It Truly Can’t Get Any Better

Such an important truth revealed, just in time for Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday…..Enjoy

Have you ever been afraid of what Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone that says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven.”,  I sure have!!!!  We will get to that soon but first we must clarify some things……

What is the law for?  I have been taught many different things i.e. : It is there to keep us safe.  It is there so we know how to “act” as Christians.  It is there to point out how Holy God is and how unholy we are.  It is there to give us a framework for our behavior.  It is what we have to do to secure our salvation….what a minute…..WHAT?!?!  This in so many ways is what is taught to the church (ekklésia the body of Christ).  Behavior is what keeps you going to heaven.  Here are some examples, DO NOT: lie, cheat, talk bad about people, listen to certain music, read certain books, be around certain people (because they are doing “wrong things”), don’t drink wine or any alcohol, don’t gamble, don’t dance, don’t wear pants….I mean the list could go on.  The Law in the Old Testament was given to Moses, not Abraham.  Abraham believed God and that is where he received his righteousness, a gift from God.  The Mesopotamian’s had their own law known as the Code of Hammurabi which predates the Law given to Moses by around 300 years or more.  The Code of Hammurabi has many similarities to the Law given at Mt. Sinai.  Why?

Paul also talks about the law in Romans 2 and here from a biblical scholar we have a huge answer about the law. Let’s read from the Message version:

“If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.” Romans‬ ‭2:9-16‬ ‭MSG‬‬

And to save on space….(so I encourage you to go and read all of Romans)…..Here is a little more:

“Circumcision, the surgical ritual that marks you as a Jew, is great if you live in accord with God’s law. But if you don’t, it’s worse than not being circumcised. The reverse is also true: The uncircumcised who keep God’s ways are as good as the circumcised—in fact, better. Better to keep God’s law uncircumcised than break it circumcised. Don’t you see: It’s not the cut of a knife that makes a Jew. You become a Jew by who you are. It’s the mark of God on your heart, not of a knife on your skin, that makes a Jew. And recognition comes from God, not legalistic critics.” ‭ ‭Romans 2:25-29‬ ‭

And:

“So where does that put us? Do we Jews get a better break than the others? Not really. Basically, all of us, whether insiders or outsiders, start out in identical conditions, which is to say that we all start out as sinners. Scripture leaves no doubt about it: There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. Their throats are gaping graves, their tongues slick as mudslides. Every word they speak is tinged with poison. They open their mouths and pollute the air. They race for the honor of sinner-of-the-year, litter the land with heartbreak and ruin, Don’t know the first thing about living with others. They never give God the time of day. This makes it clear, doesn’t it, that whatever is written in these Scriptures is not what God says about others but to us to whom these Scriptures were addressed in the first place! And it’s clear enough, isn’t it, that we’re sinners, every one of us, in the same sinking boat with everybody else? Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭3:9-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬

It sounds like there were Jews judging non-Jews saying that they are all fine and good because they were given the Law and are circumcised; not realizing that they also need a propitiation for themselves just as much as the non-Jew.  But why?  They followed the law and yet still sinned.  Remember the rich man who followed the law complicity until he was asked to give all he had to the poor and follow Jesus.  He couldn’t do it.  We all have our places where we fail to follow the law. Paul was making it very clear the law nor their personal behavior could ever make them righteous; because there would always be an area of failure in every single person’s life no matter if they are Jewish or not. Circumcised or not. Taught the commandments or not.  We all fall short of the glory of God. The law is put in our conscience from the beginning of conception.  It is written in the fabric of our being because of Adam and Eve.  When they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil it was implanted in them and as we are born from the seed of Adam we also have the understanding of good and evil in each of us. The Law comes from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Pure and simple.  Otherwise how could Hammurabi come up with some of the same laws 300+ years before Moses wrote them down for the Israelites?

Paul makes it clear that we all have a conscience that has been written on what is right and what is wrong.  That is why you would see the uncircumcised following the law without ever hearing of the law. The Law just makes known that we know what is right and wrong and we, in and of our own selves, can NEVER do what is right and avoid what is wrong 100% of the time.  Nor has God EVER BELIEVED we COULD!!!!  That is why He had to set things right.  Here is the scripture:

But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ. Romans 3:21-24

Okay, the question I have today to some of the church leadership around the world is the same question Paul asked the Galatians in chapter 3 of his letter to them:

You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

Selah (Hebrew for lift up,exalt or pause) Please pause and think about the above statement Paul made.

The Galatians, like many Christians today, were trying to perfect what God had already IMG_2795done.  They were “working their heads off to please God?”  Remember the list above I had made of the do’s and don’ts?  Those things are common sense things.  Some are just rules that are said to “keep us safe”.  But, in the end all of these “things” will not cause God to be pleased or not pleased with us.  What we need to understand is that God was pleased to give His only Son on our behalf, to set things right for us.  He pleased Himself with what He did for us.  The Galatians were so caught up with themselves and pleasing God with their behavior they forgot what Jesus said to the crowd at the sermon on the Mount:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 NASB

I don’t know about you, but for me this verse has scared the daylights out of me.  I was so scared that I would do something wrong and then when I am ready to enter the kingdom of heaven Jesus would look at me and say, “I knew you not, depart from Me.”.  I believed this was based on behavior.  I could think of the lawless deeds I have done since becoming a Christian and what if I missed one that I didn’t say sorry for….WHAT THEN!?!?!?!???!!!!  I AM DOOMED!!!! AND MIGHT AS WELL STOP TRYING…..because I could never fully live up to the law.  Until, I understood I am righteous in CHRIST JESUS and I will never negate what He FULLY FINISHED at the Cross for me.  And this Scripture above proves that.  Let’s look at the Greek meanings from the above scripture in Matthew:

  • will=theléma= properly, a desire (wish), often referring to God’s “preferred-will”, i.e.: His “best offer” to people which can be accepted or rejected.
  • do=poieó=With nouns which denote to carry out, to execute; as, in Classical Greek to make a law of legislators; but in Biblical Greek to do the law to meet its demands-the things which the law commands.
  • lawlessness=anomia=NOT law; properly without law i.e. : (“lawlessness”) includes the end-impact of law breaking– i.e. its negative influence on a person’s soul (status before God).

First, what is His BEST OFFER?  Of course that is Jesus, Who He is and what He has done for the whole world.  That is God’s “best offer”….remember Paul said the crucified Jesus is where God set things right for us.

Second, do the things the law commands.  What are the commands of the New Covenant? According to 1 John 3:23, it is: This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another*, just as He commanded us. The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (*loving one another is the Law of Liberty talked about in James chapter 2, which I will discuss in another blog.)

Third, lawlessness here in scripture is pointing to a person’s soul and it’s status before God.  When we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and trust in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be delivered, made righteous in Him and be justified before God. (Romans 10:9-10, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:1 and many others).  This means your soul’s status is clear before God because of what Jesus did for us (propitiation).

It is time for the true Message to go forth once again.  Full circle to what was originally taught by the apostles.  The Message of exactly what Jesus Christ did on the Cross and in His Resurrection.  ALL of what He accomplished at the Cross when He said, “It is Finished!”  For our faith to be in Him not in our behavior.  It is time for the church to let go of teaching behavior and simply teach JESUS. It is simple trust that sets you right with God not your behavior. Keep the faith in what He did for you which FULLY assures your soul that it’s status before God is pure…not because of what you did but ONLY because of what He did for you.

It is all about: Knowing Whose you are and who you are.

It’s an Inside Job

Romans is one of my favorite books in the New Testament. Chapters nine and ten, in Romans, hold a few deep secrets that have been overlooked and/or cast aside for far too long. This season, is the season that God wants to reveal Himself for the truth that is found in the New Covenant and how He has never changed.  He wants us to look at the grand plan He has for this world, the people in this world that He loves so much.  He loves His creation, the people who are created in His image, so much that He sent His only Son to die on the Cross to offer ALL a free gift of righteousness and salvation.  You do nothing more than confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe, trust, have faith in your heart  (the seat of your soul and spirit) the fact that Jesus rose from the dead you then receive righteousness and salvation freely. (Romans 10:9-10).  This is the word of trust the apostles proclaimed according to Paul.

So what does righteousness mean?  Here is the biblehub.com definition:

1343 /dikaiosýnē (“divine approval”) is the regular NT term used for righteousness (“God’s judicial approval”). 1343 /dikaiosýnē (“the approval of God”) refers to what is deemed right by the Lord (after His examination), i.e. what is approved in His eyes.

What does salvation mean? Here is the biblehub.com definition:

Cognate: 4991 sōtēría (from 4982 /sṓzō, “to save, rescue”) – salvation, i.e. God’s rescue which delivers believers out of destruction and into His safety. See 4982 (sōzō).

4982 sṓzō (from sōs, “safe, rescued”) – properly, deliver out of danger and into safety; used principally of God rescuing believers from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety). [4982 (sṓzō) is the root of: 4990 /sōtḗr (“Savior”), 4991 /sōtēría (“salvation”) and the adjectival form, 4992 /sōtḗrion (what is “saved/rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety”).]

Though before Paul talked about what we freely receive by trust he had to talk about what this really meant to the Roman Jews and Gentiles that would be listening.  Paul through the Holy Spirit articulated the bare truth of the word of trust and what it really meant to both Jew and Gentile.  So many times now I see the Christian church acting as though we still must fulfill the law to be considered holy, justified and in img_1335right standing with God.  Of course many Christians, me once being one of them, say they believe Jesus accomplished a great work on the Cross and He is Lord of Lords and yet our entire salvation and righteousness still hangs in the balance or is dependent upon my behavior whether it is good=I then am in right standing with God or bad=God has turned away from me and I must somehow make things right between God and I again.  Many Christians today believe this and it is flat-out incorrect beliefs.  Now it isn’t just me saying this is wrong and certainly not the truth but it is Paul who stated it way before me. These many Christians, again I was one who used to believe this way too, remind me of the Jews that Paul talks about in chapters 9 and 10 of Romans.  Here let’s take a look at what Paul says:

“So, what are we to say? This: that Gentiles, even though they were not striving for righteousness, have obtained righteousness; but it is a righteousness grounded in trusting! However, Isra’el, even though they kept pursuing a Torah that offers righteousness, did not reach what the Torah offers. Why? Because they did not pursue righteousness as being grounded in trusting but as if it were grounded in doing legalistic works. They stumbled over the stone that makes people stumble. As the Tanakh puts it, “Look, I am laying in Tziyon a stone that will make people stumble, a rock that will trip them up. But he who rests his trust on it will not be humiliated.”” ‭‭Romans (Rom)‬ ‭9:30-33‬ ‭CJB‬‬

“Brothers, my heart’s deepest desire and my prayer to God for Isra’el is for their salvation; for I can testify to their zeal for God. But it is not based on correct understanding; for, since they are unaware of God’s way of making people righteous and instead seek to set up their own, they have not submitted themselves to God’s way of making people righteous. For the goal at which the Torah aims is the Messiah, who offers righteousness to everyone who trusts. Romans (Rom)‬ 10:1-4 ‭CJB‬‬

Paul is very clear: it is simply wrong thinking to believe we must pursue legalistic acts by following the Torah (Law of God according to Moses) to be able to be in right standing with God (otherwise known as righteous or holiness) or to have His salvation.  This thinking is not based on correct understanding.  They are actually desiring to seek their own righteousness and salvation and have not submitted themselves to God’s way of making people righteous.

Paul talks earlier in chapter nine about the promises given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  He talks about how the seed of Israel is in Issac.  Paul explains how the promise was given and those that believed in the promise were the seed of Israel. Here it is in scripture:

“For not everyone from Isra’el is truly part of Isra’el; indeed, not all the descendants are seed of Avraham; rather, “What is to be called your ‘seed’ will be in Yitz’chak.” In other words, it is not the physical children who are children of God, but the children the promise refers to who are considered seed.”
‭‭Romans (Rom)‬ ‭9:6-8‬ ‭CJB‬‬

There is a little word “in” or in the Greek “en”. This word is so important even though it is so small.  Let’s look at what it means from the Greek:

1722 en (a preposition) – properly, in (inside, within); (figuratively) “in the realm (sphere) of,” as in the condition (state) in which something operates from the inside (within).

Not every descendant of Abraham are seeds of Abraham; only those that are in Issac.  That believed, trusted in the promise God had given at that time to Abraham.  See Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believed God and to them was accounted righteousness and safety. Not dependent upon how good they acted but simply because they believed the promise.  It was an inside job.  Just like it is an inside job for us now living in the Glory of the New Covenant.  The season of grace.

“What if he did this in order to make known the riches of his glory to those who are the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory — that is, to us, whom he called not only from among the Jews but also from among the Gentiles?” ‭‭Romans (Rom)‬ ‭9:23-24‬ ‭CJB‬‬

We are fortunate to live during such a time as this as we can freely receive righteousness-we are deemed right by the Lord after His examination, completely clean, completely holy, able to stand before our Father in heaven at all times because of Jesus Christ.  And we freely receive salvation-we have been properly, delivered out of danger and into safety; God has rescued us from the penalty and power of sin – and into His provisions (safety).

Next blog post, I will continue with God’s Bigger Picture and how God’s safety really looks like.

Correcting Perspective

Where to start, where to start…..well at the beginning of course…..haha…..I need to lay a foundation that is firm and is not going to waver. That foundation of course is Jesus. He is the only firm foundation for any of us. He is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Lover of my soul and yours if you simply believe in Who He is-the Son of God Who took the sin of the entire world when He proclaimed, “It is finished” and arose on the third day. The foundation of our belief system is so important.

What we need to understand is our belief system is built up of words. Words hold the way to communicate what one believes or doesn’t believe.

One of the things I would love to do as a teacher is have a word, that described what we would be looking at for the day in History, and I would write that word on the board. The students then would come to the board and write anything that came to their mind about that particular word. I would then have the students look up the word in the dictionary, yes SIRI was asked on many occasions. Yet, the word being defined could not be used in the definition. It was always fun to see if their idea of the word matched the definition. So, where am I going with all of this??? I want to lay a foundation which changed the way I saw God, saw Jesus, saw myself and saw others. It opened scripture for me where before it didn’t make sense; opened my eyes to the goodness of the Father and the beauty of the Son’s sacrifice; and a true appreciation for the Holy Spirit. Literally my perspective changed! What I found out while writing this blog post was that photographers have to correct perspective distortions or use them to their advantage in photos. I, being an amateur photographer, had no idea about this issue except many times what I saw in real life and what the photo looked like were different. I found when the camera lens was tilted up or down this can cause a totally different perspective in the photo. God wanted to clear up my perspective because the reality of what I saw and what was true were two different things.  The lense we see things through is our understanding or perspective of the words we use and how we define those words. Here is an example of a picture that had distortion and was fixed: image

God wants to make sure our lense is giving us the right perspective to see Him clearly.

Over the next few blog posts, I will be simply defining some words that for me had gotten somehow redefined because how the words have been taught through church history. I believe it comes down to the fact that through human history we have always had a belief that we need to perform what we in and of ourselves can simply not do. We desire to take care of our sin problem on our own. It just doesn’t work. Our flesh cries out and we somehow feel we have to atone for our sin and the enemy laughs and says yes you do. Jesus cries out-It is finished! We can go back through history and see that the Roman Catholic Church had a great hold on atonement for sin. We can see people flailing themselves when they have sinned. We can see people “repenting” moment by moment hoping not to have forgotten some sinful thought or deed….otherwise you are no longer in “right relationship with God” until you do “repent”. Luther came out with his thesis on October 31st and pretty much said it is not be works but by faith that we have relationship with God. Yet, even now, over the years we have, as a church, gone back to flailing ourselves with a whip (I call it the repent, forgive, repent cycle), hopefully not literally flailing ourselves but figuratively speaking.

This is how the Lord laid my foundation to see Him how He sees me-He corrected my perspective and I repented (see my definition at the end of repent). He started with asking me to define repentance. I went to the board (my journal) and began writing how I see or define repentance:

I would start with confessing my sin (what I did wrong) to God, asking His forgiveness, receiving His forgiveness, believing He and I were once again in right relationship and probably crying a lot while doing so.

The Lord spoke very clearly in this moment to me as I wrote this and said, “No that is not correct; go look up the word repentance.”. This is where I started, although I had many questions that would arise over the next three days and this last year…..This post though will only deal with the word REPENTANCE.

Repent is found 56 times in the New Testament (NT) and 14 times in the Old Testament (OT)- (NKJV). Interesting, huh?!? I thought wow for sure Lord You had to say it way more times in the New Testament because we really need to do it a lot. Haha! It just wasn’t the way I had defined it. Here is the Greek and Hebrew word for repentance along with the definition from Biblehub:

Greek: metamellomai=change after being with, care be concerned with; metanoeo=after, to think-to think after or to change one’s mind

Hebrew: shub=to turn back, to return; nacham=comfort,to console oneself, to be sorry

Before we go any further I want to make note that in Genesis 6:6, Exodus 32:14, 1 Chronicles 21:15/2 Samuel 24:16, Psalm 106:45, Jeremiah 26:19, and Jonah 3:10 all use the Hebrew verb nacham in regards to God’s action not man’s. God was sorry, consoled and comforted Himself. God Himself was sorry He created man, He rethought the idea of burning up the entire camp of Israelites when they had chosen to perform the law but found they couldn’t-ummm the golden calf,  God also choose to be sorry and stop the angel from killing more Israelites when King David choose to have a census, God remembered the covenant in loving kindness (even though the Israelites could not perform their part of the covenant as they said they could at Mt. Sinai) God felt sorry and He made the Israelites objects of compassion to their captors and lastly is how God turned from or felt sorry and choose not to destroy the Ninevites because they had turned from their wicked ways. In these scriptures you can see God, Himself rethought, turned from what He was going to do, turned from what He was doing, changed His mind or felt sorry for what He had created. In Genesis where God felt sorry for what He had created with mankind, God had already created Noah, who is mentioned in Genesis 5:29, saying he would be the one to bring nacham or rest to mankind from their toil  because of the curse to the land. This is actually the first time the word nacham is used in the OT. I really want you to understand the true meaning of these Hebrew and Greek words down deep within the context of the language and story. Our perspective of the meaning of the words need to be what God intended. Okay, now back to the New Testament…

When the word repent is used it is important to know the definition; so as to read and understand what was being said.  We also need to understand the audience, the history at the time and any “slang” i.e.: He is being a pain in my rear. (What exactly was Paul saying when he said…..a thorn in his side…heehee….I believe that he was saying someone or people were being a pain in his rear.)

What I did from there is when I would read the word repent in scripture I would be able to see and understand it in the way it was really defined not the way I had been taught it to mean. The way God intended us to see and understand it. The first time repent is seen in the New Testament is when John makes a bold statement, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). When I read this in the past, I saw Jewish people lamenting, crying out for forgiveness, groveling on the ground, and full of sinful deeds that they needed to see as sin. Like they didn’t already know what sin is or isn’t. They had been brought up under the law. Understood the law inside and out. Tried to uphold the law but found themselves like Paul admitting what they don’t want to do they do and what they want to do they don’t do. (Romans 7:19-20) Now because I understand the word repent means to turn, or change one’s mind I see a very different picture.

I see John the Baptist proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, look see turn in this direction this is going to blow your mind, this is going to be different than how you have done things for hundreds of years. Look the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are going to happen in your lifetime. The prophets of old would love to see what you shall set your eyes upon. Things are going to change because heaven has come to earth. Look, change your minds, turn from the way you have seen things done because NOTHING will ever be the same again. The Messiah has come!!!

Wow, such a different view of the Kingdom of Heaven. This started me on a quest of defining words that led me out of being a “law girl” or actually what I believe to be a “lukewarm Christian” which means a little bit of grace and a little bit of law. Jesus would prefer us to be hot or cold…the lukewarm He spits out (Revelation 3:16). Now I consider myself saved by grace. You may ask what do you do now when you “sin”, read Horizontal and Vertical for definitions of sin, when your flesh and the enemy cry out for payment for what you have done. I simply remind my flesh and the enemy that I can never pay that payment, but I have a Savior, the One and only Perfect Sacrifice, the Final Lamb of the Passover, My Beloved, Jesus the Christ Who loves me no matter what Who paid that price. God has fully forgiven me from beginning to end because Jesus paid my payment. I do not negate what was done at the Cross; I simply fully recieve what was done for me and believe what was done for me by Jesus the Christ was enough. I proclaim who I am in Christ. I am righteous only in Christ. I see myself wrapped in Him, the work finished at the Cross and my entire drawer of sin cleaned out for my entire life. That is the immensity of what Christ did at the Cross. He took all my sin, all my disease, all my condemnation as the Perfect Sacrifice and gave me His righteousness and wholeness. This right thinking and believing shuts the mouth of the enemy and my flesh no longer cries out for a payment. Trust me I had the same questions you probably do. I encourage you to go look, search, read, and seek the Lord. My deepest desire was to know God like He knows me….

Repentance is seeing God for Who He truly is.