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

Am I? Are You? #12

I Am… Saved by Grace — Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

Probably, the most well-known verse about salvation is John 3:16.

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.

This is good news indeed, if one can believe it. In fact, believing is the key to the door (John 10:7, Hebrews 11:6). Ephesians 2:8 uses the word faith. Others relate this fact by using the word trust, which is backed up by Romans 15:13, among many other passages.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why so many different expressions? Are we not clear on the premise? How could we be? Plumbing the depths of this astounding gift requires more meditation and resulting revelation than we could receive during the days alloted to a mortal lifetime. I have found increasing faith, deepening belief, and growing trust with no practical end of the quest in sight. The reason for this delightful endlessness is that an aspect of of salvation is that we are coming to be in Him (Acts 17:28) and He is without limit. Eternal. Omniscient. Omnipotent. Omnipresent. He is all of these things and He is love (1 John 4:8).

I have heard grace defined as “unmerited favor.” Merriam Webster has the first entry as: “unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification”. Unmerited is right. Scripture aside, I only have to look back on my own path to recognize that truth. The scripture, of course, bears this out too.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

I am grateful that Ephesians 2:8 is explicit in pointing out that salvation is His work and is a gift to us. Yes, we have to believe. If we come to recognize Him at all, belief is a very low threshold.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

It is finished. I love this passage! No more work required. If I think by my works I am going to add something, I am painfully deluded and lacking in faith.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12

So what does “work out your salvation” mean? To me, it signifies that journey of trying to understand, and endeavoring to make my actions line up with the truth revealed in the scripture. “Am I? Are You?” Why fear and trembling? Because. Sometimes I act like I am insane. I do things that are counter to the Truth (capital T, as in “I Am the Truth”). I can’t even claim that I don’t know any better.

I am grateful for this too:

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

I need that power to restore me to sanity.

Finally, I want to observe this:

so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9:28

Though His sacrifice is finished (complete), He is not done with me yet. Nor, I suspect, is he done with you.

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Am I? Are You? #9

I Am… Justified by faith in Christ. Galatians 2:16

16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.

Me: Thank You Jesus! For this great exchange, for your radiant rightness in exchange for our wretched wrongness.

Jesus: Isaiah saw the need:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.—Isaiah 64:6

In fact, any who have seen the result clearly after trying to live right, will acknowledge the truth of Isaiah’s words. And those who do not see are worse off still and in bondage to blind pride. (Matthew 23:3)

There is none righteous. No, not even one. Isaiah 45:21; Romans 3:10; Mark 10:18

And the scripture makes sure knowledge of this salvation I Am providing cannot be missed:

Therefore thus says the Lord God, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed. Isaiah 28:16

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Mark 11:23

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. John 3:18

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” John 3:36

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. John 5:24

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. John 6:35

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. John 6:47

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, John 11:25

And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. John 12:44

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12

just as it is written, “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” Romans 9:33

For this is contained in Scripture: “Behold, I lay in Zion a choice stone, a precious corner stone, And he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 1 Peter 2:6

Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? 1 John 5:5

Me: Thank You Jesus! What a treasure of promise! I love You!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you! Remember, the kind of believing these scriptures are speaking of is of the heart, not mere mental assent.

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Am I? Are you? #8


I am grateful for Jesus’ sacrifice on my account!

I AM … Crucified with Christ. — Galatians 2:20

20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

Romans 8 highlights the importance of “putting to death the deeds of the body”:

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

Just as Jesus wrestled with His upcoming crucifixion in the garden, so I have had to make peace with the process of “dying” to the things I want that are contrary to God’s will for me. Another way to identify many of the things that need to see death is to recognize those things that I desire that are not in my best interest. I don’t mean my shortsighted desires either. I mean not in my best interest in the sense of the total of this life and its continuation after I shuffle off of this mortal coil. God has my best interests at heart, just as he has yours. He is limited by nothing except His having opted to let us decide.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Luke 9:23

Please don’t think that this is one more exhortation to hitch up your pants and redouble your efforts to exercise greater willpower. There is one thing about the dead; they don’t expend more energy than the difference in their remaining temperature and that of their surroundings. This is about turning over your “chooser” to God. Jesus made this possible:

Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Heb 7:25

My wife and I make a regular practice of reminding ourselves of some of the traits of God by praying through them together. Jehovah M’kaddesh — God our sanctification — is one of those descriptions. This word M’kaddesh is a transliteration from Hebrew which is often rendered sanctification, meaning set apart for God, or made holy. Holy means without fault and wholly consistent. The word saint is derived from it. Note very clearly that this is one of God’s attributes and it is not energized by us. We’re supposed to be dying to the thing in question. Remember? So what’s the problem? Its His power, but our choice.

I’m leaving you with a link to a set of sermon notes on this attribute of God. They are not my notes, but those of the late Rev. Don Robinson. I have not explored more of this person’s writings, but I found this particular one a thorough-going explanation of the many times in scripture that this word comes up. He also makes it clear that this is a life-long pursuit. We have a long way to go, but infinite help.

http://www.brandonweb.com/sermons/sermonpages/leviticus3.htm

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