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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

All About Me

My birthday is coming up in a few days and it made me think about something I heard someone say again recently that almost always raises my hackles a little. A lot of “Christian teachers” and therefore “Christians” like to say, “It’s not about you” when they talk about the Christian faith. I think I know what they mean, at least I hope I do. What I suspect that they mean is that you don’t get to ask for anything you want and expect to get it just because you prayed some prayer. I agree with that but that’s all of that that I agree with.

The preacher has said (several times and places in my hearing), “If you were the only sinner in the world, Jesus would have come and died for you.” But then that is a statement that is without any meaning anyway. It is just an emotional appeal to get someone “saved” or to agree with some statement and say some words. The truth is that everyone has rebelled against God and been taught to rebel from an early age, either by example or by instruction, often unintentionally. Regardless, we have all learned to value our own will and desires above God’s and to choose our own way instead of His.

Birthdays, especially for children, are truly all about the one having the birthday. As I am learning to live the life Jesus has called me to live I see that it is almost entirely all about me. I agree with Ephesians 2:8-9 which says;

For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.

This is the mantra of those who want to prove that there is nothing for us to do. It is also the evidence that many offer to show that it is all about God and not about me. Probably they never opened their Bibles when the preacher shared that verse and looked at the very next verse.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.

Do you see that last part? “That we should walk in them.” In chapter 4 there are some very personal instructions for me.

I therefore the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you that you walk worthy of the calling with which you are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

These are instructions for me. This is about me! Throughout the New Testament I find specific and clear instructions directed at me personally from God telling me that it is about me.

Especially in what is called the Sermon on the Mount there are specific instructions given to me by the one I call Lord. “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16) “… I say to you, ‘Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you and persecute you’.” (Matthew 5:44) Jesus also says to me, “Therefore be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

Someone is all cocked and ready to say, “We can’t be perfect, that’s why Jesus had to come and die for our sins.” Is God so unreasonable that he would tell us we must do something that He will not make it possible for us to do? Did Paul have some special power that is not available to me when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)? Was Peter mistaken when he wrote, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who has called us to glory and virtue, through which He has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, so that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world because of lust.” (II Peter 1:2-4)? In I John 2 you can read “my little children, I write these things to you so that you may NOT SIN…”.  Yes, I know it came after “all have sinned” and before “And if anyone sins”. The point I am making is that John is showing us that we can choose to NOT SIN.

Yes, Jesus did have to come to pay a debt of sin for each of us, and because he did God made it possible for each of us to be born of the spirit and walk in a new life that can overcome, if we choose. At this point it is ALL about me. Will I choose to live the life that Jesus has provided and has given me an example of, or will I continue to live in sin that grace may abound?

So far I still need Jesus to be my advocate with the Father because I do stumble, but I will not sin and deny that God has provided the power and the desire to overcome sin. I am working out my salvation, with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12-13)

What about you?

It really is all about you!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I have a problem

I have a problem. It is a very serious problem. It is so serious that I honestly fear it may cause me to stop going to any “Evangelical Christian Church”. I suspect there are some people with insight that may be able to help me with my problem, if they are willing. This is not a joke or an exaggeration. I am deadly serious! It has been years since I was able to invite anyone to join me in going to my church.

As far as I am able I believe what is written in The Word of God (The Bible). There is much that I am sure I do not understand. But in my study and visiting roundabout with other believers I have seen two important areas where my understanding is in diametrical opposition to what is called “Evangelical” teaching.

Please understand, I do not wish to argue this issue. But if I am wrong I would very much appreciate being shown where I have gone astray. I long for fellowship with believers who are sincerely seeking to follow Jesus and be changed into his image. (Romans 8:29 & 2 Corinthians 3:18)

In nearly every meeting that I attend the idea is expressed or the statement is boldly made and validated that “Jesus was wholly man and wholly God” when he was living among us as a man. This naturally leads to several other ideas that follow easily. Things such as “we cannot be perfect” (Matthew 5:48) and “he was God so of course he could resist sin.”

Allow me to share what I believe and why I have come to this understanding.
In John 1:1-4 it says;

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.

I need to begin by plainly saying that I believe absolutely what is said here. In the beginning Jesus, here referred to as The Word, was with God and he was God. By the word God created all things. (Ref Genesis 1:1-2:3)

But when we go further down to verse 14 something profound takes place.

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth.

This is evidence of a profound change in nature, from one with God to being flesh. How complete is this change and what are the implications? Please consider a few more scriptures to see if you can at least understand how I have come to my conclusions.

Please take a look at Philippians 2:5-8

Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross.

First notice in verse 6; existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, Jesus did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, therefore he (vs. 7-8) emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man…This doesn’t seem to me to need explanation especially if you compare this to Hebrews 2:14 &16-17. First Since then the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise partook of the same and then; For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but he gives help to the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like his brethren in all things so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Look at that again He had to be made like his brethren in all things. There is no question that we are not wholly god and wholly man, therefor if Jesus was made like us in all things, he must of necessity not be wholly God and wholly man. It just seems logical to me.

Of course there is the matter of Jesus living a sinless life so that he could be the perfect sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 4:15 gives us a place to begin to talk about Jesus and sin. That may be the whole point of this whole issue. According to the popular logic, Jesus had to be wholly God and wholly man to live apart from sin. If he was not wholly God he would have a sin nature like us. Well here the plot only thickens. I looked in several versions and even paraphrases of God’s word and nowhere did I find anything about “sin nature.” I don’t think it is there. (Kind of like other popular teachings that are accepted because of an inference.)

What I do find is in Hebrews 4:15-16.

For we do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted just as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

To me this is an amazing scripture and an amazing reality. This says to me that Jesus was tempted just like I am tempted and yet he did not sin. I love thinking about that because it is such an encouragement for me. But how was Jesus tempted just like me?
Let’s look in James 1:13-15 and see what it says.

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is full-grown, bringeth forth death.

First observe that it says God cannot be tempted with evil. If Jesus were wholly God and wholly man these two passages would be in contradiction. No evangelical in his right mind would agree to scripture contradicting itself. Then there is the next problem for most “Christians”, “each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.” Someone will scream blasphemy but, did Jesus have lusts? Yes. Was he enticed? Yes. Was he drawn away to agree with the lust? No. How do I know? It says so in Hebrews 4:15-16.

For this to happen Jesus would have to have a flesh like ours. Jesus would have to have lust in his flesh. He would have to have a will that was different from his father’s. And by his own words in Matthew 26:39, Mark 14:36 and in Luke 22:42 Jesus is recorded as saying essentially the same thing. “Not my will but thine be done.” Clearly here I am confronted with two (2) wills; God the Father’s will and Jesus’ will. Yes absolutely Jesus had a will that was different from his father’s.

Someone will say that this understanding makes Jesus something less and we must not accept it. Let me answer with a couple of questions. Which is greater someone who could not be tempted not being tempted or someone who could be tempted overcoming temptation? 1 Peter 2:21 says

For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps

So how would it be possible for me to follow the steps of the God-man? Is it more conceivable that I might follow the steps of the man Jesus?

For me the man Jesus did what no God-man Jesus could ever do and that makes him so far better that there are no words to describe it fully. The man Jesus left me an example to follow. The man Jesus promises to not allow me to be tempted beyond my ability (1 Corinthians 10:13). Because Jesus was a man when I read 1 John 1:8-9 I can continue reading to the next chapter where it says “My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin…”  I can have hope to overcome. I can have a hope to be transformed into His image (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:19) if I will persevere (Galatians 6:9).

Finally on this matter I am compelled to mention the scripture in 2 John 1:7:

For many deceivers are gone forth into the world, even they that confess not that Jesus Christ cometh in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

My second major problem is a result of the first. Since Evangelical Christianity proclaims the God-man Jesus personal transformation is not possible. Therefore the message is reduced to the forgiveness of sins and behavior improvement. The absolutes of God’s Word are reduced to strong suggestions and the promises to wishful thinking.

Instead of saying we should speak evil of no one we are told to pray for them at least as much as we badmouth them (Matthew 12:37). If God were a man who heard all of our words that might be confusing for him. We sing songs pleading “remember me oh God” as if he might forget us. I have actually heard a paid pastor say that if someone tells you that ‘God won’t give you more than you can bear’, that’s just a cliché.

In the beginning God created all things by his Word (Genesis 1, John 1) and he upholds all things by his word (Hebrews 1:3). We were created in His image and it is his will that we be changed into his image, shouldn’t we be very careful with our words.

As I said at the beginning I believe these issues to be very serious. I would welcome any help to see how I am in error. I desire to be a disciple of Jesus. Please understand that I offer these words in humility and fear.