Superfluity of Naughtiness

Once God has begotten us by His word (Ja 1:18), He tells us to “lay apart all filthiness,” moral uncleanness, and “superfluity of naughtiness.” (Ja 1:21a)

My dad and me

An overflow of badness spills out when we’re wanton, living without discipline or concern for holiness. Rather, we’re to “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save our souls.” (Ja 1:21b)

Living carefully, soberly, working out our own deliverance with fear and trembling (Php 2:12), trying our best (2Pe 1:5), no matter how bad our best is, it’s simply common sense, once we’ve chosen the fear of God.

There’s no pretending we’re good, in ourselves (Ga 6:3); even on our best day (Is 6:5) we’re abominable and filthy, guzzling down iniquity like water. (Job 15:16)

But even so, there’s no giving ourselves over to sin on purpose, presumptuously(Ps 19:13), Give it no place (Ep 4:27), no quarter (De 17:2,5); lay it all aside, everything you can that isn’t Christ (Php 1:21), and then ask Him to take what’s left. (Ps 119:29)

Let’s cleanse ourselves of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2Co 7:1). Without holiness, no one will see God. (He 12:14)

articles    blog

Goodness and Severity

God is awesome in every respect; He’s extreme, infinite in every facet of His being. Everything He is and does should move us to worship.

If we prefer to focus on some particular part of God, rather than taking the whole of Him, we find imbalance, a false god. He is love, most certainly (1Jn 4:8), but He’s also light (1Jn 1:5), even a consuming fire (He 12:29), a terror to all who live in sin, to be feared by us all. (Php 2:12)

God calls us to behold His goodness and severity together (Ro 11:22), to be awed in both Heaven and Hell at once. (Re 15:3) We’re to glory in His kindness (Lk 6:35) as well as His justice, vengeance and fury. (Re 18:20)

It’s only in seeking God in all His attributes at once, where they converge in fullness and glory, that we discover Him. As we take in all of God honestly, delighting in all His ways, drinking in everything about Him without bias, preference or reservation, we’re sanctified, changed, transformed more and more into His likeness by His Spirit. (2Co 3:18)

Behold the beauty in God’s grace (Ep 1:6) and mercy as He redeems sinful Man and makes us His own (1Jn 3:1), yet also feed in the majesty of His wrath as He tramples His enemies underfoot. (Is 63:3)

Rejoicing in all the attributes of God, glorying in everything about Him (2Co 10:17), is seeing Him as He is (1Jn 3:2), and not as we wish for Him to be. (Ro 1:23) This, and nothing less, is receiving Him, which is in itself the work of God. (Jn 1:12-13)

articles    blog

Honor and Glory

God is honorable, worthy of great respect and esteem. (Re 4:11). All in heaven honor Him (Re 19:7); how might we do so here on Earth?

A primary way we honor God is by believing Him, taking Him at His word, acting as if everything He says is true, trusting Him. We call it faith. Anything else is calling Him a liar (1Jn 5:10); certainly not honoring to Him.

Obeying God honors Him by acknowledging His right to order our lives, to require right behavior of us, which is itself honorable. (Ro 2:10) Disobeying Him flaunts His authority and majesty, rejects His lordship and moves Him to wrath and indignation towards us. (Rom 2:8)

Treating our own selves with dignity, honoring all as God’s children, also honors Him, for we’re made in His image. (1Th 4:4-5) Purging all dishonorable activity and influences from our lives suits us for His service. (2Ti 2:21)

It is also honoring to God to suffer in hope (Ro 5:3), knowing He’s working all things for our good (Ro 8:28), and that He will be glorified in the end. (1Pe 1:7)

A more subtle way in which we might honor our God is by acknowledging His goodness, giving Him the benefit of the doubt, as we’re laying the practical foundations of spiritual life. For example, the Bible says God inspired scripture (2Ti 3:16); in accepting this we know the autographs, the original Greek or Hebrew manuscripts, were inspired by God.

Yet the Bible doesn’t explicitly tell us whether any copies or translations of the autographs also contain this inspired property, so we must make an assumption about that: either God did preserve His Word for us in an inspired form, so that we can access a modern version of the scriptures today, in a common language, one that’s equivalent to the originals for all practical purposes, or He didn’t.

Which assumption honors Him? Gives Him the benefit of the doubt? Shall we assume God inspired His word for no practical reason, such that no one has ever actually benefited from this special quality? Shall we act as if no one has ever held a perfectly trustworthy Bible in their hands, one they could call the authentic word of God? Or shall we assume that God inspired His word for a purpose (2Ti 3:17), and that He is fulfilling that purpose, and act accordingly?

Most of us assume He didn’t, and assume inspiration is confined to the autographs, in a perfectly useless place. We’re encouraged to depend on pastors, teachers and theologians to reveal scripture to us. We don’t think we have access to the Word of God today, so we don’t tend to hide scripture in our hearts and meditate on it day and night, like God tells us to. (De 6:6) It’s hard enough to do this with a text we trust, so most of us have given up before we even start. But is this honoring to God?

Wouldn’t it honor God more if we expected Him to act with integrity, with intention? Being Who He is, faithful and true (Re 19:11), wouldn’t He enable our journey with an inspired version of His word in a modern language, a book we can read and understand for ourselves, to feed and guide us safely home, seeing that’s why He gave us the scripture in the first place? If we acted like He did, would we expect this to please Him, or disappoint Him?

articles    blog

The Month of Abib

In keeping Passover (1Co 5:8) JEHOVAH tells us to observe the month in which it occurs as the the first one, the start of a new year (Ex 12:2); He calls it Abib (De 16:1), from a word meaning tender or green, in reference to unripened grain.

One obvious way to observe this month is to note we’re required to find a spotless lamb (Ex 12:5), so we’re to be observing lambs, noting blemishes and defects, looking for that perfect specimen.

On the tenth of Abib we must choose a spotless lamb and set it apart, keeping it four days and identifying ourselves with it, then killing it (Ex 12:6) unto JEHOVAH (De 16:2) and consuming it. (Ex 12:8) Our particular sacrificial lamb is to become part of us forever.

As in each of JEHOVAH’s feasts, here again we have a picture of how we discover Jesus Christ and make Him part of our lives: searching Him out, that perfect specimen of humanity, considering Him and comparing Him with others. Finding Him flawless and divine, we receive Him into our midst (Jn 1:12), studying Him and centering our lives around Him. (1Pe 2:21) Then we see Him on God’s altar becoming our sin (2Co 5:21) and taking it away (Jn 1:29), and trusting Him to reconcile us to God (2Co 5:19) we enter into His rest (He 4:10), identifying with Him and becoming one with Him. (Jn 17:21)

Each Spring in the month of Abib, as new life springs forth in the fields and flocks, we consider anew our Savior (He 3:1), pondering the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ (Ep 3:8), feeding in the majestyremembering the day He became our Passover (1Co 5:7), the day JEHOVAH delivered us from the kingdom of this world. (De 16:3)

articles    blog

Holy and Unholy

I travel a lot for work: Poland, Mexico, China, South Africa, Germany, Singapore, India … all over the world. Everywhere I go I’m careful what I eat; pork and shellfish are standard fare most places, and often comprise the bulk of the menu. I seldom order salad without specifying “no bacon,” and when language is an issue it’s extra challenging. There’s a constant striving, an alertness required to eat according to God’s pattern, but as I delight in God’s Law (Ro 7:22) I see an important spiritual lesson in it.

Trevor Rees: Long clawed squat lobster

In calling us to put away all uncleanness, God gave us laws describing unclean animals to train us in the habit of discerning what we take in, both physically and spiritually. (Lev 20:25) He is concerned about our health and knows we live in a polluted, broken world. He wants us to test everything that’s presented to us as food, for both body and soul, and do to our best to ensure it passes the litmus test of His Word. (Is 8:20)

What this seems to mean is that we are to be constantly evaluating any and all spiritual teaching that is offered to us, checking the Scripture to see if it is so. (Ac 17:11) When verses are taken out of context or faulty reasoning is applied, we’re to recognize it, call it out and reject it. (Ps 119:104) Failing to do so permits lies into our lives which defile and weaken our souls and spirits, giving the enemy access (2Ti 2:25-26) to steal, kill and destroy. (Jn 10:10)

Additionally, we should be comparing all of our own thoughts and motives with God’s Word (Ps 119:113), identifying as unclean anything within us that’s contrary to His Way. (Ps 19:14) This seems consistent with God’s call to gird up the loins of our mind (1Pe 1:13), to be circumspect, sober and vigilant (1Pe 5:8) in following after holiness(He 12:14)

We’re each accountable to God for what we believe and do (Ro 14:11-12), for every idle word we speak (Mt 12:36); we each bear our own burden before Him. (Ga 6:4) No one else can watch our spiritual diet for us; let’s enjoy and leverage God’s training plan so that we can differentiate between holy and unholy, and between unclean clean. (Le 10:10)

articles     blog

I Follow After

Saints are not content to stagnate in their walk with God; we’re dissatisfied in ourselves, ever aware of our imperfections (1Jn 1:8), always pushing forward, pursuing Him, following after Him to be more like Him, ever closer to Him. (Php 3:12)

Pursuing Christ means taking heed to our ways, being aware of our spiritual health and maintaining a constant goal to be more and more like Christ (1Pe 2:21), putting Him on (Ep 4:24), pretending in some further way to be like Him (1Pe 2:21), to walk as He walked. (1Jn 2:6)

It means to abide in Him (1Jn 2:28), to walk worthy of Him (Col 1:10), to walk in the light, in fellowship with Him. (1Jn 1:7)

It means to intentionally focus on the nature of Christ, rejoicing in Him, feeding in His majesty, and meditating on the precious promises which enable us to be partakers of His divine nature. (2Pe 1:4) As we behold Him He transforms us into His image, from one stage of holiness to another. (2Co 3:18) Every bit of Christ we can find, every step we take towards Him, is a treasure.

This is a journey no one else can take for us, a race we must run for ourselves; we are each accountable to God for our walk with Him; we must ponder the path and pursue Him for ourselves. Yet we must not isolate ourselves from community in our striving after Christ, for He is in our brothers and sisters, and can even reveal Himself through those outside the faith. He is above all, through all, and in us all. (Ep 4:6)

It might be frustrating if we focus too much on ourselves, trying to do this on our own. But our delight is that Christ is not only Who we pursue, but also How we pursue; He Himself is the Way we follow and the Life that quickens us to go. (Jn 14:6) He enables our pursuit as His grace reigns through righteousness in us. (Ro 5:21) When our eyes are on Jesus like they’re supposed to be (He 12:2), it’s a privilege to pursue Him.

articles      blog

Tell the Church

Christ’s prescription when a professing believer offends us is straightforward. [1] Confront him/her privately. (Mt 18:15) If that fails to restore fellowship then [2] involve one or two others to [a] ensure there’s no misunderstanding, and [b] discretely encourage resolution. (Mt 18:16) Failing here, [3] take it to court: tell the church. Her verdict is considered binding and final; those who refuse it are treated as outsiders, unbelievers. (Mt 18:16) This is ultimate spiritual authority.

Personal offenses being the most common and critical challenge to unity, Christ is actually telling us how to handle any type of corruption among professing believers; whether it be a divisive spirit promoting destructive teachings or blatant sin, this pattern is evidently applicable.

So who or what is this church, the final authority deciding all spiritual matters impacting the well-being of the body of Christ? (Col 1:24)

The word church is from the Greek ekklesia, meaning assembly or congregation (1Co 11:18), and the fact that all are subject to its judgement implies unity. In other words, spiritual authority lies only in a unified brotherhood; without this, the church is lifeless and powerless, nothing more than decor in a broken world.

To destroy a brotherhood, and thus the church herself, impose any type of hierarchical leadership; elevate a small group to exercise spiritual authority over others. This undermines the foundation and subverts the purpose of the assembly. It’s the default model in our churches today, and the result is easily observed: spiritual devastation.

Promoting this destruction presumes that Christ uses “ekklesia” symbolically here, that He must be refering to leaders representing the assembly. Yet, being honest with the text, we must still expect the brotherhood to be informed and unified, or such leadership could not intelligently speak on its behalf.

To maintain integrity in light of Christ’s instruction, we must acknowledge the centrality and spiritual authority of a unified brotherhood. This is what Christ is building, nothing less, the strongest force on Earth. (Mt 16:18)

articles      blog

Clothed With Humility

If God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble (Ja 4:6), then humbling ourselves as much as we can is essential (1Pe 5:6), the key to God’s way. What is humility, why don’t I pursue it, and how do I grow here?

Christ in Gethsemane, The Passion of the Christ

Humility is having a servant’s heart, focusing on God and others rather than myself. And when I do happen to think of myself, thinking realistically, not more highly than I ought (Ro 12:3), comparing myself with Christ, not my neighbor. It’s being poor in spirit, needing infinite mercy (Lk 18:13), and being afflicted in this. (Jas 4:9)

Even though there’s nothing good in me I can take credit for (Ro 7:18), humility often seems distasteful, repugnant; in being childlike (Mt 18:4), lowly, less significant before Man (Php 2:5), I feel vulnerable, less valued, yet this was where my Savior found rest, and calls me to follow. (Mt 11:29)

Food for humility is found in Messiah’s Cross: I’ve nothing else to glory in. (Gal 6:14) That cross is for me, and I very much deserve it. But Jesus Christ humbles Himself there (Php 2:8), taking my place and giving Himself to rescue me. (Gal 1:4) When I’m prompted by the enemy to be satisfied in my goodness (Is 64:6), smug in my knowledge, safe in my self-sufficiency, exalted in my own talents and wisdom (Je 9:23-24), I can look to Yeshua (He 12:2) and remember where I’d be without Him. (1Co 1:29-31)

Knowing God is both my Judge and Defender; He frees me from fear and shame to rejoice in God, to be preoccupied with God and others (Php 2:4), to esteem others better than myself, to be clothed with humility. (1Pe 5:5)

articles      blog

His Own Burden

I’m the only one who’ll die with my beliefs; no one else is responsible for my faith. I’m accountable to God for what I think, say and do (Mt 12:36); no one else can answer for me. Everyone shall bear their own burden. (Ga 6:4)

If I believe, say or do something wrong it’s my own fault; no one else will be standing with me on Judgement Day. I’ll be looking into the eyes of my Creator, and He into mine, and I will be alone, giving Jehovah Himself an answer for everything. (Ro 14:11-12) Where I land and who I am will be on display for eternity, exposed for all to examine. (1Co 3:13)

If I believe whatever I’m taught by church leaders or theologians, and I don’t care enough to search things out for myself, meditating in God’s Word on my own and verifying their claims, I’m saying it’s OK to believe a lie, so long as I fit in. I’m saying who teaches me is more important than what they teach; that relationships are more important to me than truth, that this world is more valuable to me than eternity (1Jn 2:15-17); that being honored and accepted in this world trumps being honored and accepted by God. (Jn 5:44)

When I’m in the fear of God I don’t need anyone else to agree with me; I’m not intimidated standing alone. (2Ti 4:16) I’m free to let others challenge me, to listen thoughtfully and carefully (Ja 1:19), and to look for truth in everything they say. I’m free to let others seek after God along with me, and to lovingly encourage them to do so.

articles      blog

Purge the Leaven

The feast of unleavened bread teaches us to purge sin from our lives and communities; we are unleavened, designed to live without sin, because Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. (1Co 5:7-8)

Ice Cave in Mutnovsky Volcano, Kamchatka, Russia

Those who sin deliberately, as a manner of life, don’t belong to God (1Jn 3:9), so as believers we’re already obeying God as best we can (Ps 119:22) and asking Him to help us where we’re powerless to do better. (Ps 119:35) So the sins and faults we’re to purge are often hidden from us: secret faults, where we’re deceived about the way. How do we purge those kinds of sins, those we don’t yet know about?

Our spirit is God’s candle, searching all our inward parts. (Pr 20:27) Since God knows us better than we know ourselves, we can ask Him to take us on a tour of our own hearts (Je 17:10), pointing out secret faults where we need cleansing and healing. (Ps 19:12) We can do this because we’re safe with Him: He loves us infinitely just as we are, with all our brokenness, so there’s no need to be defensive or elusive with Him, even when He’s indignant with us.

With Him inside helping us, we can search our own hearts for hints of secrets faults, looking for clues both in our failings and in the accusations of others. We may be blind to our own sin, but others can generally see them, at least partially. When someone takes the time to blame us for something, or if we can easily see on our own that we’re at fault, let’s despise the shame (Heb 12:2), looking for the underlying belief or character flaw and asking God to deliver, heal and cleanse us. Let’s not fear finding faults in ourselves; let’s fear to allow hidden sin to continue to corrupt our fellowship with God. (Php 2:12)

articles      blog