Monday, December 4, 2017

Do our deeds matter?

If God's love for us is not based on what we do, do our good deeds matter?

Absolutely! 

Doing things to honor God and love others has real value/importance. 

To live in such as way as to honor God and display his infinite worth in our day to day affairs is a vital means by which others can see something of the love of God and our love for him and thereby be drawn to him. This also has immense value to God since he seeks to diffuse his glory throughout the earth.

To treat others with value/love is also of tremendous importance. It brings true value directly to them (whereas the above is more indirect) and can be a means by which we point them directly to God as the source of life, love and all things instead of just indirectly. It can be key to someone seeing something about God in and through our help thereby also drawing them to faith in him. In fact loving others as he loves us is not only a way we directly bless others but a primary way in which we honor him.


So living for God in general pleases God and seeking to honor him by directly helping others, also pleases him by blessing others.

In these two ways, loving God and neighbor, we are acting as we were designed to; loving others out of our love for God.  

So there is no doubt as to whether what we do or don't do matters. It matters greatly. We are God's appointed means to "put him on display" and to love others so they might come to know him and experience him in all his glory and their greatest joy.

It matters to us as well since we are designed to operate in this way and how we experience the maximum of who God created us to be which in turn brings us greatest joy as well as great reward.

But are our actions, good deeds, obedience etc the means by which we gain/earn God's love and acceptance? 

And are we to seek and find our sense of value, acceptance and purpose by bringing value (doing good deeds) to othersThis is often were much confusion lies and a distinction must be made. 

There is no doubt we can be valuable to others and also no doubt we will derive a sense of our own value in helping others. The question however becomes whether this is the basis for our true acceptance and value. 

To say it another way, do we act to gain acceptance and approval from God and others or because we already have it? If we already have it we will give or bring value to others. And when others benefit we can legitimately rejoice in being the means of showing them God's love. But to garner acceptance and praise of others is not the reason we should act. We are designed to act out of fullness and not in an attempt to obtain acceptance from others by or through our actions i.e. out of emptiness.

This is easy to say but not always easy to identify since the true motive of our hearts is not always obvious to us.

So what exactly is the basis of God's acceptance of us and from where do we acquire our true sense of significance, meaning and value?

In truth, there is *nothing we can do to earn or gain God's acceptance. The ultimate grounds by which we are accepted and loved by God has to come not by our efforts but that of someone else. It is in and by God's approval of his Son i.e. his Son's faithfulness in honoring God and loving his neighbor. This is because we can not and do not honor God or love our neighbor well enough for our efforts to ever cause God to love and accept us.

His absolute love and acceptance of us requires our 100% (perfect) faithfulness. Faithfulness we never do (or can do). Anything less is inadequate, unacceptable and insufficient because God is the 100% cause of life, love and all things (all that we have and are). Because these are true he rightfully deserves and should receive our 100% commitment, faithfulness, honor and love.

Since we never are 100% faithful this had to be done for us if we were ever to be accepted by God. It had to be done perfectly because God is perfect and is rightly due perfect and absolute faithfulness. Only the eternal Son of God could do this and did do this, for us. If there was to ever be any hope of God restoring us to himself, this had to be done because we could not do it ourselves. We simply are too distrusting and too unfaithful i.e. we are not 100% faithful. If he hadn't done this for us we'd be without hope. Because it's 100% obtained for us by Christ we have absolute 100% hope. 

To do things in order to be accepted and loved by God or others will never cause God to love and accept us or give us what we need and were designed to experience i.e. 100% acceptance and love by God. 

To say it simply we don't act to gain value but to give it because we already have it, in Christ. And in so doing we in fact bring real value to others.

We treat others with value because God is 100% worthy of our faithful pursuit and so are others he's created.

God certainly love and approves our doing things for his honor and glory; when we demonstrate our love for him by loving our neighbor as ourselves. It's just not the basis by which he accepts and receives us.

Pleasing God is not performing for God to gain his acceptance, it is operating by faith to spread his glory.
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*The issue in question is a legal one i.e. justification, not the very practical day to day one of pleasing God. Faithfulness definitely pleases God, it simply doesn't justify us and make us right with God or causes him to accept us.

We do things to bring him glory, not to earn or cause him to accept us. 


Monday, November 27, 2017

Lovable versus lovely

Seldom are we are *truly lovely but we are always lovable and even adorable in the eyes of God.

There is something about us that is worth adoring. 

Not only so but 

We have the capacity to experience and enjoy adoration i.e. be adored.

What is it about us that is worth loving and adoring? At a minimum (at our worst and even in our greatest state of rebellion) we are like God in that we still have the capacity to display something of who he is as the ultimate person worthy of all adoration i.e. our capacity/ability to be loved and adored is because we are like God, who is lovable and adorable. 

Because we are like him, we have the capacity to experience and enjoy love and adoration and to love and adore him in return. In fact in order to love and adore him as much as possible, in such a way that even comes close to his true and full worthiness of all our adoration, we had to have the innate capacity to be loved and adored. 

We are designed to be in a reciprocal relationship with God and receive his love and adoration and respond in kind.  And in so doing we can put God on display for others to see and be drawn to him. This capacity, only given to us by God (which was **not lost in our rebellion) is what makes us lovely and adorable. 

Nothing else fits who we are 

Finding love and adoration apart from or outside of God is not sufficient. Anything less then the love and adoration of God; the receiving of these and giving them back to him, simply will not do. No substitutes will work because there is nothing else like God (i.e. There is only one God who is the most lovable and adorable, who created all things and on which all things depend). In this way (the giving and receiving of love and adoration) we are just like God.

He is the most lovely and most adorable and has created us with the capacity to enjoy him as such. That capacity means we too must be lovable and adorable, otherwise we could not appreciate this about him.

When we are truly loved and adored we reciprocate. If we do not reciprocate we have not yet truly experienced his love and adoration. 
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*in fact we can not be truly lovely until we experience the love of God. To say it another way, we were never designed to initiate love for God but to be the recipients of his love and to love him in return. 

**What was lost was our actual loving and adoring of God, not our capacity to love and adore Him. So for all intents and purposes we might as well have lost the capacity to love and adore God. However if the capacity had been completely annihilated we could (and would) never respond to God when he reveals his love and adoration to and for us. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Celebrating our design and our Designer

The creative efforts of people may be carried out for the wrong reason (i.e. to exalt and advance self not God) but the fruit of those efforts is still evidance of the image of God within us all. For this reason we can (and should) fully appreciate the results of those efforts for what they are; evidence of the majesty, wonder and creativity of God within each of us, his image bearers. 


Our creative abilities show us something significant about both God and us. Something that can be legitimately appreciated and admired (even the ability to design and construct the Tower of Babel  gives evidence of the image of God within us).

Nevertheless if these efforts are not carried out in an attempt to honor the one in whose image we are designed, they ultimately are all for naught i.e. they will have no eternal value.

We can and should celebrate humanities design and our ability to create but in doing so we must recognize the Creator (the giver of our abilities) and our utmost Designer is the ultimate reason for our celebration.



Tuesday, November 7, 2017

A divided nation

Why is our *nation so divided? What are the factors? Some are external and objective (i.e. there are outside forces deliberately attempting to "divide and conquer" us [though some would say this is conspiracy theory]) but whatever external influence there are, these objective factors could not have influence and take hold if there were not subjective issues first. The following deals with the subjective.

Ultimately the solution to our (or others) national woes is not political but spiritual.

For example, in government you can put forth the right policy but if the individual hearts of men and women are not submitted to truth (or **recognize there is such a thing as objective truth and morality), right policy will not change their hearts (or their minds). They may comply but only to avoid the consequences, not because they agree.

Right policy only addresses external behavior not the internal desire to live truthfully with integrity or even the recognition of an objective moral standard.

Without an objective standard such as loving God equal to his loveliness and treating others as you wish to be treated, you only have "every man for himself" with a commitment to doing what is right "in their own eyes" (i.e. your "moral" standard is your subjective values/beliefs and unchecked desires).

Should we engage in the political process and seek to implement right policy? Absolutely! But we must also recognize that until the hearts of individual men and women change, right policy will only be looked at as an obstruction to happiness not a means to it. We should be praying for our nation as much if not more than we seek to promote right policy.

For more on the importance of praying for our nation click here.
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*Though I have America primarily in mind, the same need for spiritual focus applies to any country or group. 

**In order for unity to occur in a society or a nation (or any other social unit such as a company, a family, marriage or a church) there must be a commitment to the same primary values. In order for this to occur there must be recognition there is such a thing as absolute objective truth; that our values are not simply subjective; that there is such a thing as objective and absolute good and bad values. If they are only subjective, who decides what values (or who's) take priority over another i.e. there must be either an outside arbitrator or an objective standard. 


Thursday, November 2, 2017

God's wrath...reasonable or unreasonable?

The wrath of God seems unreasonable and the election of God unfair unless (and until) we understand the *greatness of our rebellion and how infinitely short we come in giving God his just and due honor. 

It is only as we **wrestle with the depth and extent of our own rebellion that we begin to see how truly just Gods wrath is. The more we wrestle with our shortcomings the more evident this becomes. 

Why are we not struck down on the spot for our disregard for God's infinite greatness and our total rebellion towards him? If God's majesty is that great and our rebellious refusal to acknowledge it/Him is that pervasive, shouldn't we be? 

We assume God's ***lack of action means our rebellion must not be that big a deal. When in reality, it is only because of the kindness and mercy of God that we are not destroyed, not because our rebellion is insignificant. 
2Pe 3:4  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”... The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Christ...a key reminder of our true condition

The reason the humbling, rejection, suffering and death of Christ is so offensive to many is it screams out that our rebellion towards God is that great and offensive; so great it required Christ to go through all that pain in order to restore us back to his Father. The dishonor our rebellion brought (and brings) to God and the resultant harm it causes others is very real, not ethereal and without real consequence. It could not be casually dismissed and ignored. Christ's suffering and death (for us) is our greatest proof. 

It is only when we wrestle with the extent of our own rebellion that we fully appreciate the necessity and extent of what Christ went through to restore us.

For a further discussion on the necessity of God's judgment click here
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*the unexpected irony is the greatness of our rebellion is seen clearest against the backdrop of God's greatness; his love and mercy.  

**our wrestling only comes through persistent pursuit of God over time. There is no short cut to experiencing this struggle. It is something we must go through/experience not simply grasp in our heads from stories of others. The greater and longer our persistence in pursuing God the more we wrestle and the more we see by first hand experience the depth of our own rebellion. 

This truth is captured and illustrated well in the struggle of Jacob when he wrestled with God the night before he faced the wrath of his brother Esau. 
Gen 32:24  And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25  When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26  Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27  And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28  Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29  Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.   
30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (the face of God), saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31  The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32  Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob's hip on the sinew of the thigh. 

This event resulted in two permanent changes to Jacob... 

A change in his identity (he was no longer Jacob the clever and self reliant "heel grabber" or "surplanter" but Israel, the Prince of God) and 

A physical change (vs 25, 31) as a reminder of his dependence on God. 

It was also expressed by Job after a period of intense suffering. 
Job 42:1  Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. Job 4  ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6  therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” 

And of course the experience of Joseph from the time of his vision as an adolescent until he was reunited with his brothers and father as an adult with a family his own. 

**I find it interesting whenever a nation experiences great calamity of some kind (such as the recent hurricanes) that we begin to hear whispers this is evidence of God's judgment. It's as if we have this intuitive or instinctive sense we are not giving God his due honor and therefore under his just judgment. 




Sunday, October 29, 2017

Spirit driven

How do we know if a deed is Spirit driven/empowered? 

If it is done to bring honor (glory) to God out of love for and trust in God i.e. if it is from (caused by), through and to Him it is Spirit driven; if it is a response to God's first treating us with love, honor, value. 

Operating in the Spirit is the interaction (reciprocation) of the source of love (God) and the recipient (us). He (the source) is lovely and trustworthy (and has already fully proven his love in giving us Christ). His great love that was poured out on us in and through Christ (without our doing anything to provoke/cause it), awoke our hearts to love, calling (wooing) us to love and trust him in response.

It (a deed) must always start with God i.e. there must be a lovely and trustworthy object (God) in which the subject (us) can place their love and trust. 

Why? 

1. Without a worthy object there can be (and is) no love and trust in and by us. 

2. Their is nothing worthy of our complete love and trust other then the infinitely lovely and trustworthy (infinite love can only be evoked and drawn out of us by an infinitely lovely object).  

3. God is the source/cause of love, not us.

4. We are designed to receive and respond to love, not initiate it i.e. as God like creatures (in his image) we are hard wired to respond to love. 

It (a deed) also must end with GodThat which is Spirit driven is also God focused (targeted). God is not only the cause/source of love he's also the end/object of it. 

God is both the beginning/cause (the Alpha) and end (Omega) of all our actions/deeds. 

This means we are all about "showing him off" to others. To say it another way, if you are truly God focused (all about advancing his honor/worth/glory) you are Spirit driven.

But it doesn't stop here 

This is only where it starts. God is the cause and end of our actions but to know this fully (for it to be perfected/completed), we must act on who he is for us by faith. Our faith must be perfected/matured (just like Christ also learned obedience). 

To see, enter into and experience him as lovely and trustworthy in ever increasing degrees we must pursue him as such i.e. by faith. In other words our (subjective) experience of him as being (objectively) loving and trustworthy is contingent upon our acting accordingly i.e. that he is loving and trustworthy. This goes beyond the proof of God's love already demonstrated by his past sacrifice and involves our present engagement, ongoing experience and participation in that love.

This doesn't mean he loves us more when we obey him, it means we enter more fully into that infinite, unobstructed love he has already totally and fully secured for us in Christ now and had for us long before we ever lifted a finger for his sake (Rom 5:8). 

True faith always results in acting upon what we believe. As James said, "...Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works..." There must be movement towards (attraction to and affection for) the object of love, otherwise our knowledge/understanding of God is only in our head and not in our heart. 

If there is no attraction, affection and resulting action, there is no real and true love i.e. we really don't know his love for us. If we did, we would (and will) act accordingly. To truly know his love is to be moved to love him in return i.e. moved to action/obedience. It is not possible to truly know we are loved by God and not be moved to love him back.


1Jn_4:8  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (i.e. it is impossible to know the God of love and not be moved to love) 9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

1Jn_4:19  We love because he first loved us (and only because he first loved us)

1Jn_5:2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 

1Jn_5:3  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing...

2:14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?...

18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. - James a disciple of Christ. 



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The life love and Spirit of God

God's life consists of the Father and Son blissfully existing (abiding together) in infinite love.

The life of God is the love God has (experiences) eternally as the Father and Son affectionately behold and enjoy the infinite glory, beauty and worth of the other in, by and through the Spirit.

This is referred to as the beatific vision.

The life, love and Spirit of God go hand in hand. 

Wherever the life of God is present so is the love and Spirit of God 
and 
Wherever the love of God is present so is the Spirit and life of God 
and 
Wherever the Spirit of God is present so is the life and love of God.

For...

God is love 1 John 4:8
God is life 1Jn 5:20  John 14:6-9
God is Spirit John 4:24

The life of God is the dynamic of God that moves him to action. 

The love of God is the holy affection that God has within his being that emanates outward toward others.

The Spirit of God is that distinct being that consists of God's life and love.

Everything regarding the Spirit has to do with affections (emotion e.g. passion, love and joy) which move him to action (willing, choosing).

The essence of God's being is infinite worth, beauty and glory. It is the joyful beholding of these qualities within and between the Father and the Son that generates and sends forth the love, life and eternal Spirit of God. 

Walking in the Spirit is our believing this very same love that God has for and within himself is fully ours (in and through Christ); then receiving, participating in and responding back to God in love first and then out to our fellow image bearers (other God like beings) thereby bringing him honor in and by displaying his glory beauty and worth to others.

When we come into God's presence through Christ via his Spirit we are made fully alive. Why? Because our life consists of being valued/loved (just as God's does). When we are in God's presence we experience our greatest sense of love/value because He is most lovely and valuable. We are able to enter into and enjoy this overflowing God of love, joy and bliss because we were made to i.e. in his image.  

For more on the empowering of the Spirit click here

For more on our love being a response to God's love click here


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Becoming an author

Hey guys, just a heads up that I hope to pursue writing as my a full time vocation. If you wish to, you can help. The following link will tell you how. Thanks for any support you can offer. Grace to you all.

https://www.youcaring.com/jimdeal-986599 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

the greater the evil the greater the healing

When we hear of an incredibility heinous violation of someone, such as rape, or kidnapping of kids and selling them into sex slavery, what possible good could come out of such horrendous actions? How could God possibly use something of such a destructive and heinous nature for good? (It's actually the same question we can ask about the unjust murder of Christ himself). Can God bring good out of such evil? 

3 Things to consider. Such evil results in...
  • A greater awareness, by anyone paying attention, of how desperately evil man's condition and heart is without God (proving the futility of being disconnected from God and the importance and necessity of knowing Him and being restored to Him).
  • How evil and destructive our rebellious distrust of God can be and is
  • How Christ fully understands the pain evil causes by going through his own at the hands of evil actions i.e. his trial and crucifixion. 

Suffering is not the last word. 

We should also consider the suffering someone goes through, no matter how wicked, does not have to be the end of the story or the ultimate destruction of ones soul (though it certainly has that potential if one becomes embittered and more firmly committed to their distrust of God). God can (and will) truly and fully restore those who go through such overwhelming abuse and suffering (and beyond) if they allow him to. If not in this life certainly in the next. In fact, because Christ fully took on all our pain, the greater the losses we suffer in this life, the greater our *potential gain in the next. 

Also, some of the greatest testimonies of his love and grace are from those who have come out of the most abusive pain and are now brilliant lights for him. 

*(it is a potential gain and not certain, only because our trust in God is uncertain, which determines if we do or do not gain from such events. If and when we fully trust him the gain is certain).

In fact he will use evil to do a healing in them they could not and would have never known without that evil. The extent of the healing is (and can only be) in proportion to the evil experienced i.e. the greater the evil the greater the potential healing and appreciation for it. 

Healing occurs precisely because damage is done and is needed most where the damage is greatest. Without damage no healing is required. Without great damage there is no great healing.

What about the next life?

One of our biggest mistakes is to only view things from a temporary perspective. This is the opposite view taken in scripture (2 Cor 4:16-18). If this life was all there was, these horrendous deeds would only be devastating if not irreversible.

This is precisely why the resurrection is so vital and significant. It shouts that pain and death is not the final word... life is!

As Christ said, what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but to lose his on soul. Wouldn't the opposite than also be true? What great gain it would be to lose the world with all it's benefits and blessings if it became the means of gaining our eternal soul and ultimate bliss (far greater then any pain that brought us to it)? And if we did, how much greater and more appreciated that gain would be. If the pain, suffering and destruction lead to the saving of our souls, would this not indeed be a great gain beyond all comparison. 

Some may argue the wound is too great and deep. How could God heal it? However because the wound is so deep is exactly why the healing can be so great. Even greater and deeper than the wound. As Paul said, where sin abounds, grace super abounds i.e. the abounding is far in excess of the loss. 

All of this is possible only because Christ took the evil of our brokenness into his own body and let it wound and destroy him in the most painful and humiliating manner. An evil more vile and unjust than any of us could know; a wound and pain far greater than any wound we could experience or ever suffer. Our wounds do not carry the full weight of humanities sin. His did. Part of what also makes it so great and distinguishes it from all our pain is his was a wound he was no more guilty of then those who suffer the kind of abuse mentioned at the beginning.

And because he rose to life after his terrible abuse and wounding, those who are so abused can also be raised to life and will be if they are in Christ. Some have testified of the delivery of knowing Christ's love after coming from such a background. This is the work he has done on our behalf and the promise he offers, if we will receive it.




Thursday, October 5, 2017

"performance" or action by faith

What is the difference between

·        action by faith and
·        performance based action 

First, how they are alike. 

They both require

·        choice 
·        effort/action
·        giving to get

So in the above ways they are exactly the same. And this is also why they are so easily confused with each other. Why? Because understanding the difference is a matter of the heart, not just the mind i.e. knowing the movement/motives of our heart. 

However, they are totally different in other very vital ways; in ways not easily identified because they deal with the ways of the heart; hearts that are often hidden from our full awareness. 

Defining terms

Performance is acting to obtain something missing...a sense of "being right," being forgiven, accepted and valued by and through our efforts/actions. It's about proving ones goodness/worth/value by and through self/flesh driven (vs Spirit/love driven) effort/action. 

Action by faith, on the other hand, is acting because of what you have...you already know you are forgiven, accepted and of great value in the eyes of God. Your dependence/trust in the assessment of God is what you base your value/worth on. In other words, action by faith is based on knowing someone of infinite wisdom, judgement and value sees you as good, right and of infinite value/loved (even though practically we often are not good and certainly never good enough). When you believe and fully embrace this (i.e. by faith), you respond accordingly i.e. you love them back. The more you believe his assessment to be true the greater your action.

To operate by faith is possible only because your value to God was proven by actions someone else *took on your behalf i.e. God doesn't just declare you valuable, he treated you as valuable i.e. he took action in and through Christ to prove how much he values you. Christ took these actions so you might enter into and participate in the same love of the Father the Son now fully participates in (and has from all eternity). He wanted you to have what he has; the unlimited, unobstructed love of his Father. So much so he willingly gave up something of that love, that you might fully have it (2 Corinthians 8:9). This is evidence of how great he values you and has infinite love in his heart for you. He finds great joy and satisfaction in knowing he makes this happen for you. 

What kind of actions did Christ take that prove his love?

He set aside the fullness of his glory and took on human form so he could die to settle the debt of your unfulfilled obligation to love and honor God as 1he deserves and you were designed to. This was necessary because your refusal to live according to his design, alienates you from the Father and his love. 

He did this for two reasons. 

1. Because you could not  
2. So you would no longer have to

Christ also lived to fulfill your obligations to live as you were designed i.e. he lived exclusively to show forth to others the great honor and worth of his Father that you were meant and designed to. 

Why would he do all this? He didn't act out of obligation, guilt, need or any other reason. He created you and therefore values (loves) you. You are in his image. 

What do we get, how do we get it? 

So if we, because of Christalready have God's full, unlimited and complete love, what are we getting when we act by faith?

We are "getting" (entering into or participating in) what we already have. 

To fully experience and benefit from his love already fixed upon us and fully ours in Christ, we must participate in it. 

This is like having the most renown gourmet of all time prepare, cook and set out for you the most delicious and healthy meal possible, with all the experience, resources, skill, thought and effort required to prepare it. A meal that would cost far more then usual (at no cost to you btw) or more than you have. A meal specifically and exclusively prepared for you. A meal that looks and smells exquisite. Clearly an act of care and love. 

Yet, one you won't fully appreciate and enjoy until you sit down and actually eat it. When you do, only then (and afterward) will you completely experience and enjoy the thoughtfulness and care (love) intended for you by this highly regarded gourmet chef who prepared it. 

So how do we eat/participate in the infinite love of the Father?

Christ himself tells us how he did when he said the following…

"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full." Joh 15:9-11  

First we must understand, we are talking about the perfect, infinite and infinitely loved Son of the eternal Father. Nothing Christ did ever caused the Father to love him. The Father loves the Son because of who he is, not because of what he did (though what Christ did certainly confirmed why the father loves the son with infinite affection). Christ and the Father have a love relationship that is constant and has always existed from all eternity past. There has never been a time when the Father and Son did not love each other. And there was 2nothing Christ could do add to it or take away from this infinite love.

Nevertheless Christ still went out early in the morning seeking his Father in prayer. Why? In doing so, was he trying to earn, through his efforts (performance), what was already fully his? NO!!! He did so to more fully participate in the love that was already there and waiting for him to partake in. 

To fully abide in/experience his fathers love he pursued the father's will i.e. followed his directions/commands. And because he loved and fully trusted his father he found joy in doing so. This wasn't a performance to impress his father. It was a demonstration and display of love and honor for the love (Father) of his heart. And there is something about acting on our affections for another that makes them more real. 

How does anyone experience a love relationship? Do they experience it best when they are miles apart and never interact or speak to the one they love? No, the experience occurs best and most when they are fully present, engaged and participating in that relationship e.g. when apart one flies out to be with the other so they can be together or they get on the phone to talk to each other and see how the other is doing and how they can best show their care/love for each other etc. The greater the participation in the relationship the greater the experience of the love that is already there. 

Who has not been in a relationship with someone near and dear, such as a spouse, only to experience the affection of that relationship wane when time is not spend together. Is it not that way with any love relationship. 

If so, why would it not also be the same with us in our relationship with God? Wouldn't it be exactly the same (i.e. we desire and find love through relationship [time spent together] with God just like with others)? Isn't God a relational being as well, just like any person? We are no less relational beings when it comes to God simply because that relationship is with God instead of another fellow image bearer. 

It all starts with and comes from God.

When we consider personhood comes from God as well as relationship; that God is a person in relationship via the Father, Son and Spirit, this makes relation with God even more significant and powerful. A relationship not with just any person but the very person who is the source of love and relationship himself and has always and only existed in relationship. The key difference is God does not need us, we need him. But he enjoys relationship no less. In fact He delights in relationship. He created us for it and is the source of it. It is who he is and it (i.e. love) drives all he does. 

So how do we participate in this love relationship with God? How do you with any relationship. You cherish the other person in that relationship. Some of the ways you do is find out what they like and then you do all you can to do this for them or give it to them i.e. you seek to discover everything you can about them and how you can best carry out their wishes and show them how much you value and love them. In so doing you are saying (by action, not just words) they are important to you. You value them. The greater your effort to do this the greater the evidence of your value/love of them and the relationship you have together. 

This is just as true (maybe more so) with God as in any relationship. 

Joh 14:15  "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 

For a further discussion on love being something other then just feelings click here

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1Because we fail to carry out this primary design of loving and honor God according to the greatness of his worth, we also fail to carry out our secondary design to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

not to suggest Christ's obedience was robotic, automatic or without real challenge as demonstrated in his wilderness temptation, the garden of Gethsemane and cry to his Father on the cross of feeling abandoned.





Saturday, September 30, 2017

Knowing good and evil

Gen 2:17  but from the tree of the knowledge of goodH2896b and evilH7451b you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die."

What exactly is "the knowledge of good and evil." Whatever it is, it was not something Adam and Eve originally possessed or experienced.

Possibly an analogy would be helpful.

Just as loving [1]parents bring a child into the world and nurture it, so did God with Adam and Eve. Just like a child has no concept of what it's like to no longer have parents caring for them, Adam and Eve had no concept of what it would be like to no longer be willfully connected to God and under his care and direction. 

The all too common rebellion and [2]pulling away of adolescents from their parents is not unlike what Adam and Eve did in the garden. They rebelled from dependence and trust in God and decided they could to be like God and be their own god i.e. they believed they knew what was better for themselves than God did.

As a child develops and matures, it often begins to take for [3]granted the care of his or her parents, believing they can do a better job of caring for themselves; so it was with Adam and Eve regarding God.

Yet, the reality is, if we have truly loving, wise and caring parents, they always know us in a way we don't know ourselves and in that sense they know us better then we know ourselves. 

They also always have something we want or need. If nothing else, their love and desire for our best. It is simply expressed in a different way as we get older but is always there nevertheless. 

Plus, we will always be their child and they will always be the cause (humanly speaking) of our existence and always desire and seek our best.The story of the prodigal son comes to mind. No matter how rebellious his son was, the love of his father never waned. The father looked for his son's return even after and in his rebellion. 

And lastly, they will often have greater wisdom acquired through life experience. They simply have been around longer and know more about how things work due to the life lessons they have gone through

So why the rebellion?

We know what we know but it's what we don't know that often "eats at us" (we don't like being finite and having to trust. We like being in control and independent). We may be tempted to think, what if I can do things better than God (or my parents in the case of a child) or we may even be convinced we can (even though we have no actual evidence). 

When you stop to consider this regarding God, it is the height of arrogance. How could Adam and Eve ever know all things or be the provider and sustainer of all things (and therefore know what was best for them compared to God?). Wasn't this exactly the question and point God made with Job

Possibly we have an example here of the expression "familiarity breeds contempt." Adam and Eve had regular access to God, so their participation in fellowship with him was a common experience. God was always available. They had never experienced a time he was not involved in their lives. Possibly over time they took him for [3]granted and lost sight of how great he truly was (plus maybe the extent of his greatness could only have been appreciated in contrast to no longer participating in it. Like the brightness of a light is most appreciated and evident the darker it is). 

We are curious creatures in that we do not fully appreciate the good we experience or have until we no longer have it. It's as if we must lose something of value first before we can fully appreciate it or be truly grateful for it (and the [4]greater the value the more significant the loss but also the greater the potential learning opportunity and appreciation for what has been lost). 

What exactly is good and evil?

From the verse at the beginning of this article, here are the definitions found in the original Hebrew. Emphasis my own:

Good - H2896b  טוֹב - tob  (375a); from H2895; a good thing, benefit, welfare: — enjoy *(1), good (66), good thing (3), good things (2), goodness (1), graciously (1), happiness (1), happy (1), pleasant (1), prosperity (8), richer (1), well (1), what is good (1), what is good (4).
H2895  טוֹב - tob (373b); a prim. root; to be pleasing or good: — any (1), did well (2), done well (1), fair (1), go well (1), good (1), good (5), high (1), merry (3), please (2), pleased *(2), pleases (4), pleases *(2), pleasing (1), well (8), well-off (1). 
Evil - H7451b  רַע - ra  (948c); from the same as H7455; evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity: — adversity (7), calamity (4), disaster (2), evil (94), harm (2), harmful (1), hurt (1), ruin (3), surely (1), trouble (2), unpleasant (1), wickedly (1), wickedness (1).
H7455  רע - rôa‛BDB (Brown-Driver-Briggs') Definition:1) badness, evil 1a) badness, bad quality 1b) wilfulness 1c) evil, badness (ethical) 1d) sadness
Based on the context of this verse we could sum these definitions up as follows:

Good - God himself and all the benefits, provision and pleasure that come in knowing him and being with him.

Evil - Injury or harm (e.g. death) that comes due to the absence of God and all the good things he provides. 

Before man's rebellion, it doesn't say they did not know good, it says they did not know good and evil i.e. good in contrast to evil. Adam and Eve obviously experience good because they walked with God and enjoyed the garden. The also enjoyed the companionship and joy of union with [5]each other. 

The bottom line... they only knew good not evil. They only knew of his total care and provision. They had no concept of what it would be like to lose him or his [6]provision. They had nothing to compare and contrast this provision and good to in their personal experience (Possibly Adam's seeing the animals having partners when he did not came close to this. But this wasn't harm or loss but something lacking and appears to be more a concern of God's than Adams). 

All they knew about evil is what they were told i.e. the day they ate they would die. They had no concept of death, loss, distress, misery, injury, calamity, adversity, disaster, harm, hurt, ruin, trouble (knowledge of evil) because they had never seen or experienced any of it. What they did know however was God said it was not a good thing and they were asked to trust and believe this warning (a kind of promise in reverse if you will) from God. 

However they definitely knew what good was (even though they had nothing to contrast it with). It was what they were experiencing. With a little deductive reasoning it could be argued they could have at least concluded evil was certainly not the same as good and possibly the opposite of it. Enough, you would think, to deter them from wanting to know what it was with certainty or through first hand experience. Irregardless, God said do not eat. That should have been (in their eyes) and was (in God's eyes) sufficient. 

What is interesting is when tempted, Eve bought into the promise of being like God verses the promise (warning) they would die if they ate. She (and Adam) definitely chose between these two very contrasting and competing options offering by two completely different sources, God vs the serpent. 

Some might argue that it's unfair for God to expect them to heed his warning without knowing the full meaning of it. However if one fully trusted God, this should and would be sufficient. Trust was unavoidable regardless. They simply wound up trusting the wrong party i.e. they trusted the creature (ultimately themselves, encouraged by the suggestion of the serpent) vs the Creator. 

We can only conclude that the primary point of the instruction by God to not eat of the forbidden tree was to trust (not doubt or question) God in those instructions. It was a warning they were expected to believe and heed regardless of whether they [6]fully understood or experienced first hand what evil was or was not (isn't this often the very case now? We are often called to trust even when we don't always understand). 

But why trust? The fact is man will never know all things apart from God simply because he is finite and God is infinite. To say it another way, man was never intended to be all he was designed to be apart from God and dependence on (trust in) him. 

Man will always need to depend on God for true knowledge simply because God is infinite and we are not...something that sticks in our crawl even today if we are honest. The heart and essence of the desire to "be like God" was (and is) a rejection of this dependence and the necessity to trust. 

It is this very disposition of independence that God is reversing in and through Christ. Ironically, he uses pain and suffering (evil) from our attempts at inappropriate independence to do so. 

God uses evil for good

Now that we experience loss, the ongoing lesson God seeks to instill in all of us (using our loss to aid in this) is all we are and have i.e. all good comes from God. So even though evil is not good, the harmful consequences/loss of our pulling away from God is the means of helping us to understand a vital reality; distrust of (independence from) God is bad and trust of (dependence on) God is good. To say it another way, all good comes from God, all bad is due to the absence of God. Evil is incorporated to aid us in seeing this. Or as I once heard it said, "if God could not use evil for good, evil would not exist"(source unknown).

Knowing that all good is in God alone and only comes from him is the simple reality of how things are and how our world was and is designed to operate. He alone is God, the provider and sustainer of all things. When God calls us to recognize this, he is not on an ego trip, he's seeking our good. It simply is the reality of how things are; what is; how things are designed to operate and how they operate best when adhered to i.e. God is the giver and sustainer of all things, so if you wish to live life fully as intended, live life accordingly. In doing so you will find the greatest meaning purpose and joy simply because this is who we are and who God is. Believe it or not. 

For additional thoughts on what occurred at the fall click here
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[1]Of course the analogy breaks down in that the gap of wisdom and love between God and us is beyond comparing to that of our earthly parents. God is perfect. Our own or any earthly parent is not. God alone is perfect love, wisdom and he alone has total ability (is "all powerful") to put all his other attributes fully into play i.e. he along is able to insure we experience his love and wisdom to the fullest extend possible; human parents are not e.g. a human parent can't absolutely insure a particular outcome or prevent irreparable destruction due to a child's poor choice, or use our bad choices for our good, whereas God can and does use all things to bring about our ultimate good.

[2]Leaving our parents is not a bad thing if we leave in a posture of fullness and not in order to find it i.e. we don't leave to "get away" from our parents but to honor them. When we do, we seek to pass along and multiply what we received from them, thereby bringing them honor. Possibly this would have occurred if Adam and Eve had not rebelled. They were, after all, originally mandated to be fruitful and multiply before the fall. 

I am also aware some who read this may not relate at all to what it's like having loving parents or possibly any parent. 

What if you didn't have such perfect parents growing up? 

If you are his child you have now. 

If you are not his child, he offers to be for you what you never had. 
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.

[3]Taking for granted the goodness of God and the blessings Adam and Eve experienced may have actually been the true "original sin" or at least the soil out of which it sprang. The eating of the fruit was merely the outward evidence of an inward disposition that had developed and already existed, if only for a brief moment before the eating. 
[Though there is no indicated of an extended period of time regarding this decline in disposition, this alone does not mean it didn't exist. The bible is often very concise and only touches on key points in conveying events that may have occurred over a period of time, such as Lot's wife turning to salt. (This is believed by some commentators to be the natural result of exposure to the air of the very salty Dead Sea after she died from the heat of burning sulfur, instead of a sudden event as depicted in the Hollywood version). We also see this in the gospels when one gospel will have a more concise explanation of an event and another a more extended version.
 What we do know is both trees were there from the beginning and were also next to each other in the center of the garden where neither could easily be missed or avoided. It is probably safe to assume they ate from the tree of life and possibly often over a period of time since they were allowed to eat of all tree's except the one. And since the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was right there next to the tree of life, you can be sure they passed by it often and likely could see it often if not continuously being it was in the center next to the tree of life. 
 The fact that Eve said they also could not touch the tree suggests touching it had crossed her mind or possibly Adam added this caution to insure Eve would not even go near it at all. If so, why would Adam give this added instruction, if he did? Maybe he himself had felt the allure of the tree? Since we don't know, we can only speculate and that is all this indented comment is; speculation. But certainly questions worth considering.] 
Gen 3:6  So when (however long that took. It appears to all be within a brief period) the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 

The availability of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was simply the opportunity and means of displaying this taking of God for granted and the resulting distrust and ingratitude.

[4]The reality is complaining about what we do not have or what we lost is to not understand everything we are and have is a gift from God to begin with, not a right or something we are owed, earned or is deserved.   

[5]Possibly they lost sight that the joy of their relationship was a gift from God as well and therefore they thought their relationship would be just as good without Him as it was with him i.e. since they had each other, they didn't need God, not realizing that the actual joy they found in each other was by and from God indirectly. 

[6]God allowed man to continue having access to his creation. What does this say to us about how we handle others in terms of showing kindness and doing good deeds for them in their rebellious independence from God i.e. what can we learn from God who allowed Adam and Eve to continue to participate in the good gifts of life (creation) even in their rebellion? Wouldn't he have been justified in letting them die immediately on the spot? In the earliest records in scripture about humanity we see grace; we see God seeking them out and hinting of a future provision while providing for their immediate need.  

Yet God did not allow access to the garden itself for their own good. God already knew man would abuse the creation and use it to maintain his independence from him. So being put out of the garden [which is the location of the tree of life and where God manifested his earthly presence at that time] and experiencing the curse of thorns and thistles due to Adam's breaking away from God, was actually God working for their ultimate and eventual good.

It appears that knowing evil was a necessary part of more fully appreciating and enjoying good. In truth evil accentuates the beauty of good as long as we do not allow it to embitter us to the point we no longer can trust in good again.  

[6]We see no indication of God explaining evil or death to Adam (Eve found out of God's warning from Adam, since she was created after the caution was given). We simply see him cautioning him of it.

However we must remember God himself knew good and evil (Gen_3:5,22) so this knowing in itself could not be wrong or bad (at least not for God) as there is only goodness in God. This knowing by God was simply an awareness of harm and death as well as the goodness and bliss of love between the Father Son and Spirit. 

The knowing of good and evil may not in itself have been Adam and Eve's problem either but rather how they acquired that knowledge was i.e. they obtained it illegitimately by going against God's warning. 
But we may wonder how and when did God ever have first hand knowledge and experience harm or loss i.e. evil?

The possible explanation is God is everywhere present. This not only addresses the spatial but also the temporal i.e. It applies to time as well as location. 

There is no time with God. Everything is in the present for him i.e. everything simply is for him. This seems to be God's point when Moses asked God what to tell Israel to call him. God simply said tell them "I AM" sent you. God is. There is no "it will be one day" with or for God in the ultimate sense. Everything already is for God, always has been and always will be throughout eternity. Hard to grasp but this is a key difference between the infinite and the finite. All of history and all future events as well as present experience and observation is not something that occurs in a linear progression for God (even though he somehow really and truly stepped into time through creation and the incarnation and now fully and gladly participates in it. But this addresses Gods experiencing time. It does not mean he is limited or constrained in his infinite knowledge by it). 

To say it another way, time is a part of the created order, it is not an inherit part of God. Before God created, God is; there simply is no time for God. God can and certainly does participate in time but it only became so when he created, not before. And it is only because he willingly chose to participate, not because he had to as we do. Once God created, not only the material world came into existence but also time itself, for the first time, became reality. His participation in time reached its pinnacle when he took on flesh and walked among his creatures and creation.

What is intriguing is in a very real sense, once we step into eternity, we too will no longer experience or be restrained by time as we now are. 

To get a little sense of what it might be like to not participate in time, think of the expression "time flies" when we are engaged in something we enjoy. It is the enjoyment itself that is our focus not time. If we had no restraints of the ebb and flow of energy and resources, we would be oblivious to time. This may give us some idea of what things are like for God and will be like for us as well. Once we enter into eternity, time will no longer matter to us in the same way it does now since those things we usually associate with time will no longer exist i.e. it may be an aid but not a burden.