Tag Archives: human attempts

More on the De Facto Question

In the previous post (was short—not the whole counsel of God) several people responded by email as well as here on the blog. How differently sincere and godly respondents can look at a post!

Some were very positive. Some did not actually read the article carefully. Some read with the aim to dismiss what is written or to critique and they miss what is actually being said. Others were disappointed that no conclusion was clear— whether “it” is right or wrong. Bless ‘em all!

We like to have difficult questions settled cleanly and simply. Then we can be quick to judge people and make decisions affecting people’s lives, tell others how to behave. But we end up excluding some behaviours and winking at others. Instead of showing patience and compassion, we exclude people.

We were addressing the situation of an already established, committed and caring ‘marriage’, one that has been recognised by the state and in law for many decades and by perhaps 75% of Australian society.

Should we not follow Jesus in the way he acted? He did nothing except what the Father told him. So must we cultivate that in our own lives rather than live just by precepts, dogma. It is important that we begin to move in the Holy Spirit in how we respond to people.  This will become critical in this culture of increasing ‘new morality’, political correctness and intolerant, mischievous opposition to anything Christian in politics, society and media.

There are some things that we can be clear about and these were pointed out in my post, things we hold true as Jesus did. I suppose I could have added how fornicators will come under the judgment of God. But that’s not the sort of issue that was being addressed.  Certainly young people need to be warned that cohabitation is not the answer to their search for true oneness, wholeness or identity.

There is a need to be holy, to please the Lord. But how is that achieved? It is the gift of God, lest any of us should boast. Grace. A free gift, the Holy Spirit. Not law. That needs another short post or two, perhaps twenty!

Holiness will not be achieved by observance of Law, any set of laws. Not by the rules and norms of average, lifeless, pew-bound Christianity, nor by rules we make up to protect our group, large or small or to give some false security or human authority. Imposition, judgmentalism and dogmatism.

For those of us who have escaped from the box (buildings, priestcraft, professional staff, staged-managed meetings, finances, etc) we are thrown back on the Holy Spirit to lead us and show us how to love, to embrace the newbees and to bring prophetic understanding and the Father’s mind, His ways.

In Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4), He graciously exposed her history of 5 husbands and the current live-in guy. Yes, in that society there was a difference between marriage and cohabitation, which based on the evidence available, actually had very little in common with the scenario we were addressing.

Jesus did not behave as the scribes and Pharisees—and many fundamentalist or ‘bible-believing’ leaders—would do with condemnation and judgment. That word of knowledge from God brought her salvation, an unexpected extended stay for Jesus and co in Sycar and amazing blessing. Jesus is the standard.

Don’t you love how Paul talks about prophecy in action: if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all;  the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. (1 Corinthians 14)

We must expect such take place in our midst as we mix with unbelievers or ungifted ones. May that be our desire and experience as we deal with the many difficult situations which will arise and grow more frequent in coming days. The Holy Spirit is able to expose people’s hearts when they try to justify their actions, as they will. We all tend to.

We are promised magnanimous gifts and graces. Why are we not experiencing them? Why present to people worldly principles, white-washed with a veneer of religiosity? Let us move in the blessings of the new covenant in grace and glory and not with some mental checklist of dos and donts.

After decades of marriage, I believe it’s best for couples to express before witnesses a covenant relationship and be recognised by wider society even though I would struggle to produce texts to clearly support that.

Jesus is everything. Listen to God speak! He is there and He is not silent

A New Covenant—Neglected

Appallingly, today, we see a denial of much of the glorious features of the New Covenant—New Testament life. Instead of God’s laws poured by the Holy Spirit into their minds and written on their hearts, many are content to get their spiritual input not from the Lord Himself, but from middlemen with agendas—spiritual directors, priests, pastors. Instead of being the people of God, many see their identity as Baptist or Catholic or Evangelical and so on. The two-tier (clergy-laity) mentality persists.

Does not the Living God find fault with us in our unbiblical practices of assembly and hierarchy which we continue to hang onto?

Instead of all God’s people being in unbroken fellowship with the living God—knowing Him in their personal experience—they are dependent on professional Christians as mediators. The whole concept given to us by S. Paul—that of the one body with many active functioning members, each with gifts of the Holy Spirit—is ignored, seen as irrelevant or even mysteriously withdrawn. Millions even attend rituals in which it is believed Jesus is re-sacrificed again and again by a priest, clearly at great odds with the message of the New Testament—this sacrifice was made once for all and all time and is unrepeatable.

The key to much understanding of the New Covenant is that we are each born into a Body—the Body of Christ. Individualism is contrary to the New Covenant and to our organic, community life in the Body of Christ. We are many members and one body. God makes covenant with a people, not with individuals, but with the body of Christ, in Jesus.

When the Lord talks about a new agreement (covenant), he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:13)

All kinds of spirituality that are inadequate or out of date have now been made obsolete by God’s flawless design; and what is obsolete and outdated soon disappears. And now what is not planted by the Father will be rooted up (Matthew 15:13). What is built, even if on a good foundation, if not with God’s specified materials, will be destroyed (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

This New Covenant is made with Christ and we get under the New Covenant by being hid in Christ together. So it can never be broken! You cannot break it—it was not made with you!

So what are you going to do about this?

You have the wonderful power of choice. To change your mind and heart and actions.

Must we keep disobeying the Lord who gave Himself for us?

A New Covenant—Ignored?

God’s first agreement (covenant) with His people, Israel, was defective, wrote the author of the New Testament book The Letter to the Hebrews (8:7-8) so a better was needed. This author shows how much more serious is our attitude and response to the New Covenant (how shall we escape if we ignore its implications, Hebrews 2:1-4).

The new must not be ignored. God’s design practices for corporate worship revealed in the New Covenant/New Testament must be followed. We must not lose His words or replace them by worldly or pagan ideas and practices like clergy—laity, pastor—people.

In this better covenant Jesus is not prevented by death and we are ALL called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, indestructible life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us.

Have believers gone backwards since Judaism with corporate matters?  In many ways our practices in churches as Christ’s people today are often more bound and institutional and domineering to that of many devout Jews in Jesus’ own day. Jews did not have a pastor or priest ruling over them. Nor did they meet in ‘house-of-the-Lord’ type buildings. Nor was the sharing of the word of God jealously guarded by one (or two) leaders.  The synagogue was a place of discussion and sharing of scriptures by the several.  Common meals were frequently shared together. Plus each synagogue was independently managed. They did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination, statement of faith, or any head office!

These churchy practices plainly ignore the New Covenant.

How far we have drifted from the apostles’ teaching and practice! They were liberated from the practices of Judaism, yes, of religion and the Holy Spirit was living in each one! Yet today Christendom is weak, divided up into competing denominations, living “in the flesh” and generally not experiencing the New Covenant. It seems we have a similar situation today to that which our Hebrews author was addressing  (Heb 8:7-8) . . . .

 If the first covenant with God had been all right, there would not have been any need for another one. But the Lord found fault with them and said . . . . . .  (quoting Jer 31:31-34)

I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

Can we just go on and on ignoring the New Covenant made at the most tremendous cost to the Father by Jesus?

“If you love me you will keep my commands”  John 14:15

To be continued

A SOUND AND FULL GOSPEL

Sound doctrine must be encouraged right from the start for the newly baptised. That means the teaching of Jesus and the apostles recorded for us in the New Testament documents. An intensive approach is necessary until a foundation and unity in Christ is experienced to bring maturity and stops the person being tossed around by every wind of doctrine. Ephesians 4:1-16 says it all.

The Gospel is enough if it is the full message and based on sound apostolic teaching.

Paul’s letters are packed with warnings to people about losing what has been given at the start. It’s a constant theme. also Peter’s and James and John. The lot.

Sound doctrine in Jesus must replace everything else. Must replace all the additions and sacred cows that have gathered momentum and weight and accumulation by teachers in Christendom and away from the simplicity of Jesus and life, oneness and love centred only in him.

But what tends to happen amounts to adding to what people have already learned.

No. We must start from scratch—from Jesus only. That’s what the first disciples had to do. That’s what we must teach— the New Covenant and what that means, and stress its importance—the simple teaching of who we are in Christ—new men and women—who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. Cant serve two masters.

You cannot live the New Covenant life in Jesus’ blood while remaining in some other covenant, like a covenant of Churchianity or of a man-made organisation, or of a denomination—or one of your own choice.

The whole understanding of doctrine in current historic Churchianity is sick, stuck in a kind of poor renovation of Old Covenant shadows, yet fraught with splits, competitiveness, unbelief, envy, lust for power, desire to make a name for ourselves  . . . . . .

For example, what did Jesus teach about “the church”? Nothing. Just 2 passages in Mathew alone which today do not have the meaning anywhere near what he meant.

Instead Christendom is all about this imported c….. word.

Most people have no idea what the original Greek word (ekklesia) means because its translation to c….. in all English bibles is religious, Romish, worldly, even pagan.  Jesus gave NO command about forming churches. Instead he told us to love one another and sure, that means togetherness, yes. It means caring, service, sacrifice for others, being servants and above all, loving one another. Gathering like they did originally.

He told us to make disciples, heal the sick, set the oppressed free, love one another, lead a holy life, receive the Holy Spirit, walk in the Spirit . . . . . . . . . .

Christendom and its micro offshoots continue to do what he did not command and ignore what He DID command.

Christendom is in most places, a mere shadow of the Old Covenant—and without even the wonderful glory of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant is a shadow of the New Covenant. But we have made the Old Covenant look by comparison far more glorious than what we see today—at least it had a supernatural glory.

The apostles declared that the glory of the New Covenant makes the old look a mere shadow. New Covenant life makes the old seem to have no glory at all says Paul (see 2 Corinthians 3).

You and I must start obeying the sound doctrine of the new covenant! Today.

No time to lose.

MORE ON “THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD”

In my last post I was saying that this phrase “the sovereignty of God” is often trotted out as a simplistic and doctrinaire statement with the effect of killing all sense of responsibility on our part. For many, it excuses them from obedience to the revealed word of God.

We hear the phrase from writers and preachers who present a view of God as absolute sovereign in such a way that God will “do whatever he wants, when he wants, the way he wants, and he asks no one’s permission”. This herds us into a mental state where God’s word coming to us in the scriptures is not final, settled. So then we fail to hear the voice of the living God who “changes NOT.”

Yes, God is KING! We acknowledge his right to rule over us and our vital need to obey him and to depend on him. That is the way we have been created, designed, and we fight against life continually and invite death when we fail to maintain the glorious relationship with God freely available to all.

Life and death is all about our relationship with the Almighty and Ever-living Father God, the Lord of all creation, the One who has given us his word which is “forever settled in heaven” and whose word can never pass away nor be broken and who has given us his final word in his Anointed Son. Thank God he is our King and our victory is assured under his leadership. Let us never stop praising him.

But we must choose him! Choose life. Choose the King all-glorious and all-loving. His ways are perfect and we know and can trust his ways and that he will never withdraw his love and mercy and care for us.

The phrase “the sovereignty of God” cannot be found in the Bible and it was never on the lips of Jesus. He expected people to have faith. He lived out a faithful relationship with the Father, indwelt by God in the person of the Holy Spirit. He commands his followers to be the same as he, in the same relationship!

Jesus had no advantage over us, was subject to the tests and temptations we all face. He could have said no to the will of God in the Garden and followed our first parents’ disobedience in the original Garden. He chose to obey.

God seeks our cooperation and partnership to carry out His will. How blest we are! He asks us to make disciples, teach them whatever he taught us disciples. He asks us to do the works of Jesus, no less!

These are not suggestions! NO. These are commands. They cannot be shrugged off by doctrines invented by men like cessation of spiritual gifts” or “once saved always saved” teaching their own doctrines as the will of God. Such teachings void the word of God and put traditions of men in its place.

Is it all up to us then?

NO, NO. It is not –he does not leave us alone by ourselves in a world full of evil and sin. No. He promises to be within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a real person—not just an “it” or just an influence. It is time for us to meet and love the Holy Spirit, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to be led by the Spirit, to walk in the Spirit and not the opposite (fulfilling the desires of the flesh).

It is time for us to learn to “pray in the Holy Spirit”. It is critical that we think in terms of the Holy Spirit day by day. He is our HELPER, our advocate, our intercessor, our teacher, constant reminder of Jesus.

The Father’s purposes will not met by us. Nor will they be met without us! We are all in this together, the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit and you and me in a tremendous unity of mind and spirit. He acts through people like you and me.

THE ANTI-GOSPEL

Whatever happened to the simplicity of Jesus and his Gospel? Now we have full-blown Christendom instead.

Sadly, my wife and I know many who have departed from the original faith of the apostles by going on sideshows, men’s ideas. Some turning back to Judaism, to Rome, to mysticism, to mediaeval teachings and practices–people who once walked in close fellowship with us. There are 1000s of sidetracks.

As if the Jesus of the gospels is insufficient! As if the Holy Spirit is not there to show us, to supply us with the power and authority from the Throne. As if we need more than what we have received from the mouth of the living God as given by the writers of the New Testament!

As if it is up to us to decide what commands of Jesus to obey—or ignore.

As if it is up to us to decide how to build the Kingdom of God!

Jesus, referring to the church leaders of his day said “Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be uprooted, so ignore them. They are blind guides leading the blind . . .” (Matthew 15).

All your efforts, all those works of yours, will be rooted up if they are not planted by the Father. Examine your life—is what you are doing “in Jesus’ name”, planted by the Father? Are you helping God?  As if we could!

Are we, are you, bored with the true gospel, with the simplicity of faith given to us by those who learned from Jesus and the Holy Spirit? Is there something secret in these deviations and systems which you practice that is hidden to everyone else and especially those who are determined to stick with the New Testament?

When you fail to stay, persist with, persevere in and fight for the “faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people” you are in grave danger of drifting into side issues, sideshows, blind alleys, instead of going straight ahead. The Holy Spirit goes straight ahead, takes no detour, constantly points to Jesus and the cross. Where else?

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people. For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 3-4

Jude was compelled to write about this knowing the addition and substitution of error for truth, even in those early days. Paul consistently warned about numerous false teachers and prophets to come. Jude goes on . . .

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.  These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

The people who divide you! These are those who follow natural instincts and the result is the 30,000 to 40,000 denominations we have today in the world. And they all claim to be the truth!

But in Jesus there can be no division, none. We must be one with one another and our oneness comes from being in Him and He in us, one in the Father and the Son as Jesus prayed (John 17). There can be no other way.

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.(1st Timothy 6)

Christendom began to ignore Jesus and his words and has lived according to natural instincts to this day. But it is time to stop and to turn to the real Jesus, the one who has proved himself as the one to obey, to follow.

THE VANITY OF WORSHIP

“In vain do they worship me – their teachings are merely human rules”  (Jesus’ words in Mark 7:6—7 of the church leaders who opposed him.)

Such manifest vanities are today practised and displayed daily by millions of church goers. Jesus could well say of today : they worship me after their own traditions instead of obeying my words.

Consider : Jesus never asked his disciples to worship him!

Imagine this absurd scenario:  The first disciples come together to worship Jesus. So they put him up on a throne and lift up their hands or they prostrate themselves! They say they love him, adore him, bowing down and singing before him, sure that their devotion, their religious acts will please him. They devise a form of service and trot it out ….. and they ignore his expressed words in the gospels.

Or, just imagine the first disciples post-Pentecost composing or going through a liturgy or holding services or dedicating buildings to Jesus! Of course, such scenarios do not fit. Human constructs.

Instead they show the worth of Jesus by obeying his Holy Spirit, sharing goods, experiencing apostolic teaching, eating together, praying, receiving the Holy Spirit.

Are we using “worship” as a substitute for plain obedience to Jesus? Faithfulness unto Jesus means we  follow him to the end.

Many ignore his commands to believe, to pray, to persevere, to go make disciples, to teach all peoples all his commands, to receive the Holy Spirit, to bear witness to him.

He has unequivocally and expressly stated that his disciples are to put his movement, his kingdom, before their interests and agendas, to put him first, to seek the Father’s will and heart, to sit at his feet, to abide in him, his words abide in them, to love one another as he has loved them.

Have we forgotten he asks us to lose our lives for his sake, to be fishers of men, to give freely, to rejoice in suffering ….. ?

Did Jesus start “worship” classes? Did he teach about how to do “services of worship”? Did he appoint worship leaders? The whole idea is absurd. So many human inventions.

“Do whatever he tells you said Mary, his mother to the servants at the wedding (John 2)—the best advice ever given. The last recorded words of Mary. How spot on! “Do whatever he tells you.

Now that’s worship: Do whatever he tells you.

Listen as he teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven. His Father’s will not just listened to, but actually done.

The writings of the whole Bible are all about pleasing God, doing his will, living under his wonderful rule (that’s worth-ship—acknowledging God’s amazing and eternal worth). Isn’t that what Jesus’ parables are all about? The house built on the rock is the person who not only hears but does the will of God.

Following Jesus is to worship him, obey him, doing whatever he says. It’s obedience to God, not sacrifice that counts, declared the prophets.

Where is worship in the Letter to the Hebrews, that most Jewish of all the New Testament writings? It’s being provocative, “stirring up one another to love and good works”.  It’s drawing near to God with faith, it’s seriously listening to your leaders, it’s enduring suffering. It is in rendering a sacrifice of praise by our lips which bear witness to his name—that is, being a witness to Jesus. It’s being mature and teaching others.

Prayer is worship. A notable example is in Acts 4 prayer with shouts of praise to God in the context of persecution.  Study of scriptures is worship.

Worship is not just a sing-song.

Worship in Acts? What about Paul and Silas in that Philippi jail in the most uncomfortable circumstances; or with Lydda at place of prayer.  Pauls’ teaching and arguing, and urging, writing letters, always on the go. Frequently imprisoned. Always acknowledging Jesus’ worth.

For Paul the apostle “acceptable worship” is service to others and witness to Jesus (Romans 12).

In 1 Corinthians 12-14 it’s building one another up when you meet together with the gifts and manifestations of the Holy Spirit—that’s worth-ship of Jesus.

In Ephesians 5 it’s “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” … to one another! Edification of the brothers and sisters is worth-ship along with making melody in the heart to the Lord.

Entertainments are common in many churches today and they call it worship! More like having an indulgent fun time—a substitute for the solid joys of doing what he asks.

The heart of God is the saving of the lost, that’s worship. Reaching outsiders.

What did Peter teach? What did John teach? James? And the others? It’s all about serving one another and doing the work of the Lord, being lights in a dark world. Worship in spirit and in truth.

Though the Israel cultus is gone, yet people feel the need to be religious, to offer up something other than “ourselves, our souls, our bodies as a living sacrifice”.

The Father “seeks those who will worship in spirit and in truth”.

Holiness for the many

Continuing looking at the Letter to the Hebrews, in chapter 10, verses 1 to 3, the writer drives home again that the Jewish law is a mere shadow with great limitations. Those same sacrifices were continuing—they did not stop because they were ineffectual, he said. They did not bring holiness.

In religious circles today, what offerings or worship do people make that needs continual repetition? Do these make them holy? Do these remove the feelings of guilt? We are often reminded that feelings are untrustworthy. Sure, only God is trustworthy! Yet, if we feel guilty, it may be because we have not entered into the true life in the Spirit, promised for us for us in the New Covenant to give us great hope for what is to come.

Much of today’s public expressions of Christianity carry continual reminders of sins to the hearer. In many places the order of service (not a New Testament idea) obliges people to confess sins in a vague, non-specific sense and they are expected to feel contrition. Then there are often sermons preached ‘six feet above reproach’ which are designed to induce guilt feelings but not real guilt. (Actually amongst the primitive believers in Jesus, there were no sermons, no preaching, no clergy, just encouragement and exhortation by one another.)

Real sense of guilt comes from God, from the Holy Spirit, a result of the reality that we have offended God and friendship with him has been severed as a result. It is a precondition for true holiness.

Hebrews 10 goes on to show that Jesus understood these famous words from Ps 40:6-8 to apply to him,

“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;  with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll —I have come to do your will, my God.’”

Jesus accepted the central mission on which God had sent him—to offer himself in a human body, in his own human body, to do the will of God. Remember the scene in the garden, Gethsemane? And this perfect offering has replaced all other! This once for all obedience makes us holy, an emphatic statement much repeated. We do not understand this cosmic event, but we are amazed at its wonderful depth and sure of its benefits.

Jesus was no puppet, no mechanical man dictated to by God. No. Jesus had a will of his own. He chose to make his will conform to the Father’s will. It was the will of the LORD to bruise him, we read in that amazing servant song of Isaiah 53. At Heb 10:10,  our author maintains

by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all

Holiness is a gift from another to be received by turning to Him and believing—can’t be achieved any other way.

Do you get it?

Let’s all have a rest : Hebrews 3-4

In Hebrews 3 and 4,  our author has another warning to give us!

DO NOT FAIL TO ENTER GOD’S REST THROUGH UNBELIEF! (it happens)

Here is another Hebrew-Jewish concept—the ‘rest’. It’s a motif from the great story of God’s mighty rescue in the Exodus event. In that story, there is an ever repeated promise to the Israelites, of a safe, secure, and fertile land they could call home instead of being eternal wanderers.

Yet surprisingly (or perhaps, not so surprisingly) though they had witnessed God’s wonderful rescue from Egypt and enslavement, they failed to trust God and were not permitted to enter the promised land (the ‘rest’). They wandered and perished in their wanderings.

Our author sees this rest as a ‘type’ for Jesus’ followers to be at rest in Him and with Him and to have ended all our religious labours and strivings to be okay with our Lord God. It’s another way of explaining the glorious New Covenant of Jesus

He warns :

See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb 3:12-13).

Turning away from the living God—it can happen to any of us. So the Lord in His ever-wondrous design provision, has planned for us to be a member of his body, that is, we must be joined to a living body.

Did you know that the word member in times past always meant just that—part of a  living human body? In fact this old meaning still survives in the word dismembered when we refer to someone having lost a limb.

Nowadays, the word member has changed so much that its use in biblical texts has become totally misunderstood and interpreted as having a name on a data base. That’s a deplorable loss. Membership in Christ’s Body is so much more than that.

For starters, it is the essential anti-fall-away remedy! Why it’s so important to be often in the company of cheerful brothers and sisters who look after one another—that’s true worship!  It’s God’s design to grow us. Encouragement!

This community, like all the apostolic groups we find in the NT scriptures, did not have a pastor or priest, no professional Christians over them, a practice out of whack with Jesus’ new wine, the New Covenant. No, they were ALL responsible for the watching-over, for encouraging one another and the growth of one another.

They were reminded by the writer, as brothers and sisters—this is a family, like a household—to have continual and consistent contact with one another.

This had to be done in such a way that each could be encouraged daily not to fall away, that they would not fail to enter God’s rest, that freedom of the Spirit, that transforming grace that ends all futile attempts to be holy and instead brings God’s ways supernaturally rolling into their/our hearts and minds.

In so many ways, the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ people can be blocked by clergy presence. The clergy/laity divide is an utterly foreign idea to these people of the apostolic period. It was a later addition and as a consequence, a subtraction, a declension, from God’s great design for our edification and growth into maturity.

We either continue in ignorance with traditions ignoring the word of God, or else we think we know better than God, we think our ways are more practical and efficient.

Shame!

When I was a practising architect, to arrive at a building site and discover that the builder had “improved” on my design to change room sizes or window positions, was insulting and discouraging. How much more insulting and contemptible it is to God to ignore His great design for our growth into maturity.

And we must stick with His design plan while there is still a time that can be called “today.” If we don’t, sin may fool us. When we first became his people, we were sure about Christ, so let’s hold tightly to our faith and God’s plans until the end and encourage one another (13-14).

Our author reminds his readers that it is by faith that God’s people enter this wonderful rest—a state of assurance and joy with total cessation of striving to please God by what we do.  Ceasing concern over whether we are good enough or that bad stuff, whatever that is, can keep us from the break.

Time to truly love God as he surely loves us. Here is another warning for them and for us too: Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.

This ‘striving’ is a striving of faith, not of our efforts or our good works. To fail to believe, to trust him, is to disobey. It is to hold his wonderful design, grace and love in contempt. We will not able to enter His rest because of unbelief.

The promise to enter the place of rest is still good (chapter 4:1-11), and we must constantly take care of one another that none miss out.  We have heard the message, just as those early Israeli pioneers under Moses in the desert did. But the many failed to believe what they heard, and the message did not do them any good.  Only people who have faith will enter the place of rest.

We should do our best to enter that place of rest, so that none of us will disobey and miss going there, as they did (11).

What God says is certainly alive and active! His word is actually sharper than any kind of top quality sword. In fact, it can cut separately through our spirits and our souls and separate our joints and marrow, until it exposes the desires and thoughts of our hearts, to use the author’s surgical metaphor (12-13).

So you see, we can’t hide anything from God! He sees through everything, and we will have to tell him the truth, own up completely, one day.

So, it’s today, not tomorrow, dear friends, ‘cos tomorrow will never come, eh?

The Letter to Hebrews : Amazing design

A few of us are meeting weekly, a group of God-botherers, to flesh out and discuss together the astounding and surprising Biblical record,  and we have leapt from the Kingdom period of 900bc into the New Testament’s Letter to the Hebrews.

This is a passionate letter from an unnamed real person or persons (we have noted all the “we”s in the text) to a real community of Jewish believers in Jesus probably written before 70ad.

Here we find much ‘high Christology’ in our author’s attempt to warn his readers against abandoning Christ and turning back to their previous practices.

There is an amazing thing in this letter: there is no suggestion of any ritual, ceremonial or cultic which might have replaced the Judaism they had left behind, which you will remember, was God’s design for his people and up to that time.

Rather they are called simply to consider Jesus. He is enough, superior, perfect. And called to care for each other.

Though the language and content is different to the apostle Paul’s correspondence to non-Jews, the practices that are encouraged are very similar.

So for example, Like the Pauline letters, this one is addressed not to some church leader but to the whole community. There is no hint here (or anywhere in the whole New Testament) of any clergy class and laity class.

It was critical for these Hebrews to leave behind their familiar, God-given, Old Covenant traditions and hierarchical practices which were now obsolete in Messiah Jesus. The author takes much effort to show convincingly that Jesus and his way, is far superior to Moses and the whole sacrificial and priestly system, now obselete.

Then HOW MUCH MORE critical is it, that we today leave behind all human ideas in our churches. God, in his infallible wisdom has revealed to us in the New Testament that He has a much better, a far superior design to human attempts to worship Him.

Humans have made pagan additions: professional Christians and their trappings, religious CEOs and middle managers, boring, ordered, liturgised, ritualistic ‘worship services’, entertainments, and all those traditions and habits inherited from our forebears, all those cultural substitutions for God’s wisdom that abound everywhere.

We all called to be counter-cultural because of what Jesus has accomplished and deposited for us in his chosen apostles and their writings. We must obey and trust and determine to make him Lord, not only in our personal walk with God, but when we come together, as a body. Otherwise we end up arrogantly determined to continue with human ideas.

Do you think we can improve on the Lord’s great design for corporate life as his people? How appalling. Is that true worship? true acknowledgment of God’s worth?

No. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is true worship.

Perhaps the greatest shame is the frequent way the Lord Jesus is kind of shut out of the meetings of his people and humans running the show, instead of Christ being the Head of his amazing design, his body, calling the shots, and the Holy Spirit prompting and inspiring the participants to share, edify, bring God’s word, heal, and care.

This wonderful design, which we see in this Letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul in his letters likens to the human body, with many members, each participating freely in the care and edification of one another and in the interests of God and the Body of Christ. Dare we continue to tempt the living God and His amazing grace by not honouring him in humble obedience?

Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as they did long ago in the desert wanderings.