Tied Up In Nots

The one thing that pleases God remains jumbled behind Pharisee zeal for Moses and the Law, liturgical purity, Protestant speculation, and present truth innovations.  One cannot read the proclamations about faith without realizing that we experience its value in both living and dying.  Hebrews 11 is an iconic exhibit in this regard with its instruction about what faith looks like in the lives of ancient witnesses.

As a result of believing, the subjects – Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets — experienced a variety of outcomes, all of which “pleased God”.

It is obvious that moral behaviour is not the focus of these outcomes and commendations.  The message is not that these individuals avoided sin: the commendations assert that faith made impossible happen or made unseen things appear.  “Faith needs works” is a distraction that springs from a dark place, a Christless place.  The condition and behaviour of the just are not tied up in “You shall not” but in God’s very work.

Jesus answered them, This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. John 6:29

We find faith included in the great commandment according to John.

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:23

Commandment keeping and the resident Spirit are inseparable but it is the gift of the indwelling Spirit that makes us aware that we are abiding in God.  No one gets the Holy Spirit by keeping commandments, but by believing.  1 John 3:24

Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 

It is cheap and low to imagine that compliance to any law is evidence of a relationship to God and especially one through Christ and especially one that comes from doing nothing.  The church unravelled the knots of every ism in its early days (Acts 15, Acts 6 and 7, Galatians 2:12-14,  5:2-6) yet here we are 19 centuries later tied up in knots about irrelevant theories.

Believers are not hoping to be righteous: we are.  Believers are not capable of untying that knot that kept us bound: Christ has, in one majestic act, replaced the nots with yea and amen promises which yield life and true righteousness.

Believers have “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness”.  Ephesians 4:24

Returning to the proposition that faith is discerned by both living and dying we find that faith needs love and hope.  More precisely, we find that we come to life through faith and the life we live is tagged as faith working in love.  The critical evaluation of the faithful seems also to be faith-related when the writer of Hebrews in 11:13 concludes that those who died in faith are secure.  We should therefore pay close attention to our dying: it is not what we are doing that closes the book.  Faith at death does.  

We are tied up in knots of our negligence.  There is no unravelling of our abandonment of Christ for our own righteousness.  Our standing obviously depends on whom we trust and not on what we have achieved or approve.  Christ’s contemporaries had so compromised the integrity of their inner life thst they were reluctant to admit what everybody knew, namely, that John was a reliable witness and he had pointed squarely to Yeshua as the Anointed and the Lamb of God.  They had wrapped themselves in knots of “You shall not” and silly fables and traditions.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 

How David Became King and God’s Tapestry

This narrative begins with a call for an end to  mourning for Saul must end and God declares that He has a plan.

The Lord said to Samuel, How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.

1 Samuel 16:1

Samuel’s Mission and a Restless People

When a prophet shows up people are restless

Samuel did what the Lord commanded and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling and said, Do you come peaceably? And he said, Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. 1 Samuel 16:4-5

Town elders roped in

Consecrate yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice.

The Jesse Mystery

And he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice. 

Why the house of Jesse was being chosen must have been a mystery to the observers of this development.

All but one. Standing Until he Comes. 

1 Samuel 16:6-11

Something stirs when Samuel heads for Bethlehem, the hometown of Elimelech, Naomi, Ruth, Boaz, Jesse, and Obed, and David.  The law specified that Moabites were to be barred from the Israelite community up to the tenth generation (that covers about 400 years). 

No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the Lord forever, because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Deuteronomy 23:3-4

Now this mixed union is the centre of the action.  A young man, a mere youth, of this Bethlehemite Jewish-Moabite household is about to be anointed king.  We do not know how many households in Bethlehem besides Ruth’s were mixed, that is, were Jewish-Gentile.

Samuel views seven of Jesse’s sons before he asks for others.

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither has the Lord chosen this one. Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, Neither has the Lord chosen this one.

Samuel said to Jesse, Are all your sons here? And he said, There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.

David’s anointing brings us back to the Boaz and Ruth narrative.  It reminds us of God’s care for all people – Moabites included – and his global plan to save the world from sin.

We recall that our Lord’s parental roots were questioned by his contemporaries, labeling him a Samaritan.  Perhaps they had forgotten David’s Moabite blood.  The inclusion of foreign blood into the Bethlehemite family was a preview of Gentile inclusion.  

We have assumed that the book of Ruth is included in the Sacred collection to inform us of the fact that Messiah himself has affinity to both Abraham’s descendants and the gentile world.  This narrative is today a powerful hedge against xenophobia and chosen people delusions and leads us to regjrct on his we became children of the king.

Will Power: one of dilemmas horns

Christ’s cautions about deception are urgent and the reach of false claims is global.  The thought that we were not victims needs to be seen for the counterfeit that it is. The nature of deception includes the surprising and disastrous realization of what it breeds.   With willpower as the favourite explanation the attempt to deceive is quite blatant.  I am sure you have heard: “Faith is Works”.  “Works are Faith”.  “Morality is complete compliance with everything God ever said”.  Please, don’t laugh. Willpower is the catalyst to salvation according to the vast majority of Christians and the theory that bears the name Arminianism.  

Ultimately, we did not choose Christ: he chose us.  We were begotten by God’s will, not by human freewill agency.  Believing that our decision is the critical facet of getting saved and not Christ’s intervention places our witness on the horns of a dilemma.  

The dilemma leaves the grace of God out of our attitude and response to salvation and the inevitable outcome is that we find ways to accumulate credit for getting saved and we treat salvation as something that makes us indebted.  If we are indebted, then we ought to pay, but it is obvious that we cannot pay and in fact are not being asked to pay or prove that we are worthy.  When someone gives you a gift you don’t owe them anything except “thank you”.  

A biblical example of salvation in Christ as a gift being kept out of sight is James’ letter. James’ first exhortation (1:2) is a slap in the face of the Saviour.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

Joy is the Christian’s heritage, not an incidental – such as when one meets trials of various kinds.  Furthermore Christian life has joy as a primary descriptor.  James is not treating joy as a resident virtue.  There is no recollection of salvation thst does not stir up joy and no time when God’s presence is not the source of fullnes of joy.

  1. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
  2. And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Luke 2:10
  3. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. Luke 10:20
  4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.  Philippians 4:4

Faith is the gift. Through faith we become a new creation: children of God, members of the Body of Christ, and heirs of the kingdom.  One choice makes the kingdom available.  Yet we hear quite consistently of 7 principles, 12 daily choices, 3 principles, being offered as the ways to an abundant life in Christ.  Hundreds of books push a variety of principles the believer needs to know and live by.

How about those popular Ten Commandments – the covenant? Aren’t they supposed to be the moral law, written in the believer’s heart? What about the two principles of love to God and love to one’s neighbours? If Christ is the example, who are we putting first?  Did Christ not say “I give my life” and  “Let the sinner who believes in me (a) live, (b) sit with me, (c) be a member of my body, (d) light up the world, (e) rise from the dead”?  Where is the grace and where is the human willpower in those guarantees (a b c d e)?  Where indeed is human assurance of or contribution to keeping the covenant-in-Lamb’s-blood?

Loyalty.  Patriotism.  Sectarianism

If one wants to prove that Christ is the only Saviour – because that is our contention – then no human contribution should appear on the record.  Especially not human will. 

Salvation is not left up to human reliability. 

I guess its time to admit that there is no Christ living in us, because he cannot (a) lives out his life in unsaved people nor (b) can we envision that Christ is a head without a body.  Your “willpower and choice” contribution to salvation is a demonic lie: works, food and drink, do not cut it.

So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.  Romans 9:16

He who wills, the one who is exercising his wish, must be GodWe pray “Let your will be done” so it must be our will that is unrelated and contrary and hostile.  I have always felt that people who are trying to pay back God or think they have to prove their validity are ungrateful or do not recognize the immensity of the gift of salvation.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.  John 1:12-13

So did we choose to be joyful at the sound of the good news?  Did we choose to be subject to futility?  Did we indeed choose God’s way?  Did we choose to be like the wind? Did we choose to be subject to hope?  Do we recognize that we did choose to reckon ourselves the finished product – creature – instead of the process, creation?

Willpower and the ability to choose are the weakest links in the chain.  Freewill enabled Adam’s fall.  At what point then do we progress past the frailty of our own judgment?  When we trust the Giver.

But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. 2 Timothy 1:12

A Week in the Life…

Royal intrigue

The events in 1 Samuel are likely to have occurred over a few days.  They are informative and entertaining.  No one should think that Old Testament times were crude and rustic or unsophisticated and dull.  Sometimes we stress how advanced our 21st century societies are, but here is a snapshot from Saul’s reign over ancient Israel (1 Samuel 19) which shows a king mired in folly (1 Sam 19:1, 10, 15, 19, 20, 21), a prince and princess mightily in love (2, 11, 12, 13), a warrior-king in-waiting humble and needy (18), tricks in the family (12, 13, 14), and prophecy sprinkled around (20, 21, 23) like the grains at a wedding.

Observations and Comparisons

Obserparisons

Typically the 21st century is hard on ancient figures and kind to itself even though we are aware more downward plunges than sparkling climbs.  Generally it is recognized that humanity is accelerating towards a spiritual and sensual abyss.  We are not improving.  Technological advancements are fleeting value when selfishness and conflict are not seen as mortal threats.

Had Saul succeeded in his murderous plot would that not have been an extrajudicial killing? If Saul’s children had been totally loyal to their father Israel’s second and greatest king would not have acceded to the throne.  Notice however that God gave Saul a taste of prophetic experience even as he persisted to seek David’s life.

Kings change their minds, so do people in love, students, married couples, employees and employers. Not every affliction is the result if a malevolent spirit, that is, a demon.

The snapshot ends with a saying “Saul…a prophet” and we have no idea what his prophecies were but we have hundreds of David’s.

It would be extremely unhealthy to cling to views of the ancient world that trash the witnesses, like Saul, Jonathan, Michal, and David while we pat ourselves on the back for a better testimony than Adam, Eve, and Abraham, to name a few.  Jonathan speaks enduring wisdom to us:

For he took his life in his hand and he struck down the Philistine, and the Lord worked a great salvation for all Israel. You saw it, and rejoiced. Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause? 1 Samuel 19:5

Like a Roaring Lion

Christ did not leave his disciples as orphans.  In fact the gift of the Holy Spirit did for the disciples all that the Incarnate Word had been doing for them and more.  Believers have their main security in the Holy Spirit and many fail to log in to this “Vault” which I must say is pretty useless apart from the words (actual words) of the first witnesses.  So you can imagine that when my friend recommended that I view the work of one “apostle Gino Jennings” my brain shifted into red alert mode.

Foundational and Missionary Apostleship

Apostles come in two types.  Those who were eyewitness from the start of our Lord’s ministry and saw the Risen Lord comprise the first type.  The second is any person sent out (especially by a local authority) on a mission (pastoral or evangelistic etc.). 

Any apostle in the subsequent years had better be literate and, like any spiritual leader, be apt to teach, and better not be reaching for “I said so” authority.  So I said to my friend, “I will take a look and since he thinks that formal theological training is unimportant I will predict that this apostle is a fraud”.

I viewed 3 videos of GinoJennings. Here’s what I found.

Exhibit A

When asked who he is, he never named the Saviour of the world but he said “God” repeatedly.

Exhibit B

When speaking about the possibility of pleasing God, he never mentioned faith.

Exhibit C

He misquoted Rev. 5:3, 4 insisting that “no man” means that no human agency was involved.  However the text has no-one, oudeis ουδεις (oodaice) = no entity, nothing.

Exhibit D

Gino mishandled 2 Cor. 5 19, treating hoti ότι as ekeinos, εκείνος

Paul is not differentiating one God from another, he is making the point that “God was in Christ…”

This/that are demonstrative pronouns.

Compare John 3:33

He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that (hoti) God is true.

2 Corinthians 5:19

To wit, that (hoti) God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

that god = conjunction + noun
It is not demonstrative pronoun + noun

Gino’s elaborate explanation of Christ’s identity is essentially an incarnation denial.  I did not hear him acknowledge that the babe of Bethlehem and the fetus in Mary’s womb was God.  He was saying the opposite.

Let me add that the use of titles lends itself to assumptions that qualifications are in place.  Pastor, elder, bishop, priest (father), (rabbi from the Jewish faith) etc. are common forms of address and those of us who are in Christian leadership need to be vigilant against idolatry. 

Anyone can use these titles and the proof of the pudding is in the specific application of the person to the fundamental functions assigned to that title.  Learning is paramount because our safety depends on the ability to interpret the Gospel.  General familiarity with the Scriptures is good but the Christian leader who fails to bring Scriptural exploration to the Crucified Christ shows that he or she is still in kindergarten and not worthy of the title.

Different gifts are in place for education not controversy and many ideas that believers have to wrestle with are not Crucified Christ-centred and many not Christian at all.

Let me leave you with two selections from the apostle Peter which will demonstrate that we all are at risk when we do not follow the fundamental message about Christ.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 2 Peter 1:16

What God is and Why and So What

When we read the Old Testament we tend to look for the story, with good reason. Paul wrote that the ancient events were recorded for people in the modern age (1 Cor. 10:11). In a perverse kind of way we long for those things we approve to happen to us, so we sing confidently “What He’s done for others He’ll do for you…” as if there are no unique and exclusive things God wants to do for us. We diligently seek to be like Israel without understanding that there is no repeat, there is no emulation of Israel. There is only one Abraham and one Moses, and one Messiah. The stories are only reliable when they feed us the things that belong to Christ. The narratives are warnings – admonition (1 The. 5:14, Titus 3:10). Besides the narratives there are proclamations that demand an “Amen” without reservation. These sayings have neither probability nor assumptions that attaches to humanity. They admit no changeability. They simply are true.

The Lord is my light, literally, yahweh my light, yhwh ooree

The Lord is our refuge, literally, yahweh for us refuge, yhwh lanu machaseh

These types of sayings are tagged as copulas. The first half = to the second half. No-one is doing anything; the saying reports what is.

the LORD  is God (Old Testament)

the Word was God (New Testament)

the light was the light of men (New Testament)

Contemporary examples would be “Muhammad Ali [is] the greatest”, “America [is] home of the brave”.

There are scores of these copulas in the OT. Our hard copies of the KJV (The King James Version) of the Bible preserves many copulas by placing the was or the is in italics. How very accurate and cool is that!

In my digital version of the KJV – the KJS – the italics are replaced by brackets.

The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1 (KJS)

For the LORD [is] good; his mercy [is] everlasting;

and his truth [endureth] to all generations. Psalm 100:5 (KJS)

In this last example the translators inserted endureth but the significance of the saying is the same.

God’s goodness simply is. His truth is endless.

In the Law

  • Genesis 21:22 (KJS) And it came to pass at that time, that Abimelech and Phichol the chief captain of his host spake unto Abraham, saying, God [is] with thee in all that thou doest:
  • Genesis 31:50 If thou shalt afflict my daughters, or if thou shalt take [other] wives beside my daughters, no man [is] with us; see, God [is] witness betwixt me and thee.
  • Numbers 23:19 God [is] not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do [it]? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
  • Numbers 23:21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God [is] with him, and the shout of a king [is] among them.
  • Deut. 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God [is] one LORD:

In the Prophets

  • Isaiah 12:2 Behold, God [is] my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH [is] my strength and [my] song; he also is become my salvation.
  • Isaiah 45:14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, [saying], Surely God [is] in thee; and [there is] none else, [there is] no God.
  • Nahum 1:2 God [is] jealous, and the LORD revengeth; the LORD revengeth, and [is] furious; the LORD will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth [wrath] for his enemies.
  • Habakkuk 3:19 The LORD God [is] my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ [feet], and he will make me to walk upon mine high places. To the chief singer on my stringed instruments.

Some New Testament Examples

  • 2 Cor. 1:18 But [as] God [is] true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
  • 1 Tim. 4:4 For every creature of God [is] good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
  • Hebrews 6:10 For God [is] not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
  • Hebrews 12:29 For our God [is] a consuming fire.
  • Rev. 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God.

Great soul food from David

I found this example among from a Psalm of David most compelling, (i) because it is repeated and (ii) each is followed by a different profound statement of confidence.

He only [is] my rock and my salvation; [he is] my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. Psalm 62:2

He only [is] my rock and my salvation: [he is] my defence; I shall not be moved. Psalm 62:6

greatly = in any way = never = not at all

Both are to be read as “I shall not be moved, period”. Anything less would be foolhardy

The believer has relevant experience here. Christ is our rock, our salvation and our defence. We cannot yield to notions about being shaken or moved from our place in Him. Let the winds blow, let the floods rage, our house stands. If you are afraid, shaken or moved from your rock-salvation-defence, check your foundation. It is very likely to be sand.

Great soul food from David’s son

And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. Matt 7:25
And the rain descended, and the floods came,
and the winds blew, and beat upon that house;
and it fell: and great was the fall of it. Matt 7:27

A truly Messianic saying of this type that features both the fixed truth and the action is Exodus 15:2, where God is strength-song-salvation-ancestral God

The action is underlined, for example,  the Word became human etc.

The LORD [is] my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he [is] my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

 

Things to Believe and the Only One to Believe in

For many believers faith invites us to a new life.  The new life is a challenge because it is new.  Nothing we had before conversion is an essential building block in the new life.  We shatter our credibility when we talk about believing in things.  Creeds and doctrinal systems are overgrown elephants in the rooms.  Knowing what to believe is not a nightmare unless one is prone to  say yes to ridiculous apostles and prophets.  Credibility appears to come in two shapes: suffering then glory (Luke 24:26-27)

Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  

A question like this is also credible because it points to the answer, namely, yes.  And so will His disciples.  Taking the servant and the master as walking together we find that a cross is always present.  It is not that every second of the believer’s life is to be experienced as pain and suffering, but that there is daily dying to catalyze our growth.  

As it is written,  For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.  Romans 8:36 

The exercise of Faith brings us to life: salvation and belonging.  It also empowers the life through love and hope: love that reflects the love of God-in-Christ and hope that covers our nakedness and flavours our attitudes regarding ourselves and others.  The hope of having substance to replace our futile existence is called the hope of glory.  It is not something entirely new because CHRIST IS IN US. But hope fixes on the swallowing up of mortality and the end of pain and suffering.

 BELIEVE AND CONFESS

It is problematic to say things like “I believe in obedience”, “I believe in miracles”, and most disturbing “I believe in faith”, because belief is God’s gift to enable salvation.  Why waste it?

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them.

But the righteousness based on faith saysDo not say in your heart,Who will ascend into heaven?(that is, to bring Christ down)

or Who will descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).  Romans 10:5-7

It is indicative of Satanic deception that people are still trying to add something to this explicit description of salvation and the distinction between law and faith.

DrJ