Sonship and Salvation

Sonship is not only a major theme in Scripture but also directly affects the subject of salvation. Understanding sonship is therefore important to understanding the gospel – or how we are made a part of God’s family and receive His eternal inheritance.

Spy The Lie – Part 5: Law/Grace

Safely navigating our souls to the shores of heaven requires we spy the lies that lead to shipwreck and the truth those lies often conceal.

1. You don’t have what it takes to live for God and get to heaven (2Pe 1:3).

2. The Devil poses no threat to the Christian (1Pe 5:8).

3. The consensus of pagans, our thoughts, our spiritual beliefs and our feelings are all things we can trust when attempting to discern truth (Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20).

4. The Bible is your only spiritual authority (Neh 9:7-8; Jer 3:15).

5. Stop trying to carry the heavy burden of obedience to the Law and start resting in God’s free grace.

Spy The Lie – Part 4: Spiritual Authority

Safely navigating our souls to the shores of heaven requires we spy the lies that lead to shipwreck and the truth those lies often conceal.

1. You don’t have what it takes to live for God and get to heaven (2Pe 1:3).

2. The Devil poses no threat to the Christian (1Pe 5:8).

3. The consensus of pagans, our thoughts, our spiritual beliefs and our feelings are all things we can trust when attempting to discern truth (Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20).

4. The Bible is your only spiritual authority (Neh 9:7-8; Jer 3:15).

5. Stop trying to carry the heavy burden of obedience to the Law and start resting in God’s free grace.

Spy The Lie – Part 3: Discerning Truth

Safely navigating our souls to the shores of heaven requires we spy the lies that lead to shipwreck and the truth those lies often conceal.

1. You don’t have what it takes to live for God and get to heaven (2Pe 1:3).

2. The Devil poses no threat to the Christian (1Pe 5:8).

3. The consensus of pagans, our thoughts, our spiritual beliefs and our feelings are all things we can trust when attempting to discern truth (Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20).

4. The Bible is your only spiritual authority (Neh 9:7-8; Jer 3:15).

5. Stop trying to carry the heavy burden of obedience to the Law and start resting in God’s free grace.

Spy The Lie – Part 2: The Devil

Safely navigating our souls to the shores of heaven requires we spy the lies that lead to shipwreck and the truth those lies often conceal.

1. You don’t have what it takes to live for God and get to heaven (2Pe 1:3).

2. The Devil poses no threat to the Christian (1Pe 5:8).

3. The consensus of pagans, our thoughts, our spiritual beliefs and our feelings are all things we can trust when attempting to discern truth (Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20).

4. The Bible is your only spiritual authority (Neh 9:7-8; Jer 3:15).

5. Stop trying to carry the heavy burden of obedience to the Law and start resting in God’s free grace.

Spy The Lie – Part 1: Getting to Heaven

Safely navigating our souls to the shores of heaven requires we spy the lies that lead to shipwreck and the truth those lies often conceal.

1. You don’t have what it takes to live for God and get to heaven (2Pe 1:3).

2. The Devil poses no threat to the Christian (1Pe 5:8).

3. The consensus of pagans, our thoughts, our spiritual beliefs and our feelings are all things we can trust when attempting to discern truth (Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20).

4. The Bible is your only spiritual authority (Neh 9:7-8; Jer 3:15).

5. Stop trying to carry the heavy burden of obedience to the Law and start resting in God’s free grace.

The Power of Loyalty – Part 2

In Matthew 6:19-24 Jesus reveals the power our discretionary and belief loyalties possess not only for determining who we truly serve (who we are loyal to as King), but also for producing the salvation-essential attributes of affection (for God) and conviction (in regard to the Word of God). Our confidence that loyalty is indeed His subject is confirmed by His conclusion (24 “serve…be devoted to” = be loyal to).

Six Shiny Words for Easter

Act 17:22-31

These verses represent Paul’s Mars Hill (Areopagus) address to the Athenians. In it we find six “shiny” words to think/talk about when you spend time after the sermon stuffing your face and fellowshipping for Easter.

Why I refer to them as “shiny” = They are words that (in their context) evoke the kinds of conversations we need to be having with the people in our world today. They (I believe) are the conversations that bring the most needed forms of light to our dark and confused world. The song, Shiny Happy People (by R.E.M.) has also been playing in my head.

(22) “Religious” = Possessing a system of morality (right and wrong). That is all the word “religion/religious refers to: a person’s moral beliefs. As humans, we are moral creatures by nature (creatures concerned with right and wrong). This is what makes us different than the animals.

1.1. What therefore Paul says to the Athenians is true about all humans. We are all very religious. This includes people who would claim they are “not religious.” Do they not practice some form of morality (rules of right and wrong)? Do they not believe certain things to right and others to be wrong?

1.2.Whatever determines that person’s moral beliefs (what determines what is right and what is wrong) is that person’s religion irrespective of whether it has a formal name (bob relies on Bob to determine right and wrong. Bob therefore follows the religion/cult of Bob).

1.3. What religion do you follow? Who/what determines right and wrong for you?

(23) “Ignorance” (“unknown”) = The “altar… to the unknown (or ignorant) god” was most likely created by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers who invited Paul to speak (16-21).

2.1. Like many people today, the Epicureans and the Stoics were atheists. They believed that whatever created the universe (including them) was not only “unknown” but unable to know what it had created. Put in modern terms, what created the universe was eternal matter (lifeless, unintelligent, impersonal, non-sentient energy).

2.2. The big problem with believing this: Atheism makes it impossible to be human – i.e., to be the moral creatures (creatures who care about right and wrong). Why? B/C the only way to possess a morality/system of right and wrong that is truly equitable/fair/un-biased and therefore truly just for every single human being, is if it is the same for everyone. And the only person who has the right to determine that system of morality, is the one who created us (i.e., our owner). Without direction from our owner, the best our moral beliefs can be is subjective, every person believing what they want (everyone walking according to their own law). Though on the surface that may sound good, in the end it results in nothing truly being right or wrong (since whatever is right for you is wrong for me and vice versa).

Eternal matter however is not a person, it is a thing. As already stated, it isn’t intelligent or knowledgeable about anything. Eternal matter/energy cannot therefore direct its creation in issues of morality. Hence the reason the United States has become increasingly more violent and evil over the past 25 years. As atheism has taken more of a foothold, more humans have lost their ability to be truly moral or just, to correctly discern right from wrong. People are acting more like animals, controlled only by impulse/instinct, driven to do what they do b/c it is what they feel in the moment.

2.3. There are a couple of names for this kind of morality (do what you want/feel): 1) Anarchy (The strong take what they want and do what they want to the weak), 2) Satanism/Thelema (the autonomous or freed will; one law: “Do what thou wilt”). Allister Crowley was the inventor of Thelema and person most influential to modern day satanism. Crowley claimed his religion (and one law) were provided by a demon named Aiwass who spoke through his wife.

(24a) “God” = An eternal, intelligent, deliberate designer, created everything – including us (24-26) = Seeing that God is our Creator means that He is our legal “Lord” (Owner/Authority/Master) not the other way around .We need Him He doesn’t need us (“does not live in temples made by man nor is He served by human hands as though He needed anything”; Psa 119:91; Psa 50:10-12). The origin of the universe is therefore not eternal matter but eternal mind.

3.1. One of the greatest disservices of our atheistic, evolution-based scientific community is its deployment of the con-man’s favorite tool (for conning poor thinkers): the fallacy of the excluded middle: the option(s) are communicated as though they are the only viable option(s) available when there is/are more. What this looks like among atheistic, evolution-based scientists = Commonality among different species indicates common ancestor. IOW: that is the only viable option/explanation for the commonality that exists between us and other species. There however is a second option, one (like the con-man) they fail to share: commonality indicates not common ancestor, but author (e.g., the artwork of Van Gogh = We recognize it b/c every piece possesses the same unique signature/style; Gen 2:7 w/19 “formed” [Hb. yatsar = to artistically form/leave His unique signature/design]).

3.2. The good news: B/C of the advances in DNA study as well as quantum physics, many former atheist scientists are now embracing the eternal mind/intelligent design position. What are those advances? The discovery that molecular information does not exist (in its smallest/irreducible form) as matter/material elements (e.g., atoms/atomic theory). The building blocks of the universe are not made up of matter/material but instead measurements (think ripples on the water without the water). These measurements are strings of information (more accurately command code) much like the command codes used by a programmer to create things on a computer screen and they come from/exist in dimension outside our own. Where there such programming/information exists, there must also be a programmer/sentient mind (For further study see: string theory/digital physics/information realism/the universe as consciousness).

3.3. Paul knew this to be true before any quantum physicist ever existed (Gen 1:1-3 = Information/command code are the building blocks of Creation). Consider again of Paul’s words in Act 17:26 (“having determined” [horizo = Establish a set of events through deliberate command/programming).

3.4. The meaning of the word (horizo) tells us a lot about why the ancients chose it as the word for horizon (Psa 19:1-10 “tent” = horizon; Notice how the author connects the laws governing the events of Creation to God’s moral law; Moral Physics/God’s Words created/run the universe. It’s all His program).

3.5. Why then (again) it is important we know our Owner/Creator is an eternal mind not eternal matter? B/C it means we have the solution to our moral dilemma! B/C there is a God (an intelligent being Who created and owns us), we as humans can possess a system of morality/right and wrong that is truly unbiased, fair, equitable, and ultimately just b/c it is coming from a Creator-Owner who can not only determine such things (He is again intelligent versus unintelligent, unthinking, lifeless matter), but also has the legal right determine to such things (since again He owns us). Nobody else has that right b/c nobody else own us (including ourselves – Psa119:91; He made us, we did not make ourselves. Hence the reason the new “gender-identity/choosing” stuff is so rebellious. God decided our gender when we were conceived).

3.6. To possess therefore a morality that is unbiased and fair requires we are getting that morality from our rightful Owner/Authority, God. Anyone who opposes God is therefore not only rebellious to their Owner/Authority, but a hypocrite since every human being believes that if you own something, then you have the right to determine how it functions (e.g. if you own a car, you alone possess the authority to determine what is right/wrong for it).

(27-28) “Offspring” = Paul continues his argument for God by speaking to the issue that most naturally follows such a discussion: our purpose. If there is a God who deliberately created and owns everything, then what did He create me to do? The answer: to be His image-bearers/reflectors (Gen 1:27-28).

4.1. Image-bearing is what Paul is getting at by the words “offspring and “seek God”. We were created to reflect His image (or character) through the way we live.

4.2. Notice Paul scolds those who would be so stupid as to think God is like things in creation/what we dream up in our minds (29).

4.3. What (then) is important not to miss about this image-bearing purpose we have been given: 1) It is to be defined by God not the world around us or the spirit of the age (“art and imagination of man” = man’s self-expression; e.g., the current sexual revolution). Who God is (and how we accurately bear His image) is defined by Him (not us). Hence the need for His instruction on morality. According to the Bible, all of God’s rules regarding right and wrong are the manifestation of His character (to know the rules is to know how to act like God). 2) Studying God’s Word should not, therefore, be viewed as some tedious, boring task that has no real benefit to our lives. It is the key to our purpose for existing. Our ability to be accurate reflectors will always be proportionate to what we know/don’t know about God.

(30) “Overlooked” = Not let people get away with their sin but rather: 1) For thousands of years God allowed people to damn themselves through their false beliefs about Him and their unrighteous, ignorant forms of morality. God rarely (if ever) stepped in to show them they were wrong. 2) For the majority of human history only a very small group of people (less than 10% of the population) knew the truth about God and possessed His rules/laws for morality and proper image-bearing. The rest were in total darkness.

5.1. Why does Paul tell us this? B/C it is crucial that we understand what God is doing by commanding “all people to repent” (i.e., calling all races of people to turn from their darkness/rebellion and listen to His revealed words in the Bible). It is not something God was ever obligated to do. Hence the reason for not calling people to repentance in the past (or even now). God’s command to repent is instead, always based on His mercy.

5.2. One of the biggest problems people have today with God (or the God of the Bible) is the fact that He hasn’t revealed Himself to everyone or given everyone a chance to be saved. The piece however they miss is that the only reason such darkness and damnation exists is b/c of us (b/c humanity has for those same thousands of years, chosen to walk away from God and their created purpose and live instead for self). Who among us are not guilty of that very thing? What obligation does God, therefore, have to humans who have not only rebelled against their purpose but slandered His Name and destroyed His creation (once a paradise) in the process? What obligation would we have to a person who not only rejects our care and counsel but destroys our property and slanders our name? Only one obligation, the obligation to see that they serve justice. Hence the reason the majority of humanity will end up in Hell, because God is first and foremost, a just God.

5.3. Mercy is not something God (or anyone is obligated to). It is the thing we don’t expect but are glad of when we get it – which again is what God’s command to repent is, it is Him extending mercy to us – people who were at one time without hope/without mercy (Eph 2:12).

5.4. What we need to get right (then): God is not the One at fault for the way things are in the world or how lost people are. That is solely on us. The only thing we should be saying about God (in this respect) is that He is incredibly merciful to give those who don’t deserve it, a chance to turn from their rebellion, get right with Him and live for the purpose He created them.

(31) “Judge” = Why we need to repent, why we don’t’ want to be the atheist, why we need to live as accurate image-bearers: B/C how we lived our lives (and what system of morality we lived for, what God we followed and what purpose we fulfilled) is going to be assessed by the “man whom He has appointed” (meaning Jesus the King)

6.1. What that tells us: this life is not the end. This life is instead the test to determine where we deserve to spend eternity: in paradise: the reboot of heaven and earth only this time without the possibility of pain and suffering and death (Rev 21:1-4), or in the pit of hell: a lake of fire fit for those who chose to reject God and His purpose (Rev 20:15).

6.2. Why we can be assured that this life is not the end for us: b/c Jesus rose from the dead. His resurrection proves that there is something beyond this life, that this life is NOT THE LIFE (but again the test). This is also what makes Easter so important: b/c for the Christian (those following God, His rules/morality, and purpose for living), their deeds will be rewarded, what they do is gaining them something better (they are not missing out in this world).

6.3. Putting then all that we have learned into perspective means this: for the Christian, there is truly no bad news. It is all good news since everything we do is gaining us eternity. Whereas for the atheist, this life is as good as it gets (then it gets even worse- incomprehensibly so). The Christian message is therefore the best message there is (a message of hope). The atheist message, is a message of hopelessness, the most depressing message there is.

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: SHARE THIS BREAD WITH THOSE WHO DON’T KNOW IT. USE IT TO CHANGE THE WAY THEY LOOK AT THE WORLD. BASED ON WHAT WE HAVE LEARNED, CHRISTIANITY IS THE ONLY PATH THAT WORKS IN THIS WORLD (for producing a morality that is truly just) AND QUALIFIES US FOR THE WORLD TO COME (our resurrection to paradise).

The King’s Code

1. The King’s math

1.1. Christ = King (Luk 23:1-2)

1.2. Love = Loyalty (Joh 14:15)

1.3. Upgrade = Sacrifice (Phi 2:5-11)

1.4. Holiness = Intolerance (of sin) (2Co 7:1)

1.5. My King is King > All other Kings (gods included) (Mat 28:18).

1.6. My King’s reboot > than your best life now. (Rev 21:1-5).

1.7. Serve the King = savor the Kingdom (Phi 1:21-23)

2. The King’s inquiry

2.1. Do you serve the King? (or, I serve the King, who do you serve?) (1Jo 5:19)

2.2. Why would anyone be so stupid not to serve the King? Only the King can offer a life free from pain (Rev 21:4 versus the Atheist/religions of the world = Free from pain at death – not during life. The reality for the Atheist/religions of the world = Rev 20:15).

2.3. What happens to you if the King returns in 2046? (2Th 1:7b-10)

3. The King’s speech

3.1. The King is not your holy toilet.

3.1.1. As long as I confess my sin to King Jesus, I don’t have to worry about consequences b/c He takes care of it. He is my holy toilet. Text often used to support this kind of thinking (1Jo 1:9).

3.1.2. You continue to practice sin (thinking yourself to be immune to its eternal consequences) and you will be guilty of treating the King’s blood as an unclean thing and declared apostate by God (Heb 10:26-30; Deu 29:18-20).

3.2. The King requires more than faith alone.

3.2.1. The mantra of the modern-day church, is “nobody is perfect” (e.g., “We are a church who likes to say, ‘we are not perfect and don’t pretend be.’” – Easter postcard from a church in Centennial, CO)

3.2.2. If God expected perfection, then why did He send His Son to die for our sins?

3.2.3. Though God does not expect perfection, He does expect faithful obedience. IOW: you won’t get to heaven on just faith alone (1Jo 2:4, 3:5-10; Mat 13:41; Jam 2:24).

3.2.4. No excuses. We can be faithful (Deu 30:11-20).

3.2.5. So then, you may not be perfect, but you’d better be faithful.

3.3. To have faith in Jesus means you have pledged your complete allegiance to Jesus as the King.

3.3.1. To put faith in Christ or believe upon Christ for salvation means more than trust or mental ascent to Who He is (the Son of God/fully God/Deity, the son of David/fully man/the Messiah or King) or what He has done (lived a sinless life so as to qualify as our atoning sacrifice and rose again in the third day as proof of God’s acceptance and our justification through Him – Rom 4:25; 1Co 15:1-4) (e.g. faith as trust or mental ascent – 1Co 13:2).

3.3.2. Putting faith/believing upon Christ for salvation also means swearing our complete allegiance to Jesus as our King IOW: We are now loyal to the precepts of our King, not the preferences of people (including self).

3.3.3. Allegiance was the 1st century understanding of the term pistus translated as “faith” and the idea behind belief. It referred to more than mental ascent or trust. It implied also loyalty to that thing/person (Rom 3:3 and Mat 23:23 pistus is translated as “faithfulness” [a synonym for allegiance]).

3.3.4. Examples where translating pistus as “allegiance” makes more sense given the context (Act 24:24-25 [τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν πίστεως] = allegiance to King Jesus [v25 all about allegiance]; Tit 2:9-10 “submissive in everything, well-pleasing not argumentative, not pilfering but showing all good faith [pistus]= allegiance; Rom 1:3, 5, 16:25-26 = Paul’s gospel goal is to bring about “the obedience [pistus] of faith” – i.e. the obedience consistent with our sworn allegiance).

3.3.5. Examples from the 1st century Jewish historian, Josephus: 1) “The inhabitants of this city determined to continue in their allegiance [pistus] to the Romans (The Life 104), 2) “Bacchides troubled not himself with the oaths he had taken, but slew threescore of [the people], although, by not keeping his faith [pistus] with [them] (i.e., by failing to show allegiance to his prior oaths) he deterred the rest who had intentions to go over to him.” (Antiquities 12.396). 62% of the time [pistus] in Josephus refers to allegiance or a pledge of loyalty

3.3.6. Our faith-sworn allegiance/loyalty is viewed as a sacred and binding pledge or vow by God (1Pe 3:21 “pledge” = sacred/binding vow).

3.4. The King’s gift of grace expects reciprocation in the form of allegiance.

3.4.1. Evangelicals are famous for their insistence that our salvation is a gift of grace which means there are no obligatory strings attached. This (however) is a modern understanding of the term grace and gift.

3.4.2. In ancient times (including the time of Jesus and Paul), the ideas of gift and grace – especially when given by dignitaries, always expected reciprocation in the form of allegiance/loyalty (See, Paul & The Gift, John M.G. Barclay).

3.4.3. (e.g. Eph 2:8-10) = The gracious gift was not conditioned on prior acts (“not your own doing, not a result of works”), but does expect future performance (“good works prepared beforehand” – i.e. the Law) in return (“A gift can be unconditioned [free from prior conditions] without also being unconditional [free of expectations of some return].” – John Barclay ibid, p. 562)

3.4.4. This understanding of grace/gift is not a violation of (Rom 4:1-4).

3.5. A Christian not suffering persecution is not a disciple of the King.

3.5.1 When we swear allegiance to the King (i.e., put faith in Jesus) we also commit to suffer persecution from others as we take a stand for His unpopular gospel (Phi 1:27-29; 2Th 1:3-5; Mat 10:34 w/Luk 2:34-35; Joh 15:18-19).

3.5.2. Those who are living in faithful obedience to their former pledge of allegiance are guaranteed to be persecuted (2Ti 3:12).

3.5.3. You are therefore not a true disciple of the King if you avoid such persecution (Heb 10:35-39).

3.5.4. We should count it a good thing when we suffer for our King since this points to us being genuine Christians (Mat 5:10-11; Jam 1:2-4; e.g., of persecution – family/world condemning us for our loyalty to the King over them).

3.6. A Christian without a church is not a disciple of the King.

3.6.1. Evangelicals think it is possible to get to heaven without the earthly covenant community established by our King.

3.6.2. How does a person do that when the key for loosing was given to the church (not individuals)? (Mat 16:18-19 w/Joh 21:21-23).

3.6.3. In Scripture, baptism – where a person is loosed from their sins/saved (1Pe 3:21; Mar 16:16), is never recognized [as saving] when practiced by individuals not authorized by the church (e.g., Act 19:1-7).

3.6.4. The early church believed baptism (as well as the sacrament of the LT) to be given only to the Church and those they approved: 1) “baptism cannot profit a heretic (i.e., individual claiming to be a Christian not recognized by the Church) unto salvation, because there is no salvation outside the Church.” – Cyprian (Bishop of Carthage, 3rd cent.), 2) “Let no one do anything touching the Church, apart from the bishop. Let that celebration of the Eucharist be considered valid which is held under the bishop or anyone to whom he has committed it. Where the bishop appears, there let the people be, just as where Jesus Christ is, there is the Church. It is not permitted without authorization from the bishop either to baptize or to hold an agape (LT); but whatever he approves is also pleasing to God. Thus, everything you do will be proof against danger and valid. “– Ignatius (Bishop of Antioch, 2nd cent.)

3.6.5. If a person (therefore) claims to be saved yet was not saved in – and continues to belong to a legitimate church, then they are claiming a salvation outside that of King Jesus. (Good luck with that)

3.7. A church without the King’s authority is a church overrun by Satan.

3.7.1. (Mat 16:13-19): 1) the church has been given the authority and power of Jesus’ Kingship (13-17) “You are the Christ/King” w/ Jesus’ response (18a) “on this rock” = On this authoritative and powerful foundation of my Kingship, “I will build (establish) my church”, 2) b/c of the church’s kingly authority and power, the satanic forces that rule this world will not extend into her midst (18b) “the gates of hell” = Idiomatic reference to the jurisdiction of one’s rule. In this case, the rule of Satan; “shall not prevail against it” = Satan’s rule will not be able to overrun the church, 3) Jesus calls that kingly authority and power given to His church, the “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (18a -“I will build my church w/19a – I will give you the keys…”) = The “you” refers to the “church”, 4) what those keys/the King’s authority and power looks like is the ability to determine who receives forgiveness from God and who is no longer able – i.e. who is now apostate (19b w/Joh 21:21-23 [“Holy Spirit” = Jesus’ promised authority/power – see Mat 12:31-32] w/Mat 18:15-20 [two strikes w/witnesses] w/Tit 3:7-10 [an allusion to Mat 18:15-20]) = By the time the judgment has reached the authority of the church, that person is considered to have reached their third strike and are now no longer to be recognized as a Christian but (once more) of the world (e.g., tax-collector). They are “self-condemned” or apostate. Hence the reason we are to “have nothing more to do with them.”).

3.7.2. A church therefore w/o such authority and power (who denies they possess the ability to bind and loose) is a church where the gates of hell can prevail – i.e., they are a church overrun by Satan. In contrast church possessing the King’s authority and power is therefore the safest place on planet earth. What kind of a church do you want to attend?

3.8. A church not practicing excommunication or declaring unrepentant people apostate is a church without the King’s salvation.

3.8.1. With respect to excommunication: (1Co 5:1-7) = All forms of sexual immorality are a capital crime. Hence the reason for no further detail in relation to what the man in question has done with “his father’s wife.” Under the New Covenant capital crimes are now punished by excommunication – or by temporarily removing them from their place of salvation and protection from God w/ the hopes that this discipline will deliver them from the practice of such heinous sins, ensuring again their place on the path of salvation (v2 -“Let him who has done this be removed from among you” v5 – “you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”).

3.8.2. This however is not the only reason Paul demands such action be taken by the Corinthian church. It is also for their protection. Those covenant communities who refuse to take such disciplinary measures will be found guilty of the same sins (2Jo 1:9-11). Hence the reason Paul quotes God’s oft-repeated command to “purge the evil person from among (us)” (1Co 5:13; Deu 13:5, 17:7, 12, 21:21, 22:21, 24).

3.8.3. How (then) to respond to those who question our church’s practice of excommunication, “We practice excommunication because we want to give our people the best chance of being delivered from their sin and getting to heaven without jeopardizing the salvation of the rest of the church.” (possibly followed by) “Does your church not care about its people?”

With respect to declaring unrepentant people apostate (2Ti 2:15-21“swerved from the truth”) = Gone apostate. Hymenaeus was already excommunicated for prior blasphemy (1Ti 1:19-20). His continued actions (or refusal to repent) sealed his fate (Heb 10:26-30; Deu 29:18-20). As a result, he and his new partner, “Philetus” (as for Alexander, see 2Ti 4:14-15) were to be permanently avoided so as to stop their apostasy (in this case, their blasphemous talk) from spreading like “gangrene” and infecting (or damning) the rest of the church. Only through cleansing ourselves from such people can we remain “useful to the master” and “ready for every good work.” (As already) mentioned, those covenant communities who refuse to take such disciplinary measures (i.e., to purge the evil person from among them”) will be found guilty of the same sins (2Jo 1:9-11). IOW: they become a church no longer able to offer salvation to its members (Rev 2:4-5) “abandoned the love you had at first” = Abandoned your loyalty to the King (i.e., refusing to do what He says); “repent…if not I will come…and remove your lampstand = You ability to offer salvation (to loose people from their sins) (“lampstand” = Temple/tabernacle lampstand which was symbolic of God’s presence in the temple/tabernacle – or among Israel, for the purpose of salvation).

3.8.4. How (then) to respond to those who question our church’s practice of declaring unrepentant persons apostate, “Why would we jeopardize the salvation of those who have hope for those who no longer have any hope?”

3.9. Not welcome to the King, not welcome to us.

3.9.1. Not everyone is welcome to God and therefore worthy to receive His gospel offer. With respect to those people, we are not to waste our time (Mat 7:6, 10:1-7, 14; Luk 3:4-7).

3.9.2. More than that, to waste our time with such people will wreck our relationship with God: 1) (2Co 6:14-18) = It makes no sense to Paul (and should make no sense to us) that anyone who truly loves their King (“Christ”) would want to be “yoked,” have a “portion” in or “fellowship” with an “unbeliever” seeing that they exist in “partnership” or “accord” (i.e., loving relationship) with “Belial” (aka, Satan). If we don’t want to wreck our relationship with God, then we must “go out from their midst” and “be separate from them.” Only then will God “be (our) God and (us)…His people” (16). Notice, it is indeed conditional (17- “Therefore go out…then I will welcome you.”). Does this mean we don’t want to reach unbelievers for Christ or can’t associate w/them? No. 2) (1Co 5:9-11) = We can (and should) associate with unbelievers as the means to evangelism and seeing whether God is calling them to Himself. In respect, to false Christians (i.e., those claiming to be a “brother” or follower of our God yet living in sinful rebellion and darkness), not even association is allowed. Like the excommunicated and apostate, we are to “judge” them and “purge” them from our life since by their spiritual idolatry (in serving a false King) they are second in line to the apostate (vv12-13).

“Why would we want to wreck our relationship with God by spending time with people who hate him and are in a loving relationship with Satan, darkness and idolatry?”

The King’s Team

Nobody gets to heaven by themselves. Why? Because Christianity is a team sport. We need to be on the King’s team, the church. More than that, we need to be doing our part to see that the King’s team is a success. Here then is what you need to know about the King’s team and your place on it:

Every church member is important to the team’s success.

(1Pe 1:18-19) = The King purchased you for the team at the incredibly high price of His own blood. What does that mean? Jesus believes you are important to the team’s success (e.g. The Browns recent acquisition of Deshaun Watson for a guaranteed $230m [most guaranteed money in NFL history] = The Browns believe Watson is important to their success). Jesus would not have done given His precious blood for someone He didn’t believe could have a major impact for His team. Hence why Peters says (1:13a “prepare your minds for action”) = Get ready to make an impact for the team you were purchased at a high price to pay for – to show you are worth the price that was paid versus being a bust. Those who are a bust will be declared apostate and go to hell (Heb 10:29 “profaned the blood” = Wasted the price that was paid [Mat 5:13 – made useless]; Consider also Luk 20:35).

When King Jesus purchased the church, He promised to build a winning team.

(Mat 16:18) = The team Jesus has assembled cannot be defeated by the opposing team (“the gates of hell” [Satan and his evil forces – including this world under his control] cannot “prevail against [us]”). Why? B/C He has empowered us (you and me, the members who collectively make up the church, the King’s team) with the keys to heaven’s nuclear weapons (v19 “bind” = weapon of eternal damnation; “loose” = weapon of eternal salvation). What does Satan or the world possess that can thwart or stand against those weapons/powers? Nothing. What that means: only the church can beat the church. IOW: We beat ourselves by refusing/failing to do what it takes to win.

Winning requires that the church function as a team, and fight for their King.

“Great things are never done by one person, they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

Jesus needed the church to complete His mission on earth. The kingdom our King established, we have been left to grow and defend (Joh 14:12-13 w/Mat 28:18-20 w/Mat 27:11, 29, 37) = BC of Jesus’ upgrade to “King of Kings” (or king of everyone versus simply, “king of the Jews”), the church would do the greater (or more expansive) work of advancing the kingdom beyond the borders of Israel. However, for the church to finish what Jesus started, requires we function as a team and fight for our King.

3.1. What it means to function as a team:

3.1.1. We stop acting like fans and get in the game.

(Luk 10:1-2) = Notice, Jesus needed the team to get the win. He needs players who will get in the game and help out (“laborers” not spectators/fans). As stated in the previous point, we are all important to the team’s success. But that means getting in the game/getting involved with what our team is currently learning or doing. Even the best player cannot benefit the team if all they do is sit on the sidelines or refuse to learn the plays (e.g. How many of you have taken the time to learn the play assigned last week? How many of you could argue persuasively for Jesus’ return in next 25yrs? What about the Marriage Covenant Gospel? How many of you could present and defend it from the Scriptures? How do you expect to make a play if you don’t learn the plays and get in the game?). Like Jesus, pastor needs the team to get the win.

3.1.2. We are fully committed to the team in our thinking, our loyalty, and gospel strategy decided by the team’s leaders/coaches.

(Phi 2:1-2 “same mind, having the same love, being in full accord”) = Fully committed thinking and loyalty to the team; (“and of one mind”) = Fully committed to the strategy called by the team’s leaders/coaches (See Phi 1:5 w/1:25-27 = I am coming back as coach. Until then, stay committed to the gospel strategy I gave you before [“your partnership in the gospel” w/me]; BTW: strategies change all the time – which means we need to change and fully commit to the new strategy decided by our coaches [versus viewing it as a flaw/failure]- See 2Co 1:12-23; e.g. In the “Man In The Arena” series [ep. 1], former NE Patriot LB Willie McGinest comments on how the team expected Drew Bledsoe to be declared the starter for SB 36 given his experience taking them to a previous SB. Coach Belichick however changed the strategy and decided to go w/the young in experienced QB, Tom Brady. What did the team do? They fully committed themselves to the coach’s decision and their new QB. Though hugely disappointed w/coach Belichick’s decision at the time, Drew Bledsoe also fully supported his coach, his team and Tom Brady who went on to beat the “greatest show on turf.”; Jeff Bezos’ view on change/change of strategy, “People who are right a lot listen a lot, and they change their mind a lot.”). Unfortunately, and embarrassingly, the world is often more committed to their coaches and teams than the church is to theirs (e.g. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus: he didn’t like the strategy of his coach – Mar 14:3-11 w/Joh 12:1-8; Consider also, this is why we are warned – Heb 12:14-15 “strive for peace” = unity; Act 20:28-30 [“will arise speaking twisted things to draw away the disciples after them” = They will act as though they are/sb captains of the team and attempt to recruit people to their team/strategy]; Rom 16:17-18; Gal 5:26 w/13-15 = The recipe for a church that never gets a win for the King: 1) everybody thinks they know better than everybody else -including their coaches [“conceited”], 2) everybody has a chip on their shoulder so can’t get along w/their team-mates [“provoking one another”], 3) everybody is jealous of everybody else so quits all the time [“envying one another”]. IOW: They are a team that bites, devours and consumes one another rather commits to one another in their thinking, loyalty and strategy).

Our coaches/pastors’ two-pronged gospel strategy that we as a team need to be committed to:

1) Covenant Life Groups (starting in May), 2) Marriage Covenant Gospel Book (pastor needs team-mates not fans. He needs team-mates to thoughtfully read and provide feedback to make sure the book is the best it can be for our King. IOW: the team working together is how we get the win – e.g. Luke Kuenning’s suggestion to add Mat 22:32 as biblical support for my argument from grammar in respect to the Adamic, Noahic and Abrahamic covenants as Marriage Covenants. Luke’s contribution may be the difference between someone being convinced or dismissing what is said). What is your commitment to seeing our team’s two-pronged strategy successfully executed – whether it be with the community groups or the book? How committed are you to the team?

“The team with the best players committed only to themselves is no match for the team with average players fully committed to their team” – Anonymous

3.1.3. We put the needs of the team above our individual needs.

(Phi 2:3-4; Joh 15:12; Luk 22:28-30) = Those who put the team first – even when things are tough, are those who go to heaven).

“No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team. The Team, The Team, The Team.” – Bo Schembechler

3.1.4. We are willing to play whatever role is necessary – and sacrifice whatever is necessary, to guarantee the team’s success on the field.

(Phi 2:5-8) = Jesus sacrificed His high position of God to fill the necessary role of an obedient human slave to guarantee His team’s success. Paul says we are to follow His example/possess His mindset. B/C Jesus had this mindset, God upgraded His position on the team (vv9-11 = Jesus became the G.O.A.T. King because of His willingness and sacrifice

– i.e., because He proved to be the ultimate team-player; Mat 28:18). Everybody wants to be the team’s superstar. However, the only way to be the superstar is to be the best, most dedicated team player. The one who makes everyone else on the team look good (not yourself) (Mar 10:43-44). Very few ministries can be given to others in this church, because very few of our members want to do what it takes to be superstars for our King. Very few people are willing to sacrifice to make sure the ministry they are a part of is a success. This doesn’t btw require you be a leader, just – once more, a great team-mate or team player. This btw are how leaders get recognized. They are superstar team-mates/team players, people the rest of us can count on to make sure whatever ministry they are a part of, wb a success. People who are not fighting for themselves (i.e. their glory), but the glory of their King.

3.2. What it means to fight for the King = We stop making excuses or settling for mediocracy. Any time Christians make excuses for failure or serve up mediocracy in their service to the King (i.e., anything related to the church or ministry), they are not fighting for the King. Excellence is the only standard acceptable to our King. Hence why Paul prays this way for the Philippians (Phi 1:9-10). Excellence (however) is never an accident. It takes perseverance (i.e., not quitting after two weeks), meticulous planning or preparation, attention to detail, and sweating the small stuff. If you suffer at being excellent, start by asking how much of the activities in your life are planned? Most people plan only one thing: to get to their job (or church on Sunday). Everything after that is just “gas out and pass out”, which means you never have time to be excellent because your time (after work or church) is wasted. The story of your life and what they will write on your tombstone (if you do not change and start fighting for the King): “They played a mediocre game, filled with excuses and failure that accomplished little for the team or your King. There were water-boys better than them.” INSTEAD of THIS: “They fought the good fight for their King. For them, this was life: serve the King, savor His kingdom.”

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION/CHALLENGE = How successful will our Covenant Life Groups be? How successful will the book be? What part will you play to guarantee they are successful? What about the kind of team-mate you are today? What needs to change so you can be the superstar your King deserves?

The Return of the King

Though we cannot know the exact day or hour (Mat 24:36), the evidence strongly suggests that we be prepared for our King to return in approximately 25 years.

Year 6000 will mark the end of human history and the return of our King.

(2Pe 3:1-10):

1.1. We need to remember that Jesus and the apostles predicted His return (1-2).

1.2. Sinful people ignorant that God has already made good on His promise to destroy this world will laugh at our claims of the King’s return and the final destruction of this world in fiery judgment (3-7, 10).

1.3. God wants us to have some sense of when Jesus will return so as to be ready versus eternally perish (9; Mat 24:32-36 = Though [once more] we cannot know the exact day and hour, we can know when we are “near” – i.e. within 40 years, “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” = The King’s first return in 70 A.D. [~40 yrs later]).

1.4. We must not overlook the “one fact” most important to determining when our King’s final return is near [~40 yrs?]: the ancient Jewish and early Christian belief that each day of Creation represents 1,000 years of human history – or 6,000 years of human history to be immediately followed by the return of the King and eternal rest in the new heavens and earth (as represented by God’s Sabbath or seventh-day rest) (8; The main source of this belief: Non-canonical books containing ancient Jewish/Christian tradition, history and beliefs; Though never on par with Scripture itself, Jesus and the church saw these non-canonical books as important. Hence why we see them referenced in Scripture- e.g., Num 21:14; Jos 10:13; 2Sa 1:18; 1Ki 11:41; 2Chr 9:29, 12:15, 13:22; Mat 27:9-10; 2Ti 3:8; Jud 1:9, 14-15).

1.4.1. Ancient Jewish non-canonical sources:

1.4.1.1. Jewish Talmud (1st – 7th century collection of rabbinical writings meant to preserve ancient Jewish beliefs and oral tradition after the destruction of the Temple):

“Six thousand years the world will exist and for one thousand, [the seventh], it shall be desolate [no longer exist], as it is written, ‘And the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (Sanhedrin 97a)

“The world will exist for six thousand years: two millennia of void (i.e. without Torah) [covs: AC/NC/AbC]; Two millennia of Torah [cov: OC]; and then two millennia of the age of Moshiach (i.e. Messiah)[cov: NC].” (Tractate Avodah Zarah [9a])

1.4.1.2. The writings of 2nd century, Jewish rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus:

“Six eons for going in and coming out, for war and peace. The seventh eon is entirely Shabbat and rest for life everlasting.”

1.4.2. Early Christian non-canonical sources:

1.4.2.1. The writings of Irenaeus (Early Church Father, a disciple of Polycarp who was a direct disciple of the apostle John; 130-202 AD)

“For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years (2Pe 3:8); and in six days created things were completed; it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the sixth thousandth year.”

1.4.2.2. The epistle of Barnabas[1] (75 AD; The epistle of Barnabas was considered so important to early Christianity that it was included as an addendum in the back of early bibles until the 4th century – e.g. Codex Sinaiticus [Sinai Bible])

“Give heed, children, what this means; ‘He ended in six days’ (Gen 1:2): He means this, that in six thousand years the Lord shall bring all things to an end; for the day with Him signifies a thousand years; and this He himself bears me witness, saying; “Behold, the day of the Lord shall be as a thousand years” (2Pe 3:8). Therefore, children, in six days, that is in six thousand years, everything shall come to an end.”

1.4.2.3. The writings of Hippolytus (Early Church Father, 170-235 AD)

“And 6,000 years must needs be accomplished, in order that the Sabbath may come, the rest, the holy day on which God rested from all His works. For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ, when He comes from heaven, for ‘a day with the Lord is as a thousand years’ (2Pe 3:8). Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6,000 years must be fulfilled.”

Adding up the biblical record puts the current age of the world at around 5976.

2.1. 5782 is the current date of the Hebrew/Jewish Calendar (Seder Olam Rabbah) (3760 yrs from creation to Christ plus the current year of 2022).

2.2. Adjustments for discrepancies/errors in the H/JC: 1) add 165 yrs (conventional/scholarly date for the destruction of the first Temple = 586 BC[2] versus incorrect date of 421 BC), 2) add 29 yrs (430 yrs captivity clock starting when Abe is 99 yrs old [Exo 12:40-41; Gal 3:16-17] versus 400 yrs captivity clock starting when Abe is 100 yrs old/birth of Isaac [Gen 15:13]) = 5976.

The Bible confirms the 7th day of earthly rest (the Sabbath) to be symbolic of the eternal rest in the new world at the end of human history.

(Heb 4:4-11) = The Sabbath rest the author calls us to strive to enter is the eternal rest of the new world to come.

THE POINT NOT TO MISS: the Bible confirms all seven days related to Creation to be symbolic and important indicators of when this world will end and the new world will begin.

Jesus predicted He would return before the date predicted by the Jews.

(Mat 24:43-51) = Jesus’ primary/first audience are the Jews (v34 -“this generation”). Jesus’ warning is therefore first to the Jew, “The Son of Man is coming in an hour when you do not expect.” What the Jews currently expect: Messiah is not coming from another 218 yrs. They believe it is 5782, when in reality it is 5976. They believe there is more time than there really is (“My master is delayed”) which means when Jesus comes, He will surprise them like a “thief” in the night.

The church is beset with apostasy and the world filled with false prophets preaching an antinomian gospel that produces a disloyal faith just as Jesus predicted would be true when the end is near.

(Mat 24:1-8) = These are NOT the things we are to consider when determining the end of the world; (9-14) = These are the things truly indicating the end of the world.

Additional considerations/ or possible evidence?

6.1. (Ecc 1:9) = Based on the pattern of redemptive history recorded in the Bible, we serve a God whose future plans always have precedent in the past (e.g. Isa 7:14 w/Mat 1:23; Num 14:34; Mat 12:40). Why would it be any different with one of history’s most important events? Believing the end of the world to be arbitrary – or without a basis in something similar that God has already done (i.e. the days of Creation and the day of Rest), is to believe in a different god.

6.2. (Joh 18:37-38) = Christians are to be people of truth (those always in agreement w/reality versus fantasy) (Joh 18:37-38). To be people of truth now requires that we address as reality what at one time was considered fantasy/science fiction: the existence of UFOs (i.e. US Dept of Defense, Navy and Pentagon have all released statements [and some video footage from the cockpits of Navy fighter pilots] confirming 144 sightings since 2004; “Every day for at least a couple of years” – Navy fighter pilot, Ryan Graves; Navy ships have been swarmed by UFOs off the Pacific coast and caught on radar [3]). Biblical analysis (Rev 20:1-9) = UFOs may be a sign that Satan and his armies are coming out of the Abyss, an even that must take place before our King’s return. How this event possibly relates to UFOs: the demons have created bio-suits technology/vessels allowing them to escape the 4th dimension. They will soon permanently invade our space – the 3rd dimension. Hence the reason for the increase in frequency of sightings and number of vessels encountered[4]. Opinion: Satan will reveal himself and his demons as mankind’s original freedom fighters and unite the world (“deceive the nations that are on the four corners of the earth” = The entire world) against our King and what little remains of His church on earth (“surround the camp of the saints” = God’s people wb small in number). It will be the “tower of Babel” PART 2 (“Gog and Magog” = Babylon = Babel; Eze 38-39; Gen 11).

OUR EXPECTED RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE EVIDENCE

1) Stand Firm: Don’t be shaken from your position when the people, events, and beliefs of this world become even more crazy, polarized, and opposed to God/God’s Word/God’s people (Joh 15:18-16:4).

2) Stay Focused: See the next 25 years as the time to complete your given mission from Mat 25:14-30. What will you accomplish in each year for our King?

3) Sound Forth: Our witness to others should start w/what we believe about the imminent return of the King (e.g. “We believe our King/King Jesus is returning within the next 25 years to destroy His enemies and this world. In His mercy, He has sent His messengers to proclaim peace to those who will swear allegiance to Him and His church now.”). BTW: last days are the theme common to all past revivals/church growth movements (e.g. Dispensationalism’s Left Behind movement; the Big Tent Revivals/meetings). Why? b/c people are curious about the end. Hence the reason the book of Revelation remains the number one most popular book in the Bible. (Curiosity is the first/greatest key of all persuasion; convincing/building confidence thru information-sharing/education is the next).

[1] Early Church Fathers Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) and Origen (184-253 AD) attributed the epistle of Barnabas to the apostle and traveling companion of Paul mentioned in the book of Acts (Act 14:14).

[2] The 586 BC date is corroborated by several ancient documents from Babylon, Egypt, Persia, and Greece. Early Jewish historian Josephus likewise confirms this date.

[3] See “For some Navy pilots, UFO sightings were an ordinary event: ‘Every day for at least a couple years’” (washingtonpost.com); “UFOs, the Channel Islands and the Navy’s ‘drone swarm’ mystery” (thehill.com)

[4] From a military perspective, these could be viewed as test flights and the sign of coming invasion (e.g. troop/tank buildup on the border of Ukraine in November of 2021 before the invasion in March of 2022).

Meet Your King – Part 3

Jesus was the perfect man. But what kind of man (or human) was He? What things did He care about? What things did He not care about? Where or with whom did He spend His time? How did He respond or react to others? How did He come across to others? How did people view His words or the way He spoke?

Our investigation into the (human) person of Jesus has as its purpose not simply the gaining of knowledge, but more importantly, its application through imitation. We are commanded (in 1Co 15:1) to imitate our King. The reason? b/c imitation is the greatest expression of worship and adoration/love. IOW: we show our loyalty to Jesus best by our imitation of His humanity. It is in this way also that we imitate (and show loyalty) to God since, through His humanity, Jesus perfectly pictured or explained the character of God (Joh 1:18).

As a human, King Jesus:

Was careful to receive or act on anything as truth that could not be sufficiently supported in God’s court.

Didn’t care about the evil going on in government only the evil going on in the covenant community.

Had zero tolerance for sin in God’s house (Psa 45:1, 6-7 = One of the reasons God the Father has eternally installed Jesus as King over is b/c He has zero-tolerance for wickedness/sin in the kingdom).

Only fellowshipped with – or treated as family, those willing to do God’s will (Psa 45:9-11).

Caused division within families b/c of His beliefs (loyalty to God and the church family over physical family).

Never questioned God’s love for Him b/c of what He had to suffer.

Loved (i.e. was loyal to/love = loyalty) God and His people more than anything else.

Suffered for righteousness despite His feelings and fear.

Was not an accurate reflection of how He felt (Luk 22:42 w/Joh 18:1-3; Mat 16:21-27 [not how that person felt]; It’s all for the King until I don’t feel like it and then it’s “to hell w/the King”; BTW: speaking based on how we feel leads to acting on how we feel—all actions are the result of words; Gen 1:1-3; Joh 1:1-3 w/Mat 15:19 w/Jam 1:13-15; Jam 3:1-6; Hence the reason “freedom of speech” is not only the first sign of dissent from God, but a recipe for human destruction).

Understood the priority of the team (Joh 15:12-13; Mar 9:33-35 w/10:35-45; 1Co 9:14-19; Hence why 1Co 1:10; Phi 1:27 w/2:2 = We can’t win for the King unless the church operates as a team! What that looks like [according to what we just read]: Personal agendas are gone. We live [and are willing to give anything] to be aligned with the teaching/direction/strategy of the team and its leaders. It means also [as we saw] we are even willing to die/suffer for the sake of the team [e.g. Phi 2:12-18 = Paul lived for the team. Which BTW/once more – there is no win w/o the team operating as a team]. This principle [btw] is at the center of all military and team-sports training. Winning and losing are – the vast majority of the time, determined by how well the group did in operating as a team – Ecc 4:12; The secret to the early church’s global impact was not their size [they were small in numbers], but their unity/operation as a team -rogue/maverick elements were not tolerated [e.g. Act 8:14-25]; The writings of the early church fathers also reflect this. Most were written to maintain orthodoxy among all the churches; Hence why then Rom 16:17-18).

Submitted to God (or God’s Word) as the Author of morality not consensus, circumstance or the individual (Mat 19:1-6 [God trumps popular consensus: divorce for any reason is okay], 7-8 [God trumps circumstance or the individual – in this case, the spiritual leader Moses], 9-12 [another example of God trumps circumstance or the desire of the individual]; Joh 17:17; Isa 8:20; Psa 119:160; e.g. Our nation’s downward spiral w/respect to who determines morality: consensus = homosexuality as an acceptable sexual orientation [once considered deviant/perverted behavior and a form of mental illness now celebrated as good simply b/c enough people changed their opinion]; circumstance = juvenile justice system [different punishment for kids/minors was est’d in 1899 as the result of mass immigration in late 1800’s and lots of indigent kids roaming the streets and committing serious crimes. Before that time, not many kids committed serious crimes, but when they did, were treated the same as adults]; individual = gender identity).

Offended others by His knowledge and the words He used (Mat 13:53-58 = Insurrection is often the result of people being jealous of their shepherd’s knowledge – Psa 106:16 w/Mat 27:18; Mat 15:1-14 = Notice included as part of His offensive words, was the use of “colorful language” when the occasion called for it [“hypocrites”, “blind guides”; other examples – Mat 12:34 “brood of vipers”//All of these are the equivalent of our modern day swear words; when the occasion calls for such words = when less colorful words prove ineffective]; Why Jesus said hard/offensive things = B/C: 1) He refused to lie about/to people [Pro 27:6], 2) He knew that the uncomfortableness that comes with such speech is not a valid excuse or optional to getting to heaven [Mat 10:26-27, 32-33], 3) He cared more about making God happy than men knowing He could not please both and still get to heaven – Joh 4:34 [“My will is to do the will of Him who sent Me”], Joh 8:29 [“I do the things that are leasing to the Father”], Joh 10:17 [“for this reason the Father loves the Son b/c I lay down my life]; Luk 6:26 [“Woe to you if all men speak well of you, for so they did to the false prophets”], Jam 4:4 [“Anyone who is a friend of the world is not a friend of God”]; 2Ti 4:2 {‘reprove, rebuke and exhort with great patience”]; Tit 1:9-11 “silenced” = Shut their mouths thru strong reproving [proving them wrong] and rebuke).

Was not wooed away from heaven by the pleasures of this world (Mat 4:8-10 w/Heb 4:15 w/Mat 17:17 = Jesus’ complete inability to be wooed away by the pleasures of this world [or gaining the entire world] indicates just how large the disparity is between the value/quality/beauty of this world and heaven –something Jesus knew firsthand, having been there before coming to this world. The same was true for Paul. He had seen heaven [2Co 12:2] and this was his comparison – 2Co 4:17; Hence why Paul says Col 3:2 = IOW: Serve the King and savor the kingdom, spend time visualizing the world to come and using the good and beautiful things of this world as your inspiration and motivation versus spending your time worrying about NOT MISSING OUT on all the fun in this world/serving this world and savoring its rewards. Only a fool would trade Paradise for the Podunk thrills of this world).

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: God saved us to make us imitators of our King. What we have learned therefore is to be modelled in our lives. When people see how we act or the things we are concerned about or how we speak, it should reflect our King. Two final thoughts: 1) If what we have covered is not the Jesus you know, then the Jesus [you know] is not the King 2) If who your life reminds others of is NOT King Jesus, good luck getting to heaven.

Meet Your King – Part 1

Jesus was the perfect man. But what kind of man (or human) was He? What things did He care about? What things did He not care about? Where or with whom did He spend His time? How did He respond or react to others? How did HE come across to others? How did people view His words or the way He spoke?

Our investigation into the (human) person of Jesus has as its purpose not simply the gaining of knowledge, but more importantly, its application through imitation. We are commanded (in 1Co 15:1) to imitate our King. The reason? b/c imitation is the greatest expression of worship and adoration/love. IOW: we show our loyalty to Jesus best by our imitation of His humanity. It is in this way also that we imitate (and show loyalty) to God since, through His humanity, Jesus perfectly pictured or explained to us the character of God (Joh 1:18).

As a human, King Jesus:

Was careful to receive or act on anything as truth that could not be sufficiently supported in God’s court of Law (Mat 19:16-17; Joh 8:2-11; Jam 4:11-12 w/5:9 = Our judgment of others needs to hold up in the king’s court – otherwise we are guilty of condemning the law/Lawgiver; Mat 18:15-16 = Sufficient evidence eliminates sinful presumption/assumption; Jud 1:9 = Satan judged Moses based on presumption versus sufficient evidence. When we judge/accuse others of sin based on our assumptions we are imitating Satan not Jesus; sufficient evidence: evidence that agrees with Scripture and is beyond a reasonable doubt [no other reasonable explanation can be given]).

 

Did not care about the evil going on in the government only the evil going on in the covenant community (Luk 13:1-9; Luk 20:22-25 [“Caesar” = A king by force/foreign invasion versus election/choice now requiring those conquered pay honor/”tribute”]; Mat 17:24-27 = Jesus recognized the injustice in the earthly government of His day but didn’t resist it or let it bother Him; Rom 13:1-7 [“honor” = This includes those in power we don’t approve of]; e.g. Dan 6:21; 1Pe 2:17; Luk 21:34; 1Ti 2:1-3).

 

Had zero tolerance for sin in God’s house (Joh 2:14-17; Mat 21:12-13; Rev 2:1-5 = The church’s many acts of loyalty to Jesus did not cause him to overlook those things that were sin. Tolerance of sin in any area – no matter their intolerance in others, would result in their “lampstand” being removed -i.e. they would cease to be a community where Jesus’ saving presence and power dwelt; 1Ti 3:14-15 w/: 1) heresy [1:3-5], 2) capital crime [1:18-20], 3) sovereign citizenship [2:8], 4) feminazis and female pastors [2:9-13], 5) unqualified leaders [3:1-12]).

 

Only fellowshipped with – or treated as family, those willing to do God’s will (Mar 3:31-35; What His family thought about this behavior – Mar 3:20-21; Luk 10:25-37 = We treat as family only those who keep the Law [Exo 23:5]; 2Co 6:14-18).

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: How are you doing in your imitation of our King? If the answer is “no so good”, then good news! Today is the day of salvation! IOW: today is the day to repent of that and (again) make things right w/God.

Doing Family According To Jesus – Part 3

Having finished our discussion on Jesus’ radical view on family, it is important that we (now) consider its application to our everyday lives. In other words, that we understand what doing family according to Jesus it looks like.

With regard to the world’s values or expectations, conversations with outsiders, and fellowship with those not welcomed to God.

You reject the family values or expectations established by the world.

Your conversations with outsiders are to be focused on family talk: God and His Word/gospel/our church family.

You have no fellowship with anyone who does not welcome conversation about God and His gospel or refuses to act on what they have heard (including biological family and friends) (the exclusions: 1Co 7:12-14; Mat 15:3-6).

With regard to your major life decisions, personal life, and attitude toward your brothers and sisters

All major life decisions- or in the lives of those in your care, are under the oversight of your church family (most especially your ordained pastor) (Heb 13:17).

“It is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of the bishop [i.e. the ordained pastor] who by God’s appointment rules over you…He that refuses to assemble with the church (for the judgment of the bishop) has condemned himself. Let us be careful then not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God…It is becoming therefore, that you also should be obedient to your bishop, and contradict him in nothing; for it is a fearful thing to contradict any such person. – St. Ignatius (direct disciple of the Apostle John)

Your life is an open book to your church family and you welcome their correction (versus you hide your life and get angry or pout when others call out your sin).

5.1. (Isa 44:9-20) = Fallen feelings fueled by pooled ignorance produces a deluded heart that cannot deliver itself.

5.2. The only way to be delivered from self-delusion is letting others into your day-to-day life to assess and exhort/correct where necessary (Heb 3:12-13; Consider also Psa 141:5; Jam 5:19-20; Pro 18:1-2 w/2Co 6:11-12; Pro 12:15; Pro 15:12; btw Mat 18:15 ≠ go to your bro 1st before talking to others).

5.3. What welcoming the correction of your church family looks like (false humility versus true humility) (Isa 58:1-9)

Excluding a pattern of untrustworthiness and lying, or possessing sufficient evidence of wrongdoing, you always give your brothers and sisters the benefit of the doubt and think the best of them.

6.1. (1Ti 6:3-4 “evil suspicions”) = Notice the internal engine producing such feelings: 1) They are a person who is “puffed up w/conceit and understands nothing”[ἐπίσταμαι = epistemology; μηδείς = no one; Luk 5:14] = A person whose confidence (in their ability to read people) is not based on comprehension of the facts/truth (e.g., Sixth sense = Reality determined through physiology/body versus psychology/brain), 2) They have an “unhealthy craving for controversy and quarrels about words” = They are addicted to questioning/distrusting people (or the words of people) they should trust (e.g., Conspiracy theorists = People [esp. those in authority] are secretly/sinfully plotting against them).

6.2. The way (therefore) to avoid evil suspicions is to: 1) STOP letting your trust in others be based on the feeling that other person gives you (e.g., “they seem nice or friendly”; e.g. “they seem harsh or mean”) versus the facts about that other person (e.g. they have a history of lying and untrustworthiness; e.g.; they have a history of always speaking the truth no matter how difficult or unpopular). 2) STOP thinking everyone is out to get you!

6.3. Does this mean we should never be suspicious or untrusting? NO. Scripture (most especially the Proverbs) are filled with commands to be suspicious (and untrusting) of certain people, but it is to be based on facts, not feelings – i.e. they have a pattern of lying or untrustworthiness (Pro 26: 6, 8, 10; Jer 7:4 and 9:4; Rom 16:17-18 even Mat 7:6 and also Joh 2:24-25 “them…a man” = Those currently believing in Jesus were those who would later betray Him).

6.4. The POINT NOT TO MISS: Unless there is fact-based and sufficient evidence, we must always give others the benefit of the doubt (no matter how we feel). We cannot act on how we feel. If we do, we may become guilty of serious sin – i.e. a malicious witness (Deu 19:15-21; Pro 25:8-10). It can also send us to Hell (Rev 21:27 [“does what is false”] and 22:15 [“practices falsehood”] = Same words for both phrases. Literally those “who make-up/create false realities in respect to God” [e.g. false religions/false gospels], history [e.g. revisionist history] or people [e.g. caricatures]).

You stand up for your church family and pastors, by strongly opposing those who speak against them.

7.1. We do not tolerate anyone (inside or out) who speaks against our church family and pastors. That includes biological family (Remember: blood is thicker than water). We are to take personal anytime someone dares to speak against our church family and pastors. IOW: those are fighting words. And that b/c to speak against them is the equivalent of speaking against our Savior (Mat 10:40; Luk 10:16).

7.2. Such individuals are encouraging dissension and are to be reported to the elders (Rom 16:17-19)

7.3. One of the keys to effectively advancing God’s kingdom against the false forms of Christianity that exist in the world is through our unity in this respect: that all of us are committed to standing up for our church family – including her pastors, by strongly opposing those who speak against them. It is also a sign of our salvation (Phi 1:27-28) = Our unified and bold witness presents a “clear sign” to those who oppose us that we are the ones truly “saved” and they are the ones on the road to “destruction”.

7.4. Given the overall context of 1st Timothy, this act of strongly opposing those who oppose Christ’s church and people is the key function of those selected as ruling (non-ordained) elders (1Ti 1:18 w/3:8-12) = Appoint righteous men as your security team on the battlefield, men who will boldly fight for God’s house: His people and pastors (1Ti 3:15). As such, this is the mindset we should have when considering elders. Not only must they be righteous (according to the criteria of 3:8-12), but also the bold protectors of God’s people and pastors. They are the NC Levites (Isa 66:21 w/Exo 32:26-29; Num 1:53; Lev 18:1-6 = Levites guard the priests and God’s house [they are the police/protectors]; priests guard the holy things in the house – God’s laws and sacraments [they are the judges]). Once more then, this is how we should be choosing men to fill this role in our church. They must be men who have already demonstrated loyalty and boldness in fighting for god’s people and pastors – i.e., for their church family. Cowards and the limp-wristed men need not apply.

CLOSING CHALLENGE: We need more ruling elders. Think about who among the men, have already demonstrated themselves to be not only righteous but bold against those who oppose Christ’s people and pastors.

Doing Family According To Jesus – Part 2

Having finished our discussion on Jesus’ radical view on family, it is important that we (now) consider its application to our everyday lives. In other words, that we understand what doing family according to Jesus it looks like.

With regard to the world’s values or expectations, conversations with outsiders, and fellowship with those not welcomed to God.

You reject the family values or expectations established by the world.

Your conversations with outsiders are to be focused on family talk: God and His Word/gospel/our church family.

You have no fellowship with anyone who does not welcome conversation about God and His gospel or refuses to act on what they have heard (including biological family and friends).

With regard to your major life decisions, personal life, and attitude toward your brothers and sisters

All major life decisions – or in the lives of those in your care, are under the oversight of your church family (most especially your ordained pastor).

4.1. (1Co 1:10; Phi 1:27, 2:2)

4.2. Some practical examples:

4.2.1. Discipleship/discipline of your kids (Eph 6:4) = Notice Paul (their ordained pastor) is telling them what to do with their kids. IOW: he had jurisdiction over the parents in respect to how they raised their children. And based on the scope of the two terms used by Paul (“discipline” and “instruction of the Lord”), this would include jurisdiction over their education and extracurricular commitments since these two terms (discipline and instruction) encompass the entirety of the child’s spiritual and/or character formation. This means if parents don’t know what the church understands to be God’s prescription (in respect to these two terms) and their application to the different areas of their children’s lives (education etc), then they need to go to the church (or its ordained pastors) and ask. Your children are not your own to do whatever you want with (especially if they are covenant children – i.e. a part of the church family).

4.2.2. Where to live, what to do for work (Jam 4:13-17) = According to James it is “evil” and sin” to make decisions as to where to live (“Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there”) or what to do for work (“we will …trade and make a profit”- i.e. career choices) without determining (first) the will of God (15).

4.3. According to Scripture, the will of God is determined by the church family (or her anointed pastors) (Act 15:1-3 = Notice it is the church who decides what should be done; 15:6 “apostles [anointed men] and elders [meaning anointed elders such as James] w/19-28; Gal 2:1-2; 1Co 14:29 [w/28 “church”] = Who is determining the will of God in this matter is the church [Hence Mat 18:17 “tell it to the church”] = The church [or her ordained leaders] possess the HS for discerning God’s will [Joh 16:13] = Verse 16 reveals which of the two HS events Jesus is referring to. It is the one after His resurrection [versus after His ascension] [v16]. It is, therefore, the anointing of the HS that Jesus is referring to, that portion of the Spirit given to pastors for discerning God’s will for His people [Joh 21] – versus the baptism of the HS [Acts 2] that which helps all Christians live in obedience to God and His appointed leaders.

4.4. Does this mean that ordained pastors are infallible (or cannot be wrong) – or that we cannot disagree with him? (emphatically) NO. But it does mean that if we think they are wrong, then we have an obligation to go to them and reason from Scripture (following the protocol of Mat 18:15-17 when necessary) (e.g. our view regarding the excommunicated being able to pray – Psa 51). If we can’t demonstrate our position to be correct (to them or the church) then we must continue to submit to them understanding this to be God’s (current) will for our lives (Rom 13:2; Eph 6:5-7; 1Pe 2:13-18) = Notice, neither Paul nor Peter give exceptions based on foolishness, error or even danger. God never excuses disobedience to His established authorities for such things. Why? Because it is God’s will that His appointed leaders not always be correct as a means of testing our trust and submission to Him (1Pe 2:19-23). In this respect consider (1Pe 3:1; Eph 6:1-3) = Does God’s Word teach that wives or children have the right to disobey if they believe what they are being told to be foolish, in error, or even dangerous? Is not sin the only exception? (Notice, Peter applies the prior established principle as his reasoning – 1Pe 3:5-6). If God expects this kind of behavior in relation to wives and children (those under God’s appointed authorities of husband and parents) why would we think different rules apply to God’s ordained pastors in the church who have been given His highest authority on earth, the authority to bind and loose (Mat 16:17-19)? When are we out of God’s will for obeying God’s leaders? Only when it can be proven (through God’s protocol – Mat 18) that what we are being commanded to do is sin.

4.5. POINT (then) NOT TO MISS = Gospel accuracy and enforcement aside, your assessment before God will not be based on whether your pastor always got it right, or made the wisest decisions, but whether or not you happily submitted to his decisions (Heb 13:17). Once more, will not the same be true with respect to wives and their husbands or children and their parents?

4.6. That our major life decisions be (specifically) in agreement/submission to the church’s ordained pastors is confirmed by St. Ignatius (a direct disciple of the Apostle John who also had correspondence w/Jesus’ mother Mary). Consider his words to the early church: “It is fitting that you should run together in accordance with the will of the bishop [i.e. the ordained pastor] who by God’s appointment rules over you…He that refuses to assemble with the church (for the judgment of the bishop) has condemned himself. Let us be careful then not to set ourselves in opposition to the bishop, in order that we may be subject to God…It is becoming, therefore, that you also should be obedient to your bishop, and contradict him in nothing; for it is a fearful thing to contradict any such person. For no one does [by such conduct] deceive him that is visible but does, in reality, seek to mock Him who is invisible. And every such act has respect not to man, but God…Some indeed give one the title of bishop, but do all things without him. Such persons seem to me not to be possessed by a good conscience, seeing they are not steadfastly gathered together according to the commandment (under and in submission to their bishop)…To those who indeed talk of the bishop, but do all things without him, He who is the true and first Bishop, and only High Priest by nature, will declare ‘Why do you call Me Lord and do not do what I say?’ Such persons are dissemblers and hypocrites.”

4.7. Summing up what the early church thought Joseph Hellerman in his book, When the Church Was A Family (says this)…“The [first century Christian] person perceive[d] himself/herself to be a member of a church and responsible to the church for his or her actions, destiny, career, development and life in general…The individual person is embedded in the life of the church and is free to do what he or she feels right and necessary only if in accord with the church (family’s) norms and only if the action is in the church’s best interest. The church has priority over the individual”.

4.8. This (again) is doing family according to Jesus. The world (and wicked people) buck against such constraints, but those who truly love (and are following) Christ welcome it. They know that such things are for their (and their family’s) protection.

 

CLOSING CONTEMPLATION: Are you doing church according to Jesus? Just like His laws, God gives the church family as protection (not a prison). Those who fail to do family according to Jesus are therefore putting themselves in grave danger of not being a part of that family in heaven.

Righteous Fighting

Fighting or conflict is an inevitable part of life. It is, in many cases, the only way to resolve human problems. As a result the Bible is filled with examples of fighting. Jesus fought with Jews and Christians (Mar 8:11; Rev 2:16). Paul likewise, fought with Jews and Christians (Peter, Barnabas and other brothers in the church) (Act 9:28-29, 25:7-8; Gal 2:11-14; Act 15:1-2, 36-40). We must never therefore think of fighting as a bad thing – or that somehow fighting less, means we are better Christians (or mature). Rather what needs to be considered is, “Are we fighting righteously?”

Doing Family According To Jesus – Part 1

Having finished our discussion on Jesus’ radical view on family, it is important that we (now) consider its application to our everyday lives. In other words, that we understand what doing family according to Jesus it looks like.

You reject the family values or expectations established by the world.

1.1. (Luk 9:57-62) = Given Luke’s decision to group these events together, means that we should assume they possess the same general context from which to discern their intended principle or point. That context is family – or more specifically, the values and expectations possessed by the world’s view of family. There are three presented in these verses. Jesus opposes/rejects all three: 1) your home is where your biological family resides (57-58) = “Holes” (or dens) and “nests” represent not only an animal’s resting place but the place where its biological family resides. Humans in the world identify home – or their resting place, in the same way. It is the place where my biological family resides. Jesus however opposed such thinking (“The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” – i.e. My resting place -or home, is not determined by my biological family). What determined Jesus’ home (and the same would be expected of His followers) was wherever He was doing God’s work (Joh 12:26; Luk 17:21 – “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you”). IOW: home will be determined (for the Christian) by the resting place – or home, of God. Which according to Paul is the church or the church family (1Ti 3:15). 2) children must honor their parents in death or their parent’s dying wishes (59-60) = What is communicated by this man could refer to returning home for a funeral or to saying his goodbyes to his father before he dies. In either case, Jesus makes clear that no such expectation of honor toward one’s parents is recognized by God and therefore must never get in the way of any responsibilities we possess in respect to Him or His family (the church). 3) the approval of your biological family is necessary – or something you care about, when it comes to those choices you make in following Christ (61-62) = Most scholars agree the real reason this man wishes to go home and say goodbye to his family is so that while there, he can receive their approval. As before, Jesus makes clear that caring about – or adhering to, such worldly family values disqualify a person from being a part of His family (“No one [is fit for the kingdom of God] who puts his hand to the plow and looks back” = Is concerned about the opinion, approval of those they are leaving behind – e.g. Gen 19:26 w/Luk 17:20-24).

1.2. (Mar 3:31-35) = Jesus is both dismissive and disrespectful to His mother’s demands according to the world and its expectations of adult children – no longer living in the home (i.e. that they continue to respect/listen to/obey their parents). He not only refuses to go outside and speak with his mother but also exposes her and her words as foolish by using them as a teaching point w/His disciples. Jesus’ behavior toward his mother may be what the prophet Simeon is referring to when addressing Mary in (Luk 2:34-35).

1.3. Another example of Jesus’ rejection of worldly expectations when it came to biological family (or His mother) is (Joh 2:1-4) = Notice how Jesus responds to His mother who is trying to use the fact that she is His mother to manipulate Him into doing her bidding (“Woman what does that have to do w/Me?”) = He doesn’t address her by the title of mother but rather “woman” indicating that she no longer had authority to tell Him what to do.

1.5. The POINT NOT TO MISS = Jesus does NOT have the same values or expectations as the world when it comes to our biological family. His are radically different. And we are to imitate Him – not the world if we want to get to heaven.

Your conversations with church family and outsiders are to be focused on family talk: God and His Word/gospel.

2.1. (Eph 5:15-20) = Spiritual things/God’s Word and gospel (e.g. what we are learning, what we are thankful for, Who God is, and what He has done in our life or is currently doing in our life) are to be the focus of our speech and actions – especially when w/others (Col 3:16-17).

2.2. This includes w/unbelievers (Mat 10:27) “proclaim on the rooftops” = To all people –not just those who are believers. Otherwise, we show ourselves to be guilty of two things: 1) we are fearing men rather than fearing God (i.e. caring too much about what they think of us or will do to us) (27-31), 2) we are ashamed of Christ (which means He will be ashamed –and deny us, on J Day) (32-33).

2.3. Consider then: If you are hanging out with biological family on the holidays who are not believers, is this what you wb doing? If not, then you show yourself to be a coward who is ashamed of Christ (Rom 1:15-16 = Paul was “eager” [the opposite of reluctant, having a hard time waiting or holding back] to preach the gospel b/c he was “not ashamed” of it).

You have no fellowship with anyone who does not welcome conversation about God and His gospel or refuses to act on what they have heard (including biological family and friends).

3.1. Such people are a waste of the time God has given you to be advancing His kingdom. This is the point behind Jesus’ parable of the talents (Mat 25). We are not to waste any of the resources that God has given us to advance His kingdom (including time – which once more is what we are doing when we spend time with those not interested in God/gospel conversations – Eph 5:15-16).

3.2. Jesus is explicit how we are to handle family/friends who do not want to hear about God or the gospel (Mat 10:1-15) = Notice the phrase, “shake off the dust from your feet” is coupled with the mention of “Sodom and Gomorrah.” That b/c Jesus’ instruction is an allusion to the command given to Lot and his family in (Gen 19:17). Shaking off the dust, therefore, refers to not lingering or hanging around. It means to move quickly away from such people or places (to “escape”) so as not to be caught w/in the impending blast radius. The people that Jesus is referring to (btw) –included biological family. Most of those in these villages (since they were Israelites) were relatives of the disciples. They were going into their hometowns and villages. The majority of these people were also those who professed to already be followers of God (e.g. those already claiming to be Christians). The important question (then) to consider is this, “How are you responding to family (or friends) who don’t want to have God (or gospel) conversations—or continue to linger – or make excuses, as to why they are not responding in repentance and belief? BTW: there is a big difference between the person who says “we want to hear more” and the one who is unresponsive or (in hearing more) continues to linger or make excuses. Our response should be markedly different between these two groups of people. With the former, we stick around (and continue evangelizing them), the other we run from. We stop wasting the borrowed time God has given us. We stop hanging around in the blasting zone lest we be destroyed w/them (Luk 17:21 – “Remember Lot’s wife”). Why would God cause us to perish w/such people? B/C we are now guilty (of their same crimes) by our fellowship w/them (2Jo 1:19-21).

3.3. (2Co 6:14-16a) = To not be “unequally yoked” w/“unbelievers”(which btw includes unbelieving family) means (according to what Paul says in the rest of verse 14) no “partnership”, no “fellowship.” IOW: No relationship, no hanging out or spending time w/them, no recreating with them or calling them your “best friends” or “favorite people”. We have (as v15 says) no “share with an unbeliever” (any more than Christ does with “Belial” or Satan). We can have association w/them (according to 1Co 5:9-10). But never fellowship – or relationship, that is intentional –unless that intention is to introduce them to our world w/God and to share the gospel. This means this is what is happening when they are with us. They are hearing about and observing our relationship w/God. We are shining our light among them –not hiding it in shame (Mat 5:16). Notice Paul says that such lack of fellowship w/them is necessary to possessing (or continuing to possess) fellowship or a relationship w/God. (16b-18) = No covenant fellowship/relationship w/God if you have fellowship/relationship w/them. Hence why (7:1) = “Holiness” refers to what we no longer tolerate. In this case, fellowship/relationship with unbelievers or false believers – biological family (or otherwise). The world is on the opposite end of the spectrum and on their way to hell because of it. In the world, it is all about toleration whereas following God is all about holiness (no toleration). Coming to Christ and being in saving relationship with Him requires we be on the side of holiness.

3.4. Consider (then) WWJD? Do you think He would hang out at family reunions or get together with biological family on the holidays – unless it was to speak about God? Yet Jesus and His disciples were instrumental in seeing a lot of people get saved. How? B/C they took that (otherwise waste of time) and focused it on those welcomed to God.

Why I Choose To Follow Christ

Why (at 24 years old) did I make such a decision and continue to follow Him today (no matter what the world does or how difficult it might be at times)?

(3 reasons): 1) what I knew about myself, 2) what I knew about the world, 3) what I knew about the future.

 

What I knew (and continue to know) about myself = It didn’t take me long to realize that I was (and would continue to be without Christ) a slave to my feelings/emotions with very little (if any) power or ability to free myself from them.

1.1.I hated being controlled by them because I saw how depraved, deceitful, and destructive they were.

1.2. I saw how they affected my ability to determine truth, make wise decisions, or have right relationships with others. I was a deaf, dumb, and blind crazy person that operated no differently (if not worse) than an animal.

1.3. I observed that this was true of others as well. Even the best pagan people were selfish animals being driven to do what they did by how they felt. And most of what they felt (or what drove them) was shameful and disgusting (e.g., 98% of men and 73% of women watch pornography – a habit that not only promotes the worst of crimes – the sexual abuse and exploitation of others [including rape and child molestation] but also destroys the most important relationship on the planet- marriage).

1.4. In short, what I realized about myself (and still know to be true to this day) is that self (myself as well as every other human) is out of control if left to themselves.

1.5. Contrary to popular belief, human beings are not naturally good. They are naturally selfish and self-serving (and that to a fault). And by “self-serving” I mean serving the desires of their flesh (no matter how shameful or destructive that may be to others).

1.6. I realized THAT. And (once more) that I possessed very little power to fight it. And that scared me b/c it meant I was capable of the worst of things.

1.7. BTW: it didn’t take being in the world or experiencing sin or the sinful world to REALIZE THAT. All it took was being honest about myself –what I knew was inside me and what I knew was inside others (e.g., psychological research now suggests that everyone either has some form of a mental disorder or will develop one later in life).

1.8. God’s Word confirms this to be true (of me as well as every other human being) (Deu 28:28; Ecc 9:3; Jer 17:9; Rom 7:18-19; Joh 8:34; Eph 2:3, 4:17-19; 1Pe 3:3, 4:3; 2Pe 2:12; Jud 1:10)

1.9. SO THAT is the FIRST REASON I chose (and continue) to follow Jesus. B/C of what I knew about myself.

1.10. This means that WHAT Jesus saved me (first and foremost from) was myself – from being controlled by my flesh- my feelings/emotions. As I gave (and continue to give full control of my life) to Him, He continues to give me power over my flesh so that I am no longer its SLAVE.

1.11. As a result, He saved me also from the shameful, foolish decisions I would make without Him and from the damage I would do to myself, others (and most importantly, God) if I were still in control.

1.12. Hence the reason it has NEVER been a problem to let Him be the BOSS and run my life.

1.13. I am afraid of myself. I don’t trust myself with my life. I know the narcissist I WAS —AND would be if I were running things. I also know how stupid I am. I can’t think straight.

1.14. Left to myself (or my feelings/emotions) I will deceive myself into thinking something is right when it is wrong, that something is safe when it is dangerous. I am (therefore-AGAIN) deathly afraid of myself (my thinking, my desires, my heart).

1.15. And so, I let GO of ME twenty-seven years ago and GAVE full authority (and all decisions) to Jesus because HE is the only One who truly knows what’s true, what’s best, and what path will keep me from destroying me (both now and for eternity).

1.16. I have put my hand to His plow and will never look back (especially seeing how great it has been since I did that. It is the best decision I ever made).

1.17. God’s Word also confirms this to be true for me as well as every other human being who follows Jesus – who gives Him full control of their lives (Joh 8:36; Col 2:3; Rom 8:1-4; God’s Word also teaches me how to properly view my emotions/feelings: not as my guide in this life [feelings don’t think and are often sinfully wrong – Jer 17:9] but as my “check your brain” light –or better yet, “what would OT JESUS do?” light).

 

What I knew (and continue to know) about the world = The world I grew up in seemed to have a better sense of reality and morality than the one we are living in now. But even back (then) I could see that putting my hopes in this world would be a losing decision. Not simply because it was filled with crazy narcissistic, perverted people, but b/c of what a world filled with those kinds of people creates.

2.1. It creates a world where lying, manipulation, greed, and selfishness are commonplace. A world where the idea of two people getting married and staying faithful to each other for the rest of their lives was already becoming unpopular.

2.2. Today, such thinking (or faithfulness to anything for the sake of faithfulness) is now viewed as weakness or (even) “sin” since the one thing now considered most important is that a person be “always happy.” Nothing can be pursued (or sacrificed) unless there is an immediate reward (or happiness).

2.3. And if lying, manipulation, greed, and (an utter selfish attitude) is what is required to achieve such happiness, then so be it (“the ends justify the means”).

2.4. Self-fulfillment or self-happiness are the chief goal of every human being (according to the world), and nothing should ever trump.

2.5. The irony in all this is THAT this SAME WORLD (where this is the chief goal) is ALSO a world filled w/very unhappy, unfulfilled people—PEOPLE who are disturbed, depressed, and stressed.

2.5. AND if you don’t see that, then you either haven’t been looking –or very honest about what you are looking at.

2.4. Allow me to provide some data that might help: 1) the divorce rate for new couples is almost 70% (IOW: the most sacred of all human relationships, is more likely to fail than succeed. Every 13 seconds there is one divorce in America), 2) more than 40% of those in marriages will have a physical sexual relationship w/a person who is not their spouse (so beyond just watching porn –which includes 98% of the men in the world and 73% of the women, one or both spouses will also have an adulterous affair), 3) therapists now counsel people to consider divorcing their spouses for reasons other than infidelity, the biggest reason: you believe your spouse is keeping you from achieving all of your happiness or self-fulfillment goals, 4) ethics/morality (right and wrong) are now considered a sociological construct –meaning what determines those things is what the majority of people (or culture) thinks at any given time. Hence the reason homosexuality that was at one time viewed as a mental illness is now considered acceptable (because this is now what the majority of people think), 5) Every day 132 Americans commit suicide (most of those doing it are from the middle to upper class) IOW: these are not poor people killing themselves because they are poor. It is people who live comfortable lives in this world but are so unhappy w/their lives in this world, they would rather die, 6) 37 million Americans are on anti-depressants and 40 million see psychotherapists (because this world is so great), 7) 37% of all managers in American companies tell at least one lie a week to bosses or their employees for the purpose of getting ahead or getting someone to do something they otherwise would not do if told the truth.

2.5. So that’s the world (and Evangelicalism. Believe or not, but the numbers among their group are not much different than those of the world). And as I said, I saw that early on and knew there had to be something better.

2.6. God’s Word confirms this to be true (2Ti 3:1-5; here’s what else the Bible says about the world – 1Jo 5:19 w/Joh 8:44 – Satan is the “father of lies”).

2.7. Following Jesus meant I could leave all the world (and its evil untrustworthiness behind) for a better community or world – a heavenly one, b/c through Him I would gain citizenship in His Body and heavenly outpost on earth –the church:

2.7.1. A place where things operate according to the objective truth. Not something that changes based on how people feel or what they want to be truth, BUT something I could build my life on, something that would withstand the trials and temptations to come.

2.7.2. A place where there will be justice/equity—which means wrongs are made right, the guilty are punished and the innocent protected (versus the world, where people are constantly taken advantage of, and people get away with it).

2.7.3. A place where I would have the best kind of family: people loyal not only to Christ and one another but also WHO can speak real truth and wisdom into my life (because its coming again from God’s Word and not their feelings or personal biases).

2.7.4. A place where there is faithfulness and fidelity (no matter the cost)

2.7.5. A place (lastly) where I could expect to find something better than happiness. A place possessing joy — a much deeper and persevering feeling than happiness –one that doesn’t leave when things get tough because it is not dependent on circumstances. It is instead rooted in the relationship we have with God and knowing that He loves us and is bringing only what is good for us into our lives.

2.8. Following Jesus gave me what the world never can (or could) – a righteous community of people I could trust my life w/.

2.9. Which is the second reason (then) I chose to follow (and continue to choose to) Jesus. In His BODY (the church) I found my forever home (a home safe from the wiles of the devil and the wickedness of the world).

2.10. As before God’s Word confirms what I just said (Eph 2:6; Phi 3:20; Rom 8:28, 14:17).

 

What I knew (and continue to know) about the future = I knew life had to be ABOUT MORE than just looking for fun and wasting time.

3.1. I knew we (as humans) had a purpose and that whatever the future held (both in this life and the one to come) it would be directly tied to (or determined) by what I did in the present.

3.2. The world (especially today) does not have a plan past this life (and in many cases doesn’t even recommend a plan for anything past the present).

3.3. It’s all about living in the now (and having as many experiences as possible).

3.4. Which really begs the question, WHY do anything more than just party all the time and make sure I am getting this biggest bang out of this body bag I am tied to? (A depressing picture of life if YOU ask me)

3.5. NO REAL purpose to live other than TO LIVE (again no different than the animals). NOTHING special, NOTHING bigger than just this pathetic existence.

3.6. God confirms this to be HOW humans in this world think (1Co 15:32b – no concern for the future, life IS the present and this present world ONLY—which MEANS the only purpose for living is “eat, drink and be merry”)

3.7. Following Jesus gave me REAL purpose AND a future worth working toward (one that extended beyond this life).

3.8. I learned that THIS LIFE was a test (for THAT next life).

3.9. Which meant that part of my PURPOSE was making sure that I was holy –or removing from my life those things that would corrupt my soul (and keep me from getting to heaven – or the next life).

3.10. That’s why people go to hell—b/c they have allowed their flesh and the world to corrupt their souls and cannot (as a result) reside in heaven.

3.11. My other purpose (I learned) was being His image-bearer (or an image-reflector of God) –which is what Jesus showed us HOW to do (and what it looks like). Hence the reason He came to earth and took on human flesh (Joh 1:18 – “No one has ever seen God, H who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known [literally, Jesus has shown us what it looks like to be image-bearers of God as humans]”).

3.12. And being image-bearers/reflectors is an incredibly awesome thing to live for (a wonderful privilege) b/c it is thru being IMAGE-bearers THAT God’s glory and kingdom are advanced on earth.

3.13. It IS how we become what else we were created for (to be conquerors). We conquer thru taking every area of OUR life and living it the way Jesus (or God) would (which is why that question WWJD? Is so important). My purpose is to be like HIM.

3.14. That awesome purpose is ALSO what gives me great hope for the future—since THIS (too) is HOW we enter heaven.

3.15. We do it by BEING faithful image-bearers—by being like JESUS, in the present world.

3.16. And God’s WORD confirms to those who live this way THAT THEY HAVE a great hope and a great future (Jer 29:11 – “I know the plans I have for you, plans to give you a future and a hope; 1Jo 4:17 – “we have confidence on the day of judgment – because as He is, so we are also in the world”)

So (then) those are my reasons (and they are still my reasons).

AND following Christ all these years has only made my commitment and love for Him stronger –B/C I see all the more His FAITHFULNESS and GOODNESS and HOW what He says in His WORD is TRUE.