Wherein Is Blemish

In JEHOVAH’s sacrificial system, He’s very clear about what’s acceptable: whatever is presented to Him must be perfect; asking Him to accept a blemish or defect of any kind is an abomination. (De 17:1)

It’s not that God dislikes physical defects in themselves; He cares for every living thing. (Ps 145:16) His concern evidently lies in what a sacrifice represents: He accepts an animal sacrifice as a substitute, representing an atonement for our sin. (He 9:7) It doesn’t actually take away our sin (He 10:11), it’s a picture of a metaphysical state, a place of reconciliation with Him, which we must with all diligence find. (He 4:1)

Our sin is entirely unacceptable to God (Ro 3:23); it moves Him to anger and indignation towards us. (Ro 2:8) God designed the sacrificial system to help us recognize this problem, and how He offers to resolve it: we either need Someone Who’s perfect to take our place, to accept our punishment and bear God’s wrath for us, or we must face God ourselves, alone, and be destroyed.

On the Day of judgement, every soul will face Almighty God to answer for their sin. (Ro 14:12) On that fateful Day, His face will be so dreadful Earth and Heaven will try to hide. (Re 20:11). We will all endure the indignation of JEHOVAH, one at a time, one way or another.

It’s only in finding a perfect, willing Substitute that we have any hope of surviving that Day. Our selfishness and pride is an abomination to God (Pr 16:5); asking Him to accept us as we are will be no different than offering a blemished animal on His altar here. It can’t end well.

Many, thinking they’ve found a fire escape in Christ, will hear Him say, “Depart from me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you” (Mt 7:22), and will face the court of Heaven on their own.

To find shelter in that stormy Day, we must enter into His rest by faith. God is, in fact, offering Himself to be our sacrifice (2Co 5:21); there can be no excuse for neglecting His offer. (Ac 17:31)

The door to the kingdom is open, and it always will be: it will never, ever close (Re 22:17), but Christ warns us to strive to enter, for only those few who love the truth will find Him. (2Th 2:10)

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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)

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God So Loved

I was taught, and I’ve believed for a long time now, that truth is more important than people, that principle is more important than relationship. But as think a bit more critically, I’m seeing a very basic problem here for the very first time.

Certainly, any sense that people are in some way unimportant is an error: God so loves us that He’s willing to become our sin (2Co 5:21) and die for us, suffer on our behalf, in our place, and take upon Himself our eternal punishment! (Jn 3:16)

What can be more important than the very life of God? If He so values us that He would give Himself for us (Tit 2:14), how can we possibly conceive of anything being valued more? So we’re each infinitely valuable to God, implying our relationships are also infinitely important. (1Jn 4:11)

Yet this cannot mean that people and relationships are more important than truth, for we’re to buy the truth and sell it not, not for any price, ever. (Pr 23:23) Wisdom, instruction, understanding … this is all priceless (Pr 4:7); there’s never a good time to sacrifice principle for convenience, or to build relationships, or even to alleviate suffering.

True principles are eternal, part of the nature of God Himself. (De 32:4) Christ, Himself the Truth (Jn 14:6), could never sacrifice truth or principle for anything or anyone, and neither should we. (1Pe 2:21-22) So, what’s more important?

There’s evidently a problem inherent in the thought itself: it presumes one of two choices is more important than the other, that we ought to be comparing them, willing to choose between the two. But is this itself aligned with truth? Should we be comparing the importance of truth, part of the nature of God, with the importance of people, for whom Christ died?

Evidently not. This is a prime example of the false dilemma logical fallacy; it’s a false way, a vain thought, a pattern of false reasoning that’s easy to fall into.

Whenever the enemy presents our choices, as he often does via situational ethics, we can bet he’s not dealing us a full hand. Be on the alert for his way, his game, and don’t let him dictate the rules. That isn’t his place.

If our principles don’t place infinite value on people, we don’t have the right principles (1Co 13:2-3); and sacrificing truth or principle is tolerating darkness within, alienating ourselves from God and others such that we can’t be in authentic, wholesome, godly relationships. (1Jn 1:6)

There’s always a right way (1Co 10:13), one that honors truth in God and supremely values people: God is Light (1Jn 1:5) and God is love (1Jn 4:16); we need never choose between the two.

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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?

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Choose the Fear

As an instinct, fear can be a good thing, keeping us out of harm’s way. It helps us avoid things like, well, provoking gangsters and thugs – fearing what they might do to us encourages a basic kind of wisdom.

Christ reasons, by way of contrast, that there’s only one to be afraid of: God. (Lk 12:4-5) God is capable of inflicting so much damage and harm, truly an infinite amount of pain and suffering, that all other fears should pale in comparison; the very thought of offending Him should move us to trembling (Php 2:12), even as we’re rejoicing in Him. (Ps 2:11)

Many prefer to focus on respect or reverence rather than fear, perhaps to encourage us to be more comfortable with God. But that’s like telling us to relax when our clothes might be catching fire.

The potential danger we’re all in with God is incredibly real, and there’s no point in playing it down: He’s a consuming fire (He 12:29), and most of us are chaff. (Mt 3:12) Even for the best of us, it’s a fearful thing to fall into His hands (He 10:31), and all of us will: evading Him isn’t an option. The slightest uncertainty here should terrify us. (2Co 5:11)

Firstly, a healthy fear of God keeps us from presumptuous sin, from carelessly offending Him (Pr 16:6), and that’s just plain smart – like not poking a gorilla in the eye, even if he seems friendly.

Godly fear also motivates us to ensure our election (2Pe 1:10)striving to enter the narrow gate (Lk 13:24) and pass fully into His rest. (He 4:11) In light of the second death, living for even a moment without absolute assurance of eternal life is unthinkable. (2Co 13:5)

Fear in itself, rational fear of any kind, would never encourage us to run or hide from God: thinking we can avoid omnipresence is like trying to escape from space and time itself; the thought is unintelligent at best. Only an insane dislike, a relentless distaste for the divine, would seek to escape from One who inhabits eternity.

Perhaps this is partly why “the fear of JEHOVAH is the beginning of wisdom.” (Pr 9:10) Try to fathom a soul with any sense of propriety or understanding that willfully chooses to neglect or offend omnipotence. How can anyone with a grain of sense not “kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little?” (Ps 2:12)

A lack of reverence for God, any willingness to sin against Him deliberately, on purpose, not choosing to fear Him in every healthy sense of the word (Pr 1:29), is essentially a failure to grasp the fundamental nature of God; it’s either rank unbelief in who God says He is, or exceedingly irrational.

The fear of God is our friend (Ps 19:9a): choose it and be wise. Learn to fear Him rightly (Ps 34:11)God’s children don’t take Him lightly, casually; we fear Him unto joy. All else is unbelief, enmity, no matter how we slice it.

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One Flesh

Sexuality is a mystery; it isn’t merely biological, for humans at least: there’s a spiritual dimension to us being male and female.

In men, there’s typically a longing to be permanently and intimately connected with beauty, to have unrestricted, exclusive access to theit own delightful portion of humanity. In women, there’s often a longing to be discovered and valued, enjoyed and cherished. Both are hints at spiritual fulfillment in God, windows to a world of spiritual reality of which courtship and marriage are merely shadows. (Ep 5:32)

As Man seeks to explore and enjoy the beauty of Woman, and to connect with her in the most intimate way possible, this is a faint hint at the pleasure of finding, beholding and enjoying the beauty of God, the One who makes Woman beautiful, and Whose delightful nature can never be fully fathomed. This is our privilege and purpose, and all sexual desire is a gift to remind us of this.

As Woman goes to great length to be attractive to Man, to catch his eye and arouse his interest, and to enjoy his protection, love and affection for herself alone, she reflects our intense desire to be recognized and valued by God, to find our unique purpose in God, and for Him to take pleasure in knowing us, in being ever mindful of us and watching over us, enjoying us and fellowshipping with us throughout our days.

When a man and a woman become intimate, this is much more than a physical experience; together they become a single metaphysical being: one flesh. (1Co 6:16) They’re joined together in an eternal mystical union that can never be broken; it’s evidently an expression of how God and His chosen are inseparably connected (1Co 6:17), not something to be taken lightly.

God seems particularly interested in each of us respecting and fulfilling the spiritual dimension of our sexuality, remaining in monogamous, committed, heterosexual relationships. (Mt 19:4-5) He calls each gender to walk in a way that the other deeply desires: the husband to love and cherish his wife (Ep 5:28-29), to dwell with her according to an intimate knowledge of her frame and disposition (1Pe 3:7), to cleave to her (Ge 2:24), and to put her needs before his own. (Ep 5:25) He calls the wife to treat her husband with honor and deep respect (Ep 5:33), seeking to obey his every desire (except that which violates God’s Law), as if he were God himself. (Ep 5:24) Violating marital roles is not only harmful physically and psychologically, but also spiritually. (1Co 6:18)

For husbands, it’s sometimes as simple as just showing up. We don’t need to be perfect and flawless, to have all the answers and make everything right. Often, just being present and available to our wives, joining them in the journey, letting them occupy our minds and hearts as we walk through life with them … it’s what they’re looking for in us.

For wives, sometimes it’s as simple as being silent when we’d rather criticize, trusting God and saying, “Yes Sir!” when he asks something non-sinful of us and we’d rather not. Think of God saying, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” (Mt 25:23) rather than short term convenience.

Many, if not most of the problems I see in our world stem from us rejecting our God-given roles in marriage. Just imagine the blessed world God’s called us to, if we all did what He says. Ponder the life He desires for us, if we were all found faithful here. Wouldn’t it be awesome?

Yet seldom do both husband and wife both walk out their calling in God together. Are we willing to be the one, if need be, to walk it alone? To carry our light affliction for a season, for the love of God? Here and now is the only chance we have to live sacrificially for Him. Once we’re with Him, that will be gone forever.

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God is Light

Light: electromagnetic radiation from our sun that’s constantly bouncing off the world around us and illuminating it. To perceive this we need special organs to translate the waves into images within our brains: eyes. Without the ability to see, we’d have very little awareness of light, and even less interest.

When God says He is light (1Jn 1:5), perhaps He’s telling us that He’s not only truth, but also the means by which we perceive it.

God defines reality, both in the physical and metaphysical. He is not only truth itself  (Jn 14:6), but also the ultimate standard by which everything has measure and is measured.

As each aspect of the spiritual dimension reflects the streaming revelation of God, its nature is revealed. In reacting to His Word, God exposes, illuminates, and reveals the spiritual detail of every sentient being (Is 8:20), and the color and texture of every moral choice we face, if only we have eyes to see. (Ps 119:105)

As C.S. Lewis said so well, let us believe in God as we believe the sun has risen, not only because we see it, but also because by it we see everything else.

Asking God to open our eyes is wanting to see the Light, to see Him in all things, and how all things relate to Him. It’s wanting to be aligned with, connected and engaged with Him. Once we can see, walking in the light with God is natural. (1Jn 1:7)

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God is Love

God is love, and those who know Him are like Him (1Jn 4:7-8); we love God, and our neighbors as ourselves (1Jn 3:14), even our enemies.

Love isn’t about liking everyone, or even anyone; it’s about seeking the welfare of others, wanting their ultimate good (Ro 13:10); it’s being longsuffering, benevolent, kind, unassuming, unselfish. (1Co 13:5)

This is the essence of the character of God: benevolent concern for others. He doesn’t need us to make Himself feel good; He is perfectly complete in and of Himself; we can add nothing to Him. Every aspect of His dealings with us is for our own good, not His. He isn’t trying to keep us from having fun, or bully us into following a set of arbitrary rules. God’s Law is the perfect expression of what it means to care. Everything God does is aligned with love, both for Himself and for His creatures.

What makes God’s love profound, in my opinion, is the magnitude of it, its depth and breadth and length and height. (Ep 3:17-18) This is known by who God loves, us, His enemies, desperately wicked people, and how He loves us, sacrificially, willing to suffer infinitely for us, to become our sin so that we might be made His righteousness (2Co 5:21), enter into His rest, and become part of His immediate family. (1Jn 3:1)

This is infinite love – only known against the backdrop of sin. Without God allowing sin, and without us knowing how holy He is, how much He hates sin, how He suffers by allowing sin, much less becoming sin for us, we can have no clue of His love, of His essential nature.

As God calls us to walk in His steps, to live as He does, we must know that God’s own love is the source of our love. (1Jn 4:19) As we begin to realize what He is like, and comprehend the depth of His concern for us, we can begin to care for Him and others in the same way, trusting Him to care for us (1Pe 5:7), and be filled with all His fullness. (Eph 3:19)

We can experience many different facets of love: romantic, brotherly affection, neighborly concern. In the end, what defines our own attitude as love or not is whether we genuinely have another’s best interest in mind, or whether we’re trying to use them to promote ourselves and make ourselves feel good. Perhaps there’s very little love in this world (1Jn 5:19); either way, it could always use a bit more.

As we grow in love, increasing and abounding yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (Php 1:9), we begin to see that all our desires and affections, what we’ve been wanting for ourselves, can’t be satisfied in those we’ve been trying to use, but only in God Himself. Every craving, every longing … is a shadow to remind us to behold the beauty of God, to rejoice in Him as the ultimate fulfillment of all we could ever want.

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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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What Think Ye of Christ?

Christ asked a simple question about Himself which might be helpful in evangelism: “What do you think of Christ?” (Mt 22:41-42) Most people don’t feel threatened when asked their opinion, and very few seem to have a negative opinion of Christ Himself, so it may be a great way to broach the subject of spirituality without being awkward.

Christ is unarguably the greatest figure in human history, standing far above all others; He may also be the most controversial, so healthy discussion about Him has the potential to be energizing and enlightening. Most everyone seems to have an opinion, but very few appear to ground their opinions in fact.

Thinking honestly about Christ requires knowing what He’s like, studying the Gospels, and carefully considering what Jesus said and did.

Those to whom Christ asked this singular question didn’t think carefully about Him, so they didn’t understand Him and they missed Him, the greatest human being who ever lived, though He stood in their midst, and taught in their streets.

People outside Christianity generally think Christ was a great teacher, and no more, but this is the one thing He can’t be.

Christ didn’t just claim to know the way to God, He also claimed to be the Way (Jn 14:6), and to actually be God Himself in human form (Jn 14:9) … these are claims no reasonable mortal would ever make, especially a devout Jew.

If Christ’s testimony about Himself is true, then He isn’t just a good teacher — He is God Himself; if Christ’s witness of His own nature it isn’t true then Christ isn’t even good, this would make Him out to be a profound liar, an impostor … or worse.

Christ’s unique claims require each soul to make a decision about Him; He leaves us no other choice.

Christ publicly predicted His crucifixion well before it happened, and proclaimed that He was going to raise Himself from the dead. (Mt 27:62-63) Then it happened as He said: the Jews did crucify Him … and then Christ did raise Himself from the dead.

The apostles, who knew Christ personally and followed Him, gave up all worldly comforts to testify of this, of the fact of Christ’s bodily resurrection — something they’d have known was a lie if it wasn’t true. This was at a time when the very thought of resurrection was mocked in common culture (Ac 17:32), not merely as impossible, but also undesirable. Yet the apostles all died martyr’s deaths, never seeking wealth, fame, pleasure or power, never wavering in their zeal or testimony.

People don’t deliberately sacrifice all, suffer and die for what they know is a lie.

It is undisputed, universally accepted historical fact that Christianity was born of this apostolic witness in the first century C.E, and grew miraculously despite vicious persecution. No one can explain how Christianity came to exist if Christ isn’t authentic, if He didn’t actually raise Himself from the dead. This is historically proven, if anything is, and it’s unique: there’s nothing else like it in world religions. (Ac 17:31)

Let’s gently appeal to souls to ground their views of Christ in facts, and then to serve Him and enter into His rest. Moving people to carefully ponder Christ, challenging their neglect of Him, might be a powerful tool in the hands of the Spirit as we encounter each eternal soul.

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