We are former full-time Christian missionaries to Honduras begining a new chapter in Tennessee. Jesus is Lord. He is also Truth. All others must take a back seat. Brian is the writer. Cathy is the editor. Together we are one flesh, one heart, and one mind in Jesus's name. God bless!
Besubject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.1Pet 2:13-17
Now we are into the meat of scripture.
Jesus was tempted in every way that is common to man but He never gave in to sin. Heb 4:15 The question for us is,
Are you going on with Jesus?…
…The way goes through Gethsemane, through the city gate, and on “outside the camp” (Heb 13:13). The way is lonely and goes on until there is no longer even a trace of a footprint to follow— but only the voice saying, ‘Follow Me’” (Mat 4:19). -Oswald Chambers- “My Utmost for His Highest” Sept 19
While temptations common to man lean towards sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy,drunkenness, orgies, and things like these…Gal 5:19-21 The temptations of Jesus were along the lines of failing to fulfill His divine purpose. Mat 4
And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.Luke 22:44
As we previously stated, Peter begins this chapter with the importance of new believers desiring pure spiritual milk regarding our adoption as children of God. We must know this beyond a shadow of a doubt or we remain weak, immature and an easy target for the enemy. The goal is to grow in knowledge and strength. This requires moving from milk to meat. Spiritual meat begins with a deeper and ongoing revelation of who God is as well as the absolute genius and perfection of His will and plan. Then comes the harder realities that attend our being conformed by Him so that one day we will be glorified. Rom 8:29-30
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.Rom 8:16
Accepting and appropriating our position as adopted children is hard enough for some of us. That we shall reign as kings and priests Rev 1:6Rev 5:10 is just plain surreal. Still, others receive both with apparent ease as if everything is finished. Yet how many truly consider Paul’s words “provided we suffer with him” as the qualification of our future authority?
INDEED, ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE A GODLY LIFE IN CHRIST JESUS WILL BE PERSECUTED,2 Tim 3:12
1Pet 2:13-17 is a template for what that persecution and suffering might look like. The context of these verses is the persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Nero. We aren’t certain if Nero set the fire or was simply one of the first to “never let a crisis go to waste”. In any case, he blamed the fire that destroyed a majority of Rome on Christians who used it to justify feeding them to lions and mounting them alive on poles then setting them on fire to light the streets and gardens of the city. It is Emperor Nero that Peter is honoring in Rome before being crucified. It is Emperor Domitian that Peter is honoring prophetically as the sojourners to whom he is writing in Asia Minor will experience a similar fate in just twenty years. It is to us today that Peter is writing.
For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should silence the ignorance of foolish people.
It is not only at the hands of government entities that we are called to suffer, but injustice period. Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust… ….if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps... 1 Pet 2:18-25
At no point did Jesus ever fight back or instruct others to fight.
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep amid wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”… …”A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household”… Mat 10:16-28
Jesus conquered sin and death through submission and suffering. We are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes, if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain.Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.
Still, I wonder if it is a temptation that is common to men like me or a temptation of Jesus to fight back. What would I have done if my friend were beheaded like John the Baptist? Mat 14 What would I have done had I witnessed the abuse of Jesus at the hands of Roman soldiers? Mark 15:16-20 What would I have done if I were Peter with a sword in the Garden of Gethsemane? John 18:10 Jesus made it clear that He could fight back.
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”Mat 26:52-54
Did Jesus sweat great drops of bloodLuke 22:44 because He was afraid and tempted to deny Himself and simply quit? Or was He restraining the temptation to pour out His wrath as the demons asked before the time? Mat 8:29.
I could be wrong. But I suspect it was the latter.
Please don’t misunderstand. I do not believe that Jesus called us to lay down our lives in consent to evil. It is never a question of if we should fight. It is a question of how we fight. Jesus called us to speak the gospel truth and endure whatever comes as results. Peter wasn’t crucified for honoring Nero. He was crucified for adhering to his previously stated resolution to obey God rather than man.Acts 5:27-29If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. I don’t know about you but the only way I can be sure that I will not lash out like Peter or worse when the moment of truth arrives is to be sure that I walk according to the spirit and not after the flesh. Rom 8:5-8
So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe,“The stone that the builders rejectedhas become the cornerstone,” and“A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined (appointed KJV) to do.1 Pet 2:7-8
Disobey is apeithéō– unbelief. Destined or appointed is títhēmi. In this context it means to make (or set) for one’s self or for one’s use, to set, fix establish, to set forth, to establish, ordain.
Wait! Some people were appointed to disobey?
That’s what it says.
Interestingly we don’t struggle as much with the idea of being chosen to be blameless.
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Eph 1:4
Calvinists and Arminians will continue to debate until Jesus returns. Yet as we discussed in our previous post both scripture and quantum physics declare that creation is not as most of us perceive it to be. The more I study creation in the context of God’s word and science the more I feel like coining a new theological term called “Heisenbergism” after the quantum physicist Werner Heisenberg.
The moment you think you know, you don’t.
Only those rooted and built up in him and established in the faith…Col 2:7 will avoid being disturbed by the paradoxical goodness and severity of God. Rom 11:22 and
Paul speaks of the very same Jews in Romans 11 that Peter names as “appointed to disobey” in 1 Pet 2:7-8. These were the Pharisees and Sadducees who chose Barabas over Jesus Mat 27:15-26 and demanded that Jesus be crucified. These are the same Jews who deny their Jewish Messiah today. As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. Rom 11:28
I remember packing for our trip to Israel in 2018 and being so excited to meet our Jewish brethren whom we loved and supported as Americans and Christians. I was naive of course and I soon learned that many if not most orthodox Jews despised and even hated Christians. This was largely due to the failure of the church to be the church through the ages. Too often instead of provoking the Jews to jealousy, Rom 11:11 many believers remained silent and or were complicit in their persecution. It’s a strawman of course as you don’t judge a book by who reads it but by its author. Still, it’s an emotionally charged strawman.
There are a lot of interpretations of the role of the Jewish people in God’s kingdom. The belief spectrum goes from Judaizers who teach the strict observance of the Torah in Jesus’ name thus nullifying grace, Rom 11:6 to supersessionists who believe the gentile church superseded or replaced the Jews thereby nullifying God’s word regarding His irrevocable covenant with Israel. Rom 11:29Deut 5-6, Deut 28, Deut 29 The remainder of the Bible is the story of His goodness and severity, the wooing and discipline of His chosen albeit adulterous people to fulfill His covenant.
Afterward, the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.Hosea 3:5
As Romans 11 explains our being grafted in as Gentiles along the way is not because the Jews (the natural branches) are rejected or condemned and we Gentiles have taken their place. Rather it was part of His plan to keep His word from the start.
I say then, have they stumbled that they should fall? Certainly not! But through their fall, to provoke them to jealousy,salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!Rom 11:11
You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.” Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.Rom 11:19-23
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:“The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”Rom 11-25-27Isaiah 59:20-21
Once again, speaking of the same Jews, Peter named in 1 Pet 2:7-8 Paul states, For God has committed (destined, appointed) them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all. Rom 11:32
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.Rom 11:33-36
If that doesn’t bolster your faith in our sovereign God, then I don’t know what will.
1 Peter 2 begins with Peter’s exhortation that the newborn believers exiled in Asia Minor would desire the pure milk of the word so they would grow. Spiritual milk is the gospel of salvation and the resulting new identity we have in Christ. Eph 2:1-10 This is the foundation of Christianity and reality itself. If indeed you are in Christ, you are a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.2 Cor 5:17 If indeed you are in Christ you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Many contemporary Christians lose sight of the fact that the purpose of milk is to grow teeth capable of chewing solid food. 1 Cor 3 The KJV calls it meat.
I prefer meat.
We made it to 1 Pet 2:4 in our Bible study last week.
…Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Pet 2:4-5
Peter is quoting from Isaiah and Psalms. The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.Psalms 118:22“Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, and a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation;Isaiah 28:16 Jesus is the living stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God. …the chief cornerstone. We the church are living stones being built into God’s building. 1 Cor 3:9 Once again, the foundation laid by the Apostles is the Gospel. It is the template for reality. If that foundation is changed or corrupted the whole building will burn and collapse. 1 Cor 3:20-14 It is for this reason that Paul gives such a very dire warning.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.Galatians 1:8-9.
Peter goes on to say that the purpose of God’s building (His people) is the offering of spiritual sacrifices. In the past, not even kings could offer sacrifices but only Levitical priests. In 2 Chronicles 26, the Lord struck King Uzaiah with leprosy for daring to offer incense on the altar of incense. Today believers are a Holy Priesthood. Our spiritual sacrifices include the sacrifice of praise, acts of charity, and submission to spiritual authority. Heb 13:15-17 We are to walk in love as Christ loved us. Eph 5:2 Most importantly we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. Rom 12:1-2 “Self” must be slain on the altar before we come boldly (as holy priests) to the throne of grace. Heb 4:16 This includes but is not limited to our self-image and facades, our pride, our rights, and if necessary our very lives. Rev 12:11 Not loving our lives onto death is a scary thought. But Jesus told us to fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which can destroy both soul and body in hell.Mat 10:28 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.Prov 9:10 This also is spiritual milk. Fear phóbos (terror) of the Lord is the terror associated with the idea of ignoring or rejecting Him. It begins with the recognition of our littleness, our weakness, our brokenness devoid of wisdom and understanding. As we mature, phóbos leads to reverence and awe more than terror as we behold and appreciate the awesome wisdom power, and grandeur of our sovereign God in the context of the Spirit of (our) adoption as sons… Rom 8:15 The reverence and awe that flows from sonship is a function of love and gratitude.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christprovided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. Sometimes suffering is where the meat begins. Rom 8:16-17
Understanding the necessity of suffering only comes with maturity grown from a diet of spiritual meat. The transition from milk to meat begins when we find ourselves less and less consumed with self e.g. my identity, my calling, my comfort, my rights etc., and become so enamored with Him and His will that self drops away. You know you are eating meat when the words you’ve read a thousand times jump off the page and give way to deeper revelation and awe.
One of the most awe-inspiring, faith-building albeit mind-boggling aspects of God’s word is that scriptures written in the past tense may describe future events. For example, Isaiah wrote about Jesus in the past tense seven hundred years before He was born. David did the same in Psalms 22. Spiritual meat that reveals deeper truth nourishes faith that can endure testing and be proven genuine. 1 Pet 1:6-9
Why would God write about the future as if it already happened?
Did he intentionally confuse us? After all Solomon did write that, …he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.Ecc 3:11 In my experience, scriptures that conflict with my existential perceptions and understanding ofcreation, time and distance bring me to a crossroads of awe and doubt. Do I lean on my own understanding, remain wise in my own eyes and doubt the validity of the text? Prov 3:5-8 Or do I trust God’s word that tells us He saved us before He created us and allow the paradox to birth revelatory awe in my soul?
even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Eph 1:4
Trust the Science.
As is often the case, the science with which so many try to refute God’s Word repeatedly validates it. Four hundred and fifty years before Jesus was born Solomon wrote That which is, already has been; that which is to be already has been; Ecc 3:15 Today the Theory of Special Relativity in quantum physics states that everything that is going to happen has already happened.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the Lord? … Rom 11:33-34, Isaiah 55:8-9, Job 38:4-7
According to these physicists, while everything that ever will exist already does exist, it is the act of observation on our part that brings each moment into what we call physical or experiential existence. The Bible uses the word “fulfillment”. If that sounds weird or “New Agey” then consider this.
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Heb 11:1
What if we replaced the aforementioned “act of observation” with “faith”? Lots of believers attempt to walk this out individually, especially regarding healing. Miracles and healing do happen. However, statistically speaking, more often nothing happens. Now you might conclude that my observation of the “nothing” is the problem. But denial and faith are not the same. Perhaps the reason we fail to manifest the power that should attend our roll as priests is the fact that what we call the body of Christ amounts to what Art Katz called an aggregate of individuals doing their own thing. Perhaps the problem is that we are consumed with “My Identity” rather than
Ephesians 4:11-16 is the cry of my heart amidst pipe dreams of “unity in community” based on games, social gatherings, dinners, and birthday parties. Our identity will only be found when we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; We can get together over a taco at the drop of a dime. But to come together in His Word, according to His Word to search out the mysteries of His word Prov 25:2…well ya know I’m really tired and besides I have a birthday party to get to”… But what if unified corporate belief in His Word that produces faith Rom 10:17 is what is required for His biblical blueprint to be made manifest as reality? Ephesians 4:11-16
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting… Ephesians 4:11-16
The guiding principle behind the Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible Study is that we all see in a mirror dimly. 1 Cor 13:12 Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. Rom 10:17 It follows that we all see and hear better when we do it together. Holy Spirit is our teacher. John 6:13
Still, how can unity of the faith happen when almost no one wants it? How do I know that no one wants it? Because as I showed in our previous post only 6-9% of professing Christians and 37% of pastors in the US have a Biblical worldview based on the Word that God exults above ALL His name. Psalms 138:2.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.Heb 5:12-14
Believers around the world have been hoping for, praying for, and prophesying revival for decades. It seems that every couple of years someone or some group declares a revival only to have it fizzle out in a few weeks or months. “Ok, maybe it wasn’t an actual revival,” they say. “But lots of people came to the Lord.” That’s wonderful and personal revival can and does happen.
The truth is that since 2020 there has been a 13% drop in church attendance among Gen X and a 30% drop among Gen Z. Add to that the blatant heresies of denominations that support gay marriage, transgendersism, and abortion, and it makes sense that research shows only 6-9% of professing Christians in America maintain a biblical world view. This is understandable given that only 37% of all Christian pastors have a biblical worldview themselves. Gal 1:8-9 Of course this begs the question; how do the researchers define a Biblical worldview?
Seven criteria of belief were measured.
1. A Biblically orthodox understanding of God’s existence and nature.
2. Acknowledgement of being a sinner in need of a saviour.
3. Jesus is the only way to salvation.
4. Absolute moral truth exists; God is the basis of all truth.
5. The Bible is the true and reliable words of God.
6. Success is defined as consistent obedience to God.
7. Life’s purpose is to know, love, and serve God with all your heart, mind, strength, and soul.
If I were a betting man I’d say we are more in line with a 2 Thess 2:3 falling away than the ear-tickling fantasies of contemporary Jerm 14:11-18 prophets.
Unfortunately, one hundred fifty years after its collective repentance and subsequent reprieve as a result of Jonah’s obedience, Nineveh was back in the biblical judgment news.
While Nahum was clear that“The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Nah 1:7like any true prophet he was also clear that God isn’t playing games and “reserves wrath for His enemies.”Nah 1:2
Still the question remains; who are His enemies?
Nahum is clear in his rebuke and declaration of God’s judgment. Nineveh had become a nation of many races and was sustained by greed. Substance abuse was rampant.Nah 1:9-10There was violence in the streets, leaders plotted against the Lord and looting abounded in all its forms.Nah2:9
But looting was not limited to rioters in the streets. Nahum describes Nineveh’s leaders as“swarming locusts, and grasshoppers”. Nahum 3:17 Grasshoppers and locusts pillage and never produce. They disappear in the light of the sun.
As in the days of Jeremiah who rebuked the lying prophets for their ear-tickling false positivity and their claims that God said things that He never did,Jer 14:13-15, Jer 23:9-40, Jer 28 the people of Nineveh had become complacent and oppositional towards God. Perhaps like so many today, they thought they were immune to His judgments. To which Nahum replies,
“Are you better than populous (Thebes)?…” “…(who) “was carried away, into captivity”.Nah 3:8-10
While his meaning may have been euphemious and not quite as literal as my interpretation today, Nahum declares,
“Your people (men ) have become women” the gates of your land are open to your enemies.”Nah 3:13
“Your shepherds slumber, O king of Assyria; Your nobles rest in the dust. Your people are scattered on the mountains, And no one gathers them.”Nah 3:18
While the fantasy continues to fall apart there remains a lot of ear-tickling teachers 2 Tim 4:3-4 and prophets assuring us that America shall prosper and abound. They minister to individual self-esteem at the expense of salvation and stoke the flames of personal significance instead of apprehending the fear of our God who is a consuming fire.Heb 12:29
Everyone loves and promotes them. Everyone speaks well of them. Luke 6:26
The Bible is the most positive and hopeful message mankind has ever seen. Yet it is a conditional one. Its time frame is eternal. It demands we abandon our ways and become set apart (Holy). This process begins with individual and collective repentance from sin. 2 Chron 7:14 Apart from this, no message, no word, no action on our part means anything. The idea that the God who does not change Mal 3:6, who is the same today, yesterday and forever,Heb 13:8 would not respond today as He has in the past is incoherent and does not correspond with experiential or biblical reality.
If you compare the state of the world today with the likeness of Israel back then; what do you see? Do you see a pleased God declaring contemporary interpretations of Jeremiah 29:11 over an American society at large or do you see Isaiah 5:20 and Jeremiah 14, 23, and 28? I see a rebellious nation deserving of God’s discipline which is the true context of Jeremiah 29:11. I see that God’s mercy and truth can not be divorced from His righteousness and justice. Psalms 89:14 His judgments on earth are an aspect of His mercy in eternity.
If that idea stumps you then consider that God’s chosen, covenant people were captured 44 times, and besieged 23 times. Jerusalem was destroyed twice and its people were sent into captivity. And yet He will restore them. Rom 11:25-36 Anyone claiming that Old Testament principles do not apply to us today should understand Paul’s words in Rom 11:22 and Heb 12.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.
Given that God’s character, plan, and purpose do not change and Ecc 1:9 tells us that history repeats; why would anyone believe that it won’t repeat today? “Surely God would not repeat what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah!”you say.Gen 19, Mat 10:15.
What does true love look like in the context of today?
What kind of messages do people really need?
Nineveh did not repent and was subsequently overrun and destroyed in Nahum’s day.
If revival is what we desire, then perhaps consider this. The first great American revival known as the First Great Awakening began in Enfield Connecticut in 1741 when. Johnathan Edwards preached a sermon titled Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God.
2 Chronicles 7:14, in the spirit of Jesus’ words in Luke 13:1-5 and the Psalmist in Psalms 138:2 remains the most, if not the only relevant starting point for evangelism that might help rekindle the flames of revival in America today.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. 1 Pet 2:1
Lots of people feel called to prison and recovery ministries today. Almost everyone has a different twist on what they think former inmates and addicts need. In truth, prison is like the Eagle’s song “Hotel California”. People check out but the majority never really leave. Statistically, approximately two percent actually become the people God created them to be. Mat 7:13-14, Mat 22:14 The only way past the revolving door of recidivism is in the words of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, to
began my three-hundred-pound Samoan prison bunkie, “I wouldn’t want to do or say anything that would make someone want to kill me when I got out.” The implication was profound. We’d just learned that another Christ-professing friend of mine in the same prison drug treatment program had been found shot in the back of the head – execution-style. They found him slumped over on his knees in the parking lot behind his church.
He’d been out less than a week.
“He was a rat!” they said. A rat is a liar who for whatever reason suddenly begins telling the truth.
To be honest, my dead friend’s speech and behavior weren’t always reflective of a surrendered life. He’d still had a lot of world in him. James 1:8 That is always dangerous. Granted all of us are works in progress. Phil 3:12-14 But, Paul was clear about,
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Too many people continue to dabble in darkness after they are saved. Instead of getting as far as possible from the edge of the abyss they want to know how close they can get without falling in. If there is one thing I learned in prison, running a prison/recovery ministry, and finally living on the foreign mission field it is that safety is only found in the context of obedience to God. That obedience begins with truth that itself is found in
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!Psalms 139:23-24
Live not by lies.
The root of why addicts relapse and die is that they believe their own lies. This understanding is a prerequisite for prison/recovery ministry. Once committed to a wrong course of action those in active addiction seek affirmation from well-meaning albeit naive people. While it may not be a conscious decision, deep down they need an excuse to abandon their recovery and someone to blame for the inevitable future consequences of their choice. Personal responsibility ruins the pleasure of sin. If someone refuses to affirm their lies they simply move on until someone does. Those who support them become “the best ever!!” Those who fail to affirm them become a source of offense. Offense produces hypocrisy, envy, malice, and slander.
I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.Rom 16:17-18
Anyone truly living their lives in the context of Psalms 139:23-24 will immediately recognize that all of us are recovering criminals and addicts to some degree. Eph 2, Rom 3 Still how easy it is to lose sight of our mutual status as cracked pots that only the Potter can transform. Isa 64:8, Rom 8:29 Of course we are new creations. If you are already fully transformed and conformed to the image of His Son then none of what I am writing applies to you. How tempting and easy it is to magnify and compare one crack to another. 2 Cor 10:12-16 Hence our primary identifying sign of Rom 16:17-18 in action is when WE fail to truly own OUR OWN transgressions and failures. “Yeah, I know I’m not perfect but
As the saying goes, “Everything before the “But”_is a lie.”
Offense is deadly to us but especially to the population we serve. “Resentment is the number one offender.” Any malice they may hold for those they perceive as having betrayed them becomes a root of bitterness that eventually turns inward. Left unchecked it always results in relapse that in turn eventually ends in death. Rom 6:23 Unforgiveness is deadly for those in recovery. Once again,
It’s not that we are committed to enlarging the proverbial cracks in our pots by consciously conspiring to lie. Rather, rationalizing, justifying, minimizing, and generalizing otherwise known as “criminal thinking errors” are a primary means of survival in our dysfunction. Some or all of these are present when repentance is lacking. Hence defining truth is the first order of business. Defining truth means confronting a lie. Confrontation is always a potential breeding ground for hypocrisy, envy, deceit, malice, and slander that Paul requires us to
Charm is also listed as a criminal-thinking error and adds to the confusion. The most astute criminal knows how to charm others into affirming their lies so they can avoid taking responsibility for their choices and actions. Lies mixed with truth is satan’s and the world’s preferred approach. Succumbing to charm looks like condoning sin in the name of love. Left unchecked this progresses to viewing authority and correction as hate. Finally disobedience becomes the supernatural hand of God who is
doing a new thing!
A common strategy of the Devil is to inflate our Phil 4:8 hope for a struggling person then beat us to death with it when they fail. You can be sure you are under spiritual attack if one day you are God’s unique gift, more helpful than anyone else. The next you are a religious-spirited, legalistic, Pharisee. A fake Christian, hypocritical, and unloving. Know this! You can be certain that you are dealing with a spirit of witchcraft anytime you feel compelled to
Align with a lie.
Those who remain faithful in ministry understand that faithfulness to God alone must be the goal. Success if it happens in our presence is incidental and only given by God. 1 Cor 3:6-8 If we take credit for the increase that only God can produce then we must also receive blame for the failures.
Aim for truth and faithfulness.
That is all.
If in your frustration you do give way to envy that itself is rooted in pride and do not repent- you will eventually fall. The fruit of envy is manipulation, intimidation, and domination which is also witchcraft. If you strive to control rather than water and sow, you will soon find the crack in your pot matching those of your fellow cracked pots that betrayed your trust.
If on the other hand, the role of Chief Enabler is your default and you are easily charmed – if supernatural manifestations fix everything in your view and everyone just needs to be healed. Know this,
“Then he (Jesus) began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent.” Mat 11:20
People are not transformed because they refuse to repent. They may be saved, and have seasons of popularity and success that are misconstrued as approval from God. They and others will weep in confusion when the fantasy finally unravels. 1 Cor 3:13 The truth that remains and can save us is that complete repentance in accordance with His word is God’s standard. Luke 13:1-5
It does not change.
The word of God is a lamp. Psalm 119:105 It is a fire that consumes and a hammer that shatters our illusions, especially those about ourselves. Jer 23
It is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, it discerns the thoughts and intentions of Our hearts.Heb 4:12
It is impossible for us to discern the intention of our hearts on our own.
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.Jer 17:9-10
The word of God is a mirror that shows us what we really look like in God’s eyes. James 1:23-24 The word of God is a strong tower to which the righteous can flee to safety. The word of God is Truth. Apart from it and the willingness to lean not on our own understanding or be wise in our own eyesProv 3:5-8 and surrender to Jesus, every last one of us is a lying, malicious, criminal, hypocritical addicts ridden with envy and slander. Search me O’ God that I may
Live not by lies
At the end of the day, the fruit of malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander is the same wherever they arise. They are the root of disunity the opposite of which Paul calls us to pursue. Eph 4:11-13 Every believer must actively put them away. The only real difference between one cracked pot and another in the midst of these is that one might have a plank and one might have a speck in their eye. Mat 7:3-5 That status may be reversed the very next day. What is important to understand is that the plank in one person’s eye in no way diminishes the severity and importance of the speck in the eye of another.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me…Help me put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander… lead me in the way everlasting!Psalms 139:23-24, 1 Pet 2:1
Lord, you are the Potter. Test me. Have your way in me. Burn off the dross. Conform me to the image of your Son Jesus.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.“
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grass And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. 1 Pet 1:22-25
Peter is quoting from the deeply prophetic Isaiah chapter 40 which among other things contrasts the greatness of God with the apparent weakness and yes- the relative insignificance of man’s life on earth. Hence the featured image for this post is titled “The Pale Blue Dot”. It is a photo of Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from 6 billion kilometers or 3,728,227,153 miles away. Carl Sagan noted that every human being who has been born has lived and died on this “mote of dust”.
I wasin Rocheter NY in 1990. I can’t find myself anywhere. Job 38
Obviously, the God whose love power, and sovereignty are beyond our comprehension loved us enough to save us from HiswrathEph 2:1-3 or we wouldn’t be here. Those in Christ Jesus are saved and afforded the right to BECOME sons of God. Our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 3:5, 1 John 5:11-14 We are new creations in an ongoing process of transformation Rom 12:1-2 for the purpose of being conformed to the image of His Son Jesus. Rom 8:29
That means I’m not done yet. Neither was Paul.
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 also 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. Phil 3:13-16
We must keep in mind that not only did He redeem us from the wages of sin which is death, Rom 6:23 God is in the process of redeeming all of His creation. The Gospel of Salvation is fulfilled. The Gospel of the Kingdom is not. We miss the big picture entirely if we make the Gospel just about ourselves. That’s not snark directed at the self absorbed but an exhortation to stop selling ourselves short. We must be mindful of the fact that God’s endgame is a wedding and a return to our original state in the Garden of Eden with the added benefit of receiving the right to eat from the Tree of Life. Rev 22:14.
Still, would it surprise you to learn that most cultures, especially the middle eastern ones in which the Bible was written are not based on the individual? So consumed with ourselves, our rights and well being are we in the West that we read the Bible as if it were written about us as individuals rather than for us as His bride, the church. There’s a world of difference. In any case, your true identity is not about you being you. It’s about you being a part of His body that in turn is becoming a spotless bride in preparation for the wedding. Rev 19:6-9
This is where and when the fullness of our identity will be found.
That being said, any real understanding of our identity requires that we examine Adam and Eve’s original state of identity before the Fall. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.Gen 2:25 Sin was born when the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked…Gen 3 Immediatelythey sought to cover themselves with fig leaves. Suffice it to say that the door to sin was opened with the eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The first fruit of sin that is the seed of all other sin was
the birth of self-centeredness.
Self-centredness is the root of guilt, shame, and condemnation.
Before the fall from grace, Adam and Eve were so completely focused on God and His plans that guilt, shame, and condemnation did not exist. They didn’t even know that “nakedness” was a thing. Where they previously walked in perfect intimacy and union with Him, their newly gained knowledge of good and evil created a distinction and separation between themselves and God. That separation has continued to widen over time.
The world in which we live today is the exact oppositeof the prefall Garden.
It’s not that we weren’t already narcissistic. But the advent of the smartphone took our inherent narcissism to new levels. Where we previously recognized narcissism as a character defect, it has become so imbedded in the collective psyche that today it’s a character strength and a cultural norm.
Still, we may not recognize it as narcissim because the failure to fall fully in love with one’s own reflection is often labeled as low self-esteem resulting from not feeling “seen and heard”. We wonder why anxiety and depression are so far off the charts and try harder to affirm ourselves, each other and especially our children. “If only they knew who THEY are!” we say. Yet denying self – not affirming self is the first step in God’s plan for our freedom after we are saved. “Do as thou wilt” and self affirmation are Satan’s. How ironic that one’s birthday is regarded as the highest day of celebration on the Satanic calendar.
Here’s a quick reminder before I proceed. God is Good. God loves you. He desires the best for you. His plan “A” is that one day you will rule and reign with Him. Rev 20:4-6
Still, so many believers struggle to comprehend how an obsession with one’s identity in Christ could become narcissistic. Those who begin to grasp it often make the mistake of plumbing the depths of guilt, shame, and condemnation never realizing that this is just another form of self-obsession. If only we could grasp that narcissism and self-loathing are just opposite sides of the same coin.
If only we’d realize that Jesus’ command to deny self, Mat 16:24 (to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with, to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s interests) is the first step after salvation on the path to freedom. That Jesus loves me is not expressed in His affirmation of me. But rather in His desire that
I be free from the bondage of me.
If that seems paradoxical or confusing, then consider that Jesus who was perfect and blameless conquered Satan, sin, and death by becoming the biggest loser in the eyes of the world. He was beaten more severely than any human being before, since, or ever will be, and still remain alive. Then He died a criminal’s death on the cross. His was the most brutal and shameful form of public humiliation. It was completely counterintuitive to everyone’s worldview both then and now including that of His disciples. After all, how could losing a fight make one a winner?
The Kingdom of Heaven is upside down to the worldwhere the least is the greatestMat 23:11, Luke 9:48 and losing is gaining.Mat 16:25 Biblically speaking success looks more like people maligning us than praising us. Luke 6:26 We should be honored to be found worthy of being called the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things 1 Cor 4:13and a bit terrified to be placed on a pedestal and celebrated as distinguished and wise.
One of our biggest challenges as Westerners is that we don’t do well with the tension of paradox. We want a clear delineation of boundaries. Am I this or am I that? The idea that we exist as both the offscouring of all things and Abraham’s seed, – heirs according to the promise.Gal 3:29 boggles our mind, will and emotions otherwise known as our soul and our flesh. On the the other hand, if we are able to embrace the paradox we soon realize that our newfound identity in Christ is but spiritual milk which is foundational. The foundation is important but it’s not the finished work. 1 Cor 3. The context of our new identity is that he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.2 Cor 5:14-21
Yes you are a new creation.
Justkeep it in context.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is yourlife appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.Col 3:3-4
Once again, just as a pickle can not return to a cucumber, if you have truly given your life to Jesus and have been baptized, the old man is dead and you are a new creation. “New creation” looks like a sperm penetrateing an egg or a seedling penetrating the soil. A lot of seedings today are desperately trying to affirm themselves as giant red woods. The DNA blueprint is there. But there’s a lot of maturing to do. Hence there is a reason why Jesus framed the fulfilment of the Gospel of the Kingdom in the context of childbirth. Mat 24:3-31 The point here is that none of us are finished works. If indeed you have believed, and given your life to Jesus you are a newly formed creation. Take your last big gulp of milk believe what the word says. “God loves you!” Now pursue solid food that leads to maturity. Maturity is the the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,Eph 4:11-16
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.Phil 2:12
Again our purpose here is not to lambast the self-obsessed. This is the default state of all as a result of the fall. If guilt shame and condemnation remain it is not an identity problem. It’s a flesh problem. We are still carnal. Either we aren‘t born again, we have unconfessed sin, or we are simply walking in the flesh.
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.Rom 8:5-6
How do we do that?
Start by not listening to teachers apart from the whole counsel of God and the Berean approach to verifying the truth. Acts 17:11 Our hope is not in this world 1 John 1:15-17 but in the final revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13 Holy Spirit with whom we are sealed is just a down payment on our future inheritance, Eph 1:14. Our true and full identity will only be realized inour appearing with Him in glory. It will be made manifest when we are fully conformed to the image of His Son. Rom 8:29 That said, it will only be realized in the context of a unified bride, Eph 4:13without spot or wrinkle. Eph 5:27 We will be assured that we have arrived when we cease our painful and fleshly Rom 7:13-25 struggle because we see Him face to face and know Him even as we are known. 1 Cor 13:12 In the meantime we are growing. We know in part, we prophesy in part, we see as in a glass darkly.
The dark image we see in the mirror is our identity.
Finally, the wrong emphasis always produces wrong foundations. Milk-fed flesh eventually results in jealousy and striferooted in a culture of celebrity. Today, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos” looks like “I follow Bill, or Todd or Justin or… We divide because we are building on different foundations never considering that the teachings of our favorite preachers might be destined for flames. 1 Cor 3:9-15…If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire...We glorify man and vicariously glorify ourselves by proclaiming and defending our tescgers teachings as if they were our own. 1 Cor 4:7 We do it because it’s easier to let others think for us. We read books about the Bible by our preferred celebrity teachers and quote them as if we are quoting scripture itself. Is it any wonder why the body of Christ continues to be blown about by every wind of doctrine? Is it any wonder that we remain so anxious and confused all the while striving to deny the vapourous nature of our lives James 4:14 and the truth that
“All flesh is as grass And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers And its flower falls away, But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Only the word of the LORD endures forever.
That is why He has magnified His word above all His name.Psalm 138:2
And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.1 Pet 1:17-19
In his first apology (defense) of Christianity, Justin Maryter offered theological arguments and cited the superior moral conduct of Christians to convince the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius to cease from persecuting the Church. Of course, he and several of his students were beheaded in 166 AD. The point is that in times past the conduct of the church was regarded as proof of God’s truth. James 1:22-25
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly, you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.2 Cor 3:2-3
The early church lived in the reality of Rev 12:11 to which many are and will be called to walk out today.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives to the death.
Our Pakistani friends Pastors Ammir and Tariq in Pakistan awaken each day with a resolve to continue preaching “even if they cut (off) our heads”. Meanwhile, a lot of us can’t even resolve to cut off the TV.
The Holiness to which we are called beginning in 1 Pet1:15 is not an emotion-based call to conform to a cultural consensus but rather to be cultural nonconformists Rom 12:1-2 conformed to the image of His son. Rom 8:29 Still, many will quote Paul in 1 Cor 9 I became all things to all men… (vs.21) as a means of justifying their conformity to culture. Becoming all things to all men does not mean we compromise. It means we empathize. We do so in the context of anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.1 Cor 10:12 Paul’s conclusion clarifies the context for his previous statements.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
So often we become all things to all men as a result of our fear of man. Is it because we want to avoid the responsibility of confronting sin? Eph 5:11 Are we afraid of offending others? 1 Pet 2:7-8 Are we afraid of being judged as being judgemental? 1 Cor 2:15 Are we afraid of persecution? 1 Tim 3:22 We may accomplish it “by speaking in Love”. Is all of this just code and a cover for “I need people to like me”?
The only way to pursue Holiness is to fear God more than man.
Hence Peter exhorts us to conduct (ourselves) with fear throughout the time of (our) exile… FEAR is phóbos, the Greek word from which the English word Phobia is derived. It means fear, dread, terror, that which strikes terror. It also means reverence for one’s husband. Our favorite analogy is the fear of the ocean that we learned in Hawaii. On one hand, the sea is a source of life without which there would be no life on Earth. Yet it will kill you deader than a hammer if you don’t fear its power. I’m not talking about the watered-down fear that we call awe. I’m talking about the sheer terror that comes with getting caught in a rip current in six-foot surf.
It is impossible to comprehend Holiness – hágios and qodesh apart from Heb 12:28-29 and Rev 19:12-16. Jesus is not a mushy-gushy Jesus who died for our soulish emotions to align with our contemporary definitions of love. He is the strongest toughest most long-suffering Son of God who loves us and died for us in spite of us Eph 2:1-10. He saved us from the wrath of the Father that we deserved. Eph 2:3 Not because we were wonderful and, cuddly. We were dead. Eph 2:1 God saved us because of who He is, because – He could not violate HIS own character and nature. One day He will return to wreak eternal havoc upon all who deny Him. 1 Pet:4:18-19, Isa 24, 2 Pet 3 If we fail to understand this and insist on putting the proverbial “cart before the horse” and make His salvationPsalm 51 more about us than Him we will soon find ourselves drowning in a sea of narcissism otherwise known as the contemporary culture of those striving to be seen, heard and loved. Why do we so need to be seen, heard, loved, and affirmed by others if indeed,
Jesus is enough?
That said, there are several ways we can deny Him. 1 Tim 2:12, Mark 16:16, Gal 1:8-9, Mat 7:21-23. I realize there are “fire and brimstone” denominations at which we charismatics shudder, cringe and are offended because they allegedly negate the power of Holy Spirit. At best they give lip service to the compassionate, gentle miracle-working, power of our Savior. This is not a legalistic call to obsess over hell. Even so, many charismatic believers reject the Holy whip-making, temple-clearing, sword-wielding“consuming fire” God who demands sobriety, obedience, and holiness manifested in the transformation of our characters. God couldn’t care less about raised hands and loud exclamations during corporate worship when our daily conduct is corrupt. Isa 29, Mark 7 I am mentioning it here because personal holiness is impossible apart from beholding both the kindness and severity of God.Rom 11:22
This is the fear of God that produces Holiness. 2 Cor 7:1
There is a profound and deeply disturbing misunderstanding in the contemporary charismatic church that intimacy with God is produced by emotion – that if we are emotional with God He will know us. Mat 7:21-23 It’s not that God doesn’t care how we feel. Psalm 51:17 However, true intimacy with the Lord is only found in our abiding in Him. Abiding looks like obedience. John 15
We learn to obey by pursuing Holiness.
1 Samuel 15 is one of the most poignant chapters in the Bible. It is a clear type and shadow of our problem with Holiness today.
God orders King Saul to destroy the Amalekites.
Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel, and donkey…But Saul and the people spared (King) Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them. All that was despised and worthless they devoted to destruction.
Like so many today, Saul rationalized His disobedience with the excuse that he intended to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. To which Samuel replies, obedience is better than sacrifice and listening better than the fat of rams. He equates rebellion with the sin of witchcraft and presumption with idolatry.
Then God rejects Saul
At the end of the chapter, we find Saul admitting his sin. Yet his primary concern is that Samuel returns with him to honor him before people.
And Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you this day and has given it to a neighbor of yours, who is better than you. And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Then he said, “I have sinned; yet honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and return with me,
that I may bow before the Lord YOUR God.”
Can you think of a time when you sought to please man instead of God?
When was the last time that another believer made a declaration or a truth claim that is nowhere to be found in scripture, or worse, blatantly contradicts God’s Word and we said nothing? When was the last time we witnessed blatant sin in the church and said nothing? 1 Pet 4:17 When was the last time we saw a brother or a sister heading for a proverbial cliff and we failed to warn them?
How often is our “speaking in love” just a cover for the fear of man?
Fear of man always enables or produces sin.
Fear of God produces holiness, and holiness – Intimacy.
The pursuit of intimacy apart from obedience and holiness is of the flesh and mocks God. Gal 6:7-8
Therefore conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile here on earth. You are a sojourner – a stranger here. Heb 11:13For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.James 4:14
Alexander Dugin is a former advisor to Vladimir Putin. Sometimes known as “Putin’s Brain”, Dugin is an Eastern Orthodox Christian whose daughter Daria was recently assassinated allegedly by a Ukrainian Azov in an apparent attempt to kill him.
In the documentary The Wolf in the Moonlight, Dugin eerily pronounced that the purpose of life is death.“One person can not kill another,” says Dugin. “Only God can kill. Either God kills a person or He allows a person to be killed according to His will.” This extreme view of God’s sovereignty seems reminiscent of hyper-Calvinism albeit with an eschatological twist. Russian Orthodox clergy have further stated they believe that
Russia is the New Testament Israel.
Dugin sees the ongoing conflict between Russia and NATO as the parable of the sheep and goats being played out in real-time. Mat 25:31-46 Hence he claims he would not hesitate to push the nuclear launch button and destroy all of mankind should Russia face a genuine existential threat. In the words of both Dugin and Putin, there is absolutely no point in the existence of life on Earth without Russia. In Dugin’s mind, a war between Russia and NATO while admittedly unwinnable for either side
is nevertheless inevitable.
Dugin says it will be a sovereign act of God and a final separation between the sheep and goats in which case,
Meanwhile, Poland and Belarus are currently facing off with the Wagner group whom many in the West thought was going to overthrow Vladimir Putin. The Russians suspect Poland of readying itself to invade Belarus. Poland suspects Russia is going to use Wagner to invade Poland and or Western Ukraine. Tensions between Russia and the US are growing in Syria. Israel is on the verge of war with Iran by proxy via Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestinian territories. China has warned the US of a severe military response should they violate any of “China’s rights” in the Asia Pacific. That means Taiwan. While I am not making a prophetic declaration, you’d have to have your head in the sand not to see the potential for world war looming on the horizon.
I could go on about the absurdity of the Jewish Zionist Ukrainian President who openly supports Nazis in a fight against the very people who liberated the Jews in WWII. But then it’s hard to argue with those already programmed by television news.
Suffice it to say we are at high risk of global conflict not seen since WWII. Anyone who has served in a combat arms unit knows the importance of counting the cost and training for any possible scenario. “If this then this.” Given that becoming a Christian amounts to volunteering for war albeit a spiritual one we must similarly prepare our hearts and minds, fill our lamps with oil and trim them. Now that the current administration has begun to mobilize ready and inactive reserves and the children of friends are joining the military, I think it behooves us all to ask the question,
Is there any circumstance where the willful taking of human life is justified?
Perhaps more important for the days ahead; is there a solid scripturally based argument that supports a Christ follower’s use of deadly force against another image bearer, let’s say a Russian soldier? The more I search the scriptures, the more I am forced to conclude that the answer is an absolute
While I can find a Phil 4:8 reason to honor almost anyone, I’m not a follower of any personality or political entity. Why do you ask? Because I believe geopolitics always has been and always will be the problem, never the solution. Jesus warned us about the leaven of Herod, the Pharisees, and Sadducees in Mathew 16 and Mark 8. Both groups represented opposing denominations as well as political factions.
My geopolitical view mirrors that of Peter.
Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. Acts 10:34-35
That’s not to say I will simply lie down and allow someone to kill me or someone I love without a fight. If that’goal I’m nowhere even close to it. It just means I will not engage in the intentional, premeditated, and or preemptive taking of a life. Does that increase my chances of dying?
The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. Psalm 11:5
Allegedly biblical pro-violence arguments commonly begin with typological references to the Old Testament e.g. David and Goliath. “We can’t back down! Imagine what would have happened if David backed down?” First of all, David rejected the standard armor and tools of battle in favor of a shepherd’s sling and the Lord’s protection. The argument typically extended to contemporary ones like “What if we hadn’t killed Sadam Hussein?”… Those who advocate violence often forget that Old Testament battles were orchestrated by the hand of God’s judgment not the pragmatism of man. See Isaiah 10 They conveniently ignore the original consequences imposed by God for man’s willful shedding of blood.
And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Genesis 9:5-6
I’ve had multiple discussions with brothers in Christ who justify the use of deadly force in defense of life. Perhaps you see differently but as far as I can tell all premeditated deadly force arguments collapse in light of scripture. Granted immediate self-defense with the least amount of force seems justified, but most of my conservative patriotic Christian brethren extend their definition of self-defense to the defense of “our way of life”. That includes preemptively attacking any perceived threat to it. Hence many will support attacking Russia if and when that day ever comes based upon their underlying presuppositions that will always be supported by media narratives.
It’s not that I am against categorization or topological comparisons of scripture that exact a deeper meaning. However, validity is determined by coherent consistency throughout all of the scripture. An argument must not contradict the character and nature of the God who does not changeMalachi 3:6 in order to align scripture with the independent emotional responses of man. Hence the “But what if David hadn’t killed Goliath?” argument falls apart in the face of Genesis 9:5-6 which is consistently supported through to the end of the story.
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword”. Mathew 26:52
If anyone is to be taken captive, to captivity he goes; if anyone is to be slain with the sword, with the sword must he be slain. Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints.Revelation 13:10
Another common pro-violence argument is that before they went to Gethsemene Jesus told the disciples to buy a sword. As it turned out they had two. Jesus said “it is enough”.Luke 22:35-38 Later Peter cuts off Malchus’s ear. A common false assertion is that Jesus exclaimed “Not now!” implying that he would have us fight later when in fact He cried,
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” Mathew 26:52-54
Later Jesus seals the deal before Pontius Pilot.
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” John 18:36
He went on to be beaten beyond recognition and nailed to a cross while praying
“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” Luke 23: 34
Pro-violence arguments are already incoherent and in violation of the law of non-contradiction unless you can find at least one instance of Jesus or any Apostle advocating or resorting to violence. I can not. Rather they were whipped, beaten, and imprisoned for preaching but kept preaching anyway. Acts 14 As for the defense of one’s socioeconomic status or way of life, Jesus provided clear instructions.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, and let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” Mat 5:38-44
“When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.” Mat 10:23
While I often use Revelations 12:10 in response to Neo-Marxism and Critical Race Theory, it applies to any group conflict rooted in a quest for or the preservation of rights or power.
“And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God”
Accuse is “Kategoro” from which the English word category is derived. Categories like black, white, male, female, good country, bad country, good guys, and enemies.
I follow Jesus,
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. Gal 3:28-29
By extension, there is neither Russian nor American, Shia, nor Jew. The only valid categories for believers are “in Christ” and
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 2 Cor 5:14-16
John goes on in Revelation 12 to further illustrate the nature of our battle against the accuser.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony,for they loved not their lives even unto death.Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”Rev 12:11-12
I am always amazed at how many people redact for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Paul goes on to articulate the primary combat function assigned to believers and the church as a whole. Namely “the ministry of reconciliation”. I want to be reconciled to my neighbor and have him be reconciled to God.
What hope is there if I shoot him?
As for governments and authorities Romans 13 exhorts us to submit to them.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Romans 13:1-7
Once again the argument is “but what about Adolf Hitler?”“Most Germans especially Christian Germans did not oppose him and look at what happened. What if the Jews fought him at the beginning?” The underlying pro-violence presupposition is that submission to authority only applies when that authority does what is good. Of course, this verse doesn’t say that. People claim it is implied. Then they define “good”. Yet the scripture says, For there is no authority except God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Maybe Alexander Dugin has a point when he claims “Only God can kill.”
Jesus and Paul obeyed the laws of the land when they opposed authority by wielding the sword of the spirit (not an iron one). They spoke gospel truth to power. A contemporary application is exhorting pregnant women to keep their babies outside an abortion clinic or peacefully blocking an entrance. Blowing up clinics and shooting Molech serving staff is not. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever attacked or endorsed an attack with a scabbard let alone an AR-15. Rather they lived by the sword of the spirit and were eventually killed by a sword.
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17
Nero began persecuting Christians in 64 CE after he blamed them for the fire that destroyed much of Rome. He fed them to lions and mounted them on lampposts, burning them alive to light Roman gardens and streets. Some believers advocated taking up arms. Paul opposed them. This is the historical context in which 1 Peter was written.
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Pet 1:6-9
I’ve written at length about experiences on the mission field from being surrounded by spear-wielding Shuar tribesmen to staring down the barrels of M16s, times when we were certain of our imminent demise and were at peace that passes understanding. The Lord was delivered us every time.
He delivers me from my enemies; Surely You lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man. Psalm 18:48
That deliverance might look like ours. It might look like Stephen’s in Acts 7.
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him…Acts 7:54-58
While I hope this blog ends up in the annals of irrelevancy. I sense that it will become increasingly relevant in the coming years. Alexander Dugin claims he is willing to die for his ideas. What am I willing to die for? Do I love God enough to risk dying for Him – for loving a neighbor who may very well want to kill me? Do I have the intestinal fortitude to be cut and set apart, to seek to understand those whom my government aims to destroy even if means being hated and rejected here at home? Do I have the courage to pray for those who one day may be compelled by their government to persecute and kill me? Can I bless those who despitefully use me? These are the questions that underpin spiritual prepping.
We can not kill our enemies and follow Jesus.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom 12:1-2
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Philippians 4:5
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Pet 1:14-16
Thus far Peter has emphasized endurance and the testing and purification of our faith for the sake of the hope that lies ahead. Not hope in earthy things but our blessed hope.Titus 2:13.
Now Peter is emphasizing the call to holiness hágios – sacred, pure, morally blameless, consecrated…in the New Testament. The Hebrew word in the Old Testament is qodesh to beset apart. The image is to “To cut” as one might cut a vegetable to separate the good parts from the bad.
We speak a lot about the love, power, and presence of God within the charismatic stream. The idea of holiness often gets sidelined. His Holiness is often only mentioned in the context of worship.
Generally, Bible scholars refer to the number of times a word or idea occurs as a measure of thematic emphasis or importance to the author. Obviously, Love is important in the kingdom of God. “Love” in all its degrees and forms is mentioned 506 times in the Bible.
Holiness is mentioned in 595 times.
That said, I have a hypothesis. Love, power, and His presence are all associated with a deep emotional experience. Granted these individual experiences vary and I am not implying that they are purely emotional. Even so, charismatics tend to validate God’s presence according to what they feel.
That feeling is always pleasurable.
Am I wrong?
Holiness on the other hand requires that I look at myself in the reflection of His Holiness. This isn’t as pleasurable provided we are being honest.
That’s because holiness involves conviction and repentance.
Problems arise when we pervert conviction into guilt shame and condemnation. While conviction tells us a course correction is required, guilt shame and condemnation are identity statements. Conviction identifies what needs to be cut.
A mature believer can look at themselves in the mirror of God’s Holiness and say,
“I’m not all that I should be. But thank you Lord that I’m not what I used to be. I am a work in progress”
Mature believers understand that His righteousness is our righteousness because of who He is. We came to Jesus as dead people, by nature appointed to wrath. He loved us in spite of us not because of us. Eph 2:1-5
He loved us because of who He is.
Christianity is not a self-help program for those suffering from low self self-esteem. Christianity is a His help program for those suffering from sin, and an obsession with self.
If we understand holiness in the context of “be holy, for I am holy” then we know that only He can make us holy. It is Jesus that cuts and consecrates. It is Jesus who sanctifies and separates dross from the gold, false faith from genuine faith. It is Jesus who purifies us with fiery trials until all the impurities are burned off and He beholds His pure reflection in us. We offer ourselves as living sacrifices and then let Him have at us. We choose His ways instead of the world’s ways and allow Him to transform us Rom 12:1-2 by the washing of the water of the word.Eph 5:26-27
Sometimes this hurts.
As for understanding the seriousness and intensity of consecration (the process of becoming holy) we may be better served by studying Leviticus 8 and applying these principles to ourselves in the context of Rom 12:1-2 Sometimes our sermons sound like self-promotion. At the end of the day Jesus gave us one instruction regarding self;
Deny- aparnéomai utterly, disown, abstain, to affirm that one has no acquaintance or connection with someone, to forget one’s self, lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests.
If that disturbs you, it’s because you have a wrong perspective. I promise you that aparnéomai is the paradoxical path to genuine faith. It will reveal your true identity because it destroys the self-centered feelings of worthlessness, and condemnation that so many are struggling to avoid. In its wake, it leaves freedom, peace, and genuine biblical Hope.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;1 Pet 1:13
Have you ever been disappointed that God did not do what you thought He promised to do? I can’t begin to count the number of prophetic words I have heard that never panned out. Or the number of people who made major life decisions based on prophetic words that later proved false. Some react by taking an extreme cessationist view. They begin to despise all prophecy in defiance of God’s word. 1 Thess 5:20-21 Others engage in cognitive dissonance. They deny the word was wrong believing that to do so would represent a lack of faith on their part. Still others rationalize by pointing to external circumstances or another person causing it’s manifest fulfillment to be delayed. This is also in defiance of scripture. Deut 18:22 Still others albeit fewer these days take a balanced, biblical view. 1 Cor 13:9-12
We prophecy in part…
Perhaps the biggest cause of failed prophecies is a misunderstanding and misapplication of hope.
You get the idea.
Most people in and of the world today view hope in the context of something they want to happen but may not. “I hope I find a spouse”. “I hope I get that job or that car.” I Hope Donald Trump gets re-elected.” But biblical hope is not a roll of the dice. Biblical hope is a guarantee. Paul calls it an anchor.
So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.Heb 6:17-20
Hope is not “My desire be done in Jesus’ name”. Hope is God’s immutable word that His will shall be done. Isa 55:11 He will fulfill His eternal promises regardless of our circumstances here. That we live abased or we aboundPhil 4:12 in this life is ancillary.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t be grateful. Rather false hope breeds ingratitude and sometimes narcissism. If we think that God’s purpose and plan are to bless us with success, “nice things” and never-ending comfort while so many others suffer then our hope is in the flesh and we are soulish at best. That doesn’t mean we solve the problem by giving all our stuff away. It also doesn’t mean that we don’t. Mat 19: 21-30 The issue is; what hinders us? We may enter His gates with Thanksgiving and His courts with praiseevery Sunday. Psalm 100:4 But do we understand what Paul means by the hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain?
Hope is prefaced by girding.
Both men and women in Peter’s day wore ankle-length robes. Hence they would gather the hem and fasten it to their waste with a belt. Girding applied if they were walking, working, or preparing for battle. We see a similar theme in Ephesians 6.
Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth… Eph 6:13-14
Loins refers to the generative, procreative part of the body. Peter is referring to the generative and procreative aspects of our minds. The mind is the seed bed of transformation. Rom 12:1-2
In the midst of our girding Peter exhorts us to be sober. Sober- nḗphō is one of my favorite words in the Bible. Sober means to abstain from wine, be discreet, watch, be calm and collected in spirit, be temperate, dispassionate, andcircumspect. “Dispassionate” might sound counterintuitive in a faith stream that emphasizes joy. However, joy is chará – calm delight. Peace, patience,and self-control are fruits of the spirit that attend and complement joy. Gal 5:22 Dispassionate means our emotions take a back seat. We gird the loins of our minds by submitting and subjecting our feelings to His word until our minds are renewed. Any experience of genuine joy is contingent upon this renewal.
It is by a sober act of will that we STAND, not retreating or advancing as we resolve not to be conformed to this world and instead subject our entire being to His truth. Girding is preparation to persevere while our character is transformed. Character is the soil in which comprehension and assurance of the blessed hope grow.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 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. Rom 5:1-5
Hope misunderstood and misapplied results in despair.
Biblical hope requires surrender and consecration but never disappoints.