Kingdom Building

We enjoyed a gorgeous week at Outer Banks with my in-laws. Our kids love playing with their 2 cousins in the surf and sand; while my brother-in-law and I often build them sand structures for amusement. In case you think this is another Biblical teaching about “building on the sand versus the Rock”, it’s not.

My brother-in-law, Derek and I are very different with our own unique styles. Derek’s way of building for the kids was to dig holes, build “pools” and construct a tunnel. The kids loved it!

However, I spent much of my time creating in an entirely different manner. My nephew and I built large foundations for a city with walls and castles that we laid with a variety of plastic buckets and sand molds. It was extremely time consuming and tedious, but we found it rewarding. (Actual picture below)

 

IMG_2042

 

After a few hours when I was finishing up one of our biggest projects, I felt a twinge of jealousy as my daughter was really having fun with Uncle Derek’s project. Suddenly, the idea crossed my mind that I wanted his tunnel to collapse. I quickly realized it was a lie and renounced it and then the Lord began to speak to me about Churches and ministry…

 

SELFISH OR SELFLESS AMBITION ?

Who are we ministering for?

If we are truly “building” for the King and the Kingdom, we desire our brothers and sisters to also succeed. Churches and ministers are not in competition with each other because we are not supposed to be trying to create something “big” or “great” for our name, but His Name. We are on the same team.

Think of the world like a giant beach and our legacy is like the sand castles we build for our kids.

Firstly, there is plenty of room for us all to build as big or as little of a “sand castle” that we want to build. Actually, we are supposed to be filling the “beach” with His Kingdom and no single Church or ministry will ever be big enough to do that alone.

It’s going to take every family building their own structures, in their area and in their own time. God set this Kingdom up so that it functions like a body that needs every part operating at full capacity in coordination with all of the bodies members. We all have a unique sphere of influence. And we all have different giftings and callings.

Secondly, there is plenty of sand. There is no shortage of resources as we build God’s Kingdom because “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it.” He owns all things because everything was created by him and for him! He is currently filling everything with himself. We don’t need to compete with our neighbor for funds, congregants or followers. When our neighboring ministry succeeds, we don’t fail.

The Kingdom increases! When the Kingdom increases, we all increase; even if we can’t perceive how because we are all a part of the same growing body of Christ! When the body grows, every functioning member grows along with it!

The truth is that we are all building something for our children; whether natural or spiritual. We give our entire lives, our beings to growing God’s Kingdom and when we die; only what was done without selfish motive will remain. If our motive is for the increase of our own name, we may build something huge that appears to be great, but it will not honor the Lord.

We can have all of the spiritual giftings in the world, but if we do not operate in love; it will profit nothing. Love does not seek it’s own. Love is not a feeling, but a completely selfless motive. Love does not desire to outdo another, but desires it’s neighbor to also succeed.

If we get wrapped up in a competitive attitude with surrounding churches or ministries, we have crossed over on to the opposing team. The sad part is that the very people that we are jealous of may be the very people we should be cooperating with. One of the most basic ways the enemy causes division is by introducing selfishness where there should be selflessness.

As soon as we let it be about us, it’s no longer about the Lord. God doesn’t desire increase for you and failure for your neighbor. That’s how the enemy wants us to think. But God wants to increase the entire Body! Only the enemy desires that the Body of Christ ever experiences failure. But love always builds up.

If we begin to listen to ideas that have selfish intentions, we cannot cooperate with what God is doing. It’s time that we set aside our agendas and seek firstly and foremost the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 

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Kingdom Building

We enjoyed a gorgeous week at Outer Banks with my in-laws. Our kids love playing with their 2 cousins in the surf and sand; while my brother-in-law and I often build them sand structures for amusement. In case you think this is another Biblical teaching about “building on the sand versus the Rock”, it’s not.

My brother-in-law, Derek and I are very different with our own unique styles. Derek’s way of building for the kids was to dig holes, build “pools” and construct a tunnel. The kids loved it!

However, I spent much of my time creating in an entirely different manner. My nephew and I built large foundations for a city with walls and castles that we laid with a variety of plastic buckets and sand molds. It was extremely time consuming and tedious, but we found it rewarding. (Actual picture below)

 

IMG_2042

 

After a few hours when I was finishing up one of our biggest projects, I felt a twinge of jealousy as my daughter was really having fun with Uncle Derek’s project. Suddenly, the idea crossed my mind that I wanted his tunnel to collapse. I quickly realized it was a lie and renounced it and then the Lord began to speak to me about Churches and ministry…

 

SELFISH OR SELFLESS AMBITION ?

Who are we ministering for?

If we are truly “building” for the King and the Kingdom, we desire our brothers and sisters to also succeed. Churches and ministers are not in competition with each other because we are not supposed to be trying to create something “big” or “great” for our name, but His Name. We are on the same team.

Think of the world like a giant beach and our legacy is like the sand castles we build for our kids.

Firstly, there is plenty of room for us all to build as big or as little of a “sand castle” that we want to build. Actually, we are supposed to be filling the “beach” with His Kingdom and no single Church or ministry will ever be big enough to do that alone.

It’s going to take every family building their own structures, in their area and in their own time. God set this Kingdom up so that it functions like a body that needs every part operating at full capacity in coordination with all of the bodies members. We all have a unique sphere of influence. And we all have different giftings and callings.

Secondly, there is plenty of sand. There is no shortage of resources as we build God’s Kingdom because “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness of it.” He owns all things because everything was created by him and for him! He is currently filling everything with himself. We don’t need to compete with our neighbor for funds, congregants or followers. When our neighboring ministry succeeds, we don’t fail.

The Kingdom increases! When the Kingdom increases, we all increase; even if we can’t perceive how because we are all a part of the same growing body of Christ! When the body grows, every functioning member grows along with it!

The truth is that we are all building something for our children; whether natural or spiritual. We give our entire lives, our beings to growing God’s Kingdom and when we die; only what was done without selfish motive will remain. If our motive is for the increase of our own name, we may build something huge that appears to be great, but it will not honor the Lord.

We can have all of the spiritual giftings in the world, but if we do not operate in love; it will profit nothing. Love does not seek it’s own. Love is not a feeling, but a completely selfless motive. Love does not desire to outdo another, but desires it’s neighbor to also succeed.

If we get wrapped up in a competitive attitude with surrounding churches or ministries, we have crossed over on to the opposing team. The sad part is that the very people that we are jealous of may be the very people we should be cooperating with. One of the most basic ways the enemy causes division is by introducing selfishness where there should be selflessness.

As soon as we let it be about us, it’s no longer about the Lord. God doesn’t desire increase for you and failure for your neighbor. That’s how the enemy wants us to think. But God wants to increase the entire Body! Only the enemy desires that the Body of Christ ever experiences failure. But love always builds up.

If we begin to listen to ideas that have selfish intentions, we cannot cooperate with what God is doing. It’s time that we set aside our agendas and seek firstly and foremost the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 

Pleased by Blood?

Was God ever pleased with blood sacrifices?

I realize that many Old Covenant Scriptures seem to indicate that our Loving Father delighted in blood offerings but consider some of the very last Scriptural insight ever given from the Holy Spirit ~

 

6In whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hadst no pleasure:

Jesus was recorded speaking ~

7Then said I, Lo, I am come (In the roll of the book it is written of me) To do thy will, O God.

8Saying above, Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein (the which are offered according to the law)…” Hebrews 10

This “new” revelation had actually been given through David and other prophets throughout Israel’s history but, apparently not understood. Do we truly understand it today?

BACK TO THE BEGINNING ~

We probably agree that God does not any longer desire bloody offerings but, do we impose our perspective of the Old Covenant (Moses and the Levitical Priesthood) on our understanding of the other Genesis accounts?

Consider that Scripture has not one account of the Lord actually requesting anyone to follow through with blood offerings before Moses and “The First Passover”.

Not Adam, Cain and Abel, Noah or Abraham were ever told to follow through with bloodshed. Seriously.

I’m going to very briefly articulate a few points within these stories and assume that you are familiar with the basics of these recorded accounts. You may have to unlearn what you learned through Sunday School, Church, etc…I did. You also will probably have to study the Scriptures (at least the Book of Genesis ~ which means ” The Beginnings” for yourself and intentionally listen for any single instance of the Lord requiring follow through of bloodshed.

THE FIRST FAMILY ~

After Adam and Eve sinned, God responds ~ “The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

It is true that most scholars decided to conclude that the Lord killed an animal and made garments from the skin to clothe them but, that is not what the Hebrew Text says. Some versions have actually added words to the text because of their preconceived bias but, that’s not a good idea.

NLT ~ “And the LORD God made clothing from animal skins for Adam and his wife.” The ISV and GWT unfortunately do the same.

I believe this mistranslation and wrong understanding has laid a bad foundation. Truth be told, the original text says nothing of “how” God made the “garments of skin” or even “what” he made them from. The Hebrew word is the same used when God created “in the beginning” , so we have no reason to assume that God “made” these garments of skin from an animal.

Along come Cain and Abel, who have never been given a Mosaic understanding of “sacrifices”.  According to Scripture, Cain may have invented the idea of “offering” something to God because ~ “In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel ALSO brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.” Gen.4:3,4a

Cain started it and Abel followed. I was always taught growing up that Cain’s was unacceptable because it was not a bloody lamb. However, that is not stated anywhere in Scripture! Actually, “Faith chapter” that follows multiple chapters of minimizing literal sacrifices, offerings and “Priestly ministry” boldly revealed the reason Able’s was accepted!

“By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings…” Hebrews 11:4A

It was faith and faith alone that approved Abel before God!

If people want to assume that God was pleased with Abel’s because it was bloody, they add to Scripture. Without repeating their error, I would like to suggest that maybe Cain killed Abel because he made the same assumption.

Consider that Cain may have had no animal to offer (he was a tiller of the ground) and since it “seemed” that God was pleased with a bloody sacrifice; maybe (just maybe) Cain thought that he was making an even better offering to God by sacrificing his brother! Just a thought…

ENOCH THE RIGHTEOUS…BY FAITH ~

We know that Enoch walked with the Lord because God was pleased with his faith but, there is not one mention of Enoch ever sacrificing a single bloody offering! (See Gen.5)

The next verse in Hebrews 11 ~ ” 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God.” 

No blood required. Not even in the Old Testament!

Why?

“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Heb.11:6 Remember this chapter followed immediately on the heels of multiple statements in Hebrews 10 that “God took no pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Think blood!)

NOAH, THE PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS ~ 

After Noah obeyed the Lord’s first instructions to gather 2 of every animal, The Lord gave him some more…

1Then the LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time. 2“You shall take with you of every clean animal by sevens, a male and his female; and of the animals that are not clean two, a male and his female;3also of the birds of the sky, by sevens, male and female, to keep offspring alive on the face of all the earth.” Gen.7

More literal translations record Gen.7:3 this way ~ “Also of the birds of the sky, seven and seven, male and female, to keep seed alive on the surface of all the earth.”

We know now that clean animals were later used for sacrifice and secular history tells us that ancient cultures at that time may have had similar thought but, God had never required it until the time of Moses.

15They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. 16And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in.” Gen.7:15,16

Noah did everything correct going in! But, then things got shaky…

Notice the very specific instruction given to Noah. So specific that the Lord even changed the order of how they (the 8 people) were supposed to exit the Ark! * Credit due to Dr. Jonathan Welton in his book ~ “Normal Christianity”.*

15Then God said to Noah, 16“Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. 17Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh—birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth—that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.”

He told them to leave the Ark side by side, male beside female but, apparently they misunderstood or ignored that instruction.

18So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. 19Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark.”

For whatever reason, God let that slide. But, Noah was just getting started with his blatant disobedience! (Please understand that I am in no means criticizing Noah, the righteous. Just examining his mistakes for the sake of articulating my point.)

Remember that the Lord had already made it very clear why he wanted Noah to take so many clean animals on the Ark.  1.) “To keep seed/offspring alive on the land” ~ Gen.7:3 & Reason # 2.)…”that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” ~ Gen.8:17b 

Yet Noah went his own way. ” 20Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.” Gen.8:20

God said the extra clean animals were for filling the land and yet Noah killed them. Did God take pleasure in his offering? It seems so. But why?

Based on Hebrews 10 & 11 we understand that is was yet again faith that pleased God. Maybe Noah even “offered a sacrifice of faith-filled praise”!

15Through him (Christ) then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. 16Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Hebrews 13

But within the Lord’s satisfaction with Noah’s faith-filled offering (of praise?), the Lord seems to have recognized that Noah was actually imperfect.

21The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. ~ Gen.8

Interestingly, it’s only after Noah’s unrequested sacrifice that the Lord declared animals would fear man (Gen.9:2), man would eat animals (9:3), yet they were not supposed to consume the blood (9:4) and man’s bloodshed would be severely disciplined (9:5).

Is it possible that Noah’s sacrifice changed the way God intended their new life?

God established his covenant with even the animals (9:10) and immediately Noah became like Cain was…before Cain sinned. Noah became a tiller of the ground. (9:20)

Very interesting…

It gets even more interesting when we examine the life of Abraham and how God did not clearly ever require him to shed any blood! But, that blogpost will have to wait until another time. Hopefully that time, I can wrap this up with some practical applications for us within the New Covenant. As for now, hopefully this provokes some thoughts for reconsidering how you read the Scriptures. Be blessed!

The Commandments of Jesus

The Apostle John was the only writer in the NT that articulates “The Commandments of Jesus.” He was also the only author among the first 4 that did not record “The Sermon on the Mount”. I believe one reason may be because John’s writings were written last. John seems to have written immediately before 70 AD, possibly after Paul’s death and definitely a decade or more after Matthew and Mark. Matthew wrote his account after only about 2 decades of meeting Jesus. John wrote his almost 40 years after he began to walk with the Lord!

How much does a person grow in the Lord after an additional 20 years of relationship? *(Some scholars argue that John’s letters were written 60 years or more after Jesus!)

The point?

Maybe John more clearly articulated the New Covenant because the time of the Old being completely removed had arrived (Hebrews 8:13-9:10 & 2 Cor.3:7-11) and the New Covenant ideals needed to me decisively declared. Maybe John understood sonship better. John clearly had a profound revelation of what it meant to be loved by the Lord because he frequently referred to himself as “The Disciple whom Jesus loved.”

Does that mean Jesus loved John more than the others or that John received Jesus’ love more than the others? I believe it’s the latter. Consider Jesus words spoken to the faithful 11 in John 15:9 as evidence ~ “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: abide      ye in my love.”                                                                                                                   (plural)             (singular)

I used the KJV in this instance because it’s the only version that distinguishes the plural “you” from the singular “ye”. Jesus stated that he loved them all as the Father had loved him. Jesus didn’t love John more than Peter, James or the rest. Jesus loved all of his disciples with the exact same love that the Father had for him.

John received Jesus’ love more.

John laid his head on the Lord’s chest.

John knew how to abide.

Is it possible that John had greater faith?

 

HOW MANY COMMANDMENTS?

 

Matthew, Mark and Luke all emphasized faith to an extant. However, none of them even came close to articulating the faith like Paul had.

Did you know that none of the first 3 (Matt,Mk and Lk) recorded Jesus ever saying anything like “Believe in me to be saved”? Isn’t that the foundation of the entire message? Yet, in all of their accounts of the life and words of Jesus; none of them thought it was important to declare the most basic aspect of the Gospel? Very interesting….

Yet, the “gospel” of John records Jesus’ 1st Commandment “Believe” almost 100 times! Compare that to less than 30 times between the first 3. Basically, John emphasizes belief 10 times more than the others. John also emphasized love over 100 times more!

John’s First Epistle detailed the New Covenant Commandments as ~ 1. Believe. 2. Love.

23And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as he gave us commandment.” ~ 1 John 3:23

Because even the entire Law could be summed up in “Love”. (Gal.5:14 , Matt.22:40, Rom.13:10) However, the reality is that you cannot truly love without first believing because love believes. (1 Cor.13:7) The cart cannot go before the horse.

Faith always precedes love. We cannot love others with God’s perfect love until we believe in God’s perfect love. ~ The Holy Spirit

It’s really that simple to obey the New Covenant commandments because God doesn’t want slaves who merely obeyed for the sake of obedience; like in the Old Covenant. Paul wrote in Romans about a new obedience that he called ~ “The Obedience of the Faith”.

 

HOW NOW SHALL WE LIVE?

 

This is not an excuse to disobey. It’s a true definition of Christ-like obedience.

This is not a reason to neglect the writings of Matthew and the others. It’s also not an excuse to ignore the words of Jesus in the likes of “The Sermon on the Mount”. It’s merely an explanation of how.

This is how we live a “Sermon on the Mount” (SOM) lifestyle.

We can obey the letter of the SOM without believing in God’s love. But, we cannot disobey the heart of the SOM when we believe in God’s love.

One way reduces children of God to a life of slavery. The Way inspires the children of God to a life of sons!

If God’s primary objective was obedience to a set of regulations; he would have invented robots. But God yearned for relational children, so he created us!

God doesn’t merely desire us to follow a set of rules. God desires relationship.

God wants us to stay in relationship with him through in everything!

16And we know and have believed the love which God hath in us. God is love; and he that abideth in love abideth in God, and God abideth in him.” ~ 1 John 4:16

Interestingly, the emphasis in this verse does not seem to be on the Presence of God. The emphasis is on love because ~ “love is the Presence of God.”

It’s that simple and yet that challenging. Because Ephesians 3:16-20 announced that God’s love in infinitely beyond our understanding. It’s probably a good idea to pray along the lines of Paul ~

16that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, that ye may be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inward man; 17that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; to the end that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may be strong to apprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye may be filled unto all the fulness of God.”

Profound. It seems that Paul was saying something like ~Believing and growing in the love of God increases the amount of God that we experience in life. God is infinite and so is love. Keep growing in faith and in love. The deeper you go into love, the more Christ fills your heart.

 

 

A Different Jesus?

treeoflife
In the garden, the Serpent deceived Eve. (2 Cor.11:3)
 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil.” Gen.3:4,5

These were the words of the Serpent; not the Lord God. Yes, they are Scripture but they are not the Words of God.

Consider how differently the promise from the Serpent was than the warning of Father God.

Genesis 2:16~ The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

God had warned mankind not too eat of the fruit because they would surely die. God never said anything about them becoming “like God, knowing evil and good” if they ate of the fruit. They were already created in God’s likeness! Eating the fruit did not make them more like God but, more like Satan!

Satan knew evil. God did now know evil. There has never been evil in our Father and there never will be!

What if “knowing good and evil” was actually the same thing that God warned them about? What if “knowing good and evil” was death to them?

For thousands of years, people may have thought that the Lord God knew evil but, did He? Did Jesus, the complete expression of the Lord, know sin? Not according to Paul.

2 Cor.5:21 ~ “He made the One not having known sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Since Jesus, the Word of God who was with and was always God, did not ever intimately know sin; it begs the question ~ “Did the serpent deceive us too?”

Did the Lord God, ever intimately know sin or evil? What if that was a root of the deception that had mislead mankind? What if sin and evil had never even entered the mind and heart of our loving Father? What if we projected our awareness of sin onto the Perfect God of love?

 

TO KNOW ~ 

This Greek word ginosko or “know” is equivalent to the Hebrew word yada, which is the intimate knowledge that transcends information. The quote from Gen.5 above is the first 2 uses of yada/intimate knowledge ever used in the Scriptures.

This has nothing to do with facts and information. Yes, Jesus understood that sin existed. He often even perceived it in people’s hearts before they spoke it during his life.

Yet, he did not become intimately acquainted with it. Consider how Genesis 4 immediately follows the opening of Adam and Eve’s eyes to sin and evil. The use of the word yada is very different than we often think of “knowing”.

Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain…” Gen.4:1

Did Adam just notice Eve and go shake her hand? “Hi, Eve…I mean…you. My name’s Adam, It’s nice to know you?” No. They had already met. Adam became intimate with Eve. Adam knew Eve according to the Biblical understanding of “know”; he experienced relationship with her.

Was God intimate with evil? Was there ever any darkness in God? Did God ever actually kill anyone or even command killing?

Look at Jesus. How did he treat his enemies? Consider his words on the Sermon at the Mount and apply them to your idea of God the Father; in the Old Covenant.

What if Brian Zahnd is correct? What if “The Cross proved that God would rather die than kill his enemies.”….?

What if God has never known that evil?

Are we going to believe what the deceiver said? Let’s remember what Paul said about the deception in 2 Cor.11:3 ~ But I am afraid, lest by any means, as the serpent in his craftiness deceived Eve, your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity in Christ.”

Has the mind of the church been corrupted from the simplicity and purity in Christ? Do we doubt that God was always and always will be as pure as Christ?

“He knew NO sin.”

Actually, it is more literally “He made the One not having known sin to be sin for us…”

Because everyone except God has known sin!

 

THE ONE

Jesus was often called “The righteous One” and “The Holy One” throughout Old and New Testament.  (Acts 3:14)

Jesus was the One that did not know sin. Was God divided back in the Garden? Did The Word (Jesus), The Holy Spirit and The Father part ways when they created the world? In Gen.1:1-3, we see God creating as the Spirit hovers and the Word speaks.

I believe the Trinity has always been One and always will be. Immediately before the Cross, Jesus affirmed that even though the 11 “faithful” disciples would leave him ~ “The Father is with me.” (John 16:32) According to John 14:17, The Holy Spirit was already with them too. 

If Jesus never knew sin, even in the flesh; how much more did The perfect Father and Spirit of Holiness not know sin? I know that’s an oxy-moron because you can’t “intimately know sin” less than not knowing it at all. But, the point remains that they surely could not and did not ever know sin or evil!

Could God really kill and still not know evil?

Let’s go back and continue in that verse from 2 Corinthians 11 ~ 3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. 4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we did not preach, or if ye receive a different spirit, which ye did not receive, or a different gospel, which ye did not accept, ye do well to bear with him .”

What if by attributing intimate knowledge of evil/sin to God; we entertain a different spirit and different gospel?

What if we misunderstood the simplicity and purity of God in the words ~ “God is light. In him is no darkness.” (1 John 1:5)

 

 

Who is Going to Heaven?

I have been asked a lot lately if I believe that”everyone is going to Heaven?” and the question always confuses me. I talk a lot about the Kingdom of God present and the whole world already being reconciled to God so we have the authority and power to release sins or retain them….But, I never talk about Heaven. Why do people so quickly go there? We don’t talk about Heaven much in our prayers or sermons, we talk about “The Kingdom come on earth just as it is in Heaven…”

But, when it comes to Jesus being the Savior of all mankind; people being “in or out” they automatically switch gears and start thinking about Heaven. But, Jesus didn’t talk about anyone going to Heaven…ever….

Seriously, think about it. The one time people often think Jesus talked about Heaven was when Jesus said ~ “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one cometh unto the Father buy through Me.”

Because he had said that he was going to prepare a “Place” for them ~ 2“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places (not mansions); if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”

This was all before the Cross! The place Jesus prepared for us was IN HIM. Read Ephesians 1 and count more than 10 times that Paul said something to the effect of how God put us “In Christ”. Colossians 3 clearly declared that those who were crucified with Christ on the Cross were raised up with Him and ~”3For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”

We aren’t going up to Him in Heaven. God has already raised us up with Him in the heavenly places! (Ephesians 1:3 & 2:6)

This Gospel isn’t about people going up to Heaven; it’s about Heaven coming down to earth! Every believer is literally already with Christ in Heaven! (In our spirit man).

So where did we get the idea that the Gospel is about going to Heaven someday? Is it Scriptural?

 

Not according to the Bible.

 

THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS ~

Matthew, Mark Luke and John: Consider that Jesus never once mentioned anyone going up to Heaven. Never once!

Out of all the times the Gospel was recorded being preached in Acts; no one said anything about “Going to Heaven” someday. None.

When Paul articulated the Gospel in his most detailed letter to the Romans; he never once mentioned life in Heaven. Not one time!

These 6 books are the entire foundation for Christianity’s beliefs (at least that’s the theory). Wouldn’t we expect to see multiple mentions of an afterlife in Heaven?

Yet, there is not one mention.

1st and 2 Corinthians? NO. 

Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians? No, no and no.

1 and 2 Thessalonians? No,  There are a few verses that may have been taken that way but, once read in context are easy to refute. *See Below*

1st and 2nd Timothy? No and no.

Titus? Nope.

Philemon? No.

Hebrews? A big no! In Hebrews 12, he said ~

22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect…”

We have already come to Mt. Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem … and the Church who is enrolled (registered) in Heaven! Just like Ephesians 1 &2 and Col.3; we are already in Heaven in Christ!

James? No.

1st and 2nd Peter? No, no. 1 Peter 1:4,5 is clarified by 1:9 & 13, 5:1 (presently coming down)

1st, 2nd and 3rd John? Not even close.

Jude? No.

That leaves us with the last and most complicated…The Revelation of Jesus Christ. Negative. This extremely symbolic book is focused on the reality of Heaven coming down to earth in that generation. This prophecy was a promise to that generation of believers that God’s Kingdom was very soon coming to them. That is the Beginning of the book and the end. However, it’s too in depth to complete in this blog, so it will have to wait until the next one.

Just consider the first promise from God in Revelation that could seem like it spoke about “Christians going up”.

Rev.3:12 ~ “12He who is overcoming — I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary (Temple) of my God, and without he may not go any more, and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, that doth come down (present tense) out of the heaven from my God — also my new name.

If they were promised to become literal pillars in a literal natural temple…first off that would be a really boring existence. Secondly, that Temple (and the people/pillars in it) would be coming down from Heaven at that time!  The verb tense was not future but present tense.

Because just like Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 made very clear; they were already in the New Jerusalem because it was a spiritual place. It simply means to be In Christ.

 

 

 

*I know that Thessalonians needs to be covered. Consider 1 Thess.4  ~

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.

Admittedly this can sound like Jesus was bringing dead people back with him from Heaven, which would mean that the dead in Christ were in Heaven. However, we need to let the following verses clarify what Paul meant and not our own pre-conceptions.

 

15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep.16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.18Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus (those who were already dead) Because the dead in Christ would rise first as the Lord descends. Notice that the dead were not coming down from God. Jesus was coming down (v.16a) and then the dead in Christ would rise up (16b) and all who were alive would rise up and meet the Lord in the air!

The dead were going to rise, which means they were not expected to come from above but from below. Paul clearly believed the dead were down and not up.

Paul wrapped it all up by stating that because of that either way, they would always be with the Lord.

This does not mean that the dead will be in Heaven. It means that wherever we do go when we die; the Lord is there. Remember; God is omnipresent.

 

NO HEAVEN?

 

I am not saying that Scripture proves no one will go to Heaven! Scripture simply doesn’t ever indicate that we will. My point is that “going to Heaven” is clearly NOT the message of the Gospel. Maybe God, doesn’t even want us to know…Let’s just stop spreading a Gospel that’s contrary to the truth that we do know!

The Good News is and always has been about the Kingdom of God on earth!

Let’s not get so focused on going to Heaven in the future that we neglect the Kingdom of God present.

 

The entire point of this is merely a reminder of what Jesus and the N.T. writers did declare about the Gospel. Heaven? Not a major theme. Kingdom of God on earth? Absolutely, the entire point!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Baptism of The Cross

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When we were born-again, we participated in the Resurrection of The Lord Jesus Christ from the grave. We were not merely saved to experience “the Life of the Ages” someday. Our “old man”, “sinful nature” or “spirit man” literally died with/in Christ, was buried in his grave/baptism and was raised to new life in His resurrection! This is the foundation of all Christianity and it is a great mystery.

 

One recent question that I have been wondering is regarding whose faith caused this? Did it become true when I believed or did I believe because it was true? Did it happen 2,000 years ago and I recently believed or did me believing cause it to happen 2,000 years ago?  This raised some seriously Calvinistic thoughts that I reject. John Calvin literally believed that Jesus Christ did not truly die for all mankind. That wretched doctrine is so flimsy that I’m not even going to quote verses that refute it. (2 John 1:1,2 & John 3:16 & 2 Cor.5:14)

 

This death of Jesus Christ was often referred to as “Baptism and circumcision” because those O.T. types were fulfilled in the life-work of Jesus.

Jesus spoke of the Cross this way ~ “I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is finished! (Luke 12:50)

It’s from that perspective that I explore “The One Baptism”.

 

ONE BAPTISM ~

 

Ephesians 4 ~ 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”

This verse is way to profound for me to fully understand. let alone try to explain! But, the “One Baptism” seems to directly correlate to “The One Lord, the one faith, the one body, etc…”

Jesus was the One Lord and he lived by The (one) faith.

Is it absurd to believe that the One Baptism was not what we did but, what he did? Not just as a substitute but vicariously? Not only for us but in us and therefore as us?

Paul expounded on Christ’s circumcision/death/baptism/burial in Colossians 2.

8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. 13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions.”

Notice the clear connection between circumcision/death and burial/baptism? Notice how often it’s expressed as something He did and it wasn’t in us but in Him! Even more interesting that there is never any mention of our faith having anything to do with this reality! Yes, we need to believe to access the true promises of God that are fulfilled in Christ but, does believing God’s promises are fulfilled make them fulfilled?

Or did Christ fulfill God’s promises and our believing merely accesses what He has already accomplished?

 

THE BAPTISM ~ 

 

Paul said it this way in Romans 6 ~ ”

3are ye ignorant that we, as many as were baptized to Christ Jesus, to his death were baptized? 4we were buried together, then, with him through the baptism to the death, that even as Christ was raised up out of the dead through the glory of the Father, so also we in newness of life might walk. 5For, if we have become planted (most versions say united) together to the likeness of his death, [so] also we shall be of the rising again; 6this knowing, that our old man was crucified with [him], that the body of the sin may be made useless, for our no longer serving the sin; 7for he who hath died hath been set free from the sin.

8And if we died with Christ, we believe that we also shall live with him…”

Interestingly, Paul spoke to Colosse about the importance of not being deceived in this matter and to Rome about their perceived ignorance. Have I been unknowingly deceived all of this time? Was the “One Baptism” (of Christ) the same as “The Baptism” and actually the baptism of all mankind?

Immediately before the Cross, Jesus said ~ 32And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw  (literally drag) all to Myself.” 33Now He was saying this, signifying by what death He was about to die.” (John 12)

Did Jesus actively drag everyone to himself in his baptism of death?

When did I die and join him in his death? When I believed and was baptized or when He believed and I was baptized into His death?

13If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.”

These verses have been following me for months…I can’t get away. It’s like a Holy Ghost “haunting”. I may be out of my mind but, I am beginning to believe that the Gospel declares that All have already died in the Lord Jesus Christ!

I honestly don’t know if this is madness or glory. I only know that I am obsessed with the Cross of the Lord and his love. The Truth of the Gospel and nothing less.

I truly believe the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all the Truth of the Scriptures.

Only believe.