Archive for January, 2007

The Holy Spirit and Christians

Sunday, January 28th, 2007

Just believing you are a Christian and 'saved' does not guarantee that this is so. While it is true that a man is saved by his faith in Christ, presuming you have faith and actually having faith are two distinct things.

On the night that Jesus was betrayed His disciples were roundly declaring that they had faith, even unto death. The intensity of their belief was not lacking, they believed with a passion, but it was revealed, before the evening was finished, that their faith was lacking. They had not arrived at the depth of faith that they had imagined. We likewise can declare to all the world that we are Christian, even unto death, but come the crunch we too are found lacking. Faith means nothing until it is put to the test. It is by being put to the test, and trusting God through our afflictions, that we grow in faith, for God never disappoints. He who trusts in God will be rewarded, for He is faithful.

Jesus knowing all things had been given into His hand, that His time had come to fulfill all that He had promised, declared that it was to His disciples advantage that He left them, for He was going to the Father and He would send to them the comforter, the Holy Spirit of promise, to strengthen them, to lead them into all truth, to stand beside them, to disclose to them what was Christ's. The Spirit was He who fulfilled Christ's words “that My Father and I will make our abode with you and will sup with you”. This promise was to them and to us, that we would not be left as orphans, but that He would come to us, and remain with us until the end of the ages.

The giving and receiving of the Spirit was experiential. Jesus opened up the way for us to enter into the very presence of the Father. Those who received the Spirit were knowing the risen Christ where He dwelt in the very presence of God in the 'Heavenlies'. The Father and the Son had made their abode with us. We were able to dwell, to live with Him, in spirit and in truth, which was the only way to worship the Father.

Death is the fruit of sin. In other words separation from God has its reward. Those who are alive from the dead are those who within themselves have the witness of the truth of eternal life. They are already alive from the dead and bear witness to the truth of Christ's living and dying and resurrection. For within themselves they are living the fruits of His ministry, they are being lead by Him who has overcome death and lives at the right hand of the Father. They are bearing witness to His judgment against sin, to His being righteous before God and to the power of His resurrection, for they are knowing Him, and receiving from Him the power of life that the world does not know, and cannot know, unless they also turn from their sins and taste the fruit's of His heavenly love.

This was why it was to our advantage that the Lord left and went to the Father, that we might receive the Spirit of truth, that we might live in the secure knowledge of His heavenly kingdom and the power of his love, that we might stand with strength in the time of our testing and not be scattered, as were His disciples, but prevail as they also prevailed and bore witness to the power and truth of the living Son in their lives after Pentecost.

If you do not have the Spirit you cannot understand the scripture because the Spirit is the power by which we know God. No one knows the thoughts of a man but the spirit of a man, and through the Spirit we know the thoughts, the very, heart of God. When you know the Father, through the Son, through His Spirit, you cannot be mistaken as to the intent of His words in scripture, for if you live to Him your very being is enlightened, by the knowledge of His presence, to the wisdom that is written which bears witness to His doings in dealing with the lives of men. I understand because I know, because His Spirit bears witness with my spirit and thus I am lead into all truth.

We can only receive His Spirit if we are truly dead to our sin, if we truly have no alternative within ourselves but Him, if we love Him and seek Him and delight in Him and desire with all of our being to do His will. If this is your desire then you will know the Holy Spirit for He will be in you and with you and for you and you will live, for death will no longer rule you. This is the promise and the hope and the need for us all.

For God did not declare to us that which we cannot know, but rather that which we can. He did not speak the promise of the Gospel for a time to come, but here and now. Today is the day of your visitation! If the hope is not just for the fullness of time but for the here and now then we must know within ourselves the times of refreshing, the seed of promise, the good deposit, who will lead and guide us in all of our lives while we remain here, for the Lord's sake, to proclaim the glad tidings, and He will remain with us, the guarantee and the proof of our faith until our life's work is fulfilled and we join together with all the saints in the awesome fullness of the divine presence, the full gathering of the harvest, which is the glorious testimony of the work of Christ and the power of His triumph and the glory of His love.

If this is yours and increasing, then you will know within yourself the truth of these words and your peace will remain and nothing will be an occasion for stumbling for you.

Salvation not Substitution

Wednesday, January 17th, 2007

 

The Law states that there must be death for sin.  In some cases that meant literal death, that is stoning to death the offender, but otherwise it necessitated a sacrificial offering for sin – the death of an animal, by the shedding of blood, as an offering on behalf of the penitent.  It can be seen then, under Law, that while there is no mercy for some sin, there is mercy for other sin, but only through the shedding of blood in an intermediary offering.  While this gives us insight, in relation to Christ and His offering for sin, it also poses problems in the hearts of some legal-minded men.

 

The problem with all of our attempts at understanding what all this signifies, and how we are freed from guilt, and the judgement that is reserved for sin, is that we can only understand what we are capable of knowing.  In other words it is only to the extent that Christ’s sacrifice for sin has been efficacious in our lives that we are capable of formulating a sound understanding of doctrine.

 

The most brilliant legal mind speaks with the wisdom of man in his attempt to unravel the mystery of the death of Jesus for sin.  With all the diligence of the forensic expert he analyses scripture not for the sake of his personal perfection, but for the sake of his profession, as a man of wisdom in relation to scripture.  As we know the wisdom of man is foolishness to God we would do well if our approach to this subject was based on what we know rather than what we think we know.

 

It is only to the degree that we have lain our sins upon the Lord, and been set free from their power and are tasting the good fruits of His life, that we are capable of writing what we know, rather than what we deduce and presume to know.  The fact that these scriptures were written with an assurance that we as a body have failed to emulate gives us reason to pursue the purpose of their instruction, which is that we walk in the image of Christ. 

 

In what way does a technical argument on the substitutionary theory of Christ’s sacrifice for sin build me up into His likeness?  In what way does it enable me to be set free from the sin that clings so closely?  The entire argument of substitutionary sacrifice does nothing for the spiritual state of man; rather it is an attempt to salve a troubled conscience, superficially, that all is well.  By this I mean because a man believes he has peace with God through the all sufficiency of Christ’s sacrifice he builds ramparts to the walls of his belief to fortify and strengthen his position.  If any man challenges his belief he bristles, not from concern for the other man, but from fear lest his own position is undermined.  Hence we have seen through history the persecution and even the burning of both saints and heretics.  A man who has real peace cannot lose that peace; he does not fear argument, or even the executioner, for the very ground of his being is peace.

 

Now in what practical, real way is Jesus death a substitute for my death?  As far as I am aware I will die!  If you claim that what is meant is merely a forgoing of punishment for sin, in other words that Jesus was punished vicariously for my sins and therefore come the day of Judgement I will claim the “Jesus died for me” defence and I will go free – this is unproven and unknown.  In other words it is a claim based not on what you know but rather on what you think you know to be true.  It is a faith built upon the logic of man rather than the knowledge of God.  It is a faith that can bring no experiential assurance for it has yet to be tested.

 

The faith I need, and which I seek, is the faith in a God who can free me from the burden and power of sin today.  I do not require a substitutionary death for my sins against some future judgement, but rather beholding the crucified Lord, I want to enter into, to share with Him, His death to sin.  I seek to be crucified with Him, to join with Him in His death, that I might enter into His life.  When one surveys every other alternative how is it possible to be anything other than ashamed to select a path other than the path to life?  In other words I seek salvation from my sins rather than a substitution for my punishment.

 

It is mildly amusing to read men’s accounts of how a just and loving God must mete out punishment to accomplish a perfect satisfaction to His righteous demands for Justice.  For to a God who says, “If I was hungry would I tell you?” I would add, “If I was satisfied would you understand?”  Surely God does not delight in sacrifice but rather in obedience.  Surely the sacrifice that finds favour in God’s sight is the one that pleases His heart.  In other words God is not requiring an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but love from a joyful satisfied heart.  When a lamb was offered up for sacrifice it wasn’t the death of the lamb that satisfied the Lord but the obedience of the man who had come to his senses.  If the sacrifice was offered aright it was a fragrant aroma to God, if it wasn’t, He said, “I have no regard for your sacrifices.”  There was nothing legalistic in the transaction.  Those who seek it do not understand the Law.

 

Likewise to say that Jesus was punished to appease God’s anger against us to satisfy the demands of the Law of a righteous God is puerile.  It presents God as a tragic, pathetic figure in need of our pity rather than our reverence.  It is an understanding borne not from a fount of love following spiritual renewal, but from a mind of legalism, a way of thought which Christ died to set us free.  We do not need to be set free from God’s wrath so much as from the power of sin.  For it is the power of sin that is the object of His wrath.

 

Jesus entered the world, the domain of sin, to affect a rescue.  He gave as a sign the sign of Jonah – Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the whale until the depths released him.  “If you wish to plunder the strong man’s goods you must first bind the strong man.”  Jesus died to sin, to render it powerless, so that through Him we might be set free from its clutches.  It is not sufficient to say “Jesus died for sin therefore I am free” for we must join with Him in His death.  What else does it mean when Jesus says, “Unless you pick up your cross and follow you cannot be my disciple.”  When we are baptised into Christ we are baptised into His death.  When the chosen people were baptised into Moses in the Red Sea they still had to actually get to the other side, otherwise Pharaoh’s army would have taken them all back as slaves.  If we are still slaves of sin then Christ still stands before us as the way of life, there is still a sea to cross before we are free from our enemy.

 

God’s wrath is reserved for those in whom there is no longer hope of correction.  The sacrifice of Christ was to bring us to our senses, to have us face the horror of the spirit in which we have lived our lives.  He became a curse because we placed our curse upon Him.  We cursed God in Him and delivered Him up to death.  In forbearance, in mercy, He did not respond.  He did not die as a substitute for our sins but as the result of our sins. –“Against You only have we sinned!”  His death was the forbearance of God to pass over the sins previously committed.  Because God chose not to pour out His wrath against those who acted against His Son in hope that they face their sin does not mean that they have escaped His wrath.  It means that if they came to their senses in real repentance, horrified and hating their lives, He was willing to forgive, but if not, then their sins and hence their punishment remained.  If Christ was showing the forbearance and mercy of God how was God’s wrath resting on Him?