Higher Powers

Why has God ordained government? (Ro 13:1) What is its purpose and role?

Asked another way, if people were basically good, loving one another as themselves, what need would there be for a State, rulers forcing us to comply with its laws? In that kind of world, what could government do more effectively than voluntary cooperatives, charities and businesses? Not much, if anything.

But unfortunately, we don’t live in that kind of world yet, so for now God commissions rulers to punish evildoers. (Ro 13:4) This requires officials to use force, to have an army and police … which costs money, so we must pay them to do it.  (Mt 22:21)

Authority to forcibly collect money is easily corrupted, and the more government is allowed to do, and the bigger it gets, and the more money it requires, and the more influential and powerful it becomes, the more evil people will find ways to harness it for destructive ends.

To be healthy, government must be limited to the role God’s given it, and its powers divided and balanced to limit the effects of corruption. Outside a divine theocracy, this is the model I think Scripture recommends: limited government with separation of powers. In the only government God has ever established, Levites were His judges, keepers and interpreters of His law (De 17:9), while city elders and governors enforced compliance to it. (De 22:19-19) Levites had no power in themselves to collect money or create law, and no one in society had authority to violate God’s Law. (Ro 13:3)

The focus of government should be to protect people, punish evildoers, and praise those who do good. (1Pe 2:14) Let people do the rest voluntarily and cooperatively as they see fit. The closer to this model we can get, the better our government will be.

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Laying on of Hands

God speaks of the laying on of hands as a first principle of His revelation, a foundation of our faith. (He 6:2) Given its importance, perhaps we ought to be diligent in understanding and obeying it.

Throughout Torah, in purifying their flesh from the defilement of sin (He 9:13), God’s people would lay hands on the heads of animal sacrifices: for national sins of ignorance (Le 4:14-15), sanctifying priests (Le 8:14, Nu 8:12), and in transferring sins onto the scapegoat on the day of Atonement. (Le 16:21) In a unique instance, God instructed Moses to lay his hand on Joshua to commission him as a leader and put some of Moses’ honor upon him (Nu 27:18-20); Moses obeyed, laying his hands on Joshua (Nu 27:22-23), filling Joshua with the spirit of wisdom. (De 34:9)

Throughout the New Testament, we see laying on of hands as people are healed, dedicated for service, and given spiritual gifts: a father asks Christ to lay hands on His daughter and heal her (Mk 5:23) and Christ lays hands others as He heals them (Mk 6:5, Lk 4:40, 13:13), expecting His followers to do the same. (Mk 16:18Ac 28:8) The Apostles lay their hands on newly selected deacons after praying for them (Ac 6:6), and on new believers after praying for them and they’re filled with the Holy Spirit. (Ac 8:17, 19:6) The church in Antioch laid hands on Paul and Barnabas in dedicating them for mission work (Ac 13:3), and Timothy was given a spiritual gift through prophecy and the laying on of the hands of the local bishops. (1Ti 4:14)

As every single biblical context of laying on of hands involves prayer of some kind, and as our hands are the only physical part of us that we can use to firmly connect ourselves with others (by grabbing hold of them), it appears that this is how we express our spiritual connection with others in the presence of God, to identify with them in what we’re praying, and act out the reality of our spiritual connection with each other before God. Whether it be a sin offering which is taking our place on God’s altar, or souls we’re lifting up to God for help, who we’re connected with in a greater metaphysical organism (be it the Body of Christ or humanity itself), the laying on of hands is evidently the natural, organic way for us to express, illustrate and complete this interconnectivity with others before God.

In calling this concept foundational to our faith, it seems God would have us recognize that we’re not merely isolated individuals, but to be continually aware that we’re each an intrinsic part of a greater whole, and to honor this whole in our loving, benevolent, sacrificial behavior.

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Give Them Repentance

Repentance is a change of behavior based on a change of mind (Eze 18:30); it’s believing something different (Mk 1:15) and acting accordingly. (Ac 26:20)

As God commands us to repent (Ac 17:30) it sounds easy enough, but it isn’t actually something we can do on our own (Je 13:23); God must give us repentance (2Ti 2:25), turning us from darkness to light, delivering us from Satanic power and bringing us unto Himself. (Ac 26:18)

In order to repent we must first hear truth, then God must open our hearts to recognize it as truth  (Ps 119:18) and help us believe and obey it. (Ps 119:35)

This process generally requires that we’ve already received some related truth that the new revelation connects to and extends; it’s a growth process. Without sufficient context to build on, we can’t always receive new truth. (Jn 16:12) God must help each one of us to grow in Him in a way that is unique to our own particular weakness and frame. (1Th 2:7)

Since we can’t know the weaknesses of others, or even our own very well, it’s impossible for us to tell for sure what particular truths any given person is able to receive at any given time. (Ga 6:2) Like the layers of an onion, each of us has many issues for God to heal and repair (Is 28:10); only He knows what we can handle and when. (Ps 103:14)

We must bear patiently with each other (2Ti 2:24), and with ourselves, presenting that which is holy to those who are seeking (Mt 7:6), asking God to teach us all His way (Ep _4:21)not judging anyone, and leaving the results to Him.

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First Principles

Certain concepts are fundamental to our walk with God, basic building blocks of the spiritual life. (He 5:12) Grasping these helps us understand ourselves and God, so we can grow into spiritual maturity. (He 6:1-2)

Sand magnified 250X

Sin: violating Torah, God’s commands and instructions. God has One Law which applies to all of us. (1Jn 3:4)

Repentance: to change direction based on a change in belief. (2Ti 2:25)

Faith: perfect supernatural confidence and assurance; the absence of all doubt about something. (Ja 1:6a)

Grace: supernatural influence causing us to be less evil than we’re prone to be, and/or to believe on and obey God, and/or to be more Christ-like in some way. (He 12:28)

Pride: thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought, as morally superior to another. (Ga 6:3)

Humility: esteeming others better than ourselves, as our moral superiors. (Php 2:3)

Free Will: always making the worst choice God allows us to make.

Baptisms: identifying with God’s transformation through ritual immersion.

Laying on of hands: identifying with others as a living sacrifice.

Resurrection: this life is a vapor.

Judgement: God will eternally evaluate us all.

We should seek to be aligned on all of these basics through thoughtful discussion and prayerful study. Feel free to challenge me on any of them, or to encourage me that I’ve helped you further grasp them.

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We all know the word sin; it means evil, or doing evil. The concept itself implies metaphysical reality, proving the existence of God: we instinctively identify sin as independent of human opinion —  implying a divine standard defining good and evil.

Sin is breaking God’s Law, violating God’s moral standard. (1Jn 3:4) If we neglect, dismiss or alter any part of His standard, we get the definition wrong and encourage sin.

God has only one standard; it’s called Torah, and it applies to everyone. (Mt 5:19) In breaking any part of it, we break it all, as a whole. (Ja 2:10)

Ultimately, sin isn’t about how we feel, or what we think is good or bad, or what society says. It’s about what God says.

Our conscience is the part of us which reacts to moral behavior, seeing right and wrong in the actions of both ourselves and others, condemning what we think is sinful and approving what we think is good. It makes us feel shame and guilt when we think we’re sinning, and wrath, indignation, disdain and contempt as we judge others. Our conscience isn’t defining sin itself, any more than a thermometer makes things hot or cold; the conscience is just a detector, and it can be broken in more ways than one.

When we don’t listen to God and study His standard for ourselves, the enemy wars against us, easily convincing us that some things are sinful which aren’t, and that other things aren’t sinful which are. This results in a weakening of our conscience (Ro 14:2), and as we act against a weak conscience we further corrupt and defile it. (1Co 8:7) As we continue to let the enemy deceive us, our conscience can eventually become seared (1Ti 4:2), no longer properly responding to moral behavior at all.

To be healthy in God, we must continually exercise ourselves  (Ac 24:16) to keep our conscience clean (He 10:22), constantly washing our mind and heart in the Word of God (Ep 5:26), through which the blood of Christ cleanses our consciences from thought patterns which lead to sin and death. (He 9:14) We hide His laws in our heart (Ps 119:11) and meditate on them all the time (Ps 1:2), so that we can have a conscience that is good, working properly to identify sin and holiness. (1Pe 3:16) This is, in fact, the goal of Torah. (1Ti 1:5)

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Ye are the Temple

A temple is a divine dwelling place, the habitation of deity. It’s a special place because God’s awesome. Who wouldn’t want to stop by God’s house, and pay Him a visit every now and then? It sounds nice at first, but there’s a problem lurking here.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Thinking God has a house, a place we can go to be closer to Him, is also thinking that in every other place we’re farther away from Him. If we know where He is, we can get away from Him and keep Him at a distance. That’s a problem.

Fact is, God’s everywhere, all the time. (Ps 139:7) There isn’t any place He isn’t, where we can be any closer to Him or farther away from Him. He’s in our face, and we’re in His, every moment of every day. There’s no place to hide.

The real temple of the living God is the human heart, mind and soul. God dwells within each believer (1Co 6:19), and in a particularly powerful way, though believers united together in Him as a living sacrifice(1Co 3:16) God doesn’t need, or even want, a house separate from us (Ac 17:24); there’l be no temple in eternity. (Re 21:22)

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A Living Sacrifice

God begs us by His mercies to present our bodies (plural) a living sacrifice (singular), holy, acceptable unto Him. (Rom 12:1) This isn’t a call to personal sanctification; it’s a call to a corporate sanctification, one which presumes intense, progressive personal sanctification in every member. It’s our only rational response to God.

Crab Nebula, Hubble

To present our bodies as part of a living sacrifice, we must agree with a group of believers to offer ourselves up together to God to do with us as He pleases, totally given over to His will. This presumes that every member is already seeking to fully align themselves with God as individuals.

To discern His will for our particular assembly, we must submit to being transformed by God together (Ro 12:2), resisting the world’s expectation of religion, renewed in a common mind and purpose. (1Co 1:10)

This can only happen if we’re established in community on the foundation: Jesus Christ. We must be meeting together for Jesus, in Jesus, by Jesus and because of Jesus, hearing Jesus and being taught by Jesus in and through each other (Ep 4:21), in order to help each other know Jesus and walk with Jesus. (Php 3:10) In doing so we become a dwelling, a residence of the living God, as He incarnates Himself anew, to tabernacle on Earth again in and through us. (2Co 6:16) Nothing else will do.

Because this life of God is so amazing, beautiful and powerful (1Co 14:25), religion inevitably tries to imitate it, but only God can build His church (Mt 16:18), the tangible expression of His Being (Eph 5:30), unleashing His power to do His will, uniquely for His glory.

If you ever find Him doing this again, this side of Heaven, what would you not give, my dear soul, to taste Him there?

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Of Baptisms

Baptism is a basic concept of the Christian faith (He 6:1-2); evidently rooted in God’s instruction for the unclean to bathe in becoming ritually clean. (Nu 19:19)

In an outward physical way, ritual submersion in water naturally symbolizes the inward cleansing and healing of the mind, heart and spirit from the defilement of sin (Ep 5:27), as well as any major paradigm shift that occurs when rejecting an old life pattern and embracing a new one (1Co 10:1-2), or finding a break through in our pursuit of holiness. (He 10:22) As we’re freed from the pollutions of the world (2Pe_2:20) and the bondage of sin  (Mk 1:4), baptism is an organic expression of spiritual reality, as we gratefully acknowledge God’s work in our souls. (1Pe 3:21)

Confusion enters as we try to imagine Christ launching a new religion, giving us “an ordinance of the Christian church,” a rite to distinguish Christianity from all that came before.

In decoupling the Faith from Torah (Jud 1:3), taking it out of context, we pervert it. Claiming sacramental power in what God intended to symbolize metaphysical transformation (Tit 3:5), twists ritual washing into something His early Apostles, orthodox Jews, would never recognize.

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Taken Captive

The very idea of being held prisoner is intimidating, but there’s a certain kind of prison we enter voluntarily and lock from the inside, then throw away the key.

We all find ourselves in this prison at some point, not realizing what we’re doing until it’s too late. (Ep 2:2) It’s a prison of the mind, a bondage of the will. (Jn 8:34)

It starts with deception: we hear a lie that makes us feel good and we’re in, not really caring if it’s true, or even how to tell for sure. The lies spawn unhealthy desires; lust leads to disobedience, and sin eventually enslaves and destroys. (Ja 1:14-15) This is how the enemy takes us captive (2Ti 2:25-26), and he’s very good at it.

We’re each in a fight, a war for our own soul (Ep 6:12), and there’s only one way to overcome: find the truth and live in it. (Jn 8:32) It’s called repentance.

We can be sorry for our sin all day long, sorry we’re suffering, that we’re exposed, but this won’t release us from prison. Repentance is changing our mind, thinking differently, rejecting the lie and believing the truth.

It’s not about what we’ve been taught; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about what makes us feel good; it’s about what’s true. It’s not about convenience or inconvenience, or what works or doesn’t, or what others think. Feel good won’t set us free; orthodoxy won’t set us free … if it isn’t true.

How do we know what’s true? God’s Word is truth. (Jn 17:17) If we aren’t prayerfully and earnestly searching the Word for ourselves, we don’t care about truth. (Ac 17:11)

Changing our mind isn’t as easy as it might seem; it’s not something we can do just any time we like. If we aren’t willing to obey the truth we’re deceiving ourselves, and we’ll miss the truth even as we stumble across it. (Ja 1:22) It’s called blindness, and it’s insidiously powerful. (2Co 4:4)

Repentance is the gift of God: He must open our eyes and help us see. (Ac 26:18) We can certainly ask Him to help us, and we should, earnestly (Ps 119:145-147), unwilling to take “No” for an answer (He 11:6), obeying all the truth we can, all along the way.

As God intervenes and helps us start believing Him, taking Him at His Word, it’s then that the enemy’s grip on our minds and spirits begins to loose, and we start turning from our sin, from violating God’s law. (1Jn 3:4) Here begins our journey out of prison, becoming free indeed. (Jn 8:36)

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So Send I You

Why does God send others to do His work? (Jn_20:21) Infinite in knowledge, wisdom and power (Ps 147:5), He’s so much better at it than anyone else could possibly be.

The very fact that an infinite, omnipotent Being inhabiting eternity has left something undone in time is itself a bit of a mystery; we’re in the midst of unfolding, spectacular drama, and things are a bit messy at the moment … but He’s already at the end of time, enjoying the completion of all things. (Heb 4:3)

He’s evidently more interested in how things get done than in actually getting them done, pleased to do things slowly, through weakness (2Co 12:9), incognito, unobserved and undetected (Jn 1:10), transforming His own as He works in and through us. (Php 2:13) It’s His way of revealing Himself, in tangible ways we can apprehend. (Ro 9:22-23)

God sends us into life to live every moment for Him, bidding us to live in His name(Col 3:17) Whether we’re setting captives free, moving mountains, or wrapping His loving arms around the helpless, being a vehicle of the Almighty for absolutely anything He wants to do is an indescribable privilege. It’s all the same to Him.

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