sees us as enemies, or as sinners. He sees us as holy sons and daughters.
The gospel is based upon God's love for His creation, and His willingness to redeem Man. His love is the foundation of His Grace and the basis for our very existence.
When Jesus shed His Blood on the cross, a New and Better Covenant was implemented that negated the effect of the Old Covenant.
“None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:11-12
When the bible says that “… all shall know Me,” this speaks of a personal relationship with God.  One of the blessings of the New Covenant is that all can come into a personal relationship with Jesus.
Hebrew 8:12 says, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." This speaks of the mercy and grace that are available under the New Covenant.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve. We deserve punishment, we get blessing.  Mercy under the New Covenant also includes those things that are necessary to live in this life. For example, a "mercy ministry" is one that feeds the hungry and clothes the poor, and ministers to the outcast, orphans and widows, etc.
Mercy is also that part of the New Covenant that pertains to healing and provision. God has abundantly provided through the cross those things that pertain to life and godliness.
Grace is getting what we do not deserve: Our sins and iniquities are not remembered before God.
"David says the same thing about those who are blessed: God approves of people without their earning it. David said, “Blessed are those whose disobedience is forgiven and whose sins are pardoned. Blessed is the person whom the Lord no longer considers sinful.” Romans 4:6-8
Because of grace, God chooses to not hold sin and disobedience against us, and instead places His favor, righteousness, approval, and abundance on our lives.
Mercy is not getting what we deserve, and grace is getting good that we don’t deserve.
The good news of the New Covenant is that, as believers, everything that Jesus is to the Father, He imparts to us as His sons and daughters. He chooses not to treat us like sinners, but as royal children of the King.
The goodness of God leads us to repentance, and the blessings of the Lord come upon us based on the righteousness of Jesus, and not because of our performance.

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Better Covenant (part 1)

"But now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." Hebrews 8:6

We are told in the bible that, through Jesus, we have a new and better covenant.  Yea! – a new and better covenant! So what does that mean exactly? What in the world is a covenant anyway?

A covenant is simply an agreement or promise between two parties. In many cultures covenants, treaties, contracts, pledges or bonds are sealed by various means. In western cultures, typically, covenants or contracts are signed on paper by all involved parties. In biblical times, there was almost always a need for the shedding of blood to create a covenant.

Throughout history, God has dealt with humankind through covenants, and the most powerful covenant of all has always been a blood covenant. The Old Covenant was based on the shed blood of animals. The New Covenant was established on the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Not knowing the difference between the two covenants has caused many people to be double-minded in the way they live, and in the way they think about God.

The Old Covenant was based on the Mosaic Law.  This was much more than just the Ten Commandments. There were 613 rules, regulations, ordinances and commandments, which had to be followed to the letter. 

In Deuteronomy 28:1, we find that a person under the law must, “…diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments…,” to get blessings from God.

Well, that doesn’t sound so tough… at least on the surface. That is, until you realize that He was saying that all 613 of God’s commandments had to be obeyed completely.  James says in 2:10, “…If someone obeys all of God’s laws except one, that person is guilty of breaking all of them.”

In fact, according to Deuteronomy 6, the person under the Mosaic Law had to keep all of God’s statutes, and commandments, and their children and grandchildren had to keep them all of the days of their lives, just so that things would go well. 

The Old Covenant’s rules can be summed up in what the apostle Paul called, “the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).  In other words, if you sin under the law, you die.  Paul also called the Old Covenant, the "ministration of death and condemnation,"(2 Corinthians 3:6-8). The law was conditional. Do this right, then God will do that.  It was based upon conditional promises, and ultimately no one could meet all of the conditions, because, the law was “weak through the flesh” (Romans 8:3).

The effect of the Old Covenant was that those under the law always strove to perform but could never live up to it completely. It was a vicious cycle, and God found a fault with the Old Covenant.

“For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them…” Hebrews 8:7-8

Wait a minute! “…finding fault with them…” Them who? The “them” that God found fault with in the Old Covenant was the people! Under the law, no matter how hard they tried, the people could never perform good enough to hold up their side of the covenant!

So God promised them a new covenant…

Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds  I will remember no more.’ 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.Hebrews 8:8-13

So what makes the New Covenant Better? 

One of the blessings of the New Covenant is that it is based solely on the shed blood of Jesus, not on our performance.  Jesus was the spotless Lamb of God, who took away the sins of the world.  He met all the conditions and fulfilled the Old Covenant so completely that the bible says that we are no longer slaves to sin!

“Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” Romans 6:6

The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:2), has made me free…  Through the New Covenant, we have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness! (Romans 6:17; 22).  Paul called the New Covenant the "ministration of the spirit and righteousness" (2 Corinthians 3:8-9).
(To be continued...)