Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A Mistaken Idea: "The Lord's Prayer" is a New Covenant Prayer.

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:12 NKJV

 How often have you been in a meeting, a service of some kind, even a youth meeting and have heard the Lord's Prayer recited? How often have you recited it as some form of personal devotion or prayer? Have you seen this Prayer recited repeatedly as part of a Christian worship service?

 The Lord's Prayer refers to the words of Jesus in Matthew 6. He was teaching the Disciples to pray. Many have since coined the term the Lord's Prayer to describe His words. It is interesting to note that Jesus wasn't actually praying a prayer. It therefore really shouldn't be called the Lord's Prayer.

 Many have taken this passage in Matthew and mixed it with the New Covenant. They somehow are under the impression because Jesus gave us a model of prayer it must be for us in the New Covenant. Nothing could be further from the truth. To be frank, the Lord's Prayer is not a New Covenant prayer whatsoever.

 Let's look at the "Lord's Prayer";

 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10  Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12  And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13 NKJV

 The first thing I have noticed about this prayer is that Jesus was giving a model to pray, and His point was not to pray in vain repetitions as the heathen do. Yet, that is what so many do today. They turn this passage into a prayer that they just repeat over and over. To understand this passage, look at it in full context, here

 Jesus was simply giving a model of how to pray to the disciples. While we must acknowledge there are some hints of the New Covenant to come we must understand this is still not a New Covenant way to pray. The fact that Jesus refers to God as Father is a radical idea. The Israelites saw God as a harsh taskmaster very often. Jesus was revealing the Father's heart, God gave the Law with its rigid standards to prove to us we can't earn righteousness and that we need a Savior.

 So let's break this prayer down to show this is not applicable to us today. 
Our Father in Heaven. God is our Father, but He isn't just in Heaven today. By His indwelling Spirit within us, God abides in us.  He isn't just afar off somewhere in the distance. So often we see ourselves separated from God. We feel if we sin or miss it He is away from us. That God sits in some swivel chair turning away from us when we miss it.
 This is not the picture the New Covenant paints. He is with us and abides within us. We don't have to ask God to come meet with us or plead for an open Heaven. He has already done that. When He died that veil was torn asunder. We have open access to God. He said He would never leave us or forsake us. There is no clause added saying if you sin too much I will not fellowship with you. 

 Hallowed be your name. This is a universal truth. Before Law, during Law, and under Grace God's name is holy and all-powerful. The good news is He has given us the right to use His name. When we pray in Jesus name it isn't just the way to close the prayer. It is us saying this petition be granted by the authority of Jesus as if He were asking Himself. 

 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. This passage also reveals a universal truth but also an Old Covenant premise. We no longer pray for His kingdom to come. His kingdom has come. His kingdom dwells within all believers. What we pray now is the kingdom to flow out of us to others so we may bless and encourage them. 
 The universal truth we see is that we pray His will be done on Earth as in Heaven. Note He didn't say He is the God of "Omni-control". He didn't say "I am sovereign, so if you want to receive healing or help just pray and if it is my will I will respond." We know there is no poverty, lack or insufficiency in Heaven. There is no sickness or disease in Heaven. There are no disasters in Heaven. So we pray for healing, wholeness, and protection today. God has always been good.

Give us this day our daily bread.  Under the New Covenant, we don't ask God for provision the same way as the Old. Under the Old, they prayed for God to do something. Under the New, God has already done it all. We thank God and simply believe and receive what Grace made available. In the New Covenant, it isn't Faith makes and Faith takes. It is Grace makes and Faith takes.

 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors. In the Old Covenant, this was the standard of Law. Forgive so you could be forgiven. Under Law, we weren't forgiven. Our sins were merely covered. Forgive in order to be forgiven is this the standard of the New?
 In the New Covenant, Grace instructs us to forgive others because we are already forgiven, here and here. We were forgiven once for all time on the Cross. We aren't forgiven and then Unforgiven based on our ability to forgive. People would say being eternally forgiven is a license to sin. To that I say, We were sinning without one before Christ. People in all denominations are still sinning left and right. Either we are perpetually eternally forgiven or we aren’t. There are no clauses in Grace. We just believe it and receive His Grace. 
 Also, license really means one believes a person can sin without consequences. Grace doesn't say that. You live in sin and you will reap the rewards of dumb decisions. You could lose a career, a spouse or a family. You won't have peace in your thinking and your spirit and soul and body will be in distress because your spirit is wanting to follow God and reject sin and your body is wanting to follow appetite and your mind will be fighting which way to go. So Grace is not teaching a license to sin. Besides this, Grace gives us the victory over sin. Under Grace sin no longer has dominion over us.

  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. This is also not New Covenant because under the New, the enemy is defeated and He has already delivered us. 
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV
 We don't have to ask for what's already been done. We have been delivered from the evil one. We also walk in victory because we aren't just delivered but triumphant because the enemy has been defeated in the Finished Work. Jesus is the victor and the enemy is rendered harmless and ineffective. 
 Yeah, but he is still stealing and killing and destroying. Yes, but he is a defeated foe, whose only power is that of deception. He tries to flood your mind with wrong thinking telling you he isn't defeated and lies to you about your standing before God. He brings accusations of God to you. God won't heal you, He won't provide, He won't forgive you. This is why we renew our minds to the truth. We then enforce the enemy's defeat.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. It is a universal truth of the glory and majesty of our great God. This prayer though still isn't New Covenant because a New Covenant prayer is offered in the name of Jesus. Jesus name is the name that is above every name. 

 In summation, I trust you can readily see how the "Lord's Prayer" isn't a New Covenant based prayer. We can see the universal truths Jesus speaks of but that doesn't mean the prayer model as a whole is a way for New Covenant believers to pray. When these mistaken ideas are cleared up and we relinquish tradition our walk with God is more fruitful, satisfying and fulfilling. 
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Still Another Mistaken Idea: Give Thanks For All Things?

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:12 NKJV

 This week we celebrate Thanksgiving here in America. It's a great time for all people to take the time to give thanks. To be thankful for all they have. Being this is the season of Thanksgiving, I felt it good to address another mistaken idea perpetrated onto the Church.

Give Thanks For Everything?

 In Ephesians, Paul makes a statement that unfortunately has been misunderstood and misapplied. 
20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Ephesians 5:20 NKJV

 At face value, this passage seems to be instructing us to thank God for any and all things on this planet. Is this what God is saying? Is this what the Holy Spirit through Paul is encouraging us to do?

 If this is the correct understanding of this verse, how would we apply this in our daily lives as Christians? What this would look like is when the two airplanes slammed into the Twin Towers in NYC, killing over 2,000 people we shouldn't have had times of mourning in our churches. We should have thrown our hands up and gave thanks to God for this. 

 If we are to give thanks for all things, then we as Christians shouldn't be protesting abortion clinics. We should give thanks that babies in their wombs are killed daily. We should give thanks for all the homelessness we see around the globe. We should give thanks for famine and poverty the whole world round. We should be giving thanks for all those bound to drug addiction. We should be thanking God for the many mired in alcoholism. We should be thanking God for young men shooting and killing each other in inner cities. Young girls forced into the illegal sex trade industry? Yep, you have to give thanks for this too. 

 This sounds crazy but sadly some traditional Christians with their warped view of sovereignty don't realize this is the logical conclusion to their philosophy. I have actually seen written teachings from days gone by where the minister is teaching people we should be thanking God for making us sick. What does that look like in prayer? 
 "Oh God,  I just want to thank you for giving me cancer."
 Come on, that is plain goofy. Again religious Christians with their twisted category of God's character they have created, "omni-control" leads to outlandish ideas such as these. That God's sovereignty means God is in total absolute control of all circumstance and events. Got a flat tire? God is in control. 

 What is Paul actually saying here? Let's look at another passage where he instructs us to be thankful.
18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

 This is the key, let Scripture interpret Scripture. Paul clarifies his views about giving thanks here. It is in everything we give thanks not for everything. Yes, but that's not how it is written in Ephesians. Let's look at it again. 

20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Ephesians 5:20 KJV

  The King James version gives us a better insight into what Paul is saying. We are to give thanks for all things unto God. In other words, Paul is saying render to God what is God's. Give thanks for what God has done, is doing, and will do in His plan of redemption.

 I am not to thank God that my biological grandfather was an alcoholic who died way before his time. I am to offer thanks only for what God has done. God didn't kill my grandfather. God didn't make him an alcoholic. He chose this path in spite of God calling him to embrace life and receive the free gift of Grace. I give thanks to God for what He does, I am not going to give thanks for the works of the enemy, or the consequences of a fallen, fractured creation. 

 We give thanks in our circumstances because we know God is with us. He has not left us or forsaken us. We give thanks in spite of our situation because we know what God has promised and what He has accomplished in the Finished Work.

 What we must do is reject these mistaken ideas. We need to let the Word of God be the final authority, not religious tradition. We fail to recognize we perpetuate myths like these when we say things like, "I thank God for my accident or affliction, even the passing of a loved one. I learned so much. I grew stronger."

 These words give credence to the concept that God afflicts, He brings disease, that He causes death. The plain truth is what people are truly experiencing is the giving of thanks in the middle of their circumstances. They are turning to God in tough times and He is meeting them right where they are. It isn't the affliction, the disease, or the tragedy bringing strength. It is people believing and acting upon God's Word in the midst of their trial and adversity. 

 We see disaster, disease, and destruction the whole World round and it hasn't produced strong people. That's because the events weren't designed for people's good but for their harm. A fallen World and an enemy roaming and seeking whom he may devour aren't looking for your betterment but your destruction. 

 In summation, give thanks for all things? No, we only give thanks for the things God has done. We give thanks in our circumstances. In other words, in the midst of sickness, we thank God He is our healer. In the midst of turmoil, we thank God He is our peace. God is a good Father and we must rightly divide the Scriptures when it comes to obscure passages that seem to state otherwise. The Word of God rightly divided brings peace and comfort and when heard brings faith to our hearts. 

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Yet Another Mistaken Idea: You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7:12 NKJV

 I sensed the leading to again expose another mistaken idea inflicted onto the Body of Christ. This mistaken idea has gained a stronghold in the minds of most of the family of God. This idea may be hard to shake off. Just focus on Jesus and seek His wisdom if you have a hard time receiving this. 

  Let me begin by sharing how I saw this truth from the Scriptures. I was sharing with a friend some answers to religious objections concerning eternal security. I also shared how some miss it in explaining eternal security. As so often with tradition-bound believers, they tend to muddy the proverbial waters with a mixture of performance and Grace. Meaning when some teach about eternal security, they tend to "apologize" for Grace and are quick to point out they still believe in some form of performance or works associated with a Christian's walk. They say well Jesus said we will be known for our fruits.

 As we discussed this issue about fruits suddenly, in my heart, the Lord shined the light on that Scripture to me in its full context and on who He was referencing. I had never seen it before. It instantly brought clarity and true freedom.

You shall know them by their fruit?

20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:20 NKJV
 The traditions passed down based on a misunderstanding of this passage is the basis for this mistaken idea. The mistaken idea is that this is referencing Christians and addressing their walk with the Lord. That it's referring to a person's salvation. That it's talking about a believer's behavior.
 The idea that a believer will be known for their fruits is a sentiment and message taught by so many throughout the Body of Christ. Think of it. Where is the focus then? This is the real issue the Church struggles with. Our eyes are not on Jesus but focused and set upon each other. We are focused on other's growth, development and walk. Our focus should always be on Jesus Christ.
When we get our eyes set on another believer we can't see the Savior in them. We begin to look at their failures and shortcomings. Most often when we do this, we unwittingly begin to see the areas of their failures and struggles that we have already overcome and no longer face temptation. We then begin to see ourselves as morally and spiritually superior to them.  

Aren't Christians called to be "fruit inspectors"?

 This concept is built upon the faulty premise that Christians are only known for their "fruit" or rather some outward behavior. I know this concept cuts cross grain to all we've been taught. The truth is This passage isn't addressing a Christian's walk or relationship in any way shape or form. What then is this passage in Matthew addressing? Look at this passage in full context, here. Let's look at who Jesus is referencing.

 In Matthew 7 Jesus is clearly referencing false teachers and false prophets. He says you will know them by the fruit. How is this fruit observed? By their actions? No, it is by the words they speak. 

 He also uses the illustration of trees. Think of it, would you go crawl around a briar patch looking for sustenance? No! Why? It doesn't produce any fruit and all it would leave you is being stuck, scratched up, and in pain. 

 This is what Jesus is saying. If you go look for spiritual refreshment and sustenance from a false source all you will get is pain and misery. False teachers lead people astray and so many suffer as the result. Are we to be fruit inspectors then? 

 We aren't called to be fruit inspectors. That isn't what Jesus said. What He really said is we are to be spiritually aware. We are called to be fruit observers. The fruit we are to told to look at isn't about behavior in a person's life but rather what they are teaching. In other words, we look at a teaching and see the results of it in people's lives. Are they experiencing joy? Are they experiencing peace and restoration? Is it exalting Jesus and Him alone? 

What about Christian fruitful living?

 Am I saying there is no such thing as fruit bearing as a believer? I am glad you asked for clarity. The truth is this passage misunderstood and misapplied is the mistaken idea we need to remove from our understanding. Get this, see and understand this. 

 This passage and the statement "you will know them by their fruits" isn't a reference to Christian's and how they live. It isn't a condition of our eternal salvation. Jesus is our Savior, not our behavior. Our conduct didn't cause God to save us and it won't cause God to remove us from the Family. 

 So what about Christian fruitful living? Paul makes it clear the origin of fruitful living. 
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 NKJV

 These are the fruits of the Spirit. Our efforts, or performance or moral excellency didn't produce them. These are the fruits of God's Spirit recreating our spirit and depositing them within us. Note it doesn't say you will be known by these fruits. These fruits are not just attributes of our spirit but our true identity in Christ. 

 We don't work hard enough to possess love or joy or peace. It is part of who we are now in Christ Jesus. It is God's best that we exude these fruit wherever we go. It is most profitable to express these fruits daily. 

 Are we then to be known by these fruits? Didn't Jesus say we would be known by our love? What if we aren't bearing fruit? 

 Jesus did say we would be known for our love. The issue is people take passages like this out of their full setting in Scripture. The Scriptures always reveal our identity in Christ first, and reaffirm our security in Him and that this salvation isn't based on us or our doings before it lays out the "behavior" or growing in Christ passages. 

 These passages are showing our relationship, growth, and discipleship in Christ, not the root of our salvation. We don't just look at a person's fruit to determine if they are saved. Sometimes we encounter people at their worst. 

 What if we woke you up at 4 AM and took your picture? "Bedhead", bad breath, barely awake, would this be a total picture of who you are? Why then do we look at fellow believers and judge their eternal destiny based on some encounter we had with them?

 What if we aren't bearing fruit? Some mistake Jesus words in John 15 as preaching loss of salvation. 
15 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit John 15:1-2 NKJV

 The translators didn't seem to understand the literal Greek in verse 2, for it doesn't say "take away" it literally says "lifts up". Jesus wasn't saying the fruitless branch is removed and sent to Hell. What He said was He lifts up the fruitless branch. In other words, Grace will pick you up when you fail or falter and draw you closer to your Savior. When you're connected to the Savior you can't help but bear His fruit. This passage then clearly isn't referencing the loss of salvation. Understand once you're saved you're in Christ forever.

 In summation, the concept that some will be known by their fruit isn't a reference concerning a Christian's conduct or behavior patterns or relationship with God. It isn't a litmus test for us to stay saved. It isn't an encouragement for the Church to begin striving to achieve fruitful living. It was an admonition to steer clear of false teachers and their teachings. Want to grow in Christ? Be fruitful? Focus on Jesus, find out who you are in Him, continually acknowledge your new identity in Christ, and walk out who you already are in Him. 
Image courtesy of RK008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Another Mistaken Idea: God's Ways Are Higher Than Our Ways?

32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”John 8:32 NLT

  Today I sensed the leading to once again look at some of the mistaken ideas that are being perpetrated onto the Body of Christ. These ideas creep into our thinking from religious tradition and by a simple misunderstanding of the Scriptures. When we look at the Word with New Covenant "eyes" and study the Scriptures in context these mistaken ideas are removed and clarity comes.

 How often have you heard the phrase God's ways are higher than our ways? Often when we hear this phrase, it is in respect of a situation we encounter in which we have no answer for. Meaning when we see a loved one succumb to a disease, a co-worker injured or viewing the news and some tragedy is being reported on. 

 Why did this infirmity overcome my loved one? Because God is mysterious and His ways are higher than ours. His purposes are too high for us to understand. Why didn't we get the job? God's thoughts are not your thoughts. His ways are past finding out. He is so mysterious. You just have to accept whatever comes your way without question. 

 This is the answer religious tradition, with their hyper sovereignty view, gives to answer why bad things happen. We know God is Omniscient, or all-knowing. He is Omnipresent, or everywhere at all times. He is Omnipotent or the all-powerful one. Religious tradition has created a new category, "omnicontrol." That is God is totally controlling every single action of every human that ever lived. 

 Got a flat tire? God did it. He is in total control. A person got sick or got into a car wreck? It couldn't simply be that this is a fallen World. That there is a devil loose who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy. It couldn't be simply that we humans make mistakes, like poor choices in diet, not paying attention while driving, neglecting proper vehicle maintenance. No everything that goes wrong is because God's ways are higher and He is literally controlling every single action on Earth. 

 Foolish ideas like this are where mistaken ideas about God's ways actually rob us of a greater understanding of His goodness and Grace. This phrase His ways are higher comes from Isaiah 55. When we read this passage in context you will come up with an entirely different view than the religious perception. 

 This passage of Scripture is an amazing prophecy of God's great Grace and love. Allow me to post this passage in its entirety. I know it may be a lot but it is worth it. It is an amazing passage of Scripture.
 6. Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.

7. Let the wicked forsake his way

And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

8. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord.

 9. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts.
 10. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
And do not return there without watering the earth
And making it bear and sprout,
And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater;

11. So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;

It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.

12. “For you will go out with joy

And be led forth with peace;
The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you,
And all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

13. “Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up,

And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up,
And it will be a memorial to the Lord,
For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.” Isaiah 55:6-13 NASB

Ok, I know that's a lot. It's so worth looking at though. It is the good news of Grace. First, let me correct the mistaken idea. His ways are higher than our ways, but in what way? And concerning what exactly? 

 God is offering compassion and abundant forgiveness to the wicked. He is offering Grace to the undeserving. In the Hebrew, He is offering not just forgiveness but multiplied forgiveness. In other words, to the level of their transgressions and wickedness, His Grace is much more abounding. Sounds something similar to what Paul said, where sin abounds Grace much more abounds. 

 God is saying here, I am offering an abundant pardon to undeserving wicked ones. Then He explains because His ways and thoughts are higher than ours. At this time, the Israelites only knew the Law. They knew an eye for an eye. They didn't see mercy extended to the undeserving. God is saying to humanity, my love and mercy extend to the outcast, the unwelcome, the worst of the worst. 

 The concept that God's ways are higher has nothing whatsoever to do with answering why bad things happen. It's a proclamation of His amazing, too good to be true, but true over the top Grace. I love how another translation states it, "This plan of mine is not what you would work out." 

 In full context, this passage is a clear proclamation of the New Covenant Grace to come. What God is saying is while He is offering relationship receive that invite. Accept His love and compassion. He will have mercy and multiply forgiveness towards us. Multiplied forgiveness, means forgiveness of our past and present and future sins. It's a perpetual cleansing and forgiveness. 

 He then declares He does this because His ways are higher than ours. We think in terms of vengeance. He thinks in terms of reconciliation and restoration. We seek to condemn the wicked, and He seeks to recreate, restore and renew the lost. He then offers an illustration of how sure and certain His Word of promise is. Then He shows us once we receive His promise we will be led out with joy. 

 Finally, He declares to us that there will be a memorial to what He has done. The Finished Work, a changed heart, a new life is forever a testament to His goodness and amazing Grace. I have seen countless people healed and made whole. I have seen many mighty miracles. Yet nothing can compare to a lost, sinful, wicked person, changing their mind about God and accepting His free gift of Grace and receiving new life in Christ. Seeing one pass from death to eternal life is the greatest miracle one can witness. 

 His thoughts aren't our thoughts? this is not a sentiment expressed to reveal that we can't know and understand our Father. It's not an answer to why bad things happen to us. It's a revelation of His goodness and amazing Grace. It's an insight into just how willing He is to extend forgiveness and mercy to the undeserving. In other words, He doesn't consult with religious leaders as to who He extends mercy and forgiveness to. He is love, He, therefore, offers an unconditional invitation to all people to freely receive new life and forgiveness by Grace through personal Faith. That is the good news of the Gospel. 
Image courtesy of iosphere at FreeDigitalPhotos.net