Elect

Elect. There is a word that is prone to raise the dander of various Christ-believers and the very foundation upon which others choose to mark their position. I think I will go out on a limb and cite what I believe Jesus is saying to me about it through the scripture. Come along, if you dare. Even the mildly curious is welcome!

May I start with 1 Peter 2:6? My takeaway in a spiritual nutshell: Jesus, the I AM incarnate, is the elect. We are/may be elect only so far as we are in Him. Let us read the first ten verses of 1 Peter 2, placing our targeted verse in context.

1 Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings,
2 As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby:
3 If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious.
4 To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.
7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,
8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
10 Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.

1 Peter 2:1-10

About verse 8, which most translations have as something similar to the KJV, the translation as “appointed” escapes me. I admit it. The Greek ἐτέθησαν thus translated is used one other time, in Acts 7:16 in Stephen’s account of Jacob and his being laid to rest.

If I were doing the translating (which I am clearly and admittedly unqualified to do), I would have leaned toward the last words in 1 Peter 2:8 being “to which they were set”. From which, I would have understood the meaning to be “set in their ways, or fixed in their understanding”, i.e. as the result of their stubbornly-held anti-Jesus belief. To me, this interpretation of verse 8 squares nicely with Jesus’ statement, “According to your faith be it unto you.” upon healing the blind (Matthew 9:29). It is ironic that one of the aims of King James in wanting his own translation of the Bible, is that it not be so… Calvinistic. I get the sentiment. Calvin was living in Geneva and heavily influenced early English translations.

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/1_peter/2-8.htm

I invite you to prowl around relating to this passage at Bible Hub for yourself. You too, can become an unqualified researcher of the Scripture in the original languages. If you are one who leans toward idolizing Calvin, I urge you to reconsider the merits of being known by any name than Christ’s. But, I digress.

In Titus 1:1-2 – Paul gives his own conversion as an example of election as of (according to) the saved-by-faith-in-Christ, thereby amplifying that election (ἐκλεκτῶν) is simply imputation of the elect nature of Jesus into the life of the believer by faith.

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Titus 1:1-2

Let me say, as an aside, that godliness is not powerless man trying to act as God acts; rather, omnipotent God acting in the heart of yielded man.1

Luke 18 contains two parables I would like us to look at, dear reader. The first mentions the elect (v7) being quickly answered by God. Jesus, then asks the rhetorical question, “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (v8). To me, this reinforces the link between faith in Jesus the Elect and our election by virtue of being in Him, if so we (choose to) be.

1 And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint;
2 Saying, There was in a city a judge, which feared not God, neither regarded man:
3 And there was a widow in that city; and she came unto him, saying, Avenge me of mine adversary.
4 And he would not for a while: but afterward he said within himself, Though I fear not God, nor regard man;
5 Yet because this widow troubleth me, I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.
6 And the Lord said, Hear what the unjust judge saith.
7 And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?

Luke 18:1-8

Isn’t it handy for a parable to open with a direct statement of the object lesson to be remembered?

The second parable is of the tax gatherer and Pharisee praying; Jesus is asking his hearers, “Who was justified?” Verse 9 explains (before the story) this parable is against those who are trusting in themselves and despising others. Seems to me this parable has a direct application to any who presume salvation because they are raised in a Christian home, a member of any particular denomination, or whatever human “election” criteria one can devise to view themselves as therefore “in”, while others are, by inference, “out”. Not different than an Israelite believing himself “in” by birthright as a “son of Abraham”.

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:
10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Luke 18:9-14

There you have it. My understanding of election as intimate communion with Jesus, who is THE Elect. Thank you for reading to the end. Please do not saw off the limb I am now out on. I am only trying to help those who would draw closer to the Elect.

1 When I use the word “man” in the absence of a definite article, I imply neither sex, as this is the way the language has traditionally been used. I find the modern he/she/whatever approach clumsy and frankly, an affront to a right understanding of the creation by His Unmistaken Majesty. You may now visualize me dismounting my soapbox.

Ark

I am grateful for for the transforming power of Jesus. For left to our own way, we get something else:

God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:5

Me: Good evening Jesus!

Jesus: Good evening, Jon!

Me: I am also grateful we were able to make the trip to visit the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum with the grand kids last week. I pray they will continue to think about what they saw and let it soak in.

Jesus: It was a good investment in them.

Me: We are so very broken if we are not in communion with You. And now that we have Your saving grace and power available to us, I am saddened by how many choose their own way instead. I have had periods in my own life where I was choosing my own way – and suffering the negative consequences of those decisions – not as though I can stand in judgment from some lofty vantage point. It is as if the incredible sacrifice You made to save us is of no interest. I have friends whom I try to point to You, yet they continue to struggle with the consequences of bad choices. They may know a little about You, but they do not really know You. You remain just a character in the book, I suppose. I know myself how subtle errors in thinking (well, maybe not so subtle) can derail our ability to accept the intimacy you offer. We fail to take Romans 5:6 seriously: For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. We know we are sinful and imagine we have to clean ourselves up before we will become acceptable to You. Never mind that is You who enables any real change.

Jesus: I gave you a gift at the Ark Encounter last week, to be standing behind the Asian couple reading the display about there being no place for racism in Christianity. Did you see their delight at reading the message that all are descended from Adam, and from Noah and that the notion of race is a false construct?

Me: Yes! Thank You very much for that! The husband kept saying, “Makes sense!” They even turned to me and shared their joy at considering the truth of that fact, though I was a prefect stranger to them, in that moment they apparently felt the kinship and wanted to share their excitement! Because of their speech, I don’t think English was probably their first language. Yet the recognition of the truth was all over their faces!

Jesus: And at the Creation Museum you were standing next to the black woman who was looking at the display of brutal treatment that has accompanied slavery: shackles, pictures of awful scars from beatings, and separation of families on the auction block. Again, with the message that there is no place for such in Me. You could tell she was moved by the consideration of it. Did you know that she could tell the same about you?

Me: I wasn’t aware. I did say to her that it was clear why You called us to be one in You. How could it be that slavery has been excused? That mistreatment of others for any reason has been excused?

Jesus: I know you know this passage. It applies here.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

Some justified slavery because the Bible speaks of slavery and because it has been prevalent down though history, they reasoned, being sovereign, I must have condoned it. They did not know Me, as you say. Nor did they believe me when I put the world into their power. Instead, men promptly began handing over their authority to the devil.

Me: Thank You for talking with Me Jesus! I love You! Thank You again for all the gifts!

Jesus: You are welcome! I love you!

Ark Encounter

Your Eyes

I am grateful for the day!

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Matthew 27:46

My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent.

Psalm 22:1-2

Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:5-6, 8

Me: Good morning, Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good morning, Jon!

Me: I have read, Holy Spirit, that Jesus was quoting Psalm 22 from the cross, to make it plain to his followers and the others around that they were seeing the prophecy detailed in that Psalm fulfilled. That seems to make some sense. I am unclear whether Jesus was truly wrestling with feeling forsaken, in the throes of unimaginable suffering and on the heels of his struggle to submit His 100% human will in the garden of Gethsemane not that long before.

Holy Spirit: He was tempted in like manner as all men. (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15)

Me: I recall from my reading of the prophet Habakkuk (chapter 1), a similar sense of dismay as to whether God would hear or look away because of sin:

The burden which Habakkuk the prophet did see.

O Lord, how long shall I cry, and thou wilt not hear! even cry out unto thee of violence, and thou wilt not save!

Why dost thou shew me iniquity, and cause me to behold grievance? for spoiling and violence are before me: and there are that raise up strife and contention.

Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth: for the wicked doth compass about the righteous; therefore wrong judgment proceedeth.

Then the charge comes from God for the prophet to consider the Chaldeans through He would send judgment on Israel for their sin. He speaks of the terribleness of the judgment in great detail

Habakkuk 1:5-11

Finally, Habakkuk gets back to considering You; that You are pure and holy and the instrument of Your judgment is not:

Art thou not from everlasting, O Lord my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment; and, O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction.

Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?

And makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things, that have no ruler over them?

They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them in their net, and gather them in their drag: therefore they rejoice and are glad.

Therefore they sacrifice unto their net, and burn incense unto their drag; because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous.

Shall they therefore empty their net, and not spare continually to slay the nations?

Habakkuk 1:12-17

Holy Spirit: And the object of judgment was not righteous either. Hence My judgment. Do not neglect that Jesus has borne all the judgment due you. You are under a new covenant. Jesus is your redeemer. Your part is to give your heart to Him and to allow Him to make it new. The choice is still yours. The power is God’s

Me: I am grateful for Your grace! I am grateful for Your provision! Thank You! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Love: Power to Change the World!

Are you a believer in Jesus?

If so, here is a verse to challenge your status quo:

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

John 14:12

Here a flat statement in the scripture of Jesus’ purpose:

He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:8

Do you suppose Jesus’ works, spoken of in John 14:12, might be associated with His stated purpose? Can you imagine any aimless works of the perfect Son of God?

Do you want to know what the works of the devil look like? See Romans 1:18-32

How can we have the power to combat this evil onslaught?

Consider this – God is sovereign. By that, I mean that He is bound only by His own word and his own nature. He cannot violate His own nature or His word and still be the God described in the Bible. I do NOT mean, as some do, that the sovereignty of God decides everything. I believe He has given us free will. One reason is that love does not function under coercion. When the scripture says we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26), we might understand that God has free will and He made us after the same pattern. How might we know? The strongest scriptural evidence I can cite is 1 John 4:8, which says that God is love. That is, love is his very nature. I believe He gave us free will that we would not be precluded from relating to Him in love. However, we misused our free will and followed a twisted lie about Him instead of having faith in His perfection. This choice gave the devil access to the things we were given to rule over in the beginning (including our selves). Can you say “diabolical plan”? We continue to reinforce that capitulation every time we choose to operate in our “own” will, instead of God’s revealed will. (Matthew 7:21, 26:39) We all know from painful experience the difficulty in subjugating our stubborn self will.

But God… provided a solution to our dilemma. Jesus went to the cross and voluntarily bore the penalty of our sin. If we can accept the completeness of this selfless act and lay down our impotent self efforts, we can find freedom:

If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.

John 8:36

The power to operate in freedom comes from the indwelling Spirit of God, whom Jesus sent:

Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.

John 14:7

How can we know if the Spirit of God is indwelling and we have yielded to Him (rather than continuing to habitually yield to our “old man”)?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

Remember that free will? Here is some really good news:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

I believe 1 John 1:9 is talking about transgressions of the believer who has lapsed into “walking in the flesh” or the unregenerate part of our nature, instead of the part of us that is saved (the Spiritual part, look back at John 14:17). Further, we don’t have to contest the free will of others to defeat the works of the devil in ourselves! All it really takes is to recognize we are displaying traits in the list in Romans 1:18-32 and not the ones in Galatians 5:22-23. If we do, we can pray something like: “Father, I am walking in the flesh again and not in the power of Your Spirit. Thank You that Jesus has paid the price of His life to break that bondage! Please help me to consider myself dead to these things, but alive to your Spirit. I want to do that which is pleasing in Your sight!”

Do you want to make some real change in the world?

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 18:19

Law and Unfailing Love

I am grateful for Your grace.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1f

Me: Good evening, Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good evening, Jon!

Me: Holy Spirit, I kind of get the “law of sin and death”; that under the law no flesh is justified. But I am puzzled that this passage in Romans 8 talks of “the law of the Spirit and of Life in Christ Jesus”, as compared to “the law of sin and death”.

Holy Spirit: What puzzles you?

Me: I suppose I generally think of the law as prohibitive. Speed limits, prohibitions against theft, assault, murder, and mayhem. How does the law of the Spirit fit with that?

Holy Spirit: What about the law of physics, biology, chemistry? What do they do?

Me: They describe how something works. If we can observe that something always works the same way, given the conditions, we classify it as a law.

Holy Spirit: My Word never fails. It always works the same way. The laws spoken of in Romans 8 are spiritual laws. They are more sure than they laws of physics, biology, and chemistry, as understood by men.

Me: In that sense, then, “the law of sin and death” is not prohibitive, but instead describes how sin works?

Holy Spirit: You are made in the image of God; you have free will. I have simply told you how sin works (what it pays and the predictable outcome), as I have told you how life in Christ Jesus by My Spirit works.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I love you!

Conformed to Christ’s Sufferings?

I am grateful that Jesus endured such suffering on my behalf, taking on Himself the penalty that is justly due to me.

Colossians 1:24

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in [literally “of”] Christ’s afflictions. NASB

Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church: KJV

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. NIV

https://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/1-24.htm

Me: Good morning Holy Spirit!

Holy Spirit: Good Morning Jon!

Me: When I read that passage in Colossians 1:24 in the NASB it sounds like Paul was saying there was something lacking in Christ’s afflictions that Paul had to finish filling up. I know there was (is) nothing lacking in Christ’s afflictions because He said “It is finished” from the cross (John 19:30). It gets better if one puts in the footnote version of “of Christs afflictions” instead of “in Christ’s afflictions”. It seems to me with the NASB, the literal thing that they put in the footnotes is usually better than the thing they put in the text instead. [I don’t know why they do that.] How could anyone who knows You at all think there could be anything lacking in You or in what You do?

Holy Spirit: It is true that there is nothing lacking in Christ’s suffering. He is the faultless Lamb of God, a perfect sacrifice. His offering is more than sufficient to atone for your every sin. Your sense of My nature not lacking in anything is correct. What did you find when you looked at the interlinear rendering on Bible Hub?

Me: It seems much clearer that Paul was talking about filling up in himself what was lacking in his identification with Jesus in His suffering (or passions) for the church. I got more of a sense that he wanted to be conformed to the Image of Christ in himself (Paul). I know there are other places that the scripture talks about being conformed to the suffering of Christ. I don’t yet have a good sense of how that should work in my life. I would say that compared to Your promises and grace that any suffering that I have had to endure has been negligible!

Holy Spirit: Consider what it says in Romans 8:

11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.

13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

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 God:

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 together.

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: I pray you will help me learn these things from the heart.

Holy Spirit: Jesus prayed that you and He would be one. From the heart. That is what these things mean; one in heart, seeking the same purpose, operating in the same love and power.

Me: Thank You Holy Spirit! I pray you will help me grow in this oneness! I love You!

Holy Spirit: You are welcome! I Am and I love you!

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!

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.

Am I? Are You? #15

I Am… at peace with God. (Romans 5:1) And I am grateful for it.

Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Me: Good afternoon Father!

ABBA: Good afternoon Jon!

Me: This passage in Romans is one of those where You are obviously active in all of Your aspects, Father, Son, and Spirit.

ABBA: That is always so, for I Am One. Have you considered My wrath in verse nine? Let me tell you about that, as well. It is in light of my wrath that peace with Me is even worth mentioning.

My wrath speaks of My settled opposition to evil and all its out-workings. What does my word say Jesus’ mission was, as far as the devil?

Me: In 1 John 3:8, it says, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

ABBA: That is right, starting with death that is earned through sin.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10

You are called to that same purpose.

And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

You see, many recognize their sinfulness and assume that mention of My wrath means I Am mad at them over it. I am not. Toward them, I am compassionate. My wrath is directed toward the evil that enslaves them and had doomed them to destruction. I sent My Son to bear their death-wage in their place, if only they will turn and accept the gift of peace with Me, purchased by His blood.

Me: Thank You for that explanation of Your wrath, Father! And thank You for Your unimaginable Gift! I love you!

ABBA: You are welcome! I love you!

Christy Mitropoulos Signature