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 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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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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The New Month

Since the moon is central in the timing of God’s feasts, celebrating each new Eclipsemonth is natural in God’s kingdom. (Is 66:23)

YHWH doesn’t tell us exactly how to do this, but it’s easy for saints to come together under an open sky to worshipfully enjoy each new moon. Like anything else, the more familiar we are with lunar phases the easier this will be.

Monthly worship rhythms keep us aligned with God’s calendar in community, and encourage us to anticipate and prepare for each biblical feast as it approaches, keeping us in touch with God’s prophetic timeline(Col 2:16)

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Not Under Law

Of all the phrases used by the Apostle Paul in the New Testament, “not under law” may be the most misunderstood. Most think it means God’s laws in the Old Testament are obsolete, but context implies something very different: Paul says, “sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Ro 6:12-14)

Grace&Glory
Svolvaer, Norway

Not being under law is what causes us to overcome sin … yet sin is breaking God’s Law.  (1Jn 3:4) Paul is not telling us we can sin all we want now, but how being in Christ causes us to sin less and less.

The key appears to be in the contrasting phrase – under grace: experiencing the power of God as He transforms us into the likeness of Christ. (Ep 2:8,10) As God works in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Php 2:13), we are no longer under law, trying to obey in our own strength, feeling only the duty and command but no empowering life, with no inclination to obey, always failing, rebelling and feeling the terror of our condemnation. Rather, we have Christ in us, the hope of glory (Col 1:27), Who overcame the world (Jn 16:33) and is doing it all over again in every one of His children (1Jn 5:4), giving them grace unto glory. (Php 1:6)

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My Feasts

As we approach a new year in God’s calendar (Ex 12:2), I am looking forward to celebrating with my King as He invites me to His table again … to seven glorious, heavenly feasts of the Lord.

Windsor Castle, England

When Jehovah calls them “my feasts” (Le 23:2), He seems to be saying that these eternal appointed times are for Himself as well as for us; each one an invitation to dine in person with the Almighty.

As He Himself rested on the very first Sabbath day (Ge 2:2-3), and as He promises to celebrate Passover again with us in His kingdom (Lk 22:15-16), and as all activity in the Jerusalem temple during each biblical feast mirrors that of God’s heavenly temple (He 8:4-5, 9:23), it is evident that God Himself participates in His own feasts, along with the hosts of Heaven — and that He invites us to join Him.

We can see Jehovah’s heart here in His insistence that we come to His house to participate in His feasts (Ex 34:22-24); and as it has been from the earliest days so shall it always be. (Zec 14:16) As He invited the Apostles of old (Jn 21:12), what an awesome privilege to be invited by God to come and dine with Him! (Mt 22:8-10)

Further, in characteristic fashion, these appointed times with God are not just for satisfying our fleshly appetites, but each feast is rich in spiritual food, simply chock full of spiritual and prophetic symbolism to engage our minds and hearts in His ways. (Col 2:16-17)

The message could not be any clearer: in His feasts God is inviting us into an awesome fellowship with Himself; He enjoys sharing Himself with us and engaging us in what He is doing. In this coming season of God’s calendar, let’s take every opportunity to enjoy and delight in God as He has so graciously invited us.

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Keep My Commandments

Every heart responds to the Creator in one of two basic ways: thankfulness and joyful obedience — or distrust and disobedience. (Ro 1:21)

We all start out in sin, as rebels hating God (Ep 2:3), but God transforms some of us so that we begin loving Him, trusting Him, thanking Him and obeying Him from the heart; He quickens our spirits to love Him, to delight in His Law, and starts writing His laws into our minds and hearts. (He 8:10) We then begin to enjoy obeying Him: a transformed nature, a new creature, is evidence of our redemption. (2Co 5:17)ButterfliesFlower

Jesus said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments;” (Jn 14:15) we love Him by keeping His Laws (1Jn 5:3), Torah, which are good. (Ro 7:12) So Jesus didn’t abolish Torah (Mt 5:17-19); it’s still God’s definition of sin. (1Jn 3:4) Though we aren’t justified by obeying God’s Law, we’re deceived in thinking we’re in a right relationship with God if we’re still willfully disobeying Him. (1Jn 2:4) We can’t worship in truth until we’ve learned His commandments(Ps 119:7)

As we seek to make our election sure, here’s an easy litmus test: if there are parts of Torah we still don’t like, that we disdain and deliberately refuse to obey, then we’re deceived, carnal, out of step with God (Ro 8:6-7); the stubborn, willfully disobedient soul has yet to be redeemed. (Ro 2:7-9) In other words, What’s the point in pretending to be transformed … if we aren’t acting like it? (1Jn 3:7)

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Look for Him

Being shadows of things to come (Col 2:16-17), the feasts of the Lord are fascinating prophetic windows. In Christ’s first advent He fulfilled the four spring feasts to the day, in sequence. The fall feasts are evidently reserved for His second coming, which I expect He will also fulfill in sequence, to the day.

JesusRaysToday I am observing the Feast of Trumpets, Yom Teruah, the day of shouting and blowing of trumpets, the first unfulfilled feast in the biblical calendar. Perhaps Paul was thinking of this feast when wrote, “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (1Th 4:16) Isn’t the symbolism striking?

“Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time.” (He 9:28) After thinking carefully about Babylon the Great, I’m a naysayer in today’s end times chatter, but I wonder how one can be anticipating Christ’s return and not be faithfully observing the feast which foreshadows it. Though we certainly know not the hour, and in our confusion about the calendar the day is also a question, shouldn’t we be looking for Him to appear on a day like today, in the appointed time?

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