Old and New, Part 2

“Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.  They said to him, “Yes.”   Then he said to them, “Therefore, every legal expert (Scribe) who has been trained as a disciple for the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings old and new things out of their treasure chest.”
-Matthew 13:51-2 (CEB)

Life is always a dance between the old and the new.  The crown of old age are grandchildren.  Neighborhoods are filled with the elders and the youngsters, making for the variety that is the spice of life.  We have new and old friends.  It is fun to introduce the two and fix it up, as we stand in the middle.

The back drop for Jesus statement that the Scribes of the Kingdom would be disciples in the old and the new, is a lot of conflict and rejection in the previous chapter.  A demon-possessed man was healed by Jesus.  The authorities accused Jesus of somehow being in league with Satan.

Jesus responded to this, and then warned about speaking against the Holy Spirit.  Then, he taught about how our words reflect our hearts.  Then, there was the confrontational conversation where the Pharisees asked for a (special) sign, and he said that no sign will be given, except the sign of Jonah.

I believe that they knew about the story of Jonah.  Many of us know that story and we also know what was going to happen to Jesus.  It is true that the last and most irrefutable sign that Jesus is authentic, is the fact that he rose from the dead.  If you read a book like, Who Moved The Stone, you get it, that Jesus' resurrection is the sign or proof that it is all true.  If he did not rise from the dead, our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15:14).

But, that had not happened yet, and while that was true, or a true foretelling or prophecy; Jesus' point is that the sign of Jonah had already been given and was being given at that very time, as the message of the kingdom of heaven was being given.

The sign of Jonah is the message, "repent".  Jonah and Jesus preached messages of repentance.  The 12,000 citizens of Nineveh repented (Matt. 12:41, Jonah 3:10, 4:11), but most of the Jews in Jesus day, did not.  The repentance of Nineveh is an indictment against the unbelieving Jews, by Jesus.

Repentance leads to understanding and seeing Jesus for who he is, and then to being a disciple.  Jesus preached that God's kingdom has come now, so repent and receive it.  And when we receive it, we become disciples.

The context of the whole book of Matthew, is the message of Christ to a people who are already worshiping the one, true God.  These are people who are self-proclaimed law followers and Bible students.  I would say, that God gave us Matthew's book, for us today; who can serve God, but miss out on the Kingdom and discipleship.  And that's part of the old and new message.

The new era of the kingdom of heaven, was first announced by John, the Baptist, who was Jesus second cousin (Matt. 3:2).   The same message was proclaimed by Jesus:
From that time Jesus began to announce, “Change your hearts and lives! Here comes the kingdom of heaven!” -Matt. 4:17
What is the kingdom of heaven?  The theme of the kingdom was the central theme of his (Jesus Christ's) mission.  His message was the good news (gospel) of the kingdom. Jesus articulation or teaching on the kingdom is important to understand, because before he taught on it, people had some erroneous ideas that needed clarification.

The kingdom of heaven (or kingdom of God) is God's rule and reign, here and now, and in future, glorious, fulfillment.  The rule and reign of God has always been, it is here now, and will come in the future.  There is an, "already and not yet", tension in the kingdom of God. For example, some bow now, but in the future everyone will bow.

The kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven) refers to God's rule, reign, and sovereignty.  The kingdom of God, as preached, demonstrated, and taught, by Jesus, is about real impact.  God's power, God's kingdom, changes lives now.  Here is it is, yield to it, receive it; and that means surrender, bow, and let the King have you:  Become His subjects.

Jesus taught about the mystery of the kingdom in seven parables, in Matthew chapter 13.  Jesus says that when you get it about how the kingdom of heaven works, you have become a disciple who can disciple others.
“Every student of the Scriptures who becomes a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like someone who brings out new and old treasures from the storeroom.”
-Matt 13:52 (CEV)

“Then you see how every student well-trained in God’s kingdom is like the owner of a general store who can put his hands on anything you need, old or new, exactly when you need it.”
-Matt. 13:52 (MSG)

We, who are Jesus' disciples are the scribes of the kingdom of God.  The literal meaning of scribe in Matthew, is a professional teacher of the Jewish law (5:20, 7:29, 8:19), but in this context, according to Dick France (Matthew, p. 231):
It is more likely that Jesus is designating his disciples (who had no formal training) as his 'scribes' of the kingdom of heaven.  The teaching he has given them has trained them... Jesus is not merely describing them, but is challenging them to fulfill a role: they have received 'treasure' through his instruction; now they are to 'bring it out' in teaching others.
To teach others, you must first be a disciple of Jesus, meaning that you have been trained in the kingdom of heaven.  You get the previous parables in Matthew 13, or at least you are getting them.  You have understanding.


Jesus says that his scribes (teachers) will bring out the old and new treasures.  There is tension, but harmony of the old with the new.  People then and today, did not and do not recognize Jesus, because they are so attached to the old treasure.  

It is also interesting that Jesus liked to teach in parables, which are stories that are riddles.  To get them, or to understand them, you have to have a certain hunger for truth and you have to humble your self, like a child.

I might have tried to cover too much ground here. The new teacher, in the kingdom, is someone who can tie the old to the new and understands the mysteries. 
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Much of my words and thoughts on the kingdom of God, come from Ladd, The Gospel of the Kingdom



Old and New

Then Jesus gave them this illustration: “No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and uses it to patch an old garment. For then the new garment would be ruined, and the new patch wouldn’t even match the old garment.

“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins.  New wine must be stored in new wineskins.  But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.
-Luke 5:36-9

Old and new.  It is something we all live in.  There are always new things and old things.  New family and our older family, new friends and old friends.  We are always integrating the new into our lives, that already contain the old.

But sometimes it is an art and a science, as to how we integrate or harmonize old and new.   There is a continuous story of old and new in the Bible.  God never changes.  Nothing is new about God.  But God gives us revelations about himself.  God is all about restoring.  That is the big idea that builds and is culminated in the Lord Jesus Christ. 

The new cloth, the new wine, and the new wineskins have to do with Christ - He himself, his workings among people, and the people who are receiving him.  The old and the new will not work together, he says.  Jesus is after restoration, not reformation.  

We do reformation and there is nothing wrong with it and it is good.  But our reformation often ends up being renovation.   Again, renovation is good; but it is not restoration and may not be reformation.

Jesus did not try to reform what was present, but he wanted to restore what was in the past.  Restoration is not repair, but renewal.  A restored car has more than a new paint job.  It is made to be like new.

When Jesus came on the scene, what he did and said was new, but in the old.  Same God, but new a new revelation or new form or format.  The Law is fulfilled in Jesus.  There is continuity between The Old Testament and the new, brought forth in Jesus.

When Jesus does something new today, it might be a new revelation of something already revealed, or a new form or format.  When Jesus came and ministered the first time there was a form in place that we could call Judaism.  Judaism is something that starts with the Bible, but adds a lot of other stuff, like traditional interpretations and customs.  People were lifting up tradition and custom, over the actual word of God.  This is not good.

Today, we also have traditions and customs. We need to differentiate between custom and command. We need to take our customs and bring them under or make them subject to or operate under the commands. When Jesus does something seemingly new, today, it lines up with the commands; but it might not line up with our customs.

Do you get it?  Our customs need to yield or be flexible to the new thing he does.  That is the picture of the new wineskin that is flexible, or the new fabric that can not be sewn onto the old fabric.

Some times, we need to lay down tradition and set aside custom, and let God do the restoration process, as we live in and walk by Christ's love.  Jesus comes in many new ways, to us; always taking us out of our lives and into his. 

The new will come if you are alive in Christ, at all.  When the new comes, will you allow for the new container or new fabric, to carry it in; or will you use the old and see it tare open and the new be wasted?

You might view these parables as being about the salvation of the non-believer.  That message, which is true, is that Christ is not a religious, "add-on".  But, he comes into your life, and he takes over.  He does not just repair and reform and bad person and make them less bad.  That is what some other religions try to do and what humans try to help humans do and it does not get you saved or healed from sin.  

As Jesus said to Nick at night (John 3), "you must be born again".  It is a restoration thing and new thing that you need.  Nick (Nicodemus) was a religious guy and he was open to and interested in Jesus.  His message to Nick is, "you gotta start over".  

Salvation is an event and a process.  Another way to understand this is that a wedding, no matter how big and expensive, does not make for a good marriage.  You grow in a marriage.  You die a thousand deaths to grow a good to a great marriage.  Your babies are a new thing for you to be formed to, then there is your new family, perhaps new homes, and a continually new life as you grow in your marriage.

It is the same way and even more so, perhaps, in your Christian life.  The new comes, from Jesus, and he provides a new skin or new garment to hold it in.  Will you take it?  Will you die and let him give you new life?  Just like with Nicodemas, there is something you must do.  You must yield to and partner with the process to flow in the new.  Notice that Jesus did not say to Nick, "let me pray for you".

To embrace the new, brought by Jesus, we need Jesus' eyes and ears; we need Jesus' heart.  And we get those by letting him give them to us.  Someone is praying for change, but he won't change.  

In AA, they tell people to get to meetings.  There is great benefit in the meetings and they have different kinds of meetings and that variety is good.  But they also tell them to do two other things.  You need to find a sponsor and start working the steps.

You can be sober, but not experience new life, because you are not working a program and don't have a sponsor.  The door is open to new life, but you have to do something to hold onto it and let it be built in your life, and that's the wineskin or the new garment of working the steps and being mentored by someone who can walk beside you.

AA is not Christianity nor the church, but it is a picture or analogy that illustrates the points.  Jesus first spoke these parables to a highly religious culture that started from a good place, but was getting a lot wrong.  Ethical monotheism or Yahweh-ism became Judaism, which was filled with the 'hamburger helper' of tradition and custom, held up and over the actual inspired words of God.

It resulted in dysfunctional spirituality at best, and diabolical murder of God, at worst.  Today, it is the same, and Jesus is the same, doing the new among broken people, like us, and he is wanting us to let him give us newer, better containers for him; so that we can live his life and carry out his mission.

We can get addicted to or make an idol out of, "the way we've always done it".  The story that Jesus tells, to religious and pious people; specifically directed at the followers of the Pharisees and the followers of John (Luke 5:33), is that there comes a time when God does something new and we need to shift with it.



I Long For You

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.
-Psalm 42:1

At the end of each day, do you wish you had spent more time with God?  Not in a guilty way, but in the way that a lover just wants more time with and more of his or her beloved.  Do you look forward to more time with God, the next day, when you lay your head on the pillow each night?

When you are at work, or dealing with the stuff of life that needs to get done, are you looking forward to being with God?  Many of us are learning how to practice God's presence, when we are caught up in other, seemingly unspiritual activities, whether alone or with others.  That is good, and I am among those.  But I also long to get away and get into God's presence, which usually means alone.

You might be at a bustling workplace, a crowded school, or in a full airplane, high up in the sky; but you get this longing to be alone with God.  Yes, you can practice his presence, there in the noise, among people.  

But to get alone with him, is my heart's desire.  The streams of water that I long for is the place of God's presence.  I long for it, I anticipate it, I want time with God.

All of the noise of life is good.  The conversations, the hearing of voices, and all the awareness of and the caring for others.  It's good.  We need each other and it is not good to be alone.  The poet was right that no one is an island.

I want to run to God's presence.  It is my center point.  It is a place of reviving and renewal and recharging.  To love you, I need to experience him loving me.  To be Christlike, I need to experience Christ's presence.  When I have been with him, it changes me all for the better, so I want to get with him as much as possible.

The presence of God is the place of immunity, as Francis Fragipane puts it.  The deer is not thirsty, as its highest priority, but longs for the stream to have its scent lost from the predator.  When we are in God's presence, the enemy cannot mess with us.

The enemy wants us discouraged and hopeless.  He wants us to forget God, who God is for us, and all of his majesty and worthiness of praise.  When we are in tune with that, our perspective changes, and the enemy does not want that.

So, the enemy hunts us and tries to intimidate us, mainly through deception and illusion.  Slight of hand, smoke and mirrors, and threats.  These are all his weapons designed to get up to give up hope, be discouraged, and loose faith.  He wants us to forget God or believe that God is small or distant or disempowered.

This is why the heart of the believer, even the deeply discouraged believer, wants to find God, to find and be in God's presence.  That's it.  If you want to serve the Lord in any capacity, if you desire to grow and follow, to be Jesus disciple; then you are going to get hit by the enemy.  He attacks Jesus followers, pure and simple.

Getting to and into God's presence is the way of escape.  It is the way to survive and thrive.


Keep me Safe

Keep me safe, O God, for I have come to you for refuge.
-Psalm 16:1

The book of Psalms is the prayer book of the church.  We are in error, if we think that we can let our untransformed hearts lead the way, in prayer.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this:
"We confuse wishes, hopes, sighs, laments, rejoicings–all of which the heart can do by itself–with prayer. And we confuse earth and heaven, man and God. Prayer does not mean simply to pour out one’s heart. It means rather to find the way to God and to speak with him, whether the heart is full or empty. No man can do that by himself. For that he needs Jesus Christ.” -Bonhoeffer, Psalms
When I was at my lowest point in life, the most depressed and hopeless, I still was able to put some small hope in God.  Looking back, I realize that my spirit was alive.  Even though my life was crashing, my spirit was able to get guidance from heaven.

My spirit was able to receive prayer instructions.  I got the idea to pray, "keep me safe", or, "please watch over me while I am driving".  Looking back, I was very vulnerable to having a horrible car accident.  We are always vulnerable, but this was my collision course, planned by the enemy.

I was backslidden, I had not repented, although I was slowly getting the idea to.  The Holy Spirit was moving through my spirit, his kindness was operating in my life (Rom. 2:4).  The idea I got was to pray to be kept safe.

God answered my prayer.  He kept me safe, even though I drove in reckless, very foolish, danger.  Even when disciplinary action came to me, if was with great kindness.  Don't get me wrong, I needed to be kept safe before and after that season, but there was a special unction or prodding to pray, "keep me safe", at that time.

The Question - From Him and To Him

Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”

Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said.“He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”
-Luke 9:20-22

"But who do you say that I am?"  He is still asking this question.  The 'but' is there, because he wants you to say who you, from your self, say who he is.  The collective is important, but God deals with us one to one.

He wants each one of us to say who we think he is.  Telling what others say is one thing, but what is important is what you believe.  What you believe will govern how you live.  You will be judged on your life, not what someone else said or believed.

"Who do you say I am?", he asks.  Is he after information, or does he want you to come out in the open and say what you think?  When we say what we think or believe, and if it is distorted, we can have it corrected and learn the truth.

What we think and thereby, what we believe, is very important.  You might know the right answer to Jesus' question, since you have been a Christian for a period of time; but still have some very wrong 'sayings' to his question.  You might say, for example, that he is not good, because he allows suffering and does not always come to the rescue, at least not soon enough.  Who do you say that he is?

Jesus is Messiah, Christ, The Anointed One; AND he suffered, then rose from the dead.  The Gospel message is that he came, he suffered, and he rose.

When Jesus lived as a man, people had been developing a distorted view of what the Messiah would do and be like.  Just like then, we can get the first part right, that he is Messiah, but then get it wrong on what he is supposed to do.  We might have a distorted view that the life in Christ is supposed to be easy.  Some call this the, "God loves a winner", message.

The truth is, that he is Lord AND he suffered even unto death, BUT God redeemed him.  God overturned all the rejection of him.  It will be the same with our lives.  He is our Lord, Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God in our lives , AND we will suffer, BUT God will redeem it.

So, who do you say he is?  He is Christ, Savior, and Lord: for salvation and in my suffering.  Who do I say he is?  He is King.  He is good.  He is faithful.  He is caring.  He is kind.  

Now, if you have it settled who he is, and it is an ongoing process; what about you asking him who you are.  Who am I?  Who do you say that I am?

Every single one of us were created, from conception, with a unique design from God.  He did make you special.  Each of us are one-of-a-kind.  Each of us have unique ways grace, that we were born with, and that need to be developed.

Everyone needs to know from God, who they are.  "Who do you say that I am?", is a question for each of us to ask God.  Have you asked?  Do you know?  God has a purpose, a destiny for each one.  It is very exciting and encouraging, to go on the journey of discovery, with Jesus, to finding out who he created you to be.



I Will Celebrate


I will exalt (extol) (lift my praise above everything to) you (lift you up high), my God the (and, true) King; (and) I will praise (bless) your name for ever and ever (always) (I will continually bless Your name forever and always).

Every day I will praise (bless) you (my praise will never cease- I will praise you every day;) and extol (praise, lift up) your name (yes, I will praise you) for ever and ever (always).

Great is the Lord(!) (The Eternal is great) and (He is) most (so) worthy of praise (greatly to be praised) (and deserves endless praise); his greatness no one can fathom (measure) (God's greatness can't be grasped) (his greatness is unsearchable) (His greatness knows no limit, recognizes no boundary.  No one can measure or comprehend His magnificence).

One generation (after another) commends (will praise) (will celebrate) your (great) works to another (the next one); they tell of (proclaiming, shall declare) your mighty acts (they will pass on the story of Your powerful acts to their children).  (Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.)

They speak of (They will talk about) the glorious splendor of your majesty (Your majesty and glorious splendor have captivated me;)— and I will meditate on (contemplate) your wonderful (wondrous) works (miracles) (I will meditate on Your wonders, sing songs of Your worth).

They tell (speak) (We confess-) of the power of your awesome works (deeds) (the might of your awesome deeds) (there is nothing greater than You, God,)— and I will proclaim (declare) your great deeds (accomplishments) (greatness) (nothing mightier than Your awesome works.  I will tell of your greatness as long as I have breath).

They celebrate (Everyone will share the story of) (They will rave in celebration of) (shall pour forth the fame of) your abundant (wonderful) goodness (The news of Your rich goodness is no secret—Your people love to recall it) and joyfully sing (sing aloud) (sing songs of joy to celebrate) of (shout joyfully about) your righteousness.
-Psalm 145:1-7 (NIV, NLT, CEB, ESV, VOICE)

I am learning to live out a life of appreciating God.  I have learned that worship is not an event, but a way of life.  God is continually blessing us and we need to be continually celebrating him by telling each other what he has done.

Our will is a big thing.  What will you do?  I will celebrate.  I will have faith in God.  I will choose God.  I will persevere.  I will keep on.

It is notable that there is no neutral in the faith world.  And faith, to be faith, has be be an action.  When you act on something, your are having faith.  I believe that my car will start, but I have to put the key in and turn the ignition.

So, I choose, as an act of faith, to praise God.  When I do not do this, it's not neutral, but reverse.  There is not middle ground, in the spirit.

God is so good, and his blessings are so evident, that you can not not praise him.  I imagine that angels can not comprehend why any human would choose not to appreciate God, and yet many choose not to praise him.

So, to live the worship life; the life of celebrating God, it is a will thing.  You must do it.  You have to choose to praise God.  You are free to worship or not to.  But, you are a fool not to.

If you hold back on praising God, on appreciating him, seeing him and showing and telling others what he has done; you are only hurting your self.  We were designed to worship.  Every breath and heart beat is a gift and it just goes on from there.

But it all starts with your will.  I will celebrate.  Will you?

A big way that we train up the next generation of Christians, of God seekers, of disciples of Jesus; it to give commendation to God out loud.  We tell stories to each other about God's workings in our lives.

The normal Christian life is to live a life of God encounters, of seeing God do things, of living with God and being effected by God.  Then, when we meet up with others, we tell them what God has been doing in our lives.

We do not meet with other Christians to have a God encounter, but we come to share and celebrate the God stories or Ghost stories from our lives.  We come, to hear and see; to celebrate together, what God is doing in our lives.  These stories of genuine praise and exaltation of God can and do easily segue into or create and atmosphere for worship and praise.

We worship and praise God to give it to him, to give him worship and praise, for what he has done and is doing.  The willingness to appreciate God daily and hourly, and to share these praises for God with any listening ear, will be a blessing to you.  Try it, you'll like it.

Most Christians make vows to their new spouses, when they get married.  It makes sense and is wise for them to carry through on those vows and live them out.  We don't make the vows because we have to, but because we want to.  We make the vows, because we love that person.

What are the vows you made when you became the bride of Christ?  When God saved you and you came into union with God in Christ, with all the benefits, what was your end of the bargain?

I would suggest that when we get saved or come into salvation through Jesus Christ, that we are catapulted into a life of thankfulness.  Our eyes are now open, compared to the unbeliever, and we see God's goodness and blessings everywhere.  We now experience the living God in our lives.

We see God on the move and we acknowledge God and show appreciation for him continually.  We see, we hear, we experience, and we are impacted by God; and we tell about it, we tell about him.  We exalt and extol God.  We celebrate him to and with others.

We have to.  It is who we are.  It would be going against our very identity not to notice God, appreciate God, and testify in a celebratory way.  But, it is a matter of the will.

Jesus is Lord, but we have to follow him.  That is the "I will" part that we do.  It is a voluntary thing, with immense blessings attached.



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Here is the explanation for the italics in The Voice Bible translation:
You may have noticed some text in italics in the example above; that’s another feature of The Voice. Words and phrases in italics represent words that aren’t found in the original text, but which are important for bringing out the original intended meaning of the passage. In the words of The Voice translators, this brings out “the nuance of the original, assist[s] in completing ideas, and often provide[s] readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.”

Out of The Depths

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord

From a sea of troubles I call out to you, Lord.

From the depths of disaster I appeal to You, O Eternal One.
-Psalm 130:1 (NIV, CEV, VOICE)

I heard, "out of the depths".  It was dark, the middle of the night.  I knew it was in the Bible, but did not know it was Psalm 130, until I looked it up.

Out of the depths, is the cry of a person, who feels alone, underneath, and entombed by troubles.  Depths, to me, implies darkness, and distance.  God seems far off, while troubles a piled up, over, and around you.

But, in this deathlike place, in this experience of separation from the living God, we cry to, we call out to, and we appeal to God.  We do this, because we believe that God hears, we believe that God  cares, we believe that God is faithful and loyal.  We choose to believe that God is good, no matter what, and that God hears the prayers of his children.  

In the place of disaster, of overwhelming stress, anxiety, or hopeless depression; we send a message to God.  We might feel very weak, and perhaps condemned.   But we have a measure of faith.  That faith may be very small, like a flicker.  Our voice is weak, we may not even have a voice.

But we call out to the Lord.  Help.  From the midst of feelings of death, we call out.  That's all.  

The hardest part is the beginning, starting.  Once you decide to call and send God a message, there might be just a little bit more grace to make the message longer, and finally, to encourage yourself and perhaps, others, with the revelation reminder, that God is loyal to his own, God is faithful, unfailing, or steadfast.

That is where it might go, if you call.  But for now, you might be in that hopeless place, that is deathlike.  You don't feel life.  You are under it.  The encouragement is to cry a prayer there.  

In the place under it all, in the tomb of disasters; pray.  Breathe and say words to God.  Or say something to God in your mind or your heart.  Reach out in prayer.  Maybe you are unable to speak.  That is alright.  Maybe you have no words.  That is fine.  

The idea is to reach out to God in some way.  That could be a turning to or a gazing into the blackness, believing, to some small degree, that God is somewhere and hears.  Out of the depths, cry, call, or appeal; and words are optional. 



Freedom

  • He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners.
  • It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. 
  • You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free.  But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 
  • But the fruit of the Spirit is love,joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.Against such things there is no law.
  • But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
  • Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom.
  • Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
-Luke 4:18b, Galatians 5:1a, 13, 22-23; James 1:25, 2:12; 1 Peter 2:16 (NIV)

Freedom.  What does that word mean to you?  It means a lot to a slave or someone in prison.  We were all slaves and prisoners, and Christ set us free.  He set us free from sin and death, religion and demonic bondage.  People are bound, enslaved, and imprisoned today; and Jesus is still setting them free.

Now that we are free, what do we do?  How then shall we live?  Like a freed slave, a concentration camp survivor, or one freed from being a hostage; we are now in a new ball-game.  The game-changer intervened, and things are different.  Our way of life is now going to be marked by freedom, instead of bondage.

That means that we have been freed from some bondage, and now we are going live out a life, of getting and keeping that bondage out of us.  Jesus took us out of something and now he is taking that something out of us.  We have to cooperate for that to happen though.

For example, a slave can be freed, legally and physically.  But getting the slavery: style, persona, way-of-thinking, or identity; out of the freed person, is another matter.  He set you free to live freely.  That sounds obvious, but many people get freed, but do not live free.

When you are set free, you are set free to live right, or to live wrong.  That is true freedom.  We are free to sin and get into bondage again, but we should not do that.  Freedom is so real that you can get in trouble with it.  That is the way that God operates with us.  He requires our responsibility.  We have to choose.

The law of freedom or liberty is the whole word of God.  All the wisdom and counsel contained in the Bible is meant to teach you or train you to walk with God, to walk in love, to know God and to trust God.  We are not coming into bondage with God's word, but it rather shows us the better way of love.

When you live by love, walking before God, giving yourself to God, in thankfulness, trusting him and obeying him; you let God fulfill his ways in your life.  The Spirit of God's fruit is what you produce and live in.  That is the Jesus way, the Christlike way.

We become slaves of God.  But these are a different kind of slave.  It is all voluntary.  It is from love and not servitude.  We are sons and daughters who are love slaves of Jesus.  His freedom is what we live in.  Free to receive and free to give.  We want to set others free with his love too.  His ministry and mission is ours.



The Deeper and Wider Life

Rejoice with those who rejoice; 
mourn with those who mourn.
-Romans 12:15 (NIV)
The Christian has both a deeper joy and a deeper grief than others, because he lives a deeper and a wider life, because his heart trembles into sympathy with human gladness and sorrow all over the world.
-R. Abercrombie (1)
When we hear good news, we want to be happy with that person, and when we hear bad news, we want to be sad with them.  Something is wrong, when we can not rejoice with people, and something is lacking, when we are not able come come along side, and mourn with people.

When we are in Christ, walking in his love, we can freely celebrate with others and freely be with others who are grieving.  Our hearts are already filled and being filled with God's love and we are intimately walking in God's love.

Envy, jealousy, and a spirit of competition, have no place in our hearts, if we are walking in Christ, because we know we are loved by God.  If these feelings come up, then we need to turn our hearts towards God, and live loved, more. We need more love from God.  His well is unlimited, it is up to us to go to that well, and then live in that love.

If you have an envious or jealous reaction, or if you are tempted to mourn when someone rejoices; then it is like a warning light, that says you are low on something.  Seek out what you are lacking and get some.  In a word, you need more of God, more of God's love in your life.  If you know you are loved and if you know that God is good, then you can be happy for others, even when they get something you want, and do not have.

There is no substitute for a personal relationship with God, where you receive God's love, and walk it out in your life, knowing that God loves you.  And this is the goal of God on the earth, to get people loved.  And this is the mission of the church.

The song that encapsulates the good news, that should be in the hearts, and on the lips, of every Christian is:
"Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones, to him belong. They are weak, but he is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. The Bible tells me so."
A tragedy of our day, are people who are in the church, in Christ, but do not know that they are loved.  They do not fully live lives of knowing they are loved.  We are supposed to be loving each other as Christians so much, that the onlooking, non-believing world, would know that Jesus Christ is real.

The goal is love.  Where is the love?  If I know I am loved, then I can rejoice in any good thing that happens to you.  Envy and jealousy are foreign to me, when I am living loved by God.  That's where I want to live, don't you?

When someone is hurting, weeping, or grieving; we do not want to, "rejoice with those who mourn", by quoting Bible verses, which feel like salt in the wound.  As Joni Eareckson Tada said, "they don’t want answers. Because answers don’t reach the problems where it hurts in the gut, in the heart."

The key is the little word, "with".  Rejoice with, mourn with.  Be with people.  That's what God wants to do and it is what he wants us to do.  Be with people, where they are.

Being jealous of someone is not being with them.   Trying to fix people or give answers to mourners, also is not being with them.  People who are in shock from a loss are vulnerable.  They need hugs, they need presence, they just need someone to stand, sit, or lay beside them.  They need comfort.  That's the "with".

There are seven words to say, from a sincere heart, for any loss, and then to be quiet, to just be there, and be with, and listen:
"I am so sorry for your loss".    
Then stop, be quite.  No advice, no platitudes, no analysis, no teaching, no fixing, and no answers.  Hugs are good.  Bowing your head, or crying with them, is best.

The person experiencing loss is the one who may analyze, try to figure out, and even curse God.  Do not join in with them.  It will be very tempting, if you are a fixer, a teacher, and even a healer.  They might search for answers, out loud, and your role is not to give them answers, but to be with them in their mourning.  You are not to control and not to get your selfish needs met.

Do you know what one of Joni's friends did, to mourn with her?  Her friend got next her, and sung her a hymn about Jesus, "Man of sorrows what a name, for the Son of God, who came. ruined sinners to reclaim, Hallelujah, what a Savior".  That was comforting to her:
Hallelujah … I get choked up thinking about it 45 years later. She gave me something that night that was priceless. She helped me encounter Jesus Christ in a warm and personal way. That’s how precious the body of Christ is to healing the hearts of those who are hurting, to come up close to them, to infuse into their spiritual veins life, hope, healing, health. That’s what Jackie gave me that night. She gave me Jesus in a real and personal way. That’s really what I needed. So, Patrick Henry students: Don’t you dare be caught rejoicing with those who weep. Weep with those who weep.

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(1) R. Abercrombie's quotes and notes

Belonging To Christ, To Live The Life

My brothers and sisters who are well versed in the law, don’t you realize that a person is subject to the law only as long as he is alive?  So, for example, a wife is obligated by the law to her husband until his death; if the husband dies, she is freed from the parts of the law that relate to her marriage.  If she is sleeping with another man while her husband is alive, she is rightly labeled an adulteress.  But if her husband dies, she is free from the law and can marry another man.  In such a case, she is not an adulteress.

My brothers and sisters, in the same way, you have died when it comes to the law because of your connection with the body of the Anointed One.  His death—and your death with Him—frees you to belong to the One who was raised from the dead so we can bear fruit for God.  As we were living in the flesh, the law could not solve the problem of sin; it only awakened our lust for more and cultivated the fruit of death in our bodily members.  But now that we have died to those chains that imprisoned us, we have been released from the law to serve in a new Spirit-empowered life, not the old written code.
-Romans 7:1-6 (The Voice)


"It is a wonderful day in the life of the Christian when he or she discovers that the old nature knows no law and the new nature needs no law" (1)
"To run and work the law commands, yet gives me neither feet nor hands; but better news the gospel brings; it bids me fly and gives me wings" (2)
"What is really at fault is the conception of religion as law-keeping, the idea that by painstaking conformity to a law-code one can acquire merit in God's sight." (3)
"We now learn that the Gospel is man's liberation, i.e., his liberation from the law." (4)

The Christian is under no obligation to keep the Mosaic Law, because of our union with Christ.  We are under grace and not under law.   The backdrop of Romans 7, is Romans 6.  Let's look at Romans 6, that deals with sin, before looking at the similitude in the beginning of Romans 7

We are dead to sin, in Christ (Rom. 6:2).  Sin no longer dominates the life of the believer, as it does the non-believer (Rom. 6:3-10).  We must live in Christ, reckoning or considering ourselves dead to sin (Rom. 6:11).  We must live a life of presenting ourselves to God, or dedicate ourselves to God as slaves to righteousness, rather than slaves to sin (Rom. 6:12-14).  We must live a life of obedience to God, that brings sanctification, or we will, even as Christians, fall back into a life of sin (Rom. 6:15-23).

The four practical steps, that we are commanded to do, for our sanctification, laid out in Romans 6, are:
  1. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We Know that we are no longer slaves to sin.  We know that when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.  We know that since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We know this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. (Rom 6:3-10)
  2. We live, under the consideration that we, ourselves are dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. (Rom. 6:11)
  3. We do not let sin control how we live.  We do not give into sinful desires.  We do not let our bodies become instruments of evil, to serve sin.  Instead, we give ourselves completely to God, letting our whole bodies be used as instruments to do what is right, for the glory of God.  We live a life of freedom, under grace rather than under the law, and we are no longer slaves to sin. (Rom. 6:12-14)
  4. Whereas, we were once, as slaves to sin, in bondage to sin, following sin as our master; we are now as-it-were, 'slaves' to God, in obedience to living in Christ, set free from the law, by grace. (Rom. 6:15-23).  (5)
This is the backdrop for Romans 7.  We died, or our sinful nature died on the cross, with Christ.  We are dead to the power of sin and alive to the power of Christ (Rom. 6:11).  We are also no longer under the law and grace has set us free from the law (Rom. 6:14-15).  We can become slaves to sin, as Christians, again, if we yield to it and give it a place in our lives (Rom. 6:15-23).

We are no longer under obligation to keep the Mosaic Law, because we are in union with Christ (Rom 7:1-6).  If we put ourselves back under the law, we can become slaves to our own self-lives (Rom 7:7-25).

We desire to follow the law of God, because it is a way to measure our progress in life as believers.  But obeying the law did not get us saved, nor will it make us holy, or better people.

There has always been a tendency to receive Christ, but then add to Christ or blend the old covenant with the new.  The good news, The Gospel message is Jesus Christ, is Jesus plus nothing.  It is all Christ.

Sin died and the law died, on the cross with Jesus.  Before we knew Christ and outside of relationship with Christ, we know sin and God's law.  That is the non-Christ life.  When you come into union with Christ and are born from above, the law dies in your life, and sin dies too.  When sin pops up, we put it to death on the cross of Christ, where it belongs (Rom. 8:13, Col. 3:5).

There are two extremes that we Christians want to avoid, that will be temptations for us, that Paul addresses.  On the one side is licence, that says that since we are under grace, and not law; we can live any way we please.  The answer to this is, "no" (Romans 6:15).   The 4 steps outlined above are the answer to how then shall we live the non-sinful life?

The other extreme, we want to avoid, says that we are saved by grace, and we want to live a righteous life before God, so we must live under the law, if we are to please God.  That sounds really good and very sincere, but the answer to this proposal is also, "no".  We are dead to the law (Rom. 7:6), just as we are dead to sin (6:5), through  the cross.  We are now alive to Christ (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3).

The NET Bible, Romans 7, Constable's Notes, states:
The Mosaic Law was a unified code that contained moral, religious, and civil regulations that regulated the life of the Israelites (Exod. 20—Num. 10). God has terminated the whole code as a regulator of Christians’ lives... Christians have received a new code that Paul called the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2). It contains some of the same commandments as the old Mosaic Code, including nine of the Ten Commandments. The one that Jesus did not carry over was the fourth commandment about Sabbath observance. Nevertheless the Law of Christ is a new code. Thus Paul could say that God has released us from “the Law” of Moses. The Law of Christ consists of the teachings of Jesus Christ that He communicated during His earthly ministry that are in the New Testament. It also consists of teachings that He gave through His apostles and prophets following His ascension to heaven. (Charles C. Ryrie, “The End of the Law,” Bibliotheca Sacra 124:495 (July-September 1967):239-47.)
The law of Moses does not regulate the believer's life.  Jesus does.  The Mosaic Law does not have binding authority or power over the believer.  We are freed or delivered from it in the death of Christ.

However, we could argue that Paul is not speaking of the whole OT, but just the Mosaic Law, as a system or organizing body of rules for life that have binding force (6).  The law is still a witness (Rom. 1:2, 3:21).  We now under the law of Christ (Gal. 6:2).  It now matters that we keep God's commands (1 Cor. 7:19).  We can live under the law, but not be under it (1 Cor. 9:20).  We are allowed to not follow the Jewish law and live apart from it, but that does not mean we ignore it as we obey the law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:21).

Now, imagine someone who's spouse has died.  In their next season of life, they meet a new person, and have a new marriage.  It is one thing to honor your deceased spouse, as well you should.  But devotion to your first spouse, who is gone, is out of order, when it goes beyond honor, for what was and perhaps the children that you bore with them.

Imagine someone who is following or seeking nurture, even from the memories, of their deceased spouse.  Imagine someone who is a widow or widower, and has remarried, but is still serving their first spouse?  We would call all that, dysfunctional and unhealthy.  Unfair and neglectful of their new spouse, also comes to mind.

This is the picture, the similitude, that Apostle Paul, is painting in the beginning of Romans 7.  He is saying that Christians are married to Christ.  Remember that we are the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2).  We have one husband, one person we are devoted to, who takes care of us.

Outside of Christ and before you met Christ, you were a sinner or a person who tried not to sin, and live a good life, outside of Christ.  The law of God regulated your life.  Most of us, were not Orthodox Jewish people, trying to obey the mosaic Law.  We who are Gentiles, outside of the mosaic Law, still had the law in our lives, on our hearts.

We were either guilty for not measuring up, or we were self-righteous for our accomplishments.  That relationship, with that thing, with the law, that was a picture of a woman with her first husband, is dead.  D-E-A-D, dead.  When you receive Christ, you die to sin and you die to the law.  Being in Christ, being Christ's bride is about obedience, death to self, and sanctification; but it is never though legalism.  It is through a person, and with the help of the Helper, the Holy Spirit.

The law of Christ does involve righteous living, but it is not about you measuring against something that is an authority, but about you living in someone who can live it out, who has the authority to do it.  he also makes provision for every mistake and misstep of ours.  It's all in him and through him and to him (Rom. 11:36).

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1. Quoted by Warren Wiersbe, Expository Outlines of the NT, p. 386
2. Meyer, Jason C.. The end of the law: Mosaic covenant in Pauline theology. Nashville: B&H 
Publishing Group, 2009
3. Bruce, Romans, p. 143
4. Barth, A Shorter Commentary on Romans, Romans 7, p. 45
5. These 4 steps are from, Chafer, Systematic Theology, 2:351-54
6. Moo, The Epistle To The Romans, p. 416