In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
Me: Good morning Holy Spirit!
Holy Spirit: Good morning Jon!
Me: My gratitude about the love of God is not just that the love of God is affirming. I believe I understand better now that God will not condone the things I do that are not good for me; good for me in the sense of making me better able to carry out my life commission from Him and resulting in the most benefit to me in this life – I can observe this over time – and in the life to come, as I understand His eternal viewpoint. Any understanding I have is because of Your revelation, of course! I am certainly grateful for that!
Holy Spirit: Jesus knew the Father loved Him. He knew also the love of the Father for you. Had he not laid down Our omniscience to become fully man, He would have been able to look down through the generations and feel His own love toward you, specifically. No matter about that, because I revealed it to Him in principle in the same way you conduct yourself in love toward great grandchildren not yet born.
Yet I know you realize, as much as you know, the hard path that Jesus took in carrying out His own life commission, the express plan of God for your salvation. He even said that there is no greater love, than that a man lay down his life for his friends – then ones he is charged with protecting (John 10:11 & 15:13). This plan was from the beginning, as all the scripture testifies. Jesus grew into this love over time, though he arrived in the normal way of men, as a needy infant.
In particular, I want you to see that Jesus did not say, “I will lay down My life for you if you will agree to dedicate yourself to following Me”. No, He laid it down for “whosoever will” (Mark 8:34, Rev 22:17 and many other verses). In these same verses, it is clear that though He did not condition His actions on your response, your benefit – or lack of it – depend upon your choice.
Jesus had a choice as well. It was for love that he wrestled with that decision in the garden, ultimately resigning Himself to serving you in death (Matthew 26:36-46). The death He died, was the one you had accrued to yourself. And do not think I Am speaking only of the physical realm. In this matter, the spiritual realm is supreme for the physical will pass away, but the Spirit is eternal:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:11-14
He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
Over Christmas, my wife and I traveled to Florida to visit her snowbird mother and stepdad. The stepdad is 89 this year. Except for delighting in beating me – or anyone – in any kind of the card game, he is a genuinely nice guy. One of the things he has set for himself to do is to read the Old Testament, figuring – rightly, I believe – that it would not have been given and preserved for us if it was not of value. Still, he was struggling somewhat with the perception that the revelation of God in the Old Testament is nothing like the revelation of Jesus by the New Testament. My father in law is not alone, of course. I have another acquaintance with an much more extreme view; he asserts (because things we might judge as “unfair” like orders for the total destruction of a group of people and their livestock or the wiping out of almost all humanity by flood, are attributed to God) that the “god” the Old Testament is talking about is effectively Satan, and he discounts the text altogether. My extreme friend is just fine with Jesus, though I an not sure how he deals with Jesus’ assertion that “… not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:18) Jesus did quote the Old Testament quite a bit.
Because I would like to be able to do a better job of helping my father in law with his questions, I have been re-reading a book by pastor Andrew Wommack titled The True Nature of God that puts major emphasis on reconciling the Old and New Testament descriptions of God. I have to admit that I was hooked upon discovery of the title of the first chapter, “Is God Schizophrenic?” I will just say here, that though the book is an easy read, I found it insightful on this subject. Hence my decision to re-read.
Of course, not all the Old Testament is pestilence, warfare and mayhem. Some passages, like the one above from Micah seem more pleasant. How about this one from First Peter quoting from Leviticus?
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 1:15-16
Does Peter seem over-emphatic for our day? “[A]ll your behavior” – seems pretty inclusive. Peter is simply acknowledging that “holy” means “right and good without inconsistency”. This is not a description we can usually apply to human beings. I can still point to plenty of inconsistency in my own behavior. Yet, here is a reminder that we have that specific instruction from on high to be holy like God is holy.
Jesus seems to have a realistic outlook on our actions when speaking to one identified as the rich young ruler:
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. Mark 10:18 & Luke 18:19
Jesus was (is) God and good. He just recognized the one he was speaking with did not know it and the young ruler was merely using a flattering greeting when addressing Jesus.
One of the effects of the Law, spelled out in the Old Testament, should be to convince us that we can’t live up to it and therefore need a Savior. Unfortunately, we seem to have a near limitless capacity to ignore facts and excuse ourselves. If only we can find someone that we judge to be worse than ourselves, we think we are not so bad. If we have the humility to perform an accurate self assessment, even the requirements noted in Micah 6:8 seem impossibly tough, compared to God’s holy example. There are times when we think vengeance would be justice and kindness is unwarranted for some particular person who has found a way to greatly offend us.
At the risk of stealing Andrew’s thunder concerning reconciling the testaments, consider this passage about Jesus in Hebrews, remembering that Hebrews was written to those well-versed in the Law and the rest of the Old Testament.
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3
This is telling us that total revelation of God’s nature can be found by examining the nature of Jesus. Jesus Himself repeatedly told His disciples that He and the Father were ONE.
The short story is that if God seems different in the Old Testament, it is because the revelation of His nature in the Old Testament is incomplete and our understanding of it, even more so. Given before Jesus, it is incomplete in the same way our instructions to young children fail to tell the whole story. “Don’t play in the street”, we say. “Why?”, comes the childish retort. “Because I said so”, is an expedient answer. More of the truth? If one keeps playing in the street playing attention to things other than the traffic, odds are good that he will eventually be hit by a vehicle driven by an inattentive operator, probably eliminating the chance of having offspring to whom one can say, “Because I said so.”
“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you. John 16:12-15
These words were spoken to disciples who had been walking with Jesus for three years. He recognized that without the transforming and empowering work of the Holy Spirit in us, we will remain incapable of grasping the truth. Getting to where we can bear all of it, may take an eternity.
I have been having a conversation with the Holy Spirit the past couple of days. For you who think “conversation” has a narrow definition, the Spirit has been making certain impressions on my heart, which then leak into my mind when I am in a meditative mood (often). In turn, I prayerfully pose questions to the Spirit, asking for clarification. Often a pertinent verse of scripture will come to mind; a process that is only possible if one has taken the trouble to put verses of scripture into one’s mind in the first place. One of those, John 16:13, is relevant to the description that I am giving:
But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
In any event, the this conversation concerns several notable times in my life when my circumstance turned dramatically and more-or-less permanently for the better, as a direct result of someone close to me either making a decision which negatively impacted them long term, or in another case, absorbed some grievous abuse such that I did not become a target of the same. I think I will not share the details of these, since the persons I am thinking of are deceased now and unable to consent to my sharing.
However, as I meditated on these life-changing events, I was led to a couple of passages. The first is Romans 8:28:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
All things – even decisions made of those close to us – decisions which proved to be good for me as this passage in Romans 8 promises even while apparently detrimental to the person following the path they decided upon. As I contemplated these situations from my past, the Spirit showed me that I was, in a way, a beneficiary of Judas’ decision to betray Jesus. (You can read about the beginning of that in John chapter 13.) We all needed Jesus to go to the cross to bear our sin and the death-wage we earned though it. Judas played a part in that, and you can see that Jesus acknowledged that it was necessary. If you follow the story, you find out that it did not end well for Judas, at least in life. Jesus Himself then suffered in our stead on that cruel Roman cross that we might be restored to the position of having God as our Father. I find it humbling to consider that I may thrive as a result of the troubles of others. Did God “do bad things” to them that I might prosper? No, no, no. He is not like that. Their choices were their own. (And in Jesus’ case, it was the reason He came.) Yet mysteriously, His grace persists, causing even the most unlikely of “all things” to work out for my good.
14 For as many as
are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
15 For ye have not
received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received
the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
16 The Spirit
itself* beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of
Short side trip: Greek αὐτὸ is the third-person pronoun (he,
she, it) determined by context. I believe the Holy Spirit is a
person, an essential part of the Person of God (Deuteronomy 6:4),
even as our spirit is an essential part of our being. I don’t
presume to fault the KJV translation too much; it is impossible for
the mind of man to contain a full understanding of God any more than
a child knows a parent fully. We may know the Spirit as He
incrementally reveals Himself to us in our spirit when we become
intentionally still enough to hear.
17 And if
children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if
so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified
18 For I reckon that
the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
Me: Good morning
ABBA: Good morning
Me: When I went to
investigate Romans 8:17 further, I began to meditate on all of Romans
8, and I found it to be a cache of endless treasure (and a few hard
ABBA: When you were
raising children, did you find that they were usually able to
comprehend the full depth of things that they asked questions about?
Me: No, they were
able to recognize and ask about many things that were both mysterious
to them and wonderful at the same time. Deeper understanding often
required more intellectual background than they yet possessed.
Really, more than I yet possess.
ABBA: How would you
Me: Some dads would
say, “Ask your mother” but I have always been disposed to try to
give some response. I wish I could say I generally gave a
heart-centered answer, merely acknowledging that it was a complicated
question. At a young age, they were usually trying to decide how to
relate to the thing, not learn how it was designed. I wasn’t
heart-centered enough myself in those days and would ususally give an
answer they were unprepared to make use of. I suppose I am still
prone to do that if anyone asks me something.
ABBA: Yes, most
young children are trying to learn, whereas some adults are trying to
control. I understand you want to be accurate. I made you that way.
Still, you have to consider the questioner and their frame of
reference. I sent My Son, in part, to communicate My love for you
(John 3:16) in a way that was unmistakable.
Me: The heart
message in verse fifteen is one that is at the very center of the
good news of the Gospel – that in Jesus we are adopted into Your
family and no longer under the fearful severity of the law (which we
instinctively understand we have violated). Now, we are brought in by
love (1 John 4:8).
ABBA: You understand that the law is satisfied because Jesus suffered the penalty due to you. Do you also understand that as heir you have all of My resources available to carry out our mission? Do you know, you inherited a part of My mission as well? (Matthew 28:16-20)
Look at Romans 5:5. “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Do you understand that this promise is that My very nature is being manifest in you?
Me: I am trying to
understand. I hope that is what this series is accomplishing for me
and for any who read it with a spirit of contemplation. I know these
things intellectually. I can read them in the scriptures. It is the
heart that is stubborn. Usually, I don’t even realize that it is
being so obstinate or that I have some negative self-talk running in
the background. I do know that I need to repent of those internal
messages that run contrary to the promises You have made to us.
ABBA: Keep listening
for My Spirit to guide you into all the Truth. Keep delving into the
scripture while looking to Me for Guidance. Commit My promises to
memory and the Spirit will bring them to remembrance when you need
Now, what do you
consider a hard concept?
Me: As I read on in
Romans 8, I got to wondering about the “predestination” concepts
in verses 29-30 (and many other places). I decided to read a bunch
of other’s take on those verses. I was surprised by what I found.
ABBA: How so?
Me: I found a lot of
people identifying as “Calvinists”, making all kinds of
assertions about You and what this passage means. Some were mostly
taking aim at “Armenians” whom they said were wrong to not put
enough emphasis on it. Some seemed to be emphasizing Your loving
nature, but perhaps only to some particular insiders of Your
choosing. Others took what I would say are extreme views, claiming
any foresight You have is equivalent to a final determination and
that man has no free will and therefore no responsibility. Some
claimed they were saved and others were irrevocably out because You
had not chosen them. I found that the banner of Calvinist
flies over all kinds of doctrinal positions. So much so, that I would
say it is meaningless in a practical sense. I am sure I have not
scratched the surface, nor that I want to.
Why do people feel
the need to put You in some kind of box that they can circumnavigate?
Don’t they even have a sense of Your limitless nature? Don’t
they ever go outside at night and look up at some of what You have
done? And how do some so handily ignore the Great Commission, or the
fact expounded in Scripture that You are not willing that any should
perish, while recognizing that some choose to reject. And that is
another thing, some of these particular Calvinists used the fact that
some reject You as “proof” that You did not choose them. If I
know You at all, I know that is not true.
I believe you led me
to these related scriptures:
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men
count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that
any should perish, but that all should come to repentance
Romans 3 – Speaks
of the inclusive will of God.
Ephesians 4: Grieve
not the Holy Spirit. (Why give this instruction if, as I understand
the extreme position of some, that the will of God is irresistible?)
Proverbs 14:12 –
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof
are the ways of death. (This explains well enough to me why it is
hard to get a persons to change their mind. Their way seems right
to them. Convinced of it they are, yes. They don’t see the end
because it is, well, at the end.)
John 1:12-13 But as
many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of
God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of
blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of
ABBA: Of course I
led you to these scriptures and you know your identity as My child.
The philosophies of men do not and can not describe Me. I have
repeatedly shown you that a few of those who emphasize My sovereignty
do so in order to be dogmatic about something they think they know
about Me – that they really have no choice. At least they
recognize the universe is not all about them. But they miss this
fact; the only one who can restrict Me is Me. You are made in My
image in this regard. You can control what you do, too. To belabor
the point, I can of My own will, let you act according to your own
will. It should not be lost on you that true love between us is not
possible under other circumstances.
Me: Thank you
Father! I love you!
ABBA: You are
welcome! I love you!
I live and work in a community where perhaps the majority of the population attends churches where the members would identify as Calvinists. Many have been schooled at Calvin College, or one of the many similar institutions. Please understand that I know something of the hearts of these people and I am in no wise intending to paint my friends and acquaintances with a broad brush because of the extreme views of the few internet denizens that I mentioned above. I know from conversations with friends that these local churches have active missionary programs. Why would they do that, if salvation was an irrevocably-settled issue through “predestination”? It was through one of these churches that I initially learned that I could have a direct and intimate conversation with God and expect to hear from Him in my spirit through His Spirit.
On the other hand, if any finds him or herself subscribing to the notion that we don’t really have a choice, please keep seeking. Consider this: Why would the scripture spend so much time telling us how to live in alignment with God’s plan, if we could not fail to do so?
1 Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— 11 a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
12 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
Here is a great
insight with nearly endless application for an improved life:
The truth will make you free. (John 8:32)
The passage in Colossians above is a bottomless spring of blessing. I can only counsel you to meditate on it.
A son of disobedience (v6). That has been a pretty accurate description of me at (hopefully former) times of my life. But I am being rescued from that “life” that I was choosing, and ushered into a glorious life (!) of His design. There are some pretty awesome characteristics of this new life listed here. You can participate in this great exchange too. If you want to, and if you are willing to tell the deceiving lying voice that claims you are going to give up something more worthwhile, to just. shut. up.
workmanship. His. He is the author of the universe and everything in
it. As beautiful and majestic and mysterious as the creation is to us
– though we have extremely limited understanding – and we have
not personally seen it in its original unsullied “very good”
Genesis 1:31 state. This lack of insight extends to us:
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2
As His workmanship,
we ought not lay claim to glory for good works as though they are of
our own manufacture. The good works we are called to walk in are
specially prepared for us. To do them is our purpose. We were
uniquely crafted to be able to carry them out. If my relationship
with Him is not one of open communication, of diligently seeking Him,
and listening with rapt attention, how will I ever discern what I am
made to do? If I come to my understanding without Him, I will
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 55:8
So King Rehoboam strengthened himself in Jerusalem and reigned…He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. 2 Chronicles 12:13-15
There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 14:12
Yet when we align with Him, things are right.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14
Though God is sovereign, He restrains Himself in this: He lets us choose which way we will go. Where there is no choice, there can be no love. He is love; the very definition of it. What this means is that outside of Him, there is no love. Perhaps there is that which we would call love, but which falls far short of His love for it lacks the power of the divine.
Love is not the
total of His workmanship in us, but it first in the list. Also, the
fact that He lets us choose implies we have the power to live up to
the promise or to go another way.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-24
I am grateful for having made Eric’s acquaintance.
This is the sixth affirmation found on the piece of Christy Mitropoulous’ artwork that we have been working though.
I Am … More than a
conqueror. Romans 8:37
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
My life is mercifully devoid of deadly peril most of the time. Hardship? More like occasional inconvenience. Nakedness? Hardly ever in public, except nightmares remembered from childhood where I was a helpless mannequin on display in the J. C. Penney store. I guess I was feeling sorry for the public embarrassment of the mannequins that worked there.
Persecution? Well, that is certainly on the increase. It is a plot by dark powers faithfully executed by those who follow them, whether wittingly or unwittingly. The policies of most companies have been changed to restrict open expression of convictions supporting traditional moral values. They may or may not be regularly enforced, but are a snare waiting for the unwary. Does this documentation mean your company is actually against traditional values? They could be. Probably though, they are just observant and pragmatic. They observe that if a complaint is lodged against you they are open to be sued because of your beliefs, unless they have taken a position against them. The courts have proven repeatedly to come down on the side of anyone but the one who is following convictions based on Christian belief. Christ-believers are now in a condition where one can’t work for a living and vocalize one’s traditional beliefs without taking on significant risk.
Most of this is in a
still-trifling state, compared to the full aims of the enemy who
comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). This passage in
Romans 8 stands ready to console, however bad it gets.
Death? I am convinced, like Paul, that death is no enemy for the Christ-follower. This doesn’t imply my sense of self-preservation has ceased to function normally. Though I know that none of us gets out of this world alive, I am sure that this existence is not all there is. Yesterday, I learned my friend Eric, who had been valiantly fighting cancer, had passed. I watched him battle the symptoms at fairly close range and fervently prayed daily, expecting his restoration. I never talked with him when I did not come away uplifted by his sense of gratitude and grace. There is no doubt in my mind that the attitude he displayed was merely an artifact of the upward road he was walking, right to the end of this phase of life. There in no end of the list of things that Eric was conquering. If you had known him, you would have seen that clearly too. Death is now one of them.
Life is in Paul’s list of things that cannot separate us from the love of God. I need to be reminded at every turn that I am a conqueror over the issues of life. God has given us in the scriptures a perfect life manual, He has given us a reprieve in Jesus from the spiritual death sentence we each had earned. He has given us His Holy Spirit to empower us to move in the life we are called to live. Why, you might ask, would I need to be reminded that I am a conqueror over life? You can likely answer that question yourself before it is fully formed on your lips. Life is sometimes not a bed of roses. Sometimes if is filled with many of the other troubles in Paul’s list. For me, though, it is my past history as a serial abuser of the free will that God has graciously given me, doing things that I wanted to do that were not in my best interest. Why? Well, inexplicably, because I wanted to. Still, I find Him unfailingly faithful. Unerringly true to His word. Helping me to be more than a conqueror, even over life. And this is the best part, simply because He loves Me.