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The Kingdom of God

December 20, 2009

You know the story of the fall of man.  But, do you know the whole story, or have you also been deceived?  In the time spent with God, Adam and Eve were completely oblivious to evil.  We do not know how long they remained this way.  True, Adam was commanded not to eat of a certain tree called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But actually neither he nor Eve had any experience with either of these characteristics because they knew only of the holiness of God; being created in His image.

While living in this state Satan was able to invade the Garden. You know Satan’s ability to masquerade himself from the New Testament. In that context we are told of his ability to masquerade as an angel of light. So we are not surprised to find himself masquerading as a serpent in the Garden of Eden.  I believe it is an understatement to describe this enemy of God as “crafty”.  He was and remains the deceiver.  Jesus described Satan as the father of lies with no truth in him.  Keep this in mind as we continue. Perhaps it would serve us well to quote a few words from the conversation that took place between Satan and Eve.

Genesis 3:5 5“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

During part of the conversation, Satan accuses God of not telling the truth.  And he also tells two lies; one having to do with the activity of death, and the other saying, “you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Here is the truth in regard to the latter.  Created in the image of God, Adam and Eve were already like God.  They could not have been “closer” or more in one with Him than they already were. Secondly, the knowing of good and evil would actually and totally separate them both from God.  This was perhaps the biggest lie ever told.

Were you deceived by this lie? Do you realize that the concepts of good and evil are what divides humanity?  Thus it could never unite them with God.  In all the millenniums that have followed mankind has never become united in their ability to agree over the good or the evil. Yet it has become the quest of man to unite based upon these two factors. What one side or one person decides as good, another will declare just the opposite.

But not only do these concepts divide the world, but they also divide the church.  Sadly, the church has adopted these two principles for deciding upon their own issues, which are actually too numerous to note here.  And God was absolutely truthful in saying about mankind because of their evil state that ”Everyone is right in their own eyes.” (Pro. 21:2)  If you want a testing ground as an example of this truth try politics.

Thus the oneness with God was lost by this deception.  Mankind would forever be, in some form, the “antichrist”.  But there would be one exception; an exception that would include numbers like the sands of the seashore or the stars in the sky.  The numbers would include and only include those chosen by God before the creation of the world.  And the first promise of such a truth, which to some seems very vague, comes just before Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden.

Genesis 3:15 15And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

On leaving the Garden, Adam and Eve found a world utterly different from their oneness with God.  The shock must have been paralyzing to them both.  And throughout salvation history it would only be the grace of God, a message given before creation that would sustain them, thus preparing them and all of us for the coming of the Christ.

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Another Look At Translation

November 10, 2009

In Jesus’ name!

This morning we will take another look at how interpretation works for one who has been brought into the kingdom of the Son and is therefore sealed by the Holy Spirit.  In reading chapter two of 1 John 2, it is very easy to wonder about ones relationship with God if the reading is done under the law or outside of faith.  For instance, when John writes, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands”, it can create doubt when the reader believes he or she is a sinner and has no shot at perfect obedience as the Lord has already commanded.

It is very difficult for the “average” Christian to maintain the object of life [faith] while at the same time being told that sin is consuming one’s life and while somehow knowing that it is up to the “sinner” to put a stop to it.  The “sinner” remembers that “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God”, and believes this is his present condition.  What a shame!  These error filled teachings, in the minds of people sitting in the pews, will strike fear and cause further confusion and doubt as Satan works to overcome the truth.  And that is the very problem that the apostle John is approaching in these letters.

Now notice what John said in this chapter that is meant to awaken the true believer to the knowledge of the truth.

1 John 2:26 – 27 26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.  27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit–just as it has taught you, remain in him.

Let me repeat the words that should make the whole epistle clear.  “I AM WRITING THESE THINGS TO YOU ABOUT THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO LEAD YOU ASTRAY.”

We have talked to you before about such groups as the Judaizers who followed Paul and the other preachers of the truth in order to convince those who had become believers that the way to God was by way of the law.  In John’s day, perhaps some twenty or thirty years beyond Paul, there were false teachers still attempting the same thing.  Today, we in the church face the same tactic.

Understand that in these circumstances, neither Paul or John were speaking about other people or other religions.  These men of God were speaking of people who masqueraded as believers.  They were tares and goats, as identified by Jesus Himself.  In this letter however, John identifies these people as “antichrists”.  And he said, “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us.”

Certainly an understanding of God’s grace is imperative to the true believer.  Example: John wrote, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.”  Now the person who lives by faith knows that the command “must walk” is the only way that a person of faith can walk. The person of faith has no other choices.  For the person of faith, God’s grace has overcome and therefore covers any sin.

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A Difference in Interpretation Among Christians

November 8, 2009

In Jesus’ name!

In 1John 1:8-10 we find these statements: 8””If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  10If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”

I point this out to draw attention to a difference in interpretation among Christians. The question is this; Are these words a reference to the present condition of Christians or does it speak to the salvation process as Christians are rescued from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son?  I believe it has reference to the call of the Holy Spirit on our lives which is the act of God’s kindness which leads us to repentance.  (Rom. 2:4)

November 8, 2009

The ones who believe in the former interpretation are obviously living under the law and believe our lives are governed by the law of God, forgetting that Jesus said from the Cross that “It is finished.”, and therefore has appointed us and declared to us that we no longer live under the law, or the written code, but under grace. A few Bible passages which confirm this truth follow.

Romans 6:6 – 7 6For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with,* that we should no longer be slaves to sin–  7because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:11 11In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 7:6 6But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

Romans 7:20 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Here, separation must be made between what we once were and what we are now. The sin no longer identifies who we are. Also, once the old self is crucified we become something that never existed before.  The following scriptures explain:

2 Corinthians 5:17 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Galatians 2:20 20I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This brings us to point where we find out how things get done in the kingdom of God

Philippians 2:13 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Hebrews 4:10 10for anyone who enters God’s rest [the Sabbath rest] also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.

So Christians no longer sin.  They are both free from it and dead to it.  Add to this the following truth; since God reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, He no longer counts men’s sins against them. (2 Cor. 5: 18-19)

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The following is an interpretation of the scriptures as it was written for our learning.

November 1, 2009

As you know the law—the written code—was given to increase the sin by revealing it to those who would fall under it.  But there is still more to reveal than the sin. The law was given to reveal the inability of man to erase the sin completely from the life of the sinner. Only the Cross can accomplish this.

Once the message of the Cross has been made clear to an individual by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit, then the law enters the context of love.  It is then that the law becomes the means by which Christ is to be revealed in one’s life as the Father instructs the Son as He did during the ministry of Jesus on earth.

Remember, Jesus only did what the Father told Him to do and said what the Father told Him to say.  This becomes the evidence of God using His own word to direct the “footsteps” of His own people.  And this is so important to understand because neither the sinful nature of man in general nor the flesh of a Christian (leftover humanity after the crucifixion and death of the sinful nature through water baptism) could ever meet the requirement of perfection which is the character of holiness.

The end result of God’s plan then has nothing to do with the attempts of man to fulfill the will of God by man’s work as if He, God needed anything, including man’s help.  Rather it is as the apostle Paul wrote, “for it is God who works in you to WILL and to ACT according to His good [Godly] purpose.” (Phil. 2:13)  And this by the way, is the only means of fulfilling the words of the Lord’s Prayer when it says “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.  God’s will on earth cannot be accomplished unless God does it Himself as Christ, who lives in us, is the obedient force of our lives.

Of course this is all a matter of faith.  And I ask you please do not use faith as though it were a part of the law.  Faith is not only a gift of God but also a gift from God.  If you are at all like St. Paul knowing the Godly thing to do but cannot do it because the evil you also know gets first shot at what happens next in your life because of the flesh, then you will understand why the Bible tells us that Christ is our life. He is the only means of removing the sting from failures that happens to us all the time.  It is as He said, “I am the WAY and the TRUTH and the LIFE.

And so, grace is really sufficient.  Where sin abounds grace abounds much more.  You know we boast sometimes about our own strength and our own power to stand up against the temptations of this world, but as a matter of truth, our power is made perfect in our weaknesses, not in our power to be a good Christian. There is no such thing. Think of that.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace”….” (Rom. 3:23-24)

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Citizenship in the Kingdom of God.

March 6, 2009

One obtains citizenship in the kingdom of God by faith. As I have said, this makes you an alien and stranger in the world. Heaven becomes your home. You know how people of the world like to control their own destiny; well the citizen of the kingdom is not in control. Rather he is a slave to righteousness. As you know slaves do not control anything, nor do they have any rights. Living by faith excludes rights. It excludes expectations. Instead your steps are ordered by God. It is Christ who lives in you. Remember how Jesus described His life on earth. He said that He did everything the Father told Him to do. And He said everything the Father told Him to say. That is the way of the kingdom as Christ lives in you as God works in you, both to will and to act according to His purposes.

Kingdom living is certainly a different way to live. A citizen is  not subject to his senses, emotions or his brain power. Rather he has the mind of Christ. So as Jesus gave expression to the law of God by reducing it to love; love of the Father and love to one’s neighbor, we  find that it always expresses itself in love. See, humanity cannot do that because it has been totally corrupted by the sinful nature or the flesh. Human love is frankly selfish. God prevents that in the kingdom by living through us and deciding for us, that is if we live by faith.  Wouldn’t you rather be controlled by God than yourself? He is a bit wiser that we are, you know!

By the way, love, as defined by God’s word is to obey the commands of God. This does not refer to the Ten Commandments and all the other commandments that were given to the Israelites. No, these are commands that are given as a result of our lives in the present tense. You see, we live in the new way of the Spirit, not in the old way of the written code. The new way of the Spirit is a love of perfection. This cannot be attained by human effort. It is accomplished by God as he lives through us.

So life in the kingdom is so very different. We should begin by getting used to it. You will find that it comes as you rest from your own labors.  You are tired of doing your thing anyway, right? You have found that your own way doesn’t work most of the time anyway; let alone reach what Christ demanded, which is perfection.

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Another episode of Christianity is not what you think.

March 3, 2009

Christians should all know that although they are in the world they are not of the world.  However today, we are much like the Corinthians of old who were acting worldly and therefore caused the apostle Paul to address them in a worldly manner.  Here is what we all should know.

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world”  Adding, “It is from another place.”  According to God the world is a dominion of darkness.  In Christ, we have been rescued from the dominion of darkness and have been brought into the kingdom of His Son.  That kingdom is called the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. Further, we have become new creations (not new creatures).  So we are a kingdom of new creations, all of which started with Pentecost.  Thus we now live in the new way of the Spirit.  As far as God is concerned we are aliens and strangers in this world and heaven is our home.  While the world is looking for aliens, they are searching in the wrong places.  We are next door.  We are in the malls.  We work in the same places.  We obviously go unseen, that is as new creations.  

Our problems in this world stem from the fact that we, for the most part, act like we belong to the world.  Thus we have many of the same problems that exist for the world.  My question is this: When are we going to take God seriously in this matter and start to believe what He says.  We really are from another place.  Until the Cross, the Resurrection and Pentecost, there never has been any people like us.  That is why we are called new creations.  For us, the old is gone!

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The kingdom of God.

February 18, 2009

There are many references to the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven in the Bible. Let me just point out a couple in order to help you understand where our ministry is coming from.  As we have pointed out before Jesus told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world….My kingdom is from another place.” This other world is not the church.  God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His dear Son. He did not rescue us and bring us into the church. It seems the church is very good at finding its own members. True, there are citizens of the kingdom who belong to a church. But there are also many who belong to a church that are not in the church. And the church, as an organization is observable,  while the kingdom is not. So more important to us is the recognition that we belong to a kingdom.  And since it does not come with careful observation, where is this other place. 

Jesus said, and very plainly so, that “the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)  This agrees with the statement made by the apostle Paul that we no longer live, but that Christ lives in us. Why is this so important for us to know this?  It is because the strategy and the interpretations used by the church points to the kingdom as a place in the world and it is not. Yes, we act just like citizens of the world while at the same time we say we do not belong to the world. Our organizations, our budgets, our social activities, out fund raisers, just about everything we plan and do is observable.  

We have been told not to judge. But we judge others anyway.  And why?  Because the reasons for our judgments are observable.  The fact that God has reconciled Himself to the world and therefore no longer counts men’s sins against them, means practically nothing with regard to our observations.  Our “good works”, which are supposed to go unseen” are purposely exposed so that they are seen.  The point is this: Jesus Christ rules and reigns in our hearts, but the world would never know it, nor do most church members.  

We have a long way to go when it comes to understanding that the kingdom of God is within us. This kind of understanding would change the way we interpret the Bible.  It is the first step in renewing our minds.  For instance, we would begin to interpret the Word from the viewpoint of grace through faith and not from the ways of our humanity. 

Now honestly, I must tell you tell you that to understand that the kingdom of God is within you, will not do a heck of a lot for our behavior. It’s like the apostle said, “The good that I should do I do not do.”  But what’s important for us is the renewing of the mind, the understanding toward God and His kingdom.  You know that in the Old Covenant, it is said that the people were destroyed for lack of it.  That is not going to happen to us however, because Jesus will not lose anyone whom the Father has chosen.  But one of the benefits of understanding the kingdom is the fact that you will get a little more rest from your own labors and therefore stay out of much of the trouble that we get ourselves into because of our worldly view of the kingdom.  When you start believing you are not a sinner any more, notice how some things change.

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