Heaven Coming to Earth Part 2: Kingdom Significance

In the last post, I introduced the topic of the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus preached “the kingdom”, He was not usually talking about the after-life. The Kingdom of God does not specifically refer to the actual location of Heaven, which Scripture refers to as “the third Heaven” (1 Cor. 12). It refers to the realm where God’s rule is established. This is why we are told to pray that His kingdom will come in Earth as it is in Heaven.

In the end, Heaven and Earth will actually become one again. I say again based on what we see in the book of Genesis.

In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth (Gen. 1:1).

For most of my life, I thought that in the beginning God created Heaven. Then about a trillion years later (give or take), He created Earth. This is not what we see in the first verse of the Bible. It seems to imply that they were created at the same time.

We also see that sin caused a disharmony in the Heaven/Earth connection. Jesus came to restore the connection; to bring the kingdom of Heaven down to Earth. We read in 2 Cor. 5:19, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (the word for world is “cosmos” in Greek).

We see in Rom. 8:23 that we born again believers have “the firstfruits of the Spirit (a foretaste of the blissful things to come)”. The oneness that will eventually be completed between Heaven and Earth is first seen in those who have been united with Christ through his death and resurrection.

All that being said, our life here on Earth is important. I think we should move away from a survival mentality that says our only mission here is to get people to Heaven (the after-life) and suffer it out till we get there ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, it is about God and people rather than material things, but we need to keep in mind that, as the Scripture says, “the Earth will remain forever”. We are to be experiencing and ushering in “the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 4:6). I guess that makes us “new agers”.

We should not think that the only valid work for the kingdom involves being a missionary in the jungles or being a professional minister of some sort. We must not fail to see the importance of seemingly “temporary” work. For years (really, years) I was trapped by a lie that what I did in my “secular job” was insignificant. I did not invest effort in developing in the atmosphere where God had placed me as I waited for Him to bring me “into my calling”. Although I was often complimented as a hard worker, I thought God was only really interested in my “spiritual ” work. I failed to see that as a believer, everything takes on a kingdom aspect. There is a kingdom plan in the outer wheel of eternity that encompasses the inner wheel of this present temporary age.

A good friend of mine had a similar scenario. He was working at a restaurant and was growing in his role there. But he thought he would need to quit his job and live in a 24×7 prayer room for his calling to be fulfilled. God dealt with him about this by explaining how being a priest (one who prays and worships and accesses Heaven) was only half of his identity in Christ. He was also called to be a king (one who rules over the Earth). Shortly after that, he went for a management position at work and got it!

I will say that I am big into prayer, worship and missions, but I see that there is a deception that enters the church when we think that God is only pleased with us when we are locked away in a closet praying for His return or for Him to send revival to the dark world or participating in overt ministry work.

No matter what we do outwardly, fulfilling our calling must always center around:

1) Christ being formed in us

2) Displaying the fruit of the Holy Spirit

If we have these two things developing in our lives, what we do will be filled with the nature and power of Christ in us.

But if you attend some of the “revival” meetings these days, you may think that God is only pleased with outwardly radical displays of discipleship. You might feel guilty that you are not being martyred in the Middle East or shouting the gospel at the top of your lungs on the street corner. That is great if that is where God has you in your walk with Him. However, if you read through the New Testament, the instructions to the church are filled with instructions centered around to loving one another and  living simple lives. Paul told the Thessalonians:

 Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.  Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others (1 Thess. 4:11-12).

Living a quiet life of faith, love, and rest is a great example of kingdom living. We are to enjoy and steward this life as a gift from our Father. As Jesus said, we should not look for outward signs of the kingdom but discover the kingdom within (see Luke 17:20-21).

Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God (Ecc 5:18-19).

In my next post, I plan on reconciling the concept of the kingdom of God coming to Earth and the significance of life in this world with the true biblical concept of “not loving this world”.

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Heaven Coming to Us

In 2003, my world was rocked by this thought that would not go away:

The church has preached going to Heaven, but Jesus preached Heaven coming to Earth.

Somehow, this fundamental, basic truth eludes us. We are so focused on where we and others will end up in eternity that we miss the point that Mr. Eternity wants to set up His Kingdom here.

When Jesus walked the Earth, His message was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand (Matt 4:17).” It was not, “Repent so that you end up in Heaven when you die.”

In His model prayer that He gave to the disciples, He said, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, in Earth as it is in Heaven.” This is not a weird new doctrine, but fundamental Christian faith. His kingdom will reign over all the Earth. We are the kings that will reign with Him.

Did Jesus Preach a Different Gospel than the Apostles?

Here is where some confusion lies. It might seem like Jesus preached the kingdom of God and the apostles preached grace (justification by faith). However, if you read through the New Testament epistles, you will see that the writers were coming from a kingdom perspective. Though they spent much time expounding on what it means to be a born again believer and what Jesus accomplished for us, they kept with the overall picture that God’s kingdom was being established in the Earth. The book of Acts ends with:

And he (Paul) stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered (Acts 28:30 – 31).

I love the gospel of grace (if you haven’t noticed by now) but I recognize that it is a message on how God redeems individuals whereas the kingdom message pertains to the entire Earth.

For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are… the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time …And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory (Romans 8:19-23) 

The meek shall inherit the Earth. We should not view this life as a dirty pit stop on the way to our true destination. To be Biblically accurate, Earth is our final destination. We are pilgrims and sojourners “in this age” of darkness. But the true light is shining and will get brighter until the whole Earth is filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. I am tired of hearing about how we just need to suffer it out until the Lord sucks us up in the rapture or when He comes back to kill the bad guys and rescue poor little me. I am tired of hearing that from one person in particular… me! But thank God that He is helping His church enter into a Kingdom mentality rather than a survival mentality.

Bill Johnson says that sometimes we take the blessed hope and turn it into
the “blessed escape”. As believers, we should be developing an overcoming
mentality, rather than an escaping mentality.

I used to work with a brother who would always herald, “Jesus is coming back soon!” around the workplace. I loved the guy; he was a great brother. But I see how his
church had focused on the rapture and escape. One day he said to me,
“John, the Lord is coming back soon.” That was quite normal. But this
time, he appended his catch phrase with, “…and I hope He does so He’ll get me outta here!”

I believe that God wants to teach us to value life on Earth as well as the simple things that we do in work and play. We should not think that divorcing ourselves from natural things and embracing an esoteric life of spiritual experiences is the true way to be “spiritual”. If the kingdom of God is coming to Earth, then we are the ones that are setting the foundation for the King by introducing people to Him and bringing His influence into our day to day activities. I will expand more on that in my next post.

 

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All Things Through the Knowledge of Him

One of my favorite verses in the Bible is 2 Peter 1:3.

His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue…

What a powerful, all-encompassing truth. This verse will mess with our concept of time. All things “have been given” to us, not “might be” or even “will be”. So where are they? In Christ. How do we access them? Through the knowledge of Him.

This means that in all circumstances, we can rest in knowing that God has a tailor made revelation and solution for us. Our provision in Christ actually existed long before any need or trial that we may be facing.

It is now our great adventure to discover His heart for us and how He wants to reveal Himself in our present situation. He wants to cause the knowledge of Himself to grow greater than our problems until we become so positioned in who He is for us that we then face Earth from Heaven, rather than being a little beggar on Earth crying out to a distant God up in the great beyond.

In all things, what we “get” is not the main thing, but rather discovering and encountering Jesus. This is where some of the faith teachings out there miss it, in my opinion. They focus on ways to get blessed and get things from God without emphasizing relationship. This might help us to learn principle without experiencing His presence.

It is possible to simply get what we need or want without upgrading our revelation of God. This will cause us to start at square one the next time we are faced with a similar situation. We will be like the children of Israel who turned away in battle, having forgotten the testimony of the Lord (see Psalm 78).

When the enslaved Hebrews cried out for deliverance from Egypt, God revealed Himself as I AM, not I DO. He IS the answer to our deepest needs and desires. Unfortunately, Israel failed to receive the revelation of God, unlike their leader Moses, and continually were tossed around by every changing wind of circumstance. When given the opportunity to possess the promise, they saw themselves as grasshoppers and their opposition as the giants rather than seeing the great I AM that had faithfully led them.

James tells us to count it all joy when you fall into various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. How can we count it joy to fall into a trial? By understanding that the trial is actually an opportunity to discover God and His provision in a new and glorious way.

The unrenewed mind will buck at this and want to revert to self-pity and complaining. But we are to consider ourselves dead to all those old-nature things and rely on the Spirit to help us walk in the newness of life.

It is the Holy Spirit’s joy to reveal our inheritance in Christ. Jesus said that He, the Spirit, would take the things that are Christ’s and reveal them to us (John 16:12-15). He connects us to the Heavenlies where we have an incorruptible treasure. He takes pleasure in leading us into all truth and all things that pertain to our union with Christ. May the Spirit help us to process all things through the knowledge of Christ.

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What Does it Mean to be Saved From Wrath?

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5:9)

We are told that we will be saved from the wrath of God through Jesus. People tend to single this verse out when talking about the wrath of God. They make it seem as if loving Jesus is trying to save us from our wrathful Father. However, if we are to read Romans 5 in context, we will see that the theme here is love.

Just a few verses before,  Paul says we will have assurance of hope because of our experience with the love of God; being poured out in us through the Holy Spirit.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Rom. 5:5 NLT).

And in the verse right before the wrath verse, He says what is, in my opinion, one of the most powerful statements in Scripture:

But God shows and proves his love for us by the fact that when we were at our worst, being controlled by sin, Jesus died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Why then mention wrath? He is enforcing how much we are loved by making a contrast. “When we were at our worst”, God could have easily done away with us. But instead, he demonstrates His love towards us! You see then, the context here is love, not wrath. Paul is trying to build an unshakable confidence and hope in our Father and our Savior.

But we cannot ignore the subject of God’s wrath. It’s one thing to view Scripture in their wrathcontext; its another to try to make a Scripture fit into our current view. All of us, myself included, have done the latter to some extent, but I aim to view Scripture as is, so I do not want to dismiss this issue of wrath.

God IS love. There is no verse in the bible that says, “God is wrath.” His wrath, as I am defining it here, is His passionate reaction aimed at against anything that is against love. It is actually an expression of love.

But what the church often really preaches is that God HAS love and He also has wrath. He then makes a decision as to which one to wield based on some mysterious “sovereign” mumbo jumbo. In this view of God, He is the God of love one moment and then switches over to the God of wrath. What’s worse is we then wonder which one we will receive. 

Religion makes it seem that God’s wrath is personal and that His love is impersonal. For example, when God is angry with someone or something, it is personal. He is personally offended and is gonna open a can of Almighty on the poor fool. But His love is spoken of as some esoteric, distant reality that is just out of reach. Religion does not encourage an intimate friendship with God but is quick to emphasize God getting “personally” ticked with you.

I propose that the opposite is true. God loves us personally and individually. His wrath is not aimed at an individual human being but at sin. God loves all men, desires that they be saved, is not willing that any should perish, and does not delight in the destruction of the wicked. His wrath towards sin affects those who choose to remain in sin and darkness even though light has come into the world. Grace that brings salvation has appeared to all and we are to be ministers of reconciliation. (see 1. Tim. 2:4, 2 Pet. 3:9, Ez. 18:32, John 3:18-19, Titus 2:11, 2 Cor. 5:19)

God is good. His wrath is not evil, but is against all that is evil. He urges all to respond to His love. Those who refuse His love are choosing wrath even though God has chosen to forgive them. He is not a respecter of persons, but is a respecter of human will.

To sum it up,  we are saved from wrath because we have been saved from sin and wrath is aimed at sin. Jesus became sin and at that point, sin was condemned in His flesh. In this way was the wrath of God toward sin expressed (see 2. Cor 5:21, Rom. 8:3-4). The wrath that we “will be saved” from refers to the wrath expressed against that which opposes the gospel of grace by which we are saved. As Paul said to the Thessalonians,

For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ… (1 Thess. 5:9)

To further clarify this point, let’s go back to the beginning.

When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, did God show up and say something like, “How dare you! Now you will see me as the God of wrath even though you knew me as the God of love!”

No, He was still the same God of love. He was not confused about His identity, Adam was. This is why God said, “Where are you?”

God then implements His justice by dealing with the root cause of the problem, sin Himself. He said to the serpent,

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

Immediately, God went about making things right. He went to such depths of sending his only Son. Then He and the Son took down the serpent, condemned the culprit (sin) through a selfless sacrifice. He crushed the head of sin so hard (disarmed the enemies’ authority) that He bruised His heel.  This speaks of the passionate and violent act of love at the cross. 

We can now rest in assurance that we have been rescued from our past and have a great, bright future with our wonderful God. All of God, including His wrath, is now for us, so who can be against us? 

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Be Holy or Be Holy?

This post does not have a typo in the title. Recently, I have heard several messages about the line of scripture where God says, “Be holy, even as I am holy.”

The interesting thing is, I have heard these words preached in different ways. In some of the messages, it is presented as a command; a requirement that we must fulfill.

Some have even preached it as a threat. “Be holy or else!!!”

Other people interpret this verse as God saying, “Be who you are.” You are holy, therefore you can act holy.

The problem that I have with the first line of thinking, is that there is a vagueness and confusion that often accompanies the “requirement” mentality. Are we supposed to become holy through self-effort and self-improvement? What follows is the question of are we doomed to hell if we do not achieve a certain level of holiness? I have heard exactly that implied in some messages before.

So I tend to go along with the second view. However, that does not mean I take this any less seriously. We are to be “holy in our actions”, but I am pursuing this through faith in the already finished work of Christ and not through the works of the law (obeying a command/requirement in order to be considered holy).

Also, the definition of holiness itself is not good behavior. God is without sin and so are the celestial beings in heaven who call him holy. So what does God’s holiness consist of? It is in the fact that there is none like Him. He is infinitely beyond all created beings in beauty, power, and character. Even so, we are told to be holy in  our behavior. Holiness is not the behavior itself.

Let’s look at this verse in its Biblical context. First of all, we should note that this verse is found in both Old and New Covenant passages. To recap, the Old Covenant contained commands, while the New Covenant contains enablements. The old shows what you must do (and how you fall short). The new shows who Christ is in you (and who you are in Him). The Old is fulfilled in the New. So Jesus fulfills the command to be holy (as He has fulfilled all the Law and the Prophets).

So why then does Peter simply repeat the same command in the NT? Looking at the context helps give understanding of what he was saying to the church:

 Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:13-15)”

 So Peter is saying to be holy in our behavior. Why can we do this? It is because Jesus’ holy nature is now ours via our union with Him. Paul said to, put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).

Moreover, if you keep reading Peter’s letter, he says that we the church ARE a holy nation:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9).

From these scriptures, we find out that our nature is now holy in Christ, so we should be seeing this in our behavior. This is where we find the resolution for the argument over the interpretation of this text.

 God is declaring through Peter that we are free now to be holy. It is a promise and a declaration as the only way we can produce fruit is through our supernatural union with Christ, the Vine.

 Let’s say I go into a prison and say to the prisoner, “Be free as I am free.” They will say, “But I am locked up! How can I be free?”

 But it would be an entirely different story if I were to open the door and declare “Be free!”

 In a similar manner, we were enslaved to sin. As the reformers used to preach, man’s will was in bondage to evil desires and thus needed grace to even believe the gospel and accept Christ, let alone live holy. Paul also expresses what it was like when he was “trying” to be holy.

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (Rom. 7:14-18) 

Paul was describing his old life under the law of Moses because in the chapter before this, he makes it clear that believers are no longer slaves to sin.

You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.

 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness (Rom. 6:17-19).

We are now slaves of righteousness. The result? Holy living!

To recap, this is a classic case of rightly dividing the word of truth. If we do not properly separate the covenants, we will end up with two gospels. One says, “You have been set free from sin.” The other says, “You better perform or else, you slave.” My friends, the child of the slave and the child of the free cannot exist in the same house (see Galatians 4).

We have been given righteousness that leads to holiness in Christ. This holiness is the good stuff. It is sharing in the nature of God, not trying to be like God. This is the true death to self that comes by way of baptism in Christ, not the do-it-yourself of religion.

But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God,the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life (Rom. 6:22).

Blessings!

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Born Into Slavery: A Fresh Look at Original Sin

Hello boys and girls. Its time to talk about everybody’s favorite topic: Original Sin! Maybe we will even follow it up with Total Depravity for good measure. When it comes to the topic of sin and man’s depraved condition, one of the most important scriptures to understand, one that I mentioned in past posts, is Romans 3:23:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

Religion focuses on the first half of this verse as it is more sin conscious than God conscious. But the emphasis of this verse is to show that we were made for so much more than the what the fallen world has produced in us. This verse does not speak of the tragedy of failing to obey a command but of failing to live out our purpose.

Something obviously went wrong somewhere. We all ended up sinning and not living the high life in God’s presence for which we were made. This brings up the whole “original sin” thing. People tend to either think that we were born with a sin-nature which we inherited through Adam or that we start off as pure as Adam before he fell and then choose to sin, thus becoming sinners. Let’s look at what the Bible says about this rather than making up stuff that appeases our current bias. Here is a brief rundown on Romans 5, which delves into the issue at hand:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—

Interesting that it does not say sin entered the world through many, but just one (Adam). We see that death (the degenerative process that affects both body and soul) came to all because of this one man. The evidence: all sinned. The sin referred to here is not the sin that brought death (Adam’s), but the sin that resulted from mankind being born into a state of spiritual death. This describes the cycle (or law) of sin and death.

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Sin is not harmful because it is forbidden; it is forbidden because it is harmful.” Religion says sin is bad simply because God says. But here we clearly see that sin has inherent bad effects regardless of the commandments. The commandments, as Paul mentions in Romans 7, reveal the harmfulness of sin that is already there.

We also see that some did not sin “in the likeness of Adam” who had a specific command that he violated. Also, consider the fact that Adam did NOT have a sinful nature when he sinned. Therefore, what he did was in another category then the sins that followed.

When Adam sinned, the devil (who is the true original sinner) took him and his descendants captive. This is why the Bible says this about Jesus’ encounter with him in the wilderness:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours. (Luke 4:5-7)”

When man obeyed satan, he forfeited his God-given authority over to him (or else the scripture above could not have been). We thus became sin’s captives. With Adam’s free will he sinned. After that, man’s will became bound to sinful desires. But Jesus came to take his captives captive and bring them to the Father after crushing the serpent’s head. He is the Savior and Friend of sinners, not their enemy.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

I love this! It is saying that what Adam did and what Jesus did are out of proportion! Some think it unfair that all mankind was affected by Adam’s choice. However, what is more “unfair” is that we who have sinned with “many transgressions” can receive the perfect righteousness of Christ, who is greater than Adam. See, when God restores something, He makes it better than the original state.

Also, I believe that the “condemnation” here refers to condemned to a sinful nature, slavery to sin, not condemnation to hell for it has always been that “the just shall live by faith” and the “evil heart of unbelief” that causes us to fall away from God (see Hab. 2:4 & Heb. 3:14). This passage never mentions hell once. This is a relevant Earth-life passage. I will touch more on this at the end of this post.

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

This passage is used by Inclusionist philosophy to say that all people now have life because of what Jesus did. However, it is clear from the verse prior that the benefit of the gift affects “those who receive” even though it is offered to all. For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people (Titus. 2:11).

Here we also see the Bible’s conclusion about the sinner by nature vs. sinner by choice debate. The many are “made” either sinners and righteous. There are two representative heads of mankind in whom we can be positioned.

Back to the point at the beginning. All sinning and falling short of the glory points to the fact that there already was a problem. We did not become slaves to sin when we sinned, but rather, we sinned because we already were slaves to sin.

It’s not that little Johnny was completely pure in nature but then stole a cookie from the jar and became transformed into a sinner. But that is how religion has told the story. Rather than being “dead in sin”, it says we are “bad in sin” (see Eph. 2). Religion says we are bad and need to be good. The Bible actually says, “He who has the Son has life. He who does not, does not have life.” (see 1 John 5)

Analogy: If I have some fish in a bowl and they jump out onto the floor, they will be outside of their purpose. They will not simply be bad pets because they will be dead; cut off from their purpose. They will have “fallen short” of the glory of living in the water. But instead of getting angry at us for “jumping out of the bowl”, the Father picks us up and puts us in the ocean of His love, mercy, and grace. So the arguement of original sin and the depravity of man are put in their proper place when we realize that man cannot function outside of God.

The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first sin of man brought death and then that death is what caused us to sin. The law came in not to bring life but to highlight the fact that sin had already produced death. Our only hope was a Savior. This is not a message about not being accountable to sin, but about realizing that the cure is not self-effort. Instead, we simply need to receive “the Gift”, which is even better than being a pre-sin Adam! This is a joy, not a bondage.

The issue at hand is not original sin, but the eternal Son. As the late Winston Nunes liked to say, “It is a Son issue, not a sin issue.” This puts an end to the debate that says it is unfair that people are born into sin and will go to hell without a choice. Because of Christ, sin has been dealt with, but our need for life is only fulfilled through relationship with Christ.

The religious non-good news gospel says, “You no good sinner. You are on your way to hell because of your sin. But God will have mercy on you if you repent.” However, lets look at what John 3, perhaps the most well known evangelistic passage says:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil (John 3:16-19).

How many times is the word Son mentioned here? 4 How many times is sin mentioned? 0. The judgement is for those who reject the good news because the only thing outside of good news is bad news. the only thing outside of life is death; the only options are light and darkness. The light of the gospel reveals a loving Father who dealt with sin and wants to give life. Reject the light and only darkness remains.

God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.  We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God (2. Cor. 5:19-20).

I am not saying that sin is less bad than we have thought. I am saying that God’s grace is better than we could ever think (apart from God given revelation). I am not saying hell is not real. I am saying Heaven is far superior. We are called as ambassadors of Heaven, preaching the GOOD news. In light of this, let us thank God that original sin is nothing compared to the eternal Son.

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Does Grace Simply Enable us to Keep the Commandments?

I want to touch on something I have heard recently regarding grace. I have heard various  Christians, from well-known to unknown, make mention of how God’s grace enables us to keep God’s commandments or keep the law. They give strict warning against anything that makes one think grace allows you to just do whatever you want to. While I do believe that grace enables us to walk out an awesome life of passion and obedience to God, I disagree with the way this is being presented.

For instance, it has been said that we should not think that we are free from keeping the commandments because we are under grace. In one particular message I heard, the preacher went on to mention the high standards Jesus set for us in the Sermon on the Mount. You know, hatred is murder, lusting equates adultery, chop off hands and pluck out eyes to avoid hell.

The problem I have with thinking Jesus was explaining the Christian life in that particular message is that He was not :) He was expanding on a statement He had made concerning having a higher righteousness than that of the self-righteousness of the religious leaders of His day. They thought they were keeping the law pretty well so Jesus, in this passage, was fulfilling the law, or upholding it for what it was.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them… For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:17,20).

So in this sermon, Jesus was speaking to Jews under the Old Covenant about what it really meant to be a Jew under the law. He was silencing the self-righteous Pharisees as well as eluding to a righteousness that would come, not by the works of the law, but through the kindness of our Father (which would later be revealed in Jesus’ sacrifice). As Paul mentioned in Romans:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify (Rom. 3:19-21).

So Jesus came to those who were under the law and had to first uphold it (see Gal. 4:1-8). And boy what a high standard that was! I’m sure that many mouths were shut after that message. According to the scripture above, that was indeed the law’s purpose. It silences the self-attempt to live for God as it reveals the depths of the damage sin has done to man’s soul.

But then, Jesus would also go ahead and fulfill the law for us. That opened the way for the righteousness apart from the law to be given through faith. That opened the floodgates of grace. The blood was shed; a New Covenant was made. But not before the blood was shed, which means this was not in force when Jesus spoke to the crowd in Matthew, chapter 5.

For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it.  For a covenant is valid only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives (Hebrews 9:16-17).

So, back to the main question? Is grace simply enablement to keep the commandments of the law? If so, then we are still living in the Old Covenant, just with a power we did not have before. But the Scripture is clear that the way we now approach God is different, not just the ability vs. inability to keep the law. The book of Hebrews reveals:

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God (Heb. 7:19-20).

The former regulation in this verse refers to the Old Covenant not having a perfect people and priesthood and how the law was not the solution for this. What this all comes down to is righteousness. The better hope that we have when drawing near to God is that Jesus Christ is now our righteousness.

Rather than approaching God in terms of how well we have met the requirement of the law, we approach Him boldly through faith in Jesus and His work. He met the requirements for us. He qualified us and now we are enjoying and ministering the benefits of the New Covenant.

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,  God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:3-4).

So to say that grace is empowerment to keep the law is to completely miss the point. The requirement meeting of the commandments has been superseded by faith in Him who met them. Through the obedience of the One Man, we have been made righteous (see Rom. 5:19). That means we are also considered as having met the covenant requirements.

Now, that does not mean I can go out and live any old way and still experience a blessed life (as some suppose). It means that I do not qualify for these blessings based on my adherence to the old law system. I am simply trusting that Christ is in me and will live through me. His life (His faith, His obedience, His character) is what we will produce as we abide in Him. Don’t be misled by messages on keeping commandments that do not first mention keeping faith. Blessings!

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