Posted by: forfreedomalone | 22/06/2021

Joy in judging

Misunderstanding and being sloppy are very much human traits. I absolutely hate when people are sloppy with language and, as I age, even find myself correcting people on the television! So far, my success rate isn’t very good.

I hear people talking about “wetting your appetite” when the expression is to “whet your appetite”; whet being to put an edge on, as in sharpening a knife. I hear, “me either” instead of “me neither”; the rule is “either, or; neither, nor”. If you also do not want what is being suggested then it is “me neither”, or “neither do I want that”. Oh and then there is “I” when it should be “me”; the rule here is to remove the other person from the conversation and you’ll know which it is. “Bert and I went to the shops” (I went to the shops, is correct) “I went to the shops and Bert went with me” (You would not say, “Bert went with I”, so it is ‘me’). It results from poor teaching and a  lackadaisical attitude to language.

However, when it is done with Scripture I really have no time for it. I will spend as much time as I need to, to help people understand what is incorrect, but I will not accept it. Today it was brought to my attention that the Scripture says that if we do not judge, we will not be judged and this principle begins with God. I asked if what they were saying was that if I do not judge them, God will not judge me and was assured that was so and Luke 6:37 was wheeled out in support of the argument.

Luke 6:37 says, “Judge not and ye shall not be judged; condemn not and ye shall not be condemned; forgive and ye shall be forgiven”, so it would seem they are correct…………..until you put that verse back into its context, which is completed by the next verse………….”Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, shall MEN give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (emphasis mine)

Note, whatever you give out, it shall return to you, in greater measure by MEN. If you wonder why people are the way they are to you, good or bad, it is because of how you are to them. You reap what you sow, you are judged as you judge, you get what you give; what goes up must come done, it’s a principle of the world as God set it up.

 Paul tell us, in 1 Corinthians 11, that if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.”
When we judge others they will judge us in return; the thing we sowed we are now reaping, but when we are reaping it, it is intended to show us our own hearts, that we will repent, seek God to change us and stop what we are doing, so that, in the long run, we will be saved; or as Paul puts it “not be condemned with the world” Condemned does not mean, ‘judged’ it means ‘put to the death sentence’ .

I feel that Christians can often times be harder on themselves and other Christians than God would ever be. They lay down laws about how we should behave, think, speak etc and then beat the living daylights out of one another when we fail. They set up standards for others which they, themselves, could never attain. Let us be a little softer and realise that there is value in being judged and that value is for our eternal salvation.

We often misunderstand, or are sloppy with the standard we have set, when dealing with others and this sets us up to be judged ourselves. Recently I was told I repeated something too many times. I do not know what was in the mind or heart of the person who told me this, but what they didn’t seem to take into account was that I got no response from them to what I was saying; so I did not know they had understood or taken on board my point.  I find a lot of people do this; they hear you, get the point but do not respond, so you have no way of knowing you were heard (in both senses) and, therefore, you repeat what you just said. It was a minor point, but the funny thing was, they had harped on a point just days before.

Now will we both go to hell for belabouring something of no important? Of course not. Neither will we for pointing it out in the other; but the principle is there, you judge me for something and you had better look out because that same thing is in you and judgement for it, more than likely greater than you dealt out, (and not necessarily from the one you judged) will come swiftly upon your own head. BUT……….and this is the bit I love…..God has set this up  for your good!! He has set up a system whereby we WILL receive judgement in this world at the hands of man; but, if we heed it, it will save us from the condemnation in the end.

We will not be judged by God according to the judgement we mete out to our fellow man; God is not partial, nor unjust, we will ALL be judged with the same judgement; but those who have failed to produce the fruit of the life of the Spirit will not be saved along with those who have produced that fruit and so we are warned, judge yourself, so you are not condemned in the end.

Receive all judgement at the hands of man with joy, it is God’s way of showing you what you need to deal with, what is not in line with the image of his Son. Rejoice that you have the chance to go to him now and seek forgiveness and ask for the Holy Spirit who will change your heart. Count it ALL joy. When you get ready to judge another, take a moment to look inward and see that same trait in yourself. You are, in all probability, quite right in what you see in them, but the reason you are seeing it is because it is in you too; they are a mirror for your soul. Will you rejoice that you see what was previously hidden from you, or will you rail against them all the more to avoid seeing your own faults?

God’s ways are not our ways, but they are SO much higher, designed to take US so much higher that even when I do not like what he showing me, I know, I must count it ALL joy because the end is very much worth the journey.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 20/06/2021

Just to let you know.

For those who like to follow this, erratic, blog, you may be interested to go to my public page on Facebook, also called For Freedom Alone, where I post much more often.

https://www.facebook.com/ForFreedomAlone/


Posted by: forfreedomalone | 20/06/2021

T-shirts and truth

I saw a photo in a newspaper today of a T-shirt saying “Jesus is my saviour; X is my President” and it struck me that there was a very dangerous philosophy there. So much of what we say we just don’t think about and if we did we’d realise “That was a silly thing to say”, but, much we have thought of and have concluded that what we are saying is right.

“Jesus is my saviour” is a good statement, but is it true? Certainly Jesus is the only one through whom we can be saved, so that is true. He came to live, die and rise for that very reason, so it is true that he is the Saviour of the world. But is it true that because you believe in him he will save you? Not according to my Bible. My Bible says that even the demons believe and are terrified, but none of them will be saved. My Bible says that those who endure to the end will be saved; that those who submit to his Lordship, take up their own crosses and follow in his footsteps, bearing fruit, will be saved.

Salvation is a process. It begins with believing and moves on to taking up our cross (suffering in whatever way it is determined we should suffer in order to test us, to refine us, in what it is we believe, how we live, moulding us into his image). This will be a lifelong process, it is not something which is done in one difficult day. As we go through the refiner’s fire we are to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, we are to resolutely hold fast to our faith in the Father and his Son, no matter what we are going to endure. Then, when the fruit of our walk is examined, will we find if we have been saved. Jesus said that many would say to him, “Lord, Lord” but he will tell them to depart from him because he never knew them. There was never anything about them which HE would identify as being his.

“X is my President”. This statement indicates that the person wearing the T-shirt identifies with X. X is for them, X is the one they will support and, the indication is, they will support no matter what. Now we could see that as admirable; but, if we are children of the King, it is most certainly not and this is where a great deal unravels.

You see, for Jesus to ultimately be our Saviour, he has to first be our Lord. There used to be a saying, “If he is not Lord of all, he is not Lord at all” and there is a great deal of truth in that. Scripture tells us that God is the one who makes kings and removes them; Scripture tells us that God called evil and brutal men to lead armies against his own people to punish and discipline them. Scripture tells us that God is the Sovereign of the universe and he directs all affairs of man. This means that if he puts X in authority today, he is your President/Prime Minister/Monarch, but if tomorrow he puts Y in the same position, then Y is the President/Prime Minister/Monarch but your allegiance is always and only to be to God. If he puts in authority a despot, that is the one to whom you are to be obedient as the ruler of your people, but you are doing so in subjection to the King of kings, not to the one who rules on earth.

So when we take the sayings on the T-shirt, we have to conclude that although the wearer believes in Jesus, he is not submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, because he has pledged his allegiance to X. This is a very dangerous place to be; deceived into thinking you are an already saved child of God, while bowing the knee to a man. This is exactly what the Bible tells us will happen in the last days. It is what we are to look for as we look for the coming of Christ. Men will look to men and pledge their loyalty to them, even as they are saying they believe that Jesus is King. If we look at man, we will very quickly lose sight of Jesus. If we do not know that we are to go through troubles, trials and tests, we will seek a quick and easy way out and there will certainly be a man to offer us that. We will pick sides and give ourselves to party spirits, we will engage in division rather than unity, with our family in Christ, we are not sensitive to the change of direction the Lord makes, because we are bound to the one to whom we are pledged; we will totally lose our way.

Jesus IS the Saviour of the whole world, he earned that place and no one can take it from him; but, for Jesus to be YOUR Saviour he must first be your Lord and that means that you have no loyalty, no allegiance, no preferences other than to him. If you are pledging your allegiance to a party, a man, a piece of fabric, a principle or a philosophy, you are in direct opposition to the one you say is your Saviour, because he is no longer your Lord and when that is the case, his position of Saviour to you, personally, is in grave doubt. That can be a very sobering thought.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 12/04/2021

Is forgiveness unconditional?

I was asked, today, about God’s unconditional forgiveness, which is funny because I have been reading and writing on forgiveness for about a week. My questioner said that they were confused by several Scriptures they read which seemed to say that forgiveness by God was conditional, but, as we know that it not true; yet when they sinned and knew it they felt weighted down by guilt and shame. Why would they feel guilt over something already forgiven? They were completely confused.

The topic of unconditional forgiveness is one I hear a lot of preachers preaching on and a lot of listeners being totally confused over. So what does the Scripture say about forgiveness?

Jesus taught, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”
“For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you;

but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” At the end of a parable on the two servants who were in debt he said, “….in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart”

Every one of those Scriptures is quite clear; forgive or you will not be forgiven. So where does that leave the concept of unconditional forgiveness from God? I mean, what if we forget? Or didn’t realise there was something to forgive? Or what if the sin is so great we can’t deal with it? It’s all too much! How can God’s forgiveness of us be dependant upon us forgiving others?

I have heard this explained in many ways, usually as something alone the lines of, “Jesus was a prophet in his day, so he was teaching Old Testament/Covenant law to those under the law, but it’s all different now. Then they had to offer sacrifices to be forgiven, but now he is our sacrifice; he, as the Lamb of God, bore our sins away by his blood and we are forgiven, past, present and future, unconditionally” Well, that all sounds good enough, expect it is twaddle and shows a complete lack of understanding of sacrifice, the law, the role of the Passover lamb, the role of the scape goat and the one thing which is missing in order to obtain forgiveness.

Let’s look at them one at a time.
What Jesus was, Jesus is. He is God and God does not change, so if he was a prophet in 1 AD he is still a prophet today. When he taught, he did not teach the law as the Jews understood it, for if he had they would have loved him. He taught it as the Father understood it, on a MUCH higher plane; which is why they hated him. They thought THEY were the high and spiritual ones, but then he came along and said, “Your righteousness is as dung”.

Jesus understood the law and he understood that no one was forgiven their sins by offering any sacrifice. The Jews also understood this. The sacrifices were outward signs of inward change; they were offerings of thanks for God’s mercy and grace; they were not payment for purchased forgiveness. Jesus understood that the Passover lamb (The Lamb of God) did NOT take away sin; that job fell to the Scape Goat. Jesus is often referred to as the Lamb of God in a sort of short hand way; a way of identifying him as the one who, so to speak, opened the gate that all the other things he was to be subsequent to this would be ushered in. He was certainly the Lamb of God, but it was not the Passover Lamb which took away sin, it was the Scape Goat. Sin was not taken away by being washed with blood, it was taken away by being placed upon the head of an innocent substitute and removed to Azazel.

A favoured Scripture is, “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he made you alive together with him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” to indicate that ALL trespasses, past, present and future are forgiven; but it doesn’t say that and James would seem to be preaching to the unconverted if it does, because he said to confess your sin. As we know that the Scripture is NOT written for unbelievers we know that James was talking to believers, so something is wrong.

So what’s the missing link?
Simply this. Forgiveness is NOT unconditional. It is ENTIRELY conditional……..upon repentance. If forgiveness were unconditional than all men would be forgiven and if all are forgiven what need is there of the Gospel?

Those who teach that forgiveness is unconditional are simply getting confused with God’s love, which is absolutely unconditional. But they are not the same thing.

It was in his unconditional love that he sent his son, to died for us, to suffer the punishment we should suffer. This is “the Lord’s goat” of Yom Kippur. In his love, which WE were required to do not one thing to cause to be, he took away that sin on the head of his son, The Scape Goat. This is unconditional love.

However, if we are to be partakers of the forgiveness which is available as a result of the sacrifice and removal, we have to do one thing which we are commanded to do, over and over and over again, repent. There is no forgiveness without repentance. It is a theme throughout the Old Testament and the New. Repentance; the awareness of having sinned, admitting it (confessing) and setting our hearts to turn from it; is required on every occasion to obtain God’s forgiveness. When we do this, God forgives.

This is what Jesus is talking about in the above Scriptures. He is saying, “If you repent before your heavenly Father he will forgiven you; so do likewise to your bother”. In other words, if someone sins against you AND REPENTS, forgiven them because when you sinned against God AND REPENTED he forgave you. But if you refuse to forgive A REPENTANT sinner, God will, likewise, not forgive you. The key to forgiveness is repentance.

This is what the parable in Matthew 18 is about. The first man was forgiven his debt, but he then refused to forgive his brother. The first man then not only lost his forgiveness but he paid the price as well.

Our life of sin was forgiven when we came to God and repented, received his free gift of righteousness, by faith that Jesus had paid the price for us, and that God’s love for us would now lead us on the journey of growth until we too looked like Jesus. However, we have a life long fight with our old nature, constantly “reckoning it dead” (you do not “reckon” dead which is, actually, dead; you “reckon” death what is alive and kicking until it gives up and dies). In this fight we will sin over and over again and he who says he does not sin is a liar and the truth is not in him; BUT………….IF we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive our sin and restore us to righteousness; or “cleanse us from all unrighteousness”.

Our sins ‘past’ were forgiven when we came to Christ, our sins ‘present’ and ‘future’ will also be forgiven when we do the same thing we did then; confess and repent.  The constant need to repent keeps us humble before God, it keeps us aware of our need for him, as we are not forgiven all the sins we will yet commit; but will be if we repent of them. The concept of forgiveness for sins we have yet to commit will only lead to outstanding arrogance; as is clearly seen in many who believe this. But God has promised that IF we confess and repent he WILL forgive us; is it so very much to ask that we would do the same for others?

Forgiveness is NOT unconditional, it is totally conditional upon repentance; but God’s love is completely unconditional, it is in no way dependant upon anything we do. Muddling them up keeps Christians in sin, unable to be free of guilt and shame and never accessing God’s gift of forgiveness, because they have been told they already have it, in total contradiction to the word of God. Never fear the awareness in your spirit of sin in you, run at once to the Father and repent, THEN you will receive his forgiveness and you will be set free from guilt and shame. It is the teaching that we do not need to do anything to receive forgiveness which keeps us bound in the guilt and shame of sin, when repenting from our hearts will set us free.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 31/03/2021

Passover v Easter

Every Easter I am asked to explain again when Jesus died, so I have made up a graphic to help people understand it.

The dark bands are nights, the horizontal lines at the bottom indicate a Jewish day, from sunset to sunset. The Day of Preparation began at sunset on the 13th Nisan and the Passover meal could be eaten any time from then until sunset on the 14th. Jesus ate his just after sunset on the 13th. He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane, was arrested, tried, crucified and died on the 14th the Passover Day.

He was laid in the grave before sunset on the 14th because at that moment it became the 15th, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, an extra Shabbat and a day when they could not handle the dead. He was in the grave, just as he himself said he would be, for three days {from sunset on the 14th to sunset on the 15th (1 day); to sunset on the 16th (2 days) to sunset on the 17th (3 days)} and three nights {the period of darkness between the 14th and 15th (1 night), the 15th and 16th (2 nights) and the 16th and 17th (3 nights)}.

He rose on the 18th Nisan, the first day of the week, Sunday, but before the period of darkness we’d call the night of the 17th and various people came, at various points, and saw him. Easter is of no relevance to us; Jesus our Passover Lamb, was thoroughly Jewish and fulfilled the prophecies about Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits all in one go. First Fruits, being an agricultural festival, moved about a bit, depending on weather and crop growth, as any agricultural festival does, but on this year it fitted in perfectly. It fitted, because he was to fulfil it in that year, but there will be few, if any years before or since when it slotted in so perfectly.



Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/03/2021

Preparation.

I read a very interesting article, in a British newspaper, today, about an Indian gentleman,

Adar Poonawalla, whose father started a company making vaccines. The son had no real interest in vaccines, but he happened to listen to a talk by Bill Gates on the next pandemic and it so struck him that he realised that he had to be ready for it when it came. He knew that Mr Gates was correct and with the ability he had to produce vaccines he could do a lot of good if he were ready.

He increased production, invested in the company to expand it and modernise it. He was going to be ready.

Then SARS-cov-2 struck and he knew this is what Bill Gates had been talking about. Of course, neither Mr Gates nor Mr Poonawalla actually knew what precisely was coming, but they knew there would be something, because pandemic has followed pandemic since the earth was formed. We know they happen about once in 100 year, roughly, because history tell us this and we also know that man does not learn from history, because history also tells us that.

Right at the beginning of the pandemic Mr Poonawalla started to work with a research facility to look for a vaccine. He knew this was risky, because the whole thing could have blown over in weeks and he would have been left out of pocket; but he believed that even if that were the case there would be another pandemic in the future and what he did now would set him up to dealt with it when it came.

The father’s business sense and the son’s foresight have now created the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer of all vaccines. Anyone who needs a vaccine for any communicable disease anywhere in the world, will most likely get it for his company. They understood the need, they prepared for the disaster and they are saving lives today.

Around the world the foolish were ignoring the lessons of history, they were not prepared, they were ridiculing Mr Gates and calling him a scaremonger, they were not even interested in thinking about what would, one day, come. Today was all that mattered. Lazy and foolish, they wanted to look good today and leave the disaster to someone else to have to actually deal with. They made no preparation, or at least the minimal amount to get by, and now  they are responsible for a terrible price many are paying.

Does this remind you of anything in the Bible?

It reminds me of the parable of the Bridesmaids. The wise were prepared, they had their lamps with them, they were filled with oil, the wicks were trimmed and they had extra oil as a back up. They were watching and waiting; they knew he was coming, but they didn’t know when, so they didn’t allow themselves to be lazy and distracted. The foolish bridesmaids were lazy, they did not have oil enough to see out the wait; they were not prepared, they were dozy and irresponsible.

When the Groom came, they paid a heavy price for their lackadaisical attitude. They were refused entry to the Wedding Feast. This Feast is not a hypothetical event, but an event which will take place at the end of time; the Feast to celebrate the union of the Groom to his Bride is the day to which all followers of Christ should be looking forward and for which they should be preparing. If you read in Revelation about this Feast you will note that there is the Bride and there are the Guests. You cannot be a guest at your own wedding, so these guests are NOT the Bride, but they are also NOT the foolish bridesmaids, because they were denied entry.

In 2 Thessalonians 3 Paul talks about the lazy and how, if they will not work they should, they should not eat. He says that he has heard there are some among the Thessalonians who are ill disciplined and as a result of not taking themselves in hand and working as they should; they have become busybodies, involving themselves in gossip and worthless pursuits. This censure of Paul’s ties in directly to the parable of the bridesmaids. If we do not work as we should, in the work of God, shunning worthless time-wasting pursuits, we will find that we are not able to eat of the Bread of Heaven.

The writer to the Hebrews said that so long as it is ‘today’ we need to encourage one another to keep our focus on where we are going and the work God has given up to do because otherwise our hearts can “become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” and we become rebellious. Those who rebel do not enter his rest.

Fear of a future pandemic did not deter Mr Poonawalla from preparing. He was not foolish enough to think that if he ignored it, it wouldn’t happen, nor that he could prepare ‘later’. He acted at once. He could have been decades too soon, but he would still have been ready. He is already preparing for the next (and there is certainly be a next unless God destroyed the world first) and when it comes he will be ready.

When the day to which we are supposed to be looking forward comes will we be as ready as Mr Poonawalla? Or we will we be like so many, taken aback and caught on the hop, because there didn’t seem to be a rush and we just wanted to finish reading that foolish, gossiping, rubbish we had our noses in first?
 

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/11/2020

And they shall know you by your symbols.

I was asked today about what one should be doing now that it is the season to decorate homes with all sorts of things. As a Scot this was entirely new and quite peculiar to me when I first came to north America. We didn’t recognise Christmas as anything other than a pagan festival celebrated by the English until the late 1950s; after that you put up a tree, in your home, if you wanted to and municipal lights were hung in the major streets of cities, but that was it. A united effort by an entire nation to drain the National Grid was quite beyond my experience. Now it seems that Santa, reindeer, snowmen, elves and who knows what else is the order of the day and (and this is where the question was leading) in some places nativity scenes are frowned upon or outlawed. It is a source of great amusement to me that people who say they worship the only God, should have appropriated a pagan feast day, overlaid it with religious images, totally against the instruction of the God they say they worship; most of which are inaccurate; then claim it to be the birthday of our Lord and Saviour (without any evidence whatsoever or instruction from God so to do) and are then prepared to defend it against the pagans whose day it was in the first place.

To take time to recall Jesus’ incarnation and to be grateful for his sacrifice in becoming a man, never mind in dying on the Cross, is a good thing to do; but there is nothing Scriptural which tells us to do this, when to do this, or how to do this. Creating what Christmas has become is certainly not within the parameters of any Feast Day God ordained. Putting up religious symbols does not make a day of craven excess into a day of heartfelt thanksgiving.

The question was about a person who wanted to put up a nativity scene, a Cross or a picture of Jesus to show her neighbours that she is a Christian and will not be cowed by the secular attitudes to Christmas. Just like the Bible says, “And they shall know you by your symbols”. If only there were more nativity scenes in the front gardens of the world the message of the love and mercy of God would reach around the globe.

Putting up a nativity scene or a Cross, or “a picture of Jesus” is to prove what exactly and how should it be done? Now a nativity scene one can sort of work out if one gets the right history books and studies how animals were kept in the Middle East 2,000 years ago. It is possible, but I have never seen anything closely approximating a proper nativity scene anywhere but the Middle East, but it is, theoretically, possible. But where is one going to get a  picture of Jesus? In what deep chamber of historical material will one search for that? Of course, one can’t; so the picture will be as inaccurate as the scene. The ‘Jesus’ will be an artist’s impression of a white, western, long, blonde haired male, who may possibly have brown hair just for a change. He will be fairly handsome and will draw you to him with his soft eyes and his general comely appearance. A man greatly loved by all. This will be the Jesus displayed on the lawn; but this Jesus is a false Jesus.

The Scripture says that Jesus was Jewish. Out with the long hair then, “Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?” Out with the fair skin too as the Jews of Jesus day were from the Middle East exclusively, where the natural skin tone is more olive than mozzarella. Genetics dictates face shape as well as skin tone and so the face shape attributed to Jesus, in the vast bulk of images of him, is totally wrong; as are his pale blue eyes, they would have been, more likely, green or brown. We’ll have to censure his good looks too; shame though that is, if we are going to be accurate we need to stick with what the Scripture tells us and, while we are at it, get rid of the impression that he was attractive and loved by all. “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground, he hath no form nor comeliness and when we shall see him there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief and we hid, as it were, our faces from him; he was despised and we esteemed him not.” In fact, we should just ditch the whole idea as there is no image of Jesus which would come close to what he did actually look like and that is for a very good reason.

Man has a natural tendency to make images to worship. This is why we do not know on what day Jesus was born; why we do not know where he died, or was buried. If you have ever been to Israel you will know that just about everywhere that something important was supposed to have happened in Jesus’ life, Helena, mother of Constantine, went about erecting churches. They are monuments to man’s desire to have idols to worship.

The commandment not to make idols, and its reiteration, is not to make “idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image”.  This thing you are not to make is not to be of “any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth”. An idol is a thing, a carved wooden thing, or a carved stone thing, or a painted thing which is to be the focus of worship. They are created for the express purpose of worshipping them. A “standing image” is the same thing but bigger. In the days when this was written they were called Asherah poles. I have seen the same thing in India and I think it is associated with Shiva, Agni and Shakti. They are, to all intents and purposes, enormous phallic symbols. This is what you are not to make or have. Later there were other gods included in the cult of fertility;  Legba in Africa; Venus, Bacchus, Priapus, Vesta, Venus, Aphrodite, Isis and Dionysus in Greece and Rome; the practices were known in Cappadocia, Antioch, Pamplos, Cyprus, and Bylos, to name but a few (which was a recurring problem for Paul) but the concept is contained, quite simply, in the Asherah poles. We are not to make idols of anything on earth, in the sea or under the earth. What is “under the earth”? The underworld. That is the place where you imagine gods and demons live. Again, there can be no better (or worse) places on earth than India and Indonesia to be to understand what that means.

In that case, some would argue, you cannot have any images of anything at all. No paintings, no photographs, no images at all. So IS that the same thing as having a painting of a sea scape? Or a picture of birds, or your cat? No. Absolutely NO. The reason for the former command is your intent to worship it; the reason you can have the latter is because there is no such intent. Everything in the Bible is about the heart. However, there is a grey area and that is where we have an image which we start to worship. This is where the nativity scene, picture of Jesus and the Cross come in. They have all become idols in the church; they have all become the focal points of devotion, to the point that people are willing to fight to defend them. They have all become idols and they are standing between God and his people.

The Scripture does not say, as you all know, that “They will know us by our symbols” it says, “They will know us by our love”. The day is coming when they will not be able to tell who we are from all the stuff we stick on cars, set up in our gardens and wear around our necks, because all that will be taken away and all the church will be left with is love, or, in most cases, the lack thereof. If Christians were doing what we were told we would be totally unidentifiable in this world OTHER than by our love for one another. As it is we are identified by a rebellious, arrogant attitude to the word of God and the laws of our lands. We see nothing in the modern Christian attitudes of the person or life of the one we say we follow. He never stuck his Sonship in the face of anyone, he never demanded his rights on anything, he never stood up and protested the rule of despotic foreigners, in fact, he said to Peter when he sent him to pay the Temple tax that he was doing it so as not to offend them. The church today is as far from conformed to the image of the one who started it as it is possible to imagine. The conforming has been to divisive and false images created by man of that he thinks a Christian should be and it has only lead the church to be a divisive institution in the world.

If you really care about what it is to be a Christian let it be that the word is fulfilled in you, that they shall know  you by your love for the brothers and sisters and forget the symbols altogether.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 27/10/2020

Do you believe in God?

There are several profoundly deep questions which I never hear discussed in church circles and which are, I believe, so fundamental to faith and the walk of faith that I cannot see how anyone gets out of the starting gate if they have not been considered.

I have often mentioned the sovereignty of God as one such. If we do not believe in the complete, total and all reaching sovereignty of God we are set on course to arrive at the wrong destination. We are sailors with a southern compass in the northern hemisphere. We have had a compass, but it does not work.

Another I would like you to consider is what it means to say, “I believe in God”. This question is rolled out and answered very quickly in Christian circles. It is the badge of membership, the secret handshake, the certificate of belonging to that greater group called ‘believers’;  those who say “I believe in God” or equally “I believe in Jesus”. But does anyone ever give thought to what they are saying? Do you mean, “I was brought up to acknowledge the potential existence of a greater power then me”? Do you mean, “I have come to conclude that there is a greater power then me”? Do you means, “I am willing to acknowledge that the greater power which is undeniable has some authority over me”? Or do you mean that “This greater power, which has undeniable authority over me, has the undeniable right to put me to death so that he may live through me and I will cooperate with that on a breath by breath basis, until it is not I who live but Christ who lives in me”?

You see, if it not the latter, you do not believe in God. Believing, like shama, is a multifaceted concept. It does not consist of making mental ascent to something, but in applying your whole life to be aligned with that which you say you believe. It is, of course, not an instant alignment, nor indeed, an instant metamorphosis; it is inch by inch, but it must be inch by inch or it is not at all. To claim belief in God and to then stay where you were, as unlike him as it is humanly possible to be, is not belief at all. To claim belief in God and to then develop in any direction but in his direct image is not belief either.

If we dare claim we believe then we must consider the implications of that claim; we must be willing to lose all to make it and we must be ready to die for it, because nothing sort of that will achieve the fulfilment of it. We must see the road ahead as, as lonely and hard as it is, we must see the bleak, struggle to let go of our lives and die at the hand of God before we can truly say, “Yes, I believe”. Only when we have seen what lies ahead and accepted it anyway will the Holy Spirit come alongside us and help us go through with out commitment to our belief. He will not, as so many seem to believe; or at least desire; come alongside and rescue us from that walk, nor make it a jolly holiday outing, nor carry our responsibilities and burdens for us. He will walk with us, encouraging us on, on our walk to death; lifting us up when we fall; empowering us when we are weak and calling us back when we stray, because his greatest goal for us is death. It is only through the death he has in store for us that we can fully, freely, truly live. There is no life this side of that death and he will never fail in his duty to get us to that death, that we might live.

Do you believe in God?

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 07/10/2020

Check the words.

A recent teaching opportunity brought home, yet again, to me and those with whom I am privileged to interact, that reading the Scripture CAREFULLY and checking what the original language says is vitally important if you are going to use the word as a guide.You wouldn’t use a map with no concept of N,S,E, or W, so why read the Scripture with next to no concept of what words mean?

The Scripture in question on this occasion was John 1:12, which says, in the KJV, “But as many as received him, to them gave the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”. The RSV and the WEB both say “power” and every other English translation says, “right”, that, therefore, means that the majority of readers will have been told they have the right to be the sons of God and it is no wonder, therefore, that this is what the majority of people believe. They received Jesus and, at once, they have the right to be sons of God.

However, if we look at the original language we see that the word here is, “exousia” which means, “the power of choice”. It means neither that you have some hidden power which makes you a son of God, nor that you have any God given right to be a son of God, it means that you now have the ability to CHOOSE to be a son of God. That, my friends, is a whole different kettle of fish!

Having believed on the name of Jesus you now have the ability to do what you could not do before and that is walk the narrow path with Jesus; being refined by the Holy Spirit; moulded and shaped by daily self sacrifice into the image of God’s dearly beloved son. This is neither a one time power given to you nor a right to have and possess, it is the ability to choose, daily, to be more like Jesus by the working of the Holy Spirit within you.

If you think it is done and dusted, you are sorely mistaken. Keep walking, keep choosing, because the ability to so choose is something you do indeed now possess.

Posted by: forfreedomalone | 05/10/2020

Evidence of being Spirit filled.

The subject of “filled with the Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues” has recently come up and I think it is worth addressing here. This is a common statement and belief, based upon Acts 2. It is quoted that the disciples numbering 120 were in the upper room, where the Last Supper took place, when the Spirit came upon them like a mighty, rushing wind and they all spoke in unknown tongues in which they then preached the Gospel. It is, therefore, believed that the evidence of being Spirit filled is that you will speak in tongues.

Let’s look at the evidence.

After the resurrection Jesus appeared to his disciples and, “Commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father”. He commanded that they remain in Jerusalem; not in a particular room. There is no mention of THE upper room where they ate together at Passover. Later it tells us, “When the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”. Where was that place? It does not tell us specifically. It was indeed a room somewhere in Jerusalem and it is even possible that it was the room where they gathered on Passover, but it does not expressly say so and it does not matter. So we cannot start building a house on that foundation.

Next it tells us, “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled all the house where they were sitting. There appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire and it sat upon each of them.” Again it is important to read what it actually says, not what we think it says or have been told it says. It says there was “a rushing mighty wind”, but it does not say that wind was the Spirit. It is entirely possible that it was, but that  is not stated and reading into a text things it does not say is a very dangerous habit to develop.

So we have the 120 gathered in a house in Jerusalem when a rushing, mighty wind is heard, cloven tongues of fire are seen and then they all speak in unknown tongues preaching the Gospel? Well, IS that what it says?
The very next verse, of Acts 2, tells us, “They were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance”. It says “other tongues”; it does NOT say “unknown tongues” and this is clearly borne out by the fact that those who were gathered in Jerusalem heard them and understood them. “There were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.” Did you get that? “Every man heard them speak in his own language”.

They were clearly understood, because what they were speaking was other languages, other tongues of the men gathered in Jerusalem. These people were gathered for Shavuot, as required, and they would have come for near and far, they all spoke Aramaic, but they also each spoke their own language and this is what they were hearing now. I have friends whose first language is Afrikaans, Hindi, Bahasa Indonesia and French but they all speak English and that is the language in which we communicate. However, when I first met my Indonesian friend and spoke to him in Bahasa he nearly fell over. Not many people speak any Bahasa who are not Indonesian or Dutch, so he was very surprised that I could say anything in his own tongue. This is what happened in Acts 2. Many Jews, from all over the known world, were gathered in Jerusalem and were communicating with one another in Aramaic when they heard that there was a group of men who seemed to be speaking all sorts of languages. “They were all amazed and marvelled, saying one to another, “Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans? How hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and the dwellers in Mesopotamia and in Judaea and Cappadocia in Pontus and Asia, Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt and in the parts of Libya about Cyrene and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God”.” They were hearing more than a dozen different languages being spoke and what they heard was the 120 ” speak(ing) in our tongues the wonderful works of God”. The group were not preaching the Gospel, they were praising God.

So where does the idea come from that these were unknown tongues?
Well, that is from Paul. He said, in 1 Corinthians, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels”, then, in the next chapter he talks about “unknown tongues” and ever since people have had the idea that there are unknown tongues, which are actually the language of angels and that is what they are speaking when they receive the gift of tongues. Let’s look again at this carefully.

Paul is writing a long and complex piece on the gifts of the Spirit and how they are to be used and he says, “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit”. Many gift, one Spirit. He then lists the gifts and indicates how they are given to different people for different purposes, but they all come from the one Spirit. However, there has been infighting about why one had this and the other had that, so he goes not to say; “Are all apostles? All prophets? All teachers?  All workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” Clearly the answer is No. Then he says by all means desire the gifts listed here, but, “……yet shew I unto you a more excellent way”.

So some have one gift and some another, but there is a better way than these gifts. What could that be!? What could be better than speaking in tongues or healing the sick or raising the dead or moving mountains? At the beginning of chapter 13 Paul tells us.

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

This piece of writing is called hyperbole (hi-per-bowl-y). Hyperbole is figures of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. We might say “I could eat a horse I am so hungry”. We by no means mean that, we are just expressing the depth of our hunger in hyperbole. I’ll rewrite that quote to show you the hyperbole.
“Though I speak with the tongues of men AND OF angels and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. Though I have the gift of prophecy and understand ALL mysteries and ALL knowledge and though I have ALL faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. Though I bestow ALL my goods to feed the poor and though I give MY BODY TO BE BURNED, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing”.
Paul is saying that if he had every last gift of God and had it to the Nth degree he would be as nothing unless he had “charity”.  He is not saying that he has all these gifts; has all these gifts to that degree; nor even that anyone can have them, he is trying to get them to see that should you own the whole world and not have charity you are nothing.

So what is “charity”?
Charity is the word in English which the King James VI & I translators used to translate the Greek word agape. They had no word in English which would suffice and rejected ‘love’ because it was already used to express sentiments they felt were unbecoming of this setting and not accurate. They recognised that in the concept of love is an element of self-centeredness. Most times when we speak of love we are really speaking of how WE feel or how a certain person, thing or experience affects US. They wanted to convey, in their choice of word, the concept of giving, not receiving, because that is the focus of agape and so they  chose ‘charity’. Agape is a self sacrificial love, it give with no thought of return. It suffers long (not for a long time and then can’t take it any more, but eternally); it does not envy, or does it push itself forward, it never looks for acclaim, reward, praise or even notice; it has not one shred of arrogance about it. Agape is demure and constrained; it is not easily provoked; it at not time ever takes pleasure; in any shape or form; in that which is evil, but always take pleasure in the truth. It never focuses itself on ungodly things, but on God; it is full of the ability to bear suffering, it holds fast to faith and endurance, it never loses hope and it never, ever fails.

This, says Paul, is the more excellent way and this is what counts. Even if I had every language, known and unknown; every ability of God and even more besides, but I do not have agape, I am nothing. Nothing whatsoever, I am an empty pot banging on ground, making a din, but meaning absolutely nothing. Shakespeare borrowed this and put it in the mouth of MacBeth; one of Scotland’s greatest and longest reigning kings, slandered by that same Shakespeare; when he said, in Act 5 Scene 5 at a moment of utter despair,

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

Your life, my life, anyone’s life is, “….a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” if it does not feed on, pour out and show only agape.

THIS says Paul is the evidence of being filled with the Spirit. You may well speak in languages which you do not understand (which is what he means in chapter 14; not that they are unknown to anyone, but to you) until you turn blue; you may rearrange the whole geography of the earth; you may raise every person who have ever lived and died; you may heal every sick person on the entire globe, but if there is the slightest gain for you, you are nothing. It is only  when you have true agape, utterly self SACRIFICING love for God and others that you have anything at all.

Next time someone tells you that the evidence of being Spirit filled is speaking in tongues, remember, the Scripture does not teach that. The whole point of speaking in tongues to show you have the Spirit is entirely at dissonance with what the Scripture says is the only proof of being Spirit filled, a life overflowing with agape love. 
 

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