This Is Love

God’s first and great commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind. (Mk 12:30) It’s the mark of every child of God: we love Him. (1Pe 2:7) As in most everything, definitions are critical; they’re particularly helpful here.

Love has many shades of meaning: loving ice cream, a county, a song, a painting, a grandfather, a spouse, a teenage crush … it’s all vastly different. What do we mean by loving God?

Perhaps we have an affection for Him, a sense of loyalty and appreciation, a fondness for Him and a passion to serve Him. This is essential in loving God, but is it sufficient? Can we feel this way about God and still not love Him?

God defines loving Him as obeying His commands (1Jn 5:3); if we aren’t obeying Him the best we know how we don’t yet know Him (1Jn 2:4), much less love Him (Jn 14:21), or anyone else. (2Jn 1:5-6) Apart from obedience to God’s Law, all sentiment and service is nothing. (Mt 7:22-23)

God’s commands are His testimonies, how He reveals Himself and expresses His nature. (Ps 119:18) The new man in every child of God delights in His Law (Ro 7:22), because God’s writing them on our hearts and into our minds. (He 10:16) We meditate on them (Ps 119:97) and rejoice in them (Ps 119:14), being quickened, energized (Ps 119:93) and enlightened through them (Ps 119:104); they’re profoundly priceless to us, our litmus test for everything. (Is 8:20)

It’s so easy to deceive ourselves here it’s frightening. (Je 17:9) Our old man hates God’s Law and can’t submit to it (Ro 8:7), so we tend to dismiss it as optional and make up our own way as we go, reinventing Jesus as we wish Him to be, an idol of our own device, and place our affection there.

Let’s prove ourselves the way God says (2Co 13:5), in the light of His commands (Ps 119:105), putting on Christ and asking Him to incline our hearts to His Way (Ps 119:36), so that when He appears we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him. (1Jn 2:28)

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Cry After Knowledge

In considering world religion, noting the vast variety of beliefs and observing the profound differences between them, we can be confident that either [1] there is no God, so it’s all made up, or [2] very few people have it right, knowing God as He ought to be known.

God says it’s the latter, that no one seeks Him out on their own initiative (Ro 3:11), which makes knowing God exceedingly precious (Je 9:24) and rare. (Ec 7:28)

Yet God assures us that those who seek Him diligently will find Him. (He 11:6) If we cry after knowledge, seeking it like treasure, we’ll understand what it means to fear Him, and come to know Him. (Pr 2:3-5)

In other words, knowing the God of the universe must be supremely important to us, the most important thing in our lives (Php 3:8), or we may miss Him entirely, living apart from Him, alienated from Him in our ignorance. (Ep 4:17-18) God isn’t one to be trifled with; this is an all-or-nothing space. If He isn’t everything to us, we don’t yet know Him.

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Your Hands

Jehovah made each of us uniquely in His image, a one-of-a-kind expression of His infinitude. He decreed our existence from eternity past (Ep 1:4), and designed every one of us with beautiful precision. (Ps 139:14)

And He didn’t do this from a distance, just by speaking and decreeing: He made each of us individually, personally, with His own hands(Ps 119:73)

Like an artist skillfully crafting a masterpiece, God engages His entire divine being as He focuses on each person, designing our body, mind, soul and spirit; we each bear a unique fingerprint pattern of God.

Thanking God for His workmanship in each human life is natural then (1Ti 2:1), asking Him to bless (Lk 6:28) and be merciful, and to fulfill the purpose for which He created each and every living soul. (Pr 16:4)

As we recognize the likeness of God in each other, it is also intuitively good to honor all (1Pe 2:17), valuing each person intrinsically, loving them even as ourselves. (Le 19:18)

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Denying His Name

Jehovah commends the church in Philadelphia for not denying His name. (Re 3:8) It’s the only reference to this concept I see in Scripture.

Snake River, Grand Tetons, Utah

God’s name, what we call Him, is Jehovah. Not denying this is good, but there’s evidently more to God’s name than an appellation.

Our name represents our character and symbolizes how we’re known; it’s a culmination of our choices, a symbol of our nature, the way we express who and what we are, individually and uniquely. (Pr 22:1) To deny one’s name is to call them a fraud, to denounce the framing of their character, to despise and resent them as a pretender, an impostor.

When we doubt God we deny His name, calling Him a liar (1Jn 5:10); He’s altogether true. (Jn 3:33) When we distrust God we deny His name; He’s perfectly faithful. When we’re disappointed in God we deny His name; He’s perfectly wise. When we resent God we deny His name; He’s resolutely just. When we’re bored with God we deny His name; He’s infinitely interesting and delightful, the perfection of beauty (Ps 50:2)majesty and excellence. When we’re covetous we deny His name, committing idolatry; He’s the ultimate fulfillment of our desire.

Believing on the name of God, the opposite of denying His name, is living as if Jehovah is who He claims to be; resting in the fact that He both has done and always will do according to His Word. How can we be content to live otherwise? Yet who can do this in their own strength?

Let’s be established with grace, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, to overcome the world through us. (Jn 16:33)

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To Know

What does it mean to know something? (1Jn 5:13) How do I know truth? (2Ti 3:7) I think I know a few things, but how complete is my understanding? (1Co 8:2) How do I grow in knowledge? (2Pe 1:5) How do I measure this? (2Co 11:6) Why is this important? (Pr 2:3-5)

The theory of knowledge is called Epistemology; it’s how we think about thinking, what we know about knowing, the study of study, what it means to have meaning.

Knowing some proposition p requires three things: [1] p must be true, [2] we must believe p, and [3] we must have justification for this belief. (1Pe 3:15) To have knowledge then is to have a conviction of the nature of reality based upon reason: our ability to correctly interpret data (facts, evidence) relating to p which we perceive through our senses.

Conviction is necessary in knowledge but insufficient; without good reason, we merely have an opinion; to claim knowledge in this case is merely arrogance, conceit (Pr 26:16) and presumption (Ps 19:13), even if we happen to be correct. All actual knowledge requires insight, that we correctly perceive connections and relationships between facts such that we understand reality.

This knowing can’t merely be chemical reactions in our brains or hormones making us feel certain ways: molecules can’t think, reason or understand. Real apprehension of the nature of reality is metaphysical, above and beyond Nature itself. (Php 3:12) It’s only possible because God enables us to do it (Mt 13:11), equipping the soul to enjoy Him within Nature; it’s part of being created in His image (Ge 1:27); knowing anything is part of knowing Him (2Ti 1:12) – it’s what we’re made for. (Php 3:8)

Since all knowledge reflects reality, rooted in the immutability (Mal 3:6) of JEHOVAH Himself (Ro 11:36), and since reality can’t be inconsistent with itself, all knowledge must be consistent with all other knowledge. Thus, by carefully leveraging the knowledge we already have, we can acquire more.

We can only acquire knowledge by collecting and correctly interpreting a reasonable amount of data relating to a given proposition, and finding no (zero) contradiction or inconsistency within this data. We rightly claim knowledge only under these conditions, and we ought to do so (if words are to have meaning), even though we’re finite, unable to collect all possible data relevant to any given proposition. (1Co 13:12) The key here being reasonable: deception ought to arise only as a consistently inaccurate, holistic depiction of reality is presented to our senses.

Repenting, admitting to being wrong, in error, of having an incorrect understanding of reality, is enabled and facilitated by acquiring additional facts which contradict or are inconsistent with our current perception of reality. This requires recognizing that we haven’t been as thorough as we ought in [1] acquiring a reasonable amount of data, and/or [2] correctly interpreting this evidence.

Incorporating new facts with what we already know, and developing a world view that squares with all evidence available to us, is how we grow in wisdom and understanding. The alternative, ignoring facts which contradict our view, or employing false reasoning as we interpret facts which inconvenience us, is dishonest (Ro 1:18); God condemns both as a love of darkness. (Jn 3:19)

We’re each responsible to both hate vain thinking (Ps 119:113) and also to have an accurate perception of reality (Ja 1:16), to love truth (2Th 2:10) and pursue knowledge so we can be more aligned with God. (Pr 1:28-29) This implies God has provided sufficient evidence for us to know Him (Ro 1:20), and also the ability to reason correctly as we interpret it. (Is 1:18)

Knowledge begins with the fear of God. (Pr 1:7) As we seek to know Him and about Him in humility and love, the Father Himself gives us knowledge and understanding (Pr 2:6) and Christ reveals truth to us. (Jn 18:37)

It’s a journey, for sure, the Way (Jn 14:6), a lifestyle …  one with purpose and destiny … the only one worth taking.

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Another Jesus

When Rome sacked Jerusalem in AD 70 and began imposing Fiscus Judaicus (Jewish Tax) across the empire, Gentile Christians were keeping Sabbath, the biblical feasts, and eating clean along with their Jewish brothers, so they were identified as Jewish by Rome and required to pay. Needless to say, many began looking for ways to distance themselves from anything that looked Jewish.

False teaching quickly emerged redefining the faith, decoupling it from its foundation in Torah, presenting another Jesus that had supposedly abolished the Law and started an entirely new religion. The constant monetary pressure ensured its eventual success in supplanting the original expression of our faith.

Rome ultimately adopted this new religion and its anti-Torah leadership, birthing Roman Catholicism, and eventually its protestant counterparts, which all continue to preach this other Jesus (2Co 11:4), one the early Church knew nothing about.

Christ Himself predicted this would happen (Mt 24:24); it makes perfect sense that the enemy would counterfeit God’s Messiah, making his impressions as life-like and attractive as possible. How can we tell the false from the true?

I think this is straightforward; simply go back to where the enemy started: restore the foundation — Torah. Identify any representation of Christ abolishing or minimizing the value and centrality of Torah as a false one, a counterfeit. God’s Son didn’t do this, and denounced anyone who did. (Mt 5:17-19)

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In My Name

Do we hope to find spiritual power in a formula, treating God like a vending machine? Do we act as if the right words, or the correct ritual, or being in a sacred place, will get us what we want?

Is that why most Christian prayers end with, in Jesus’ name? Are we using His name like a charm or a mojo? like a magic trick to ensure God hears us? (Jn 14:14) Isn’t this a bit like witchcraft?

The seven sons of Sceva, thinking they could command demons in Jesus’ name, found out the hard way: there’s no power here. (Ac 19:13-16) If we ask for the wrong thing, or for the wrong reason, God isn’t going to hear us no matter what tag line we use. (Ja 4:3)

If God promises to do whatever I ask in His name, then this must mean I’m asking according to His will (1Jn 5:14), at His command (1Ki 18:36), on His behalf, as if He Himself were saying it, and for Him, to please and honor Him. Tacking His name onto any other kind of prayer is abuse; it’s taking His name in vain.

God knows what I need before I ask Him (Mt 6:8); my prayers don’t inform Him, and He can’t be manipulated. The form, the place, the technique of prayer … it’s nothing. God’s after my heart; I’m after His.

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Put on Christ

God tells us to put on Christ. (Ro 13:14) The Greek is enduo, to invest, clothe or cover with, and is translated array (Ac 12:21), endue (Lk 24:49), clothe (2Co 5:3), have on (Ep 6:14), and here put on.

To put on an air is to act like someone else, or more than we are. Like children role playing, it’s part of becoming, how we grasp at a calling, or pursue a destiny.

Putting on Christ is acting out the fact that He dwells in me and is living through me, working within me, through my own emotions, will and spirit, to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13) It’s emulating, imitating (1Pe 2:21), acting as if Christ is living out His life in and through me, a type of pretending, but about what actually is true.

We might begin like this, pretending as if we’re in perfect union with Christ, even though we might not yet be in practice, but wanting this, envisioning this, like an athlete training his mind for perfect performance, long before it’s reality. Then, moving toward belief, beholding Him, studying Him, practicing Christ-likeness as we grow up in Him unto certainty and reality, doing all in His name (Col 3:17), through Him, with Him and for Him. (Ro 11:36)

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Give Him Life

As we observe those around us living in sin, apart from God, alienated from His life (Ep 4:18), what do we do? Do we judge them? Dishonor them?

God encourages us to pray for them, intercede for them, and give thanks for them (1Ti 2:1), asking Him to spare their lives and bear patiently with them. (1Jn 5:16) He’s engaging us in the process of showing them His love (2Co 5:20), and giving them more time to repent. (2Pe 3:9)

God intends to do this through our engaging with Him; as we participate, we co-labor with God in working out His eternal plan. (1Co 3:9) What a privilege for God to invite us onto the battlefield with Him, engaging His enemies on His behalf! Then into His headquarters, to be working out His strategy with Him!

God has a purpose in every human life (Re 4:11), and we should be constantly thanking Him for this (Re 7:12), as He works all things after the counsel of His own will. (Ep 1:11)

God is patient, waiting, inviting all to repent and come to Him. (1Ti 2:4) To have His heart is to be patient along with Him, thankful for all things (Ep 5:20), asking Him to continue His work as He pleases. (Mt 6:10)

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Into His Rest

To have eternal life we must believe on Jesus Christ. (Jn 3:36) This means knowing that He’s God’s Son (1Jn 3:23), believing He died and rose again (1Th 4:14), and dedicating our lives to obeying and pleasing Him. (Tit 1:16) This is all necessary, but it’s insufficient; believing on Jesus Christ is more than this, much more. We can do all this and still miss Him … finally hearing Him say, I never knew you … and miss everything.

Believing on Christ means entering into God’s rest (He 4:3), and there’s no thoughtful, honest rest unless we’re absolutely sure of eternal salvation, perfectly safe from God’s wrath, as safe as Christ Himself; anything less can’t be rest, so it’s unbelief. (He 4:11) We ought not be satisfied until we find this kind of absolute, eternal rest, striving until we enter the way. (Lk 13:24)

Believing on Christ means repenting (Ac 11:18), turning from self-interest, self-trust and self-dependence (He 4:10), and turning to God. (Ac 14:15)

Believing on Christ means knowing I can’t ever be good enough for God on my own, apart from His grace, but also certain that God’s already imputed perfect righteousness to me (Ro 4:22) as a free gift (Ro 6:23), that He fully accepts me (Ep 1:6) because Christ has become my sin and I have been made His perfect righteousness. (2Co 5:21)

Believing on Christ is sitting at the foot of the cross and looking up at Him dying there, and realizing that He’s dying for me (Ga 2:20), bearing all my sin, past, present and future, and all my iniquity (Is 53:5), paying my sin debt to God, suffering in my place, on my behalf, for me. It’s believing that He’s bought me back from the slave master I’ve sold myself to … and that God Almighty is perfectly satisfied with what Jesus Christ is doing for me. (Is 53:11)

Believing on Christ is knowing with absolute certainty that Jesus Christ has already done absolutely everything that will ever need to be done to secure my eternal acceptance with God, that He has already completely secured this acceptance, that I have been adopted as God’s son (Ga 4:5-6), that perfect righteousness is mine for His sake, and that it always will be. It means knowing I’m as safe from the wrath of God as Jesus Christ Himself. It means trusting fully in the finished work of Jesus Christ as my ultimate and only grounds for acceptance with God.

This is entering into His rest.

Nothing short of this is believing on Christ. (He 4:11) We must know with supernatural knowing, call it faith, that Christ’s work is both necessary and sufficient for our salvation. This knowledge, this peace, this rest, is the work of God (Jn 6:29), a supernatural work in our hearts, minds and souls (Ja 1:18) which produces assurance of salvation (1Th 1:5), delight in God’s law (Ro 7:22), and a life pattern of good works. (Ep 2:10) It produces eternal rest, righteousness and peace. (Is 32:17)

We will never get here by working for it, by trying to be good, or by performing any kind of ritual. Believing on Jesus Christ requires a miracle (Mt 19:25-26), and God is offering this miracle to anyone who’s unwilling to live without it. (He 11:6)

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