Tuesday, May 15, 2018

God is excited about your potential not your faults

God fully sees all your faults and flaws, yet he doesn't see them at all.

He sees them in that he's fully aware they exist.

Yet he doesn't see them at all i.e. they have no bearing on his infinite love for you and his absolute and complete commitment to your highest good if you are his child (i.e. you are in Christ).

In fact it is *because of his love and commitment to us he seeks to wean us from any and all faults or flaws that cause us or others harm (yet never holding those faults against us) or interfere with our drawing nearer to him and experiencing and participating in his love more fully. To say it simply from scripture, who he loves he disciplines

God views our faults and flaws much like loving parents with a toddler (or a child with a handicap). The lack of maturity (or presence of a flaw) is not off putting to loving parents. They are totally patient and kind. They see it as part of the growing up process, maybe even cute on occasion.

Loving parents don't chide their child when they take their first steps only to fall down again and again. No, they applaud their child for every successful step they make and encourage them to get up and try again and keep trying until they are great at it. 

They also look forward with equally **eager anticipation to the day when their kid starts to run, or ride a bike or do gymnastics or play an instrument or sing a song or figure out a tough math problem or fix something broken or whatever else they reveal they are good at. 

They are ***always seeking to help their child grow and mature because they want her/him to experience the fullness of the joy of being all they are meant to be; the fullness of the potential they were born with and created for. They are excited to see how they will grow and to watch what strengths and characteristics will develop over time, and amazed/delighted as they do. 

So it is with God our perfectly loving heavenly parent, toward us his imperfect but growing child. 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*in fact he could not address our practical/relational alienation from him until he addressed our legal/judicial alienation. It is only because we are no longer under condemnation due to Christ's removal of it, that God now takes up residence in us by his Spirit and reveals himself to us again, reawakening our hearts to his love for us. For more on this click here

**What about those who didn't have such perfect parents growing up?... 

You have one now. 
When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Psalm 27:10 (KJV) 
(CEV)  Even if my father and mother should desert me, you will take care of me.
(ERV)  Even if my mother and father leave me, the LORD will take me in.
(ESV)  For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.
(GNB)  My father and mother may abandon me, but the LORD will take care of me.

***And just like a good coach will push his student to go beyond what they may think they are capable of, so does God. God is cheering us on, believing in us and pushing us to grow to our greatest potential for our greatest joy and his highest glory. 



Sunday, May 6, 2018

God is present in our going

God always eagerly awaits and enjoys our times of deliberate and focused worship and pursuit of him through *private meditation and prayer. It is during these times we often sense his presence most and feel most renewed in our relationship with him. 

However he is equally present (objectively) when we have stepped away from our focused time with him to focus and actively engage/love the world for his glory. 

To say it another way, God is no less present with us when our focus is on others instead of exclusively on him. It only may be less so subjectively/consciously i.e. we may only have a lesser sense of his presence, however what has changed is not God's actual presence, only our focus. 

In fact we have reason to believe he's actually as present if not more so (or at least in a different but not a lesser way) when we are engaging/loving the world for his glory. We see this in the following verses in John 14:
21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”...  
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Both of these verses indicate God revealing himself to us and through us ("...manifest myself to him..." and "make our home with him..." with us) is tied to keeping his commandments i.e. our faithful pursuit of him through obedience. What commands are we to keep? The key commands being love God with all our heart, soul, mind and our neighbors as ourselves i.e. loving sacrificially as (in the same way) God loves us. Everything flows out of these two. 

This isn't saying he loves us more because of our obedience but that we experience his presence and love in our obedience. When we are loving the world for his glory, our hearts are in unison with his own heart i.e. we are closer to his desires for others who are also in his image. 

We usually think of private times with God as those times we refresh and renew ourselves through coming into God's presence. And in fact these times are just that, but as we come to understand what God has called us to and that he is also with us in our going and spreading his glory by loving others, this is empowering and can also be a kind of refreshing.


We can all think of those times we did something significant and loving for someone in need and the joy it gave them and a sense of God's smile and pleasure we also felt as a result. 

We still need those times to draw near to him and be quiet before him, but in scripture there is indication that who God is and certain ways he manifests himself to us will only be experienced as we engage/care for/love others for his glory. 

God is always present

As his children God is always with us whether we sense it or not. As we mature, the distinction (or line) between God's objective presence and our subjective experiencing of it, diminishes due to our increasing ability to walk with him by faith verses feelings. We actually are more aware of his presence in reality (objectively) as our faith matures. So it's more an internal faith based awareness of his presence that grows while an external sense or feelings of his presence may actually decline or at least ebb and flow. 

More and more we come to see our focus on loving those around us becomes a continuation and extension of our more private focus on God i.e. we come to see these two (focus on God and focus on others i.e. loving God and loving our neighbor) are not as completely separate and distinct as we may have initially believed or felt. They are only separate and distinct in execution (how they are brought about and manifested) but not in our engagement with God and his presence with us. 

God's objective presence

God is committed to us at all times in all things. It is in this sense he is always present. This does not mean we feel his present necessarily; it is simply an objective reality that has nothing to do with our feelings or our circumstances. It is a reality firmly rooted in the work of Christ on our behalf and only on that work, not our own work. 


Psalm 139:1-18 brings this out best. Emphasis, commentary and highlights added.

1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. 3 You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 5 You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. 
Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? (i.e. nowhere) 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” 12 even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. 
13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. 

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! 18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand. I awake, and I am still with you... 

Conclusion

In some very significant ways we are uniting and cooperating with God more in our displaying his love to others then we are in our drawing away in solitude with him. Focusing on the needs of others is a kind of participation in his presence, just indirectly verses directly. Over time I would suggest we will more and more come to experience God's presence in and through loving others for his glory as our faith matures.

To focus on loving others is just a different kind of focus and a different way to engage in his presence, not something wholly other then focus on God; different only in manner or kind not different in reality.  

Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


What he also may be saying is an actual manifestation (i.e. sense) of his presence occurs when we are going and making disciples. 

_________________________________________________________________________________

*God also manifests his presence in times of corporate worship. Though this is not engaging the unbeliever to display his love to them, it is also not a time of complete solitude.
It is a time of inner or personal worship but along side others who are also worshiping God. It is personal worship and in that sense it is private but it is done together with others.


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

I John 1:9 and confession of sin


1Jn_1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us
our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This verse may be one of the most misquoted, misunderstood and misapplied verses in the New Testament. Why? I believe in large part due to the lingering effect within protestant churchs of the teaching on confession by the Roman Catholic Church.

Of course our desire to earn our own salvation and God's love and our aversion to admitting we need God's solution to our rebellion, also feeds into this.

In considering this question of confession, we must ask and answer whether Christ's forgiveness is based on the work of Christ or on some work we must do such as confession of sins.

I would suggest the misunderstanding is primarily a matter of hermeneutics. 

Instead of extracting from this verse what the author meant (exegesis) we tend to read into it what we believe (eisegesis) beforehand. To clearly understand this verse we must understand the context of this entire letter as well as the immediate context and also the rest of scripture.

John opens the book talking about Jesus. Who he is and John's first hand experience of seeing, hearing, touching and living with Christ while he was on earth.

The Word of Life

1Jn 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2  the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— 3  that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4  And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 

John's desire in writing this letter is that his readers would come to know Jesus as John does, " ...so that you too may have fellowship with us..." and "so that our joy may be complete..."

John not only desires his readers are sure of their salvation but that he is also sure of their salvation so he may find joy and assurance in knowing and having fellowship with them. In short his desire is to help his readers be sure they truly know Christ.

He also restates this objective in conclusion near the end of the book...

1Jn 5:13  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. 

When you read everything in between these opening and closing statements, John repeatedly goes on to give ways one can know if they are truly believers or not. There are several "if...then" scenarios John lists throughout the book indicating what a true believer looks like, how do we know if we are one and what to do if we are not.

1Jn_2:4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him,
1Jn_2:5  but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:
1Jn_2:6  whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
1Jn_2:9  Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.
1Jn_2:10  Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling.
1Jn_2:11  But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.
1Jn_2:17  And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
1Jn_2:23  No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
1Jn_3:7  Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.
1Jn_3:8  Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
1Jn_3:10  By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.
1Jn_3:14  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
1Jn_3:24  Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
1Jn_4:6  We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
1Jn_4:7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
1Jn_4:15  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.
1Jn_4:16  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
1Jn_4:18  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
1Jn_4:21  And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1Jn_5:1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.
1Jn_5:10  Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.
1Jn_5:12  Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

The point being this letter is not only to believers. In fact in great part it is seeking to help his readers determine whether they are true believers or not and how they can know for sure.

So given this context, what exactly is 1 Jn 1:9 telling us?

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

This is one of several "if...then" scenarios John gives in the opening part of his letter in regards to his objective of helping them to know they are true believers. He gives some preliminary scenarios on how to do so i.e. if we say or do this, then this is what it says about us and what we need to do about it. 

1Jn_1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.
1Jn_1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
1Jn_1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn_1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn_1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

We will come back to these verses shortly.

After going through this introduction John lays out that the basis for our forgiveness in I John 2:1 which clearly says the work of Christ alone is how and why we are forgiven.

1Jn 2:1  My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2  He (alone) is the propitiation for our sins...

Propitiation is simply another word for atonement.
G2434  ἱλασμός  hilasmos  hil-as-mos'
atonement, that is, (concretely) an expiator: - propitiation.

atonement:

1.     Satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends.

2.     Theology. the doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and humankind, especially as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ.

You will also note unlike the opening section, he starts out chapter 2 calling his readers "little children" suggesting what he's about to say is for true believers. Whereas the first chapter he's clearly attempting to convince those who are not believers why they should be, how they may not be and some ways to reassure them if they are. 

In the first chapter he points out that acknowledging we are sinners i.e. recognizing our sin, is the basis for entry into Christ's forgiveness. This is what 1:9 is clearly telling us. It is not the basis for ongoing forgiveness of a believer. That is addressed in the following chapter in 2:1-2 (it is also hinted at in 1:7 which we will look at more closely shortly).

Is confession important

On the matter of confession in general, it is not whether there is value in confessing/ acknowledging/repenting of our sins. Of course there is. This passage is our proof. We are also are encouraged in James 5:16 to confess our sins to one another. However outside this passage in question we don't see anywhere in the NT (and or even in the OT ) that we are told to confess our sins to God as a matter of obtaining ongoing forgiveness. This may be a shock to some. If so, I encourage you to dig into to scripture and see for yourself.

The question is on what does God base the forgiveness of our ongoing sins; the work of Christ or on our "confession of sins." Using 1 John 1:9 to promote the suggestion that our sins are not forgiven as God's children until confessed to God, not only does not fit the *context of I John itself but the entirety of scripture.

As true believers we must acknowledge our sins i.e. clearly admitting when and where we commit them and turn from them in order to participate in and experience all God has for our advancement in our walk with God but not in order to be forgiven. Admitting where we blow it is for our benefit and that of others, not for God's. He's already forgiven us entirely (for sin's past, present and future) in Christ because all that is necessary to do so has already been done. 

Verbal consent or true repentance

True confession (actually it would be more correct to say true repentance) includes not simply admitting we sin but a full turning away from it, not merely verbally acknowledging our sin. If there is no turning away (repentance) we are not truly recognizing our sin for what it is. Turning away from sin (i.e. rebellious distrust of God) is the point of true confession by a believer. Forgiveness is not.

Simple verbal admission of sin is actually harmful if we believe it's the grounds for a our forgiveness or the goal of our confession. The goal of confession in this approach becomes forgiveness only. Once we have confessed, mission accomplished...our sins are now forgiven (or so we are told by some). Nothing else needs to be done. This allows us to not truly address our disobedience and turn away from it (but rather an excuse to avoid it) since our obedience is not the goal of this kind of confession, only forgiveness is... or so we think. 

True confession (repentance) for the believer is turning away from sin, not just admitting we have sinned. For the unbeliever however admitting they are sinners who have sinned is an absolute prerequisite to receiving forgiveness. Hence John's comments in 1:8-9.

1Jn_1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we do, we are promised he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse of from all unrighteous. Why? Because in 2:1-2 we are told Christ is the basis of that forgiveness. Confession is merely the means by which forgiveness comes to the unbeliever, not the cause of it, even for the unbeliever. 

Verses 7 - 10 are scenarios of if you are a believer or nonbeliever. The point is he is giving hypothetical examples of what needs to happen if a particular problem presents itself. John tells us if we claim to be a believer but do certain things, we simply are not. 

1Jn_1:6  If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

1Jn_1:7  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Walking in the light (vs 6) is clearly a reference to believers in contrast to unbelievers who walk in darkness (vs 7). Note that confession plays no role in the blood of Jesus cleansing those who walk in the light from sin. It is ongoing merely by virtue of them being (walking) "in the light." This simply means they are believers in contrast to an unbeliever. In fact this is the only reference to a believer in these opening "if/than" scenarios. But only to make a point of contrast to the unbeliever. 

If we walk in disobedience to Christ (walk in darkness) we are not truly believers (we lie) but if we are a believer, our walk will be characterized by faithful pursuit of God (walking in the light). We will also love being with other believers (i.e. "...have fellowship with one another..."). And since forgiveness is based on the blood of Christ, it covers whatever sins we do commit ("...the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us [present continuous action in the Greek] from all sin..."). Being a Christian doesn't mean we are sinless/perfect, it means we are forgiven ("it is finished" and not because of our efforts) and we therefore desire and seek to be faithful.

1Jn_1:8  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1Jn_1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

If we think we do not have a sin issue, we are deceived. However if we admit (confess) that we do, he is faithful to forgive our sins because of the work of Christ on our behalf (vs 2:1), not our work or confession.

1Jn_1:10  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

If we deny we have a sin issue, this is evidence we do not know him at all. Being aware of our sin is actually evidence we know him. Again one of several "markers" given by John to help his readers know if they are true believers or not.

So as you look closely at the context of chapter 1 it becomes clear he is appealing primarily to nonbelievers in these early verses.

In conclusion, based on the context of the book of John, the common explanation that ongoing forgiveness of the believer requires our confession simply doesn't fit the context of the book and is poor hermeneutics.

_____________________________________________________




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

confidence...good or bad

Two kinds of confidence. 

There is 

·        confidence (trust) in self (self-confidence) and
·        confidence (trust) in God

Both can be equally strong yet they can also be the very opposite. To have confidence in self in the wrong sense, is exactly the opposite of confidence in God. It is believing you can achieve something solely by yourself, without God or his provisions and empowering.

There also can be

·        good self-confidence and
·        bad self-confidence

Self-confidence in the wrong sense is not the same as saying we are confident/believe in and are thankful for the gifts God has given us (to"self"). Being confident in ourselves in this latter way, is good and necessary, as long as we recognize all we are and have are gifts (i.e. not created or sustained by us/self).  

This is also a kind of "self-confidence" but in this instance our confidence is ultimately in God because we recognize all we have and are comes from him i.e. everything is a gift from the source of all things, God himself. 

This kind of confidence is the fruit of humility; the belief we are who and what we are because these were given to us. The opposite of arrogance. 

But it is a confidence in what we have, nevertheless; confidence in the abilities, strengths and gifts God has given. In this sense it is "self confidence." 

It is ok to believe in the person God has made you to be. In fact if you don't you won't use all he's given you to accomplish what he gave it for i.e. his glory and our joy. 

We can and should have confidence in the "self" God has created and is making us to be. Not an independent "self-made" self that attempts to advance self instead of God, but a self that is in his image and reflects him to the maximum potential he's given us.


The greatest gift is God himself along with all things.  

The gifts God gives to us (to"self") consist in the very *Spirit of God (God himself as Spirit) first along with the various spiritual gifts he gives us, as well as our natural abilities (e.g. athletic, intellectual, artistic etc) and the physical or material resources God has provided, along with the maturity he has developed into our lives. It is all  from him and we can have absolute confidence in using all these things when we do so to advance his purposes for his honor/ glory. This is in fact the very reason he gives them and all things. 

In fact when we faithfully put to use the gifts he gives, he gives us more.  

"His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ - Jesus, Mat 25:21  

Gift defined

The word "gift" in the New Testament so happens to be the same word used for grace. In addition, Paul says he boasts in (has confidence in) the gospel of grace, God's ultimate gift to each of us. So we too can and should boast in this way. 

1Co_1:31  so that, as it is written, "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
2Co_10:17  "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord."
Gal_6:14  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Rom 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

χάρις - charis

Thayer Definition:

1) grace
1a) that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness: grace of speech
2) good will, loving-kindness, favour
2a) of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues
3) what is due to grace
3a) the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace
3b) the token or proof of grace, benefit
3b1) a gift of grace
3b2) benefit, bounty
4) thanks, (for benefits, services, favours), recompense, reward

Strong's Definition:

χάρις - charis - khar'-ece


From G5463; graciousness (as gratifying), of manner or act (abstract or concrete; literal, figurative or spiritual; especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude): - acceptable, benefit, favour, gift, grace (-ious), joy liberality, pleasure, thank (-s, -worthy).

__________________________________________________________________________

*And by God's Spirit we know his love for us. This (God himself as Spirit/Love) is the ultimate gift and the source of power that moves and empowers us to pursue God and honor him. So we not only have abilities given to us by God but also the very love and desire (power) to pursue God is a gift from him i.e. our love is caused/inspired by his infinite love for us. 

For a discussion on how the Spirit of God moves us to obedience click here

For a discussion on what it means to operated in the Spirit click here