I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
I recently had a friend visit from Colorado, and we decided to attempt to go through Hosea while she stayed here. These are the sessions… the Hosea files.
When using a word like “task”, we must ask what it is that we mean. Can theology itself perform something? Or, by task, are we referring to something that it leads us into? While the majority claims theology helps us understand the Bible, I’ve also considered that theology is for the next generation. If you want to understand your Bible, then read it. You don’t gain insight by reading what others say of it, but by reading the source itself. Theology could be to make the details of theology available to the people, who themselves are not considered to be theologians, and many don’t want to be. It isn’t about self, but about others. Especially over 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, we of all people should no longer be withholding such knowledge of God and His nature to the people of God.
While considering this issue seriously, I have a different answer still. The task of theology, which often is the question of why we study theology, shouldn’t be about passing it on to the next generation either. While that is a subsequent result of its task, I’m no longer convinced that it is the task in and of itself. Rather, the task of theology is to understand that we have touched heaven, and through messiah have been brought into a reality that is tangible. Our hearts were strangely warmed, and the expression of that heavenly reality cannot be denied.
Christian theology is not based upon philosophy. It is based upon truth. It is not based upon reason, but upon experience. While none of these things should conflict with one another, it is only too true of a statement that in many theological circles we’ve been denied the authentic thing for the discussion of that authentic thing. The keys to the kingdom have been received and locked in a small metal box, most likely stored within the catacombs of the Vatican somewhere, and one of the church fathers swallowed the key to opening that box. Now that we’re 1,500 years after those “fathers”, our generation is left to explore new ways of opening the box.
Because we believe in the messiah, or more specifically, that the messiah has come, we must believe that heaven and earth have kissed. “As in heaven, so on earth,” is not simply the prayer to recite. It is the life embodied in messiah, and it is the crux of the issue. As believers, we have tasted of both – heaven and earth are one within us. “We are in the world, but not of the world”. We are “ambassadors of heaven”, “seated with Christ in heavenly places”, and beckoned to “draw near”, having “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus.”
As believers we have fellowship with these realities. The task of theology is the imperative participation in these realities. The task of theology is to explain the imperative participation in these realities. We are not interested in sound doctrine. We are not interested in “truth”. Intellectual truth is nothing more than trite truism. Yet, the authentic thing, that which is truly true, the expression of eternality itself, is what we’re desiring to partake, comprehend, and explain.
If our theology is merely a piecing together of various themes, and attempting to make them work together cohesively, we have missed the mark abominably. Every denomination and bend have their pet doctrines, by which they shove everything else through. This kind of filter pollutes rather than reveals. In all cases, other than unorthodox liberal theology, sin and depravity are continuously at the forefront. I suppose the reason is found in Hebrews 5 and 6, and shouldn’t be such an enigma. Even these believers were stuck in the “elementary principles”, a Pauline concept from Colossians 2 and 3, which describes the wisdom of the principalities and powers of darkness, that they might usurp and rule over religious man in a way that binds him to immaturity and tradition. While we quibble about such elementary things, the powers of darkness brood over our cities and countries, not content with the authority we’re only too quick to give them. These things we’ve devoted ourselves to, which are only shadows of the the things of Christ, ultimately meaning we’re discussing the discussion of the discussion of God, not finding the substance in Christ, “these things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the Body.”
We rob ourselves of our own humanity through depravity focused theology. The result of dehumanizing self is that we don’t even get to enjoy the benefits of human redemption. The thing that the angels desire to look into we forfeit, even after tasting of the heavenly gift, simply because we desire to continue to aver and banter over the milk, calling it meat, and never realizing our own immaturity. Instead of finding fullness, and coming into that Melchizedek priesthood, where we are under the new covenant, free from the bondage of such “elementary principles”, found in fellowship with God in the Holiest Place, perpetuating the faith of all the saints and greats of all generations, overcoming to a place where the world was not worth, no longer standing before Sinai, but now coming unto Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and ecclesia of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood sprinkled that speaks better things than that of Abel, we must wait for the redemption of all things, for which the creation currently moans and groans, because we’ve reduced being human to being beasts or even creatures.
By our unbelief we must watch as others enter in before us. The very glory that the Church displays in the book of Acts, which is ultimately the intention of God for all humanity from the foundation of the earth, is at best a quandary to us, and at worst something marked up as only for that generation. The task of theology is to take us past all of the mumbo jumbo that we’ve erected in the name of religion, thinking that our Gentile superstition was somehow correct, and that what we’ve now experienced in Christ is only an additive, or even supplement, to the already established pagan means of worship. No longer do we offer our children on altars. No, we do worse by making them two-fold sons of hell.
Theology is supposed to be the study of God, seeking Him whom we’ve been united unto. Because we’ve been brought into relationship with Him, and our hearts have beautifully been united unto Him, our biggest concern in theology would be to make the part stand for the whole, or worded more plainly, taking the worldly system and mindset that we’ve sucked down from our mother’s breast and calling it the same as God’s mindset and wisdom. Theology is about seeking “those things which are above, where Christ is…” Setting our minds “on things above, and not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” If you are dead, then, it isn’t an issue of putting to death, but of putting on life. We put to death our “members which are on the earth…” The point of theology is the recognition that we are no longer “of the earth”, and therefore must now live of a different culture – one that is of heaven.
For three days there is darkness in the land of Egypt, even a darkness that can be felt. This corresponds to the “three day journey” that Israel requests to make into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD their God. The Egyptians god Ammun Ra was the highest of all the gods. This plague would have been more than devastating to the religious system.
The word for “felt” in Hebrew is more than just a darkness that affects the inward man and hope. This kind of “felt” is the Hebrew word that signifies touch. There is a darkness over the land of Israel that can somehow be touched, and in that manner be felt. The Jewish commentary has somewhat dropped the ball on this, as with most all of the plagues. It attempts with all of its might to push away the emphasis of these plagues. It reasons them out, saying that the plague of darkness was the result of a massive sandstorm that comes every March. Because of the former devastations, this one would have been peculiarly intense.
My contention here is that these plagues are given by God, and even if God uses the natural elements around, that doesn’t then give us the right to word it away as “natural phenomenon”. This isn’t just something that takes place every March. This was a calculated affront to everything the Egypt represents. For this reason, the words of Pharaoh are harsh and direct toward Moses, that if Pharaoh sees Moses’ face again, Moses shall die.
At the beginning of the Bible, there is darkness upon the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovers over the waters. From that point onward, God seems to have a positive relationship with darkness. While we know that God is light, and that His Kingdom is the Kingdom of Light, and that Jesus is the Light of the World, and anyone who walks according to the darkness is not truly a follower of God, still we find somehow that God isn’t embarrassed or afraid of the darkness. There is a personification happening here, and darkness itself is an embodiment of something quite tangible.
When we go to Exodus 10:22, we read of this “thick darkness” that covers the land of Egypt. Then, a few chapters later (20:21), we find that God is dwelling in “thick darkness”. It’s the exact same phrase. How is it that the Spirit of God hovers over the darkened waters? How is it that God dwells in the “thick darkness”? How is it that God makes darkness canopies around Him, dark waters and thick clouds of the skies (2 Sam 22:12)?
Darkness itself is a representation of mystery. What I mean is that the power of darkness is found in that it conceals, or hides. God did not eliminate the darkness at the beginning, because God uses the darkness to “hide” Himself in order to fellowship with humanity and His creation. There is a certain sense in which God cannot fellowship with us without this cloaking of darkness, because to see God face-to-face would kill us in our mortality.
But the serpent, who was craftier than any other beast of the field, usurped the darkness, manipulating it into something it was never intended to be. The darkness was simply meant to be a means by which God could fellowship. Satan used it to hide information from the woman, thus deceiving her. There is a manipulation happening here, and therefore our thoughts of darkness have become negative. The original intention of darkness was not something negative at all, though it was separated from light, and though it was kept guarded by “rulers” (Gen 1:16-18).
When we come unto Exodus 10:21, the darkness that can be felt is something altogether an anomaly. It is as though God is taking off the ruse, allowing for Egypt to experience – tangibly enough to even be felt – the exact spiritual state that they are in. They believe themselves to be following the gods of these phenomenon, keeping them satisfied, but ultimately they are worshiping demons. It’s a sad testimony to perceive.
I heard a story of a man who is within a prominent ministry. He had a dream that this ministry was hosting some sort of end-times teaching seminar at the fairgrounds. There were tons of people there, and they were having a great time discussing the subject matter. The people were breaking off after the messages and asking questions, and ultimately it seemed like everything was perfect. It was precisely at this point, during one of the messages, that serpents started raining from the sky and biting people. There was blood and death everywhere. The serpents were consuming the people, and pandemonium ensued. No matter how much the teachers or listeners tried, they could not command in the name of Jesus to get the snakes to cease. They had no authority over these serpents. The speaker then talked about how this dream shows him that he needs to begin to pray that God gives them authority over the serpents for when this happens.
I’m sad to be the one to bear bad news, but the reality is that this dream was not a “future” dream, but a “now” dream. This ministry, with all of its hype, and all of its impressive stature is currently at a place where people think that they are the pinnacle of Charismatic belief. If you want to know what ministry really has it all together, you point to this one. Even those outside of the Charismatic movement find it to be quite impressive. Yet, the truth is, the serpents didn’t “suddenly” start devouring people. The truth is, their eyes were “suddenly” opened, and they saw what was happening. The serpents have been devouring the people for quite some time, which I suppose is why I’ve never been impressed, though it is all the rage and hype within the denomination I was saved in.
The same is true here in Egypt. Yes, this was a physical judgment. Yet, please realize that the judgment was equally an unveiling of the reality that they were in. Egypt was already in this kind of darkness before the physical darkness ever was shown. This is the danger of what we can become. We can be a people who think ourselves to be shining with radiance unto the nations, and thinking that we’re the “light of the world”, and yet ultimately be the very land that dwells in darkness. How is it that you can know whether you are or are not in this kind of state?
I believe the answer to that question lies within something very simple. Pharaoh continues to harden his heart, and continues to refuse to consider what God is demanding. It comes down to this final time, when God Himself hardens the heart of Pharaoh. I think one simple question will answer for me whether you are in this place or whether you are a child of light. Are you willing to read all of the words of Scripture, seeking to understand what it is that God commands, and to simply obey what it says? As soon as your mind jumps to various passages that you think don’t apply anymore (*cough – Leviticus – cough*), you have forfeited any possibility of not being in this kind of darkness. To refuse to even consider a large portion of God’s word because it is “law”, or it is difficult to understand, or it is boring, or it makes demands that no one can live up to, the game is up, and you are ultimately left without any hope of freedom from this darkness.
I’ve written before somewhat extensively on law and whether we’re supposed to obey it. The lack of our willingness to even consider it, which ultimately leads to the fact that so few even know what Leviticus or Deuteronomy actually says, only shows that we are precisely within the same haze that Egypt was. We have a god named Jesus, who we claim to be the God of the Bible, and yet we care very little about what this god says or requires. It’s a religious idolatry, relinquishing us from responsibility and from psychological condemnation, but it doesn’t actually bring us the freedom from law and sin that we claim to have. It might psychologically relieve our conscience, but that in no way demands that we have truly died with Christ and been raised in power.
The children of Israel were in Goshen, where there was light. Are you?
These are the concluding marks of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians. Within these few verses, we have a recap that it isn’t by the flesh that we should live, but by the Spirit. Now, we can compare this statement with other statements that Paul makes elsewhere, such by saying that his Gospel is not in word only, but in the demonstration of power. They who are compelling the Galatians to be circumcised, according to Paul, are not speaking with this power, but speaking from the flesh. It is not the flesh that profits anything, but the new creation.
For those of you who struggle, listen to Paul’s advice. I’m always amazed at how simple the language is. It’s never some exotic, or some “super-spiritual” thing that is commanded of us. All we’re called to do and be is what Christ has already made us to be. We’re “new creations”, and therefore no longer under the same bondage that we once were. I know that there is still struggle. We all have them. But, don’t let your struggle and temptation define you. You’ve been bought with a price, and with that freedom you’ve been given, do all you can to remain free.
Grace and peace in Christ. Next we’ll begin looking at the Gospel of Matthew, because I’ve been saying that we need to pay attention to the words of Jesus, but haven’t yet gone through them… Pray for me, because this is the deep end.
Within this passage is a mandate to all. First, let me explain a bit of what it meant to be within the first century Church. Second, we’ll look at the passage directly. Third, we’ll ask the question of how we get there.
Within Acts 2:42-47, we read that they who were added to the Church continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, having all things in common, selling their possessions and distributing as anyone had need, and spending time together daily, whether in the temple, going from house to house, or or otherwise. It was completely natural. You didn’t have to tell anyone to sell their possessions; they did it naturally. You didn’t have to tell people to live in obedience to the apostles’ teaching; they did that naturally. It was the logic of the salvation and outpouring of the Spirit that caused them to come together daily, and not merely weekly.
It is within this context, spending day after day with the other believers throughout your city, that we have a definition of Church. The Greek word (ekklesia) actually comes from the Hebrew Kahal, neither having any kind of religious connotation. It simply means an assembly, or a group of people who have gathered together. The sunagoge (synagogue) was where they met. Once again, there was absolutely nothing religiously affiliated with that word in the first century. Herod called the scholars together, and that gathering was called a sunagoge (Matt 2:4). In Hebrews 10:25, the “gathering together” is sunagoge. In 2 Thessalonians 2:1, the place where Jesus gathers His Church is called an epi-sunagoge.
From this context, let us ask again what “Church” is. Within that first century manifestation, the Church was simply the people of God. For this reason, we find that Paul writes to whole cities, and not congregations within those cities. They met together daily, and anyone who had need was provided for. How did they have so much money? They didn’t. Everyone lived within their means, living a peaceful and quiet life. They didn’t spend their money on large homes, fancy clothing, or “things”. Rather, they spent their money on one another, putting it to a greater use than themselves.
This all came down to the eschatological dimension. The end times were not something far away and outside, but were a dynamic that was lived out in daily life. There was an expectation of imminent judgment upon the House of Israel, and a knowing that the righteous should be preserved. There was a knowledge that God was progressing His people forward in an ultimate drama, and therefore every day was another chance to grow and develop, progressing with God toward that ultimate climax of the age.
When we come to Galatians 6:6, we find Paul telling the people to give to they who teach. For you who are being taught, and who are finding much growth spiritually through a certain teacher, you should do what you can to provide for their needs. In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Paul uses the idea of sowing and reaping in a similar context. But, notice that Paul doesn’t remain with providing for they who teach, but the conclusion in verse 10 is to do good to all. Given the context, it must be that Paul is speaking about physical need, and giving to those who have need.
Why is this stressed?
It is the logic of our salvation, the logic of love, to provide for one another. Simply living what we’ve received demands that we would take care of one another. And how do we even get back to such a thing? In our day and age, especially here in the West, we are enshrouded with debt, with expenses, and with financial trouble. How do we get free of this? Let me be clear: Dave Ramsey might speak about getting free from debt, but he doesn’t give the biblical answer.
From the New Testament text, it seems that the way that we get free from debt is selling everything. You have your house paid off? Invite they who don’t have their homes paid off in, and allow them to live with you until they have the necessary provision to buy a home without debt. Are you still paying on your car? Sell it and get something much less exotic. Are you struggling to pay your bills? Get rid of the cable, the Internet, the cigarettes, the Netflix, and anything else that is unnecessary, and ultimately is a waste of life and time. Jesus told the rich young ruler, “Sell your possessions, give to the poor, THEN come and follow me.” How many of us would also go away saddened, and not follow Jesus?
You want freedom? How much? You want the first century reality in your midst? How much? Are you willing to buy your brother or sister a new roof on their house because they need it? Are you willing to ding-dong ditch some groceries? Are you willing to purchase a car for the single mom who can’t afford to fix the minivan that she is currently driving at 250,000 miles? Are you willing to get to know the people around you well enough to know their needs, and know whether you can provide or not? It is a shameful testimony that you can have someone who can’t even afford to feed their child and someone who has tens of thousands of dollars in their bank account gathering at the same building for “church”.
My wife and I live at a level that is so far in poverty that we don’t even register on the chart. Yet, we don’t have debt, we pay our bills, we have clothes, we have food, and everything is provided in its time. I confess, we often do have struggle, and we’ve gone without meat, we’ve gone without reasonable shoes, we are currently going with clothes that are worn out and falling apart, we have no computers, our apartment is so small that the living room is our bedroom, when car insurance or veterinarian bills come we get nervous, we’ve known hunger, we’ve known what it is to only afford water, we’ve known what it means to have a drafty house that chills you in the winter, we’ve known what it means to skip changing the oil in the car because you can’t afford it, we’ve known what it means to debate paying the electric bill or buying groceries, we’ve experienced the ghetto poverty even outside of the ghetto, and yet I boast in these things because His grace is sufficient.
You want to know why my words are often so powerful? You want to know why I speak so much of resurrection? It is because if my God is not real, then my wife and I will perish. Everything is cast upon God. If He doesn’t come through for us, providing us our daily bread, then we don’t eat. It’s not expedient, and it certainly isn’t comfortable, but it’s life from the dead.
So I ask again:
How much are you willing to experience the first century phenomenon?
When we begin the last chapter of Galatians, it seems to be starting off well. Paul says that the who are spiritual should restore someone who struggles with temptation (notice he doesn’t say sin – more on that in a minute). Yet, when you come to the last statement of the passage, you read Paul saying that everyone should bear their own load. What the heck? Am I supposed to help, or not help? Are we to bear one another’s burdens, or examine our own work?
This makes me to think of the crucifixion of Jesus, even. Did He carry His own cross, as Matthew and John say? Or, did Jesus have help from this Simon fellow, as Mark and Luke say? I’ll try to give some advice, even if the truth is that I find this passage perplexing as well lol.
If someone is struggling with a sin, then let you who are spiritual do all that you can to help them bear that temptation and overcome. Yet, if it isn’t “temptation” in this sense, but is rather the following of an utterly different Gospel, a Gospel of works, then each man must examine his own work. For you who are attempting to stop smoking, or quit drinking, or break the porn addiction, or find healthier lifestyles in eating and exercising, then you need to find someone who is able to wrestle alongside of you. Find someone who you know to be spiritual, and not simply a pastor or elder. This is one of the biggest problems in our day. With all of the people in “leadership”, I don’t know them well enough to know whether I can trust them. And, it only takes that one time that you confess a fault to someone, and they then gossip it around town, that you no longer trust anyone.
We need to be incredible careful and wise with who we reveal our faults to. They need to be someone that we know will have gentleness and compassion on us, but at the same time are spiritual enough to perceive past just the struggle.
What do I mean?
You aren’t smoking because you’re addicted to cigarettes. You’re not playing video games for many hours into the night on multiple days a week because you simply enjoy video games. You’re not looking at porn, or flirting with boys/girls, or seeking intimate relationships because you enjoy the feeling. There is something deeper here. Before you ever smoked your first cigarette, you never had the need for a cigarette. Before you lost your virginity, you never needed sex. You never needed alcohol to have a good time and party before you first started drinking. What has changed that you now look for it?
This is the issue behind the issue. They who are spiritual can help you wrestle that one though, and in wrestling together, to overcome the original problem that led to the addiction. It might be that there are wounds that haven’t healed, wounds that you’ve forgotten of, but when you start to attempt to wage war against the demonic voices and the lies that you’ve believed, the wound is uncovered, and now you’re reminded. It takes someone who is able to stand with you, and not accuse you, in these moments. This is why Paul charges they that are spiritual to restore their brother with gentleness, and not to assail them.
In regard to the other issue, in examining ourselves, notice the context of the statement. “If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” What are you saying Paul? He’s saying that there is a mindset of exaltedness, one that comes from a knowledge that puffs up, in which we can live and believe, simple because we are under law. You who are spiritual, who think yourself at a place to help they who are struggling with temptation: Why are you capable? Is it that you don’t commit the same sins they do, and therefore you’re at a place of higher devotion and holiness? Or, is it because, by the grace of God, you’ve been given a disposition that is servant-like? Are you at a place to better help others because you’re “more spiritual”, understanding “spiritual warfare”, and “prayer”, and other such tactics to cause for this “weaker brother” to be brought into maturity like you are? Or, are you able to recognize that apart from the grace of God, none of us are righteous, none of us are able, and therefore it is only through the grace and power of God that we will have ability to help them overcome?
Here is the dividing line, dear children. I could go off into the various Scripture references to bring you to seeing how Paul uses this language all over his epistles, but what is more important to me is your freedom. For you who are free, and who live in that freedom, and who fight to remain in that freedom, help they who are overcoming. Notice that Paul doesn’t call it sin. According to the Gospel, we’ve died with Christ, and we aren’t any longer “sinners”. The “sinner” is dead; I am alive in Christ. What now must happen is that I need to learn how to live again. I must relearn what it means to walk, to talk, to live, and to move, and to have my being in God instead of self. That is not a process of putting to death the old man, for the old man has always been dead. That is a process of learning to live out of the new man, the one who is truly alive. It takes time, but they who are mature should be able to perceive what is necessary to bring the young into maturity.
Yesterday was Easter. I do my best to not post on the weekends, which sometimes means not having as much traffic. I especially do my best to not post on holidays. So, this post is coming out today 🙂
The issue of resurrection is an issue that we all need to wrestle with until it comes into the kishkas (note: kishkes are a stuffed sausage, but kishkas are the guts). We celebrate the resurrection of Christ, but why? I’m what you would call a “slow learner”, especially in these subjects… I’ve noticed that there is much emphasis upon Jesus’ cross, Jesus’ resurrection, and Jesus’ ascension, but I could not for the life of me figure out why there is such an emphasis on it. I mean, I get the death, taking our sin and the curse to the cross, and I get the resurrection, that Jesus was vindicated by the Father, but why the ascension?
Come to find out, when you realize the importance of the ascension, you understand the importance of the other two…
When Jesus raised to the right hand of the Father, where He is currently sitting, it opened wide the veil for us as well to enter into that Holiest Place, to sit down, resting from our own work, and to remain seated with Christ in heavenly places.
Did you catch that?
The emphasis is upon Christ, and I recognize the importance of Psalm 110:1 (if you don’t, don’t worry about it right now). Yet, what makes this statement so significant isn’t that Jesus ascended, but that it grants access for us to join Him. For those of you who don’t know, I’m usually a stickler for not putting emphasis upon ourselves. Yet, in this case, reason with me…
Jesus died upon the cross, and now we are to take up our crosses and follow Him.
Where He goes, we cannot follow, but don’t neglect the last part of the statement that we shall follow Him. (Please note that the place where Jesus was about to go was into death and resurrected out of the grave. You can’t do that on your own.)
We read in Romans 6 that just as Jesus went down into the grave, so too have we been baptized into His death, and just as the glory of God the Father raised Jesus up from the dead, so too has the same glory, the same power raised us up.
We are seated with Christ in heavenly places.
What are you saying, Tommy? Why you talkin’ so cray cray?
What I’m saying is that the significance of the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is that we now also have the opportunity to die, be raised, and ascend up unto the right hand of God, and be seated with Christ in that place. This is where the doctrines become reality. You can hold to the “doctrine” of resurrection, that Jesus rose and that we’ll raise on the last day. But, what did Jesus say to Mary? ” I am the resurrection.” Notice Jesus didn’t say, “I have the power to resurrect the dead”, but that Jesus, Himself, IS the resurrection. What that even means I can only intuit. It isn’t simply through Jesus that we have resurrection, as if it happens on the last day, but that in Christ we ARE raised with Him by the glory and power of God the Father.
We, too, have opportunity to suffer through the eternal Spirit unto death, and in that true suffering and death, find that God Himself will also raise us up, truly while we still yet are in the flesh. They who believe in the doctrine of resurrection, truly believe, will live in the resurrection. It isn’t simply that Jesus rose, and that one day we’ll also rise, but that we, right now, by the very power of God, have access to be alive in Christ. No more “die to sin”, because you already are dead. No more, “put to death the sinful nature”, because anything that is still “sinful nature” isn’t YOU sinning, but YOUR FLESH (Romans 7:17) – that is, the sin that dwells in you.
This changes everything.
There is no condemnation in Christ, because if you are “in Christ”, then you aren’t “in sin”. If you are walking “in the Spirit”, then you can’t be walking “in the flesh”. It’s that simple. When we make it difficult, it is either because our lack of faith, or because we simply aren’t preaching the Gospel.
I want to give some practical advise to walking in the Spirit. Let me make it simple: It’s really simple. Got it?
After about 10 years in the Lord, I’ve heard a lot of messages about walking with God, about walking with the Spirit, and I’ve read a lot of books, articles, and blogs. This is pretty well what I do. When I was first saved, I went to church daily. 7 days out of the week I was spending all of my free time either at church, in a Bible study, or on the streets evangelizing. I have about 500 sermons on my computer that I’m still working through. That number was upward to about 10,000. I say all this to say that I know this is a question that people are asking about, and I know that a lot of times the answers are clouded in uncertainty (to say the least).
So, first things first, let us reason naturally. When you’re born, you can’t walk immediately. Most of you muscles are unfit for being used in maturity. You drink milk, you flail about without hand-eye coordination, and even your vocal/speaking mechanisms are unable to communicate as adults. After a couple years, the child has probably gotten to a place where he/she can say some words, can walk (somewhat), is eating food instead of milk, etc. It takes time for the body to grow and mature. The same is true spiritually.
When you’re first born into the Lord, you probably don’t know a whole lot of what you’re doing, or how to do much. There is nothing wrong with that, because you can’t expect an infant to be potty trained or reason with the philosophers of our day. There has to be maturing that takes place. Whether you’re years or months (or decades) in the faith, don’t feel like because you haven’t seen the fruit you were hoping for that you’re somehow doing it wrong. It takes time, it takes devotion, and it takes dedication.
Now that that is out of the way, what exactly do we even mean when we say “walk in the Spirit”? I’m afraid that it has almost been supercharged into this unattainable super-human, super-spiritual thing. Just as walking is such a natural ability of the creature (what animal do you know that isn’t naturally able to figure out the walking thing?), so too is walking in the Spirit. It’s simply what you do when you’re in the faith. So, lets go ahead and look at a few Scriptures (you’ll notice that all of these pertain directly to our passage):
Rom 6:12-14, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (see Gal 5:16 and 18)
Rom 8:1-4, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 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, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Rom 8:12-14, “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
I know all of these verses are in Romans. You’ll notice if you go through a concordance (or search Bible Gateway with the phrase “walk in the spirit”) that in almost every case (if not every case), it is immediately in regard to not walking in the flesh, not falling to temptation, beholding the Day of the Lord and our redemption that comes with it, and therefore living in purity before God here and now.
So, what is walking in the Spirit? If our theology tells us that to walk according to the Spirit is to somehow be led out of our homes, across the country or across the world, to preaching to people that need Jesus, or to knowing with intuition that someone needs help that we can offer, then we have missed the mark. Prophecy, healing, miracles, and missionary work is not the definition of walking according to the Spirit. It isn’t about hearing some Divine emanation and then doing what this voice from heaven speaks. It is not about knowing the will of God for your life and then pursuing it.
Walking in the Spirit is really simple. In fact, if you’re truly in Christ, it is the most basic thing that you can do. What it comes down to is this: What does God approve of? If you open the Bible and simply begin to read it, what conclusions will you come to about what God approves of and expects His people to act like? Let me give a few thoughts off the top of my head:
To learn to live in this manner (and this is just a quick off-the-top-of-my-head outline) is to walk in the Spirit. Learning of God’s character and the things He approves of is to learn to walk according to the Spirit. Therefore, “spirit-led worship” and “spirit-led sermons” and other stuff is nonsense. To be “Spirit led” is to learn from the Spirit the very wisdom and lifestyle of heaven, and to then live from that reality in all things that you do. This is why “walking in the Spirit” is the opposite of “walking in the flesh”.
In Exodus 5, we left off with Pharaoh tormenting the Israelites, and Moses lamenting before God. Here in chapter 6, God is beginning to respond. He affirms to Moses that He shall indeed redeem and give inheritance. In verses 2-3, God even says, “I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name YHWH I was not known to them.” I have heard it said, and seen it written, that this verse is often interpreted that the patriarchs didn’t know the name YHWH.
Here is my contention with that: in Genesis, they address God as “YHWH”. Even within Genesis 2, we find LORD God, YHWH Elohim, and this is only in verse 4. So, if from the very start of human history recorded in Scripture, YHWH is being used, then how can we claim that the patriarchs didn’t know this name? To claim Moses wrote these books doesn’t cut it for me. Instead, I would like to suggest something else.
Associated with the names of deity are their power and character. We have something similar today. When you give someone your word, you are putting forth your reputation and everything that people know of you on that promise. We can even think of sayings like, “smeared his name through the mud”. To smear someone’s name is to smear their reputation, their esteem, through the mud. It isn’t about making their “name” ignominious, but but rather the very person and character.
What I want to posit is that this promise to the patriarchs was based utterly upon God’s character. God promised to Adam and Eve a deliverer (Gen 3:15), He promised to Abram a son who would inherit the land of Canaan (Gen 15:4, 7, 18-21), but He didn’t show them the fulfillment of that promise. In fact, when you get to the book of Hebrews, you find the author saying, “having obtained a good testimony through faith, all these did not receive the promise”. The next verse does not say, “But you…” Instead, it says something better is presented to us, that together with us they might be made complete.
Unto the patriarchs, God has promised the inheritance of Canaan, which is seen in the Hebraic mind as being the very place where heaven and earth meet. This is the very place where God dwells – a Garden of Eden restored. But, the patriarchs didn’t receive the inheritance. Moses is being told here that God had given them the promise, but didn’t give them inheritance. Therefore, the patriarchs did not experientially know the power and glory of the name of YHWH like God will reveal to Moses and his generation. It is about God’s name, His honor, His power, and His character. It is about an experiential knowledge of that Name.
To trace this thought forward in the narrative, not just unto Sinai, but beyond Sinai, we find that God’s name is repeated throughout Scripture. For example, you have God revealing Himself through His name quite directly to the Hebrew children. They experience His power and majesty in the wilderness, and eventually in the Land itself. Joshua leads Israel to inheriting the Promise. Yet, we then find later that the psalmist declares, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest’.” (Psalm 95:7-11)
Let us think this through. The psalmist is not writing about this “today” in the generation of Joshua, who was promised to inherit that rest, but rather centuries after Joshua. The psalmist is writing this while in the land. Somehow, Israel is in the land, inherited the promise, and yet there is a promised rest that if that generation, paralleled with the generation that was killed in the wilderness, will hear God’s voice, they can enter into that promised rest.
It is then the whole point for the rest of the book of Hebrews to show how it is that we haven’t come to the physical promises, but the eternal, which are not separate from the physical, but are interwoven. It is the physical promise that reflects the eternal and heavenly. We have not come unto Sinai, the physical mountain upon which God came down, but unto Zion, the New Jerusalem, which is the throne of God, revealed to us in explicit detail in Revelation 4. It is not Sinai that the prophets envisioned with theophany, in places such as Isaiah 6 or Ezekiel 1-3, but the heavenly Zion.
And so, we see the “better” inheritance that we have, not exclusively as the Church, but together with “them” who are mentioned in Hebrews 11, the saints eternal, they who are called “Israel” by most theologians. There is an connection, then, that cannot (and certainly should not) be severed. It has always been that the prophets perceive beyond the physical and tangible into the spiritual and equally tangible. That is our inheritance as the saints. And, there is an eternal “today”, that if you are willing to humble yourself, ceasing from your own works (namely, righteousness through our own efforts), we can enter into that rest, which from the beginning has been established for all who by faith will enter.
Yet, we cannot conclude that this is the fulfillment. Remember that God put His name upon the physical inheritance – not the spiritual. There must be a physical that is coupled with the spiritual. It is for this reason that we read various texts in the New Testament about the “inheritance” at the end of the age. Jesus promises that His disciples will rule over all Israel upon twelve thrones (Matthew 19:28-29). Paul speaks about we, as Gentile believers even, who shall receive an inheritance with the “redemption of the purchased possession” (Ephesians 1:14). He then further explains what this means in Ephesians 3:1-6, in which he makes the statement that “Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel…”
What is this “body” that is spoken of? It cannot be the Church exclusive, for that would demand a “new” body. The context of Ephesians 3:6 is that this body apparently is already in existence, and hence “same body” instead of “new body”. Don’t quote to me Ephesians 2:14-15, that Christ has made “of the two” “one new man”, and therefore the Church is new and distinct. That isn’t what Paul is saying at all, for only if you skip Ephesians 2:12 can you come to that conclusion. It is because we, even we Gentiles who were aliens and at enmity with God, have been brought near, and made to be partakers of the promise and covenants, being grafted in (to use the language of Romans 11) to the already existent House of Israel. We are not the elite, but the remnant.
Therefore, we know that we have received a spiritual inheritance, even being sealed by the Holy Spirit according to Ephesians 1:13, but that isn’t the fulfillment. It is only the guarantee of the future inheritance at the end of the age, which is not ours exclusively, but unto the whole House of Israel – both the natural and the wild branches. Interestingly to this study, one of the promises to the seven churches in Revelation is that “I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God, And I will write on Him My new name.” (Revelation 3:12)
That promise, in the context of what is written to the rest of the seven churches, cannot be understood as the New Heaven and New Earth, but at Jesus’ return. There might be legitimacy to saying that it is fulfilled to the uttermost in the New Heaven and New Earth, but don’t squash the beauty that is presented in that we rule with Christ for 1000 years. When you parallel the statements of Revelation 2-3 and Revelation 20, you find that there are certain things that are doubled.
Notice again Revelation 22:4. Here it is that having the name of God written upon our foreheads is coupled with seeing God face-to-face. There is a revealing of God intimately that cannot take place apart from the judgment that we experience during Tribulation (not judgment as in condemnation, but judgment as being within the nations who are being judged, and within Israel [the people] who are under judgment). Just as Elijah endured the judgment alongside of his fellow Israelites, and just as Joshua and Caleb had to endure forty years before being permitted to enter the land again, so too must we wait for the second coming – after seven years of Tribulation – before we shall see the fulness of our inheritance in Christ.
The blessed hope of Titus 2:13 is not rapture, as I’ve heard so many say. It is the coming of the King, and with Him the Kingdom of God. It is the redemption of Israel, and with them all the nations. It is worldwide peace. It is the obliteration of the kingdom of darkness. It is the inheritance of promise – heaven and earth becoming one. It is the climax of the covenant, the culmination of the ages, unto which we’ve been progressing since “God separated the light from the darkness”. The blessed hope is the longing of every heart, whether we know how to intuit it or not, whether we’re believers or not. It is a Kingdom that is ruled in justice, equity, and righteousness, instead of bureaucracy, greed, and patriotism. To then take that verse out of context completely, simply to hold that we’re not supposed to endure “wrath” (as if that is even what 1 Thess 5:9 means), is to cast down all hope and all eternal weight of glory that might make out suffering and affliction momentary and light.
We’re progressing to a climax. The age is crescendoing. It is our opportunity to work with God or to do our own thing. We can either play church, play Christianity, or we can be the saints in our own generation. The hope that God is giving to Moses in this passage is the very blessed hope that is to give us satisfaction and perseverance unto the end.
Paul likes to repeat himself. He likes to make the same statement twice, both with different ways of stating and different contexts. By somewhat progressing from this subject, to that subject, and then to that one, and then tying them together with similar wording and phraseology, Paul helps us to build a larger view than to be stuck assuming that it all has the exact same meaning, or that he is speaking in regard to completely different subjects.
We’ve examined the justification through faith (3:1-9), the eternal covenant (3:10-18), the purpose of the law (3:19-25), sonship and adoption (3:26-4:7), the principalities and powers (4:8-20), and the two covenants (4:21-31). Notice here that we have a few subjects that are interlocking. Justification through faith and the purpose of the law seem at polarity with one another, and the eternal covenant is the subject to interlock them. We have then again the two covenants repeated later after the issues of adoption and the principalities and powers. Within the text examining how the powers of the air are at work within “law”, we find Paul explaining that we shouldn’t return to “beggarly elements”, thus being brought again into bondage. Here in Galatians 5:1, we have Paul addressing the issue of putting ourselves back in “bondage”.
It is for freedom that Christ has made us free, therefore don’t go back into the miserable principles, those “beggarly elements” that brings you into bondage. Notice again, especially if you haven’t been keeping up with these posts, that the whole point of “law” and “beggarly elements” isn’t specifically the words of the Torah (five books of Moses). It isn’t specifically the Old Testament. There is something at work behind it, a righteousness that comes from works, that because we have the “manual” of how to live (the Bible), we can attempt by our own abilities and our religious systems and institutions to be “righteous”. Yet, the whole mantra that Paul explains in every single one of his epistles is that righteousness comes by faith, and not by works.
The works are not to be what make you righteous, but simply what the righteous do. The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously? Therefore, when we read Paul’s assertion that they who become circumcised are somehow “fallen from grace”, it isn’t to mean that they who do one or two things of the law (like grow peahs or keep kosher) are indebted to the law entirely, but that they who find the necessity to do such in order to maintain righteousness are indebted. I have peahs (the curls on your sideburns), but I don’t find righteousness within my peahs. My wife and I attempt to eat kosher, just not the Leviticus 11 kosher diet. We try to eat healthy, caring about where our food comes from, and in that keep kosher. Does that mean that our righteousness comes from law? God forbid. It’s about maintaining my body – which is the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Let us not forget that Paul continues to explain that both the circumcised and the uncircumcised wait for the righteousness that comes through faith. It isn’t like one is somehow more righteous than the other based upon what they do or don’t do. My walk with God is not based upon my adherence to Scripture and how well I keep the commands (even within the New Testament). My walk, and the proximity to God that I have, is totally based upon the faith in Christ Jesus, and the relationship that I cultivate through that faith.
If the Spirit tells me to not watch television because I’ll spend five hours watching shows, but I won’t spend five minutes reading and/or praying, then I need to give up watching television. That isn’t about law or commandment, but about relationship. Imagine if your best friend told you they love spending time with you, and yet every time that you ask if they’re available they give you some lame reason they aren’t available. I’m not talking about legitimate reasons, but lame excuses. If my best friend said that he can’t spend time with me because he wants to make sure that he knows his job schedule for next week, that’s a pretty lame excuse. You look up your job schedule when your at work, not when you’re at home. Who do you know that purposefully goes to work to check their schedule unless they’re coming back from vacation or something? (By the way, Jesus got at this too when he gave the reasons for why people refuse to come to the wedding at the end of the age – Luke 14:16-24.)
Our Christian liberty, as my Bible has the subtitle for this passage, is not found in our “liberty” from the law, but that in Christ we have been set free from the things that have kept us in bondage. In Romans 8:1-2, we find that there is a law of the flesh and a law of the Spirit. There is no condemnation for they who walk according to the Spirit, but for they who are working according to the law of the flesh, you stand condemned. Do you see the importance of this? It isn’t freedom from the law, but freedom from the death. It is freedom from the flesh.
In Colossians 3:1-7, Paul puts it this way (to paraphrase):
You have been raised with Christ, resurrected and no longer dead, and therefore are no longer of the earth, but now in heaven. As such, think upon and live out the things that are of God, that which is heavenly and eternal, and put off the old mindsets and lifestyles that you inherited from the death that you’ve lived in. You are no longer dead, but alive in Christ; therefore act like it.
Does that sound like freedom from law? With one breath Paul speaks about freedom from the law, and righteousness by faith, and salvation of grace. With the next breath he speaks of works, of do this and don’t do that, and of judging whether you’re truly saved by that which you do or don’t do. This is the way Paul writes, because it is exactly what I said earlier. I shall repeat it, and finish with the statement:
The righteous do righteously, not because the works make them righteous, but because they already are righteous, and so why would they do unrighteously?