Assurance Unto All

God has given us proof of His existence, showing us the way to Himself. He’s done this so openly and plainly that anyone can see for themselves, and find assurance of eternal life.  (Ac 17:31)

Tomb Chamber, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem

According to the biblical account, Christianity began as twelve poor, uneducated Jews, who knew Jesus personally and followed Him, suddenly began testifying of Christ’s resurrection(Ac 3:15) After Christ was crucified, dead and buried, these disciples claimed He rose from the dead. They said they saw Him, spoke with Him, touched Him, ate with Him, and that He continued teaching them for forty days. (Ac 1:3) Eventually, over five hundred people claimed they saw the risen Christ at once; many lived for decades afterwards confirming this firsthand witness to all who would listen. (1Co 15:6)

Proclaiming a risen Christ was unpopular, counter-cultural, and consistently got the disciples in trouble with Jewish authorities. (Ac 5:17) The apostles weren’t trying to start a new religion; they remained observant Jews their entire lives. They never sought power or wealth, and though they were persecuted and tortured for their witness, they all died proclaiming the truth of the risen Christ.

If these early disciples of Christ were not telling the truth, they knew they were lying and trying to deceive people, and it was causing them unspeakable suffering to do this. (1Co 4:9-10) Yet none of them ever recanted, or were even willing to keep silent regarding this unusual claim. (Ac 4:18-20) Rather, they rejoiced in their suffering (Ac 5:41), and went to their graves in confidence and hope. (Ac 7:59)

People sane enough to fabricate new religions don’t behave like this. There’s no reasonable explanation for their behavior if they weren’t telling the truth. So, the foundation of this faith is an empty tomb, and the original historical witness of this fact is extremely credible.

For hundreds of years afterward, Christianity remained unpopular, flourishing under both Roman and Jewish persecution. At no point in this early history could a resurrected Christ have been invented without Christians hearing about it for the first time and recognizing this as a false myth.

Sane people don’t suffer and die for what they know is a lie, and there is zero evidence that any Christian ever complained about the cornerstone of their faith being changed, or newly introduced and strange to them. So, the entire early history of Christianity, well before it was popularized and adopted by Constantine, further verifies the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

All of Christianity, as broken as it is today, continues to uphold this testimony as its very foundation: without the resurrection of Christ, Christianity cannot stand. It has never been otherwise.

This is proof, as solid as any historical proof can be, that God has revealed Himself to all of us. There’s no reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity apart from the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And if Jesus Christ rose from the dead, then He is Who He says He is, and He can be trusted to reveal Himself to us as the Way to God. (Jn 14:6)

Amidst the chaos of world religion, the resurrection of Christ stands out as a remarkable singularity: there’s nothing comparable to it. What do you think of Christ? If we want to know God, enter into His rest and walk with Him, our journey begins here(Ro 10:9)

articles    blog

One Spirit

Belonging. Being part of something bigger than myself. It gives me a sense of connection, safety, acceptance, significance, purpose, intimacy, dignity. (Ep 1:6) It’s what I long for; I think we all do.

Crescent Nebula

It’s why we join clubs, societies, communities, churches, gangs, even get married and have families. It’s our instinct to give up freedom, independence and autonomy, to be connected with something larger than ourselves.

When rightly done, we don’t lose ourselves in giving up separateness, we discover ourselves in communion. In union with something above and beyond us, we become more uniquely and fully what God’s designed us to be. It’s a mysterious thing, this passion to belong.

It’s an instinct for a reason: we’re made to be one with Jehovah God (Jn 17:21), so joined with Him that we’re one spirit together (1Co 6:17), inseparable, indistinguishable in a sense.

We’re not identical in every respect with God, obviously, yet no line can be clearly drawn between God and those who are one with Him. Though He’s separate from and above us, He’s also in and through us (Ep 4:6), part of our very own spirit (Ga 2:20), closer than our breath. (Re 3:20)

In being one spirit with God, we’re still uniquely ourselves, and also connected through Him to all who are so joined with Him (1Co 12:13), members one of another, in eternal metaphysical communion (2Co 13:14), enjoying infinite intimacy, perfect family (Ep 3:15), ultimate brotherhood, divine marriage(Ep 5:32)

Longing to belong drives us to seek fulfillment outside ourselves; we aren’t designed to go it alone. (Ge 2:18) But if we don’t recognize this instinct for what it is, to lead us to God, to be one spirit with Him, the craving destroys us, and those around us. There’s no satisfying it outside the Divine embrace. (Ep 4:18)

As disciples of Christ we each belong to God, Who made us, crafted and fashioned us (Ps 119:73), not merely physically – but more importantly, metaphysically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, to be unique expressions of Christ. He reveals His nature and glorifies Himself uniquely through each one of us (2Th 1:10), through our story (1Pe 1:7), His story in us. (Re 3:12)

In uniqueness He’s joined us with Himself, and with all who are in Him, eternally one, yet not lost in our oneness. We cannot possibly be, and belong, any more than this.

articles    blog

Having Escaped

In believing on Christ, we’ve escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust(2Pe 1:4) This isn’t merely a possibility, it’s reality — already done.

Corruption (impurity, instability, disorder) occurs as we pursue lust (intense desire inconsistent with God’s Law). (Ja 1:14-15) Christ, in delivering us from both the penalty and dominion of sin (Ro 6:14), is giving us a new nature that delights in His law (2Co 5:17), so we no longer give ourselves to violating it.  It doesn’t mean we never sin; it means we’re continuing to grow in holiness as He performs His work in us. (Php 1:6)

Lust moves us to try to satisfy our craving for pleasure, intimacy, beauty, excellence and significance outside of God, as if we’ll find our authentic inner selves apart from Him. But our real self is who God’s designed us to be, perfect in every respect, and we can only realize the potential He’s designed into us as we cleave to Him. If we pursue anything else, we lose all. (1Co 3:15)

Since the purpose of God’s Law is to produce love, a clean conscience, and genuine faith (1Ti 1:5), departing from God’s Way, giving in to unlawful passions, tends to produce the opposite, producing the harmful effects of lawlessness: corruption. But walking in the light, pursuing and enjoying the living God, beholding Him, transforms us into the glorious being He’s destined us to be. (2Co 3:18)

articles    blog

Corrupting the Word

At 19 years old I “felt called” to the ministry, and bailed on a prestigious military career to pursue full-time Christian service. But marrying a contentious, angry woman (Pr 21:19) immediately disqualified me (1Ti 3:11), and so my struggle to serve began.

Looking back, I see providence in my suffering; my supposed “call” was inconsistent with scripture: there’s no office of pastor in God’s church, and somehow I’ve always known being paid to teach God’s Word is unhealthy at best. Once our wallet is tied to our teaching, it’s impossible to be unbiased.

Scripture agrees, forbidding anyone tasked with objectivity to receive a gift of any kind. (De 16:19) Only God knows the human heart: even in the best of us, the prospect of gain or loss corrupts our motives and blinds us. (Ex 23:8) We can’t be objective while being rewarded for bias.

Violating this principle enables reprobates to use religion to manipulate others for personal gain (2Pe 2:3), corrupting spiritual instruction (2Co 2:17) and fostering pernicious, broken religious institutions, tempting us to speak evil of the way of truth (2Pe 2:2); God never intended His kingdom to work like this.

In God’s economy, no one’s motivated to use religion to promote themselves. (1Pe 5:2) In God’s temple system, Levites comprise a priestly supreme civil court (De 17:8-9), supported by obligatory tithes and offerings, sharing among themselves what comes in. (De 18:8) They have no choice in their role (De 18:1), no legislative or executive powers, and ultimately depend on God’s people being blessed in obeying God’s Law from the heart. The design makes priests economically vulnerable when people aren’t genuinely righteous, motivating religious leaders to humbly teach the whole counsel of God, and to encourage all to obey it. (De 17:11)

Similarly in the church, as God designed it, there’s no dependence on paid clergy for spiritual health. Instead, brothers check each other’s teaching (1Co 14:29-31) as equals in God (1Co 11:3), and believers come together to edify one another as we pursue Christ together. No elite, educated group is the gatekeeper of truth (1Ti 3:15); no one’s income depends on tickling itching ears (2Ti 4:3), and no one has any spiritual control over another. (Mt 23:8)

God’s not arbitrary in His design, and it’s always good (Ps 119:10-11); it’s ultimately fatal to depart from it (Pr 21:16), and life to find Him in it. (Jn 10:10)

articles    blog

See Afar Off

Living by faith is acting as if God’s Word is true, as if all His prophesies are already fulfilled, being as certain of the eternal as of the temporal. Faith sees the promise fulfilled as soon as it’s spoken, redemption complete long before it’s started, (Ro 4:20-21); it calls real what isn’t yet but will be. (Ro 4:17)

It’s looking back two millennia at the cross, standing before the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Re 13:8) as He sets us free from sin, as if it’s happening right in front of us. (Ga 3:1)

It’s rejoicing in trial, trouble and suffering, counting it all joy (Ja 1:2), letting patience have her perfect work that we might be perfect and entire (Ja 1:4), knowing God is working it all for our good. (Ro 8:28)

It’s enjoying the victory in Yeshua’s eternal shout, in God’s final trumpet blast (1Th 4:16), as if justice and glory has already come, as if God’s already trodden down His enemies (Ps 119:118), even as they steal, kill and destroy (Jn 10:10), confident they’ll never answer for their crimes. (Ps 73:11)

It’s knowing we’ll eventually look back over our lives rejoicing in our Father’s care and faithfulness (He 13:5-6), even as we’re struggling through bewildering circumstances, with no earthy prospect of rescue. (2Co 1:8-10)

Living this way requires adding virtue to our faith, and knowledge to virtue, and temperance to knowledge, and patience to temperance, and godliness to temperance, and kindness to godliness, and love to kindness (2Pe 1:5-7) Apart from this we’re blind, unable to see reality through the promise. (2Pe 1:9)

As we cleave to God we can see afar off, embrace eternal reality, and live persuaded of things to come. (He 11:13)

articles    blog

With a Shout

In the biblical feast of Trumpets, it seems we’re to blow trumpets and shout. As each feast is a prophetic shadow (Col 2:17), it makes one wonder what this one’s all about. Is there a big trumpet blast in our future, a big shout coming? (Ps 47:5)

Evidently, yes. There will come a day when Yeshua Messiah will pierce the heavens with a sudden shout, and the Father will join Him in the trumpet blast of all trumpet blasts; I expect His dramatic entrance on this worldly stage will both stun the living and raise the dead. (1Th 4:16) 

There’ll be no atheists after that, no agnostics. The heavenly curtain will be thrown wide open, the glory of God will be revealed to all, and the relentless conflict between Man and God will be front and center.

But why a shout? What’s significant in that?

Perhaps it’s God enjoying His victory over His enemies before it happens, letting the energy and exuberance of it gush forth, sharing it with us alongside Him (Jud 1:14-15), inviting us to enjoy His victory with Him. (1Co 15:57) He will reign until He’s put all enemies under His feet (1Co 15:25), and He invites us to reign with Him. (2Ti 2:12) If we’re to join Him in victory eventually, why wait? Why not join Him now?

To live in fear, in anxiety, in worry, is to live in the shadows, in the darkness, hidden from God’s eternal shout, denying our faith. Yet He’s called us to all joy and peace in believing, that we may abound in hope through the power of the Holy spirit. (Ro 15:13)

You see, God’s already there, inhabiting eternity in that future time, eternally enjoying that victorious shout, and He’s calling us to join Him. As we abide in Him, adding holiness to faith, we can see afar off (2Pe 1:9), and enjoy it with Him here and now.

So in the Feast of Trumpets, maybe God’s giving us a chance to practice a little, a bit of a rehearsal, so to speak, to live by faith in the consummate victory of God. What better place to live?

articles    blog

The Peace of God

Peace, part of the fruit of the Spirit (Ga 5:22), is so basic to spiritual health (Ro 14:17) God consistently begins with it. (Ro 1:71Co 1:3, 2Co 1:2Ga 1:3Ep 1:2Php 1:2Col 1:21Th 1:12Th 1:21Ti 1:22Ti 1:2Tit 1:4Phm 1:31Pe 1:2, 2Pe 1:2, 2Jn 1:3, Jud 1:2, Re 1:4)

It’s evidently not a lesser form of joy, for then God filling us with both joy and peace would be redundant. (Ro 15:13) Neither is it the absence of conflict and trouble; we may lose peace simply in fearing discomfort. Yet in Christ we may have peace in the midst of suffering and trial. (Jn 16:33)

Peace is the state of being undisturbed, calm, tranquil, unafraid, untroubled. (Jn 14:27) The opposite is anxiety, worry, and fear. Peace is Jesus asleep in the midst of a violent storm, as His disciples are freaking out. (Mt 8:23-27) It’s Elisha surrounded by an entire army that’s come to take him, knowing they’re no match for God. (2Ki 6:15-17)

Peace is being able to see afar off, from God’s perspective (Ps 119:165), keeping the whole of the eternal plan in mind in the midst of conflict. (He 11:13) As we abide in Christ (1Jn 2:28), knowing He is infinitely sovereign, good and faithful, Christ offers us His perspective, and along with this His peace, the peace that passes all understanding. (Php 4:6-7)

articles    blog

Abound in Hope

Lately things have been rough at work; I’ve been cringing when my phone signals a new email, suspecting bad news or a political trap to sort through. I fight the sense of worry, anxiety, but emotions are hard to control. They reveal beliefs in the context of life; by observing our feelings we can tell what we really believe; they reveal our faith.

I’ve not been filled with joy; I’ve not been abounding in hope; so, I’ve been living in denial of God’s faithfulness, that whatever happens will turn out for my good and God’s glory. (Ro 8:28) I’ve had no peace, no rest in my spirit (Php 4:6-7), struggling with fear, not trusting. This isn’t where I’m supposed to live (He 13:5-6); it’s contrary to the gospel. (Ga 2:14)

But the God of hope calls me, to fill me with all joy and peace in believing, that I may abound in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost. (Ro 15:13) There is then a connection between abounding in hope, and believing God unto joy and peace.

It’s not that I will never suffer or be in trouble (2Co 1:8); I’m to believe the world is unable to harm me spiritually; nothing can separate me from the love of God in Christ (Ro 8:38-39); no matter what comes I will always be more than a conqueror through the grace of God. (Ro 8:37) 

I will overcome (1Jn 5:4), because Christ overcame (Jn 16:33), and He will do so again in me. (Col 1:27) This is all the hope I need: in the end, I will be found a good and faithful servant. (Mt 25:23)

I believe God will help me live for Him; He will work in me to seek His face until my dying day (Jud 24) … for this is what He’s always been about in me. It’s His work (1Co 1:30), and He will continue to perform it until the day of Christ. (Php 1:6) Of this I am confident … I believe … and the truth of His Word is producing hope in me, even as I write it out.

How about you? Are you abounding in hope? To continue building up our faith (Jud 1:20-21) is to find more and more hope, to the anchoring of our souls (He 6:19) … ’till we’re abounding in hope through the power of God.

articles    blog

Rightly Dividing

Some claim we can prove anything from Scripture, but God tells us to rightly divide the word of truth (2Ti 2:15), implying there’s a wrong, deceitful way to handle it. (2Co 4:2)

If all scripture is God’s Word, given by inspiration (2Ti 3:16), then we can’t pick and choose proof texts to prove a point while contradicting other verses; if our thesis is inconsistent with any portion of the Word of God, we haven’t proved anything.

The nature of language is that it is often imprecise; words have different connotations in different contexts, so we must carefully consider both the local and global context of Scripture when wrestling with any particular text. God generally says things in many different ways, so when looking at one context on a topic, compare scripture with scripture and look carefully at related contexts, counter examples and proof texts. In theology, a text out of context is a pretext. Just because a word can mean a certain thing, doesn’t mean it does mean this in a given context.

We must also learn to reason correctly, to derive insight and wisdom from truth, leading us to more truth. (Lk 12:28) This is a learned skill, and not so common among us. We tend to feel more than we think, leaving our theology — our knowledge and beliefs about God — shallow and fragile.

I find wholesome theology a rare thing; I’ve never yet read a doctrinal statement which did not, in my view, evidently violate some portion of the Word of God. I could certainly be wrong, most likely am somewhere, and would love to know where so I could correct it. But I’m not surprised at finding so little understanding of God in religion. So few seek to know Him as He is. (Php 2:21)

articles    blog

The Voice of Strangers

God’s people hear His voice and follow Him (Jn 10:27), but do we also hear other voices which are not of God? If so, how do we tell the difference?

Hose Head Nebula, Hubble

To be clear, we aren’t referring to an audible voice, but to an inner sense or witness in our spirit that God’s trying to guide us or teach us something. Thinking the enemy can’t try to imitate God like this underestimates him, and implies any kind of impression or leading we receive must be from God.

But Jesus taught that other spiritual beings will also be speaking to us, trying to get us to follow them, and that we’ll know the difference instinctively. (Jn 10:5) But if we’re desperate to hear a “word from God,” we might override our instincts and fall pray to the enemy’s leading.

So, how do we know?

Simple, just like Jesus explained: if we don’t instinctively know God is speaking with us, then He isn’t. If we’re able to wonder if it might not be God, or ask, “Who are you?” then we don’t know it’s God and we should flee: ignore the impression, or voice, or leading, or whatever it is. We don’t need it, and we shouldn’t be looking for it.

If we need clear direction from God we should ask in faith for wisdom (Ja 1:5); seeking counsel from others and the Word, and then walk it out using all the wisdom we have, trusting He’s working out His will in us. (Php 2:13)

If we need direct revelation, God will speak to us clearly, and there will be no doubt about it. Satan comes as an angel of light to deceive (2Co 11:14), but the voice of God is unmistakable, let’s not settle for a counterfeit.

articles    blog