Redeeming the Time

A friend once said, “If I won’t let you spend my money, why should I let you spend my time?” The words captured me. What do I really value more: time or money?

I spend much of my time earning money, but it seems appropriate, what I ought to be doing. I need work to be healthy; it humbles me, challenges me and gives me a sense of purpose. Work isn’t a curse, it’s commanded (Ex 20:9), so it’s a blessing (Ps 19:11); I’m a better person for it.

But I suppose that’s why I’m also constantly valuing my free time in monetary terms: it’s valuable, but how valuable? Spending my life in temporal pursuits will leave only a blur, a distant memory.

I can always get more money, but I’ve only a fixed amount of time on Earth; not one second more than Abba’s given, each one a perfect gift to enjoy and serve Him. Yet there are innumerable ways to spend our time, and so many clamor for a piece of it.

If there’s no eternal purpose in a moment it’s lost, gone forever. I want each one to count for Him (Col 4:5), creating eternal value, being intentional and deliberate, not cruising through life, or letting others spend it for me.

Resting, relaxing, taking it easy –  this isn’t necessarily wasting time, it’s also commanded. (Ex 20:10) Enjoying God in games and Creation … He’s given us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17) … re-creation … to rejuvenate our souls and minds. Leisure has it’s purpose, helping us stay healthy and balanced, but it’s not our goal.

We each have unique gifts, ways we’re particularly enabled to serve God, so we each have a unique purpose in this life. We’ll be held accountable for how we live it. (Mt_12:36) The goal is to so run that we hear in the end, “Well done!” (Mt 25:21)

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Our Old Man

My old man is being crucified with Christ; God’s destroying my sinful nature and freeing me to obey Him. (Ro 6:6)

So I’m to put this old man off, with his lying desires (Ep 4:22), and put on my new man, the part of me being renewed in knowledge after God’s image. (Col 3:10)

This gives me a key to what this old man actually is: my carnal mind (Ro 8:7), my wrong thinking, false paradigms and mindsets in which I walk with unhealthy motives, unable to please God. (Ro 8:8) I live in God as He gives me understanding. (Ps 119:144)

So I find the old man to be nothing more than a personification of the wrong beliefs I hold. This demystifies him, exposes him, makes him vulnerable and helpless. He’s insidiously strong, no doubt, but in the power of God his strongholds are going down (2Co 10:4), one lie at a time. This process is certainly mysterious in some ways, but in principle it’s simple.

I put off the old man by hiding God’s Word, the sword of the Spirit, in my heart (Ps 119:11), meditating on it regularly (Ps 119:97), continually exposing myself to truth (Jn 17:17), noting where I deviate from His Way (Ps 119:9), and asking God to make me understand (Ps 119:27), order my steps in His Word (Ps 119:33) and set me free. (Jn 8:32)

I also engage with others in community doing the same thing, listening to what they’ve learned, encouraging them and being encouraged by them as we edify one another, praying for each other (Ep 3:14-19), helping each other see our blind spots and pursuing God together.

Putting off the old man isn’t like taking off a coat; it’s more like climbing a mountain, or peeling an onion, step after step, layer after layer. It’s a growth process, walking in the light, building an eternal relationship, connecting with God’s heart, seeking His face. (Ps 27:8) It’s a life pattern of spiritual exercise, a discipline, a journey. (Php 3:14)

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Delight in the Law

If I found a treasure chest filled with gold, I’d be excited! It would put a smile on my face and a spring in my step! I’d be delighted!

Delight: a high degree of gratification or pleasure, a strong feeling of happiness.

Paul says the part of us that’s united with and inclined towards God delights in God’s Law, Torah (Ro 7:22) and keeps His commands (1Jn 2:4); the part of us that doesn’t, our old man, our carnal mind (Ro 8:7), is at war with God. (Ro 7:23)

In this war, God is delivering His children from bondage, from their inclination to neglect and despise Torah. (Ro 7:24-25) Where are we in this deliverance process? Is it happening in us?

Saints love God’s Law more than heaps of gold and silver (Ps 119:72), and we’re always thinking about it (Ps 119:97) because God’s putting His laws into our minds and writing them onto our hearts. (He 8:10) God reveals Himself through His law (Ps 119:18), and He’s Who we’re after.

If we aren’t too far along on this journey yet, maybe not yet started, still cleaving to dust, it’s never too late. We can seek God out and ask Him to create a clean heart within us (Ps 51:10), and incline it unto His testimonies. (Ps 119:36)

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Him Crucified

Christ is the central figure of history; His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension are the key facts of history. Knowing Him is life eternal (Jn 17:3); it’s our singular objective (1Jn 5:5), to know Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. (1Co 2:2) 

But the enemy has positioned innumerable counterfeits, false Christ’s (Mt 24:5), much easier to find and follow (2Co 11:4), promoting them through false brothers and seducing spirits. Very few of us will find the Way. (Mt 7:14)

Like the merchant seeking goodly pearls, we ought to be deliberate, striving to enter the kingdom, seeking Christ in the fear of God. In being casual here, we’ll no doubt fail(Je 29:13)

Yet even as we pursue the living Christ it’s easy to get distracted, bogged down and side-tracked (2Ti 2:14), forgeting Who it is we’re after. (Php 1:21) Spiritually speaking, is anything worth knowing that doesn’t help us in knowing Him? (Php 3:13-15)

Christ is the foundation of the assembly (1Co 3:11) and the very life of the believer (Col 3:4); our objective in community is to help each other find Him and know Him (Php 3:8), discovering why He died and what it means for us, exploring the mystery of the gospel together.

So who is Jesus Christ? What’s He like? What does He value? (Jn 14:21) What did He do, and for whom? (1Jn 2:2) How does this affect our lives? (Ro 6:6) What does it mean to be crucified with Him? (Gal 2:20) How does this impact our values? (Ga 6:14) These are the salient, timeless questions, the answers to which comprise our spiritual quest.

It’s not about parroting answers, but in knowing the Person of the answers, walking in the light, in fellowship with Him, worthy of Him. Otherwise we may ever be learning, yet never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth. (2Ti 3:7)

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Ready to Vanish

Well after Christ’s resurrection, as the Apostle Paul penned Hebrews (circa 67 CE), God’s temple in Jerusalem, the earthly picture of His heavenly temple with its ceremonial ordinances and sacrificial system, was as functional as ever. (He 8:4-5)

Petra, Jordan

Yet Paul said God’s old covenant with Israel, built around this temple and its priestly activity, was decaying, growing old, and “ready to vanish away.” (He 8:13) Shortly afterward (circa 70 CE), Rome destroyed God’s temple, halting the entire sacrificial system and Israel’s ability to keep this old covenant.

But this wasn’t the first time. Previously, in 586 BCE, Babylon destroyed the temple, similarly disabling the sacrificial system and Israel’s ability to keep God’s covenant. This first vanishing of the covenant lasted for 70 years while Israel was in exile, and it didn’t make either the covenant or the sacrificial system obsolete. Why then would anyone think the second instance did?

One reason might be that, when left to ourselves, we’re innately disposed to hate God and His law (Ro 8:7), jumping at any excuse to dismiss His ways as irrelevant or obsolete. (2Ti 4:3)

The cross of Christ didn’t displace either the temple or its sacrificial system; animal sacrifices have always been God’s way of pointing us to the cross, helping us understand the nature of Christ’s atoning work. (Jn_1:29)

Without this tangible expression of propitiation (1Jn 2:2), enabling us to relate intimately and practically with the concept of atonement, most of us are hindered in our ability our grasp the nature and significance of the gospel; many in Christianity remain alienated from God (Mt 7:21-23), lost in a perversion of the gospel. (Ga 1:6-7)

Yet even with the temple and sacrificial system in place, Israel missed God’s intent so completely, corrupting and abusing its design so thoroughly (Ro 10:3), that God stepped around them to work His plan for world evangelism another way. (Ro_11:15)

Meanwhile, YHWH’s Heavenly temple still stands, eternally relevant.(Re 16:17) Its earthly counterpart will eventually be fully restored (Re 11:1-2) — there’s nothing in it inconsistent with the gospel.

Torah is holy, just and good (Ro 7:12); it’s God’s moral standard, defining sin and righteousness (1Jn 3:4) so long as Heaven and Earth remain. (Mt 5:18)

God’s temple, His kingdom, and all His laws are amazingly beautiful (Ps 27:4); we do well to seek God in them, keeping His commandments, enjoying them as He intended (Ps 119:111), longing after them (Ps 119:40), and looking forward to their glorious revelation to all Mankind. (Mi 4:2)

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Christ in You

One of the mysteries of the Faith is Christ in us, our hope of glory. (Col 1:27) When Father conceives us with the word of Truth (Ja 1:18), He joins Himself with our spirit, becoming one with us. (Ep 5:30)

The fact that every believer has Christ in them, working uniquely and imperceptibly in and through them (Php 2:13), makes all believers equally valuable and important, creating a healthy humility and interdependency among us all (Ep 5:21), encouraging us to edify one other, and leveling the playing field, so to speak.

Christ in us, the foundation of the church, encourages the mature to listen intently to the young, seeking the unique revelation of Christ in them. It discourages the domination of the learned, and the exclusion of anyone sincerely seeking Christ from active participation in the assembly. (1Co 14:26)

The fact that none of us have yet fully attained to Christ (Php 3:12) welcomes diversity; we can all learn from each other while holding each other accountable, and critically evaluating all that is being taught, maintaining personal ownership of our own faith.

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All Things but Loss

What have I given up for Christ? What have I sacrificed trying to find Him, to know Him and follow Him(Mk 10:28)

Sometimes it feels like I’ve lost a lot, albeit foolishly at times. A prestigious career, family, friends, wealth. I think I could’ve lived so much more comfortably, safely, with so much less suffering. (Mt 16:26)

But what have I actually gained? I have, indeed, found Christ. I know it. I should be comparing what I’ve lost with Who I’ve found.

Compared with Christ, when I do the math, whatever it is that I’ve lost really doesn’t add up to much; it pales in comparison. (Php 3:8-10)

Really now. Would I give up Christ for anything else? For anyone else? Not a chance! Would I give up anything I know about Him, or of Him? Would I purposely move just a tiny bit farther away from Him for anything temporal? No, I wouldn’t. Really. Nothing, absolutely nothing compares, on any level, with Christ. (He 11:24-26)

I’m so sorry I ever find in myself any resentment or regret for pursuing You; it grieves me deeply. (Ro 7:24) You’ve never required me to forsake anything good that I hadn’t already made into an idol. You’ve cared for me abundantly and faithfully all along the way, and suffering for you has been a privilege. (Php 1:29)

I can’t pursue both this world and Christ (1Jn 2:15-17); I’ve made my choice. (Mt 6:24) If I had it to do all over again, I’d choose You again, a million times over. Yes, always the same, no hesitation, none at all.

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Honor All

One of our primal lies is that human value is tied to beliefs or behavior; we tend to honor those who believe and act as we think they ought, and to dishonor those who don’t, to shame them and feel contempt for them. But God says we’re to honor everyone (1Pe 2:17), even our enemies(Mt 5:44)

This doesn’t mean we’re to like everyone, or to consider them desirable company. To honor someone is to treat them with respect and dignity, to acknowledge their value and worth. It has nothing to do with approving their beliefs or behavior.

What gives someone worth is the fact that God made them in His image. (Ge 9:6) When we disrespect someone we’re disrespecting their Creator (Ja 3:9), their Lord, their Master. (1Co 11:3) They represent Him and are accountable to Him, not to us.

Disagreeing with someone, thinking they’re wrong, is simply to acknowledge that they haven’t yet found the truth; God hasn’t opened their eyes to see what we see. (Ac 26:18) It doesn’t mean we’re better, or more important or valuable or worthy. We’re all beggars when it comes to either truth or goodness; we only have what we’ve been mercifully given by God. (1Co 4:7)

To puff ourselves up in our knowledge (1Co 8:1), or to feel threatened when others disagree with us, to feel dishonored when they say we’re deceived or in error, is to buy in to the enemy’s lie and to walk in darkness ourselves. It is associating human value or worth with belief or behavior when there’s no relationship between the two.

God Himself is the only One Who has the right to look down on another with disdain or contempt, to shame them, to disvalue them. (Da 12:2) When we do this it’s pride (Ps 123:4), usurping His role, pushing Him off the eternal throne and climbing upon it ourselves.

Let’s not make this mistake any longer, living in the lie; every human soul is infinitely valuable because the stamp of divinity resides upon us all. The beautiful and the plain, the learned and the ignorant, the righteous and the wicked, everyone is a brother or a sister bearing the indelible likeness of our Creator: Jehovah God Himself.

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Seek the Lord

A universal human trait, with very few exceptions, is that we don’t seek after God. (Ro 3:11) We cruise through life, salving our conscience in whatever religion we happen to be taught growing up, or maybe none at all, content to keep God at a distance. We may not even be aware that we’re doing it, spiritually asleep at the wheel, and we’re unconcerned about it.

Most people who call themselves Christians appear to me to be this way; letting Christianity happen to them, passively going along with the religious flow of their family, friends and culture, not seeking God out for themselves. (Mt 7:21-23) If they were born in another culture I think they’d as soon be Muslim, Hindu, atheist, it wouldn’t matter. They aren’t striving to enter the kingdom, seeking God Himself, to know Him and walk with Him.

I’m not the final judge, of course; we can never know another’s heart for sure, but from what I observe, God isn’t the overriding passion of most people’s lives; they aren’t delighting in Him, loving Him, obeying Him, abiding in Him, pursuing Him. Their focus is on this world, on themselves, on how to get the most out of this life. This is what God’s enemies look like; their end is destruction(Php 3:18-19)

Having once been this way myself, I believe the only exceptions to this rule, those rare souls seeking God Himself at any cost as a manner of life, are of God’s elect, predestined, chosen by God according to His will. (Ep 1:5) Only these are His, and no other.

Seeking God and finding Him for ourselves isn’t optional; we’re each responsible for our own eternal state, no one else is. It’s the mystery of iniquity: the God of Heaven, the vast, unfathomable Treasure available to all, that no one wants (De 5:29) until He turns our hearts to seek Him. (Je 24:7) It’s never too late; now is always a good a time. (Hos 10:12) Let’s encourage each other and seek Him together.

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Strive to Enter

When Christ was asked how many people would be saved, He told us to strive to enter Heaven, that many intending to enter will be turned away. (Lk 13:23-24) The Greek is agonizomai, from which we evidently get agonize.

The way to Heaven’s narrow, obscure; very few find it. (Mt 7:13-14) God uses this word few for the eight souls, of perhaps millions, who escaped the Flood (1Pe 3:20); most won’t make it.

But for any thoughtful soul, the second death simply isn’t an option. How then are we supposed to strive to enter?

Trying harder to be good certainly won’t work; the more we grow in holiness, the more sinful and broken we find ourselves to be, like filthy rags on our best day. (Is 64:6)

The more light we get the more of our own filthiness we can see; we’ll never be worthy on our own merit. We all need infinite mercy, a Savior to be continually cleansing us from our sin. (1Jn 1:7) We need perfect righteousness (Mt 5:48); and it needs to be a free gift (Ro 6:23), because we could never earn it.

In our striving we must not be looking primarily at ourselves, but at Christ (He 12:2), and what He’s done for us (Re 1:5), laboring to ensure that we’ve entered into the eternal rest (He 4:11) He’s provided, and that our lives obediently and joyfully reflect this reality. (1Pe 1:2)

God tells us to seek Him (Is 55:6-7), to feel after Him and find Him for ourselves (Ac 17:27), to examine our souls and prove our relationship with God (2Co 13:5), to make sure we’re His. (2Pe 1:10) Are the things that accompany salvation evident in our lives? (He 6:9) Do we love Him? (1Co 8:3) Is He precious to us (1Pe 2:7)? Is God Himself our portion in life? Is He the passion of our lives? (Ps 73:25)

If we haven’t found God yet, like the merchant seeking exquisite pearls, let’s follow after Christ, seeking God until we find Him (Je 29:13), until we know that we know Him (1Jn 5:13) and are abiding in Him. (1Jn 2:28)

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