Month: February 2018

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 58

February 28

law on hearts

The role of the Law in the New Covenant is one of revelation and responsibility. Not only is the Law the written statement of what God likes and dislikes, it reveals to us the very nature of God and how we can readily please Him. We are no longer bound to obey the Law because of duty, or because we want to avoid God’s displeasure or punishment.

The Law becomes imprinted and activated in the heart and mind of the New Covenant believer. The Law becomes something we want to do out of our love for the God Who gave so graciously in order that we may enjoy everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). The Law has moved from beyond the role of “rules of morality” and takes on the role of daily model for Godly behavior.

In the Law, we essentially find Christlikeness – and through a relationship with The Christ, we discover the ability to live as the Law fully intended. The Law of God reveals the perfect character of God and how that character may be applied in the lives of human beings. In The Christ, we are now able to live as God desires us to live… every day of our lives. The requirements of the Law have been fully met (through the life of Jesus) and now a new means of living is activated (through the death and resurrection of Jesus). That new means is what the apostle called “living by The Spirit.”

living by the spiirt

Jesus came to fulfill what the Law required – complete righteousness. Through Jesus’ fulfillment of perfect righteousness, a new Law has been placed in effect. It is the Law of the Spirit of life. Scripture teaches that the believer in Jesus is eternally bonded to Jesus, and now shares in how Jesus lived His life on this earth (without sin, fulfilling the Law’s requirements). Believers also share in what Jesus accomplished when He died in our place (the innocent and righteous… for the guilty and unholy). With His death and resurrection, a new mode of operation was set in place… which is the very foundation of New Covenant living. It’s centerpiece is the completed work of The Christ.

It is just as the apostle proclaimed:

romans 8 1-4

Jesus did not come to eliminate the Law – He came to fully activate the Law within the hearts and minds of those devoted to Him. Through our connection with Jesus, the “righteous requirements of the Law” are “fully met in us,” and will continue to be fully met within, and through, us… as we obey the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is at the core of living out the true Christian life.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 57

February 27

The prophet Jeremiah was inspired to record God’s promise of the New Covenant to His Old Covenant people: “”The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… “This is the Covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.” (from Jeremiah 31:31-34)

gods-new-covenant

The New Covenant promise is that the emphasis on outward observances of the Law will come to an end, and the Law will take up active residence within human minds and hearts. The Law will become the driving force behind how God’s people live their lives.

The tendency to look at the Law as outdated, or even as a means of bondage, just does not understand what makes the Law really important.

The apostle Paul was inspired to write, “What shall we say, then? Is the Law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the Law… So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… We know that the Law is spiritual…” (from Romans 7:7, 12, 14)

sin

The same holy and righteous God Who gave us the Messiah also gave us the Law. The very essence of the Law is a reflection, or revelation, of God’s Own nature and character. To eliminate the Law would be akin to eliminating the God Who gave the Law. This we cannot do – nor should we even consider doing. Under the Old Covenant, God gave the Law. Under the New Covenant, He set in motion His plan to fully activate the essence (or spirit) of the Law within His people.

As anyone who has ever received a “citation” for going just a few miles-an-hour over the speed limit knows… we all tend to react negatively to those who enforce the letter of the law while ignoring its spirit. In the New Covenant, God removed “following the letter” of the Law and replaced it with “following the spirit” of the Law.

rom7-6bThis fact is reinforced by the apostle, “But now… we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (from Romans 7:6) The apostle was inspired to teach us that the Spirit of God is going to lead us in what He has revealed, and intended, all along. Following the Law, under the New Covenant, becomes a matter of desire and “want to” rather than a matter of obligation or duty.

The New Covenant believer now sets his or her heart on desiring what God desires – and those desires are revealed and recognized within the Law.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 56

February 26

Jesus came to bring Fulfillment of The Law

Law of Moses

While Jesus may have come to this earth to be the catalyst to the confrontation of false faith, He did not come to destroy, abolish, or undo that which was true. He came into a system formed on the basis of “the Law and the Prophets” – and rather than condemn this system as old and outdated, He confirmed it as essential to a true expression of faith. As Christians, we rarely appreciate the importance of the Law (God addressing His people about general moral principles; also known as the Ten Commandments) and the Prophets (God speaking to His people Personally; usually addressing their actions concerning the Law).

Christians tend to frequently stress the fact that we are not under Law but under grace (Romans 6:14-15). This is true. But in stressing this fact, we can easily neglect something very crucial to our relationship with God. In our proper emphasis upon the grace of God, we can improperly dismiss God’s Law. We can easily conclude that, with the institution of the New Covenant, everything connected with the Old Covenant was cast away as worthless… or just eliminated altogether. This is not true.

law-and-grace.jpg

Matthew’s gospel clearly records the words of Jesus Himself. He did not come to this earth to do away with the Law, but rather to fulfill the Law’s requirements – and to fully activate the Law within our hearts and minds. Jesus came to give the Law its rightful place in our lives. Even the very first Believers had no intention of leaving behind their Jewish roots. To the first disciples, receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior fully enabled them to live out their Jewish faith – not replace it.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 55

February 25

The kingdoms of men. Jesus confronted the individual kingdoms of men with truth in all its tenderness. His words and His actions proclaimed, and demonstrated, that being a servant/child in the Kingdom of God was infinitely better than being a “ruler” trying to “reign” over one’s own life and destiny. He brought the promise of hope, joy, and happiness (i.e. being blessed; see Matthew 5:3-12) and of having a significant purpose, in encountering the certain challenges of this life.

Of these individuals, seeking desperately to reign over their own lives, it was said, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36) Jesus came and sought to be the compassionate Shepherd of their souls. He reached out to them, He touched them, He met them at their point of need – and He tenderly invited them to come and discover the riches of the Kingdom of God.

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Fire!

Before we close our thoughts on the three kingdoms, one other note bears mentioning. Jesus exclaimed, “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49) Fire in the Scriptures almost always refers to judgment or purification. When Jesus mentions that He came to this earth to bring fire, He is expressing God’s Own desire to see His people purified of all religious falsehood and hypocrisy.

fire

By necessity, this must happen through great resolve. Those dedicated solely to God, and to His truth, are destined to go directly “against the grain” of this world’s secular and religious kingdoms. The ways of this world and the dogmas of false thinking and religion are not easily swayed.

Jesus came as the Initiator of dynamic change – but this change does not come without the promise of confrontation, conflict, and the necessity of refining fire. Jesus warned His disciples of this difficult fact: “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven… Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10, 12)

Jesus came to this earth to lovingly confront sinners with the liberating power of the truth – but always in compassion. He also came to confront hypocrisy and false religion with the fire of truth. In Jesus, we see that both are required, and both are part of the divine character.

The Wonder of the Kingdom

Jesus came to set the wonder of the Kingdom of God in motion within our hearts and to be the Instigator of the confrontation of false faith on this earth. He did not come merely to initiate Christianity, but true Christianity, for this is what truly conveys and reveals the very heart of God. In Jesus, we discover that God is supremely dedicated to that which is absolute and true.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 54

February 24

The religious kingdom. Concerning the “kingdom” of the Jewish leaders, Jesus’ confrontation was the harsher side of truth. It was this kingdom that provoked His greatest passion and garnered His deepest indignation. This is somewhat surprising – and illuminating.pharisees1.jpgIt is surprising in the fact that these Jewish leaders were the moral stalwarts of society. When it came to issues of observable morality and righteousness, the Jewish leaders set the standard. Of all people on this earth, it would seem that these would be the people who would be the most pleasing to God. But, through the words and actions of Jesus, we see that this was definitely not the case.

 

It is illuminating in the fact that Jesus was so often observed in direct disagreement with most of what these leaders did – in spite of their apparent “right standing” with God. This tells us a great deal about how God is unimpressed by moral piety that does not resonate from a heart desiring to lovingly please God, and willingly serve others. In this, we discover that righteousness is not really right actions – it is actions that imitate and exhibit God’s own character, from a heart in love with God.

vs the Pharisees

So why was Jesus so confrontational with the Jewish leaders?

It was because they had been entrusted with upholding the truth and the purpose of being God’s people. They were assigned the responsibility of perpetuating the spirit of the Law, of portraying God’s nature accurately, and of keeping the heart of God ever before the people who were under their charge. At this, they failed miserably.

Through their actions and their leadership, they turned the One True God into a false god, by making Him out to be a god intent only on enforcing a plethora of moral obligations. They used the Law to beat God’s people into submission and to coerce the people’s obedience (often to seek their own personal “honor” and benefit; see Matthew 23:2-7!). Their offense was even greater because they virtually controlled the life (and religious practice) of every person within the Jewish community and culture. To be “Jewish” came to mean that you were required to “play the game” by the leaders’ demanding rules – or face the consequences of being an outcast from your own people.

pharisee judge

It was primarily this system, and this kingdom, that The Christ came to confront… and to be the catalyst for conflict and division. In the Kingdom that Jesus came to proclaim, the rules of the King are not meant to enslave subjects to the tiniest nuances of the Law, but to provide an enlightening guide into all the things which please God, and to provide revelation and insight into God’s Own heart and character.

The Jewish Leaders were so diligently dedicated to the Law of God that they had actually lost sight of the God Who gave them the Law. They had become blind to the One Whom they thought they were seeing so clearly (Matthew 15:12-14; 23:16-26). It should be no surprise that Jesus’ harshest words and actions were directed toward those who should have known better (see Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; John 2:13-17). In Jesus, we are seeing The One Who is Truth taking the battle to everything that is religiously false, hypocritical, and misleading.

The Kingdom of God is the proverbial line drawn in the sand. In Jesus’ day, those who would cross that line, and come to The Savior, would find themselves chastised, ridiculed, and outcast to most of what they had previously known and embraced. Jesus came to draw that line, and to be the One waiting with open arms on the other side.

lineinsand.jpg

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 53

February

Three kingdoms… plus one

When Jesus came to live among us, there were basically three different “kingdoms” at work in society.

One was the rule of the Romans – intent on conquering the world and bringing its inhabitants under the influence of Greek culture and values.

roman rule

A second kingdom was within the Jewish culture itself. It was the “kingdom” established by the Jewish leaders – intent on enforcing the letter of Jewish Law.

pharisees

The third “kingdom” was the individual “kingdoms” that existed within the hearts of every human being – intent on establishing and maintaining reign and control over their own lives.

Each of these “kingdoms,” by their very nature, were an enemy to the rule and reign of the One True King of the Kingdom that Jesus came to offer. The battleground was set.

The battle is eternally epic.

spiritualwarfare1

The Roman kingdom. It is most interesting, and revealing, that Jesus made no real attempt to confront or change the Roman “kingdom.” He never really directly confronted the secular world, nor its secular systems and values. Even when He had the opportunity to do so, Jesus did not seek to specifically confront the Roman kingdom (see John 18:33-37; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-4). Jesus made only the succinct claim, “My kingdom is not of this world… My kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)

From Jesus’ attitude and actions, we learn an essential truth. The Kingdom of God was not established to attack the secular world directly (something modern Christianity seems prone to do). On the other hand, the Kingdom of God would become a focus of secular attack. History reveals, as the Roman rulers began to mercilessly persecute Christians, that the clash of kingdoms was unavoidable.

Every earthly kingdom (secular or religious), will eventually declare war upon the Kingdom of God. Scripture records that Jesus, and His kingdom, would be the indirect crux of this conflict.

Two – Understanding Jesus – pg. 52

February 22

Jesus came to bring Division/Confrontation of false faith

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Jesus, Luke 12:51)

conflict.jpg

We do not normally think of Jesus in terms of bringing division, strife, or conflict. After all, He is the One Who came to bring “Peace on earth” and Who taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” (Luke 2:14; Matthew 5:9) But Jesus clearly indicates that conflict is one of the inevitable consequences of His coming. When we think about it, great figures in history often tend to be rather polarizing. This means that they either evoke great acceptance and devotion or great rejection and contempt. There is very little in-between. Why should the greatest historical figure of all time be any different?

So when we read: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn “’a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ …I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Matthew 10:34-36; Luke 12:49; see also Luke 12:51-53)

fire on earth

Jesus did not come to this earth for the expressed purpose of creating or instigating conflict… but His coming made conflict inevitable. Jesus came as Light in the darkness. His very presence assured the shake up the natural status quo and struck at the core of everything false – most particularly religious falsehood. Jesus also came as Truth in the midst of deception and lies (John 14:6!) and truth by its very nature stands in opposition to all falsehood, even in it’s most minuscule forms.

The fact that Jesus wishes the “fire were already kindled” tells us that He welcomes the confrontation. Why would this be? Because truth always stands up to scrutiny… and truth must prevail by being heard, and tested against falsehood. Jesus came as Truth to a world blinded by falsehood, seeking to bring the Light of truth to those who needed its liberating power.

blinded-1.jpg

Jesus came to the kingdoms of men and espoused the kingdom of God. These two systems are almost always diametrically opposed to one another. They have different values, different practices, different goals, and different purposes. The kingdoms of men are a natural enemy of the kingdom of God. That which is in opposition always creates the opportunity for conflict.

Jesus tells us, this conflict is not only inevitable… it is necessary.