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 (De 18:18-19), 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 our heart; let’s be 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 the mind for perfect performance, long before it’s reality. Then, moving toward belief, beholding Him, studying Him, approving only things that are excellent, practicing Christ-likeness as we grow up in Him unto certainty and reality, we’ll find ourselves doing more and more 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 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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Make Thee Fringes

One of the simplest commands in Scripture, and one of the easiest to obey, is to make fringes or tassels in the borders of our outer garments. (De 22:12) It’s God’s way of helping us remember to keep His laws (Nu 15:39-40), sort of like an accountability partner. The only requirement is that they be visible, fringe-like attachments, and that each one contain a strand of blue. (Nu 15:38)

Wearing an external symbol of our obligation to obey all of God’s commands reminds us and those around us that we are set apart for God, to walk in His ways. Those who aren’t pursuing God see this as unusual and unique, perhaps religious, expecting something different of us, something better, everywhere we go. It is, in fact, like making the whole world our accountability partner, one soul at a time, a constant check on and reinforcement against any temptation or ungodly impulse.

One might reason that this can’t be part of the “moral law” since it’s so simple and mechanical, but reminding ourselves to be good, and enabling others to expect this of us, certainly is moral; it’s very helpful and beneficial; there’s nothing amoral or arbitrary about it.

Others might reason that this must be a distinctively Jewish law, and that non-Jews are off the hook. But why would any believer reason like this while God’s in the process of writing all His Laws into their very heart and mind? (He 8:10) Jesus Himself tells us not to think this way, and to keep all God’s commands, even the least of them. (Mt 5:17-19) God’s whole point in giving us His Law is to bless Mankind with a revelation of Himself: He gave it to the Jews so they could teach it to the rest of us, living it out as an example of His righteous ways. (De 4:6-7)

We can’t rightly divvy up God’s Law and say some of it’s for Jews and some of it isn’t, or that some of it’s important and the rest isn’t; its one law for us all. To despise and neglect this simple command, a gateway command to the vast treasures of Torah, is essentially to despise all of God’s ways and laws. (Ja 2:10-11) Yet Paul delighted in all of God’s Law (Ro 7:22), and so should we; our souls should be breaking for the longing we have for His judgments at all times (Ps 119:20), loving His laws intensely (Ps 119:97), hiding them in our hearts (Ps 119:11) and meditating on them all the time. (Ps 119:15)

God’s commandments are given to us for our benefit; He intends a blessing for us in every single one of them. (Ps 1:2-3) Who among us couldn’t use a little more blessing? Starting with the easy, mechanical, external ones can help us train our hearts in keeping the more motive-oriented internal ones.

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His Name In Vain

My name is how others identify me, how I introduce and represent myself; it symbolizes my character and nature. If someone disrespects my name, or leverages my reputation without my consent to further themselves, I take it personally.

Hubble: Pillars of Creation

Using someone’s name in vain is to employ it in a light, casual or inappropriate manner, for any other purpose than to refer to them and honor them. Doing so treats their name as if it’s void of proper meaning and significance, empty.

So, God is grieved as we take His name in vain (Ex 20:7), lightly, in an empty manner, when we aren’t referring to Him. To use His name as an interjection or expletive, as an expression of intensity or emphasis (e.g. J!, JC!, OMG! or GD!), is ultimately to disregard and despise Him. This is done so casually today, even by those who profess to believe in Him, we might have become desensitized, callous to it. God never gets used to it.

I never hear any false deity’s name ever taken in vain, only the true. What would be the point of insulting a non-entity? There’s only substance in trampling deity underfoot if He’s real, if He’s angered by the disrespect.

Should it grieve us, as it does Him? I think so.

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Nailing It

The Cross of Christ is the centerpiece of human history, the masterpiece of God’s design. On it, a mysterious transaction is taking place between the human and divine, between the temporal and eternal. Supernatural life is hidden here, God’s stairway to heaven.

Spike joining 1st US coast-to-coast Railroad

As Jesus Christ allows Himself to be crucified, embracing unspeakable suffering on our behalf (Is 53:4-5), He becomes sin for us so that in Him we might be made perfectly righteous. (2Co 5:21)

Yet as Christ is suffering for us, nailed to His cross, the Father is also nailing something else to His cross: He calls it the handwriting of ordinances(Col 2:14) These ordinances are against us, contrary to us; He blots them out and takes them away. What are they?

First and foremost, it can’t be Torah, the ordinances YHWH Himself has given us. These ordinances aren’t against us; they’re good (Ro 7:12) and for our good. (Ps 119:71) Their purpose is to point us to God and facilitate our becoming like Him. (1Ti 1:5)

It could be sin, for Christ became sin for us and was nailed to the cross, but the handwriting of ordinances isn’t God’s definition of sin. (1Jn 3:4)

It could be accusation, which loses all its force in Christ (Ro 8:34), but I think this is both awkward and redundant with context (Col 2:13); it simply doesn’t do this justice.

The immediate context is an admonition: let no man judge you; Christ’s work implies that we ought not to be intimidated by extra-biblical rules and regulations defining how to abide in God. (Col 2:16) Man is always adding to, twisting and corrupting God’s Word, trying to burden, manipulate and control us through our very longing to know and walk with God. It’s insidiously powerful, a constant obstacle in our spiritual journey.

My thought is that YHWH nails all this false, Man-made religion to His cross, everything that’s designed to keep us from a living, vibrant life with Him. He’s taken down every barrier to fellowship with Himself: He’s nailed our sin, and also every lie about Himself, to His cross. He enforces no space between us and Him, no distance; He’s made a way to be closer to us than our own breath, within and throughout us, working in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. (Php 2:13)

God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world! (Ga 6:14)

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Eat the Tithe

Party Time! Maybe not the words that first come to mind when we think of God’s Law, but after telling us to care for ourselves as His children, YHWH commands us to take seasonal vacations, our house to His, to party with Him!

The funding for these feasts is the Tithe, a tenth of our harvest in fields and flocks, which only God Himself can provide. We’re to eat this gratefully in His presence, congregating where He’s placed His name (De 14:23), feasting on our heart’s desire, rejoicing before Him. (De 14:26)

While Christian leaders commonly teach that God wants us to support their ministries with our tithes, God Himself says no such thing. Our tithes are to fund these pilgrimages and parties, care for the poor (De 14:28-29) and provide for Levites as they serve the tabernacle (Nu 18:26) and arbitrate civil disputes. (De 21:5)

God never intended that we hire people to teach us about Himself (1Jn 2:27); that’s not what our tithe is for. Tithes are His way of bringing us all together to rejoice in Him, providing a basic safety net in society and funding simple judiciaries. In finding and knowing Him, He gave us His Word and expects us to study it. (Jn 5:39)

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My Soul Breaks

When strength of desire breaks our soul, when longing exceeds our power to contain, when intensity of yearning crests like waves within us, and overcomes and overflows our being, taking our breath away, perhaps then we’re after something worth having. Have we ever known such desire?

The Psalmist admits such intense and continual longing for the judgments of God. (Ps 119:20) Like a merchant seeking goodly pearls, he finds hidden gems in that which fools despise and overlook. (Pr 1:7)

What is it in the judgments of God that makes them so breathtakingly desirable? Have we discovered the priceless treasure they contain? (Ps 119:18)

Whenever YHWH expresses Himself He reveals more of His nature, exposing a facet of His heart. His Law expresses His character and expectations, His instructions contain His wisdom and define what holiness looks like, and His judgments reveal His reaction as His laws are violated; they’re all His testimonies, witnesses of His character. So, each and every one exudes His holy infinitude (Ro 11:33), a precious window into Jehovah’s absolute perfection. (Is 26:8-9) That’s why our inner man instinctively delights in the Law of God. (Ro 7:22)

It is here, meditating in the nature of God, feeding on His majesty, where we find joy unspeakable and full of glory. (1Pe 1:8) This is our inheritance (Ps 119:111), and it’s only found in God.

As the deer pants after the water brooks, so the instructed soul pursues the living God with every breath (Ps 42:1), until, in His immediate and boundless presence, we find ourselves crying out with those around Him, “Holy, holy holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come!” (Re 4:8)

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