The Assyrians are spared, and Jonah is furious, the very idea of a prophet being sent to Nineveh-Nineveh the capital of the hated Assyrian empire, the home of the people who had destroyed the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the ten tribes of Israel in 722BC, dispersing those ten tribes forever, the nation that had then laid siege to Jerusalem and exacted tribute from Judah for many years-Nineveh appears as another Sodom, Yahweh is going to punish them for immorality, but not necessarily for idolatry. But the stronger problem for Jonah seems to be the lack of punishment for the wicked. Jonah is indignant that the Assyrians didn’t get what they so richly deserved: didn’t Jonah say this would happen, that Yahweh always forgives, he’s this slow to anger, compassionate guy; he always repent, the wicked are never punished! It seems Jonah is fed up with the way Yahweh is doing things, his mercy perverts his justice, and some things ought not to be forgiven; people must be held to account for their evil actions, how can Yahweh not do justice! As Jonah is leaving the city to sulk, seems his complaint is twofold. If your going to punish the wicked then just push them; they deserve it. And if you’re planning to spare them, then just spare them and don’t waste my time with messages and oracles. As Jonah sits in a little booth that he has constructed, Yahweh causes a leafy plant to grow over him, providing shade and saving him from a good deal of discomfort; and the plant is to be the source of a final lesson for Jonah. How could Yahweh not be compassionate? For even the most evil of peoples are no less his creation that he has cared for than precious Israel. And if they will only turn to Yahweh in humility, he’ll wipe the slate clean, he’ll show compassion and forgive. It is only human to long for the punishment of the wicked; but Yahweh longs for their re-formation, their turning. Their is the moral law of the Noahide covenant, and it’s for this that Yahweh has decreed punishment, and Jonah is a champion of divine justice. Jonah believes that sin should be punished, he’s outraged at Yahweh’s forgiveness. But Jonah learns that a change of heart is enough to obtain mercy, and that the true role of the prophet is perhaps to move people to reformation and turning.
We see that we need to die to self, although our salvation is not dependent upon how well we accomplish this. Yet, as ambassadors of the ministry of reconciliation, our witness is dependent upon how well we accomplish this. Dying to self, is never portrayed as something optional, it is the reality of being born anew; unless we are willing to see our old lives crucified with Christ and begin to live anew in obedience to him. Dying to self is something you can take very literal; you will die in every way possible in order to be someone you are not.
This does not mean that when we “die to self” we become inactive or insensible, nor do we feel ourselves to be dead. The entire concept seems a bit strange to our natural eyes. Rather, dying to self means that the things of the old life are put to death, most especially the sinful ways and lifestyles we once engaged in. Dying to self is not fun or easy, but what is particularly difficult about fighting this tendency is that it is not exactly a behavior or action. It can certainly manifest itself in those forms, but underneath them is an attitude. Dying to self is a real change of mind and attitude towards sin itself and the cause of it. Dying to self is a change in our principle action from what is by nature the exact opposite. Seeing that our old lives are being crucified with Christ is an experience of every one who is the subject of the grace of God.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
A person must UNDERSTAND what it is they are asked to believe, in order to be joined to the body of Jesus Christ. It is unfathomable what God accomplished through his son; Jesus Christ took sinful man’s place, taking the penalty of their sins upon himself, so that those believing this truth can be joined to his body.
Paul had been given special divine authority with the understanding that he is our apostle, and that authority carried with it the details of what God expects people to believe today concerning the salvation Jesus Christ purchased for them with his sacrifice. What Jesus Christ accomplished where sins are concerned, is the power of God unto salvation.
Paul is the chief architect of the building project called the body of Christ and the blueprint, the plans were given to him by the risen ascended Christ. God committed to Paul the responsibility to lay this blueprint out on the table, he spread it out for us so we might see what this blueprint is all about, so we might build in a manner worthy of reward.
This labour has to do with building up the body of Christ, and the two building materials we utilize are the word of truth and agape love on behalf of the brethren. We who have been placed into the body of Christ are a member of the work crew, whether we knew it or not, the work project is this body of Christ, and we been part of the work crew ever since we were first saved.
Let’s put ourselves in Paul’s place for a moment if we could. For around 1500 years, the law had been God’s revelation to man. The Jewish nation had been God’s chosen people; they knew so and they proclaimed that truth. If a Gentile wanted to come to God at that point and time, they had to come through the channel of that chosen people Israel in an obedience to the law, they had to convert to Judaism.
That meant if one was a Gentile, they had to come Israel’s way, because there was no other way than Israel’s way. A Gentile had to take part in the circumcision which was the sign of those under one of their covenants. A Gentile had to bring the proper sacrifices in connection with another one of their covenants, in other wards, a Gentile had to come through the nation Israel.
The Gentile could approach Israel, but they could not approach God, only Israel could do that. Now all of a sudden it is Paul’s responsibility, his special responsibility to convince the Gentiles and the Jews alike, and he has to do that in the face of much Jewish opposition, that God is at this time doing something brand new, and that God has made Paul the Apostle of it.
Now Paul would tell these Gentiles that they can come directly to God. No longer do they need to come through the nation Israel. No longer is their manner of life to be the manner of life that God had prescribed for Israel under their covenant.
Things are different now, the Gentiles can come to God apart from Israel and apart from their program all together, because that program was put on hold as God ushered in this new program through the Apostle Paul.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
So despite Adam and Eve’s new-found mortality, humans are going to be a force to be reckoned with. They’re unpredictable to the very Yahweh who created them. Yahweh has to modify his plan, by barring access to the tree of life; that was not something presumably Yahweh planned to do. Adam and Eve had access to this tree up to that point, as long as their will conformed to the will of Yahweh, there was no danger to their going on eternally, being immortal. Once they discovered their moral freedom, once they discovered that they could thwart Yahweh and work evil in the world, and abuse and corrupt all that Yahweh had created, then Yahweh could not afford to allow them access to the tree of life. That would be tantamount to creating divine enemies, immortal enemies. So Yahweh must maintain the upper hand in his struggle with these humans who have learned to defy him. And Yahweh maintains the upper hand in this, the fact that humans eventually must die. Yahweh stations the cherubim and the fiery ever-turning sword to guard the way back to the tree of life, once Adam and Eve were banished from the garden. The tree of life is now inaccessible; no humans have access to immortality, and the pursuit of immortality is futile. So it might be then that Yahweh really spoke the truth after all, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and bad did bring death to the human race.
Monday, March 17, 2014
If one really thinks about it, having that good and bad knowledge is no guarantee that one will choose or incline towards the good. After all, that’s what the serpent omitted in his speech, before Eve ate off the tree of knowledge of good and bad. The serpent said, “You are not going to die, but Yahweh knows that as soon as you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like divine beings, who know good and bad.” It’s true in one sense, but false in another; the serpent sort of omitted to point out, that its the power of moral choice alone, that is Yahweh like. The very action that brought Adam and Eve a Yahweh like awareness of their mortal autonomy, was an action that was taken in opposition to Yahweh. Yahweh knows that, that human beings will become like Yahweh, knowing good and bad; it’s one of the things about Yahweh, he knows good and bad, and has chosen the good. For Adam and Eve to have true freedom of will, Adam and Eve have to have the freedom to rebel. This is why this tree is in the garden, next to the tree of life; instead, evil will come about as a result of the clash of the will of Yahweh, and the will of humans, who happen to have the freedom to rebel. Human beings, and only human beings are the potential source of evil, responsibility for evil will lie in the hands of human beings. Yet, evil is represented not as a physical reality, it’s not built into the structure of Eden, evil is a condition of human existence, and to assert that evil stems from human behavior. The drama of Adam and Eve’s life should revolve not around the search for eternal life, nor preoccupation with immortality; it was not in Yahweh’s design for this kind of drama. It was Yahweh’s design for the tree of life to have been eaten of, there was no danger to Adam and Eve going on eternally, being immortal. The eating off the tree of knowledge of good and bad, has caused a moral conflict and tension between Yahweh’s good design for creation, and the free will of human beings that can corrupt that good design. Evil is a product of human behavior, not a principal inherent in the cosmos. Man’s disobedience is the cause of the human predicament.
Saturday, March 15, 2014
All of us who have been sealed into the body of Christ wants God to be pleased with the decisions that we make, but God has given us the freedom to make our own choices. God wants us to apply scripture, where scripture can be applied, and where no scriptural principle can be applied, to make the choices that we desire and then take responsibility for choices we made.
If we cannot find doctrine in Paul’s epistles directly related to our situation and there are no scriptural principles we can find to apply, then God has given us the freedom to personal preference. When it comes to directing our lives, God need not say anything further, he has already dispensed all of his word to us, and in that word that he has completed for us, are all that we need to know to make the choices we have to make in this age of grace, and he has dispensed that information liberally!
If God has to give anyone a sign in connection with the direction, or course that someone should take, then God’s word to us is NOT complete, and we must pray and wait for God to speak further truth that he has not revealed in his written word.
The fact is that God does not speak through the avenue of feelings, nor does he give visual evidences through the use of signs as he did with the nation Israel in time past; God speaks through the avenue of his written word and the apostle Paul tells us that his word to us is complete.
Israel walked by sight, that was part of the contract, the contract God established with the nation Israel called The Law. In that contract, God said he would deal with Israel according to things they could look at, so God dealt with the nation according to signs.
For we walk by faith, not by sight, is a clear statement from Paul how we walk today. For those of us who understand what Paul wrote, this is sufficient, we stop looking for things. Paul also warned as this age of grace winds to a close, that those who allow emotion to trump doctrine, that this would be the character of the religiously minded.
When Pauline truth is rejected, we can be certain that a position is being governed by emotion, emotion trumps doctrine in most people’s minds, and religion is about working on the emotional minds of people.
In our discussion with people who insist upon maintaining a previously adopted position, rather than to allow Pauline truth to be the determining factor of the position that they take, be careful not to allow the manner in which we conduct our ambassadorship to slide to the level of strive.
Adam thought he could be righteous before God through the fig-leaf religion that he developed, and he was going to have his fingerprints on his righteousness, and God said, no, and God clothed Adam with the skins of God’s sacrifice.
Unless people believe Christ accomplished something where their sins are concerned when Christ died for those sins, Paul’s gospel is hidden to them. Satan’s ministers of righteousness are busy at work within the righteous structure called “religion” in order to keep the meaning of Paul’s gospel hidden, to keep people’s eyes blinded to the truth of what Christ really accomplished.
Understanding our completeness IN Christ should motivate us to make wise choices.