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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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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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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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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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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Christ Lives in Me

I have been observing that I don’t live in perfect peace as I ought; there’s definitely room to grow. I often tense up and experience anxiety over incidental things, worrying about what people might be thinking, or potential trouble that might cause me grief. How do I combat this?

One thought I’ve had recently relates to “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Jesus Christ lives within me (Ga 2:20), thinking and feeling as a real person. The real incarnate Christ, Who lived, breathed and walked this earth 2000 years ago, Who created the universe (Col 1:16), lives within my spirit and will as a whole person, as a divine intellect, emotion and will; not a separate person from me, but not entirely the same either. I cannot quite explain this to my own satisfaction, but it is still very, very real.

So, along the lines of the famous question, “What would Jesus do?”, I’ve started asking myself, “What is Jesus doing? What is He thinking and believing and feeling in me, right now?”

In a sense, I think this may be described as a kind of putting on of Christ, a way of emulating Him, but it seems to me a bit deeper than this. It is acknowledging that Christ Himself is already in me living and doing according to His will, as a very part of me. As I acknowledge this and align with Him, He lives ever more freely and fully and undiluted in me, delivering me from fear, anxiety and worry.

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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.

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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 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)

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