“Few are chosen”: Facing Hope Deferred

Deferring Hope Deferred

In the course of life, we often have no other option than to live it.  The manner in which we individually choose to live it can be vastly different; a process which constitutes most of the decisions we make.  However, aside from suicide, our lungs take in air without permission, and require us to do something with it.  Life can be hard enough on its own, without the added question of a higher power.  The eternity written within the heart of man, like much of the rest of the prerequisites of existence, forces us to come to some sort of conclusion.  Even deciding to believe there is no God is a belief structure, and drastically affects the way we live our lives.  We are, whether we like it or not, the product of much that is not at all within our control.

For the sake of simplifying an incredibly broad philosophical subject, I am only going to deal with the life lived by those who ascribe to a Christian faith.  In reality, the core of this post is concerning what we do with promises unfulfilled; specifically the promises of God that are unique to us.  I want to address the ways we use religious thinking to anesthetize our hearts in the pain of the promise unfulfilled.  However, to understand the manner in which we wield doctrine as a shield (and even as our God), we must first understand why.  Why does the alcoholic go to the drink?  Why does the junkie go to the needle?  Why does the religious man go to his own steadfastness in discipline?  The reason humanity dresses our pain the way we do is relatively simple conceptually;  it is digesting its implication and deciding to think differently that is the true challenge.

    “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”  – Proverbs 13:12

Most of the more menial Christian “doctrine” was unfortunately not born purely of the exegesis of scripture, nor of divine revelation.  It was born primarily of circumstance.  When the church is powerless to offer a person a life better than the horror they may be living; powerless to deliver their hearts from torment and their bodies from pain, what do they tell the person who sees suicide as the only legitimate escape?  They tell them they will go to hell if they kill themselves.  Some of us were even taught that growing up.  But, news flash…its not in the bible, nor is it in the heart of God.  It was an alternative to control humanity; a perimeter put in place to ensure people keep coming to the religious institution to hopefully find SOME sort of relief.  It, like much of our preemptive/”sin”-preventative teaching, was most sincerely a response to fear that offers no hope or healing.  Now, I am certainly not condoning that people kill themselves…but I wholeheartedly disagree that telling a suicidal person God will punish them forever for ending the pain they cannot see beyond is true, or Godly.

The religious spirit has sought to make certain that we keep coming back to its influence and teaching to survive.  My brother says it like this: “Religion needs return, and paying customers…just like any other business built on need.”  Religion offers no solution, and often times condemns humanity for engaging in anything that may relieve the pain of the moment, utilizing the perversion of truth in scripture to keep us hurting.  It is the ugliest and most insidious of all the cruelty of hell, because it masquerades as the requirement of God, and distorts our ability to truly know the God of love.  It wields fear and control with excellence, becoming more and more subtle as the church gains more and more clarity on the heart of our Father.  The good news is, it can’t keep it up forever.  God wins in the end, and He WILL bring His body into the revelation of true freedom; into the unadulterated knowledge of Grace.

The sad reality of the “church”, and the majority of our relationship with our Father, is that we do not truly have a relationship.  Even in prophetic streams, and the more “enlightened” portions of the body who are seeing miracles and excellence in their corporate pursuit, we tend more toward an “acquaintance” with God than a sincere relationship.  That is a relatively presumptuous statement on its face, but allow me to put into words why I believe this.  Please do not misunderstand me…I, in no way, exclude myself from those who I mention.  I am in greater need of deeper understanding than most, and that is precisely why I am searching out the questions I address in this blog.

In March of this year, I married my best friend.  Our first year of marriage has been arduous to say the least, but she has been more than a conqueror and my abundant help in all of it.  I want to use our relationship as imagery for the point I aim to establish.  When Kellye and I were married, we made covenant before God and family, vowing to help one another remember who we are and always fight for the happiness of the others heart.  The words in our vows were very specific, and beyond sincere.  I know for myself, I’ve rarely more genuinely made a statement in my life, and never from that same place within my heart.  Of the specific promises I made to my wife, she has every right to expect of me to follow through with them.  If I simply choose not to keep my word, I place our entire relationship in jeopardy.  It would communicate to my faithful wife that I am not to be trusted, that I don’t understand commitment, and that I am self-concerned.  From my side of it, being a man desperately in love, it is my sheer JOY to keep my promises.  It is a genuine pleasure for me to see to my wife’s pleasure, in every way I am able.  However, because I am only a man, there are some places of desire she carries within herself that I am unable to fulfill of my own accord.  I am limited, and my capacity to bless is often drastically influenced by the existence of circumstance.  If I merely abandoned commitment, for no reason other than selfish concern, it would be far too painful for Kellye to make excuses on my behalf.  If she spoke highly of me because of that ONE time I told her she was pretty, and praised me to humanity for how I only force her to clean the house 6 out of 7 days a week on top of a full-time job, and how she only gets punished when she is REALLY out of line…she would be called in idiot.  People around her would counsel her to see the abuse of the situation, and call her back to her value.  In that circumstance, she could only pretend for so long…she would eventually have to face the fact that I was not loving her as she deserved to be loved; that we had no relationship at all.    Now, given, this is a very extreme example; but the reality is that we do this EVERY day with God.

God is not a man, that He should lie, nor that He should be limited.  When He makes a promise to His bride, we have EVERY reason and right to believe He will keep it.  So what happens when He hasn’t?  God is entirely outside the frame of time and space, so I can say with confidence that He always keeps His promises.  However, we are bound to those restrictions on this side of eternity.  Yes, we are a new creation in Jesus, but we still face the reality of the realm we were created in.  So, when the promise of God has not intersected our reality, how do we then deal with the heart ache?  In the verse I quoted above, it is clear what happens when the promise is left unfulfilled.  When the hope of fulfillment is delayed, particularly when we are unaware of when it will come, the human heart experiences sickness.  When hope is deferred, it makes your heart sick.  Whether you are aware of your inclusion in Christ or not; whether you are believer or unbeliever…your heart operates and feels independent of your will.  I have heard SO MANY sermons on maintaining perspective in the waiting and pain…but rarely have they been words of hope or freedom.  Most of the time, the person behind the pulpit adds an ever-so-subtle flavor of condemnation to their message…wrapping it neatly in the packing of a “call to holiness”.  We love to tell people they are in unbelief; “who are you to question God?”.  I have an answer for you, if you ever feel the need to ask me that question…I am His son, and I know my Dad is good, and I will question Him as much as I please.

The thing we have been taught that unbelief is happens to be the very doctrine the religious spirit exercises to keep the church IN unbelief.  We honor and admire people who say things like, “No matter what…God is still good”; “Even in the wilderness, blessed be Your name”.  We love to say that stuff…it puffs up our spiritual ego, portraying ourselves as the incredibly faithful servant, so very dedicated to the God they serve.  You know what I think when people regurgitate that same old religious rhetoric?  “Huh…well, either you’re lying about how you feel, or you’re not currently experiencing real heart-break.”  Don’t get me wrong…of COURSE God is still good in the midst of your pain, and it would be entirely counterproductive to accuse Him or curse His name.  But the rigid unwillingness to be sincere with God, or about our anguish when He isn’t coming through, is just as full of unbelief as those people we talk about who need to “repent”.

The reality is, God is FAR TOO good to ever be exaggerated.  His power is limitless, and His desire to bless unfathomable.  Unfortunately, because of obligation-based doctrine and fear of pain without relief, we end up diminishing Him when things get hard.  However, I want to suggest that it is not our “unbelief” that diminishes God (or at least our traditional understanding of it); but rather what we have for too long called “faith”.

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.   Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:3-8

I read this verse several years ago, and wondered at its implication.  It seemed to me that Paul was DIRECTLY addressing the issue of “discipline” and “holiness” from a perspective I’d only secretly hoped in my heart was of God.  Unfortunately, my counsel at the time told me that I was “misinterpreting” the scripture and using it as an excuse to live by my rules, and not God’s.  That one conversation set me on an extra 4 year course of discovering what God was attempting to bring to light in my heart in one moment.  This passage has been used by leaders of the body for centuries to magnify the admirable quality of enduring tribulation for Christ.  While Paul does see to the issue of tribulation producing in us a myriad of virtuous characteristics, I want to suggest that it was not the focal point of this passage.  The tone and purpose of this scripture is the ultimacy of hope, because of the finality of the cross.  In The Mirror Bible, Francois DuToit paraphrases it like this :

“Our joyful boasting in Him remains uninterrupted in times of trouble; we know that pressure reveals patience.  Tribulation doesn’t have what it takes to nullify what hope we know we’ve got!  Patience proves legal tender; which buys more positive expectation. This kind of hope does not disappoint; the gift of the Holy Spirit completes our every expectation and ignites the love of God within us like an artesian well.  God’s timing was absolutely perfect; humanity was at their weakest when Christ died their death. (We were bankrupt in our efforts to save ourselves)  It is most unlikely that someone will die  for another man, even if he is righteous; yet it is remotely possible that someone can brave such devotion that he would actually lay down his own life in an effort to save the life of an extraordinarily good person.  Herein is the extremity of God’s love gift: mankind was rotten to the core when Christ died their death.” 

The average church-goer would tell you that in times of hardship “God is teaching you something”, or some other revelation-deficit dogma leaning toward the belief that God is either doing it TO you, or ALLOWING you to go through it for a “purpose”.  This, in my humble and passionate opinion, is some of the smallest-minded thinking humanity can engage in.  Does He have no other tools in His belt by which to teach us?  It is by this same token that we attribute EVERY occurrence with ANY redeemable quality about it to the provision of our almighty God.  It’s this thinking that expects you to give Him praise when you have a $40 phone bill, and you “miraculously” receive a gift of $38.  THAT IS CRAP!!! He is a LIMITLESS, UNFATHOMABLE, BENEVOLENT, UNCREATED GOD. He is MORE than capable of manifesting $300,000 in your living room, let alone paying your forty dollar phone bill.  What we have done in the absence of promises fulfilled is create doctrines to explain away the heart-sickness we deal with; to protect the idea we so desperately long to believe in…that He cares for us.  However, we are schizophrenic in our reasoning.  We are emphatic in our declaration of His goodness and love, yet we tremble beneath the fear that if we blame or DARE to question Him, He won’t bless us. So, we end up putting the responsibility back on ourselves.  Among those who adhere to the goodness of God, we don’t say He WON’T bless us, we say He CAN’T.  “God is too good to give money to someone who will misuse it”.  I understand this line of thinking, and have often thought it myself; but it is skewed.  You see, God is NOT altogether like us.  He is NOT a mere human, nor is He bound to the fear and absence of power that humanity often is.  That is the point of verse 8 of Romans 5.  He died for us; He, WHILE we were still “sinners” and in the HEIGHT of our bondage to the likelihood that we would squander it, gave us the most priceless inheritance.  We MUST stop diminishing the God of the Universe.  He does NOT wield tribulation and lack as His weapons of mass instruction.  That is entirely opposite His nature; He is bigger and better than that.  He does NOT give because we have proven we deserve it with good behavior, or responsible performance.  He does NOT give us “just enough” or ” only what we NEED”.  He gives, and does so extravagantly, because He is love.  He gives because love is trust without repentance.

This is the hope that we cling to; the hope that He died to confirm in us.  The trouble with understanding the steadfast benevolence of God is the circumstances of this life that seem to contradict it.  Here is where I won’t even pretend to have an answer.  I have decided for myself, and for my house, that we will not create a pattern of thinking to answer the problem of hope-deferred.  It is His realm of authority, to fulfill the desires of the heart.  I have decided I will not pretend to have the patented revelation on why we have to wait, why there is pain, why there is poverty.  I will not operate in “blind” faith…because blind faith is not real.  It is false devotion, and a shining example of christian ignorance.  We have only to operate according to our convictions.  The only thing I am convinced of is that HE IS GOOD, and it is more true than any distress I will ever encounter.  I am more in love with Him in my honesty about pain and longing than I ever was in my fortress of pet doctrine.  Here, I do not diminish Him with my human understanding.  I hope in Him to expose it, and transform me by the renewing of my mind.  What, then, are we to do with the time between the promise and its fulfillment?

My brother said something to me once that gave me freedom to find some measure of peace in very troubling times.  It was simple, but opened a door to revelation that gave me hope again.  He said “It’s a lot easier to order your life in the absence of chaos.”  Religion tells us that finding solace in the company of anything other than God is called a “vice” or an addiction.  Of course, if the comfort is from something culturally acceptable (coffee, food, etc…) even most religious people will often “forget” to relegate it to the realms of darkness.  While I do realize that some things are not prudent under any circumstance, and that even healthy things can take wrongful priority in the heart…I believe the problem is not the thing itself.  The issue is that we do not know who we are, and therefore can not trust ourselves the way God does.

For most of the church, the schizophrenic, black & white, “this leads to death” mentality is based entirely in fear and distrust of self.  Most of us are “going to God” with our pain and struggle, and self-medicating a sick heart in the darkness of our room or minds.  The overwhelming belief that any attempt to escape the pain is wrong because it isn’t prayer or some other spiritual discipline, is the platform on which shame is bred and the very thinking that perpetuates bondage.  God wants us to be free and enjoy our lives!!  If we trusted ourselves the way He does, the “things” that make life a little easier to live would never become a bondage.  We live in such fear of “sinning”, and making idols out of fading pleasures, and I believe it safe to say that fear is NEVER from God.  The problem is, that sin in its very definition is not something you do.  Sin is something that was done TO you in the garden.  The greek word “harmatia” that we translate as sin means, in essence, “the governing entity of emptiness”.  It was something that happened TO the human race, and the place we made decisions FROM as a result.  However, in the redemption of the cross, we have been given the Holy Spirit who is now the governing entity of life within the human frame.  HE is now what has happened to us, and the source we make decisions from.  Unless we understand His residence within us, our inherent value because of our origin, and begin to live according to it…we will continue to make decisions from an emptiness that the cross made an illusion.

I have heard the passage from Matthew 17:21 preached on at least one hundred times; each time a different perspective.  This is the verse in which Jesus tells His disciples, in reference to a boy suffering from seizures whom the disciples could not deliver, that “…this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting”.  I’ve heard it taught that when we are diligent in spiritual discipline we gain spiritual authority.  I’ve heard it taught that Jesus’ LIFESTYLE of spiritual discipline is what afforded Him the authority the disciples did not have.  I’ve heard it taught many other ways, and nearly every one of them has some measure of truth involved.  However, it is my belief that the same Jesus who told the Jews to eat His flesh and drink His blood, KNOWING it would offend them because they would take it literally, was again implying a deeper concept in this passage from Matthew 17.

The entirety of Jesus’ ministry during His time on earth was pointing to His sacrifice on the cross.  It’s why He preached a law that NO ONE could attain to.  This is why He said “No man comes to the Father but by Me.”  In other words, you can’t do it, so I’m going to.  So then why would He establish Fasting and Prayer as the method unto authority over the demonic?  That sounds like the performance He came to do away with in the first place to me.  Throughout scripture, we see Jesus in the middle of what we would call “revival”; the outbreak of miracles, thousands coming to faith, the dead being raised, etc…and its often HERE that He decides to disappear.  He would slip away to the mountain top to be with His Father. This causes me to believe that Jesus was not “fasting and praying” FOR authority; He was fasting and praying BECAUSE OF authority.  Because He knew who His Father was, He knew who He was.  In that knowledge, nothing did to His heart what the presence of His Father did.  So, when Jesus said “…this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting”, He was pointing to the deeper desire of His heart, not primarily the action itself.  He was saying that as a result of His confidence in His identity He was able to rightly prioritize the work of ministry beneath the REAL desire within Him…to be with His loving Dad.  As He had become the most famed Rabbi in all of Israel, sneaking away to the mountain top to talk to His Father, skipping meals to eat of the rich fellowship He shared with Him, became His solace.  They were what drew Him close.  But even Jesus Himself said that we do not mourn (fast) as long as the bridegroom is with us, but rather in His absence.  In other words, we do it out of the longing of our heart, not FOR any one thing or outcome.  His point was that whatever draws you close to the Father will produce in you the perspective on self and savior that causes the authority ALREADY RESIDENT WITHIN YOU to flow naturally and without hinderance.

So how does this apply to hope deferred?  As I said earlier, it has been common in Church culture to adhere to the thought that anything bringing relief that isn’t “spiritual” or “Godly” is inherently wicked, and will lead to addiction or worse.  It’s because of this that people suffering from physical or emotional pain have been told it is far more admirable to “trust God” and just deal with it than seek comfort or relief elsewhere.  It’s because of this that a good majority of the Church sings songs about the provision and goodness of God on sunday morning that they don’t sincerely believe the rest of the week; because of this that so many people have given up on God and ACTUALLY become dependent on something else to bring their heart rest.  When its one or the other, and The One isn’t coming through…how long is the human heart supposed to wait?  I want to suggest that God doesn’t expect us to separate Him from our hardship, but rather to do what it takes to keep our eyes on Him.  With the correct perspective on personal value and the love of God, WHATEVER brings relief will produce in you the character of God, and in turn the capacity to hope. Whatever draws you close to Him, reminds you that He is with you in your pain and your joy…fasting, prayer, coffee, tylenol…THOSE things are your motivation and lifeline as much as the moment when the promise if fulfilled.

MANY ARE CALLED, FEW BELIEVE IT

While my heart is ABSOLUTELY not to solely criticize the “church”, and some would love to pick my posts apart and call me a hypocrite for my judgement toward the “bride of Christ”, I can assure you it is only because of my love FOR her that I write what I do.  I believe I have seen who she could be, who she IS as far as God is concerned, and consequently who she is not because of the deception of religion and dogmatic systems of thought.  In my experience among the body, I’ve often encountered what I like to call “Christian Celebrity Syndrome”.  As a matter of fact, there was a period in my life in which I personally suffered from the mind-numbing, identity-crushing effects of this disease.  It spreads like wildfire in a culture where “honor” is prioritized, but not properly understood.  It is best nurtured in an environment in which the supernatural is believed in and sought after, those operating in profound levels of its execution are accordingly recognized, and a simultaneous “caste system” of sinlessness is the barometer of holiness. In other words, those who “abide by the word of God” and “live a life of sacrifice and holiness”, as well as walk in supernatural power, become the most recognized (honored) of the community.  However, if those people begin to lack in either arena of performance, they are suddenly a project for those who are still “holy” among them.  We saw this happen with Todd Bentley and the Lakeland outpouring.  A profoundly anointed man encountered a moral issue because of a ministry schedule and platform of “celebrity” among the church that took a radical toll on his life and family.  When it happened, the council of “elders” overseeing the outpouring required Bentley to go public with the occurrence.  According to my knowledge of what actually happened (acquired from people VERY close to Mr. Bentley), it could have been handled internally, and dealt with in a very private manner.  If they had done that, the Bentley family may have been preserved.  The pressure of media coverage, and exploitation of the event caused an even deeper chasm to form between Todd and his wife.  Suddenly, one of the most accurate and powerful prophetic voices of our generation was being “restored”, and was no longer allowed to minister.  He is ministering now, but under the watchful eye of a man named Rick Joyner, and with far less influence than his former crusades.  Because of a misunderstanding of the heart of God, His grace, and the inexhaustible resource of His love when faced with “sin” we have for centuries aided the enemy in putting a stop to the move of the Spirit of God…all because of religion.

“So the last will be first, and the first last.  For many are called, but few chosen.” – Matthew 20:16

I’ve heard far too many “preachers” quote this passage in reference to a number of things it has little pertinence to.  We love to say things like “Who are you to define the love of God?  He can judge the wicked if He sees fit! Is He not allowed to do as He will? Is He not God?”.  I want to suggest that the only thing Jesus brandished His sovereignty to prove in the entirety of His time on the earth was the precise OPPOSITE of this line of thought.  He stood in the face of law-abiding, “holiness” driven, pharisaical Israel and extended His grace to the ENTIRE EARTH…not just the jews then, and not just the “christians” now.  The parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20), which is the context of the scripture I quoted above, is about this very thing.  Those who “worked” from the beginning of the day complaining because those who joined in the effort at the end of the day were getting paid the same amount.  Everybody got the same benefit, regardless of how much they had done; regardless of how “worthy” they were.  In that context, Jesus said “the last will be first, and the first last”; the ones who think they deserve it, won’t get any special recognition.  I am no respecter of persons, because My love is violent and unending for ALL humanity.  Then He says “For many are called, but few chosen.”  This statement doesn’t seem to make much sense in the flow of this parable, so we’ve done what we do with all the rest of scripture that doesn’t fit into our human thinking and law-oriented, performance driven perspective; relegate it to something that MAKES it about performance.  We’ve taken this statement and plastered it to the concept of favor.  Many are called, but few are CHOSEN by God…few keep to the narrow path long enough to gain His merit.  That is NOT what this means.  The word “called” here is the word kletos (klay-tos) in the greek.  It comes from Kaleo, which means “to call by name; to identify by name; to surname”.  “Many” is the word polus, often translated as many, multitudinous, or large.  It implies an innumerable inclusion, and can also mean earnestly, or with depth.  In other words, “many are called” means that from the deepest place within Himself God called ALL of us by his own name;  He called us according to our inclusion in Jesus; He called us into His family from before the foundations of time.  “Few are chosen” then must take on a different intention, given the all-inclusive nature of the preceding portion of the sentence.  The word for “chosen” here is eklekto in the greek, derived from “eklegomai”.  Eklegomai is a combination of the Greek words “Ek”, which means origin, and “legomai”, which means to speak with logic.  In its biblical usage, eklegomai refers the origin of ALL OF HUMANITY being within the spoken word (logos) of God.  Jesus was called “the word of God” in John chapter 1, and we were crucified with Him “before the foundations of time”.  “Few are chosen” then can be more accurately translated “few understand the nature of their origin; that they are ALREADY, and ALWAYS HAVE BEEN identified in God”.  The “chosen” are those who know who they are; those who have understood they’re inclusion, not those separately elected of God by way of their performance.  The entirety of Matthew 20:16 might more accurately read like this: “All of humanity is identified by their inclusion in the Godhead since before the foundations of time, but few are the number who believe it.”  It is knowing who we are because of the One we came from, and the unalterable nature of our identity.  We never were sinners AT OUR CORE, and it has been the illusion of Hell to keep us identifying ourselves by what we do.  THIS is why the workers who had worked longer, and harder, felt they deserved more in the end.  THIS is why the church refuses to believe that God would forgive and welcome all of mankind into His presence for eternity, regardless of their performance or “repentance”.  If He does that, then those of us who obeyed the rules, who were “holy” and “repentant”, don’t get what we think we deserve.  The closer place in heaven; the rewards on earth.  It is a doctrine of selfishness, and a reward system that God Himself never set in place.  It is man making himself an idol of God WITHIN himself.  It is the law, with a bitter layer of grace painted across its face ,just thick enough to keep us all believing we aren’t doing the same thing the pharisees did.  In fact, it is a system He sent His son Jesus to destroy.

If we can begin to understand the God of grace, and admit that we don’t have a theological solution to every thing we will face on this side of eternity…we may just begin to fathom a love that never ends.  We might have the freedom to do what it takes to keep believing He is good, instead of creating doctrines that diminish our belief in His power, or incriminate Him to a hurting world.  We might heed the warning of Jesus that sets us free to ACTUALLY preach the good news…to understand it IS better than we could have ever imagined, or our religion would let us believe.  We might FINALLY understand who we are, and consequently be able to welcome the entirety of humanity into that same eternal, fixed, and glorious revelation.

Death to religion.

Love will win.

There IS hope, there ALWAYS HAS BEEN, and there ALWAYS WILL BE.

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The Nature of Sin and Repentance – by Scott Miller

The Nature of Sin and Repentance 

 

When I take a really honest look at my life, having been raised in church, and the lives of the majority of believers that I have known over the years, my life especially, comes up woefully short when I compare it to what the bible teaches and promises when it comes to what we should expect about the experience of the redeemed. Something is missing and this is exemplified by the fact that the body of Christ is not unlike the world in far too many ways. The church all but mirrors the world when it comes to divorce, spousal abuse, addiction to both illicit and prescription drugs, pornography addiction, depression and the list goes on. Something is dreadfully wrong and we simply cannot go on playing church and pretending like we’re all ok. WE ARE NOT OK!! The question is what’s wrong and how do we bring healing and restoration. This isn’t a new problem. Jesus told us “greater things than these will you do.” Jesus actually said that we would surpass Him and the last time I checked, especially in my own life, I look more like Judas than Jesus. I believe that our brokenness, our lack of wholeness comes from the lack of God’s manifest presence in our lives individually and as a body. The life experience of the redeemed was never intended to be a religion. It was meant to be a daily experience of actually knowing, feeling, tasting and seeing a very real God, not as an idea, but as a living being with feelings and intentions. We can talk at length about this sin in the church, but if we never identify what it truly is, the pattern of brokenness will only continue. Part of the problem is that we have been so hung up on the word “sin” that we have forgotten why God said it was bad in the first place. I believe that our approach in the way we have viewed sin is either incomplete or maybe even altogether backwards. We tend to think of sin as a cause and I would like to propose that it is actually a result. If you have been in church for any length of time you have probably been taught that sin
causes separation from God. This is important because it lays a foundation or provides us with a lens that affects the way we see or perceive the nature of God, our identity and His intentions towards us. Most of this effect is not evident on the surface but tends to be more of an undercurrent or a subconscious system of thinking that governs the rest of our experience of being alive.

So what exactly is sin, where did it come from, what is original sin, and why does the church seem to be so powerless against it when Jesus paid to reverse it. Here we must establish or resurrect a fact that is mostly glossed over or intentionally misrepresented. Sin did not originate in the heart of man. It has its birth in the heart of the father of lies. Yes, God did create the potential for sin, but having said that, we must understand that by its nature love requires the freedom to choose. If that freedom is removed love ceases to exist.

Let’s start by turning the base idea right side up again. It is not sin that causes separation from God; it is separation from God that causes sin. These are some of the sacred cows of Christian doctrine that have been passed down from generation to generation that simply must die. They must be identified and then sacrificed on the altar of intimacy. Here’s another bovine methane dispenser that is not unlike the first…”God
cannot stand to be in the presence of sin because He is holy”. Balderdash! God is limitless. Here’s the truth, “sin cannot stand to be in the presence of a holy God”. The manifest presence of our loving Father by its nature consumes, destroys and cancels sin. This effect of His presence on sin is better understood when we understand what sin actually is.

A.W. Tozer in his classic “Pursuit of God” explains that Adam and Eve were created and designed to have God enthroned in the center of their being. When they believed the liar God was removed from His place and all of creation is still reeling from the monstrous upset. The bible tells us that God breathed into Adam and he became “alive.” It was the very Spirit of God that originally animated the man, and if this is true, what animates the man when God has been removed from the throne of man’s heart?  At this point it is the “void” that animates mankind, the emptiness created by God’s absence. That void, that emptiness, is sin. Adam and Eve had already left the Father in their hearts when they chose to believe the liar. The outward act of eating the forbidden fruit was just the manifestation of the sinful state in their hearts, the emptiness created by God’s absence. Sin is a state of being not just an outward act. This is further shown when we understand that the Greek root that we get the word evil from is also the root from which we get the words pain, poor and poverty. On its face it denotes a state of lack.

Blaise Pascal said “In the heart of every man is a God-Shaped vacuum”. This God shaped hole is the original sin that we are all born into. This vacant state drives us to all manner of destructive behavior in an attempt to FILL ourselves. This is how religion was born. It was born in the garden and was the enemy’s idea all along. Adam and Eve believed a lie that drove them to try to obtain by their own self efforts something that God had already given to them for free. This is the very definition of religion. Satan said “you will be like God” …..THEY WERE ALREADY LIKE GOD… (”Let us make man in our own image”). The spirit of religion keeps you constantly aware of your knowledge of good and evil and where you fall on that favor line between those two boundaries. When God became man he destroyed that whole system, but believe it or not, this is something that His bride is still struggling to understand. God does not say you are innately bad, He says you are innately empty. Even before you were redeemed, God’s view of you then is probably better than your view of yourself now, even after being saved.

The typical response to sin that you hear given in the church is usually performance based. “We don’t fear the Lord enough…we don’t hate sin enough…we need to read our bibles more…we need more accountability ….etc. All of these responses seem good on their face and they sound like spiritual, responsible answers. The problem is these answers tend to fold like a wet paper sack when faced with real brokenness like divorce,
depression or addiction. In the church the standard response seems to roll right off our tongues…”well they just need to repent”. This is usually thrown about quite carelessly. However, if we understood what repentance really is, that response might carry some life with it and our heart’s motivation for saying it would almost certainly change.

Most of us have been taught that to repent means to “change, to stop sinning and go the opposite direction”. This is not an accurate definition. If sin is a state of emptiness how does one stop being empty and fill themselves? The change of direction is the result of repentance. To “repent” means to “change your mind”, and some would add “and agree with God”. If we change our mind what then are we changing it to? If we are agreeing with God what is He saying? Jesus was God in the flesh and when He Himself explained why He came, He brought up three main points. Interestingly enough He did not say “I came to atone for your sins” or “I came to save you from eternal damnation”. It is absolutely true that He accomplishes both of these things, but He never really majored on these two functions. It’s as if these were natural byproducts of His nature but not the main focus (so why is it ours?). When Jesus explained why He was here He said “I came to bind the broken hearted…I came to set the captives free” and “ I came that you might have life and have it to the full”. So if “repent” means to change your mind and agree with God, what is God saying here. “Bind the broken hearted”…He says your heart is broken. “Set the captives free”…He says you’re a slave, you’re caged, and you’re not free. And finally “I came that you might have life”…He says you’re empty, dead, lifeless. We are not saved because we raised our hand “with every head bowed and every eye closed” after a particularly scary sermon. We are saved at the point we come to a true self-realization of our emptiness, our bondage, and our desperate need for the life Jesus promises. It is interesting to note that it was the prostitute, the thief and the demoniac that recognized Jesus for who He was…they got it. It was the religious who couldn’t see Him. There is something about knowing your own emptiness that gives you the eyes to see the real Jesus when He shows up. The church of the day accused Him of being evil. (Selah) Religion actually blinds us to our desperate need for Him by teaching us to hide or to stay disconnected from the true state of our hearts. Our church pews are full of people who are literally dying inside but are afraid to face it for fear of being looked down upon, or for fear of the disappointment of being let down when the practitioners of religion offer them yet another powerless Jesus. The antichrist spirit is not anti Jesus. I heard Kris Vallotton say “the enemy would love nothing more than to introduce you to a powerless Jesus”. The enemy is “Anti Christ” anti anointed one. The one who carries the very power of the living God to save, heal and deliver. He is “anti supernatural Jesus experience”.

The first recorded salvation in scripture is the thief who hung next to Jesus on the cross. What did he do to receive salvation? He didn’t say the magical sinner’s prayer. He said “we deserve to die, but this man is innocent” …he recognized his empty state. Then he said “Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom” and with those words, he was saved. He didn’t even have the chance to “prove it by his fruits”. Jesus knew something about the thief that we tend to miss. He wasn’t lifeless, broken and empty because he stole from his fellow man; he was a thief because he was lifeless, broken and empty. So Jesus had no problem telling him “Today you will be with me in paradise”.
Sin is the result of being separated from God, not the reverse.


eating the fruit of contradiction: the anti-Christ spirit (4th installment)

ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-PURITY

The mantra of the anti-Christ spirit has long been purity; purity of devotion, purity of heart, purity of action, purity of ambition, purity in theology and doctrine, purity of thought.  It is by this “purity” that the deceiver has held humanity to a countless number of stipulations that God never intended for us, and that have no part of His gospel or heart.  “It’s the good news! BUT…” is not a gospel that appeals to anyone.  Most of us wouldn’t preach it that way, or believe it’s the gospel we swear by, because the anti-Christ spirit is subtle and patient.  In this post, I want to explore and bring to light some of the ways we’ve been misled by the anti-Christ spirit and its bedfellow religion concerning purity.

In my journey into the heart of God, I’ve discovered what I believe to be the very core of life: Intimacy.  Intimacy with God, producing intimacy among humanity.  However, the manner in which I understood it, because of a gently corrupt pattern of thought and teaching within the body of Christ, kept me from uncovering its sincere intention.  The anti-Christ spirit is well aware that God IS love.  If he cannot keep humanity from the utter perversion and abuse of what love should be, he makes certain to twist it into an effort-driven, responsibility-oriented mandate.  If he can’t remove it from your life altogether, he will seed it with obligation so that it never accomplishes in you what it WILL in its purity.  1 John 4:19 says “We love Him because He first loved us.”  Even trudging through the muck of most agenda-ridden translations of scripture, if your PERSPECTIVE is correct, you can discover the genuine heart of God.  The verse I quoted above can be read two very different ways.  I’ll just use italics and bold font to illustrate my point:

1.  We love Him because He first loved us.

2.  We love Him because He first loved us.

The first representation of this verse is, in my experience, the way a heart bound in religion by the anti-Christ spirit will read and apply it to their own life.  The emphasis in this instance (and this is unfortunately the case within most of the body) is on what we DO because of what He DID.  It speaks to our indebtedness to Him for such a great love; for a love that He extends toward the wretch you are; the love the whole mass of humanity does not deserve.  The second representation of this scripture is, in my opinion, how the Spirit of God intended for it to be read.  It places emphasis on WHAT HE DID, and denotes our love for Him as the involuntary response.  It glorifies His sacrifice, and restores power to His love as the singular medium by which the human heart is reinstated to its origin in the likeness of God.  It declares what will happen, not commands what should.  It brings us to the end of our self-effort, as the gospel of Jesus Christ is intended to do, allowing us to rest into His sovereign leadership; to love Him naturally as our heart was created to do.  God Himself is the author and finisher of our intimacy with Him.  But it is very popular in most of church culture to create a structure around “cultivating intimacy” and the spiritual disciplines that “accomplish” it.

In the commonly used New King James Version of James 4:6-10 it says, “But He gives more grace.  Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”  We love this passage in prophetic, presence driven, devotion oriented streams of the body.  I’ve heard message after message on its importance in the pursuit of intimacy with God, and its being the apparent definitive text on what it means to humble yourself in the sight of the Lord.  There is only one problem, albeit a massive one, in that thinking: God gives grace to the humble.  The “proud” of this passage in James are not people with a high view of themselves, nor are they exclusively those who continue in their “sin”.  Let’s use another verse to illustrate the point.

In the book of John, chapter 14 verse 6, it reads “Jesus said to him, ‘ I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  We have heard this verse preached concerning the “purity” (there’s that word again) of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many a preacher has used it to call Islam the spirit of the anti-Christ, or even to accuse other portions of the BODY of heresy and mixture.  We’ve been told, by way of this verse, that Jesus was declaring that every other ‘false God’ would never lead them to the Father, the revealing of whom is the purpose of Jesus’ life on earth.  Now, while it is TRUE that the ultimate outcome of Islam, Buddha, the occult, and every other non-christocentric religion is NOT the revelation of the Father, that was NOT Jesus’ main point.  He was pointing, pre-cross, to His work ON the cross.  He was not saying “Abandon all your idols, you sinners! Believing in me is the only way you will ever be saved!”.  No.  He was saying that if He were to forfeit the task of the cross, NO MAN would EVER come to the Father.  He was saying that the law was just as powerless as buddha, and that the inclusion of humanity in His death and resurrection was the salvation of all of humanity.  He was pointing to the finished work of His cross, NOT to another thing humanity must do to be saved.  This is grace.

In that context, let’s re-examine the passage from James 4.  The book of James is employed as the backbone of the argument that God demands purity of action and heart of His church.  It is often the thesis for reasoning self-effort into a gospel that was given to bring an end to that very thing.  We tend to forget that James was the flesh and blood brother of Jesus, and at one time did not believe that He was the messiah at all.  When Jesus came to him in the flesh after His resurrection, James’ eyes were opened to the reality that all the law and prophets pointed to his brother, and to exactly what He had fulfilled in His death and resurrection.  James was writing from a first-hand encounter perspective of grace Himself, and that has to be the lens through which we decipher his book.  The first portion of verse 6 says, “But he gives more grace.  Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”  (emphasis added).  If grace is extended to the humble, and grace is the revelation of the finished work of the cross, then humility is to relinquish every self-effort founded in the need to become better or please God.  One dictionary definition of the word “humility” is “an accurate awareness of oneself”.  It is not a lower view of oneself, but rather a correct one.  Kris Vallotton, of Bethel Church in Redding, California says this: “It isn’t thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.”  It is to live in the reality that He did it all for you, made you holy on the cross, and you cannot please Him more than you do in your current by-grace-perfected state.  Verses 7-8 say “Therefore submit to God.  Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double minded.”  These verses are really the core of what I want to address concerning the way the anti-Christ spirit twists the purity of intimacy.  In light of the revelation of humility we just discussed from verse 6, submitting to God looks a whole lot different than we have most likely been taught.  We’ve probably heard that submission to God is “dying to your rights” and “taking up your cross”.  Such religious jargon translates into “give up hope that you’ll be fulfilled” and “stop sinning, sinner”.  But I want to suggest that submitting to God is quite entirely the opposite.  Submitting to God is certainly a death, but the difference is that the death has already occurred.  Submitting to God is coming into agreement with the truth that you were crucified with Jesus on the cross over 2 millenia ago, and raised with Him in His resurrection the same.  It is “dying to your right” to do anything for yourself, add to His already perfect work, or discipline the flesh into obedience.  It means, literally, to submit to Him….COMPLETELY submit to Him.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ in me.  THAT is submission; the revelation that you are one with the living God by the mystery of the spirit, and that you have no part in your betterment or holiness.  Period.

In submission to God like that, the devil and all his minions have little power to effect you.  Did he have any power over Christ?  Are you one with Christ?  Well…then does he have any power over you?  It’s that simple.  Submit to the finished work of the cross, and he runs from Jesus in you like a cockroach from the light.  The reality is that the anti-Christ spirit only has power because it is living vicariously through the only agent of power on the planet earth: the church.  It rides on the backs of unwitting christians, indoctrinated with religion, and accomplishes much of what it wills through the authority they don’t even know they have; all the while, keeping them convinced its primary focus and vehicle are those lost, wicked “unbelievers”.  This is hideously deceptive, and extraordinarily sad.  Now, verse 8 is a much more comprehensive statement in regards to intimacy, and one exercised (unknowingly) by many “intimacy” focused ministries to paint a sugar-coating on a poisonous mixture.  The verse reads in the NKJV text “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, you double minded.”  Presented with this language, it seems that James is drawing a picture of intimacy that is directly proportionate to the degree in which you are willing to cleanse yourself from unrighteousness.

Now, we would all agree that Jesus was the only one who could conquer the reign of sin in mankind, but we have contradictorily taught the body for years to manage their “sin nature” unto depletion by way of discipline and great self-effort.  This is where the mixture begins.  When Jesus died on the cross, He declared from His own God-man mouth that “It is finished”.  He then gave up His last breath, descending into the “grave” (hades: ha des – to be unseeing) to take the keys and set those held in captivity free.  The sin He became on the cross stayed in the grave, and was dealt the sentence that mankind had been experiencing on its behalf as our master until that very moment.  It was a finished work.  He made us entirely righteous.  ALL of us.  The law system says that righteousness was dependent upon performance, and that is precisely why Jesus came to abolish it.  The law wasn’t given to reveal to us what we need to do to be approved by God, it was given to expose sin; to uncover the fraud of the governing entity of emptiness that was ruling mankind, and point to the Messiah who would defeat it.  Righteousness was, and is, solely dependent upon God to establish it.  James 4:8 is declaring an already accomplished reality, not calling us to the fight to meet the standard.  In the original greek, the words “draw near” are translated from the word “eggizo”, which means “extreme closeness; immediate imminence or presence (it IS here).”  The root word from which eggizo comes is the greek “eggys”, which means “has drawn near”.  In light of the original language, and the perspective from which James was writing, we can begin to see the good news of grace in the passage.  It would more accurately be translated “You have been drawn into God, and He has made a home within you.”  It is not a cause-effect statement.  It is a “He caused it, you’ve been effected” statement.

The second half of the verse (cleanse your hands, purify your hearts) is traditionally read as a charge to those in compromise to get with the program; recognize the holiness of the God who has called you, and man up; quit acting like the world.  But the exact translation from the original greek (according to biblos.com; the apostolic bible polyglot translation) says this: “Have purified hands sinners, and have purified hearts you double minded.”  The difference is not immediate in the language of this verse, but rather inherent within its intended meaning.  James knew that the law did not purify, and that man could not make themselves righteous.  He was not referring to a system of behavior, saying that they had been made righteous once and forever in Jesus, but had yet to become purified because of what they were “doing”.  No, it is that exact mindset he is referring to when he says “double minded”.  This portion of verse 8 is saying “Come with your mind renewed, knowing that your hands and hearts have been washed in the shed blood of Jesus.  HAVE those things; possess your righteousness by the agreement of your heart.  Do not be double minded, saying you believe in His death and resurrection but refusing the victory therein.”  The perversion of the anti-Christ spirit, in regard to intimacy with God, is entirely contingent upon leading humanity back into a law-flavored perspective, where we DO to become more like Him, and are rewarded accordingly.  But the cross of Christ was either a finished work, or it was to no avail whatsoever.  It cannot have been a partial work, or then why did Jesus die?  If He died just so He could tell us that we still have a long way to go, it would have been better to simply leave us with the law.  We were entirely included in the cross of Christ, and brought in closer to God as a result than we could ever have hoped or achieved by our own merit.  Intimacy with God, TRUE intimacy, is the byproduct of the revelation of the finished work.  It is the renewing of the mind, and alignment of the heart, with our original and restored identity.  We love Him, because He first loved us.

This brings me to the next concept I want to discuss in relation to purity and the distortion of the anti-Christ spirit: Unity.  Over the course of the last few decades, there have been major efforts within the body of Christ to reconcile our differences and stand together as a united front.  Denominationalism is at its end, or at least it is in theory.  While it is most certainly the will of the Father that His Son’s bride would be unified, I am convinced that we are not going to truly see it until a very important revelation is commonly understood within our midst.  We have to remember that the anti-Christ spirit is not obvious; the enemy, as unworthy of esteem as he may be, is not unintelligent and has moved undetected (for the most part) in and through the church for centuries.  Even our good efforts at spiritual warfare have often played directly into his hand, and caused more wounding in the body than healing.  I want to suggest that we have not been successful in realizing his intentions and actions primarily because we have touted them, albeit unwittingly and because of his deception, as the heart of God for us.  True unity does not come from human effort.  It is the byproduct of the pure revelation of the grace of God, the only empowerment in which humanity is able to look beyond performance and love unconditionally.  While true unity is not based in doctrinal agreement, when the true revelation of who God is, who we are, and what He did at the cross is undiluted in its comprehension; when grace is rightly and fully understood by the church, we will see the unity that commands the blessing (Psalm 133:1-3).

In 1 Corinthians 1:4-10 Paul writes, “ I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  The foundation of all that Paul says in this passage is in the context of his first statement: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus…”.  This grace is the conduit by which Paul illustrates every other wealth of the knowledge of Christ coming to the church.  God does not simply have grace, He IS grace.  It was through Him, by Him, and for Him that we were rescued from the kingdom of blindness.  Andre Rabe says that “God was gracious before the fall of man”.  In other words, His grace is His nature, not a response to our “issues”.  Verse 7 of this passage has been tragically misinterpreted throughout much of church history.  The above quoted portion of 1 Corinthians 1 is from the NKJV.  But upon a little deeper word study in the greek, we can see a grave distortion to the original intent of Paul in this passage.  The words “so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” of verse 7 point to a future moment of unveiling, and thus a future day of reckoning.  However, the word translated as “eagerly waiting for” is apekdechomai in the greek, meaning “eagerly accepting” or “to welcome with hospitality”.  When the action of verse 7 is a future hope, and not a present reality, the verses preceding and following it (enriched..in all utterance and knowledge; the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift; blameless in the day) become standards we must meet rather than the inheritance of being formerly included in Christ before the foundations of time.

We love to use verses like this one from 1 Corinthians chapter 1 to prove that sanctification is a process, that we are obviously not living up to the work of Christ, and consequently to prove the need for “repentance”.  But Paul was proving the precise opposite perspective.  We are not waiting to become like Him; we were CREATED in His likeness, and reminded of it at the cross of Christ.  It is by THIS reality that Paul is able to say in verse 8, “who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  First off, any good bible student knows that the words in italics in your bible were NOT included in the original text, but added to bring context for the language they were being translated into.  In my NKJV bible, the words “that you may be” are not in the original text.  Read in its exact translation then, the verse reads “who will also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  It becomes a promise that, because of the revelation of verse 7, your identity in Him in verse 8 (BLAMELESS) will be confirmed in the end to have been eternally true.  The word used here for “blameless” is anegkletos in the greek, and it means “blameless; beyond scrutiny; proven innocent in your original identity”.  In other words, He has and will accomplish the task of proving us innocent from before time; not make sure we get there by the time He comes back.  Verse 9 only further displays the reality of our inclusion in Holiness since before the frame of time.  When it says “God is faithful”, the word used for “faithful” in the greek is pistosPistos is an adjective that means properly “faithful; fullness of faith; fully believing”, and is derived from the root word peitho, meaning “persuaded”.  The verse continues, “…by whom you were called into the fellowship of His son, Jesus Christ our Lord”.  The greek word from which “fellowship” is translated is koinonia, which means “what is shared in common”.  With those two intentions in place, and referring back to verses 7 & 8, we get a clearer picture of what Paul was actually saying.  God,  is persuaded of our actual identity; that which we share in common with His son Jesus, our messiah; and that which we have shared with Him since before the foundations of time when He was slain.  God is persuaded, He KNOWS whether we believe it or not, that we are identified by our original identity; by our inclusion in the God-head.

In verse 10 of this passage from 1 Corinthians 1, Paul goes on to admonish those who call upon His name to speak the same thing.  What is that thing?  The point he spent the entirety of the former 3 verses establishing! That we ARE holy, in union with the God of the universe, and eternally blameless.  Paul’s longing for the body was that they would “speak the same thing”; that “there be no divisions” among them; that they “be perfectly joined together in the same mind and same judgement”.  His warning was, in essence, that without the common understanding and confession of our eternal innocence and one-ness with the living God, we would be divided.  That we would call ourselves by names other than the name of Jesus, dividing into sects and titles based on differences in our belief (verses 11 & 12).  That sounds to me much like the denominationalism that plagues the body today.  We have divided on much less important details than our original identity in Jesus, but it all began with the perversion of that reality.  John Crowder says “We are already in unity; we are already in Christ, and just as Christ is whole, so are we whole in Him.”  If we are to stand united; if we are to be the bride Jesus will return for, we must (and we WILL) confess that truth commonly among humanity.  Its absence is the driving force behind every division we have ever and will ever see.

We have been taught that holiness is a process.  We call it “sanctification”, because that makes the striving to “be holy as He is holy” sound very admirable.  In the blog post before this one, I spoke of how in Hebrews 10:14 the words “those who are being” are not in the original text.  It simply says “For by one offering, He has perfected forever the sanctified.”  Most will ask, “Then why, if it’s not a process, does so much of the church struggle with the sinful nature?”.  I want to suggest that the problem is not actually the sin, but rather the “sinner”.  Now hear me; I am NOT placing blame on the person we have labeled the “sinner”.  I say it’s the fault of the “sinner” because if you are sinning, (engaging in activity that springs from an emptiness inside of you) it is because you do not fully know exactly HOW complete the cross of Christ was.  You are not fully aware that YOU ARE NOT and NEVER HAVE BEEN a sinner, but rather that you were lied to by the accuser.  Yes, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”.  But what is the glory of God?  2 Corinthians 3:18 says “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (emphasis added).  What are you looking at when you are looking into a mirror?  Yourself!  YOU are the glory of God!  The human race was created in the likeness of His glory; we were called by it.  It has always been His favorite name for us.  The enemy used deception about our identity to cause Adam & Eve to fall in the garden, telling them the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would make them like the God that they were ALREADY like, and he has utilized it ever since.  Your identity has always been in God, but we became what we believed about ourselves.  Thus, God loved us while we were yet sinners…because He knew the cross would declare the truth, and the truth would set us free.

The process then, is the mind being renewed unto the conviction of our established holiness.  As your mind is more and more transformed, you will begin to naturally act more and more as the person you REALLY are.  The process is merely the time it takes to reveal and disagree with the lies we’ve been taught about ourselves.  This is why it says in 1 John 2:1-2, “And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.  And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”  Jesus is not an advocate on our behalf FOR the Father; He is an advocate WITH the Father.  He isn’t there to hold back the wrath of God because of our horrid sin; the wrath of God was poured out on the cross.  He isn’t there to remind the Father that we aren’t really that bad.  He is there to remind US of who we are.  He intercedes (stands in the gap) because He is the example OF us, not FOR us.  We look to Him (repent) when we forget and engage in things that are below our nature, and He reminds us of the persuasion of God; that we are IN Him, and He is for us.  Jesus doens’t intercede to persuade God.  He intercedes because God is persuaded.  1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The word used here for “faithful” is pistos in the greek, as in 1 Corinthians 1:9, meaning “persuaded”.  In other words, if we come to Him when we realize we are acting as the person we are not, He is eternally persuaded of who we are and just to remind us of it; just to rescue us from unrighteousness; to convince our hearts, and watch our hands act accordingly.  In 1 Peter, chapter 1, we read a portion of scripture often titled “Living before God our Father” or “Be holy”.  1 Peter 1:13 says “Wherefore, having girded up the loins of your mind, being sober, hope perfectly upon the grace that is being brought to you in the revelation of Jesus Christ…” (Young’s Literal Translation).  The word used in the greek that is translated “revelation” in this verse is apokalupsis, which means “unveiling” or “uncovering”.  The word translated as “perfectly” in the greek is teleios, meaning “completely; to the end; without wavering”.  Being holy is as simple as resting our hope ENTIRELY in the power (grace) that comes from our eyes being unveiled to the knowledge of Jesus, and our inclusion in His finished work on the cross.  It has nothing to do with our performance, and is not qualified or nullified by our own righteous or unrighteous actions.

The anti-Christ spirit has used “purity” (or at least our current understanding of it) to pervert purity itself since the garden.  It is time that we align ourselves with a pure gospel, free of humanistic requirement, and demonic control.  Grace is who God is, not a topic to be debated or diluted.  The final portion of scripture I want to look at before closing is found in Matthew 16:13-20.  This passage changed my life forever.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’  So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’  He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’  Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.  And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.  And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosedin heaven.’  Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.”

Jesus, as far as the disciples knew at this point, was just a rabbi.  An incredibly powerful, miracle-wielding, radically devoted rabbi…but a rabbi just the same.  Scholars maintain that the disciples were most likely between the ages of 15 and 20, and those that were found fishing when Jesus came to them were only doing so because they had failed out of yeshiva (rabbinical school).  They were not learned, concerning the Torah and the prophets (old covenant scriptures), but they knew full well the prophecy of the messiah.  It was the entire point of the Torah, and the hope they had been culturally taught to believe in.  The messiah would come and free Israel from the reign of gentile nations, taking political power from His throne in Jerusalem.  It was in their history, told to them in bedtime stories since they could speak, and about them in their daily life.  So when Peter named Jesus as the “Christ” (Messiah), the Son of the Living God” by revelation from heaven, it was a far more impactful statement than is obvious in a non-contextual look at this scripture.  Peter realized that the hope of their freedom, the vindication of Israel, the messiah Isaiah had prophesied about, was standing before him in the flesh.  I can only imagine the sheer weight of that moment…as a teenage boy stood before God, and realized fully who He was for the first time.  Then, in that context of encounter, Jesus proceeds to declare true identity into Peter’s (Simon’s) heart.  He says first, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah…”, calling him by his earthly name and lineage (“bar” means “son of” in Hebrew) so that he might establish the transfer that was  about take place.  Then Jesus tells him that this revelation was not of any man, but that it came from His Father in heaven, establishing the purity of truth that was being released in that moment.  He goes on, “And I also say to you that you are Peter (Cepha)…”.  Peter (Petra in the greek; Cepha in the Hebrew) means rock, or solid place.  The God-man looks at the awe-inspired young man, and tells him he is a rock.  He tells Peter, the bumbling coward of the disciples who betrayed Jesus at the cross, fully knowing all he had ever done and ever would do, that HE was a rock.  He spoke to the exact insecurity that was the source of false identity within Peter, and canceled the lie of the accuser in one moment.  Then, in the same breath, He says “And on this rock I will build my church…”.  He was not saying that the church would be built on Peter, as the Catholic denomination adheres to.  He was saying that His body, His bride, would be founded on the reality that He was unveiled to us as the Messiah of the universe, and that He calls us by our TRUE identity; that He reversed the lie of the accuser, and brought to fullness the revelation of who He is and who we always have been in Him.  The word used in the greek here for “church”, as most of us are aware, is ekklesia.  I have heard many different teachings concerning the meaning of this word, and most of them are powerful and true.  But in my own searching I discovered something that will help to illustrate my point.  Ekklesia comes from two greek words: Ek, which denotes origin and kaleo, which means “to surname”.  It literally means “to call by name according to origin”.  When Jesus called Peter “the rock”, He spoke to the eternity written on Peter’s heart that witnessed to the very rock from which he had been hewn standing before Him, and knowing him.  He was telling Peter who he had always been, and that his sonship in the family of God was sure.  The revelation of Jesus, the messiah, the prophesied end of the law (grace), was and IS the key to the discovery of true and original identity.  Romans 5:8 says “God demonstrates His own love toward us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  The ekklesia that Jesus has been building, and will return to, was never conditional on our performance or confession.  As a matter of fact, He came as the end to that very system.  His church are those who discover their eternal identity, and turn from the lie that they could ever ill-perform their way out of it.  Grace, God Himself, came to show us who we already were; not to convert us into a robot for the kingdom.  Francois DuToit says it like this: “The ugly duckling didn’t need a face-lift, or lessons on how to live the swan life! It only needed to know the truth to be free indeed.”

True purity, the purity the anti-Christ spirit has been so diligent to dilute, is only in the pure gospel of Jesus Christ.  It comes from, and is for the sake of, the finished work of the cross and all He accomplished on it.  Purity of intimacy, of conduct (holiness), of doctrine come from looking at Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who endured the cross and sat down on His throne at the right hand of unadulterated power with His Father in heaven.  Purity comes from realizing we are on it with Him, and have been since before the foundations of time.


eating the fruit of contradiction: the anti-Christ spirit (3rd installment)

ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-YOU

The subtlety of the work of the enemy is, in all honesty, a mastermind work.  The imperceptible manipulation of truth, and insidious nature of its effect within the body is so interwoven that only the God of power can gather us all to the simple purity of His gospel.  I write the words I write here not from a sense of urgency, nor from the need to dispel “heresy” from within the church.  I have never trusted God in His ability to lead His body as much as I do inside this revelation!  That’s the whole POINT!  We can finally rest in His sovereignty, and it has freed me to simply share the journey in writing.

As I’ve gone deeper and deeper into the knowledge of the delectable grace of the good news, I have run across so many errors in my former thinking that kept me from His heart.  In this post I want to address how the anti-Christ spirit is working overtime to blind us to who we truly are.  His ploy has always been, and still is, to deprive humanity of our identity.  As much teaching as I’ve heard on this subject throughout the years, it surprised me when I realized that I was STILL being deceived.  I was sure that I’d come into the full knowledge of my “identity in God”.  But therein was the problem; that very language spoke to living in awareness of the former separation that was the result of my sin.  My “identity in God” was my new identity now that I’d surrendered to His will, and learned to “die daily”. Consequently, when religion and my good efforts were not dynamic enough together to overcome the patterns of death that I attributed to that separation, my only logical conclusion was that I was still in fact separated.  Sure, I’d been taught that I had been RESTORED to my edenic identity, and that only God was able to turn sinners into saints.  The only problem was that it was STILL, though not explicitly declared, a turning that was conditional on MY performance.  Righteous performance; performance that supposedly “leads to life”…but performance none the less.

One of my favorite portions of scripture is Paul’s emphatic heart-spill in Philippians 3: 8-11.  It was the heralding call of movements I’d been involved in, and spoke to some longing in my heart for a “sold-out” , all or nothing kind of devotion to the One I love.  I’d heard it taught definitively as the ideal declaration of the true christian.  I count all else as loss, no matter the cost, I WILL love the Lord my God with every facet of my life.  I’d heard it broken down into the way we use our finances, the use of our time, the stewardship of relationships and thought-life.  The emotion of the passage drew my heart, and the way it was unpacked for me in every lecture or sermon broke it.  It seemed that even as a respected leader in my community, a person people came to for advice, a mentor to many…I still didn’t love God like Paul.  I was far from attaining to that moral perfection, and I feared I would always be.  My freedom came to me in a moment; in a simple word from the voice of truth Himself.  I sat one day speaking to God of all my ill-achievements.  I reminded Him how much He had forgiven me for, how much I was coming to Him to be forgiven for, and apologized for all that He would have to forgive me for in the future.  In His unfathomable kindness, He broke into my monologue. “LEVI…you are NOT a sinner.”

“But….no…no, yes I am.  Don’t You hear all the things I’m saying to You?  Aren’t You supposed to be all-knowing?”  No answer.  The silence was very clear in that moment.  He had said all He needed to say, and it rang in my spirit like an empty cavern.  The word of the Lord to me that day started me on a journey of discovering a gospel that made the heart-spill of Philippians 3 accessible to me.  It gave me hope, and proved to me that Paul and I were not all that different; he just understood it a long time before I did.  In silencing and warping the grace of God within the church, the enemy has accomplished a travesty that it’s time received its rectification.  In Philippians 3:1-7, I discovered the key to exactly what Paul was speaking of in verses 8-11.  The reason God chose paul to preach the good news to the Gentiles was because of what exactly it represented, and how desperately scandalous the messenger needed to appear.  In the first portion of Philippians 3, Paul opens by warning the believers in Philippi to beware of those who were still preaching the circumcision (the law) as righteousness, calling them “dogs” and “evil workers”.  He then enters into a montage of his achievements as a law-man, saying “If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so.”  He set the standard for BOTH sides of the argument, proclaiming himself as the most righteous and revered of those keeping the law (which was truth), so that he might speak from authority as the proponent of the gospel of grace.  THIS is the context from which he speaks saying “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.  Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord…”.  Paul was not speaking of a former life of SIN in that which he counted as loss.  He was not talking about all the secular music he had laid down, nor of the indulgence of a non-fasted lifestyle.  He was not saying that even the sacrifice required of him in this following after Jesus was counted as rubbish in comparison to knowing Him.  HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE LAW AND HIS SELF-EFFORTS.  THAT was what he counted as loss.

I’m not sure how we missed this.  Verse 9 is very clear, saying “…not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith…”.  He prescribes the loss of self-effort as the ONLY WAY through which we come into the saving knowledge of Christ! (“…that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him…”)  Once again, the context of scripture proves itself, and the grace of God triumphs.  However, most of us would wonder about verses 12-14 of this same chapter in light of these statements.  It would SEEM that paul was saying that he DOES still have to fight the flesh, and strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  This is most certainly how I’ve heard these verses taught the majority of my life.  However, looking at verses 10-11 that directly precede this passage, it becomes more clear.  In the original greek text of the word, the separation of headings and sections DO NOT exist.  These were personal letters to the believers of individual cities with whom Paul had personal relationship.  Verses 12-14 are the response to the subject matter of verses 10-11, and there is no separation between them.  The entirety of those four verses reads “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has laid hold of me.  Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ jesus.”  Paul was speaking of the LITERAL death of Christ.  He was not saying that he pressed toward the “fellowship of His sufferings” as we have been taught.  I wholeheartedly disagree with the doctrine that tells you that God expects you to walk through suffering so that you may know Him; to sacrifice anything that you might experience His life in you.  That is EXACTLY what Paul said he counted as loss!  Jesus died so that you do not have to.  He was speaking of ACTUALLY sharing in the physical sufferings of Christ, and dying a martyr’s death, that he might ACTUALLY be raised from the dead as Christ was.  It was HIS longing, and call, to die for the sake of the gospel and to experience the resurrection from the dead…which he will. (1 Thessalonians 4:16)

Now, what of the portion in which he says “Not that I…am already perfected”?  That does seem to say that he is speaking of pressing toward a moral perfection to which he had not attained.  However, the word used here for “perfected” in the original greek is the same word they used for a person who completed a race, and is the root from which we get the word “martyr”.  Often these people would literally push their bodies to their physical limit, completing the race, but forfeiting their life as the consequence.  Paul was speaking to greek christians in the city of Philippi, who all well understood the olympic language of the day.  Even “pressing toward the goal of the prize” was pointing to the same athletic imagery.  He was assuring them as the apostle they revered that he had not been shown of God that he would die the martyr’s death soon.  He was not pressing toward a moral perfection, because he believed it had already been done in him by the one sacrifice of Jesus.  In polluting passages of scripture like this one, Satan has been relatively successful in divorcing the church from the truth of the cross, and subsequently keeping them bound to a false identity.  If we BELIEVED we were not sinners, and that sin had REALLY lost its dominion, the church of God would look a lot more like the bride He gave His son to marry.

The anti-Christ spirit has always been about using lines of delineation; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; jew or gentile; sinner or saint, etc.  It is his most effective way of destroying the family of God, because he knows that a house divided cannot stand.  When one is good and the other is bad, it makes room for those who identify with either side to be at odds with the other.  The righteous are better than the wicked because WE please God.  The Jew is better than the Gentile because WE have the law.  It, without exception, creates division.  It is the very REASON God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree in the middle of the garden, and it is how they forfeited the innocence of ignorance.  The glory of the cross of Christ is that it did away with ALL the contradictions…and I mean ALL of them.  It gave us permission to come back into our TRUE edenic identity; to live according to its finished work; to be guiltless; to have no more shame; to be equal with one another, and ONE with God.  To eat of the tree of life, whose fruit produces immortality, and be in our intended state of pleasure forever.  Let’s explore this reality and its implications a little further.

The contrast of the cross, in comparison to what we’ve tragically believed for so long, is concentrated for the most part in one word: inclusion.  In past posts, I’ve discussed the problem with believing that verses which reference carrying your cross mean to “die to yourself” in order to attain to the will of God for us in our character, morality, and holiness in general (Taking up the cross).  John Crowder says this: “Let’s never water down the completeness of the cross by saying that Jesus’ work was not enough to perfect you, and now you’ve got to perfect yourself.”  We were INCLUDED in the cross of Christ, co-crucified and co-resurrected.  There is no more dying to be done for someone who is already dead.  We ARE a new creation, not becoming one.  Another of my favorite verses in scripture is Hebrews 10:14, which reads as follows in most translations: “For by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”  The only problem with this translation is that in the original text, “those who are being” is not there.  It reads, translated exactly, “By one offering indeed He has perfected forever the sanctified“.  In the Mirror Translation, it reads “By that one perfect sacrifice He has perfectly sanctified sinful man forever.”  The tense of the verb used for “sanctified”, in combination with the word used for “perfectly” in the original greek, suggest an action completed in the past; the effects of which continue into the present and eternity.  He was the lamb slain before the foundations of the world, outside of time, who stepped into time to prove it within our frame of reference.  According to this verse from Hebrews 10, there is no delineation between who is sanctified and who is not, and there is no implication toward a further cleansing or “process” in which a person becomes more like Him.  

If the anti-Christ spirit can prevent us from understanding the ultimacy and totality of the cross, he will effectively prevent us from ever knowing who we truly are.  The challenge then is finding it within ourselves to lay down agendas and the doctrinal pillars we “stand” on, fully trusting that the God of the universe is faithful to lead us into all truth.  The fear of “heretical teaching” never set any man free, and hardly speaks of trust in a good and omnipotent God.  That being said, I’d like to address another powerfully controversial subject of scripture.  Before I get into it, I want to say that I do NOT associate myself with any “camp” of doctrine or denomination.  I am not a Protestant, a Universalist, a Baptist, a Trinitarian, a Methodist, or a Charismatic.  I will not be linked to any title that could in any way denote a devotion to a SINGLE set of ideologies wherein I am unwilling to hear another view, and “immovable” in my convictions because I am convinced no one else could POSSIBLY have it more right.  God has transformed my perspective enough times in my life that it would be asinine to call myself anything other than a Son and a Lover.  Period.  Since I’ve abandoned my rigidity as a believer, the Lord has opened my eyes to things I NEVER thought could be true…which is how I know it was God.  In 1 John 2:2 it says “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.”(emphasis added)  The brevity of this statement is paradigm shifting.  Most would say “YES…He died for the whole world, but the whole world will not be saved because they will not turn to Him.”  I can see how that is very possibly the reality, and I am not proclaiming that I am taking a final stand on either point of view.  However, when you look at scripture as a whole, I would like to propose that the opposite is just as probable, if not more.

Isaiah 45: 22-23 says “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.  I have sworn by Myself; the word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.”  Because of the nature of God, the reality that He IS truth, He literally BINDS Himself to His words in swearing by His own existence.  If He was NOT to keep them, in their exactness and totality, He would cease to be the God He claims to be.  If He violates His nature, He violates His deity.  So what do statements like this one from Isaiah 45 really mean?  Looking a second time at 1 John 2:2, a widely known verse, some of its original language can help with bringing clarity.  The word used in 1 John 2:2 for “propitiation” in the greek is “hilasmos” (“hilasterion”), and is the greek rendering of the hebrew word “kapporeth”, which refers to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.  Hilasterion can be translated either as “propitiation” or “expiation”.  While both terms accomplish the same reality as far as the purpose of the verse, the one most commonly used is a perfect example of perspective OF God that influences life IN God.  While propitiation (being acquitted from the wrath of a judge by way of an atoning sacrifice) utilizes expiation as its means, it most directly points at the wrath of God as its motivation.  One propitiates a person (makes them favorable), and one expiates a problem (removes it).  Expiation speaks primarily to restoration, a tragedy resolved within the rescue, not the deferment of punishment.  I believe it is the more accurate term of the two concerning translation.  Now, if I were to say that a primary goal of the cross was to restore mankind to our edenic state, most would agree with me.  If I were to say that a primary goal of the cross was to defer the wrath of God from human kind, most would agree with me there as well.  The problem is, those two statements are contradictory.

To accurately grasp the picture I am about to paint, we have to abandon the “well my preacher said…” spirit, and allow the simplicity of truth to lead us forward.  I am in NO WAY saying the wrath of God was not poured out on the cross; that reality is clear as day in scripture.  What I AM saying, is that the wrath poured out was not originally pointed at us.  God was there (omnipresent) in the garden of Eden when sin was imposed on man.  Sin originated in the heart of the liar, and when he deceived Eve, he gave her the capacity to allow its emptiness to reign in her heart.  Reaching for the fruit was an outward manifestation of an inward state that is sin…not the sin itself.  The anti-Christ spirit shared itself with Eve, and she partook, and sin came in.  THEY WERE INNOCENT.  God did not come looking for them in anger, even as He knew full well what they had done.  His words were “where are you?”…like a daddy looking for his kids.  He blamed the liar, not the children.

My brother gives a very simple analogy that speaks to the heart of the issue.  It goes as follows:

Perhaps I tell my little girl that she is not allowed to take candy from strangers              on the playground.  I tell her that the consequences will be dire, and it will hurt her badly.  One day, she’s playing by herself and enjoying the monkey bars.  An unmarked white van pulls up, and a strange man rolls down the window to offer her some candy.  She says, “No, my daddy told me I can’t take candy from strangers”.  The strange man then proceeds to tell her “But look how good it is!  And your daddy just doesn’t want you to taste the GOOD candy…the candy that the ADULTS get to eat.”  In my daughters innocence and wonder, she wholeheartedly believes the man.  She doesn’t stop to think about how her daddy wouldn’t lie to her like that because she is too overcome with the possibility that THIS candy might be the best on the earth…and she isn’t allowed to have it.  So, she takes it.  The candy contains a chemical that knocks her unconscious, and the kidnapper takes her limp body into his vehicle.  He takes her to his basement, chains her up, and does unspeakable things to her.  Then, he proceeds to tell her that she’s in the basement, going through what she’s going through, because SHE took the candy.  She was told not to, but she did anyway.  She knew better.  It’s HER fault that she’s alone, and her daddy is mad at her…thats why he hasn’t come to get her.  THIS IS HOW WE TEACH THE CHARACTER OF GOD.

When God came as a man to die on a cross, He wasn’t coming because someone had to pay.  YES, an atoning sacrifice was required, because the WAGES OF SIN IS DEATH.  But Jesus did not block the arrow that the Father had pointed at our spine, dipped in poison.  He didn’t take punishment…He bore our iniquities.  What does that mean?  It means He became sin (the governing entity of emptiness) and died, so that we could live governed by the spirit of Life.  HE CONDEMNED SIN AND SATAN, not humanity.  He included humanity in His death and resurrection…ALL of humanity.  In John 12:28-33, it says “‘Father, glorify Your name.’  Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’  Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’  Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.  Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out.  And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.’  This He said signifying by what death He would die.”  Jesus, echoing the thundering voice of His Father, declared that AT THE CROSS the world was judged, and the one who took authority over it in the garden was cast out.  The word for “world” in the greek is “kosmou”, from the root “kosmos”.  It is where we derive the term cosmos, and it entails the entirety of all that exists.  And what was the judgement of this world?  “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth (resurrection and ascension), WILL DRAW ALL PEOPLE TO MYSELF.”  Merely concerning the reasoning of the sovereignty and ultimacy of God, the ultimate salvation of mankind makes the most sense.  It is the refusal to approach this possibility within the church which the anti-Christ spirit utilizes to produce yet ANOTHER line of delineation that divides the house, and the house is divided if ALL the kids think they aren’t in the family.

Another passage in scripture that has been rightly taught, but unfortunately ill-applied, is Peter’s vision in Acts 10.  Verses 10-15 read, “Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth.  In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.  And a voice came to him, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat’.  But Peter said, ‘Not so, Lord!  For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.’  And a voice spoke to him again the second time, ‘What God has cleansed you must not call common.'”  Peter goes on to explain the vision in verse 28; “Then he said to them, ‘You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation.  But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean.”  We have been taught this passage as the beginning of the inclusion of the gentiles into the plan of God, and that is indeed what is being said.  However, in the stupor of religion (anti-Christ spirit), we have misread the breadth of what God actually accomplished in the cross.  You see, the Jews KNEW they were the people of God.  They had been engrained since the dawn of their culture with the covenant of Abraham, knowing that God had ordained them the chosen people.  THEY kept the law, the prophets came from THEIR blood…only they knew God.  For Peter, a good little torah-keeping Jewish boy, the vision of the sheet was a LIFE CHANGING revelation.  God was not simply saying that the gentiles had the option to be included because of the cross; they had always had that option.  There are, in fact, several accounts in old testament scripture of gentile people joining the Jewish Nation and keeping the law; doing the “things” required of a human to know and follow God.  NO…God was saying that they WERE now included.  That the cross of Christ had accomplished the salvation (rescue) of humanity, ENTIRELY APART from the law (“doing” to be righteous).  If God told Peter to call no man common or unclean, then how is it that we have adopted the concept of “saved and unsaved”?  Because we have been cataclysmically influenced by the anti-Christ spirit, and lied to so that we have to keep doing it for ourselves.  In my humble opinion, maintaining the vernacular of “saved; unsaved” is entirely unbiblical.  Rather, there are those of us who know, and those who don’t know yet.  They’re already included, just like we were when we were yet sinners (Romans 5:6-8)…THEY JUST DON’T KNOW.

Romans 5:18 says, in the Phillips Translation, “We see then, that as one act of sin exposed the whole race of men to condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God”.  And again, in 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, it reads in the Mirror Translation “In Adam all died; in Christ all are made alive.  All are individually made alive in the order of Christ; He is the first fruit and in His immediate presence we are personally revealed as His own.”  In both passages, ALL MEANS ALL.  Even in the greek.  I find it funny that as humans we have no problem at all condemning everyone in the human race because of what Adam and Eve chose in the garden, but that we do not operate by the same tenacity when deciding who gets included in the cross of Christ.  The anti-Christ spirit wants to keep the church in a “holier-than-though-but-humble-about-it” sense of nobility, when we are just as included in Jesus as the other people who fell short.  The anti-Christ spirit robs us of our true identity in giving us a false one, just like he did in the garden.  It is from that place that we make decisions, and form opinions, that are inconsistent with our TRUE identity as partakers of the divine nature.  Simply put, we start TRYING to be like God (good behavior, “righteous” actions, etc..), instead of realizing we ARE like Him.  The anti-Christ spirit puts requirements on the “unsaved” before they get to be “saved”, and enforces them through the voice of the church across the earth; even though we were all rescued from the kidnapper without requirement placed on us by the God Himself.  Then, it takes those salvation requirements and attributes them to (lies about) the character of God…JUST LIKE IN THE GARDEN.  The anti-Christ spirit isn’t doing anything new, we just never really knew what he was doing.

The root of condition-oriented faith, “saved; unsaved”, right or wrong, is shame.  Adam and Eve hid from the God who loved and breathed life in them as soon as they saw their nakedness.  Not because they were naked, because they knew it was the consequence of choosing the wrong tree.  As long as we feel responsible for what happened to us in the garden we will NOT be able to receive the cross, to receive the good news, for what it truly is.  We will live fulfilling the will of the accuser of the brethren, who creates dividing lines, and makes up prerequisites to our faith calling them “standards of holiness”.  If we don’t begin to understand the absolute absurdity of the grace of God, and if our hearts are not allowed to revel in it, we will never know who we are.

But therein lies the good news.  He is the head, we are the body.  He knows what He’s doing.  He IS grace, not just extends it.  Now that, my friends, is the gospel we were saved unto.

NEXT POST: ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-PURITY 1 John 4:19



eating the fruit of contradiction: the anti-Christ spirit (2nd installment)

ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-CROSS

In Hebrews 12:1-2, we see a very widely misunderstood picture of what it means to follow after Jesus.

“Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…

The reason I am quoting this passage is because I want to convey, on a minor scale, the subtle operation of the anti-Christ spirit. Most of us have often heard this passage preached in the context of a motivational message concerning the importance of laying down your life, your rights, and (the pinnacle motivation of the religious spirit) FIGHTING YOUR HORRIBLE SIN. We love to couple this passage with portions like Luke 9:23-24, the requirement of carrying YOUR cross to follow Him, for the double whammy cutting edge message on holiness. Well…hate to burst the bubble, but it’s neither cutting edge, nor the heart of God. Not only has the church been preaching this self-sacrificing doctrine for centuries, regardless of the prophetic lingo we opt to utilize, but we’ve become the agent of hell in our dogma concerning it.

Luke 9:23-24 (and its duplicates, Matthew 16:24-27; Mark 8:34) is hardly a message to the believing church that unless you walk the way Jesus did you cannot follow Him. Let the first person who has adequately lived a life as sinless as our Saviors speak against me in this, because otherwise…THAT message makes following Him an unattainable reality. Jesus was not pointing to a physical OR spiritual death required of those who believe. He was pointing to HIS death that was the salvation of all mankind. To carry your cross means to wear the weight of the sacrifice made FOR YOU. Scripture tells us that we were crucified with Him (Gal. 2:20). That means its YOUR cross. To deny yourself means to give up trying to save yourself. We often forget to consider the context of those whom the Lord was speaking to during His ministry on the earth. I realize His words are eternal, but those hearing them (and thus the issues to which the Lord was speaking) would not have been the same had He been born in Siberia in the 1800’s. He was speaking to torah-keeping Israel, who were living a life of self-righteousness by way of sacrifice. The essence of His words are applicable to every person throughout the whole of time, but without considering the context, we will interpret them wrong 100% of the time. This is why Jesus said “whoever desires to SAVE HIS LIFE will lose it…”. The “take up your cross” words of the Messiah were a proclamation that the cross of Christ was the END of the law, not that you still have to do “your part”.

In view of that reality, Hebrews 12:1-2 takes on a whole new meaning. The word for “weight” in the greek here is “onkon”, meaning “a burden; an encumberance”. The entire chapter preceding Hebrews 12 is renowned as “the hall of faith”, and details the faith (pistis: to be persuaded; come to trust) of those who have gone before us, who looked with longing into the reality we live in…THIS side of the cross. Thus, the “therefore” of verse 1 is the mortar that settles the way we are to approach “running the race”; on the foundation of their motivation: FAITH. Their reality however was beneath the burden of law, which was given to reveal sin and prove our need for a Messiah (Romans 3:20; 5:20). So, “therefore…let us lay aside every weight” can only be referring to the what was the burden of the forerunners verses 1 & 2 of Hebrews 12 are built on. Laying aside every weight means to lay aside every encumberance and condemnation of the law.

Building on this truth, laying aside “the sin which so easily ensnares” takes on a new meaning as well, or at least new in comparison to common church though and teaching. We must remember that we are EXPECTED by God to take all of His word through the filter and lens of the cross of Christ. So, simply put, this verse is not encouraging the fight against sin but rather the awareness of righteousness. Here is where I’m going to lose most of you, if I haven’t already. There is more dogma surrounding the guilt of humanity and our indebtedness for sin than any other topic in Christendom. This is of no surprise, however and merely aids in the logic of my point that the anti-Christ spirit is primarily in operation within the church; he is called the accuser of the brethren, and unfortunately we have been his cheerleaders. Romans 8:2-3 says “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…”. The thing “the law could not do” was make us righteous and end the dominion (sovereignty; control) of sin. The law was given to reveal sin, which was within the confines of the law the sovereign of humanity. The law was not given to condemn humanity, but to show sin for its true colors as an evil dictator. As its subjects, and as with the fall of any kingdom and its ruler, we were destined to its fate. When Jesus came “He condemned sin in the flesh”. He came as a man (flesh) to win man back. The greek term used here for “condemned” is “katakrino”, meaning “to judge decisively as guilty”. The Lord Himself was there in the garden when sin (the governing entity of emptiness) was imposed on mankind, and he came as one of mankind to restore our righteousness (the governing entity of the Spirit of life). My point is that, concerning the heart and mind of God, MANKIND IS INNOCENT. He made His judgement on the cross, calling sin the transgressor and condemning it in His flesh…not men (John 3:17; 12:47)

Returning to Hebrews 12:1-2, in light of these truths, we can begin to rightly understand the reason Christ came, and consequently see the deception of the anti-Christ spirit. When the author of Hebrews wrote “looking unto Jesus” in verse 2 of chapter 12, the word used for looking in the greek was “aphorao”, which means “to look away”. he was not simply saying that we must be determined to look at Jesus; set our will like flint to keep from sin and “have eyes only for Him”. He was exhorting us to look away from the system of the law that ended with the proclamation of John the Baptist (Luke 16:16), and to ALLOW ourselves to be captivated by Jesus; to be distracted by the finished work of the cross that He endured from the lie that we have any payment due for “sin”, or that we could ever have paid it anyway. In his translation of Hebrews within the Mirror Translation, Francois Du Toit says it like this:

“Look away from the shadow dispensation of the law and the prophets and fix your eyes upon Jesus. He is the fountainhead and conclusion of faith. He saw the joy (of mankind’s salvation) when he braved the cross and despised the shame of it. As the executive authority of God (the right hand of the Throne of God) he now occupies the highest seat of dominion to endorse man’s innocence!. (“Having accomplished purification of sins, he sat down…” Heb 1:3, Isa 53:11)”

The deceiver has used all of the verses I’ve discussed over the course of church history to bring us to the precise opposite revelation they were intended to. He has dumbed down the grace of God in mixing it with the law (the mixture Jesus called lukewarm and said makes Him vomit), and caused a hideous religious dogma in our leaders based in “upholding the standard of righteousness” and “fighting the heresy of sloppy grace”. The outcome? A body in shambles, controlled by sin, and upholding a standard of unrighteousness that leads to death.

It is time for a revolution. But we have to stop pretending we’ve figured out God to get there.

Next Post: Hebrews 10:14; Philippians 3:1-14; Galatians 2:17-21 ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-YOU


eating the fruit of contradiction: the anti-Christ spirit

I am learning that the entirety of the gospel is a dangerous instrument when it is not perceived through the lens of the true grace of God.  It is indeed a two edged sword, cutting in whichever direction it is brandished.  Because of that knowledge, (and having been on the receiving end of the religious, dogmatic, legalistic swing) I am diving head first into the sea of what “grace” really means.  Although the subject of this particular post is not directly addressing the matter of grace, it is most certainly a byproduct of it.  This blog post carries the potential to be unbearably long, so for the sake of the sanity of those reading this, I’ve decided to break it up into several.  I love to body of Christ, and want in no way come across as though I am criticizing her, nor merely focusing on her “problems”.  I long for her to be whole, secure in her identity, and free of her chains.  I believe the misinterpretation of  His grace, “Godliness”, and subsequently the spirit of anti-Christ, to be a good majority of why she is not yet entirely unbound.  My desire to address this issue came from the experience of a dear friend of mine, who will go unnamed.  Without revealing too much about him, he has an incredibly pure heart, and is one of the few carrying the TRUE forerunner message in our generation.  I am grateful for every expression of the heart of God within the body, and honor each “stream” for their diligence in stewarding the knowledge of Him in the way they’ve understood it.  I do not however feel it necessary to swallow the bone simply because there is meat to be had, and am decidedly resolved to speak truth as it is revealed to me, regardless of the reaction it may produce.  That being said, I can say with confidence that we have yet to understand as common knowledge within the church the actual meaning of the forerunner spirit and message.  This young man is one of the few who does.  Upon feeling called to a certain community of believers who have given themselves to the pursuit of global evangelism, he moved his entire life to the city they call their home base.  It is safe to say that he does not agree with most of what they teach, their methods, and consequentially their understanding and practical out working of the gospel.  He solely joined them in obedience to the word of the Lord, and has done a phenomenal job of maintaining humility in service and heart.  On a certain occasion, he was driving with another member of the community, and listening to music that he had chosen and thoroughly enjoys.  The artist coming through the speakers was one who very obviously does not live a lifestyle of “surrender to the Lord”, and who finds most of her fame through the exploitation of controversial dress, lyrics, and lifestyle.  The passenger in the car heard the song, and began reprimanding my friend for sowing into the jezebel spirit.  He spoke condescendingly, and involved other members of the community.  Word spread, as it often does in a religious environment pretending to understand love, and people began treating him differently.  Leadership took it upon themselves to publicly “correct” the issue at hand without incriminating my friend by name…you know, they did it “in love”.  Several times in the presence of the entire community leaders addressed the destructive nature of secular music, detailing the harm done to the human soul upon listening to it, and the detriment of partnering with hell in such a way…going as far as to use the specific name of the artist they had been listening to in the car that day.  In other words, indirectly “unveiling” to him that he was, indeed, fraternizing with the anti-Christ spirit.  The young man called me a few days later in distress.  He had been obedient to the Lord, only to find himself ostracized and alone in community.  He is an incredible man of God, full of passion and radically anointed.  He now stood the spiritual “inferior”, however unspoken those words may have been.  The overall attitude and response of those around him made a loud enough statement.  Against my advice, he stayed in the community and continued serving them.  He is a better man than me.

The reason I wanted to open with that story is because it is a simple and yet compelling picture of the deception we live in as believers.  I will not argue with you whether or not secular music that does not glorify the Lord is actually partnering with hell.  I will tell you I think that’s one of the most small-minded things I’ve heard since I left that type of community, but I will not argue with you.  The very spirit he was being accused of bedding with was in actuality what those accusing were in full, albeit unwitting, submission to.  Satan, and every foul thing that proceeds from him, LOVES to accuse the brethren…and they love to use the “word of God” to do it.  Scripture says that the deceiver comes as an angel of light.  This does not mean that he makes sin, and all his ploys, attractive so we’ll do it.  That is so obvious, it’s not even revelation.  It means that he uses the truth of God, and things of a supernatural nature, to deceive humanity.  He was once in the ranks of the heavenly host; he knows ALL about what we’re trying to figure out.  I want to make an effort to challenge the current and common ideas concerning the anti-Christ spirit, and I will most likely offend SOMETHING that you’ve held on to for dear life as long as you’ve been breathing.  Please remember as you go here with me that I am not trying to jump on the “I’m right, you’re wrong” band wagon.  I’m actually trying to COMPLETELY DO AWAY with that process of thought.  I am just beginning to scratch the surface of the scandalously good grace of God, and the revelation that we have been afraid of our inheritance for far too long.  I am COMPLETELY willing to hear the Lord tell me I’m wrong, in whatever fashion He may choose to do so.  But, until He does just that…I’d like to invite you into discovering the depths of the love and wisdom of our God right alongside me.

ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-MESSIAH

This spirit of the anti-Christ is not the spirit of Lady Gaga, nor is it the spirit characterized by any slew of “sin”.  The spirit of the anti-Christ is just that…anti Christ.  Now the problem with a statement like this one (spirit of the anti-Christ) is the dogmatic doctrinal connotation it carries with it from years and centuries of pointed teaching.  Because we have been taught to approach the gospel as “sinners”, we have then defined the antithesis of the saving knowledge of the good news as sin.  Therefore, since we were saved from our sin, the spirit that hates the One who saved us must primarily propagate the love of sinfulness and the partaking of it…right?  While it is true that the out working of unrighteousness is indeed a part of the kingdom of darkness, I want to suggest that it is not Satan’s foremost device in binding the earth to blindness.

To rightly understand the operation of the anti-Christ spirit, we much first rightly understand the operation of the One it opposes.  When a counterfeiter of currency goes about creating his forgery, he does not study any former counterfeit, but rather the authentic note itself.  It needs to appear on its face to be the bona fide currency it imitates.  It even needs to withstand exceedingly intimate inspection.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is the sincere currency of life, and the counterfeiter has wielded its potency to obtain his ambition since the dawn of time.  In the account of the “fall” of man in the book of Genesis, chapter 3 verses 1-5, it says

“The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made.  One day he asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?’ ‘Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,’ the woman replied.  ‘It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat.  God said, “You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.”‘ ‘You won’t die!’, the serpent replied to the woman. ‘God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.'”

When the author of Genesis calls the serpent the “shrewdest” of all the animals, the Hebrew word used is “arum”, meaning “crafty, shrewd, or sensible.”  However, the english language is built upon germanic and latin foundations.  English is considered to be a linear language, far more literal & widely varied in its word usage.  Hebrew is called a conceptual language, utilizing descriptive context surrounding specific words to imply meaning (i.e. – “You are beautiful” becomes “You are as a sunset”).  Greek is also a very linear language, and the translation most widely used to convert the scripture into English.  The greek word used here for “shrewdest” is “phronimos”, which more accurately dictates the original Hebrew intention within the word.  The word phronimos comes from the same root from which we derive the english word diaphragm.  The diaphragm is a muscle that involuntarily regulates your breathing.  In light of its root, phronimos could more accurately be translated “personal perspective regulating outward behavior.”  It basically means to be controlled from the inside out.  In the context of the deceiver, it entails that his internal perspective WAS and IS his identity.  The conversation following this statement with Eve was his willful effort to imprint her with his identity.  So, to do just that, he utilized the word of God to cause her to doubt her God-like identity.  He accuses the heart of God, using His very word, to misrepresent the intention of God and rob humanity of their identity in Him.  The truth about Adam and Eve, and by extension ALL of humanity, is that the were made like God.  When the accuser said they would “be like God, knowing both good and evil”, he was appealing to the seed of doubt he had planted in them (“Did God really say..?”).  The lie was in that being like God never included knowing evil.  God had never known evil.  The word used here for “know” in the greek is “ginosko”, and is the same word used when Mary the mother of Jesus doubted her immaculate conception, proclaiming she had not known a man.  It denotes not only first hand experience, but also an intimate and experiential knowledge.  He used the truth, that they would indeed know (ginosko) the contradiction between good & evil, to indirectly challenge the kindness of God within the heart of the woman.  By saying “God knows that your eyes will be opened…”, as though He had withheld the complete truth from them, he knowingly tainted the goodness of the God who breathed life into them.  For them to know both good and evil would not make them like God, as He cannot know evil (He cannot do evil), and they were already created in His likeness.

The outcome of the fall of man (commonly referred to as the “fall from grace”, interestingly enough) was not primarily characterized by the action of man; it was decided by the source of the action, and the result of its completion.  We tend to think of sin as the list of actions associated with the “do nots” of scripture.  However, the greek word for sin is “harmatia”, defined on wikpiedia.com (sometimes secular sources provide far more agenda-less information) as “an injury committed in ignorance when the person affected or the results are not what the agent supposed they were”.  It is used throughout much of secular greek literature to denote “a hero’s fatal flaw”, and most directly refers to the consequential misfortune of the action taken, not necessarily providing delineation between the “right” or “wrong” of the action itself.  As a matter of fact, it was often used to describe the rightful action a hero had to take because of moral obligation that lead to misfortune.  Biblically speaking, the real meaning of harmatia should sound something like “an inward element of deficit that produces unrighteous action”; it is literally the governing entity of emptiness that plays heavily into how a person lives their life, not primarily the lifestyle they live.  Throughout the generations of church history most have associated “worldliness” with the anti-Christ spirit, saying the church must strive to be “in the world, but not of it”; to die to our desire to fulfill selfish longing, and live a life consecrated to the Lord.  Anything lesser has been carelessly thrown into the “anti-Christ” category.  It is the primary reason the new-age movement, the homosexual population, and the abortion doctors are keenly aware that they are unwelcome in the church by some unspoken law of “we’re right, you’re wrong”.  I am OBVIOUSLY not saying the actions taken by those portions of society are good nor Godly.  But we have theologies CENTERED around the rise of the anti-Christ detailed in the book of Revelation, most of which have been misconstrued to a degree that incriminates humanity in THIS day based on a fear of what will happen in that one.  

The spirit of the anti-Christ is not primarily manifested in “worldliness”.  I regret having to say it, but I believe it is primarily manifested currently within the church itself.  The reason I believe this is relatively simple when it is rightly understood, but unfortunately most reading this have been too offended already, and forfeited any desire to journey with me into it.  The phrase “anti-Christ” does not, contrary to popular church belief, mean “anti-Jesus”.  As a matter of fact, it is the very gospel OF Jesus this wicked spirit has wielded to accomplish its purpose since the dawn of the church…and regrettably used to ensnare the body in subtle deception.  “Anti-Christ” actually means “anti-Messiah”, or “anti-Anointed One”.  This is why the church has missed its rise in our midst while we were out witch-hunting, as it is the very spirit who cultivated a misunderstanding of the messianic work and role of Jesus, and (by that same token) blinded us to its own true purpose.  The intention of the anti-Christ spirit (it is my resolute conviction) is to blind the church of God to the true grace of God, and restrict them in a nearly undetectable manner to the law Jesus came to fulfill.  It plans to keep the body of Christ beneath the supposition that WE ARE TO BLAME FOR OUR SIN; to coral a body of “sinners” into its buildings every sunday to learn about how far they are from how God wants them, and how much they still have to do to get there.  It wants to come up with good strategies, and dreams of global transformation to distract from the only revelation that will actually accomplish it.  It longs to cultivate shame within the heart of the bride, and utilize a system of “repentance” as her only way out of never being good enough (that is EXACTLY what the sacrificial system of the law was).  It intends to mix the grace of God with the law of the old testament, in unbelievable subtlety, to keep us needing a savior instead of having our Messiah.  It’s not nearly as concerned with keeping the world “in sin” as it is with keeping the church in religion.

Next Post: Hebrews 12: 1-2 ANTI-CHRIST: ANTI-CROSS


Taking up the cross

I still have so many questions.  In all honesty, this entire post could probably just be questions if I wanted to take the time to type them all out.  But one thing I know for certain…the gospel the spirit of God has been showing me of late is the most deeply penetrating, life-altering, heart-moving, empowering, freeing, dearly offensive tapestry of impossible kindness I’ve ever even remotely understood.  For the first time in my life, the secret certainty that there must be more than even the most extravagant good news has been realized.  Not because it has been irrevocably answered, but rather because it is infinitely fathomable.  There is simply no end to the depth of revelation, and consequential response of the heart, within this gospel…the real good news.  The news neither I, nor the vast majority of the believing and unbelieving world, have ever heard until now.

Taking up the cross.

Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” – Mark 8:34-35

For too long, at the mercy of a horribly deceived church controlled by religion, I’ve believed this passage to be the mantra of the “sold out”.  It was the linchpin of the self-sacrificing, desire surrendering, way of “life” I’d always been told was true discipleship.  It was the holiest and most admirable pursuit…however entirely impossible it was.  Every church camp, every youth rally, every trendy wrist band and t-shirt bent itself in this direction.  “DIE TO YOURSELF”, because it’s obviously the only way to save your life.  I mean…its in the BIBLE for crying out loud!!  Praise You, Holy Spirit of God, that you are so faithful to lead us into all truth…because I so appreciate not having to live beneath the desolate and joyless weight of such ungodly (literally) expectation.

The first ignorance in my understanding was really a very basic thing, but a foundational knowledge that drastically effected the way I perceived the whole of scripture, and life in God in general.  I realized that the reason I’ve never comprehended  what it means to carry my cross is because I never REALLY understood HIS cross.  Although every sermon from every preacher I’d ever encountered was carefully crafted to excessively repeat that “The cross of Christ is salvation for everyone who believes!”…it was all too covertly woven into the tapestry of Christian rhetoric that I had BETTER believe.  In other words, it wasn’t an inviting aroma that answered the longing in my heart for eternity.  It was a story about how kind God was to kill Himself for me, and how if I was going to follow Him, He expected the same of me in return.  You know, an eye for an eye kind of deal.  Thus…carrying your cross.

However…one of the great things about coming into your own in the Lord is that you start to realize that you don’t have to listen to everything every “leader” in the body says about God.  As a matter of fact, in the state we’re currently in as the church, you’re probably better off just NOT listening to most of them AT ALL for a while.  When you start to read the word of God for yourself, a lot of context suddenly appears that was somehow drowned in the agenda of religion before.  And that’s where I’m going to start with this passage: it’s context.  Now, I’m not a bible scholar, and I won’t get into an argument with you concerning the exegesis of a particular passage.  But even just the basic reality of who Jesus was speaking to, when He was speaking, and WHY He said what He did brings most religious argument to its knees.

When Jesus was walking the earth, He preached a message that pointed to something.  We tend to think of the words of Jesus, specifically the beatitudes and sermon on the mount, as a life-manual for those who call on His name.  But the problem with that thinking is that, well…its just not true.  Jesus, the only sinless man to ever walk the earth until His resurrection, preached to a specific group of people and spoke very specific words to make a very particular point.  He was born a Jewish man, and preached among the Jewish people, a people familiar with the ways and life of the Torah (law).  The message He preached was VERY different from the message He died for.  His sermons were the law, and they were the law at its maximized intensity.  If you actually read through the beatitudes with this in mind, it becomes very obvious.

“You’ve heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (emphasis added) – Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus did not “reinstate holiness” and “call people to TRUE righteousness”, at least not at this particular juncture of His life.  He made an already impossible standard even more unattainable.  He took the law that the Pharisees so arrogantly claimed to have kept and preached one that no man could even hope to lie about.  This is why it says in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (emphasis added)  This was NOT a statement from the God of grace that He was coming to tell us how to be holy; that it was going to be hard, but that He’d help us along the way.  He was NOT simply revealing the sin-governed heart of man so that we could recognize it, feel bad all over again, and try harder.  He was, in ONE statement, silencing the arguments of those who hated Him and those who would love Him.  For the religious Pharisees and Sadducees, He was declaring that He was not replacing the revered law of Moses, or nullifying that covenant with God, thus voiding one more thing they would most certainly have used to accuse Him unto death.  And for those hopelessly aware of their inability to abide by a law that was given to bring that exact awareness to vision, He was neither maintaining  the former covenant and law of Moses, leaving them to drown in their inadequacy and shame.  He was FULFILLING them.  HE was the answer, as He always had been, since before the foundations of time. Romans 10:4 says, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.”  More literally translated it says, “…end of the law, that everyone who believes may be justified.”  The REAL gospel of Jesus is one of UTTER relinquishment of self, in its truest form…absurd and abundant grace.

This verse from Romans 10 is speaking of the way of salvation.  That’s a pretty big deal.  We like to say that salvation is not “your life and Jesus’ life; You can’t have what you want AND what God wants for you.  You have to die to yourself, because He died for you.”  Even in the margin of my bible, these notes are present concerning this verse:

“…’law’ here refers to the system of earning righteousness in one’s own strength. Christ indeed is the perfect fulfillment of everything the law requires, but He also put an end to the law as a way of achieving righteousness for everyone who believes.  Thus, Paul emphasizes the sufficiency of faith in receiving the righteousness of God because in fulfilling the law’s demands, Christ terminated its claim.  The verse does not mean that a Christian may ignore God’s moral standards or commandments”

Now, without getting into some of the original Greek and Hebrew text, it can be quite the task to disagree with what is said here in the footnotes of my bible, and what we’ve all been taught.  But the problem is mostly in the perspective that has resulted from twisted teaching, as it is the lens we continue to interpret all of scripture through.  I do not necessarily disagree that we need to believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead to be saved, or that this isn’t the core of the good news.  HOWEVER, I believe the thought that it is an obligation, or a condition of our salvation to be another nearly indiscernible corruption of religion.  In the Hebrew, the only word for “faith” is literally translated “trust” in English.  The Hebraic understanding of salvation is simply trusting that He is who He says, and did what He said He did; believing on His sacrifice.  The issue with making our salvation conditional on anything we can DO or SAY is that it still, no matter how infinitesimal the mixture, dilutes the purity of the grace offered to us in the cross of Christ.

When Paul says in Romans 10:4 that “…Christ is the end of the law for everyone who believes”, he was not saying that He is the end of the law IF we believe.  He was saying He is the end of the law, of self-effort, period.  The “believing” is not a “doing”, it is a result of revelation.  The magnificent cross of Christ boasts within itself the power to motivate the heart to explode with faith (trust), and spill from the mouth with irrepressible declaration.  He was not giving us a formula for fire-insurance.  He was giving voice to the finished reality of salvation for ALL of mankind inherent in the resurrected life of Jesus that is the only plausible confession of the heart that encounters it.  Francois Du Toit, author of the Mirror Translation, says it like this: “…it is the spontaneous inevitable conversation of a persuaded heart!” (Notes on Romans 10:9, The Mirror Translation).

To even need to say that a Christian is not allowed to “ignore God’s moral standards or commandments” (in my opinion) speaks to the possibility that the author of such a statement is living from a reality in which he feels the responsibility personally for another persons potential “misunderstanding” and “abuse” of grace.  Or, perhaps responsibility is the wrong word.  It seems he may feel the need to be the voice of conviction; to preserve the “holiness” of the body required by a God who is holy.  This, my friends, is the fruit of law and performance.  Of course, in the grace of God (rightly understood), no person would ever WANT to live in the way that leads to death.  Whether they are allowed to or not, is not the issue, and finds its origin in the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Most preachers spend their time pre-emptively medicating the exploitation of a grace that only has the power it is entitled to when it’s beneficiary is aware of it’s absurdly permissive nature.  A Christian CAN ignore God’s moral standards and commandments…but that person will live a half-life, and most likely, has never encountered true grace.

The life of a believer, to “follow after” the One we love, was never meant to be drudgery.  The fallacy of sacrifice as we’ve understood it is the primary reason a good majority of the Church is still warring with their “sins” instead of becoming infatuated with Jesus.  It’s the crippling identity we’ve assigned to a gospel that is supposed to be good news, but reads like bondage to an already bound world.  Discipleship was not the idea of humanity, nor of a transformation-hungry God.  It was not born of necessity to corral the unruly and human body of Christ, nor for the sake of multiplication unto mass conversion of the nations.  It was not a strategy, and is not the battle plan for the “army of God”.  Discipleship is the OUTCOME of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, not the road to it.  Look at every verse in which Jesus says something to the tune of “unless you _____, then you cannot be my disciple” through that lens.  What once seemed to be the God-man demanding that you have no fun or you can’t be His friend, will suddenly make His point very obvious.  He was proving to a nation based on, governed by, and drowning in the law that they could not meet the requirements of it.  He had come to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17), so that we could be made righteous in His sacrifice forever (Hebrews 10:14).  He died so we don’t have to…period.  The “die to yourself” doctrine has gone on long enough, and it’s why our understanding of “carrying the cross” has caused so much more damage than we may even be aware.

After a famous portion of scripture known as “the hall of faith” in which the author of Hebrews remembers in chapter 11 those who had gone before since the dawn of time and their faith, chapter 12:1-3 says this:

“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (“our” is excluded in the original text), who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

This verse is nearly synonymous with every motivational message concerning the laying aside of sin, so that we can run the race.  That is the precise opposite intention of the author of Hebrews in this passage, and a misconception that has sown deeply into striving for a good majority in this generation of the church.  First of all, I would wager that the original text would translate very differently.  Language dictates much of how we receive the heart of any given sequence of words.  The word set “let us lay aside every weight, and sin…” most likely sounds like its your job to stop sinning when you read it.  This is the byproduct of religious conditioning and misinterpretation.  The actual meaning of that specific phrase is inherent in the solid chapter of remembering that came before it.  Chapter 11 of Hebrews is a testimonial of those who believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ without living to see His coming; a tribute to the “giants” of the faith who were, comparatively speaking, believing in a mere shadow of that which we have access to.  Thus, when it says “Therefore we also…”, it is speaking in the context of faith, or trust in the finished work of the cross.  When THAT is the lens we read “let us lay aside every weight, and sin” through, we see the author was giving us permission to rid ourselves of sinconsciousness since sin was dealt with conclusively at the cross.

The word in this passage for “looking” in the greek is Apharao (af-or-ah-oh), which means literally to be distracted by.  It is looking, with undivided attention, because of the fascinating nature of the object stealing your gaze.  The problem with the way we tend to teach the knowledge of the cross of Christ, is that it doesn’t distract anyone from anything.  If anything, its obligatory and duty-ridden implication causes us to LONG to look away.  Its simple really…we will dwell upon those things that bring us pleasure, and give our lives wholeheartedly to the pursuit of them.  And in the context of true grace, that is exactly what the cross does.  That is why Jesus said in Mark 8:34, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself…”.  We’ve been taught that this means to lay down your desires, give up your way of doing things, and make Jesus Lord of your life.  While those principles are true, to assume we can accomplish them, or anything else for that matter, of our own strength would be to return to the law.  Denying yourself in the light of the grace of Jesus’ triumphant resurrection means to refuse to operate within self-effort.  Not to deny who YOU are, but to accept who HE is.  He did not die to get rid of you, but to restore your true identity.  Further on in verse 34, He says “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him…take up his cross, and follow Me.”  I cannot affirm enough that these are not conditional statements, meaning they are not the 1,2,3,4 of following Jesus.  These are consequential statements, detailing the process of what happens to a person who has come into revelation of salvation that was accomplished before the foundations of time.  Taking up your cross has nothing to do with the burden of sacrifice.  Galatians 2:20 says that we were crucified with Christ.  The reason He calls it OUR cross is because we were on it with Him.  You both already died together, so that you can live forever with Him.  To take up your cross is to live beneath the ever-present weight of the finished work in Jesus death and resurrection.  Like Hebrews 12:2 says, to be distracted by the work of the cross; staring intently at the author and finisher of our faith.  It is not sacrifice in itself, it is never forgetting the FINAL sacrifice that occurred over 2,000 years ago and before the foundations of time.
We have to deal the final blow to our self-effort.  It is a disease bred by religious thinking that offers no cure.  The antiserum is called grace.  It is potent, life-saving, and tastes wonderful…but it must be drunk straight.  Mixture with law nullifies the essence and purpose of the entirety of the gospel.  We cannot treat it lightly.  Verse 35 of Mark 8:34-35 reads as follows:

“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it”

To be a disciple of Jesus, to carry your cross, is to die to your self-effort…not to yourself.  If YOU desire to save your life, you will be bound to the law for as long as you refuse to let go.  The goal of the law was to reveal sin, and the wage of sin is death.  You will lose your life if YOU try to save it.  But, in the beautiful grace of God, if you will finally rest into the ease of what Jesus has already done…for His sake, because He is most glorified when you are most satisfied, and for the gospel’s sake because you ARE the message you believe…you will save your life.  He came to save the world, not to condemn it.  If you will let HIM save your life, you will have life abundant.

Carry your cross.  Live in grace.  Stop trying.  It’s the good news.