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 in the light 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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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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Examine Yourselves

The questions we ask reveal our hearts. Are we asking, “Which of God’s law must I obey?” Or are we asking, “Which of God’s laws am I allowed/permitted to obey?”

As God writes Torah into the minds and hearts of His own (He 8:10), He’s revealing that Torah is holy and just and good (Ro 7:12), such that we “delight in the law of God after the inward man.” (Ro 7:22) As He transforms us we’ll be obeying every law that we’re able to obey as well as we can, and continually asking Him to help us obey Torah better, more perfectly. (Ps 119:35)

But if we don’t delight in Torah, we’ll be looking for excuses and explanations that relieve us of any sense of duty (Ec 12:13), and most any deception will do. (2Ti 4:3) This is the posture of the carnal mind (Ro 8:7), enmity against Torah, and ultimately against the heart of God. (Ps 119:136)

So, ask yourself the question: “What kinds of questions am I asking? What does this reveal about my heart?” Examine yourself (2Co 13:5): does your life reflect the things that accompany salvation? (He 6:9) If our questions don’t reveal a delight in Torah, then something’s wrong with our inward man.

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The Word of Faith

Salvation’s a mysterious thing, for sure, how and why God intervenes in our headlong dash to destruction (Mt 7:13); His mercy is infinite, even in the best of us;  we’ve no hope apart from Him.

Medicine Root Trailhead, Badlands National Park, SD • Dan Anderson

In some ways, getting saved seems so simple, but simple solutions to complex problems are usually wrong. When we look closely at this one — and we’d better — it’s like most anything else about a living being: a flat-out miracle.

When first struggling with this, I was told I just needed to confess Christ as Lord, believe in His Resurrection, and sincerely ask Him to save me. (Ro 10:9, 13) It seemed scriptural, and so doable, but it didn’t work, not for me. Thus began my long and painful journey, striving to enter the narrow way, a trip few will ever make. (Mt 7:14)

As usual, context provides the key, revealing what accepting Christ is all about: “But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.” (Ro 10:8) If we don’t understand this in context, we’re all out of context, and I’ve never seen a reasonable explanation of this verse, how it all ties together. So, here we go.

The quote is from Torah: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.” (De 30:14) The key to salvation is our heart, and the law of God (Torah, “the word”) becoming part of us (“in thy heart”) as we memorize it and meditate on it (“in thy mouth”) with the intent to obey Him (“that thou mayest do it”). 

We don’t start out this way, aligned with God’s Law from the heart (Ro 8:7), because our heart is evil (De 29:4), so we need a new one (De 5:29): we need to be transformed. (2Co 5:17) The gospel, the good news, is that God is able and willing to provide us a new heart (Ez 36:26)and write His laws into it (He 10:16), enabling us to keep them. (1Jn 3:24)

Eternal salvation is not found in ritual, but only in the mystery miracle (Mt 19:26) of becoming one with the eternal God through His Son Jesus Christ (Jn 17:21), entering into His rest by faith(He 4:3) Evidence of this transformation is a heart cleaving to God, delighting in Him and His laws above all else, obeying Him and following His Way (Jn 14:6)assured of our eternal destiny only in what Christ has done for us. (1Th 1:5)

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The Mystery of Faith

There are mysteries in our faith, genuine paradoxes. There’s a mystery of iniquity, that anyone would ever deliberately choose to sin against God, as most everyone does as a manner of life, and also a mystery of faith (1Ti 3:16), how salvation can be by faith while God judges us by our works.

On the one hand, we’re justified before God by faith, by believing on Christ (Jn 3:18) and not by works. (Ro 3:28) On the other hand, on Judgement Day, we know God will render to everyone according to their deeds: those who’ve patiently continued in good works as a manner of life will be saved, and those who haven’t will be damned(Ro 2:6-9) How can both be true?

The answer lies in seeing salvation as the work of God (Jn 6:29), where He regenerates the human heart (Col 2:13) and begins working in us to will and to do according to His pleasure. (Php 2:13) As God so works in our souls, we actually do persistently try to obey Him as a manner of life; we cannot live otherwise (1Jn 3:9), and no one else can live like this. (1Jn 3:10)

So, those who say they know God but aren’t, as a rule of life, trying their best to do what He says, are simply lying. (1Jn 2:4) While there are countless ways to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22) into thinking, “carry on my wayward son, there’ll be peace when you are done,” it’s hoping in Satan himself. There’s no safe place outside a life pattern of obedience to God.

Whether we live in a way that’s morally acceptable to society or not isn’t the point: neglecting God’s laws and living life our own way makes us God’s enemies. (Ro 8:7) Nearly everyone lives like this. (1Jn 5:19)

As saints, we know that we still sin (1Jn 1:8), and that our works will never be good enough for God (Ga 3:10); we find our only rest in the finished work of Christ. Yet even though we know we can’t lose eternal salvation, we won’t sin willfully, on purpose, thoughtfully, deliberately, as a manner of life. (1Jn 3:8) We’re new creatures (2Co 5:17), always trying our best to obey God, even though that may not be very good.

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Not Grievous

In affirming that the love of God is keeping His commandments, God reminds us His commands aren’t grievous. (1Jn 5:3) His law, all of it, is profoundly good. (Ro 7:12)

Just take a gander at how God recounts His laws for a new generation (my summary):

  • Love God and cleave to Him. (De 10:20)
  • Hide God’s words in your heart and teach them to your kids. (De 11:18-20)
  • Respect yourself. (De 14:1)
  • Don’t eat disgusting things. (De 14:3)
  • Enjoy God’s parties. (De 14:26)
  • Feast with the poor. (De 14:29)
  • Periodically relieve the poor of debt. (De 15:2)
  • Be generous with employees. (De 15:14)
  • Party with God in Spring, recalling His salvation(De 16:3)
  • Party with God in Summer, thanking Him for the harvest. (De 16:10-11)
  • Party with God in the Fall, camp out with Him, thankful for more provision. (De 16:13)
  • Ensure justice in all the land. (De 16:18)
  • etc.

The pattern continues … Love God, respect yourself, party with God, care for the poor, be decent, be just … Really tough stuff here … They say God’s law is “a burden … legalism … just can’t do it.”

Can’t? Or won’t?

The carnal mind just isn’t interested in God’s Way, not even enough to find out what it is. (Ro 8:7-8) What a treasure we miss!

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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 allowing hidden sin to continue to corrupt our witness, and service for God. (Php 2:12)

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