Prove

I am grateful for Your many hope-giving promises!

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. – Ephesians 1:3-4

Me: Good afternoon Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good afternoon Jon!

Me: Every spiritual blessing seems pretty inclusive.

Holy Spirit: They include Me in you, as you are in Christ.

Me: That seems the zenith of all possible blessings, to be joined with You, Almighty, Omnipotent, and Holy, Holy, Holy!

Holy Spirit, I think of the many times I have heard teaching that God cannot look on sin. Some even explain that is why Jesus was said to ask why the Father had forsaken Him on the cross as He bore our transgressions and diseases (Matthew 27:46). This teaching that Jesus was expressing that He felt abandoned has always bothered me, but I can’t really mount a cogent argument against it, except that it seems so contrary to all of Jesus’ assertions of His unity with the Father. Plus, there are these passages that speak directly to Your nature on this matter:

The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” – Deuteronomy 31:8

… teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:20

Holy Spirit: I would remind you that We came to the garden for a walk with Adam and Eve after they disobeyed the one direction that they were given. Do not think that We did not know of their sin (Isaiah 46:10). The scripture also records Our conversation with Cain after he murdered his brother. As for Jesus, He was not abandoned by the Father, nor did He think so. Accusing words with that meaning would never cross his lips for that was not in His heart that day any more than it has been on any other day.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

He was quoting the beginning of Psalm 22. The passage was well known to those around Him. He was reinforcing that He is the Messiah. Think of His disciples dismayed and dispirited, thinking this was the end of the promises He made and their relationship with Him. Read Psalm 22, and you will clearly see. Those too blind to see, misinterpreted His words at the time (Matthew 27:47). His words were directed to those not too blind, who would be drawn to understanding that this His crucifixion was the very fulfillment of the graphic prophecy written in the Psalm.

Finally, He was raised in power on the third day. Not what you would expect of one who had lost faith in the Father, even momentarily, at the end of breath.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! That helps a lot!

Jesus told the rich young ruler that there is none good, except God alone (Mark 10:18). The the verse in Ephesians says we ‘would be holy and blameless before Him’, when does ‘would be’ mean?

Holy Spirit: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2) Why do you suppose that verse includes the word ‘prove’?

Me: From Merriam-Webster: Prove (some aspect of every sense applies)

When I design a new electronic system, I have it subjected to a whole suite of tests to “prove” that it performs as required in all foreseeable circumstances and environments in which it is intended to be used. I watch its behavior under all the stresses to which it is subjected. Until all that testing is accomplished, there is a risk that I only think I have a robust design that will perform the functions it was designed for, when it is called upon.

Holy Spirit: In other words, you prove by testing that your work is not flawed and there is therefore a firm basis to place faith in it.

My work is perfect. It includes my design of you – in My image – and like the things you design, the things I Am giving you to do.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10

My image is like My design requirements for you. The difference in you and your electronic device, is that I have also given you free will because My will is unfettered by anything but My own choice. You therefore have the ability to embrace My design and provision (and Truth) or to ignore My guidance and go off in a way that seems right to you. If you do go your own way, it is the equivalent of your device being proved not to conform to the design requirements, and requiring correction to cause it to conform.

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

“[I]n Christ” is key. Ephesians 1 verses three and four each say it once, as does Ephesians 2:10. Consider how often Jesus, as your example, stated His unity with the Father: John 10:30, 14:7, 14:9, 17:21 and 17:23. And, there is this verse in Colossians 3:14 explaining the power behind how this works:

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. I Am Here to help you. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. – Galatians 5:16

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Love Eternal

I am grateful for the love of God.

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

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love you!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Walking Humbly?

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.

Heart Transplant

The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?
Jeremiah 17:9

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:15-16

Ever ask yourself, “Why did I ever do that”? Jeremiah 17:9 gets right at the heart of the matter; more deceitful than all else and desperately sick. The link above will take you to the biblehub.com entry for that verse, where you can discover that the phrase “desperately sick” could be rendered “incurable”. That diagnosis would seem to paint us into the proverbial corner, wouldn’t it? How is one going to make good on well-intentioned New Year’s resolutions if one’s “decider” is broken with an incurable spiritual ailment?

The good news is that we are offered a spiritual heart transplant. Really, give that new heart free reign, and it can permeate the entire being, transforming and renewing everything!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. – Romans 12:2

That sure sounds like good news to me! If you haven’t made that decision yet, I pray you will put it at the top of your list and not put it off any longer.

All Things

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.

Am I? Are You? #14

I Am… Accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world , that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight 9 He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him 10 with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth. Ephesians 1:3-10

Before there was a single molecule of earth. Depending on how expansive one is willing to be with the word “world” [Greek κόσμου – kosmou], possibly before there was a single physical particle of anything, anywhere; we were chosen. I shared at some length in my last post the conversation I had with God the Father on the intriguing subject of predestination as an aspect of God knowing the end from the beginning, so I am not going to divert into that mystery here, other than to recognize again that the scripture is replete with these references that center around God being omniscient and eternal. Since we are bound in time (at least for now) and He is not, we presently have little concept of just how these things work.

The important thing for me to see, is that before there was any “there” there, God looked at my need to be rescued from the downward death-spiral of sin and disobedience and determined to save me by the sacrifice of the Son. The word “grace” in verse six also connotes that it is a free gift and contingent only upon my willingness to accept it. In other words, when Jesus uttered, “It is finished.” from the cross, there was no further action necessary from God’s side of things.

God is truly extravagant in His giving. Paul used the word “lavished”. Marvelous. Marvelous! Marvelous indeed! No wonder verse six mentions praise! I return for a moment to the words “He chose” in verse four. We are not accidental beneficiaries. No, we are adopted (verse five). I daresay any adoptive parent will attest that adoption is not a random-chance event; no one ever said, “then an adoption happened”.

One last thing. It says “in the beloved”. I am a first-born son, as far as my natural family goes. Like most first-born children, I was trained early in a performance-based sense of self. I need to lay this mindset down. I understand that intellectually now but it is deeply ingrained. Some might ask, “Just why do you need to abandon this sense of yourself”? The answer is precisely because in my self I cannot live up to the holy life that is being spoken of, life that is even capable of true communion with God. Only One has ever managed it. The real mystery is that He made a way for me to be “in” Him. That is the way of acceptance, the way of salvation, the way of communion, of joy, of peace, of adoption. Of love.

I Am the way… John 14:6