Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Body is Not in the Book of Revelation

As we read the letters, which are addressed to us through the Apostle Paul; and, on turning to the Book of Revelation, in chapters two and three we are at once conscious of a striking change. We find letters suddenly removed from the ground of “Grace” to the ground of “Works”.

The Book of Revelation contains a record (by vision and prophecy) of the events, which shall happen in the Day of Yahweh, after the Body of Christ shall have been removed from the earth. The whole Book of Revelation is concerned with the Israelite, the Gentile, and the Earth, but not with the body of Christ.

There will be a people for Yahweh on the earth during those eventful years, who are believing in Christ as the Messiah, who know nothing of him as the Savior. Will not these need special instruction? The Pauline letters will of course be of use as an historical record of what will then be past, just as we have the record of Israel’s history in the Old Testament now.

Yahweh indeed, has provided for their instruction, and warning, and encouragement, in the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation. Right at the beginning, they are the first subjects of Divine remembrance, provision, and care.

Their needs must be first provided for, before anything else is recorded of the things which John saw; and there they will find what is specially written for their learning. We may so read them now, ourselves, and apply them, so far as we can do so consistently with the teaching for this dispensation of grace, contained in the Pauline letters.

Applying these thus, we leave the full and final interpretation for those to whom it will specially belong hereafter. If these “churches” are future assemblies of Israelite believers on the earth, after the Body of Christ has been caught up to meet Jesus, then all is clear, consistent, and easy to be understood.

The real difficulty is created by attempting to read the Body of Christ into the Book of Revelation, where it has no place. As to the “seven lamp-stands,” ought not this expression at once to send our thoughts back to the one golden lamp-stand of the Tabernacle, one lamp-stand with seven lamps, indicative of Israel’s unity in the Land and in the City.

Here, the scattered condition of the nation is just as distinctly indicated by the fact that the seven lamps are no longer united in one lamp-stand. The nation is no longer in the Land, for Jerusalem is not now the center; but the people are “scattered” in separate communities in various cities in Gentile lands.

So that just as the one lamp-stand represents Israel in its unity, the seven lamp-stands represent Israel in its dispersion; and tells us that Yahweh is about to make Jerusalem again the center of his dealings with the earth. We find nothing in our Pauline letters that fits into what is said to these assemblies.

But those readers will be at once be reminded of the various stages of their own past history, and they will find in almost every sentence some allusion to the circumstances in which they will find themselves as described in these letters in the Book of Revelation. They are written to the People supposed to be well-versed in the history of the Old Testament, and well-acquainted with all that had happened to their fathers and had been written for their admonition.

Instructed in the past history of their nation, they will readily understand the relation between the testings and judgments in the past with which they are familiar, and those similar circumstances in which they will find themselves in a yet future day. As we read these letters, the references to the Old Testament in the seven letters correspond with the historical order of the events, so it is with respect to the promises contained in these letters.

While the historical events connected with the rebukes are carried down from Exodus to the period of the Minor Prophets, the promises cover a different period; commencing with the period of Eden, and ending with the period of Solomon. The subjects of the rebukes follow the order of the departure of the People from Yahweh. Their decline and apostasy is traced out in the historical references contained in these letters.

But when we turn to the promises, then all is different. Thy proceed in the opposite direction. The order, instead of descending from Israel’s highest ground of privilege (Exodus) to the lowest stage of destitution (Minor Prophets), the order ascends from tending a garden to sharing his throne. The seven promises are all intensely individual, there is no corporate existence recognized as such.

Each one of the seven promises commences with the same words, “to him that overcomes.” Such phraseology is foreign to the Pauline letters. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Day of Yahweh

After Yahweh gave up on the nations, Yahweh experiments with a single individual of believing; Abraham’s believing withstands many a trial. Yahweh is the owner of the land, Abraham was called to. Yahweh is empowered to set conditions or residency requirements for those who would reside in it, like a landlord. Yahweh is seeking replacement tenants who are going to follow the moral rules of residence that Yahweh has established for his land. Yahweh’s promise to Abraham is formalized in a ritual ceremony called a suzerainty covenant. The patriarchical covenant, which is a covenant in which a superior party, a suzerain dictates the terms of a political treaty usually, and an inferior party obeys them. The arrangement primarily serves the interest of the suzerain, and not the vassal or the subject. So Yahweh is making a land grant to a favored subject, and there’s an ancient ritual that ratifies the oath. In this kind of covenant, the parties to the oath would pass between the split carcass of a sacrificial animal, as if to say, that they agree they will suffer the same fate as this animal, if they violate the covenant. Abraham cuts sacrificial animals in two, and Yahweh, but only Yahweh, passes between the two halves. Only Yahweh seems to be obligated by the covenant, obligated to fulfill the promise that he’s made. Abraham doesn’t appear to have any obligation in return. In this case, it is the subject, Abraham, and not the suzerain, Yahweh, who is benefited by this covenant, and that’s a complete reversal of this ritual ceremony. Their is a moral justification for the grant of land to Abraham, the current inhabitants of the land are polluting it, filling it with bloodshed and idolatry. And when the land becomes so polluted, completely polluted, it will spew out its inhabitants. That process, Yahweh says, isn't complete; so Abraham's offspring through Isaac, they are going to have to wait, the lease isn’t up yet.

Abraham is obedient to Yahweh in a way that no one has been up to this point, but ultimately, the model of blind obedience is rejected, too. When Abraham prepares to slaughter his own son, Yahweh sees that blind believing can be as destructive and evil as disobedience, so Yahweh relinquishes his demand for blind obedience. The only relationship that will work with humans is one in which there is a balance between unchecked independence and blind obedience, and Yahweh seems to finally have found the working relationship with humans that he has been seeking since their creation, with a man named Jacob. When Jacob undergoes a change in name, Israel, meaning one who wrestles, who struggles with Yahweh; Yahweh and humans lock in an eternal struggle, neither prevailing, yet both forever changed by their encounter with one another.

Yahweh’s salvation of his people from Egypt, not the Christian sense of personal salvation from sin; that’s anachronistically read back into the Hebrew Bible. It’s not there. Salvation in the Hebrew Bible does not refer to an individual's deliverance from a sinful nature. This is not a concept that is found in the Hebrew Bible. Salvation refers instead, to the concrete, collective, communal salvation from national suffering and oppression, particularly in the form of foreign rule of enslavement. Remember Jacob’s sons; Joseph’s betrayal by his brothers, his decent into Egypt, set the stage, not only for the reformation of his brothers’ characters, but for the descent of all of the Israelites into Egypt, so as to survive widespread famine; threat of famine is overcome by the relocation to Egypt. Yahweh says to Jacob, “I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I myself will also bring you back.” So in short, there seems to be a plan afoot. Israel’s descent to Egypt sets the stage for the rise of a pharaoh who, didn’t know Joseph, and all that he had done for Egypt. And this new pharaoh will enslave the Israelites, and so embitter their lives, that their cry will rise up to heaven. Yahweh as Israel’s redeemer and savior, is Yahweh’s physical deliverance of the nation from the hands of her foes. But the physical redemption of the Israelites is going to reach its climax in the covenant that will be concluded at Sinai.

Yahweh’s redemption of the Israelites, is a redemption for a purpose, for at Sinai, the Israelites will become Yahweh’s people, bound by a covenant. The covenant concluded at Sinai is referred to as the Mosaic covenant. The Mosaic covenant differs radically from the Noahide and the patriarchal covenants, because here Yahweh makes no promises beyond being the patron or protector of Israel; and also, in this covenant, he set terms that require obedience to a variety of laws and commandments. The Mosaic covenant is neither unilateral, it’s a bilateral covenant, involving mutual, reciprocal obligations, nor is it unconditional like the other two. It is conditional; the first bilateral, conditional covenant. If Israel doesn’t fulfill her oblations by obeying Yahweh’s torah, his instructions, and living in accordance with his will, as expressed in the laws and instruction, then Yahweh will not fulfill his obligation of protection and blessing towards Israel.

Vehement denunciation moral decay and social injustice of the period, leading up to the fall of the northern kingdom and southern kingdom of Israel. A prophet criticizes the sins of the nation, he is critical of everyone, the middle class, the government, the king, the establishment, the priesthood; they’re all plagued by a superficial kind of piety. Amos, and all the prophets, the idea of covenant prescribes a particular relationship with Yahweh, but not only with Yahweh; also with one’s fellow human beings. The two are interlinked. It is a sign of closeness to Yahweh that one is concerned for Israel’s poor and needy. The two are completely interlinked. Amos denounces the wealthy. He denounces the powerful and the way they treat the poor. The crimes that are denounced, are crimes that are prevalent in any society in any era. The crimes that are denounced as being utterly unacceptable to Yahweh, infuriating Yahweh to the point of destruction of the nation, are the kinds of crimes we see around us everyday, taking bribes, improper weights and balances, lack of charity to the poor, indifference to the plight of the debtor. Injustice is sacrilege, the ideals of the covenant are of utmost importance. These prophets are called the standard bearers of the covenant, harking back to the covenant obligations. And without these, without the ideals of the covenant, the fulfillment of ritual obligations in and of itself is a farce. Morality is not just an obligation equal in importance to the cult or religious obligations, but that morality is perhaps superior to the cult. What Yahweh requires of Israel is morality and not cultic service. The prophets raised morality to the level of an absolute religious value, and they did so because they saw morality as essentially divine. The essence of Yahweh is his moral nature. Moral attributes are the essence of Yahweh himself, one strives to be Yahweh-like by imitating his moral actions. The prophets insisted that morality was a decisive, if not the decisive factor in the nations’ history; Israel’s acceptance of Yahweh’s covenant placed certain religious and moral demands on her.

One sin is singled out as being historically decisive for the nation. Other sins are punished, absolutely. But only one is singled out as historically decisive for the nation, and that is the sin of idolatry, particularly the idolatry of the royal house. The tragic history of the two kingdoms as essentially a sequence of idolatrous aberrations, which were followed by punishment. And this cycle continued until finally there had to be complete destruction. While it is certainly true that moral sins and other religious sins in Israel were punishable, it is really only the worship of other gods that brings about national collapse, national exile. Idolatry was what provoked Yahweh to drive the nation into exile. The prophets are claiming that the nation is doomed because of commonplace wrongs, because of bribe-taking, because of false scales and false weights that are being used in the marketplace. For the prophets, the national catastrophes are just punishment for sin, but not just the sin of idolatry, for all sins no matter how petty, no matter how venial, because all sins violate the terms of the covenant code, which is given specially to Israel. And the terms of the covenant-being vassals to the sovereign Yahweh means treating co-vassals in a particular way, and it is breach of covenant not to do that. The prophets were harking back to an older tradition, to ancient traditions about Israel and its covenant relationship, traditions according to which Israel’s redemption and election entailed moral obligations.

The prophets warned that unless they changed, the people were going to suffer the punishment that was due them. And, in fact, the people were very foolish to be eagerly awaiting or eagerly expecting what was popularly known as the Day of Yahweh. And so the prophets refer to the Day of Yahweh as if it were a popular conception out there in the general culture. It was a popular idea at the time that on some future occasion, Yahweh would dramatically intervene in world affairs and he would do so on Israel’s behalf. Yahweh would lead Israel in victory over her enemies. They would be punished. Israel would be restored to her full and former glory. And that day, the Day of Yahweh, in the popular mind, was going to be a marvelous day, a day of victory for Israel, triumph for Israel and a day of vengeance on her enemies. The people are very confident that this is going to be a day of light, a day of blessing, a day of victory. But the prophets, according to them, if there is no change, then this Day of Yahweh is not going to be some glorious thing that the people should be eagerly awaiting. It’s not going to be a day of triumph for Israel. It will not be a day of vengeance on her enemies. It’s going to be a dark day of destruction. It is going to be a day of doom, when Yahweh will finally call his own people to account. The prophets transformed the popular image of the Day of Yahweh from one of national triumph, to one of national judgment.

Israel's Program has Been Set Aside

What needs to be understood about the book of Acts is God’s everlasting account validating the partial blindness that had come upon that nation. With the stoning of Stephen, God validated having set Israel aside nationally. Were the Gentiles not supposed to be coming to Israel to learn about God?

Were the Gentiles not supposed to be coming through Israel’s rise as prophecy had proclaimed, but Israel had not risen! Israel had fallen. Israel had been blinded in part. Had the leadership of Israel repented, it would have started the next events on the prophetic calendar, namely the time of Jacob’s trouble; followed by the second coming of Christ.

This is what Jesus Christ meant when he said he gave Peter the “keys” to the Kingdom. Peter had the ability to “unlock” and “open the door” to the Kingdom, he proclaimed the message they had to believe. Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for MANY. Who are the “many” spoken of here? Israel!

Israel’s sins were going to “be blotted out”; the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of Jesus, at his second coming. He was going to be their High Priest and King, sitting on the throne of David, ruling and reigning over the nation Israel. God raised him up in order for him to sit on that throne.

However, an open door does no good if no one walks through it, and that is exactly what happened. The leadership of the Nation did not walk through it. The Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat as the authority over the Nation. The kingdom program did not happen, but it certainly will in a day yet future, when God resumes the kingdom program, and sets Israel at the forefront again.

With Israel's earthly program being set aside, during this age of grace, no nationality enjoys special favor in the eyes of God; all must come alike to God today. God did not lift up the Gentiles, who had been without God, and put them on an equal or higher plain, than belonged to Israel.

He concluded Israel in unbelief, as he had previously concluded the Gentiles in unbelief, both of them down on the same level, so that he might have mercy on all, and that is where it is today, according to Paul. It is man who needs to be reconciled to God, not the other way around. God is already reconciled to us, where our sins are concerned. It is not a sin issue, it is a son issue. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Breastplate of Righteousness

What a marvelous plan God had for us! God has kept the fingerprints of the guilt-worthy off of the righteousness he designed for the guilt-worthy. The greatest determinant of our mental health and freedom is a true understanding of God’s reconciliation.

The insidious reality of Satan and his forces relentless assault of deception on our mind can keep us from experiencing maturity and freedom, because our past has shaped our present belief system and will determine our future unless it is dealt with. We have been tricked into believing that what we do makes us what we are.

We fail, so we see ourselves as failures, which only causes us to fail more. We sin, so we see ourselves as sinners, which only causes us to sin more. We have been sucked into Satan and his forces futile equation, and that false belief sends us into a tailspin of hopelessness and defeat.

It is absolutely vital that we put on the breastplate of righteousness, so that we can resist the persistent accusations of Satan and his forces, they never give up trying to get us down and keep us down by hurling one false accusation after another. Wholeness and meaning in life are not the products of what we have or do not have, what we have done or have not done, we are already a whole person and possess a life of infinite meaning and purpose because of who we are in Christ.

Our understanding of the identity that Adam had before the fall, that identity has been restored to us, that restored identity is the critical foundation for our belief structure and our behavior patterns. Many people that are of the body of Christ have obsessive-compulsive behaviors because of this relentless battle for their minds, and the battle for our mind can only be won as we personally choose truth.

A mentally healthy person is one who is in touch with reality and relatively free of anxiety. Rejoice in Christ always, in our minds is what this is all about, everything whether good or evil begins in the arena of our minds. Joy is a trust issue; joy in Christ for a believer is that of a state of mind independent of surrounding circumstances.

Rejoicing is the exhibit of that interstate of mind, because no longer do we have to strive to attain and maintain God’s acceptance on the basis of who we are and what we can do, no longer are our sins held against us, no longer does the death penalty for sin hang over us. Joy comes from an understanding of the grace of God, an understanding and appreciation of the resultant peace with God that we now have because of God’s grace.

Paul wants us to know at one point in time something was true, but now something else is true. Paul presented the evidence that all people of all time justly deserve the wrath of a perfectly just God, because people glorifies themselves by filtering everything they say and everything they do through that screen of self-protection, self-elevation, and self-gratification.

But now, as far as God is concerned, he loved mankind so much that he was willing to let his own son die for sinful people, and have his son pay all the penalties of their sins, forget their rebelliousness and overlook their hostility, while they were still sinners, still rebellious, and still hostile. God made up his mind to become completely reconciled to mankind before people made any signs of making peace with God.

God has one-sidedly reconciled himself to mankind through what the death of his son accomplished; all sins and hostility are paid for as far as God is concerned. By removing the sin issue from the table of God’s justice, God effectively canceled Satan’s ownership of all mankind.

Those who put on the breastplate of righteousness know that we have peace with God, for a person to have to make their own peace with God would be nothing more than an exercise in futility, it could never be done. We could not make peace with God, to say that anyone could make peace with God, would be to limit God to his mercy, because grace is the foundation on which Paul’s entire ministry was built.

There is a glory that belongs to God’s grace, and it is to be praised on the bases on what God’s grace has accomplished. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Davidic Covenant

The moral and social bankruptcy of Israel at the end of the period of the judges at the dawn, or on the eve, of the monarchy, is Israel’s continued infidelity. A kingdom in which Yahweh is the king and the community is led by inspired judges in times of crisis-that structure, that institutional structure failed to establish stability, a stable continuous government. It failed to provide leadership against Israel’s enemies within and without. In their search for a new political order, the people turn to the prophet Samuel. Samuel warns of the tyranny of kings, the rapaciousness of kings, the service and the sacrifice they will require of the people in order to support their luxurious court life and their large harem, their bureaucracy and their army. The day will come, Samuel warns, when you cry out because of the king whom you yourselves have chosen; and Yahweh will not answer you on that day. The people won’t listen to Samuel, and they say quite significantly, no, we must have a king over us, that we may be like all the other nations, let our king rule over us and go out at our head and fight our battles. This is an explicit and ominous rejection, not only of Yahweh, but of Israel’s distinctiveness from other nations. And what, after all, does it mean to be a holy nation, but to be a nation separated out from, observing different rules then other nations. The king in Israel was not divine, or even semi-divine; monarchy is at best unnecessary and at worst it’s a rejection of Yahweh. Where the Mosaic covenant was contracted between Yahweh and the nation, the Davidic covenant is contracted between Yahweh and a single individual, the king.

The Davidic covenant is an eternal and unconditional covenant between Yahweh and the House of David, or the dynasty of David. Yahweh says that David and his descendants may be punished for sin. They certainly will be punished for sin, but Yahweh will not take the kingdom away from them as he did from Saul. Yahweh’s unconditional and eternal covenants with the patriarchs and with David do not prelude the possibility of punishment or chastisement for sin as specified in the conditional Mosaic covenant. The covenant with David, it’s a covenant of grant, it’s a grant of a reward for loyal service and deeds. Yahweh rewards David with the gift of an unending dynasty, in exchange for his loyalty.

Yahweh’s oath to preserve the Davidic dynasty, would lead eventually to a popular belief in the invincibility of the Holy City. The belief in Israel’s ultimate deliverance from enemies, became bound up with David and his dynasty. When the kingdom fell finally to the Babylonians, the promise to David’s House was believed to be eternal. The community looked to the future for a restoration of the Davidic line or Davidic king or messiah. The messiah simply means anointed, one who is “meshiach” is anointed with the holy oil, That is a reference to the fact that the king was initiated into office by means of holy oil being poured on his head. So King David was the messiah of Yahweh, the king anointed by or to Yahweh. And in the exile, Israelites would pray for another messiah, meaning another king from the House of David appointed and anointed by Yahweh to rescue them from enemies, and reestablish them as a nation at peace in their land as David had done. The Israelites hope for a messiah; it involved the restoration of the nation in its land under a Davidic king.

Had the leadership of Israel repented, but they stoned Stephen in Acts chapter 7, it would have started the next events on the prophetic calendar, namely the time of Jacob’s trouble; followed by the second coming of Christ. This is what Jesus Christ meant when he said he gave Peter the “keys” to the Kingdom. Peter had the ability to “unlock” and “open the door” to the Kingdom, he proclaimed the message they had to believe. However, an open door does no good if no one walks through it, and that is exactly what happened. The leadership of the Nation did not walk through it. The Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat as the authority over the Nation. The kingdom program did not happen, but it certainly will in a day yet future, when God resumes the kingdom program, and sets Israel at the forefront again.

What makes Paul’s good news unique and distinct? According to the secret that was revealed to Paul, Jesus Christ gave himself a ransom for all mankind: Jew and Gentile, not just MANY. It is man who needs to be reconciled to God, not the other way around. God is already reconciled to us, where our sins are concerned. Who are the “many” spoken of here? Israel! Israel’s sins were going to “be blotted out”; the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of Jesus, at his second coming. He was going to be their High Priest and King, sitting on the throne of David, ruling and reigning over the nation Israel. God raised him up in order for him to sit on that throne. Therefore, the issue where salvation is concerned today is not sin, but righteousness. The instance we take our stand with God, we are not only saved but sealed until the day of redemption of these earthly tents in which we dwell. Christ was delivered for our offences, and God raised him from among the dead for our justification, he was not raised to sit on a physical throne in these days, ruling over a physical nation called Israel, in a physical kingdom here on earth. The kingdom of heaven is not heaven, it is a kingdom designed in heaven, brought down to earth, and that is according to prophecy and has nothing to do with the revelation of the secret God kept to himself that Jesus Christ revealed to Paul. Our citizenship is in heaven, not earth. Our faith in the good news of Christ enables God to impute us with the faith of his son. Once we believe, and are sealed, it is not about us; our faith, but Christ’s faith.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Shoes of Peace

Instead of insisting on the unity of the mind, we need to preserve the unity by taking the initiative to be the peacemaker in our relationships. Most of the ground Satan and his forces gain in the lives of the body of Christ are due to unforgiveness, and we are warned by Paul to forgive others so that they cannot take advantage of us.

Forgiveness is difficult for us because it pulls against our concept of justice; we want revenge for offenses suffered. Bitterness and unforgiveness toward other believers is the most widespread stronghold that Satan and his forces enjoy, and if we do not let offenders off our hook, we are hooked to them, we need to let go.

Relationally, forgiveness is crucial to our maturity, it is the glue that holds the body of Christ together. Satan and his forces use unforgiveness more than any other human deficiency to stop our growth and our ministry of reconciliation, because the unforgiving believer is yoked to the past or to a person and is not free.

We do not forgive someone merely for their sake, we do it for our sake so we can be free, because unforgiveness is an open invitation to Satan and his forces bondage in our lives, we are of the body of Christ, and that is enough to bring us together in peace.

The shoes of peace become protection against the divisive schemes of Satan and his forces when we act as a peacemaker among believers, but we should not try to rationalize or explain the believer’s behavior, forgiveness deals with our pain, not another’s behavior.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another believer’s wrong, our only choice is whether we will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness or the freedom of forgiveness.

Our need to forgive is not an issue between us and the offender, it is between us and God, and if we fail to speak the truth in love and manage our emotions, anger which turns to bitterness and unforgiveness is an open invitation to Satan and his forces.

Forgiveness is a choice, forgetting may be a result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness, and when we bring up the past against others, we have not forgiven them.

Forgiveness does not mean that we must be a doormat to their continual wrongdoing, it is okay to forgive another’s past wrong, and at the same time, take a stand against future wrongdoing.

The shield of faith does not create reality; the shield of faith responds to reality, because forgiveness is a crisis of the will, a conscious choice to let the other person off the hook and free ourselves, though we may not feel like making this decision, but this is a crises of the will.

We put on the shoes of peace, because we are to forgive as we have been forgiven, and we must base our relationships with others on the same criteria on which God bases his relationship with us: love, acceptance and forgiveness. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Belt of Truth

We are more vulnerable to Satan and his forces deception than to any of their other schemes, because when they tempt us or accuse us, we can recognize it, but when they deceive us, we do not always know it, that is their strategy, to keep us in the dark.

We cannot expose their deception by human reasoning; we can only do it by the light of the truth, it is the only valid piece of the armor against the darkness of deception. It is critical that when we put on the armor of God, we start with the belt of truth, because the only thing big about Satan and his forces are their mouth, they are habitual liars.

When we put on the armor of God we are really putting on Christ, and when we put on Christ, we take ourselves out of the realm of the flesh, where we are vulnerable to attack, it is not wise for us to live on Satan and his forces level. Since their primary weapon is the lie, our belt of truth is continually being attacked. 

If they can disable us in the area of truth, we become an easy target for their other attacks. We stand firm in the truth by relating everything we do to the truth of God’s word, and when we learn to live in the truth on a daily basis, we will grow to love the truth because we will have nothing to hide. 

If Satan and his forces can deceive us into believing a lie, they can control our life in that area. God’s protection is that our role is not passive, God requires us to be active participants in the defense that he has provided for us. 

The belt of truth challenges us to be mentally active, not passive, because unlike our day-to-day emotions, which are the product of our day-to-day thought life, the emotional baggage from the past is always there. Years of exposure and experience in life have etched emotional grooves inside us, which produce a decided reaction when a certain topic is introduced. 

We may have grown up with a physically, emotionally or sexually abusive parent. We may have suffered through a painful relationship in the past: a broken friendship, the untimely death of a loved one, a divorce. When a present event activates one of those emotional grooves, we believe what we feel instead of believing what is true. 

Perceiving those events from the perspective of our new identity, which God sealed in Christ, is what starts the process of healing those damaged emotions, because we have the privilege of evaluating our past experience in the light of who we are now, as opposed to who we were then. 

We must learn how to resolve previous conflicts or the emotional baggage will accumulate as we continue to withdraw from life, the past will control our life as our options for handing it continue to decrease. Those who have had major traumas and have learned to resolve them by wearing the belt of truth know how devastating the past can be to present reality. 

When we do not understand the doctrinal truths Paul taught pertaining to our sealed position in Christ, we have no ground for success in the practical arena. When we get our eyes off our new identity, and try to produce in our daily experience the acceptance God has already extended to us, we will struggle, because Satan and his forces will try to convince us that we are an unworthy, unacceptable, sin-sick person who will never amount to anything in God’s eyes. 

We are saints whom God has declared righteous, believing their lie will lock us into a defeated, fruitless life, but believing God’s truth about who we are will set us free. It is imperative to our growth and maturity that we believe God’s truth about who we are. 

Our old pattern for thinking and responding to our sin-trained flesh must be transformed by the renewing of our mind, it is our responsibility to change our behavior by putting to death the deeds of the body. The battleground we face is in our mind, and Satan and his forces are at the heart of all sin, and deceive people into believing a lie. 

The most dangerous and harmful detriments to our growth is passivity, putting our mind in neutral and coasting, sitting back and waiting for God to do everything is not God’s way to maturity. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Body and Soul

God has a plan for heaven that pertains to you and I. That pertains to people today who will take God at his message through the apostle of the Gentiles, the apostle Paul. Satan and his forces are so obsessed with stealing Paul’s gospel, obsessed with keeping it hidden so people do not discover it.

As long as people do not discover Paul’s gospel, as long as they are steered away from the true gospel they cannot believe Paul’s gospel. Satan and his forces are playing a cover up game with Paul’s gospel, because they have a desire to keep people lost.

For example, Satan and his forces have deceived a great many people into believing a negative view of the body in contrast to the soul, and a concept of salvation as interior experience rather than total transformation. A great many people have been deceived into believing that their nature is dualistic, that is, consisting of a material, mortal body and a spiritual, immortal soul.

They generally envision a destiny where their immortal souls will survive the death of their body and will spend eternity in the bliss of heaven or in the torment of hell. These people have been taught that death is the separation of the immortal soul from the mortal body, so that the soul survives the body in a disembodied state.

By death, the soul is separated from the body, but a resurrection God will give incorruptible life to the body, transformed by reunion with the soul. Worst of all, dualism has given rise to the sadistic teaching that God makes the wicked suffer unending conscious torment in hell, which has been such a burden to the Christian conscience and such unnecessary offense to many seekers.

Dualism has done such a serious harm in weakening our blessed hope of Christ ‘s appearing and in distorting our understanding of our citizenship in heaven. The Bible never sees the flesh and the soul as two different forms of existence. Rather, they are manifestations of the same person, the ancient Hebrews could not conceive of one without the other.

The two are indissolubly connected because the body is the outward form of the soul and the soul the inward life of the body. The body and soul are an indivisible unity; people are seen from two different perspectives. The body is the physical reality of human existence; the soul is the vitality and personality of human existence.

“For the soul of every creature is the blood of it,” the phrase “every creature” suggests that the reference to blood apply to both humans and animals. We have here a most important insight revealed into the essence of human nature; soul and blood are identical.

The fact that a person consists of various parts which are integrated, interrelated and functionally united, leaves no room for the notion of the soul being distinct from the body and thus removing the basis for the belief in the survival of the soul at the death of the body. The first death is a temporary sleep because it is followed by a resurrection. The second death is permanent and irreversible extinction because there is no awakening. 

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Escape Hatch

Satan and his forces can do nothing about our position in Christ (Helmet of Salvation), but if they can, they will cloud our perspective (Faith’s Shield) and dull our effectiveness in our ministry of reconciliation. No body loses control to Satan and his forces overnight; it is a gradual process of deception and yielding to their subtle influence.

Many of the body of Christ, instead of recognizing that their minds are being peppered by the fiery darts of the enemy, they think the problem is their own fault. “If those foul thoughts are mine, what kind of person am I?” they wonder. So they end up condemning themselves while the enemy continues their attack unchecked.

Satan and his forces are created beings, and they do not perfectly know what we are thinking. By observing us they can pretty well tell what we are thinking, but they do not know what we are going to do before we do it. They can put thoughts into our mind, and they will know whether we buy their lie by how we behave.

Satan and his forces can try to influence us by planting thoughts in our mind, but they cannot read our thoughts. If we are going to resist Satan and his forces, we must do so outwardly so they can understand us and be put to flight. We cannot expect God to protect us from Satan and his forces influences if we do not take an active part in God’s prepared strategy.

When Satan and his forces tempt us through the channel of the lust of the flesh, they will invite us to fulfill our physical needs in ways that are outside the boundary of God’s will for us. Whenever we feel enticed to meet a legitimate physical need by acting independently of God, we are being tempted though the lust of the flesh.

The lust of the eyes subtly draws us away from God and eats away at our confidence in God. We see what the world has to offer and we begin to place more credence in our own perspective of life. Fueled by the lust for what we see, we grab for all we can get, believing that we need it and deceived that God wants us to have it. Wrongly assuming that God will withhold nothing good from us, we lustfully claim prosperity.

The temptation of the pride of life is intended to destroy our obedience to our ministry of reconciliation by urging us to take charge of our own lives. Whenever we feel that, we do not need God’s help or direction, that we can handle our life, that is the pride of life. Every temptation that Satan and his forces throw at us will challenge one or more of these values.

They will watch us to learn where we are most vulnerable and will tempt us in any area that we leave unguarded. Satan and his forces know they can never own us again, but if they can deceive us into yielding control of our life to them in some way, they can neutralize our growth and our impact of our ministry of reconciliation.

“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Where is the escape hatch that Paul is talking about here?

In the same place, temptation is introduced, in our mind. Every temptation is first a thought introduced to our mind by our own carnality or the tempters themselves. If we ruminate on that thought and consider it an option, we will eventually act on it. Instead, Paul instructs us to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

Escaping temptation is to apprehend every thought as soon as it steps through the doorway of our mind. Once we have halted a penetration thought, we need to evaluate it on the basis of Paul’s criterion for what we should think about.

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Ask yourself, “Does this thought line up with God’s truth?

Is it suggesting that I do something honorable? Just? Pure? If this thought becomes action, will the outcome be lovely and contribute to excellence in my ministry of reconciliation? Will other believers approve of my actions? Is it something for which I can have praise from God? If the answer to any of those questions is no, dismiss that thought immediately. Do not have anything more to do with it.

If it keeps coming back, keep saying no. When we learn to respond to tempting thoughts by stopping them at the door of our mind, evaluating them on the basis of God’s word, we have found the way of escape that Paul talks about.