Bury Him

Cremation is certainly a convenient alternative to burial today; it’s generally cheaper and provides more flexibility in scheduling the funeral. Yet it may be inappropriate, especially for followers of Christ.

While there’s no direct command forbidding cremation, it is interesting to note that even the dead bodies of the cursed are to be respected by burial (De 21:23), that burning is not given in Torah as a way to either punish or dispose of a human body, and that there’s no indication anywhere in scripture that cremation might be an acceptable alternative to burial.

In fact, Abraham went to great effort and expense to obtain property just so he could have a place to bury Sarah properly (Ge 23:4); Isaac and Rebecca were interred there with similar concern; Jacob went out of his way to bury Leah there, and his last act was to insist that his children go to great expense and trouble to bury his own body there. (Ge 49:29-31) Joseph even insisted that his body be preserved and his bones brought out of Egypt along with Israel when they were delivered from slavery several centuries later. (Ge 50:25) If cremation were arbitrarily equivalent to burial, it’s difficult to explain the preoccupation of the godly with where and how their bodies should be kept in death.

Cave of the Patriarchs, Hebron, Israel

The burial of Moses is perhaps the most significant and unusual example in this regard; as far as we know, it’s the only body God Himself buried, and (not coincidently) also the only body the devil sought to exploit. (Jud 9) Since God Himself chose to bury Moses’ body in a secret location (De 34:5-6), evidently even stationing a high-ranking angel at the tomb to resist Satan’s attempt to take it, when cremation would have solved the problem more conveniently, we have compelling evidence that burial is the only godly choice, and that cremation is problematic.

It’s clear that cremation doesn’t prevent God from resurrecting anyone (He 11:19), so this cannot be the concern. It’s also clear in scripture that the bodies of animals were routinely burned (He 13:11); this method of disposal was commonly used for sanitation but never recommended for humans.

Perhaps it’s related to the fact that we’re all made in the image of God (Ge 1:27), and that this bodily image is to be respected. It’s clear from scripture that our physical body is of interest to God; He tells us to treat it with dignity (De 14:1) and respect (Le 19:28), chooses to dwell within it (1Co 6:19) and intends to redeem it. (Ro 8:23)

In fact, God has identified so intimately with our physicality that He treats our earthly bodies as members of Christ Himself (1Co 6:15), and the physical body of Christ might just be the holiest object in existence anywhere, holier than the holiest of all within the temple itself. So, if our bodies are part of Him, as they evidently are (Ep 5:30), it’s very important how we treat them while we live, as well as when we die.

If our thought is that our bodes don’t really matter, we’re missing a significant part of God’s precious design in us (Php 3:21), part of what He values in and about us. Yet, if in the end we’re blown to bits in an accident, burned at the stake or beheaded as martyrs, dismembered and cast into smoldering trash heaps (He 11:37), God certainly won’t be set back by this. (Ps 116:15) As in so many other things, this is about our hearts and motives (1Co 4:5), not God’s ability to redeem. (Mk 10:27)

We’re stewards of our bodies; how we handle them in both life and death is a matter of stewardship, respect and dignity, treating something precious made in the image of God, the very temple of God, with the honor it deserves. (1Pe 2:17)

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The Avenger

God tells us very plainly not to avenge ourselves (Ro 12:19), yet He also makes provision in His Law for His people to avenge the death of a loved one, and He evidently wants us to do this. (De 19:12) Thus, while it’s true that vengeance belongs to God alone and not to us, there are evidently times when He chooses us to be the instrument of His vengeance and to deliver it on His behalf.

Predator C Avenger

As we exact revenge on our own, we seldom do so with the right heart; our wrath doesn’t work the righteousness of God (Ja 1:20); righteous anger is indeed a rare thing. Yet when God sets the boundaries on when and how we’re allowed to take revenge, He is keeping us within His standards and ordering our steps in His ways.

After all, as warped as our desire to get even generally is, it is based on a desire for justice, and justice is generally a good thing; it’s a deterrent to evil and places the ultimate cost of malevolence on the perpetrator rather than the victim. When a legal system aligns with God and allows us to take proper revenge, this is holiness.

What God forbids is taking matters into our own hands; He sets the stage for revenge in the context of impartial community which agrees on the legitimacy,  method, timing, and degree of our response. Apart from such a legal system, we must leave restitution entirely in God’s hands.

USS Avenger Minesweeper

Even so, though we’re not allowed to avenge ourselves per current legal standards, we may certainly desire justice (Re 6:10), even rejoice when it’s carried out, and this might indeed be righteous. (Re 19:1-2) When justice is sought so God Himself might be vindicated, for He is the one primarily and mostly wronged in every offense (Ps 51:4), our interest in justice may then be upright. (Ps 119:84)

Yet how do we integrate love for mercy into our love for justice? How are we to do justly as well as love mercy? (Mi 6:8) We do it by loving our neighbor, desiring what’s best for him, which is to be reconciled to God and to walk in His ways.

When repentance is already present (Ex 20:6), or if we have evidence that mercy will further reveal the goodness of God and encourage repentance (Ro 2:4), then mercy is very likely appropriate. (Mt 18:33) Otherwise, justice is likely best, for offender, victim, and all within society. (De 19:20)

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Lord of the Sabbath

When Christ says the sabbath was made for Man, and not Man for the sabbath (Mk 2:27), we might conclude the same about the rest of Torah, that it was made for us: we weren’t made for it. We might also conclude there might be times when it’s OK to break certain parts of God’s law, as when we’re in danger or have an emergency.

The immediate context is about harvesting on sabbath when we’re famished: the disciples were plucking grain (23) and the Pharisees accused them of breaking Sabbath. (24)

Christ counters with David eating bread he wasn’t allowed to eat; David and his men were famished and there weren’t any good options. (25-26) Christ seems to be saying there are times when God mercifully overlooks certain kinds of Torah violations: it isn’t that they aren’t violations; God just doesn’t call them out or hold us accountable for them in the same way.

What shall we say of god-fearing people who lied during the Holocaust to save innocent lives? Do we really see ourselves standing up on Judgment day condemning them? (Mt 12:41) We might be quite alone if we do; while God doesn’t officially approve of this kind of behavior, neither does He explicitly call it out as evil (Ex 1:19); He does seem to overlook it. (20-21)

The fact that plucking grain on sabbath actually doesn’t violate Torah at all, just Jewish tradition, may then not be the point; perhaps the point is that God is free to mercifully overlook certain kinds of sin without being unjust. (Ge 19:21) Perhaps it’s also about us being overly scrupulous in evaluating others’ behavior, especially in difficult, unusual or trying circumstances.

In reminding us He’s Lord of the Sabbath (Mk 2:28), Christ wasn’t telling us it’s OK to violate sabbath, or any part of Torah (Mt 5:19), but that He knows best when and how to show mercy when we break it.

It’s one thing to appreciate the mercy of God (Ps 136:1), yet it’s another matter altogether to presume He will be merciful when we deliberately choose to break Torah for our own welfare and comfort. (He 10:28-31) When obeying God will bring suffering and difficulty, how committed should we be to honoring and respecting God’s Law? Should we break sabbath to keep a job? Or lie to save a loved one? Would we rather starve than eat unclean food?

Every one of us will give account of himself to God, and we’re all at different stages of maturity; some have faith to suffer for minor Torah violations, while others may not yet be grounded, becoming bitter and resentful in premature sacrifice. We should not create burdens for ourselves and others (Ac 15:10) which we’re unable to gladly bear. (He 10:34) Sorting this out is no small matter.

Whether God will slam us to the mat if we happen to break His Law under duress may not be the right question. Would Jesus break God’s Law to convenience Himself? or to accommodate someone He loves? Even to spare His own life? He never did sin like this (1Pe 2:22) and we’re to follow His steps. (21)

A better question might be, What kind of Resurrection do we want? (He 12:35b) What kind of testimony? (Re 12:11)

It’s a matter of faith to trust God to work out the details when we’re in a bind, to give us the strength to walk in joy, honoring Him as we suffer. Staying alive isn’t the ultimate priority (Php 1:21-22); neither is comfort or pleasure – ours or anyone else’s. We’ve not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (He 12:4) The goal of God’s love is holiness: it makes no room for sin.

Shall we be so delighted in God’s ways that as the pressures of life mount up and threaten us (Ps 119:61), closing in about us until our very life hangs in the balance (109), we’ll not neglect or forsake His precepts? (87) Clinging to them as unto Him? (31) If we’ve yielded our body a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Ro 12:1), we’ve already decided.

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Faith in His Blood

The instant of conversion is when we believe on God in the context of what He has done for us in Christ (Jn 3:36), but what is it exactly that we actually believe in or about God and/or Christ that saves us?

Abram was justified the instant he believed in Jehovah (Ge 15:6), yet he evidently had a deep relationship with God prior to this time and was following Him the best he knew how. (1-4) Abram had obediently left his home and family to follow Jehovah (He 11:8), built an altar to worship Him (12:8) and called on His name. (13:3-4) Yet Abram’s belief in God did not justify Him.

The faith which justified Abraham came afterward (Ro 4:19-22), and was thus more than believing in God’s existence, that God should be worshipped, trusted and followed at any cost. Such beliefs are evidently typical of those seeking salvation and involve prerequisites to saving faith, but do not fully comprise it. (He 11:6)

We might think believing on Christ is equivalent to accepting the fact that Christ is God’s Son and that He rose from the dead, yet we find Christ Himself telling us that many who call Him Lord, evidently believing such obvious basics about Him, will ultimately be cast away, eternally condemned. (Mt 7:21-23) Many who claim to believe the historical facts about Christ aren’t obeying Him, showing that they don’t love Him (Jn 14:23), and He’s telling us in no uncertain terms that these folk don’t belong to Him. (26-27)

God says Jesus Christ is made a propitiation for us through faith in His blood. (Ro 3:24-25) In other words, the belief that justifies is an explicit, unwavering trust in and dependence on the efficacy of the blood of Christ for one’s personal justification before God: it is the blood that makes atonement for our soul. (Le 17:11) It’s knowing we’re justified by what Christ has done in shedding His blood and dying for our sin (1Co 15:3), becoming our sin (2Co 5:21), washing us from our sins in His own blood (Re 1:5), and imputing perfect righteousness to us. (Ro 4:23-25)

This is not the same as believing Jesus Christ died to provide an offer of salvation to the whole world, such that anyone may be forgiven of their sins. While this is certainly true (Jn 3:16), this belief in itself does not save anyone because it is not personal; it’s not about one’s own sin being atoned and paid for. This belief opens the door to salvation, but believing it does not get us through the door because something that applies to everyone, but does not in itself save anyone, cannot be proper grounds for our justification. Believing it gives us no personal assurance of eternal life.

We are justified as we become fully persuaded that what God has promised us in Christ He is able also to perform (Ro 4:21-22): that the blood of Christ and His atoning work has satisfied God in our personal case and has eternally justified us. (Is 53:11) This is a supernatural work in which God assures us of eternal life in Christ (1Th 1:5), based entirely on the work Christ has done in dying for us personally on the Cross, paying our sin debt to God, and creates in us a new nature (2Co 5:17) that loves Him (Jn 14:23) and obeys Him. (1Jn 3:9-10)

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Crucified Among You

A Being Who creates time and space must be beyond both space and time, inhabiting eternity, able to simultaneously experience all of time and space at once. (Ep 4:10) If there are 10 dimensions, or more, God has designed each one and exists within, through and outside them all (Ro 11:36), being both ever-present and omnipresent.

The Word gives us glimpses, windows into His unimaginable infinitude. As Christ walks the earth, He is yet in the heavenlies (Jn 3:13) holding everything together. (Col 1:17) He has already trodden down all who err from His statutes (Ps 119:118), as if the Day of Vengeance has already come and gone. (Is 63:3-5) In other words, anything and everything God will ever experience … He may have already experienced it, and He may always experience it.

The Passion of the Christ

This includes that mysterious moment nearly two millennia ago when Jesus Christ cried out: “My God, My God, Why hast Thou forsaken me?(Mt 27:46) If any moment in all eternity is the most dreadful, the most intense, the most awesome and wondrous, perhaps it is when the deepest eternal communion within the very Godhead is disintegrating, breaking,  being disrupted and marred by sin. This is the moment God is pleased to bruise His Son, to put Him to unspeakable grief, to make His Holy soul an offering for sin. (Is 53:10)

This darkest hour, when Christ became our sin, as He was treated as a sinner, as an abomination by His own Father, would certainly be an hour He might never want to experience again, ever, for all eternity. Yet, if this is Love, born of and revealing Love, the highest possible form and expression of Love, why would God forget it?

The fact that God is Love itself (1Jn 4:16) suggests that God accepts this infinite suffering as part of His eternal experience, ever mindful of the dreadful price He has paid to ransom us. It is immeasurable suffering on our behalf; we can never fully comprehend it.

So, when Paul claims Christ was crucified among the Galatians, decades after He rose from the dead (Ga 3:1), while he certainly wasn’t being literal in the sense that Christ had came back down to Earth to die again, it seems Paul may not have been entirely metaphorical either: there’s evidently a very real sense in which the atonement of Christ may a timeless, ongoing event from God’s perspective, though He has only offered up Himself once. (He 7:27)

And herein, within the infinitude of God, we may find the mystery of the Gospel laid out for us afresh and anew, how God can be angry with unbelievers, condemning them for their unbelief (Jn 3:18) and holding them guilty for breaking His laws (Ro 3:19) long after the Cross, yet assure all who believe on Christ that He bore our sins in His own body on the cross (1Pe 2:24), such that Christ cleansed us from all our sins long ago. (He 1:3)

To acknowledge this, as the scripture clearly states, is to admit that the atonement of Christ is both limited to those who have already believed (Is 53:11), yet also available to anyone (1Jn 2:2) who is willing to seek after God until they do believe. (Mt 7:7-8)

So it is, in the wisdom of God, how unbelievers remain condemned in their sin (Ja 5:19-20), how David believes on Christ long before Christ comes as if He has already died, such that sin is no longer imputed to him (Ro 4:6-8), and how we find all our sin laid on Christ only as we believe on Him, well after His work is completed. All this can only be true if the work of the Cross itself persists outside of time in some mysterious way.

Before the foundation of the world, Christ is slain (Re 13:8), and He lives this out over time in every holy sacrifice offered up in faith before the Cross itself, in all who see the Lamb of God taking away their sin. (Jn 1:29) It continues even now, with and without the visual aid of animal sacrifice, unto the end of the world, as each elected soul grasps the efficacious miracle of Christ’s substitutionary atonement, until the very last believer is welcomed, sin-debt paid in full, and the Bride of Christ is complete, new heavens and new Earth blaze with the ever-present glory of the greatest act of Love the universe has ever known.

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Be Ye Angry

What is righteous anger? If there is such a thing, wouldn’t it imply that a less passionate, passive response would be inappropriate? In other words, wouldn’t it mean there are times when it’s a sin to not be angry? If anger is the righteous response, wouldn’t any other response be unrighteous to some degree?

Jesus was angry with the Pharisees’ hardness of heart (Mk 3:5), and He certainly acted as if He was angry when He cleansed the temple. (Jn 2:13-17) Was Jesus setting an example (1Jn 2:6), or acting as God in ways we shouldn’t emulate?

The Gospel of John

Was Nehemiah right to be angry with the rulers and nobles of Israel for charging interest and bankrupting their brethren? (Ne 5:6-7) or to threaten merchants for showing up on Sabbath? (13:21)

Was Moses righteously angry with Israel for worshipping the golden calf? (Ex 32:19) or with Aaron’s sons for failing to carry out their priestly duties? (Le 10:16-17)

Anger is an emotion given us by God, so we should expect situations when we ought to act in it; He tells us, “Be ye angry, and sin not.” (Ep 4:26) The emotion instantly energizes us to intervene and deter and/or stop evil, so anger can serve to protect ourselves and others from malevolence. The problem is that we often over-react in anger and do more harm than good. We should ask ourselves, as God asks Jonah: “Doest thou well to be angry?(Jon 4:4) What does righteous anger look like?

Firstly, it must be done with love (1Co 16:4); rooted and grounded in love. (Ep 3:17) Is concern for others motivating my anger? (Php 3:18) Would a lack of anger expose indifference? Does anger move me to action which is ultimately benevolent and edifying? (Ro 14:19)

Secondly, is it self-controlled, using minimal necessary force? (Tit 3:2) Am I being sober, thoughtful, prayerful and deliberate in my actions? (1Pe 5:8) Am I asking God for wisdom, strength and discernment? (Ec 7:9) Is it needful? Is there any way to achieve my goal more peaceably? (1Co 4:21) Does my anger promptly subside once the threat is past? (Ep 4:26b)

Thirdly, is my heart free of pride, condescension, strife, vengeance (Ro 12:19), arrogance and malice of any kind? (Ep 4:31) Am I being humble, esteeming others better than myself? (Php 2:3)

The bar is certainly high; I expect most anger won’t pass the test. All too often, our anger is born of selfishness and pride, and doesn’t work the righteousness of God. (Ja 1:19-20)

However, if we have reasonable cause to be angry (Mt 5:22a), inaction may be worse than getting it partly wrong: we may be compelled to act instinctively, do the best we can, and let God sort it out. It’s certainly wise to continually exercise ourselves in holiness, preparing ourselves so we might stand uprightly in the evil day. (Ep 6:13)

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Her that Is Divorced

Christ teaches us in the Sermon on the Mount that marriage is sacred. If a man pursues a married woman with the intent to defile her current marriage then he’s as good as done it: wrongful intent is equivalent to wrongful action. (Mt 5:27:28) It’s about the heart, not just the action.

In the process, Jesus teaches us something else about marriage: when God’s Law permits divorce (31), the spirit of the marriage relationship implies the grounds for divorce are quite strict. Note carefully the qualifying exception: sexual impurity or infidelity (32a); it’s when a husband has come to hate, resent or mistrust his wife in a manner comparable to what’s expected if she’s become sexually impure, that we should consider the relationship properly irreconcilable. (Mt 1:18-19)

This can easily be seen in the Torah itself: it’s when a wife finds no favor in her husband’s eyes that he’s to divorce her. (De 24:1) If his heart has become so hard towards his wife that he finds no mercy or compassion for her, no love or concern or care for her, the spirit of the marriage is already broken so deeply that it’s better for the woman to be released of the marriage bond. Divorce isn’t God’s original intent for marriage; it’s how Love deals with hardness of heart. (Mt 19:8)

The implication is that reasonable men don’t become so hardened toward their wives, such that they cannot possibly live with them in peace. So, as long as people are minimally reasonable, there should be no divorce … as long as wives aren’t adulterous.

However, the Pharisees had evidently turned this provision for divorce under exceptional circumstances into a sort of wife-swapping, putting away their wives for trivial reasons and deeply violating the spirit of the marriage covenant. (Mt 19:3) In these cases, where the marital relationship isn’t so deeply broken, marrying a divorced woman permanently breaks the marriage covenant in much the same way adultery does (Mt 5:32a), because this step prevents her from being reconciled to her former husband according to God’s Law. (De 24:3-4)

We should keep this context in mind when Christ adds: “and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.(32b) This is significant since in Torah, when a woman is divorced by her husband, she is free to remarry. (De 24:2) Is Christ saying Torah permits a certain kind of adultery? Is He changing the moral standard?

Paul doesn’t seem to think so: he says if an unbelieving man departs his marriage, implying he abandons or divorces his wife, she’s no longer bound to her marriage covenant, implying she’s free to remarry (1Co 7:15), just as Torah says. Paul wouldn’t allow this if remarriage was inappropriate in a properly irreconcilable context, if it constituted adultery under a newer, higher standard set by Christ.

It seems much more reasonable to interpret Christ, not as correcting Torah or creating a higher standard, but focusing on the spirit of marriage. Re-marrying a divorced woman under less severe circumstances, unless all reasonable hope of the prior marriage being reconciled has expired, expresses an irreverence for the marriage covenant.

Divorce is acceptable only under the most extreme relational circumstances, and the divorcing husband should consider his action permanent. If a divorced woman believes her former husband may eventually change his mind, and wants to wait and leave the door open for reconciliation, that’s up to her; it isn’t necessarily wrong for her to move on, but if she does she’s effectively permanently sealing the termination of that marriage, as her former husband has decreed it.

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Write in a Book

When Christ reveals His ultimate purposes and plans to His church, to prepare her, guide her into all truth, edify and comfort her, He doesn’t simply send a prophet, an apostle or a teacher; Christ reveals the message to a trusted apostle and enables him to write it down in a book. (Re 1:11) This may seem uneventful to us at first glance, but I think it’s significant.

As we pursue truth, particularly in spiritual things, we have very few options:

    1. We may trust God to speak directly to us to confirm what’s true.
    2. We may trust other “selves” to tell us what God has revealed to them.
    3. We may trust what we read in a book which claims to be inspired of God, a text which bears up under the most intense scrutiny over time.

The first two options are obviously problematic because we’re all flawed and tend to misunderstand and misrepresent truth, even when God clearly reveals it to us. Even when we’re trying our best we often get it wrong, much less when we’re actually trying to deceive ourselves and others. This makes even written materials suspect, since they’re likely just more permanent variations of the same.

To be rightly grounded in truth, we need a book which not only claims to be inspired by God, but which proves itself out to be so over many generations, generally received as God-breathed by those loving and pursuing God, based on how its words encourage, strengthen and direct us.

And, ideally, this would be a book written down by holy people who both love God supremely and also suffer greatly in providing it to us, who receive its message under persecution and difficulty, who actually do suffer in their own pursuit of God, and who have no hope of profiting personally in any way from writing it.

And if this book actually is inspired by God, we expect to find those who aren’t pursuing God to be careless with it, taking it out of context and using it for their own benefit. And we find those hostile to God relentlessly and irrationally attacking it, opposing it, maligning and mocking it, blind to their own irrationality in the process.

The Bible, the Word of Truth, fits this expectation to a “T”, and it’s the only book which does. It’s the foundation of Western civilization, an ongoing miracle for us all to discover and cherish. Many who won’t claim to be Christians take it as truth on a moral and spiritual level, astonished at how such a book could have come to us by any natural means.

And those who attack and denounce it must inevitably take it out of context, twisting its words as they would no other text to which they’d give an honest read. It’s clear they hate its Author and cannot give it the chance it deserves. (Ro 8:7)

To love God is to love His word; it becomes the joy and rejoicing of our hearts (Je 15:16), just as He is. (Php 4:4)

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Dead Unto Sin

God says, “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Ro 6:11) What does He mean?

When we’re dead we’re unresponsive; we don’t interact with the world or function within it any longer.

To be dead unto sin then is to be beyond its reach, no longer subject to its appeal, disinterested in its enticements, to say as Christ did, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (Jn 14:30) It’s natural to ask then, How might we attain to such a state?

Yet this is evidently the wrong question for the believer: God’s telling us we already have attained to this state; we’re to reckon this to be true, acknowledge it, and live accordingly. The right question to ask is then, How do I identify that part of me that’s dead to sin? How does that part of me live my life, and not the rest of me?

Paul identifies part of himself, the flesh, offering nothing good; it doesn’t equip him to do anything good he wants to do. (Ro 7:18) So, there’s a part of him which wants to obey God, which knows what’s right, an inward man which delights in God’s Law (22), which he calls his mind, and a different part (the flesh) which wars against the good part. (23)

So, we might think of ourselves as having a sort of dual personality, two different versions of us which behave very differently under the same conditions. (Ro 7:19) We might also think of a set of beliefs as a personality which embodies these beliefs; it’s a perfectly reasonable way to describe it. (Pr 1:20-23)

So, we might think of our flesh, the carnal mind (Ro 6:7-8), or the old man (Ep 4:22), as that body of lies to which we’re still clinging, either intellectually or perhaps emotionally or subconsciously, due to wrong teaching, being emotionally biased because of a wound or carnal desire harbored within us, etc. Whatever the root symptom, the underlying substance is the lie.

Putting off the old man, and being renewed in the spirit of our mind (Ep 4:22-23), is then to rid ourselves of these lies and to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Ro 12:2), such that we’re progressively walking more and more fully in the Way, the Truth and the Life – Christ in us, the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Reckoning then is noting that all the lies we believe are terminal; each one has a unique death sentence pronounced over it. (Ps 1:6) We’ve no allegiance to it, no obligation to follow after it.

It’s also remembering there’s a part of us which already believes the truth, a part of us which is alive unto God (Ro 6:11): this is the life of Christ in us.

When we look for this part of us, asking God to enable us to recognize it, to realize that we believe the truth and experience our faith in Him, He does so. (He 4:16) We’re free to walk in the light with Christ, if we will. (Ro 6:22)

When we engage our will to walk in this new man (Ro 6:19), the spiritual man, the mind of Christ (1Co 2:16), Christ delivers us from the body of sin (Ro 7:24-25) so we can walk in newness of life. (Ro 6:4) We overcome, because greater is He that’s in us than whatever’s in the world. (1Jn 4:4)

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Thy Word Is Truth

In seeking truth, we each have a way, a protocol or methodology, for evaluating whether an idea is true: we have chosen an authority, a standard by which we evaluate truth claims. We also have a motive for pursuing truth.

In the physical realm, truth is found through the accurate perception of Creation through our senses, which are our God-given authority. Rightly knowing scientific truth requires all our sensory experiences to align; no contradictions to a truth claim are tolerated.

Since our physical senses are designed to be relatively reliable and unbiased, if our minds and spirits are seeking physical truth we can collaborate with each other to validate this alignment. Our motive is clear: alignment with physical reality is extremely beneficial on every level. Once we perceive contradiction, if we’re sincere, we admit incomplete understanding and continue to explore.

However, in the spiritual/moral dimension we’re evidently on very different footing, not having a consistent, unbiased way to verify metaphysical reality. Like Creation, metaphysical reality is ultimately grounded in the divine Being: what He considers truth is true regardless. Yet, due to biases we hold deeply within our minds and spirits, each individual may discern any given metaphysical claim differently, so we’re unable to consistently verify spiritual truth merely through collaboration with each other’s broken perceptions.

Our inability to successfully collaborate here implies it is also an error to trust entirely in ourselves, presuming we have the capacity to accurately discern spiritual reality all on our own, that only we are unbiased and accurate in our perceptions, and no one else. We are not unbiased observers; we must trust God to reveal spiritual truth to us, and to reveal and heal our brokenness, our biased way of looking at reality. How might He do this?

God might speak to us directly in some way, which may seem reasonable in theory. Yet, when one experiences the myriad ways in which people claim God speaks to them, the impracticality is evident. God does speak to us at times, yet seducing spirits also consistently impersonate God and deceive many. (1Ti 4:1) This isn’t straightforward.

So, unless we’re so sure it’s the voice of God that we can’t even ask, “Who are you?”, which isn’t very often for most of us, we shouldn’t presume it’s God we’re hearing. We’re also commanded to test those who claim to have a word from God, because the reality is that they’re likely not hearing from God either. (1Jn 4:1) Yet, how do we go about such testing if we’re not to trust entirely in ourselves, nor in others, nor expect God to reveal truth directly to us as a rule?

There is only one other possibility: a written document containing God’s moral instructions in His own words. This is, in fact, His provision (2Ti 3:16-17), and He requires us to hide His Words in our heart (Ps 119:11) and meditate on them continually. (Ps 1:2) We’re to receive with meekness the engrafted word, through which He reveals metaphysical reality to us and delivers us from our ignorance and rebellion. (Ja 1:21)

For this to work as God designs, meekness is essential: we must submit to His Word as truth (Jn 17:17), obey it and yield to it. (Ja 1:22) If our motive in pursuing spiritual truth is selfish, we will inevitably miss it. The proper motive is alignment with God, a single-minded intent to be in right relationship with Him.

In pursuing truth in the absence of unmistakable divine revelation, expose every truth claim to the entire Word of God and reject any claim which violates any text of scripture. When this troubles me, and God’s Word is rubbing me the wrong way, I turn around — repent. Otherwise, I’m back to trusting in myself as spiritual authority instead of God, where all roads lead to death. (Pr 14:12)

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