fruitage of the spirit's journal

Expressions from the Heart

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

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

Spiritualizing Israel

Spiritualizing Israel by Julie McAllen

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. 18 I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” 20 Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ. (Matt 16:13-20)

Peter was blessed, not because of his heritage as a Jew, but because he understood the foundation of a relationship with God is built upon wisdom and revelation from heaven and profession of Jesus Christ. Peter wasn’t handed any literal “keys” but was now being trusted to unlock mysteries in the Old Testament previously hidden from his sight. The flood of understanding given to Peter was the unveiling of the spiritual realities hidden in the new covenant. Upon receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, Peter was given revelation to connect Joel’s last days prophecy with his present awakening (Acts 2:16-17; Joel 2:28-32). Those gathered in the upper room were being prepared for the end of the system under which they lived. Their challenge would be to share the good news of a spiritual kingdom to those who remained veiled under a very literal, old law covenant. What the literal eye and ear had not seen or heard had just been revealed to the church by SPIRIT (1 Co 2:7-10). God had used the old covenant with its physical attributes to tutor these Israelites into Christ and His spiritual kingdom so that they might become teachers to their fellow Israelites first and then unto Gentiles even down to our day.

As the last days of that old covenant with Israel were coming to her end, Jesus often spoke in parables which at times left them confused. His words are rich in symbolic language to describe His kingdom. He calls His follower’s sheep, Himself a shepherd, a rock, and the bread of life. He likens the kingdom to hidden treasure, a pearl, and a mustard seed. He even describes His love and pain for Jerusalem as a hen gathering her brood under her wings (Matt 23:37). I don’t think He meant to sound like a literal chicken. After their baptism in the Holy Spirit the disciples more fully understood the spiritual significance of His illustrations. Take for example the fig tree which Jesus had condemned in Matthew 21:18-22. If Jesus used a literal fig tree to symbolize ancient Israel for those already familiar with Him as the seed and true Israel of God (Hosea 11:1; Matt 2:15), is it that far a stretch to suggest they accepted the promise in Micah 4:4 of each one “sitting under their own fig tree” as a symbol of peace made possible to those under Christ, the prince of peace? Or were they out looking for the perfect tree to sit under? They came to understand that under the new covenant, Christ restores a relationship with YHWH, not through a religion based on the old law covenant but as a new creation in Christ Himself. Though first century disciples of Jesus lived under harsh conditions, those “in Christ” knew the peace of God which surpasses understanding. They also understood their trialsome earthly lives were not the final destination as they focused on treasures in heaven and looked forward to citizenship there with Christ. As Jesus warned, they would always have the poor with them, but under the law of love, they were reaching out to the widows and orphans unlike the religious leaders still looking for their Messiah’s arrival according to their own acceptable signs while missing the kingdom in their midst.

Some today are expecting very literal fulfillments of prophecy and have criticized interpretations that “spiritualize Israel,” but even the Ryrie’s Study Bible commentary agrees that “the curse on the tree is an illustration of the rejection of Israel, a nation unfruitful despite every advantage.” Is Charles C. Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D. and dispensationalist spiritualizing the old testament in regards to Israel?

The dispensational view promotes that “Israel always means Israel” and thus throughout the Bible when reference is made to “the Israel of God” the interpretation is given to the ethnic nation of Israel with promises left to be fulfilled in the land of Jerusalem rather than in any allegorical, spiritual sense.  In contrast, the concept of a “spiritual Israel” is the belief among some Christians who assert that the church, or body of Christ, now replaces natural or ethnic Israel as “God’s people.” This is known as replacement theology. Dispensational and replacement theology both agree that the church belongs to God, but one teaches that the church exists within this dispensation of time (the church age) until the completion of God’s timetable of world events of which natural Israel plays a key role, while the other believes the church has replaced Israel. While both dispensationalist and replacement theology respect the covenant God made with His people Israel, one group says the covenant was replaced, while the other says it is still valid, yet “on hold.” And thus, questions arise as to what “Israel” means when referenced in the New Testament. I can understand how this literal system of interpretation by dispensationalists is appealing since it neatly lays out the answers by putting distressing current events in the Middle East into the grander scheme of God’s purposes offering the hopeful expectation of Christ’s return there, but does “Israel always mean Israel?” Did the New Testament writers ever present terms such as “Israel” or “Jew” in any allegorical, symbolic, or spiritual sense? What do you think?

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; (Romans 9:6)

I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9)

This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. (Gal 4:24-26)

When the apostle Paul wrote about the two covenants in question, he referenced the women who produced Isaac and Ishmael as allegory with Hagar representing the Mosaic Law and Sarah representing “the Abrahamic covenant, the heavenly Jerusalem, the Spirit, and freedom” (Charles Ryrie Study Bible commentary on Gal 4:24-31)

This is not the only place in which Paul used old covenant concepts and introduced their meaning to those born under a new covenant by the spiritual circumcision of the heart. In many other places, Paul replaced the old with the new.

Quoting from Exodus, Leviticus, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Paul says to the church in Corinth they now are the temple in which God dwells (2 Cor 6:16) He further adds that these Gentiles have become “sons and daughters” of their Father YHWH due to this new covenant. The literal temple in Jerusalem was still standing and literal “sons and daughters” that could trace their heritage back to Abraham were among them, yet Paul skillfully connected the Scriptures to encourage these brothers in Christ about spiritual realities that were now theirs under the new covenant. Earlier in the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the surpassing glory of that new covenant over the first one that had been established through Moses and the natural sons of Israel.

Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, 6 who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

7 But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory. 10 For indeed what had glory, in this case has no glory because of the glory that surpasses it. 11 For if that which fades away was with glory, much more that which remains is in glory.

12 Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech, 13 and are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:4-18)

Paul was an Israelite with an unveiled face. Though as a circumcised Hebrew brought up under Law, he persecuted the Spirit-born church, God saw fit to “unveil” his eyes on the road to Damascus (Acts 9). God filled Paul with His Holy Spirit and then used him to connect the shadows presented in the Law and bring them to light in Christ. Did Paul “spiritualize” the Scriptures? Significantly so!

What is circumcision? (Ro 2:28-29; Phil 3:3)

Who are Sarah and Hagar, Isaac and Ishmael? (Gal 4:21-31)

Where is God’s temple? (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16)

What kind of armor do we put on? (Eph 6:10-18)

And of what nature are our weapons? (2 Cor 10:3-4)

Was it just Paul or did other New Testament writers ever “spiritualize” literal Old Testament references?

Zacharias, being a righteous priest in the sight of God, would have been very familiar with Malachi’s prophecy. That is why when the angel Gabriel appeared informing him about Elizabeth’s pregnancy, he quoted from Malachi,

“Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel.

“Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” (Mal 4:4-6).

Elijah was the subject of Malachi’s prophecy concerning “the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord” and this is what the angel Gabriel is recorded to have said to Zacharias concerning the child that was soon to be born to him.

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)

The angel Gabriel had just “spiritualized” an Old Testament prophecy and attributed it to Zacharias’ son, John the Baptist, but he was not alone in this. Jesus also spiritualized the Old Testament prophecies concerning Elijah and attributed them to John and Himself.

John was expecting someone fitting the description of what he’d read in Isaiah’s prophecy. He looked forward to the fulfillment of such passages as Isaiah 35:5-8

5 Then the eyes of the blind will be opened
And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.
6 Then the lame will leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.
For waters will break forth in the wilderness
And streams in the Arabah.
7 The scorched land will become a pool
And the thirsty ground springs of water;
In the haunt of jackals, its resting place,
Grass becomes reeds and rushes.
8 A highway will be there, a roadway,
And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.
The unclean will not travel on it,
But it will be for him who walks that way,
And fools will not wander on it. (Is 35:5-8)

And while in prison John inquired of Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” (Matt 11:3)

Jesus chose to answer with that familiar passage in Isaiah as proof that He was the expected Messiah within John’s own generation.

Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. (Matt 11:4-5)

The kingdom of God surely was at hand and Elijah had already come to restore as promised. Are we to expect another? When I read Isaiah 35:8, for example, I read it with my “new covenant eyes,” trusting that by Spirit I have “eyes to see and ears to hear.” Therefore, I’m willing to accept that the highway to Holiness laid in that generation is not a literal road any more than literal horses come out of the sky.

For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. (Matt 11:13-15)

Those who were stuck on seeing a more literal fulfillment of the “Elijah to come” missed the spiritual sign, but his disciples shaken by the religious leaders who insisted on literal fulfillments brought their questions directly to Jesus and asked,

“Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist. (Matt 17:10-13)

In the last days of Israel’s old law, those who missed the spiritual significance of Elijah also missed the parousia of their King. They remained in the “natural mind” and therefore mocked those who pointed to the resurrection, ascension, and soon return of Christ in judgment against fruitless Israel (2 Tim 3:1-9). Jude 17-19 describes those mockers as “worldly-minded, devoid of Spirit.”

I would not say the danger lies in spiritualizing the scriptures then; to the contrary, it’s in taking them too literal.

Jesus Himself took literal accounts from dealings with Israel and made spiritual application to His listeners. The reaction to His words back then is the same as today. Some took offense, but others were enlightened by the allegory. For example,

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” 66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:48-69)

The religious Jews were very accustomed to literal interpretation, but Jesus often spoke in parables. Those who followed Him asked Him directly for the interpretation. Nicodemus secretly went to Jesus and inquired to understand His words of “Spirit and Life.” When Jesus plainly stated, “you must be born again,” this member of the Sanhedrin took it literally. He imagined a man would have to re-enter his mother’s womb in order to see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus knew YHWH spoke to His people of earthly things, but as the perfect son of God noted to this Israelite man, “If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?” (John 3:12)

It remains an everlasting spiritual kingdom, not part of this world, in which one must be born of Spirit to see, enter, or begin to comprehend. Has anything changed for those who’ve come to the reigning King Jesus Christ throughout any generation? If Jesus, the apostles, Zacharias, John the Baptist, and the angel Gabriel agree that prophecies were fulfilled spiritually in the first century, is it correct for Christians today to “spiritualize” the Old Testament to make it understood to those entering the new covenant?

The literal-minded disciples constant inability to understand Jesus’ claims to be put to death in fulfillment of scripture is evidence that they also had difficulty connecting old testament prophecies to their own critical time. Therefore, Jesus “spiritualized” the Old Testament story of Jonah in the whale to illustrate His coming death, burial and resurrection (Matt 12:38-41) making it applicable to the generation poised to witness it.

From the time Jesus began His earthly ministry, the Jews were in a transition period of living under the darkness of the old law covenant while being transferred into the kingdom of His Son (Col 1:13). Transition periods are often met with confusion and we have the record of that in our Bibles. The immediate hope for those following Jesus was the ending of the old law covenant and a rescue from those persecuting them. God had spoken to their fathers through prophets but now, during the last days of Israel, was speaking through Jesus Christ (Heb 1:1-2). That same letter to the Hebrews proposed that the new covenant, under which they served the High Priest Jesus Christ, would COMPLETELY REPLACE the old covenant.

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear. (Heb 8:13)

If the first covenant was “becoming obsolete” and “soon to disappear” by the writing of this letter to the Hebrews (64-68 AD) why would God have an agenda to bring it back as if the “church age” were just a hiccup in his plan? Is His plan to restore the kingdom and old covenant in Jerusalem or did it never end? What does “soon to disappear” mean? Is that “soon” to us now or was it “soon” two thousand years ago to the intended audience of that letter?

Peter likened himself and the disciples to “living stones” being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood of which Jesus Christ himself is the chief cornerstone (1 Pe 2:4-10). Was Jesus literally a stone? And was Peter saying that the disciples would be stacked like bricks to form a literal house of prayer? As if to clarify for those still fixed on literal interpretations, Peter clearly states they formed a “spiritual house” as “living stones.” Not only was Peter using symbolic language to describe the new spiritual temple of God, but notice how he also referred to himself and Christ as being in the priesthood! According to Numbers 3:6-10, only those of the tribe of Levi participate in the priesthood. In fact, the New Testament writer of Hebrews restates it for our benefit.

And indeed those who are of the sons of Levi, who receive the priesthood, have a commandment to receive tithes from the people according to the law, that is, from their brethren, though they have come from the loins of Abraham; (Heb 7:5)

Can Peter and the others trace their line to the tribe of Levi? How about Paul? He said he performed “priestly duties” now that he was in the new covenant (Ro 15:16) but he was from the tribe of Benjamin. And what of the High Priest Himself, Jesus Christ? What tribe was He from?

Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called according to the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
(Heb 7:11-14)

By the writing of Hebrews, the priesthood had already changed. “What further need is there” for a restoration of the Levitical priesthood? So why would God be gathering literal Israelites right now to comprise a future 144,000? What would be their function? Furthermore, if they must fit into the twelve tribes of literal Israel outlined in Revelation 7:4-8, is there any man on earth today who fits the description and can trace his blood line back purely to just one of the tribes? The family records having been destroyed in 70 AD make this task “literally” impossible.

If the keys of the kingdom were given to Peter, the highway to Holiness was laid, hearts were circumcised to designate God’s chosen people making their bodies temples in which He would dwell, and Elijah had already come in the first century, then why do some in our 21st generation insist that a remnant is yet to be gathered out of present day Israel?

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, THEY HAVE KILLED YOUR PROPHETS, THEY HAVE TORN DOWN YOUR ALTARS, AND I ALONE AM LEFT, AND THEY ARE SEEKING MY LIFE.” 4 But what is the divine response to him? “I HAVE KEPT for Myself SEVEN THOUSAND MEN WHO HAVE NOT BOWED THE KNEE TO BAAL.” 5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. (Ro 11:1-5 quoting from 1 Kings 19:10-18)

If you received this letter back in the church at Rome when it was written, what would Paul’s use of the term “at the present time” mean to you? Would those reading it in 57-58 AD think Paul was speculating about a remnant yet to be gathered in the 21st century? Or would they take it literally to mean “at the present time?”

Paul was relating that in times past God had kept a faithful remnant among His people despite widespread apostasy. In Paul’s “present time” it was the Spirit-born church who had been taken out of the larger group of the fruitless Israelite nation whose temple was poised to be left desolate. These few in number were the firstfruits to God. Were these literal virgins following a literal Lamb standing on a literal Mount Zion? (Rev 14:1-4) I think it’s safe to admit that there’s a lot of “spiritual” language in the New Testament. According to the words of Christ at John 4:35-38, the harvest had already begun starting with the twelve tribes of Israel (James 1:1, 18). If the remnant referred to a group yet to be gathered in our present time or at a future date, wouldn’t we expect them to be called the “last fruits?”

In conclusion, I am in agreement that there exists a “spiritual Israel.” I do not, however, agree that this remnant is being gathered in our time. I believe it already saw a first century fulfillment for a special purpose when “spiritual Israel” was taken out of “natural Israel” to comprise a symbolic 144,000. The “spiritual remnant” or Israel of God of the first century is a part of the larger Spirit-born church taken out of every tribe and tongue which no man can number and will endure throughout eternity (Rev 7:9; Matt 16:18)

His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand. (Luke 8:9-10)

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

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

Recognizing God’s Will

Have you ever ran into someone who you recognize, but couldn’t remember their name or who they were? That’s happened to me a couple of times. Being the shy person that I am (yes, I’m shy), I normally wouldn’t say anything until I knew for sure who they were. But to help jolt the memory, I would usually have to clear my mind of everything I was thinking of so I can focus on that person. Sometimes all it really takes is hearing their voice and I can remember everything about them in an instant!

I believe that knowing the will of God is much the same process. When we’re at a loss with our lives, we pray for God to reveal his plan for us but often times don’t see God answering our prayer. Little do we realize that God has already revealed it to us, but we failed to “recognize” it much like we do a long-lost acquaintance.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2. In this verse, we are reminded to “renew our minds” so that we will be able to recognize the will of God for us when He places it in front of us. I don’t believe God plays mind games with us, particularly those seeking to live according to His will – and He wouldn’t hold out on faithful servants who ask in humble prayer. I believe that if God’s word says He imparts wisdom to those who ask, He does. So why don’t we see His will for us when we ask for discernment? Mainly it’s because we don’t recognize it and there may be different reasons why we don’t. For one, we may not agree with His plan for our life, so we choose not to see it and keep asking Him to show us what He already has! Or perhaps our minds are clouded with so many things that are preventing us to see God’s will. In my personal experience, I don’t recognize God’s will when I’m not paying attention. For me, paying attention would require me to be still and wait quietly – only then do I become aware of Him and His will for my life. More than often, God has revealed His plan for me through His word, through a friend, a church sermon and sometimes even through music! Sometimes I can feel God tugging at my heart to notice Him. And even then, I sometimes miss the obvious and find myself on bended knee asking for what He has already revealed. Crazy, isn’t it??

Know this, God has a plan for everyone, including you and me. Jeremiah 29:11, 12 “For I know the plans that I have for you declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you.” He is a God of PURPOSE and everything He does is for His Glory. He is a God of divine order and not of confusion. Just look at our universe and how orderly it is! He makes no mistakes in planning out the happenings of each and every day. He orchestrates every aspect of our lives and when you think about it, that’s a very good thing. Personally, I’d rather he plans out my every minute of the day because I’ve been known to make a mess of things!

They say there are two things for sure: death and taxes, but I beg to differ. I say there are three, and the third surety is that God has a plan for everything that is under His creation. So rather than ask the Lord to reveal His will for you, ask Him to help you recognize the will and plan He has already set in place in your life. When He does, obedience must follow your humble request; you must be prepared to be obedient to follow the path He has willed for you; with discernment, He will provide you with the resources to live out His plan for your life. With Him in control, you will never go wrong!

May you continue to abide in God’s Grace, Linda.

(photograph courtesy of Marcene)

October 9, 2011 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Inerrant Word of God

The Inerrant Word of God by Julie McAllen

The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)

Have you ever had someone encourage you to stop using your Bible in favor of their preferred translation? Discussions over translations can make a simple soul feel like they have to go through seminary in order to come to Jesus. It can sometimes leave a person questioning if they know the truth at all when they doubt the Bible in their hands. People ask, “if the word of God is infallible, then which one is it? WHICH translation is the correct one?” Well, I’m just a simple soul that didn’t go to seminary so I’m not qualified to tell you, but I won’t let that keep me from sharing some thoughts on the subject.

When we read our present day Bibles we have the Apostle Paul and other writers to thank. This was their service. But the church existed BEFORE those written letters. The church existed before Paul because we know before he was a Christian he persecuted the church. But what did Paul say about his role within the body?

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness (Col 1:24-25)

Paul informs the Christians in Colosse that he is a “servant of the church” to present to them the word of God in its fullness. What Bible was he presenting to them? Obviously, there were not any to be seen. But isn’t it interesting to ponder that the church existed before the Bible?

How changed it is today. We send out missionaries with Bibles in hopes to establish churches, but that is not what was going on in the first century. The church was established first and then God called Paul and others to write a Bible. Their letters became the New Testament. The people who originally received those letters already belonged to Christ, but they did not have the word of God in its fullness. Today we have those letters neatly categorized into chapter and verse. We can choose from hard cover, soft cover, leather bound, red letter, large print, thin line, wide margins, concordances, cross references, commentaries, and translations galore!

But those are BIBLES. The Word of God is something else. And it is the word of God that stands forever.

I will use the Bible to explain what I mean, but really, THE WORD existed before any printed or digital Bible. It is the WORD that is eternal, not the BIBLE–regardless of the availability or preference of translations.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

Was there a Bible? No, just “the word.”

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Was there a Bible? No, just a man of flesh and blood who spoke so powerfully that guilt-ridden sinners saw hope, legalistic religionists gave up their place, people were healed both physically and emotionally, and families were divided because of this word. They were not arguing over KJV, NASB, or an NIV were they?

The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (John 6:63)

This man SPOKE the word. He claimed to be the one who SPOKE the universe into existence, and brought children to birth by this word. Whether it is SPOKEN or WRITTEN, the word only brings one to life if the ETERNAL SPIRIT enables it to happen. This is the inerrant word of God (Is 40:8), not a particular translation. I can testify that even in what is considered to be a “wrong translation,” God saw fit to speak life into me and others I know. It was His Spirit we heard. Didn’t Jesus say that even the rocks would cry out if no one else testified? If God can use a rock, surely He can use a Bible.

Keep in mind that the work of evangelism before the printing press was mainly done ORALLY and localized letters. There was no great distribution of Bibles. People’s hearts were opened and the Spirit descended upon them when they HEARD the words of Life–not transferred by an accurate translation of neatly categorized chapter and verse, but by Spirit-born believers who related what they knew from their own receiving of it.

Jesus prayed that we would also believe through their message. When he prayed “your word is truth,” he couldn’t have meant any particular translation, for the Bible as we know it was not even available. No leather bound, red letter, wide margin, 5 ribbon bookmarked, concordance, cross-referenced, introduction to each letter, Premium edition NIVs were to be seen (hint, hint, my birthday is coming up and I need a new Bible).

Yet Jesus prayed…..

17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,
(John 17:17-20)

How were converts to Christianity made after this prayer? With a Bible in hand???

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37)

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. (Acts 10:44)

Something happened to Peter that gave him boldness to speak, but who REALLY gave the testimony?

And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. (1 John 5:6)

26 “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26)

Written or spoken, it is the Holy Spirit who still testifies.

Whenever the “New Testament” mentions “scriptures” it is referring to the “Old Testament.” Notice what Jesus himself said about those scriptures.

39 You diligently study the Scriptures (Old Testament) because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40)

Do we receive life from having the best Bible or by coming to Jesus? While on earth, Jesus, who is the WORD and the TRUTH was not received by all was he? He went first to the Jews, who DID have a written testimony of his coming, yet not all received him to become children of God (John 1:12). Was it a problem of translations? No, Jesus confirmed that the scriptures were true. They testified about him. Paul used those same scriptures to establish the fact that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah, yet the written word was not enough to convict everyone. Neither is it today. People can read any preferred translation you shove at them and yet not receive a testimony from the Spirit.

I am thankful for churches and missionaries who hand out Bibles and Christian book stores that offer a wide selection of translations, but ONLY GOD can distribute His Spirit to those whom He chooses to show mercy….like Paul. Did someone thump a Bible on his head? If you know his story on the road to Damascus then you know why a humbled Pharisee could now testify to the Corinthians in this way.

1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Cor 2:1-10)

Looks like the Spirit got a hold of Paul and gave him a testimony. It’s still done this way today.

As for the Bible, I am THANKFUL for those who were called as servants to WRITE it.

This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. (John 21:24)

We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:4)

My joy is complete.

Keep yourself in God’s love, Julie

May 27, 2011 Posted by | According to Scripture, Expressions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

The Gospel of Grace

Galations 1:6-24

How well do you know your faith? Can you defend your conviction when false teachers distort Scripture?

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As we start a new study in Galatians, the theme for this week’s lesson harmonizes with events happening this month of June. The Cult Awareness classes, taught by Carl Mickens, begin this week at First Baptist for six weeks. Brenda Lee, author of Out of the Cocoon, will be featured this month on WE TV, where she will be profiled with three other cult survivors. What’s extraordinary about these events is that both Carl and Brenda give their testimony to being ex-Jehovah’s Witness. I have taken Carl’s classes last year and he emphasized the importance of being firmly rooted in your faith. Brenda stresses the same. Unfortunately, many people get caught in the teachings of false doctrine because they were not knowledgeable of Scripture. I must admit, this was my demise 20 years ago when I had become a Jehovah’s Witness (I left the Watchtower organization in 2003). I had little knowledge in Scripture and fell prey to false teachings.

 

This was the problem in the churches in the Galatians region and Paul wrote them a letter to correct their way of thinking. In fact, this letter to the Galatians was probably Paul’s most severe letter because the problem dealt with the gospel that was being preached. Some Christians in those churches were teaching that salvation is attained by works. Jews who converted to Christianity taught that believers must still uphold the law of circumcision to attain salvation. The message of grace was being distorted by this “new” gospel they were preaching.

6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;   7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!  10For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.

 

During Paul’s first journey to the Galatians churches (Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe), he preached that salvation was by grace through faith in Christ alone. However, converts that Paul led to Christ were falling away to false teaching. Paul accused them of turning from the God of grace to another gospel, and their message was perverting the gospel of grace. He denounced them by holding them accountable for their false teachings, which would bring them eternal damnation and separation from God. These were strong words that Paul used; he needed to make the point across that they were in spiritual danger.  Paul then reasoned with them that the gospel he preached did not come from man, but rather a revelation from Jesus Christ. He emphasized the fact that he didn’t consult with people to know the message to preach, but rather the Holy Spirit directed his ministry and the message of the gospel.

11For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man.   12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.  13For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it;  14and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.  15But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased  16to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood,  17nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.  18Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days.  19But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.  20(Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.)  21Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  22I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ;  23but only, they kept hearing, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.”  24And they were glorifying God because of me.

 

Wow! There is so much application for us today. I guess this study really hit home to me because it took me back to a time when I was not very knowledgeable of Scripture. I honestly thought the only way I can ever learn the truth about God is by having someone sit down to teach me; bible book by bible book, verse by verse. But that’s not what Paul was emphasizing to the Galatians. I know better to allow the Holy Spirit to guide me as I read God’s word. I spent 20 years in ignorance and now that I’m no longer subject to false teachings, I make every effort to reinforce my knowledge of the gospel’s divine origin. It’s so easy to get entangled in something we don’t know because it sounds convincing at the moment. This was the issue in the Galatians churches.

 

It’s so important to understand the gospel of grace. So many people know of God’s grace but refuse to accept it as gospel because it’s easier to accept the idea that one should earn their salvation by works. We live in a society where we’re taught that nothing comes free – everything has a price and should be earned. This is why it’s so difficult for some to accept that Salvation can never be earned through any works…it’s a gift…God’s grace. Isn’t it terrible that some people cannot accept a gift from someone without wanting to give them something back in return? Others feel a self-reproach or suspicion when someone does something nice for them for no reason at all. We’re created in His image and He gives to us freely. With that being so, shouldn’t we accept freely and without guilt? This is what the gospel of grace is all about! Accept God’s gift of Grace and reject any teachings or false notions that we must work to earn it. 

 

Thank you, Joyce, for walking us through this lesson.  WWP also thank for your leading us in class these past few weeks and look forwad to your visit again soon! God Bless.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Expressions | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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