fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

Who Is The Liar?

Who is the Liar? By Julie McAllen

22Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son. 23No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25And this is what he promised us—even eternal life.

26I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:22-27)

When we think of THE worst example of rebellion toward God, isn’t it Satan? If anyone was anti-Christ it is him. Study his personality and actions. He was an angel in heaven among the ranks of the holy and he starts thinking he can do better than God Almighty? When Jesus Christ, God made flesh, came to earth, who ended up putting him to death? Wasn’t it religious people who thought they had something better? PRIDE–particularly religious pride–has always opposed the Holy One who is God.

I am a very prideful person. I never thought of myself as the ‘sinner’ led astray by wild living. I was basically “a good person” out there in the world. I used to see those signs along the road that read “Jesus died for your sins” and ask God “so, what’s my sin?” I acknowledged that I was a sinner but really wasn’t sure what my sin was. Was anything I did really “that bad?” I also didn’t understand what sin did to my relationship with God, who I assumed at that time was just a big sky daddy who overlooked everything and all good dogs go to heaven. I didn’t really think sin mattered much to God because I was in darkness. But if there is no such thing as sin, there is no need for a savior then is there? I denied the Father and the Son… but then again, I didn’t know any Scripture.

Then I got involved with a nice, clean, white-washed religion that appeared to have all the answers. Oh how I was drawn to that! Like James says, “each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14, 15) I had a desire to be one of the chosen few who could be righteous enough to enter the new order. I was sure I could be good enough. I loved the law set forth and endeavored to keep it, but I experienced a separation from God through the practice of my religion. I was still in darknesss for I had been deceived to deny the Father and the Son even as I became well-versed in Scripture.

Thankfully, the life of Paul was recorded in those Scriptures and I began to relate to his journey.

If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. (Phil 3:4-6)

Wow. Paul thought he was “faultless” as regards doing the right thing too! So why did he also refer to himself as “the worst sinner?” (1 Tim 1:15)

Philippians chapter 3 continues…
7But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)

Paul understood, by the grace of God, the pride involved in “having a righteousness of his own.” I believe he called himself the worst sinner, not because he drank too much, gambled away money, fooled around with woman… or men for that matter, or stole from the temple, but because he at one time denied the gift of righteousness through Christ in prideful preference for his own religiosity. It took a blinding encounter with Jesus Christ to humble Paul and cause him to repent of this sin of faultless self-righteousness. And God turned that “liar” into His spokesman for truth.

Legalistic religions churn out prideful people like the pre-Christian Paul every day and I was certainly one of them. I did not just leave it and expect time to heal all wounds, I REPENTED before God of my involvement in it because I am humbled every time I see what Jesus did for me. I can no longer deny him, he is the truth.

Who is the liar?

Did someone tell you that if you behaved well enough God would accept you too? If it’s all about keeping the law, what was the long-awaited Messiah for? When John said in this letter, “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you,” what might the Christians he wrote it to believed from the beginning? He calls a person who denies Jesus Christ an antichrist. In what way could they be persuaded to deny Jesus?

I don’t think there is a religious group out there that does not agree that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Ro 3:23). We fear being labeled prideful if we do not agree that we all have sinned. But what is our true response to this? Do we remain the victim of sin and death? Strive to overcome it by our own efforts? Sweep it under the rug? Perhaps our response to this issue of sin affects our response to Jesus Christ and determines if we live in the lie or in the truth.

Unfortunately for some in the church, the response has become a list of do’s and don’ts to gain or remain in God’s favor. Though they may use the Bible, where does Jesus fit into this? Can our attitude deny Christ? If it’s all about “me” working my way to heaven, what do I need Jesus for? Is there anything we can do to merit God’s favor? In contrast, Romans 6:23 says God sent us a gift… the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Bible’s anecdote to sin and death is not our own righteous works but a gift from God. Imagine that!

Religions that teach it’s members that eternal life is gained through some kind of work or behavior are DENYING the gift God offers in Christ. If they teach pro-self works, then they are anti-Christ. If you have fallen into this lie and have persisted in gaining life through your own works, REPENT! You’ve swallowed a lie. If you are still teaching it, REPENT! You have become the liar. If you are drowning in self-pity because you could never live up to the expectations of the religion–MEET JESUS, you are forgiven.

It matters not how well-versed or well-behaved your religion taught you to be if it has taught you to believe in another Jesus. Mine told me he died for my sins and in the same breath demanded I remain in their group to really know God and hold to their list of rules in order to survive the end of the world. Such a group is anti-Christ for they are pro-self.

Along the journey with Jesus, I thought I’d understood where the dangers lie in religion; Just stay away from those legalistic rules about lengths of skirts and facial hair right? No. I found lies in some Spirit-filled fellowships also where people were made to feel uncomfortable if their gifts were not displayed to the rest of the group for approval. Is there an unspoken rule that everyone must practice the gift of praying in tongues to prove their spirituality? All gifts are for the edification of the church, but not all are known to the church. There are silent prayers after all.

I personally believe in the continuation of spiritual gifts, however, I am cautious with groups where balance is neglected. On one side of the spectrum we have legalistic groups that rely solely on “knowledge” and block the Spirit. And on the other extreme we see some groups sweeping past the foundation of redemption from sin and eagerly pursue the spiritual gifts. I personally believe that when Jesus said we were to worship God in “Spirit and Truth” he was referring to the balance of being grounded in Scripture and also open to revelation through His Spirit, not either or. Look at the gift of prophecy for example. How can one use such a gift properly unless the word of God first dwells in them? And how can it unless a person takes the time to digest it? Such a gift was given to the apostle Paul because he was well grounded in Scripture and therefore in a better position to test the spirits and discern what was in line with the revealed will of God. Tongues, on the other hand, were given to some Gentile believers less familiar with the revealed word, yet they were encouraged to seek the gift of prophecy (1 Cor 14:1-5). After all, would you trust an unversed, new believer fresh from the world who “has a word for you?”

In imitation of Jesus, there is nothing wrong with the church feeding folks to put them at ease long enough to listen. They may invite them in through a church event offering fun and games. I’m sure when Jesus fed the five thousand with the fish and loaves he was well aware that some only came for the food, but others would follow him. Jesus dined with all types and healed people without regard to whether they would join him or not. Our Lord is perfect agape love in action and the church also is called to represent that, but he did not bestow spiritual gifts on the ones who merely took a passing interest did he? Those who received the Holy Spirit first were Jews, educated in the Scriptures concerning sin and the Messiah and they were obedient to his command to stay in Jerusalem until his timing in pouring it out (Luke 24:49). The role of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ not the individual or group with which one is associated. And it is foundational that one must grapple with their personal sin first in order to glorify Christ. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would be the Helper which would convict the world of sin (John 16:8). Sin! Gasp! He doesn’t just send the Spirit for the warm fuzzies. In some seeker-friendly groups eager for the “experience” of Christianity, the temptation is to brush past the foundation and move headlong into praying for the gifts of the Spirit.

Perhaps in welcoming new seekers in hopes that they will continue to attend church and grow in the faith, it’s easier to extol the blessings of spiritual gifts than risk the discomfort of touching their sin issue lest they retreat too quickly. But talk about sin? How can the church grow with that kind of appeal? And yet, that is how the church of the first century grew — by responding first to the words “REPENT.” (Acts 2:38) To quickly breeze past laying that foundation in the rush to promote an encounter seems a recipe to invite in the wrong spirit. Let’s not forget that an enemy can imitate with signs and wonders also. Tongues and healings are NOT evidence of the Holy Spirit alone. If a person can tell you all about their experience at church and the gifted teacher who healed them but not be able to answer why it was necessary for Jesus to die for them personally, I might suspect something was lacking in the foundation of their faith.

We are in this world along with those who pay no attention to the cross or acknowledge Jesus Christ. And it is not our role to change the world by Bible thumpin’ those who are not asking. We are instead to be READY for those who ask according to 1 Peter 3:15. And why would they ask unless they noticed something different. Jesus taught that the church was not to be taken out of the world, but left in it (John 17:14-16) Those in Christ are STRANGERS in the world, not the other way around. As a Christian, I remind myself that this world is not my home, I am a guest here so I’d better respect those in the world outside of Christ. I would not expect them to take on my beliefs if they are at home with their own in this world. But when a person visits the church the tables are turned. The world is now a guest in my home. I feel no need to conform to their views by being overly seeker-friendly by sidestepping the issue of sin. We talk about sin. If that offends, then the door to our house is always open to leave. Whether in our personal homes or the house in which we gather for worship, it is right to welcome unbelievers and treat them as guests, but not to receive their teaching.

7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. 9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 1:7-11)

To my understanding “house” in this case means “house church” in the sense that we do not welcome unbelievers by giving them the floor to teach their anti Christian way in the church. You can feed em and love em, but not ask them to teach the rest of the church gathered there in the hopes that we can “all just get along.” It is fine at the neighborhood BBQ to have lively and open discussion among diverse people of differing faiths, but should this be the case at church? Christians are to carry their cross, not put their enemies on it, so we may have to bite our tongues respectful that it is not our place as a guest at another’s house, but church is the place where we get to be free to worship Jesus without holding back isn’t it? If people came to CHURCH looking for answers, how sad it would be if in the interest of being seeker-friendly we shoved truth aside and just offered more happy programs and promises to keep them coming back. And come back they may, but are they being deceived by a false representation of Christianity that doesn’t address sin? It’s fine to keep a seeker off the street and coming back to church, but what is it they’re converting to — a new lifestyle or to Christ himself? What happens when the church programs end? Adherents of false religions, after all, say they have a relationship with God, read their Bibles and join in the activities of a religious life but reply with uncertainty when asked, “are you saved?” Somehow the message of the cross got missed. It’s a sly enemy tactic to shut up the blood-bought church and silence those must confident to take a stand for righteousness. Are we being deceived by thinking we’re doing something good in the name of religion by being too friendly? Have we become Satan’s tool by adopting a watered down seeker-friendly policy to keep folks coming back to church and forgotten that Christ did not come to bring peace but a sword? It’s OKAY if some people hate Christians for speaking truth ya know, that’s perfectly normal. I have come to love the sword in fact. I do not mind the separation that the message of the cross causes and yet Jesus has taught me to love and pray for those who differ or outright become my enemy because of it. That’s pretty friendly.

When a seeker says they now are a believer, I certainly wouldn’t want to downgrade their positive experience. If a person talks about becoming comfortable at church and the friendships formed through it, there is nothing wrong with those things, but does this make them a Christian now? I wouldn’t want to MISLEAD them by assuming that just because they now go to church or even had some spiritual experience that they have come to Jesus Christ for salvation. So after affirming their positive experiences at church, the simple question to ask them is “at what point did you realize your sin?” If someone has truly come to Christ for salvation from sin and death, surely they will have a ready answer to that question and able to tell you the lie they had been in before coming to the truth.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him. (1 John 2:26-27)

I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? (1 John 2:21-22)

Do you know the truth? Who is the liar?

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

August 31, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Keep Yourself In God’s Love

Keep Yourself In God’s Love by Julie McAllen

It’s become my signature at the end of every article I write and letter I send. Some friends have asked why.  The passage is from Jude 21, “keep yourself in God’s love.” And this is my explanation.

When I was still in the darkness of my religion, the book of Jude was very difficult to read. After all, I had been condemned by the leaders of that religion and tended to chaff at the warnings in Jude wondering if they were directed at me. But I was seeking God. I had told my elders I could no longer serve because I was trying to build my own relationship with God at the time, and they said I was selfish. After 7 years of dedicated service, my life was falling apart and I was feeling weak and vulnerable, grasping for God, asking for prayer, and now they were calling me selfish? So God validated my efforts to pursue Him in Jude 20-21.

20 But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

I noticed the SELFISH language of it. It is all about keeping YOURSELF in God’s love and building YOURSELVES up in YOUR most holy faith. It wasn’t up to any man to build up my relationship with God, it was up to me. Seeking Him is a selfish endeavor He respects. I had grasped the first step in personalizing my faith outside of the constructs of religion. There is grace indeed, it was pouring out all over me, but God put upon me a responsibility for our relationship and continues to remind me of it even as I enjoy fellowship now within the church. And by my signature, I remind others to do this as well. We must do something to keep our relationship with God strong, like any other relationship. What does it say? Wait for something to happen? Expect the pastor or fellow Christian to always build us up? No, we, yes, WE ourselves must build ourselves up in the faith.

But what about serving others? Isn’t the Christian life about loving our neighbors? Isn’t it about serving others? When we “selfishly” keep ourselves in God’s love, He then fills us up to overflowing and we can not help but spill out somewhere. Filled to be spilled. This is how He enables us to love our neighbors as ourselves. In this we learn it is HE who prays, writes, ministers, heals and speaks to others through us. We can not love others with HIS LOVE unless we do our part first which is to “keep ourselves in God’s love.” So the goal of our Christian life is not service and obedience, it is to stay in love with God. For Jesus said service and obedience would be the natural RESULT of loving Him, not the other way around.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15)

Staying in love is a much more pleasant goal wouldn’t you agree? And though faith is a gift from God and fruit of His Spirit, it is up to us to nurture it. There is a lot of self-directed language in the latter part of Jude which serves as a guide to us as Christians on how to value and nurture what we’ve received by faith.

17But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. 18They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” 19These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.
20But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. 21Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.
22Be merciful to those who doubt; 23snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. 24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen. (Jude 21:17-25)

* Continually go back to the foundation of Christ and the apostles (v. 17)

* Pay no attention to latter-day scoffers not built upon that foundation (v.18)

* Be on guard against religion of flesh not Spirit, it will divide you (v. 19)

* It is up to us to build ourselves up in faith (v. 20)

* Pray in the Holy Spirit (v. 20)

* Meditate on God’s love (v. 21)

* Wait on the mercy of Jesus (v. 21)

* Meditate on the eternal life (v. 21)

* Show mercy to the wayward (v. 22)

* Actively expose error with their salvation in view (v. 23)

* Hate the sin, not the sinner (v. 23)

* Know that any faith and standing you have is a gift (v. 24)

* Give all glory to the One who is making you stand and enabling you to minister to others (v. 24, 25)

Amen.

Now go ye forth and selfishly indulge thyself! ~Book of additions 3:16

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

June 29, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Keep Yourself In God’s Love

Laying the foundation

LAYING THE FOUNDATION by Julie McAllen

 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. 49 But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49)

Have you ever put your trust in something or someone who later turned out to be mere “ground without any foundation?” I have and it hurts. The depth of that mistake it not just in trusting a faulty foundation, but to see the work built upon it come tumbling down like a house of cards in stark realization of Psalm 127:1

Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.”

In both the first and the last books of the Bible, we learn that God existed before the heavens and earth were created (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 10:6). In between we see kingdoms rise and fall, temples built, destroyed, and rebuilt, people enslaved and set free, life and death, blessings and curses. All things taking place under the sun. For as the wise man Solomon said so long ago,

“There is an appointed time for everything….A time to tear down and a time to build up.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3).

If this is the case, we might question as David did, “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3)

THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD

When you think of the Lord laying a foundation, what comes to mind? Is it the earth itself? A temple in Jerusalem? A belief system? And if a foundation is destroyed, what effect will it have on everything else that has been built upon it?

When the temporary foundations of Job’s world were being shaken, the counsel of his friends sought to provide an explanation. But in the midst of these storms, God instead asked a question,

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? (Job 38:4)

We are all humbled by the reminder that God alone founded this world and everything in it. Stories like that of Job who lost his children, health, wealth and the trust he once put in his wife and companions demonstrate the fact that what’s given into our hands can be snatched away at any moment for none of these were around at the foundation of the earth.

And yet, we learn the earth itself was established on a foundation set in place even before it came into existence.

He established the earth upon its foundations, So that it will not totter forever and ever. (Psalm 104:5)

What existed with God as the foundation upon which our earth was established?

 “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. 23 “From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth. 24 “When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water. 25 “Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; 26 While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world. 27 “When He established the heavens, I was there, When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, 28 When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, 29 When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth; (Proverbs 8:22-29)

Who is this described as the one alongside God at the beginning of His way?

“For wisdom is better than jewels; And all desirable things cannot compare with her. I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion. (Proverbs 8:11-12)

Wisdom existed with the Creator to found the earth according to Proverbs 8.

She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
And happy are all who hold her fast.
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens.
(Proverbs 3:18-19)

Everything under the sun can be shaken, but God’s wisdom remains as a foundation. Solomon in his wisdom observed that to everything there is a season, with “a time to tear down and a time to build up.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3) Yet, Solomon was given wisdom to also add, “ I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him. 15 That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15)

A generation goes and a generation comes,
But the earth remains forever.
(Ecclesiastes 1:4)

Wisdom remains, and the earth remains, though we see changes with every passing generation. There is nothing new under the sun. Each are mere building blocks upon what was previously established; some things proving to stand strong having been built upon wisdom, some set to totter having been built upon an inferior foundation. So it behooves us to look deeper at the firm and everlasting foundation.

THE WISDOM OF GOD

Just as Solomon portrayed wisdom as standing beside him in Ecclesiastes 2:9, God also personifies wisdom as a master worker alongside Him marking out the  foundations of the earth.

When He set for the sea its boundary
So that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
31 Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of men.
(Proverbs 8:29-31)

Some have proposed that this master workman beside God was Jesus Christ. They are not entirely wrong, for later in scripture we learn that Christ is also called the “wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24). However, that does not lend to any arguments that Christ existed as a separate creation of God anymore than Solomon’s wisdom was apart from him. Solomon’s wisdom stood beside him and yet his wisdom was himself. Much like when I tell you “I give you my word.” My word is me and I am my word, how can I give it to you as something separate?  John opens his gospel with words familiar to the opening chapter of Genesis,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:1-3)

Jesus, the wisdom of God, is also the word that was with God and yet was God. Jesus is not a created being of God, for he is before all creation. It is no surprise then, that the apostle Paul described Jesus Christ as the “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)

Christ is before all things. He existed before the heavens, before the earth, before the formation of Israel or the church. All subsequent rulers and kingdoms of any age were set to rise and fall, yet one was founded to last.

‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 25:34)

THE KINGDOM OF GOD

The kingdom of God was not an after thought set in place to fix a problem, it was founded long ago in wisdom, righteousness, justice, lovingkindness and truth (Psalm 89:14). Long before the earth, before the creation of Adam, before the prophecies of a coming Messiah, before the establishment of any religion or creed, an everlasting kingdom was prepared. God spoke of it through the prophets giving instructions as a shadow and tutor preceding the reality to come, and finally in the last days of Israel, God spoke through His Son “whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

The kingdom was near. Foundations were shaking. As Christ pronounced judgment against wayward Jerusalem, the old law covenant was “becoming obsolete, growing old and ready to disappear” (Hebrews 8:13). What was founded at the beginning of the world was being revealed in the grand transition taking place in the first century.

As the letter to the Hebrews opens, it promotes Christ as God’s firstborn into the world, and He says of the Son,

“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil  of joy.”

10 He also says, “In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:8-12)

This proclamation in the new testament is quoting from Psalm 102:25-28, where we see God as the founder of the earth.

“Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 26 “Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. 27 “But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. 28 “The children of Your servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before You.” (Ps 102:25-28)

The heavens and earth can be shaken, but the foundation remains. David noted this in the past through his victory song recorded in 2 Samuel 22 and Psalm 18.

6In mydistress I called upon the LORD, And cried to my God for help; He heard my voice out of His temple, And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.

7 Then the earth shook and quaked; And the foundations of the mountains were trembling And were shaken, because He was angry. 8 Smoke went up out of His nostrils, And fire from His mouth devoured; Coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down With thick darkness under His feet. 10 He rode upon a cherub and flew; And He sped upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness His hiding place, His canopy around Him, Darkness of waters, thick clouds of the skies. 12 From the brightness before Him passed His thick clouds, Hailstones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, And the Most High uttered His voice, Hailstones and coals of fire. 14 He sent out His arrows, and scattered them, And lightning flashes in abundance, and routed them. 15 Then the channels of water appeared, And the foundations of the world were laid bare At Your rebuke, O LORD, At the blast of the breath of Your nostrils. (Psalm 18:6-15)

Surprised to hear that the Lord had come down in the past with His holy angels and with the clouds? His purpose was that the foundations of the world would be laid bare at His rebuke. Within these parallel passages, we learn that David’s world was being shaken by the vengeful pursuit of his enemy King Saul. Though Saul had been appointed as the first King of Israel by the Spirit of God, his anointing was taken away and given over to David (1 Samuel 10-16). This was a struggle for David to comprehend as his own conscience bothered him asking how he could stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed (1 Samuel 24:5-7). Kings and their kingdoms rise and fall for they are created things, mere foundations of the world. What a shock to David who also queried in Psalm 11:3 “If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?” I believe David, like all of us, was being tested and sifted to reveal where his trust had been and to discover the true foundation.

   “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; 3 My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge; My savior, You save me from violence. (2 Samuel 22:2-3)

THE DWELLING OF GOD

Even as new kings came to power over Israel and Judah and were said to “sit upon the throne of the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:23), and foundation stones of temples were laid as a dwelling place in which the Lord would reside, the message that should have gotten through to those under these kingdoms was “this is temporary.” For God had been proving Himself as the only real rock to stand upon amidst the shaking foundations in which men so easily put their trust.

 “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. 22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. (Daniel 2:19-22)

Prophesies were given concerning an everlasting Kingdom, one not made with hands nor could ever be destroyed. Kingdoms known as mountains would rise, but a greater mountain existed even before them. When God pronounced His judgment against the mountain known as Babylon, he said,  “They will not take from you even a stone for a corner Nor a stone for foundations, But you will be desolate forever,” declares the LORD. “ (Jeremiah 25:26) After seeing the mountains of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, and Grecian kingdoms fall, during the fourth kingdom rule foretold in Daniel’s interpretation, the visitation and inspection of  the Everlasting King would arrive. While the Jews were trusting in the stones of their temple and the Romans were trusting in their army, the fulfillment of that coming King and the foundation of His Kingdom were being revealed.

Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. 17 “I will make justice the measuring line And righteousness the level; Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies And the waters will overflow the secret place. 18 “Your covenant with death will be canceled, And your pact with Sheol will not stand; When the overwhelming scourge passes through, Then you become its trampling place. (Isaiah 28:16-18)

The chief cornerstone of the true dwelling place of God was being rejected. Of those he had prepared to receive him, only a remnant chosen by grace would be saved (Romans 9:27). The rest would put trust in their temple buildings and their own righteousness. But like always, what was built by man was soon to be shaken and trampled down.

They do not know nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, And all of you are sons of the Most High. 7 “Nevertheless you will die like men And fall like any one of the princes.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations. (Psalm 82:5-8)

Those about to perish did not discern the self-existent One who was now standing in their midst as the chief cornerstone of a lasting house in which God would dwell. They walked about in darkness, meanwhile the sons of Light were being built up as living stones into a spiritual house.

 And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For thisis contained inScripture:

   “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES INHIM WILL NOT BEDISAPPOINTED.”

7This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve,

“THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 8and,

   “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”;

for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doomthey were also appointed.

9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. (1 Peter 2:4-10)

The foundation of the apostles and prophets were “being fitted together, growing into a holy temple in the Lord, built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:20-22) Those who were given ears to hear and eyes to see were making it known in the letters preserved for us in the Bible. And thus they aspired to preach the gospel revealing Christ as the foundation (Romans 15:20)

The household of God, which is the church of the living God, became the pillar and support of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) Yet during this transitional period, God’s building composed of His rejected chief cornerstone, prophets and apostles existed alongside the temple built by hands in Jerusalem. Kingdom was against Kingdom. Therefore, they were encouraged to present themselves as a “workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” … and reminded that “the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” (2 Timothy 2:15-21) Is it any different today?

WHEN THE OLD FOUNDATION FALLS

 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!’”

Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you,not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.” (Matthew 23:37-24:2)

Shocked by this declaration yet trusting in Jesus Christ as the foundation of truth and Light that had come into the world, the disciples were moved not to ask “why?” but “when?” When would they see the destruction of their temple the end of that age?

Jesus answered,

“…when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near. 21 Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains, and those who are in the midst of the city must leave, and those who are in the country must not enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled….Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled….. for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. ….when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place. 33Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. (Luke 21:20-33)

As promised, Jesus Christ had come to fulfill what was written in the Law and the Prophets. In this astonishing transition period of the new creation existing alongside the old heavens and earth, a generation was being blessed to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. (Matthew 5:17-19; 25:34)

As the Alpha and Omega spoke in the final hour of its fulfillment, John saw the vision of the city having real foundations.

The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald; 20 the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst. 21And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. 22 I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. (Revelation 21:19-22)

How encouraging this must have been for John and how blessed the seven churches were to read it while under intense persecution by those who were putting trust in old, obsolete foundations that were ready to disappear (Hebrews 8:13). For they were given grace to understand that they were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). What coming destruction could possibly separate them from the love of God?

After two temple builds in Israel’s history, there would never again be a temple of mortar and stone rebuilt to establish a dwelling for God in an earthly, physical kingdom. For His kingdom is no part of this world (John 18:36). The true King had already sat down on His heavenly throne and began ruling in the midst of his enemies in the first century while building a spiritual temple to replace what was soon to be destroyed. Though the last temple was destroyed in 70 AD proving that  “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24), some “novel ideas” of the current era have misled some into fear of being left behind lest they support laying another foundation. How can anything else be built when God’s eternal dwelling place has already been established upon the foundation of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, and is guaranteed to never end (Matthew 16:16-18)? God is already in His temple inhabiting it forever. Beloved, the church is not a pause in God’s eternal plan, it is in fact the building having real foundations.

His foundation is in the holy mountains. 2 The LORD loves the gates of Zion More than all the other dwelling places of Jacob. 3 Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God. (Psalm 87:1-3)

Though the prophets and faithful men of old had not received the promise when they died, they looked forward to this “city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) They confessed themselves as strangers and exiles on this earth. Instead of pining for an earthly kingdom to be set up at some future date, they looked toward a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16) They would not enter that heavenly city until those alive at the coming of the Lord would also join them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). That time was at hand, for the church of the firstborn had already approached it. They had not come to a physical mountain, one that could be shaken. They had instead come to the long-awaited city of the living God, the promised Mount Zion known as the heavenly Jerusalem. They had heeded the voice of the one who warned them on earth and received a kingdom that could not be shaken, and now they stood waiting for the final judgment upon “things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:18-29)

What has remained? A temple in Jerusalem? No, twenty centuries later, another building is still standing. Fires have come and will continue to come in order to test the work and lay bare the works of man upon it, but what God laid in the beginning is good, very good. And so, as God’s fellow workers, we are admonished to be careful with what we lay upon that good and solid foundation.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:10-17)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

April 30, 2012 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Two trees in the garden

Two trees in the garden by Julie McAllen

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
(Gen 1:27)

Man was created in the image of God placed on this earth to represent his will. We learn a lot from the Genesis account. It’s here we grasp God’s deepest desire for us–to be a reflection of him, created in his own image.

Later in scripture, he restates his purpose for us through the writings of the apostle Paul who said it was God’s intention to conform us into the likeness of his son.

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers (Ro 8:29)

So we see the truth of the matter. From the very start of our conception as people, the goal of God was stated clearly,

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:26)

In the likeness of God. In the likeness of his son. This is why we are here. It is the desire of our creator and therefore the deepest desire within us “to be like God.” And the enemy knew it from the beginning. He knew the truth. And thus, the lie had to be formed around that truth.

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:5)

Isn’t that the expressed desire of God himself? He intended that his creation would be in his image and likeness. But who spoke these words to Eve? Who knew her desire to be like God so well that he convinced her to take a path that her creator had warned against?

Well we all know the story. It was Satan twisting the words of God to conform to his own goal of separating the creation from the creator. And it worked. Was there any truth in the serpent’s lie? Yes, for he promised Eve that she would be “like God” if she ate of the forbidden fruit and this is the result according to God’s word.

And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:22)

Man was created in God’s image. And yet God is proclaiming that after their disobedience he has now become like the Divine nature in knowing good and evil?

Let that sink in a moment.

When Adam was created and placed in the garden, was he already perfect? Was he already living forever? Was he already conformed to the image of his creator?

Some have made the assumption that the couple were already perfect and living forever on the earth. Had Adam not sinned, the logic follows that his offspring would have inherited everlasting life on earth through him. But think again. Was Adam “like God” before the sin?

Were there not two choices in the middle of that garden?

And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)

Of all the trees in the garden they were free to partake. There was only one law, one thing forbidden to them. And where was it placed? In the same arena as another very important tree.

And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen 2:9)

The tree of life was placed in the middle of the garden and they were free to eat from it. Two trees in the middle of the garden. One was forbidden and certain to bring death, the other was free and certain to bring life. God knew it and so did his enemy. Two choices, both tempting the pair “to become like God.”

Notice in the temptation that there is only reference to “the tree in the middle of the garden” but none is distinguished by name. Neither Eve nor the serpent say “tree of life” or “tree of knowledge of good and evil” they just have a conversation about the tree in the middle of the garden. I’ve often wondered if Satan and Eve realized they were even talking about the same tree?

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:2-5)

Eve ate from the wrong tree. She ate from it because she was deceived into thinking it would be good for her and her husband to do so. They desired to be “like God” after all, and the fruit, therefore, had appeal.

The two trees in the middle of the garden are Law and Spirit. Both offered a promise to the couple who were designed to be perfected into the image of God. But perfection did not come for them. Their growth was halted. By their choice of one route to God, they were banned from the other route.

22 And the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen 3:22-24)

What Adam and Eve had come to know was Law. They had become like God knowing good and evil. They had indeed attained the wisdom Eve desired when she gazed upon the fruit. But nothing is made perfect by law (Heb 7:19). And though Law promises to draw us near to God, our source of life, it actually draws us further from him. The separation known as sin.

7 What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “Do not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead. 9 Once I was alive apart from law; but when the commandment came, sin sprang to life and I died. 10 I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death. (Ro 7:7-10)

Our first parents underwent this separation. They underwent spiritual death. Where they used to walk freely in the garden with their creator, now they hid from the voice that called out “where are you?” Now banned from the tree of life, they would never be brought to perfection through the way God had always intended to bring everlasting life. Law brings death. The Spirit brings life.

Though each one of us is made in the image of God, like Adam and Eve, none of us are born perfect. Though we are sons and daughters knitted together in our mother’s wombs, we make choices as we grow and how we will respond to our innate desire to be “like God.” It helps to understand the first lie because the enemy of life is still telling it. He is the father of lies (John 8:44). Though Jesus spoke of Satan as having “no truth in him” that does not mean he doesn’t have the word memorized and able to quote from it. He basically quoted God’s word to Eve when he said that if she ate of the tree in the middle of the garden she would be like God. He twisted the truth to get her to eat from Law rather than the Tree of Life. The father of our flesh, Adam, fell for the lie. But the father of our Spirit, Jesus Christ, combatted the assault of twisted truth by quoting it back properly.

The first assault on Jesus was to get him to question if he even was a son of God (Luke 4:3) Believe it or not, this lie is often presented within religion today. Lies that whisper “knowing scripture is knowing God…..you’re not really saved unless you do this….. following the rules is following God…. only certain members within our group are sons of God….” But Jesus had witness born to him at his baptism when the Holy Spirit came upon him and told him the truth.

And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 4:22)

Have you also had that witness born to you? Or has someone caused you to question your adoption?

Wasn’t Adam promised dominion over the land? Did he receive it or did it produce thorns in his toil? The devil dared to promise Jesus dominion over kingdoms of the world, but unlike Adam, Jesus did not bow to the way in which Satan promised to give it. And when the devil took Jesus to the heights of religion symbolized by the temple, he quoted directly from Psalm 91. The teachers of the Law were always trying to trip Jesus up by quoting from it, but Jesus said they were from their father the devil (John 8:12-47).

Are you getting the picture? Satan uses God’s truths to tell his lies. By this, he steals your inheritance in the tree of life.

Anyone can quote scripture. Bibles abound for any thief to use for his own glory. No one can stop them. But, only God can reveal truth by his Spirit. Only by his Spirit can we, therefore, be brought into the complete and perfect image of God he intended at our conception.

Adam was a son conceived in the heart of God to be made in his image. However, Adam was never perfect, before or after the sin, and able to bring forth perfect children. Perfection only comes through death (Heb 11:40).

Look at Jesus. How was he perfected?

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb 5:8-9)

Jesus LEARNED obedience and once made perfect, he became the eternal father of all living. And through that obedience until death, Jesus was made perfect forever (Heb 7:28). Adam could never do this, he is only the father of our flesh which is imperfect. But the imperfect comes first and then the perfect. As we all have borne the likeness and image of the earthly Adam, so we shall bear the likeness of the last Adam, the man from heaven (1 Cor 15:42-49). One day, we will be among those mentioned in Hebrews 12:23 as “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” but that depends on which tree you choose now. You can be like God, but you are what you eat.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

March 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hand him over to Satan?

Hand him over to Satan? by Julie McAllen

You’ve heard the term “original sin” and know that it traces back to the disobedience in the garden. Sin changed the relationship between man and God, but even after the sin, God remained present in the lives of Adam and Eve. He did not cut them off completely. Rather, God disciplined them while continuing to be their provider by clothing them with garments of skin (Gen 3:9-21). Eve credited God for the birth of her first son acknowledging some form of relationship with the Creator of life (Gen 4:1). We also know God remained in their family life because their boys were bringing offerings to the Lord. God looked with favor upon Abel and administered counsel to Cain about the sin that was crouching at the door (Gen 4:3-7). He was active in their lives providing clothing, children, a place of worship, favor and counsel. And yet, we understand the original pair sinned.

David also sinned. He lusted after Bathsheba and when he discovered she was pregnant with his child, he sought to have her husband killed (2 Sam 11)! God’s prophet was sent to expose his sin. Though he committed adultery and murder, David’s heartfelt repentance elicited favor from God and he’s remembered among the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven. David was forgiven his sin.

Is there any sin that God can not forgive?

Mark’s gospel brings our attention to Jesus’ words that ALL sins of men will be forgiven them. Yet right within the same passage he brings out a sin which can never be forgiven.

I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (Mark 3:28-29)

So if God is still present in the lives of sinners, and adultery and murder can be forgiven, but the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, don’t  you wonder what exactly that means?

I come into contact with a lot of people who’ve been kicked out and shunned by their religion due to sins they’ve committed against God and/or sins against  their religion’s particular doctrine. Terms used by these  groups vary from excommunication, the ban, the shunning, or disfellowshiping,  but the results are that the person often wonders if they can ever be forgiven and if they’ve sinned against the Holy Spirit.

Inability to conform to a religion is not sinning against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person, not a religious group. In my own case, when I was disfellowshiped, I felt condemned by God because I was rejected by what was called “God’s spirit-directed organization.”  In my controlled mind I wondered if I was guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit. In reality, the religion itself was a false god and the Holy Spirit was responsible for drawing me out of it. I had not sinned against the Holy Spirit, I was listening to Him lead me away from a deceptive religion. That authority had to be understood for what it was, so that I could stand alone before God and let Him be the judge of my life. But when a person is first expelled from a body they once trusted as teaching the correct interpretation of scripture, it’s a powerful burden to bear and my heart aches for them. They often go off into deep despair as family and congregation abandon them as a form of “godly punishment.”  This is a shame.

I penned a heart and the words “thank you” next to John 9:35 in my Bible where it reads “Jesus heard that they had thrown him out” concerning the case of the blind man who was kicked out of the synagogue for testifying to the healing he received from Jesus. Though he lost his family and his religion, Jesus heard about the ban and came to him alone.

But is excommunication from a valid Christian fellowship ever warranted when a person actually sins against God? And with what goal?

The passage that churches use in such drastic cases is found in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.

But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.” (1 Cor 5:11-13)

Paul advised expelling a brother from the congregation who was sexually immoral with his father’s wife. The  New Testament makes clear that sexual immorality in the congregation is a sin against God and also one’s own body (1 Cor 6:18) A church body would be right to address such a case, yet Paul does not say they had, instead they were boasting in it.  Their pride wasn’t about that form of sin, it was their distorted understanding of God’s grace. No longer under law, they were saying in effect, “look he is not keeping the law and yet Jehovah is not sending any lightening bolts!” The new church was often corrected for this distorted view of changing the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 4). And given that this behavior was reported to Paul it must have been going on for a while without the man sensing any reason to repent and change his course of action.

But one might ask, “didn’t Jesus pay the price for this sin at the cross?” He forgave us while we were yet sinners (Ro 5:8). He paid for this man’s sexual indiscretions , so why was he expelled from the congregation? Where is grace? Where is forgiveness?

Consider this. If I was hired as a nurse I would be expected to do the duties of a nurse. If I showed up at the hospital every day and never cared for any patients yet expected to get a paycheck every week, would I deserve to be fired? Not only was I receiving a paycheck for no services rendered, but I was exploiting the trust of patients who expected to find a qualified nurse in the hospital. Losing that position and paycheck would be just the thing to help me assess my priorities. Likewise, if a person claims to follow the Lord and is enjoying the blessings of the Christian congregation but persists in a sin for which he refuses to repent and seek help, then really, he just decided not to do his job. He wanted the freedom and was granted it. Outside of the fellowship, he would be in a better position to assess his priorities. Christians still sin, after all, but when we sin, the Holy Spirit leads us to repentance (1 John 2:1-6). Apparently this man was not being led to repentance by either the Holy Spirit or the brothers in his midst. The real problem then, was not so much the naughty thing he did, but that he was no longer able to discern God’s correction.

So what did Paul advise to bring about repentance in this man?

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, (1 Cor 5:4)

They assembled as a body in the presence of the Lord. That tells me they were united in prayer. I believe that prayer was not just for this man but also the error of this boastful congregation in not recognizing the seriousness of his sin.

hand this man over to Satan, (1 Cor 5:5)

In the presence of God, they handed the man over to the enemy. Why? It was their acknowledgment to God that they were aware that this man had already chosen the lordship of the king of sin. The man was already in Satan’s hands. They’ve finally called the sin a sin. How then can they continue boasting? The congregation could now be restored to the Spirit’s lead of repentance and consequent refreshment. Naming the sin is not always easy for us to do with our brothers is it? Think about the relationships in that congregation. Friends and family united in Christ. Maybe some were winking at the sin not wanting harm to come to this man who may have at one time been very strong in the Lord. But they must expel him and hand him over to Satan as Paul directs in his letter.

Now, what was the purpose?

so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord. (1 Cor 5:5)

Did you notice that? They are handing over this man to Satan, but do they consider him to be beyond recovery? NO! They did this so that HIS SPIRIT WOULD BE SAVED ON THE DAY OF THE LORD! His sinful nature was committing incest and would be destroyed, but his spirit was sealed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. His spirit is pure because it is Christ’s spirit (Ro 8:9-11). His spirit would be saved on the day of the Lord. There’s a comfort in that grace, but certainly no reason to boast. As Paul said, they should be filled with grief. The reason is that if he continued to sin, he would not be useful as a cleansed vessel to do the will of God while on earth. What a loss. A body ought to grieve when it loses a member. He was also putting himself in danger of a worse sin, that of denying the Holy Spirit, if he persisted in blocking His voice. According to this, however, he had not reached the point of losing his salvation. The hope of the church was to allow the heavy hand of God to bring about a fearful expectation of judgment upon him so that he would recognize his sin and turn to the atonement made in his behalf through Christ’s shed blood. A person won’t seek forgiveness if they don’t know they are guilty. In his shame, he would be left to seek Christ. But if by God’s mercy he was led back to Christ as his righteousness and yet considered the sacrifice unworthy of his attention, there would be nothing left and he would be guilty of insulting and sinning against the Holy Spirit.

 26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

Excommunication is not always the answer but in the case of this man it was necessary. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, it appears the man was repentant and they were instructed to reaffirm their love toward him (2 Cor 2:5-11).

As Christians, we sometimes lose our footing, but we are sealed. We were saved the moment we put our faith in Christ who died for our sins. All sins he died for. He died for our past sins, present sins and future sins. The price was paid in full. If you are not faithful, God remains faithful. He will hold on to you. Have you ever felt the heavy hand of God lead you to repentance? Don’t refuse Him, it’s a kindness. He is ready to forgive, but you have to come to Him and acknowledge the sin. The Holy Spirit’s role is to lead you there. However, if you let sin rule by deciding in favor of it by continually drowning out the voice of God and the servants He sends to correct your destructive course, you could end up in the dark, away from His light, away from His people like this expelled man or in the pig pit like the prodigal son. And what happened in that story? The faithful Father was running open-armed waiting for his son to come to his senses and return. God waits for sinners to repent. This expelled man didn’t lose his salvation, but while “out there” he missed an awful lot of blessings. And it is precisely that act of HANDING HIM OVER TO SATAN that drives a person to the conclusion that they had it better in the Father’s house. So the reason the wicked man was expelled from their midst was to allow him to wallow in his sin and hopefully come to his senses. I respect a fellowship that does not wink at wrong doing. Sin ought to be addressed, but God is much more merciful and ready to forgive than some religious organizations that claim to represent Him in their misuse of expelling members.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

October 30, 2010 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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