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 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)

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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; 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.

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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)

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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)

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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.

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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 to allow hidden sin to continue to corrupt our fellowship with God. (Php 2:12)

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Christ the Firstfruits

Christ our Passover (1Co 5:7) is also the firstfruits of God’s harvest (1Co 15:23); He’s the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first of many to rise again eternally. It’s a savor of both life and death. (2Co 2:15-16)

The resurrection of Christ proves everyone shall rise from the dead (Jn 5:28), some to endless splendor and joy, some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Da 12:2) As when we plant crops and expect a harvest, we see the same in spiritual things: we reap what we sow, later than we sow, and more than we sow. (Ga 6:7-8)

Regardless what we sow, our sowing comprises God’s eternal harvest as well as our own. (Re 14:14) He shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend and cast them into a fiery furnace (Mt 13:41), and He will also gather a harvest of His saints together to Himself to enjoy forever. (Ps 50:5)

On this day of Firstfruits, let the resurrection of Jesus remind us that we’re destined for eternity. We’re part of an everlasting crop, a harvest in God’s eternal plan, so let’s bring forth fruit befitting of resurrection life. (Mt 3:12) Jesus overcame death in every sense that it could be conquered, and He lives in His elect to do the same. (Col 1:27) There is no temptation or trial too strong for Him. (Jn 16:33)

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Save a Soul

Two friends strolled down a beach littered with starfish that had washed ashore. One began picking the creatures up as he walked along, tossing them one by one back into the sea. The other remarked, “Look at how many there are! You can’t save ’em all. What difference does it make?” His friend replied as he tossed another life back into the water, “It made a difference to that one.”

Being overwhelmed with the suffering of the world can paralyze us into thinking the little we can do doesn’t matter.

But impacting a single soul does matter; we’ll all live forever somewhere, somehow, someway. Every little difference we can make in another human life is infinitely worthwhile. (Ja 5:20) As we have opportunity, let’s do good to everyone. (Gal 6:10)

Let’s be on the lookout for ways to serve. Every single human life is supremely valuable … every man, woman and child. For those who are suffering greatly, orphans, widows, the poor and destitute, do for one what you wish you could do for everyone. Human worth is ascribed by God; He values every single soul enough to die in their place. (Jn 3:16) As we serve the least of humanity, we serve Him. (Mt 25:40)

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Well Done

The secret of fulfillment lies in being loved, received and recognized. If no one will ever notice you, who you are and what you do, never acknowledge your service or work, what’s left? What does your life mean if it never impacts anyone?

What’s left is the animal life, nothing truly human: it’s a life devoid of worth, significance, meaning and purpose.

Yet what would it mean in the end to be appreciated, acknowledged and received by all but God? If God loves you, acknowledges you, accepts and receives you, is He enough(Ps 16:5-6)

The secret to happiness lies not in what we do, but in why we’re doing it, who we’re looking to please. Purpose lies in relationship, in shadows and reflections of one paramount relationship: our walk with God. Whether we’re washing dishes or curing cancer, in the end only one thing matters: hearing God say, “Well done!” (Mt 25:23)

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Your Lamb

In preparation for the Lord’s Passover (Ex 12:11), we’re to choose a spotless lamb to represent our house and keep it for four days, a lamb for each household. (Ex 12:3) At this stage it’s any blemish free lamb, a generic lamb.

Once a lamb is selected, a determination is made as to which household(s) it represents. Then a lamb becomes the lamb (Ex 12:4), the one lamb to represent the household(s) for which it is chosen.

Once the lamb-to-household relationship is established, the lamb becomes your lamb. The family spends time getting to know their lamb, verifying that it has no blemish. (Ex 12:5) They inspect it, and become deeply familiar with it. Then, in place of their own firstborn, they kill their lamb on the 14th day. (Ex 12:6)

As in all God’s feasts, He’s giving us a window, a picture, a hint of how to walk with Him.

Jesus Christ is not just a passover lamb; He is not just the passover lamb. It’s not enough to know that Jesus is a savior, one among many. Neither is it enough to know that Christ is the savior, the one and only. Yeshua, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Jewish Messiah, must become our passover (1Co 5:7); until He is our savior, whom we have chosen for ourselves, to represent our souls in the day of judgment, getting to know Him, and He us, we have nothing. (Mt 7:21-23)

Let’s choose Christ deliberately and deeply, giving diligence to make our calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10), getting to know everything about Him we can (Php 3:10), personalizing His work and connecting with His nature and character. Let’s behold the beautyfeed in the majesty, and enjoy the unfathomable riches of Christ! (Eph 3:8)

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