Paul’s Passion

We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:15-16 ESV)

…my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! I wish I could be present with you now and change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19-20 ESV)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

The Apostle Paul lived for the glory of God alone. He preached the Gospel with prophetic zeal to reach the world for Jesus. Paul’s passion was to see the life of Christ fully formed in his spiritual children. That involves being freed from demonic oppression and delivered from seeking to establish our own righteousness, by our good works. Paul sought to free people from oppressive religious observance and systems that do nothing to deliver believers internally.

The Gospel frees us from being controlled by what he called “elemental principles or spirits” of the world. Jesus came to set both religious and irreligious people free. His death and resurrection  redeems us from spiritual slavery to adoption into his family. As God’s sons and daughters we can now cry out, “Abba! Father!” by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Paul describes his passion for the spiritual maturity of believers as a woman in childbirth, which speaks of excruciating pain. And as one mother pointed out, “he couldn’t think of anything else!” The key to our spiritual  maturity is dependent upon our grasp of our adoption into the family of God, not just keeping rules and regulations. This reality can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Those that revert to law based religion seek to justify themselves based on good works apart from Christ. And they miss the point of the Gospel.

Follow Jesus

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22 ESV)

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62 ESV)

When we begin to embrace heavenly realities, our earthly existence is transformed. The harsh realities of life do not disappear, but our perspective shifts from this present age, to the age to come. When we begin to embrace discipleship as Jesus taught it, we begin to be awakened to the shallowness of  much of western Christianity. Many churches that people attend today seem more like pep rallies, than places of worship. The emphasis is on a surface level reading of Scripture, a good pep talk from the pastor, and a focus on the felt needs of the congregation. If you have a pastor and elders in your Church that model the life of Christ, and call you to do the same, count yourself blessed. There are signs of a spiritual awakening in some Churches today. I see many young people who are being challenged to think through hard biblical texts, and the implications of walking them out.

At this present time much of the church in the western world is too distracted by self-improvement programs, politics, and personal prosperity, to grasp the call of Jesus to “follow me.” Regardless of what many popular American preachers are saying, the call to follow Jesus is a radical commitment that may very well cost us some of our health, and our wealth, and yes, maybe even our lives. Then again it may not. God gives wealth to those to whom he sovereignly chooses. But health and wealth are given for the glory of God, and the advancement of his Kingdom, not to fulfill our personal lust.

God cannot be manipulated by taking his word out of context. Healing and material provision are “the children’s bread” but the Apostle Paul went through seasons of both poverty, and prosperity, but experienced contentment just the same. Maybe we should start a contentment movement as opposed to a prosperity movement. In the eyes of much of our seeker friendly, materialistic, comfort driven Church culture, the Apostles would be considered failures in our day. They walked away from successful business, and in Paul’s case, religious prominence, and respectability.  But in God’s economy they were highly successful students of their master, Jesus Christ.

Blue Collar Apologetics: The Authority Of The Bible

The Gospels we read today are the most reliable documents available from the ancient world. The fact that thousands of copies of the original New Testament were spread all over the ancient Mediterranean world, with only slight variations in the text is significant.We can be confident that the Bibles we read today are accurate. Even if we only had quotes from the early Church Fathers, we would have over 90% of the New Testament available to us.The fact that there are variations and accounts that seem to contradict, shows that there was no attempt by the early Church Fathers to change the story.  The way that the writers of the NT wrote the gospels was consistent with the times, in which they lived. One writer might add or leave out certain details. These variations do not change any New Testament doctrines.

When the early Christians got a letter from the Apostles they made copies of the letters and sent them to other Churches. “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.”
(Colossians 4:16 ESV) . 

C. S. Lewis, one of the great Christian thinkers of the 20th century was an expert and avid reader of mythology. When he read the gospels for the first time, he realized that they were not written like ancient myths but as biographies. You may ask, Why were books such as,” the Gospel of Thomas,” “the Gospel of Peter,” and “the Acts Of Pilate left out of the New Testament?” The answer is that they were not written during the apostolic age. These and many other so called gospel accounts, did not fit the criteria to be added to the what we know as the New Testament today.

Below are some of the notes (not word for word) I took from a recent lecture from Dr. Michael Licona:

  • The Gospel of Luke is referred to as Scripture. (I Tim. 5:18)
  • Paul’s letters were referred to as “Scripture.” (2 Peter 3:16)
  • In A.D. 125 Polycarp (probably a Disciple of John) quotes Ephesians twice and refers to it as part of the “Sacred Scriptures.”
  • Justin Martyr (c. AD 150) Spoke of the “memoirs of the Apostles.” He quotes the Gospel’s numerous times but never quotes the Gospel of Thomas or any other Gnostic Gospels.
  • Irenaeus (c AD 180) Wrote about the “Fourfold form” of Gospel. The Church was looking at the 4 Gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. Although other “gospels” were available.

Recommended reading: Holman Quick Source Guide To Apologetics by Doug Powell.

Everlasting Dominion

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14 ESV)

Jesus is the King of an indestructible Kingdom. America may fail, or cease to be a nation as we know it, but God’s Kingdom will stand forever. The Kingdom of God will have dominion over the entire earth, and the great leaders of nations will cower at his appearing. Jesus demonstrated the superiority of his Kingdom over Satan’s at his first coming, during his ministry on earth. And at his second coming, he will destroy all darkness, moral chaos, and establish his kingdom rule and order. Until that day we are called to do the works of God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus name.

Jesus invaded human history through a teenage virgin girl, and was born in a humble stable in Bethlehem, and lived a life of simplicity, submitting to The Father. His next appearing will be as a warrior King, who will make every wrong thing right, and end all injustice on this planet.

Followers of Jesus have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, and can live in the reality of this Kingdom now. Even though we can’t experience perfection in this age, for the most part, God’s people are settling for less than he is offering. His offer is an overcoming life, lived in the presence of God. And to empower us to live in light of eternity now, as co-heirs with Christ.

God offers us a heavenly perspective as we watch “the nations rage” and the “Kingdoms shake.” The Father imparts spiritual transformation and the experience of living life, “from one degree of glory to another,” for those that choose to participate in Kingdom living. Disciples of Jesus are called to be over-comers in this life, so that we can demonstrate the power of the gospel, and to lead others to experience in part, the age to come, now.

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The Mind Of The Spirit: Part Two

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

(Romans 8:26-27)


For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Romans 8:6 ESV)

In order to know the mind of the Spirit we must immerse ourselves in the Word of God. As we offer up ourselves as “living sacrifices” we are better able to discern what the Holy Spirit is saying. In the school of the Spirit we learn to follow Jesus down the narrow path of life. When I’m living contrary to my new nature in Christ, I often find that I have no sense of direction, and the Spirit of God is grieved. I lose my sense of peace, when I veer off the path of holy living. That’s when I realize my utter dependence on God the most.

We are like God, in that we were made in his image, and he created us as eternal spirit beings. We must learn conformity to God’s will and his words, and it’s not something we can do without supernatural assistance. Denying the flesh dominated life, is the only path to true peace. When we practice submitting to God and resisting the devil, we become fruitful, and more easily led by the Spirit. To have the mind of the Spirit is to surrender our will to the will of the Father, just like Jesus did.

To have a Spirit dominated mind we must engage in deep meditation on the Scripture, and be a person of prayer, and worship. To effectively posture ourselves before God, we must learn the art of  solitude. The place of silence and solitude before God is the most contested place we seek to inhabit. This is where the world, the flesh, and the devil seek to distract us. Solitude is where we allow God to examine us as we embrace his nearness. It’s a scary place for most of us, because we feel vulnerable before this great God, that knows us through and through.

The Father desires to make his presence known, and to reveal things to us in that place  of silence. He may not speak at that moment, or in the way we might think. His communication to us is always in his timing,  and in the way that he determines. The point is that being alone with God changes us over time, and makes us more sensitive to the Spirit. And it puts us in a place where we can as Jim Hylton says, “think with God.”

The Mind Of The Spirit: Part One

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
(Colossians 1:27 ESV)

To feel at home in heaven we will need to have the mind of Christ now. Many of us allow our bodily appetites, and bad thinking to dominate our inner person. We are spiritual beings with physical bodies. And until we allow the Holy Spirit (who is in all believers) to dominate our thinking, we will live a life ruled by carnal and negative thoughts, which produces less than desirable behavior in our lives.

Our outward behavior is a reflection of our true spiritual condition. If we are true believers, then we have been justified by our faith in Jesus Christ, which means we have been made right with God. But God wants more than reconciliation, (which is just the beginning) he wants a living, active relationship with us. So, we must allow Him to correct our thinking. Repentance is giving up our thoughts, and opinions, and replacing them with God’s thoughts, and his truth.

True repentance results in a change of behavior. But this is an ongoing process, so we have to live a life of repentance, which is life lived according to the Kingdom of God (the rule of God). I’m not talking about the repentance that leads to our initial salvation experience, but to that which leads us to greater intimacy with God, on a daily basis.

Many in the Evangelical Church seem to neglect the reality of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Without a good theology of the work of the Spirit, and our ongoing communion, and fellowship with God, we tend to become legalistic, and spiritually dry. It’s vital to the life of the believer, and the life of the Church as a whole, to rediscover the third Person of the Trinity.

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” does not make us little “gods” in the way that new agers perceive themselves. We must acknowledge that we are not divine, but are in desperate need of the life of God inside of us. And God has given us access to that life, through the Holy Spirit.

The two excllent books that I’m presently reading on having the mind of Christ are:“Being At Ease: Thinking At Ease-Lessening Disease” by Jim Hylton, which is deeply thought provoking, and an academic, but readable book, “The Mind Of The Spirit”by Craig S. Keener.

Judge Not ?

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.(Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)

Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24, ESV)

So which is it? Is it OK to judge someone or not? The answer is yes and no! A careful study of the New Testament gives many examples of Jesus and his Apostles making judgments on ungodly behavior. We are called to discern between good and evil. And the Bible is certainly full of moral absolutes. But Jesus clearly warns us against hypocritical behavior. We must avoid the kind of judgement that comes from a critical self-righteous attitude that looks down on others. 

If I warn someone that I care about not to drive 75 miles an hour in a 55 mph zone, that would be a good kind of judgement. I would be looking out for their best interest, even if they didn’t agree with my advice. The bottom line is that no one is sinless. So, our goal as followers of Jesus is to lovingly and humbly share the teachings of Scripture and to address un-biblical  behavior. If you are a disciple of Jesus you have a responsibility to share the biblical view on moral issues even if it sounds offensive. We now live in a post-Christian society so we must accept the fact that we will probably be misunderstood.

Ultimately it’s all about the motives of our heart.

Recovering Our Faith

“I know that you can do all things,
and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” ( Job 42:2 ESV)

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” ( 2 Tim. 4:3 ESV)

Post-modernism has so permeated our society and the church, that many are not willing to teach or stand for absolute truth anymore.  I have great confidence that none of the purposes of God will be thwarted – His truth will prevail. We have been so inundated with teachings that are contrary to sound Biblical truth, that many are being indoctrinated by a powerless gospel that cast doubt on the validity of Scripture. This man-centered gospel does not have the power to transform the human heart.

As a “recovering sinner” as Dallas Willard puts it, I do not trust my own logic to interpret who God is or to understand His attributes with my mind alone. It is important to look outside ourselves to God’s word to get the right perspective of who He is and how we are to relate to Him. Forming our own spirituality has become quite popular in recent decades, which has resulted in creating ‘gods’ in our own image. Many have rejected the faith because of  the weak version of Christianity that has been presented to them. Some reject the faith because they refuse to live by God’s standards that are outside our control. We buy the lie of Satan that we can be lords over our own lives.

The lack of genuine discipleship in our rational and materialistic culture has been a legitimate problem. The American version of Christianity has produced many Church members but few disciples. I am encouraged that we are in a season where some in the Church are returning to  Biblical teachings on character, prayer and mediation, sound doctrine, and  Holy Spirit power.

The Beast

And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads. (Revelation 13:1 ESV)

And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling, that is, those who dwell in heaven. Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation, and all who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear: If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints. (Revelation 13:5-10 ESV)

Some say the Beast of Revelation is a diabolical individual who will rule the world for a short time, others say it is a political system. I believe it may be a combination of both. But of this one thing I am sure, we live in world system that is opposed to Jesus Christ, and his eternal Kingdom.

Those that are most vulnerable to the Beast are individuals that desire radical social change apart from the Kingdom of God. This worldview invites a totalitarian form of government, that has no concept of how Christ Kingdom works. The Kingdom of God is “righteousness peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” and is based on servant-hood, and sacrificial love, not bullying.

This present anti-Christ environment in the western world has used a distorted view of Jesus, as merely a social activist, or as in the case of the EU (European Union) they don’t use him at all, because they are atheistic to the core. This worldview rejects Christ teaching on sexual ethics, and his authority over their personal lives. And it attacks those that oppose their evil plans.

Globalization, “free trade” and the internet have been used to advance the Beasts’ agenda. The minds of individuals are literally being re-wired by digital addiction. Our children are spending much of their days being brainwashed through gaming.  Facebook and other on-line activities are gradually causing us to lose touch with reality. These networks can be used for God’s glory, and for good purposes, but overall its’ users, are being programmed by an anti-Christ system, that is negatively effecting the way we think and reason.

The Beast has always had his minions in every segment of  our society, opposing Christ, and his people throughout the history of America. But in recent years ‘it’ has become more brazen. So, a false narrative has been created that intolerant Christians are the reason for our societies lack of social advancement. Ultimately through digital addiction, economics, false religion, and the desensitized masses, the Beast and his dark forces, at some future time, will temporarily enslave the world.

Our call as Christians is to make disciples of all Nations, and to resist this darkness until the Prince of Peace returns. He will return and give his followers, real peace, and prosperity, and a new age called, the Kingdom of God. The Beast will be defeated at Christ appearing. We must align ourselves with King Jesus, doing his work until he comes.  Until then, be careful of all those voices that preach world peace, and are not following the Prince of Peace.

Operation Liberation

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1 ESV)

 

Many Christians don’t understand the message of free grace. Some take the view that now that they believe in Jesus and his claims of divinity that they may live anyway they please. But even demons believe in the divinity of Jesus (James 2:19). Others take the view that they must work hard for God to  be accepted and earn his favor by good works. Both of these views are wrong.

God has set us free to walk in freedom. Standing firm in the faith requires divine help. Tim Keller says the the text literally reads, “For freedom Christ freed you.” He goes on to say that, “freedom is both the means and the end of the Christian life. Everything about the Christian gospel is freedom. Jesus’ whole mission was an operation of liberation.” – Galatians For You, page 131.

God’s grace is unearned power and favor to live a life that is pleasing to him. Absolute trust in Him is were freedom starts. If the Holy Spirit is in us, we should desire to be free from every form of behavior that is displeasing to God. This is a grace empowered process in which God actually changes our desire to be in control of everything. If we belong to him we need to give up on all our moral self-improvement projects.(legalism) And immoral living must be abandoned also.(lawlessness)

Only Jesus has the power to change a human heart. Mental assent to the facts about Jesus will not deliver us from sin. Only when we put our absolute trust in him as Lord will we start on our journey to freedom.