Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The marriage union between a man and a woman often becomes a battleground. The conflict between the two is bad enough, but I am referring to the disputes which arise in the minds of others when the end of that union is divorce. Specifically, it is when the reason for that divorce was something other than the unfaithfulness of sexual immorality by one of the spouses in the marriage. Of course, the travesty and ravages of divorce on personal happiness are often revisited upon those who had put that in their past and moved on with love and to love again. This re-visitation of their past occurs when he or she learns, with a fair measure of their own misunderstanding, that they have been measured and burdened by someone else's understanding of the scriptures in a way beyond their comprehension. This, perhaps, even as they have come in search of Jesus to draw near to God. It is at this point that they are (mis)informed by some saints in Christ of their illicit marriage. Sometimes the specific advice, in the form of a command, is given to them to end the illicit marriage, go back to their (original) spouse, or remain unmarried.
It is an understatement to say this teaching, or information, of the scripture leaves something to be desired.
Saturday, March 8, 2014
Christians often talk about being led by the Spirit or that they walk by the Spirit. These biblical expressions represent a call and a reality for believers to be led by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit. The New Testament (NT) writers Matthew and Luke record that Jesus was led by the Spirit on one occasion when he was challenged as to who he was and what he professed. It is of great significance for us. It is the basis for this brief article.
There are daily challenges in the life of the believer which call for a spiritual (that is, of the Spirit) discernment and assessment in order to respond to those challenges of life in this world. These challenges, which may require the need to teach, encourage, exhort, reprove, rebuke and more, all involve people other than the one being led or walking by the Spirit. These expressions do not, as some may think, represent a mystical or mystery shrouded inexplicable reality for the saints in Christ. Yes, even mature disciples have been known to resort to shrouding matters divine, such as being led or walking by the Spirit, as unknown mysteries when they find themselves at a loss to understand and explain these fundamental tenets of faith which they profess. However, what does it mean to walk by the Spirit? How does the believer learn to walk by the Spirit? How does the disciple know he/she is led by the Spirit?
virtual and actual
Clearly, those things that are spiritual and those things that are physical are virtually and actually different, respectively. It is that difference between the spiritual and the physical which can throw believers into floundering uncertainty even when it is the Spirit who indwells the believer and leads him/her to be accountable and proclaim what he/she professes in the actual physical world as much as the virtual kingdom of God on earth. The line which separates one from the other is like the line between what is hot and what is cold or what is water and what is vapor. The line of separation is very close. It is not enough for the believer to classify and compartmentalize life’s challenges on him/her as either spiritual or physical. It is even more.
misperceptions of the Spirit in others
Is being led and walking by the Spirit merely a vague, whimsical notion? There is an instance in the NT of such misperceptions when the disciples of Jesus informed Jesus, perhaps with a bit of pride, that they forbade one who was casting out demons. They did so, they said, because he doesn’t follow with us. The actions of the disciples towards that disciple reveal as much about how they perceived themselves as about the saints, today. As the disciples saw it they were walking with Jesus actually, therefore they (surely) must be walking by the Spirit, virtually. The other disciple was not following along with them. He was not following after Jesus. Therefore, they reasoned, he was not walking by the Spirit or of the same Spirit as Jesus. We can only wonder how the disciples might have reflected on their mistaken perception of that disciple and Jesus’ words of enlightenment to them afterwards.
what spirit are you from
Interestingly enough, it was immediately after the above that the disciples revealed to Jesus, not as though he had not seen it already, their own spirit. They were incensed towards the Samaritans who did not receive Jesus. They would have liked to have commanded fire to descend from heaven and consume them. However, Jesus rebuked them and said to them,
You don’t know of what kind of spirit you are. For the Son of Man didn’t come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
The saints in Christ exhort one another to walk by the Spirit, but there is a tendency to make comparisons along with those exhortations. Some boldly declare while others intimate that they walk by the Spirit. Sometimes (perhaps too often) it seems the mere mention, reference or use of the term Spirit is trumpeted as proof, or at least the suggestion, of one’s spirituality over someone else; a seriously questionable claim. Even worse, because of the nature of such comparisons what is of the Spirit or professed as being of the Spirit is seen as the preferred choice over what is seen as being religious. This is the stuff of popular slogans and to which saints are prone. This type of comparison by which individuals seek to elevate themselves on the basis of these choices is nothing less than the desire to be first and above all others. Jesus turned that notion about being first and greatest upside down. Such thinking, Jesus reminded them, is the way of the world and rulers of the world. It is the thinking of carnal mind. It is neither the Spirit who leads nor the Spirit by whom they walk when disciples think and speak such things. Jesus spoke from experience as we will see.
Jesus was led
There are disciples who strive to know and to acquire a discipline in their life by which they can respond by the Spirit to the challenges of life. They want to be led by the Spirit. They want to walk by the Spirit.
Jesus was led by the Spirit.
But, before setting our eyes on Jesus it is worthwhile to note a focus which can blind us to where we cannot see our own circumstance or Jesus. It is a blindness which can prevent us from being led by the Spirit or to walk by the Spirit.
lust: a blinding focus
The apostle John in I John 2:16 admonished the saints in Christ about the blinding focus of Eve on those things which appealed to her in the garden and which resulted in the fall of man. Simply, though catastrophically, Eve’s lust for what she wanted became an immediate blinding obsession. Quite specifically, those things, or lusts, which John enumerates are the same which were revealed in the garden of Eden. Perhaps you will recognize them:
1) the lust of the flesh, 2) the lust of the eyes, and 3) the pride of life,
These are the same lusts which came from Eve’s heart and by which she was consumed, overwhelmed and seduced by the Deceiver.
1) the tree was good for food, and that 2) it was a delight to the eyes, and that 3) the tree was to be desired to make one wise, (Genesis 3:6)
These temptations which were experienced by Eve are no different than every temptation the saints in Christ experience today. The apostle Paul wrote:
No temptation has taken you except what is common to man. God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
I Corinthians 10:13
Therefore, it is not a coincidence that these are the same temptations to which Jesus was subjected when . . .
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
Now, lets look at Jesus. The apostle Matthew testifies that Jesus was led by the Spirit. If that seems like an understate about Jesus being led by the Spirit it is because in Jesus dwelt the fulness of deity, namely, the Father and the Spirit. These words of Matthew are powerful. They dispel the mistaken notion of saints whose understanding is that if a believer is led by the Spirit or walks by the Spirit he will not be led into temptation. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
The fact that it was necessary for Jesus to be tempted like us in all things (Hebrews 4:15) is not a point of discussion here. One could perhaps engage in endless speculation as to why Jesus was tempted, but what is clear is what transpired when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. Jesus not only experienced the same temptations as Eve, but his temptations reveal the close interplay between the physical and the spiritual; the actual and the virtual. It is what transpired there which is for the saints who belong to Christ and in whom dwells the Holy Spirit to learn if they are themselves to be led by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit.
Every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (the lust of the flesh)
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’”
In the cyber age of the web copy & paste has become the new form of parroting, that is, posting for display scripture passages and other sources to speak for the individual what he/she may be unable or unwilling to express their own understanding and convictions. How is it that a saint who has fed on the word from the mouth of God would pass up on the need to break the bread of life, to speak the word of God with another human being?
Those who are led by the Spirit/walk by the Spirit are not concerned about preserving their life, that is, their flesh, much less their place of honor and glory among men. The written scriptures are no less the word of God than when God first spoke those words, when those words were repeated, when they were written, when they were read than when they are quoted. It has proceeded from the mouth of God. It is no less valid and authoritative. Jesus said,
It is the spirit who gives life. The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life.
worship that is directed to God (the lust of the eyes)
The devil, leading him up on a high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 The devil said to him, “I will give you all this authority, and their glory, for it has been delivered to me; and I give it to whomever I want. 7 If you therefore will worship before me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered him, “Get behind me Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.’”
What captures the attention of the eyes is not necessarily evil, but it, along with a multitude of other such things, can and may become what consumes their lives to the point to where their lives are dedicated to those things. This is worship. This is idolatry. Although those things can do nothing in the sense that they cannot give life; they take, or steal, the lives of those who draw near as a sacrifice to the idol of their attention and devotion simply, _ because the appearance of those things appealed to their eyes.
Worship to God is not cheap. It costs the worshiper his/her life. Anyone who loves their life more than God, Jesus said quite simply, You cannot be my disciple. Just as the saint does not live his/her life on Sunday mornings only; so too those who are led by the Spirit/walk in the Spirit are to worship the Father every day. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman:
But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
chances (the pride of life)
He led him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,
‘He will put his angels in charge of you, to guard you;’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
12 Jesus answering, said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
No, this is not about skydiving or racecar driving as tempting God. Rather, it is doing such things on a chance with a complete abandon and any regard for the sanctity of one’s life_ with, the dare, the taunt that God will save me. If one were to survive it becomes his/her boast, his pride of life. This is the dare Satan put before Jesus.
Those who are led by the Spirit/walk by the Spirit are not out to get on top or to be on top.The deceiver has numerous ways to deceive the saints. Some of that is evident in the boasting which is at the expense of those saints still weighed down with the burdens of men. It is evident in the constant and unceasing need, as though it were an addiction, for sound bites that may seem as spiritual to those who say them and those who hear them, but they do not proceed from the mouth of God. They do not proceed from the Holy Spirit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith,* 23 gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let’s also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let’s not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another. (Galatians 5:16-26)
The saints in Christ Jesus are called to be led by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit. It is not a finish goal to be attained for personal glory, but that through the saints those who are in world might behold live by the Spirit. It is a tough challenge to be led and to walk by the Spirit in the actual world and in the virtual kingdom of heaven.
Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Satan tempted Jesus in the same manner as he tempts everyone with: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
The evidence that Jesus was led by the Spirit was in his response to those temptations and is for the learning of all who are led by the Spirit and walk by the Spirit.
The scripture which proceeded from the mouth of Jesus and which sustained him is what proceeds from the mouth of God. This same word is the saints’ sustenance; their daily bread.
The worship of Jesus to honor and glorify; in spirit and truth to the Father is what the saints continually, not just on a select day of the week, offer up to the Father because this is the worship in which the Father delights from those whom the Father seeks.
The refusal of Jesus to display his love of the Father through spectacular feats is what the saints are to keep in mind; never, ever seeking to outdo one another. The Spirit in those who are led by and walk by the Spirit seeks always to show love in the building up of one another, and thus, persevere in faith. peace to all.