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.

What Do You Do With Failure?!?!

The Lord, a few years back, had shared with me the statement I put in the picture right here:IMG_1492.PNG  This was hard for me to hear back then because I was a “law woman”. Keeping the rules with a slave mentality instead of a daughter mentality was the relationship I chose to have with my Father in Heaven…until He set me free (see It is Time to Let Go of the Rules-Otherwise Known as the Law).  Yesterday, as I talked with a good friend, the Lord reminded me of this word. As I was talking, I finally received understanding for this statement because He has helped me understand how to be His woman.  First and foremost, we must start at the right starting point: Jesus took my place and all punishment, condemnation, and sickness, that was my due because of sin, was placed on His body and for that I am eternally grateful.  I didn’t understand this when He had told me this a few years ago…I was still striving in my own effort to hold up my part of the bargain in this relationship with God; which I had been taught in the church to do (religious law keeping). If I didn’t hold up my part of the bargain then I was lacking, God would then turn away from me or lift His hand of protection. I would then have to go to Him repent, showing enough remorse. Then, and only then, He would be able to look back towards me, cover me again with His hand and all would be well……until…….I somehow messed up again.  This was a continual process of shame, guilt and remorse….and I NEVER felt like I would EVER be good enough for Him.  Wow!! So the statement, there is no failure in Him had me mystified…until….yesterday.  All because I have the right starting point now.  Here is the picture God gave me:

When I see His timeline or plan, many times it comes to me as a tapestry that is being made.  It is not complete, but is complete.  In the inner weaving of this fabric pattern are the failures in which He has made a beautiful tapestry out of.  Yes, the failures which He has made beautiful.  How can that be?!?!?!!!! These failures are not failures because they have actually fulfilled a purpose in our lives which He ALWAYS make BEAUTIFUL for His sons and daughters.  The scripture that comes to mind is this:

“Furthermore, we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called in accordance with his purpose;”
‭‭Romans (Rom)‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭CJB

I encourage you to put past failures in His hands and take a look at the bigger picture of the tapestry of life that He is creating.  It is beautiful and honors Him. ❤

This Is Just TOO GOOD…

…to keep to myself.

Once again I find myself going into some uncharted territory, although I touched on this in This is How Much He Loves You.  A good friend of mine had gone to see a speaker and she was telling me about a video that they watched.  As she was describing it to me she also was having a conflict for what she knows as truth and the message.  Here is the gist of it:

Fade in to Judgement Day and Christians are being judged: one man an accountant was supposed to be a pastor but didn’t do that, another man was a pastor and was supposed to be a pastor both fell short of what they were supposed to do.  Then a woman comes up and says all I did was be a mom and that was exactly what she was supposed to do (that was the good part or redeeming part of the video for her and me).

I have found in my 20+ year walk with the Lord this is a resounding theme within the church building belief system.  Let me explain: At the end we will be judged, even Christians, for what we did or didn’t do and our reward will be dependent upon what we did or didn’t do right according to what God has called us to do, like the story above.  What this has created is something not very healthy.  Many times it has led to spiritual abuse within the church.  See people, Christians, are so fear laden they can become frozen, unable to choose or they become puppets and can become used by those in power (yep…take a look at history or even present day people who have been abused by power).   I have many times had young people, or just people so afraid of making a choice until they hear from God. Both choices were great….but which one should they make…they want to make sure they choose right….and many times God is simply stating you choose I have blessed both.  God never intended us to be robots…He intended us to be Sons and Daughters of His.

So I went looking for where this belief system came from and I found some interesting info–

First, we must start with the right starting point. We must see God for Who He is.  This is why Jesus said repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near (Matt 4:17).  It was time for the people to change the way they saw God. See It is Time to Let Go of the Rules-Otherwise Known as the Law.  When Jesus came to walk the earth it was time for God’s people to understand they would go from being servants (law) to Sons and Daughters (grace) by not what they did but what Christ came to do for them.

Second, the scripture used to make this point about Christ judging His own body is seen through the wrong starting point; thus making it look one way when it isn’t.  One of the scriptures I found that is used to support this thinking is from Romans 14:10-12 (others are 1 For 3:12-15 and 2 For 5:9-10):

“You then, why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For all of us will stand before God’s judgment seat; since it is written in the Tanakh, “As I live, says ADONAI, every knee will bend before me, and every tongue will publicly acknowledge God.” So then, every one of us will have to give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:10-12 CJB‬‬

Some will use gold, silver or precious stones in building on this foundation; while others will use wood, grass or straw. But each one’s work will be shown for what it is; the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire — the fire will test the quality of each one’s work. If the work someone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward; if it is burned up, he will have to bear the loss: he will still escape with his life, but it will be like escaping through a fire. 1 Corinthians 3:12-15 CJB

Therefore, whether at home or away from home, we try our utmost to please him; for we must all appear before the Messiah’s court of judgment, where everyone will receive the good or bad consequences of what he did while he was in the body. 2 Corinthians 5:9-10 CJB

Let’s dig into each of these scriptures in order:

All will stand before God’s judgment seat because every knee will bend before God and every tongue will publicly acknowledge God.  It would be really, really wise to read the entire chapter….even the chapter before and after to get an understanding of the subject that is being spoken of.  The subject at the top of this chapter is TRUST.  Specifically speaking about a person whose trust is weak.  We are not to judge the weakness of his trust but whether or not he has trust (read all of Romans 14 and 15). At God’s judgment seat ALL (Christians and Non-Christians; living and dead) will publicly acknowledge God.  The next statement is that every one of us will have to give an account of himself to God.  The word account here is actually LOGOS in Greek.  WOW!  Let’s look at this closer in the Greek:

3056 lógos (from 3004 /légō, “speaking to a conclusion”) – a word, being the expression of a thought; a saying. 3056 /lógos (“word”) is preeminently used of Christ (Jn 1:1), expressing the thoughts of the Father through the Spirit.

[3056 (lógos) is a common term (used 330 times in the NT) with regards to a person sharing a message (discourse, “communication-speech”). 3056 (lógos) is a broad term meaning “reasoning expressed by words.”]

‘logon’ in Romans 14:12=answer or explanation in reference to judgment.

As we look at the entirety of Romans 14 we must take note that the answer to this judgement for believers in Christ would be I believed that Christ took all my judgement which simply means I trusted Him.

Next, is the scripture in 1 Corinthians 3.  Here Paul is trying to help the people understand the difference about living in the world versus living in the kingdom.  Paul is very clear that he has laid the foundation.  The foundation is TRUST.  Simple trust in Who Jesus is and what that brings.  I have talked about this in Fingerpainting to Masterpieces.  Paul is teaching how, as believers, we have died to our old selves and are a new creation made to exist within the kingdom although we are still living here on earth.  Paul is encouraging people to remain kingdom minded and showing or explaining to them how they are not.  He talks of behavior that shows they are not like jealousy and quarreling that have no “value” in the kingdom.  Let me put a thought forward here:  see when we go to judgement day the foundation is trust in Jesus.  On that foundation we will have built things some gold, jewels and others straw, grass.  In the fire the gold and jewels will withstand (kingdom) while straw and grass (earth) will not.  People who have lived more connected to the earth and their old nature will escape the fire but feel a profound loss of their “things” that they felt attached to:house, car, etc.  Those though that built with gold and jewels will not feel a profound loss at all.  These are things you can’t take with you but have a lasting impact on others: like time spent with others, love shown, food given, help given…these are kingdom minded.  Is this making sense?  I hope so.  It is not so much did I do the right thing to not be judged.  It is more the sense of loss of “things” of the world if that is what you felt is most important.  Now I am not saying things aren’t important it is where is your focus? Kingdom or world.  And this is done through trust first…like I talked about in Cart Before the Horse?

Last but not least, is the scripture from 2 Corinthians 5:9-10.  This sounds pretty damning. I don’t know about you but right there I would give up as a believer.  I could never perform well enough to not receive some pretty bad consequences.  How about you?  It feels hopeless to me if we stop short of reading a little further in the chapter.  What is being talked about in this chapter?  One thing I have stopped doing is reading or taking scripture out of context because what happens for me is hopelessness and a wrong picture of Who God is.  So let’s go into verse 11: So it is with the fear of the Lord before us that we try to persuade people.  What are we trying to persuade people of??

To trust in the Messiah Yeshua

and be saved from the bad consequences as we have been.

Or maybe it is better said by Paul in the end of this chapter:

For the Messiah’s love has hold of us, because we are convinced that one man died on behalf of all mankind (which implies that all mankind was already dead), and that he died on behalf of all in order that those who live should not live any longer for themselves but for the one who on their behalf died and was raised.  So from now on, we do not look at anyone from a worldly viewpoint. Even if we once regarded the Messiah from a worldly viewpoint, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is united with the Messiah, he is a new creation — the old has passed; look, what has come is fresh and new!  And it is all from God, who through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah, “Be reconciled to God! God made this sinless man be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-21 CJB

Can it get any better than that?  NO!!!  Hope arise, people of God!!

One of the things, as Believers, we must remember is that we have already been judged on the Body of Jesus Christ while He willingly put Himself on the Cross to take all of our judgment from the Father.  He completely undid what the first Adam did and gives us the free will choice to take His free gift He has already paid for.  As we trust in Who He is we begin to become who we are in Him from the inside out.  He does His work as we trust in Him.  We naturally walk in who we are.  Not always perfectly but He understands that and has already made amends for it.  Let’s become kingdom minded not self minded.  Self minded (I have to fix myself because God needs me to and I need myself to so that I will be loved by him is worldly thinking). As we live kingdom minded we know that we know that we know that the King has justified me so He will never judge me. (Romans 4:5)

Whether you are an accountant, pastor, mom or whatever…..that doesn’t so much matter.  I think the emphasis has gone into what is my calling, what am I supposed to do???  With so much fear and trepidation about simply making a choice and doing the best you can at it all the while living in the kingdom.  God is not going to judge you on whether or not you had the correct title.  He is going to test with fire (grass or jewels) why you did those things….the heart intent and you will fully see when He does at judgment day.  I know many people who are pastors in the workforce (like an accountant) and many pastors that are IMG_2740 3wolves in sheep clothing.  We need to understand we live from the inside out.  You live where your level of trust is.  God knows where your trust is and He grows it.  Just trust Him. The kingdom is kindness, compassion, love, tenderness, patience all the while persuading people of what Jesus’ has done for them.  We, as Christians live in two worlds here.  One is the world (tied to earthly concerns like what am I going to eat, wear) all the while we fully live in the kingdom (knowing that we are taken care of and are about kingdom: persuading people of what Jesus did for them).  It is not rocket science; it is simply living from the inside out with eyes wide open.

 

 

Cart Before the Horse?

The age-old question…what came first the chicken or the egg?  It is such a great question.  For those of us that believe in creation by an all-powerful Creator than of course we answer the chicken. Remember in the beginning He formed all the animals out of the dirt (Genesis 1:24).  Much like us who also were formed from dirt; yet we were given the image and the breath of God (Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 2:7).  Amazing! So, here is a question what comes first grace or works?  So many times I have heard or read about “tension” in the scripture.  By this people mean: one verse says this but another verse seems to say a completely opposite statement.  A while ago I posted a picture named, Tension; you can click there for the link to the picture.

I believe when we look at scripture we need to start at the right starting point.  When we don’t start at the right starting point then of course we see opposing statements.  When we do start at the right starting point then what we have seen as opposing statements actually flow congruent.  Many times one scripture is pulled out against so many other scriptures and pointed out as an opposing scripture.  What is amazing is it usually is trying to denigrate grace.  One such scripture is James 2:17:

“Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions, is dead.”

Let’s read a little further into James 2:18:

“But someone will say that you have faith and I have actions. Show me this faith of yours without the actions, and I will show you my faith by my actions!”

The reason James is looked at is because it talks about behavior or works.  People that try to throw the grace Jesus bought for us to the wind and try to say it is all about behavior.  James here was talking to double-minded (Definition: (lit: of two souls, of two selves), double-mind-properly, “two souled”; (figuratively) “double-minded,” i.e. a person “split in half,” vacillating like a “spiritual schizophrenic.”) people.  People that said they have spoken with their mouth Jesus is Lord and yet the outflow of their life showed something different.  James makes certain points such as: a desire to treat poor people harshly and rich people well; not taking care of widows and orphans; or favoritism.  James called this a vulgarity.

img_1348If you see tension in scripture, I believe, you are putting the cart before the horse or somewhere within your core beliefs you still have an area of law you are abiding by.  Let me explain a little further. When we understand we are saved by grace alone that it was finished by Jesus the Christ on the Cross for the entire world to have the ability to choose the free gifts of grace–freedom from and power over sin; and salvation.

We are then able to start at the right starting point and will understand the works we do are a NATURAL OUTFLOW of our faith in the Christ which has allowed the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.

Works are a sign, the cart after the horse or the egg that comes from the chicken. It isn’t something you perform but how the Holy Spirit who has come to dwell in you performs as you abide in Jesus.  If the works are the focal point then we have definitely put the cart before the horse. Our focal point needs to start at the truth of all God did through His Son on the Cross and in the Resurrection. Early believers understood this.  It is time for the Church today to understand this as James said:

“Every good act of giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father who made the heavenly lights; with him there is neither variation nor darkness caused by turning.” James ‭1:17‬