The Books

God has a library, and He’s having it all written down, everything we do and say. (Re 20:12) Every idle word we speak, all our feelings, motives and thoughts, things we aren’t even aware we’re doing … it will all be publicly scrutinized. All is recorded there, nothing is forgotten, and we’ll answer for all we’ve done. (Mt 12:36)

I imagine this is quite a library, sufficient to record every act of every person who has ever lived. As our minds record everything we experience, making the more significant events available to us for our inspection and reflection, these books record all the same data, but make all of it available for everyone to inspect.  (Mk 4:22) Nothing will be hidden (Mt 10:26); secrecy is an illusion, and a temporary one.

Yet there’s another book, The Book of Life (Php 4:3), or The Book of the Living, listing those who are righteous before God. (Ps 69:28) Some names are engraved into this book before Creation (Re 17:8), others are penciled in afterward, only to be finally blotted out (Ps 69:28) due to their ungodly lives. (Ps 69:26)

We should all rejoice that our names are written in the Book of Life (Lk 10:20), at least for now; it’s the precious token to every one of us that God is graciously willing to count any soul righteous that turns to Him in faith. Those who do so, who seek Him until they find Him (Is 55:6-7), the elect chosen from eternity past (Ep 1:4-5), are counted righteous (Ro 4:3), and will never be blotted out of the Book of Life. (Re 3:5)

It’s the only way to endure this searching, exhaustive, judgement, and avoid an eternally fiery end (Re 20:15), to be written into the Lamb’s book; everyone else is corrupt, polluted, unworthy to enter Paradise. (Re 21:27)

Let’s be diligent to make our calling and election sure. (2Pe 1:10) It isn’t so much what we know, as it is Who we know. To have eternal life is to know Him (Jn 17:3), and to be known by Him, (Mt 25:12), to be written permanently into the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

Be Content

The key to living in contentment, free of covetousness (Ep 5:3) and lust, lies in a promise: God has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” (He 13:5)

This promise is found in multiple places, as a promise to His people as an holy nation (De 31:6) comprising all of God’s children (1Pe 2:9), and to individuals (Jos 1:5) called according to His purpose. (Ro 8:28) How does this great and precious promise enable us to partake of the divine nature (2Pe 1:4), curing us of covetousness?

Covetousness is an unholy wanting, seeking after that which is forbidden us in Torah (Ro 7:7), pursuing what is contrary to God’s purpose and will for us. (Ro 12:2) It’s ultimately a form of idolatry (Col 3:5), creating a god of our own liking, a fundamental denial of the infinitude of God, an attack upon His goodness and faithfulness, rooted in that primal lie that God’s Law is keeping something good from us. (Ge 3:5) Lust is the desperate heart cry of one who fails of the grace of God (He 12:15), who’s forgotten the power and wisdom of God. (1Co 1:24)

Knowing that God is with us, that He is sufficient to supply all our need (Php 4:19), frees us from all unholy desire: if God has forbidden it we don’t need it, and it would ultimately harm us and dishonor Him. Trusting God is knowing His pleasure is ultimately for our welfare and His glory, that He’s sovereign, and that He’s perfectly good.

Being content with such things as we have, in having our basic physical needs met (1Ti 6:8), is not merely a reference to the material things of life; it extends beyond to all that we need. By His Word through His Spirit, God is equipping us with everything we need to live for Him. (2Ti 3:16-17) We aren’t perfect, for sure, and while we should ever be striving to add more virtue and knowledge to our faith (2Pe 1:5), we can be content that God is our sufficiency (2Co 3:5), that He has designed us with the gifts, experiences and temperaments that are perfectly suited to His unique and glorious purpose in each of us. (1Co 12:18).

Grasping the infinite treasure that is ours in God leaves no room for unholy passion; the cure for our covetousness is found in His promises. Contentment is an enabling grace that’s learned (Php 4:11), a soul discipline, a pillar of spiritual health.

Let’s ask God to incline our hearts away from covetousness towards His testimonies (Ps 119:36), and then apply ourselves to root out every trace of lust with the very nature of God, by letting the truth of His Way penetrate every crevasse of our mind and soul. Every step toward godliness and contentment is great gain. (1Ti 6:6)

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That I May Know Him

Knowing God, like we know a friend, is different than knowing about God. We may study theology and acquire a lot of religious knowledge, but it’s not worth much if that’s all we have. (2Ti 3:7) If we’re wise, knowing God and walking with Him will be our top priority (Php 3:8), the only thing we find noteworthy about ourselves. (Je 9:23) With all the deception about us, how can we tell if we know God, and how well we know Him?

Well, are we’re earnestly obeying Him, the best we know how? (1Jn 2:4) Are we loving God with all our being and our neighbors as ourselves? If we think God doesn’t mind disobedience, selfishness, or lukewarmness (Re 3:16), or doublemindness (Ja 1:8), if we aren’t afraid of displeasing Him (He 10:31), then we don’t know Him at all; we’ve simply made an idol for ourselves after our own likeness, another Jesus. (2Co 11:4)

And are we rejoicing in Him? Is He precious to us? (1Pe 2:7) Does meditating on His nature and His ways, on all that He does, bring a constant stream of delight to our souls? (Ps 119:97)

As God’s Law, Torah, reveals His nature and His way, the godly delight in the law of God (Ro 7:22), we serve the law of God. (Ro 7:25) We’re earnestly and consistently longing to understand and obey God’s Law more and more (Ps 119:20); that’s what it means to walk with Him (Ps 119:45), the very definition of the New Covenant. (He 8:10)

Do we understand that God’s utterly sovereign? That He does as He pleases in Heaven and on Earth, and that nothing frustrates or worries Him? (Da 4:35)

Are we content in knowing the goodness and faithfulness of God (He 13:5), secure, unafraid (He 13:6), at rest in God? (He 4:3) Or are we lusting to envy, cleaving to dust?

Are we satisfied with the religion of our parents, accepting without question what we were taught as children, or what our culture and those about us claim? If we want God to leave us alone with our idols … He will (Pr 1:29-31) … to be trodden down in His fury. (2Co 5:11)

But if we want to know God, and ask Him to show us where we’re missing Him, seeking Him until He reveals Himself to us, He will. (He 11:6)

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Salvation Is of the Jews

When Jesus Christ challenges Nicodemus, a Jewish Pharisee, in  relating with God, He says, “Ye must be born again.” (Jn 3:7)

Since this is in the New Testament, and we never hear it taught from the Old, it’s easy to think that being born again is relatively novel, something Moses, David and Abraham knew nothing about.

But Christ is speaking before the Cross, before He dies and rises again, so nothing has actually changed since Mount Sinai, when God revealed His Law, or really even since Adam. There’s no New Testament scripture at this point in time, yet Christ acts as if Nicodemus should already know about being born again, as if it’s obvious from the Old Testament. (Jn 3:10) How significant! If we don’t see being born again in the Old Testament like Jesus expects, what makes us think we understand it?

In a similar encounter, Christ challenges a woman and says something just as striking. “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” (Jn 4:22) He’s saying that if we don’t understand the salvation presented in the Old Testament, the oracles of God committed to the Jews (Ro 3:1-2), then we don’t understand salvation at all; we’re worshiping in ignorance. Not a good place to be.

In a third encounter, Christ tells an equivalently insightful story of a rich man suffering in Hell, concerned that his family will follow after him into its flames. He asks Abraham to send an acquaintance back from the dead to warn them. Abraham says, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.” (Lk 16:29) The claim is that Old Testament scriptures are a sufficient witness of the gospel. But the rich man pleads, convinced that the Old Testament is insufficient; if someone they knew rose from the dead to warn them, then they would repent and be saved. But Abraham is firm: “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

Not only is the Old Testament a sufficient witness of the gospel, it is so overwhelmingly sufficient that if one isn’t convinced through it, then nothing will convince them.

Salvation is of the Jews: accomplished by Christ, a Jew, and revealed by and through Jews, God’s chosen people, in the scriptures God has transmitted to us all through them. This doesn’t mean we have to become Jewish in order to be right with God (1Co 7:18-20), but it does mean that the gospel of the New Testament is exactly the same as the gospel of the Old Testament. If the gospel we believe in isn’t an Old Testament gospel, then it’s a false one. (Ga 1:8)

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Married to Another

Being married is being joined for life, two souls knitted together into a single living organism ’till death do us part. (Ge 2:24) Most of us, I think, are designed for this in earthly life, yet it’s a picture of God’s ultimate ideal for everyone: to be married to Christ. (Ro 7:4)

However, we all start out with a big problem here: any claim to marriage with Christ is illegitimate so long as justice has a claim on us through the Law. It’s like we’re born into life married to a man who doesn’t care for us, and the law of marriage means we’re stuck in that broken relationship with no way out. (Ro 7:2) If we act like we’re married to anyone else while this first marriage is still valid, then we’re committing adultery. (Ro 7:3a)

It’s an illustration of the fact that we’ve all broken God’s Law, so we’re not free to be married to God, to be joined to Him and in fellowship with Him, until that first relationship with sin is dealt with — justice must first be served. (Ro 7:3b)

Many think God solves our problem by putting the Law to death, as if the old husband we’ve been married to is the Law, keeping us in bondage while we’re trying to keep God’s rules in order to be accepted by Him. Since we can’t keep God’s Law well enough to please Him, they presume Christ’s work frees us from our obligation to obey it. They’re thinking God forgives us of all of our sins no matter what kind of life we are living, that no repentance or change of heart is necessary, so long as we’re willing to be forgiven and accepted by God. It’s a partial truth, the most dangerous kind of lie. (2Ti 3:5)

The full picture is that, in our natural state, inclined to and joined to our sinful ways, we aren’t at all fit to be married to God. It’s not that we’re married to the Law; we’re still hooked up with our carnal nature, our old man. (Ro 7:5) The law of sin, that relentless tendency toward disobedience and rebellion within us, has dominion over us as long as we serve it (Ro 6:16); we must die, become dead to the law, dead as far as the law is concerned, having satisfied its just demands, before we’re free to marry God. (Ro 7:4)

So, it isn’t the Law that God must deal with, it’s us. Our sin nature must be dealt with for good; our alignment with it and our commitment to it must end, before we can walk with God. Though we are required to break off this relationship with sin, this isn’t something we’re willing to do. (Ro 3:11) We need God to intervene; we need a new heart.

Christ solves the problem by crucifying our old nature in and with Himself (Ro 6:6), applying the death penalty to that part of us through His innocent death on our behalf. (1Pe 3:18) Through His resurrection (1Pe 1:3) He actually gives us a new kind of divine life (Ro 8:2), and begins to destroy the sin nature within us (Ro  6:14), creating a new nature within us that is aligned with Him. (2Co 5:17) It’s a work in progress, to be sure, but in those that belong to God, the life pattern of sin gets progressively weaker, less influential, less potent, less dominant over time. It’s a supernatural work, a transformation from within by the Spirit of God.

In being our sin (2Co 5:21), our propitiation with God (1Jn 2:2), Christ serves justice for us, submitting Himself to endure the death penalty on our behalf, and taking our sinful tendencies to the grave with Himself. This frees us from the dominion of our old nature; we no longer have to obey it or act as if we’re married to it – because we aren’t: it’s dead. (Ro 7:4) We’re free to obey God and be intimate with Him without violating the demands of justice (Ro 8:12), as Christ creates us anew in Himself unto good works. (Ep 2:10)

There’s no assurance of salvation for those who aren’t experiencing this supernatural transformation into a life of holiness; Christ not only saves His own from the penalty of sin, He also saves us from it’s power (1Jn 2:4), purifying a Bride for Himself in us. (Ep 5:25-27)

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Build Bulwarks

God can do anything He wants whenever He wants, and no one can do anything better than He can, so when He tells us to do something, it isn’t because He needs our help; He’s giving us an opportunity to become, to grow, to be transformed.

So, I find it very interesting that God tells Israel to conquer cities outside the Promised Land (De 20:15), to besiege any city that doesn’t surrender without a fight (De 20:12), and to design and build engines of war, bulwarks of timber, to subdue it. (De 20:20) In each of these battles, God fights for Israel (De 20:4), yet there’s evidently always danger involved, where He might allow some of His own people to die. (De 20:5)

God could easily move everyone seek Him and obey Him, such that there’s no need for conquering cities; He could just as easily drop the city walls, like He did at Jericho, so there’s no need for long seiges; and God could easily arrange each battle such that no one from Israel ever gets killed. (Nu 31:49) So it makes me wonder, what’s He up to here?

I see it here as I do everywhere: God delights in fully engaging us as He does His will, working in and through our will both to will and to do according to His pleasure.  (Php 2:13) God does not fight our battles for us while we sit passively by and watch; He fights within us and through us, transforming us into His likeness through the challenge of adversity as we pursue His commands. So, how does building bulwarks to overcome God’s enemies serve to form the image of God in us?

For one, building devices to safely breach the massive walls of ancient cities took ingenuity, collaboration and tenacity. Every situation was different, and the army was always entirely volunteer (De 20:8); the constant stream of real-life challenges fueled the forges of brotherhood, forming bonds among men as only can be formed in the stress of battle. We learn and grow as much or more from struggling and failing as we do in our success, as long as we are all in, and not halfhearted in our quest. Putting our lives on the line, and the lives of our neighbors, in pursuing the commands of God together inevitably moves us to holiness and godly fear, a gift like none other.

In the final analysis, the goal of a spiritual battle isn’t simply to win it; God could win the war all by Himself without any battles; the ultimate outcome is already known. Yet it is in the crucible of battle that God forms our hearts after His own (He 5:8), and equips us to be workers together with Himself. (2Co 6:1)

While we may not live in the old promised land, and we may not participate in physical battles in spreading the kingdom of God upon the earth today, there is still a very real parallel in the spiritual realm, in the fierce battles for minds and souls, of which the physical ones were merely a type. In these, the need for unity, determination, discipline, holiness, wisdom and strength, the gift of brotherhood in seeking victory in God together, are no less real.

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Serve the Law

Regarding the place of Torah (the law of Moses) in our lives, would it be appropriate to say that we “serve the law?” Do you … serve the law?

I suppose most claiming Christ today would passionately object, finding such a mindset legalistic, perhaps even dangerous, opposed to a life of faith and living by the Spirit. Yet Paul says exactly this: “With the mind I myself serve the law of God.” (Ro 7:25) What does he mean?

To serve something is to live our lives in alignment with it, to obey and respect its intent. The law of God would be any precepts, instructions or commands revealed by God, which would certainly include all of Torah. Paul is thus intending to understand and obey Torah as well as he’s able; he observes it with his whole heart (Ps 119:34), so this mindset must be perfectly aligned with living by faith in the Spirit; they go together.

Everything about us that isn’t physical is spiritual, including our ability to think and reason, which is our mind, and also Torah itself. (Ro 7:14) Matter and energy are unconscious, so any conscious choice is by definition a spiritual act, and any act opposed to Torah is a sinful one (1Jn 3:4); it can only be a life pattern in those who don’t know God. (1Jn 2:4)

We may choose to act based on our own will, or defer to someone else’s, and this is where I think most get confused — thinking that unless we’re being guided by another spirit than our own, that we aren’t spiritual. The problem here is that there are unholy spirits constantly trying to deceive us, and it isn’t easy to tell the difference.

But God tells us to be constantly ready for strenuous mental activity (1Pe 1:13) in our obedience to Him. (1Pe 1:14-16) When the Holy Spirit leads us, He doesn’t generally direct us from outside of our will, but works within us to will and to do as His pleases. (Php 2:13) This activity is through our own wills and minds, something we’re not consciously aware of. When He does speak to us outside our wills, as an external voice, which is the rare exception, there will be no mistaking it: we will be able to stake our lives on the fact that God is speaking directly to us; there will be no doubt whatsoever.

Apart from this rare exception, walking in the Spirit in the life of faith is seeking to obey Torah as well as we can in our gifts and calling for the glory of God. He commands us to study it diligently so that we will rightly interpret and apply it. (2Ti 2:15)

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The Creature Waits

Creation, all created things, evidently have a common consciousness: God says the whole creation groans together (Ro 8:22); created things are waiting, earnestly expecting the resurrection and manifestation of God’s children. (Ro 8:19)

Since the individual animals with this expectation are constantly dying, just like we are, the implication here is that all created things are excitedly aware that they will all experience the resurrection of the dead together in all its glory along with us. (Ro 8:21)

Interestingly, Albert Barnes says of this text: Perhaps there is not a passage in the New Testament that has been deemed more difficult of interpretation than this; and after all the labors bestowed on it by critics, still there is no explanation proposed which is perfectly satisfactory, or in which commentators concur. It appears that reluctance to accept its plain, apparent meaning might lie in contradicting science, which we ought not allow. (1Ti 6:20-21)

Yet recent scientific discoveries in the paranormal are indicating this very thing, that all life forms, plants and animals, are connected in a common consciousness across time, and even that inanimate objects participate in this. Perhaps they are indeed struggling together with us under the stain of sin, in a universe infected by Man’s rebellion (Job 25:5), waiting for the adoption of the saints. (Ro 8:23)

What if God has temporarily silenced the creature (Ro 8:20), to allow men to rebel against Him with less obvious incrimination for a time? (Ro 11:32-33) If all Creation were free to proclaim God’s praise now (Lk 19:40), where would hatred and rebellion hide until wickedness is to be exposed? (2Th 2:7-8) And what if, in that final glorious day, all of creation will join with us in praising our living, transcendent, almighty Creator … together!

This insight puts Creation in an entirely different perspective, and encourages us to both treat it with respect, and also to enjoy the miracle of God’s expression of Himself through it all so much the more.

The heavens declare the glory of God, may be much more than metaphor. (Ps 19:1) It is truly for His pleasure that they are, and were created. (Re 4:11)

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Lusting to Envy

God asks us an interesting question: “Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?(Ja 4:5)

Albert Barnes says of this text, “Few passages of the New Testament have given expositors more perplexity than this. The difficulty has arisen from the fact that no such passage as that which seems here to be quoted is found in the Old Testament.”

This text is evidently a commentary on the verses prior, warning us of the dangers of covetousness and lust (Ja 4:1-3), and that alliance with the world means being God’s enemy. (Jas 4:4) This implies that those who are not of God tend to have unrighteous desires, and require that we join them in this unrighteousness to be allied with them.

Scripture affirms that the natural inclination of the human spirit is dissatisfaction, such that we’re insatiable (Ec 1:8), never satisfied (Pr 27:20), continually lusting, craving things we shouldn’t. (Ro 7:7b-8a) Our inability to satisfy our own lusts tends to foster envy (Ps 73:3): a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or fortune, an ill will toward those who have more, and a desire that others be as dissatisfied and empty as we are. Envy is one of the most evil of all sins, very destructive to the soul. (Pr 14:30)

So, finding our spirits prone to lust, how do we combat this? The root cause of discontentment, lust and envy, the insatiable desire of our hearts, lies in our very design; we’re created to enjoy something vastly superior to ourselves, infinitely beautiful, infinitely majestic, infinitely good. Until we’re enjoying that, we’ll be constantly longing for it.

The most primal and basic of all lies is that God isn’t the answer to our longings. Satan began with this lie in the Garden* (Ge 3:5), and he relentlessly continues to reinforce it in the lives of all who’ll listen. (Jn 8:44) As we fall here we forsake the fountain of living waters (Je 2:13) in a dry and thirsty land, where no other water is. (Ps 63:1)

God Himself is the antidote to covetousness: He’s what we’re craving. (He 13:5) Contentment lies in enjoying God, in knowing Him, knowing that He’s enough, and being satisfied in Him. Once we realize that He’s all we’ll ever need, that He’s with us, and that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us, there’s nothing more to worry about, or to lust after.

Sometimes the scripture speaks indirectly, containing and conveying truth that’s implied from other truths. It’s still a way of saying something, and those who’re hearing and seeing what’s being said directly, meditating on this, taking it into their heart, asking and seeking (Mt 7:7-8), also find these precious, implied truths. (Mk 4:24)

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Intercession for Us

When a truly righteous person offers to pray for me, I feel honored, hopeful God will hear them. Appealing to the Supreme Power of the Universe on my behalf … what an unspeakable privilege!

What then do I make of the fact that God Himself prays for me? The Spirit of God Himself appeals to the Holy Father on my behalf, making intercession for me! (Ro 8:26) How can the Holy Ghost pray amiss, or not be heard? He Who knows and loves me better than I know and love myself always prays according to the perfect, unique will of God for me! (Ro 8:27) Wow!

And not only this, but the very Son of God also joins with the Spirit of God to intercede for me to His Father! (Ro 8:34) Two-thirds of the Godhead are already praying for me, perfectly, flawlessly, right now, without ceasing! Can I imagine that they will not be heard? That their prayers will be in vain? About anything?  Not a chance!

What else could I possibly need spiritually! Victory is in hand, not because of me,  or anything I can do or have done, but because God is doing everything that needs to be done to save me and sanctify me (Jud 1:24); He Himself is living out victory in me. (1Co 15:57)

How can I be depressed? How can I be defeated? How can I be lost? Who can lay any charge against me, when it is God Who justifies me? (Ro 8:33) Who can condemn me when Christ has died for me (Ro 8:34), quickens me (Jn 5:21), gives me eternal life (Jn 17:2) and lives in me? He’s everything I need: my wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. (1Co 1:30) How could I ever glory in myself, or in anyone else but Him? (2Co 10:17)

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