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, 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 pursue 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)

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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)

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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)

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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?

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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 things 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)

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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.

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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 a whole lot 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, in our world. So few seek to know Him as He is. (Php 2:21)

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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?

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 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.

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The Pride of Life

Pride is esteeming ourselves above others, hence more important and significant. It often appears in a moral context, where we believe we’re not as bad as someone else, judging the moral condition of another’s heart; something God forbids.

Attributing significance or value to a human being is something only God can do, and He’s already attributed infinite value and significance to every one of us: God so loves us that He’s willing to die, to lay down His own life, for every human soul. Every time we rank each other in importance we dismiss God’s heart, trampling Him underfoot.

And we’re doing this nearly constantly, imposing our broken little value systems, or cowing to others in theirs, while God looks down in grief, sorrow, and anger. If we’re not seeking His face, we’re entirely unaware, heedless of the wrath we’re treasuring up for ourselves. (Ro 2:5)

The love of God is what makes pride so incredibly awful, and moves God to such fury as we disvalue those He loves. He hates the very traces of pride in our faces (Pr 6:16); it’s right up there with murder.

Yet when most of us focus on God’s love, I’m afraid that we’re only thinking of His love for us, and not for everyone else. Rather than comforting us, the fact that we’re so deeply and thoughtlessly contrary to His passion for us all should terrify us. (2Co 5:11)

The pride of life isn’t of the Father; it’s of the world (1Jn 2:16), and it’s wickedness. (1Jn 5:19) He tells us to humble ourselves, to esteem others better than ourselves, so He will not have to oppose us, and He can give us grace.

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A Very Small Thing

Laying hold of eternal life (1Ti 6:19) is more than finding justification, it’s being transformed by gospel truth.

One of these basic truths is that God loves each one of us enough to become our sin (2Co 5:21); He’s willing to lay down His life to rescue a single human soul. He thus places infinite value on each one of us.

In light of JEHOVAH’s valuing of us, for us to value the opinions of others above His, to be moved to feel more or less significant or treasured in how others treat us, is to effectively discount and dismiss God’s valuing of us, to trade in His estimation for Man’s … which must be immensely offensive and insulting to Him, our enmity towards the Godhead constantly bleeding through. (Ro 8:7)

We do this in countless ways as we react to the opinions of others; in being threatened and intimidated by their disapproval, and basking in their praise … we’re treating them as idols (1Jn 5:21), as if they’re God.

It isn’t that the discernment of others shouldn’t matter at all; their judgments, observations, complaints and encouragements are a rich source of wisdom in our pursuit of holiness — others can often see our faults, weaknesses and strengths much more easily than we can. It’s that we must keep this all in perspective; it’s a very small thing (1Co 4:3), incidental, trinkets among gems; all else is the fear of man. (Pr 29:25)

Even in something as small as winning or losing a game or contest, do we feel better or worse about ourselves either way? What does this really look like when we’re loving one another as ourselves, and God with all our hearts?

The pride of life (1Jn 2:16) is valuing, or even disvaluing ourselves, apart from God (Ja 4:10); thinking we can judge human worth or significance in any way on our own. (Mt 7:1) It’s an abomination to God (Lk 16:15), and seems as natural as breathing. (Job 15:16)

If the king is a personal friend, whom I can call and chat with on a whim, and is pleased with me, what does it matter if others are, or aren’t? How much more so with the King of glory, ought we to focus solely on hearing Him say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)

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