Whitewash The Tombs

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity.  In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

-Matt 23:25-28
Perhaps the greatest sin is hypocrisy.  Check yourself for it.  Jesus called this one sin out. 
Public hypocrisy angered Jesus more that private sin.  Why?  Search for Jesus saying, “Woe to you”, to any other group.
Jesus took issue with the hypocrites for appearing righteous without being righteous.  Why is hypocrisy so bad, so insidious, and the one thing that Jesus castigated people for?
Religious hypocrisy is, in practice, God-mocking atheism.  Jesus is exposing people who are pretenders, fakes, frauds, and deceivers; who pretend to be real but are counterfeits.  
Hypocrites praise God, they feign worship and piety, while pretending that God does not know the truth of their life, in their hearts.  Hypocrisy is insidious because it keeps us out of touch with God’s grace.  Hypocrisy ruins a persons soul, because it blocks out righteousness from Christ and lives in the play-acting world.
The group that made Jesus angriest were the people that he resembled.  Jesus also obeyed the Mosaic Law and quoted the teachers of the law (Mark 9:11-12; 12:28-34), but he verbally attacked the Pharisees as hypocrites.
Why would Jesus be so mad at people who extolled family values, tithed, and devoted their lives to Bible study?  Legalism is not authentic spirituality.  Their expressions of love for God were only ways to impress others.

The proof of spiritual maturity is not how “pure” you are but your awareness of your impurity. That very awareness opens the door to God’s grace.

-Philip Yancey

The road to perdition is trying to look good rather than be good, caring more about how others see you than developing moral values that you live by.

To be a hypocrite is to give others the impression that we are holier than we actually are. It is the same as being false, or telling a lie. Jesus pronounced a curse on hypocrites seven times in Mt. 23:13-29. It is possible to tell a lie without even opening our mouths. Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit without saying a word – when he pretended to be a wholehearted disciple of Jesus (Acts 5:1-5).

Jesus told the Pharisees that their inner life was “”full of self indulgence”” (Mt. 23:25) – which meant that they lived only to please themselves. Yet they gave others the impression that because they knew the Scriptures well and fasted and prayed and tithed their income, they were very holy. They appeared very pious externally. They prayed lengthy prayers in public, but they did not pray at length in private – just like many today. It is hypocrisy if we praise God only on Sunday mornings, but do not have a spirit of praise in our hearts at all times. God looks at our hearts.

-Zac Poonen

It has been said that hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue. Only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core. While Jesus makes it perfectly clear that hypocrisy is morally wrong, why is it? Why are hypocrites especially despised by others? Sometimes we hear people say, “I may have this shortcoming or that, but at least I’m not a hypocrite.” As we have seen, hypocrisy involves: dishonesty, deception, and self-deception. It is insincere and disrespectful of others. It is unjust because a hypocrite attempts to receive good by doing bad. It kills the moral spirit by undermining the incentive to live morally. It flouts God’s standards.

We could say that hypocrisy is hydra-headed; it is many sins in one. No wonder it justifies the extreme repugnance that it provokes or the strong resistance we have in being accused of hypocrisy.

-Steven C. Riser

We read Jesus calling people hypocrites and read that as saying that they said one thing, but did another.  That may be true and may be part of what Jesus is saying.  But the hypocrite charge, used in Matthew 23, by Jesus, is actually worse.

I learned and you may have also learned that the word that is written here means ‘play actor’ or one that wears a mask, a fake, a fraud.  In a word, Jesus was calling the Pharisees here, ‘frauds’.  Frauds say one thing and do another.  They are liars, two-faced.

A ‘play-actor’ plays a part which is assumed for the occasion, who is not their true self.  Jesus was not saying that all Pharisees for all time are hypocrites, but that these particular ones were.

Jesus’ hypocrisy charge was worse than that these ones were just fakes.   They were false teachers.

Jesus says, in a sense, “You frauds!”, and then lays out seven charges or indictments.  These people were worthy of the charge and we need to understand what Jesus meant, in order to identify what or who this sort of fraud is today.

This is a note I wrote, while listening the Scot McKnight: “Jesus’ hypocrisy charge against the Pharisees is not best understood as a contradiction between what a person teaches and what they do, BUT was that they were false teachers, leading people away from God’s will, God’s true will.

Jesus called these Pharisees ‘whitewashed tombs’.  At that time, they would paint and repaint tombs, so that people would not touch them, and become unclean.  The whitewash did not attract you, but repulsed you.

Jesus was saying to these guys, that they beautified their outward appearance, but that this was actually a sign that on the inside, they were corrupt.  The way that they taught had a positive or attractive presentation, but was dead, below the surface.  In other words, their hearts and souls were bad.  In legal terms, they had bad faith.

The bad faith charge means that their way that they taught in not the way of God, not the way of Christ.  Their way is immoral, in that ultimately they are the law unto themselves.  They are making it up as they go.  They were, at best, majoring in the minors.

Alexander MacLaren wrote this:
So He would say, with terrible irony, that the apparent holiness of the rulers was really a sign of corruption, and a warning to keep away from them. What a blow at their self-complacency! And how profoundly true it is that the more punctiliously white the hypocrite’s outside, the more foul is he within, and the wider berth will all discerning people give him! The terrible force of the figure needs no dwelling on. In Christ’s estimate, such a soul was the very dwelling-place of death; and foul odours and worms and corruption filled its sickening recesses. Terrible words to come from His lips into which grace was poured, and bold words to be flashed at listeners who held the life of the Speaker in their hands! There are two sorts of hypocrites, the conscious and the unconscious; and there are ten of the latter for one of the former, and each ten times more dangerous. Established religion breeds them, and they are specially likely to be found among those whose business is to study the documents in which it is embodied. These woes are not like thunder-peals rolling above our heads, while the lightning strikes the earth miles away. A religion which is mostly whitewash is as common among us as ever it was in Jerusalem; and its foul accompaniments of corruption becoming more rotten every year, as the whitewash is laid on thicker, may be smelt among us, and its fatal end is as sure.

This is what NT Wright wrote about Matthew 23:
Jesus’ criticisms were primarily against those of his own time who, he could see, were leading Israel astray, causing Israel to look in the wrong direction, at the very moment when its hour, and indeed its Messiah, had come.  The main reason he is taking the trouble to denounce them in such detail is because they are distracting attention from the crucial moment  Their particular failings are simply extra evidence that they are not in fact the true guides that Israel needs at this fateful moment in its history.

Equally, some have supposed that Jesus, whom we think of as kindly and loving, could never have denounced anyone, least of all his fellow-Jews, in such sharp tones…  This present chapter consists, in fact, as a solemn, almost ritual, denunciation of them for their hollow piety and misguided teaching.

Anyone who supposes, however, that these failings were, or are, confined to one religion, culture, or group should look at their own society, and (alas) at their own church, and think again…

…There were saints in that tradition, all right.

But we have every reason to suppose that there were many, probably the majority, who went along for the ride, or more particularly the political agenda that the Pharisees adopted.  They like the idea about being rigorous about the Torah because it suited their nationalistic ambitions.  But when it came to the actual moral and religious struggle to make the inside of the house match the outside, they hadn’t even begun.

Once again, this whole attack on the Pharisees only makes sense within the larger picture which Matthew is drawing.  Jesus is on his way to accomplish the real covenant renewal (see 26:28) which all the Pharisees’ intensification of Torah could not achieve…  It would be a bad mistake to read a chapter like this as simply a moral denunciation.  It would be still worse to read it as a moral denunciation of somebody else.  That’s halfway to committing the very mistake that’s being attacked.

Having said that, we shouldn’t miss the note which emerges at the end, and points to what is to follow.  Jesus sees the present self-styled teachers of the law as fitting in exactly to the pattern of previous generations:  killing the prophets and truly righteous people of old.  

How do I sum this all up?  The Pharisees Jesus castigated were the Puritans of their day.  They were high minded in their brand of separatism, but at the core, they were corrupt murderers.

Just like the Puritans who executed other believers they branded as heretics, the Pharisees had that kind of corruption.  The irony is that such a religion is a true heresy against God.

Take a look at how Christians have persecuted other Christians throughout history and into today.  Disavow it and don’t be a part of it.

Perhaps the worst people are those who claim to represent God, but do not.  They do not fool God and they are some of the only recipients of excoriation by Jesus.

Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, that ends Matthew 23, is one of the most poignant and revealing statements in the Bible.  He came to save a people who despised, rejected, and killed him.

Today, Jesus is still calling people out of the ‘Christian in name only’ religion, that rejects the living Christ.

Jesus calls us to a life that is being transformed on the inside and might look messy or not make sense on the outside.  We are transparent and don’t have all the answers, ask a lot of questions, are loved, and trust God no matter what.  We are little people with a big God.  We are inviters, includers, gracious, and hospitable.  And we know how to rest in Christ.  We are generous, forgivers, optimistic, and dreamers.  And we live with God and each other in the reality of the already and the not yet of the kingdom.


Whitewashed Tombs, by Richard Phillips

Matthew For Everyone, NT Wright, pp. 104-07
The New Testament Era, Bo Reicke, pp. 156-63

The painting above:

Brooklyn Museum – Woe unto You, Scribes and Pharisees (Malheur à vous, scribes et pharisiens) – James Tissot (1836-1902)

Living In God’s House

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord of Armies.
I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

Even a sparrow finds a home,
And a swallow, a nest for herself
Where she places her young—
Near your altars, Lord of Armies,
My King and my God.
How happy are those who reside in your house,
Who praise you continually.

Happy are the people whose strength is in you,
Whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
They make it a source of springwater;
Even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength;
Each appears before God in Zion.

Lord God of Armies, hear my prayer;
Listen, God of Jacob.Selah
Consider our shield, God;
Look on the face of your anointed one.

Better a day in your courts than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
Than live in the tents of wicked people.
For the Lord God is a sun and shield.
The Lord grants favor and honor;
He does not withhold the good from those who live with integrity.
Happy is the person who trusts in you,
Lord of Armies!

-Psalm 84
We are invited to live in God’s house now in this life.  Our desire to live with God is individual and communal.  We each have to decide for and want it.  And we live in God together.
God’s house is yellow.  God uses all colors, but yellow describes the place we get to live in with God.

For the Lord God is a sun and a shield.

God’s house is a place of sunshine.  A color that describes God’s house is yellow.  God’s place we dwell in is a place of joy, warmth, inspiration and vitality.  Cheerful, happiness, strengthening, friendly and creative; are words that describe the atmosphere of God’s house we get to live in now.
The more time that we spend inside God’s house, the more that our minds are renewed into the mind of Christ.  The more time we spend at God’s place, the more we are aware of our identities.  The more time we spend in God’s house, the more energy we have for life, because awake or asleep, God’s place is a place of rest.
When we spend time inside God’s house, we learn to see.  We get clarity about what we see.  We understand what we see better now, through the truth of Christ.
Spending time in God’s house is renewing.  Restoration happens in God’s place where we get to spend time.  It is a safe place to turn our lives around and get back to becoming the person we have been destined to be.
We get to grow up in the safe space of God’s place, while at the same time, becoming like a child.  No matter what our age is, our youth is renewed in God’s dwelling place.  We get to become wise and child-like at the same time.
God’s house is a place of learning.  Inspiration and curiosity are in the air in God’s space.  Creativity is bubbling in the atmosphere of God’s house and imparted to those who spend time there.
The ability to communicate truth and life is imparted to people who spend time living with God.  Discovery is given to those who dwell with God.  That is the ability to look at things and discover things previously unknown.
Decision makers learn how to become wise rulers in the house of God, in the the light imparted by living with God.
Enthusiasm, confidence and optimism are imparted in the presence of God.
Being with God is a sunny place, full of warmth and happiness.
Frankincense, one of the gifts brought to Jesus, is yellowish in color.  In essential oil therapy, Frankincense is said to offer a variety of health benefits like relieving stress and anxiety, reducing pain and inflammation, boosting immunity and potentially helping fight cancer.
Yellow is the brightest color.  It is the most visible color.  It is the first visible color.  Yellow is the color of seeing.
Yellow is the color of gold.  Golden means of great value.
Yellow the color of one of the twelve foundation stones of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:19).  And the glory of God, which some people think is yellow in color, like sunshine; will be the light source in the new Jerusalem (Re. 21:23).
Healing light from God (“The sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays”) is the promise for those who revere and fear God (Malachi 4:2).  
Living in God’s house is like the, “Yellow Submarine” song.

Stay A Little Bit Longer

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its  perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.  See how  the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.  Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.  Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!  My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.  Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by  the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.

-James 1:2-4, 5:7-11 (NKJV)
My message is:  Stay a little bit longer, and let patience have its perfect work.  Stay in the place of your suffering.

Don’t stay in abuse, flee abuse, set boundaries on abuse.  Stay in that trial you are in, where your patience has worn thin and God has not opened the door to the next thing for you, yet.

Let patience work.  Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘don’t waste your trials’?  That is what this is.
Before the Lord promotes you, he wants to transform you.  We have been asking to be transposed.  We have been imagining and planning on a better place for ourselves.
But before God does that, he does this.  He puts you through trials to refine you and synergize you with  Christ.  God has you in the place of transformation.  Stay in it a bit longer and let patience have its perfect work in you.
I know that many people want more out of life.  We want success and to have lives with impact.  We want to enjoy doing what we have been given to do and get recognition for it.
Some of us are content and very thankful for the blessings that we are living in.  But we also have something we are frustrated about and it seems like it will never get better.  We have little hope or almost none and even no hope left.
Some of us have given up on our dreams.  This is like the heartbroken father of the boy who was afflicted by a demon, who said to Jesus, “I believe, but help my unbelief” (Mark 9:14-29).  Our hopes have been deferred for so long, that our hearts are just sick (Prov. 13:12).
We are in a window of time.  We are always in a window of time.  But what if God asked you, at this time, to stay a little longer and let patience have its perfect work?
The alternatives are opting out or resisting.  Opting out is when you leave before the work is done, in you.  You might say, “I don’t have time for this”, or some other excuse, but you disengage from the suffering and your persevering faith trial.  “I haven’t got time for the pain”, or “I’m out of here”; you say.
Resisting is when you don’t hit the eject button, but you don’t let patience work in your life either.  Resisting is when you push back, deny, blame, complain and present yourself as a victim.  You feel sorry for yourself and others do too, but in the game you are playing, you avoid the growth of letting patience have its perfect work in you.  Nothing has changed inside you.
Letting patience have its perfect work in you is when you seek or cultivate union with God.  Your prayer of, “O God help me”, becomes a cry for intimacy, communion and fellowship with God.
God is drawing near to you, beckoning you to share your life, especially the pain, suffering and disappointment.  We might have in mind that when God comes it means I get my prayers answered, I get the stuff I have been asking for and I get rescued or delivered, healed or made whole.  But what God wants is to be with you in your trial.  God wants more to transform you than to make it go away.
God is saying today, to some people, including myself: “Stay a little bit longer and let patience have its perfect work in you”.  How much longer?  I don’t know.
There are times and seasons, general for everybody and particular to individuals and groups of individuals who make an ‘in the same boat’ group.  A bunch of people need to stay and not opt out, resist or leave their place of trial right now, because God is wanting to finish a work in you, called by James, ‘letting patience have its perfect work’.

Easter Reflections

When the hour came, He reclined at the table, and the apostles with Him.  Then He said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

-Luke 22:14-15
What Easter means to me is that God has a plan.  God acted and carried out that plan.  
We were continually surprised by what God did.  Jesus interacted with the people as he carried out the plan.
The plan was not a script or a ‘to do list’, with check boxes.  The plan unfolded, for Jesus and for the people around him.
Jesus did everything he did, as a man; without the attributes, power or privileges of God; while maintaining his identity as Son of God.  He did this, so that He could save humanity completely, through and through; inside out.
Jesus had told and warned the apostles that he was going to suffer and be put to death, and rise on the third day.  But when we read the stories, it seems like they might not have understood.
Knowing where he was going, that he was about to suffer, Jesus wanted to have the last supper with his apostles.  He said, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer”.
Some of the more literal translations say, “with desire, I have desired to eat”.  Jesus desire to have this last meal with them was serious, sincere and intense.  Jesus was an intense person, a serious person and a sincere person.
His whole life was about passion for the Father.  We have John 3:16.  But that love is fully reciprocal.
Why did Jesus come?  To save mankind.  To destroy the works of the devil.  To reveal the Father.
If you have to boil it down to one word, the reason Jesus came was love.  God’s love saves us, sets us free and reveals himself.
The key to the whole Bible is Jesus suffering on the cross.  His sacrificial love there defines everything else.  If you have a question, that is the lense to look through for the answer.
One of the richest sections of scripture about living as a person of Jesus, is the account by John of what Jesus said that night, at the last supper.
John opens with the scene of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, before they partook of the meal together.  The key lesson that Jesus gives them is servanthood through love or love through servanthood.
And love is the theme that is woven through everything he says to them that night.
Jesus is frank about Judas, as being a betrayer, while not outing him or confronting him openly.  Jesus is not chiding him nor resigned to his actions from a dark heart; but makes it clear that someone in that room, who has been at his side, now and over these past years, has chosen darkness over light.
Jesus washed Judas feet and shared the meal, including the elements of the bread and the wine.  We can draw a lesson here that we can be touched on the outside and even take communion into our insides and still align ourselves against Jesus.  In other words, having a level of familiarity with Jesus and doing religious things does not save you.
This seems obvious if you are saved and love Jesus.  But it needs to be stated for the ones who are delusional.  You must let Jesus change you, cleanse you and have intimacy with you in your deepest insides.
Jesus did not ask Judas to excuse himself before the supper, but called him out, but not by name, after communion.  The communion table or the Lord’s Supper, whether it is a full meal, like how Jesus and the apostles did it, or the abbreviated style that many Christians practice today, is totally open.  The table is open to Christians, pre-Christians who don’t know anything and to fake Christians, who, like Judas, are delusional and deceived.
Communion does not save you, but is a celebration of what saves us.  Jesus understands that people like Judas, come to the table and partake.  But that does not change anything, because change is an inside thing.
Everything Judas did in his life was a choice.  He was not elected or predestined to fail, but chose his path.
Do you know what Jesus said to Judas, in the garden, when he came to betray him with a kiss?  Jesus called him ‘friend’.  Jesus continued to love Judas.  Jesus did not react and define how he felt about Judas by the betrayal, but by his choice to love a deceived, delusional, reprehensible man; who was still a friend, as defined by Jesus.
Compare how Jesus treated Judas to how we treat fallen leaders who get caught up in less egregious sins.
Is the Gospel strong enough to save someone like Judas?  Yes.
My reflection about Easter is that God has always had a plan and that was the case with Jesus coming into the world and finally being executed on the cross, dying and rising from the dead.
Jesus mentioned the cross many times before Holy Week.  It was a familiar motif to his first listeners.  Even though Satan could hear what Jesus said, he still went forward with his own plan to have Jesus executed in the most painful way ever devised on earth.
God had a plan and went forward with the plan and even though the Devil had plans, God’s plan went forward and trumped the plan of the Devil.
Every one of the disciples denied Jesus.  Peter just got the spotlight.
John and three women watched the crucifixion, close up; but the rest of the apostles ran away and hid.  Jesus still loved and believed in the ones who hid and denied him.

The lesson might be that those who take a risk, for love and in faith, receive a blessing.  The ones who stayed away were loved the same, but missed out on something because of their fears.

And it is the same with us.  Life continually presents opportunities for us to take a risk, act in love, serve somebody and go against our fears.  We get to choose.  The light is green and a blessing awaits us if we will act, but we are still loved if we are passive, afraid or selfish.

The first witness of Jesus resurrection was Mary Magdalene.  Despite the ‘male only’ club of the 12 Apostles, Mary was a disciple and had her own deep love for Jesus, that also contained faith that had courageous curiosity.

Mary was the first person that Jesus commissioned to speak on his behalf.  And Jesus sent her to testify, to the men and share the word of God to them.  Jesus is countermanding the rules of men that do not permit a woman to give testimony and do not permit a woman to share the word of God, with men.

Backing up, to the Via Dolorosa, have you thought about Simon of Cyrene?  Imagine he is you.  What was his experience and how does it apply to us?

He was curious.  Curiosity is completely neutral.  He was just in the crowd.

You and I are in the crowd or we have been in the crowd in life.  Suddenly and without warning you are chosen for something that is in the spotlight and might be embarrassing.  What is hard to wrap your mind around is that a person called you and pretty much made you do this and it is embarrassing, but that unsavory task is really for Jesus.

This thing you have been called to do is not what you signed up for, not what you had in mind and it is embarrassing.  You are annoyed, saying, “Why is this happening to me?”, and you feel really not ready, not trained and not prepared for this.  This is not at all what you planned on!

Remember that the theme I am considering is plans, God’s plan and our plans intersecting with all of the detours and unforseen circumstances of life.  There are unplanned pregnancies, sudden job loss from firing or layoffs, unexpected losses of people or things, accidents, natural disasters, theft and many other things that ruin your otherwise happy life.

A large percentage of people who are in love and get married end up divorced.  Bad things happen in their lives.  Many small decisions are made that result in separation and estrangement from a person who was once the person you loved the most in the whole world.

Was that God’s plan?  No.  Is God with you when your plans are spoiled?  Yes.

Simon of Cyrene’s experience is an ‘in your face’ illustration of someone’s plans going awry and them facing an assignment that they never wanted that confuses them and embarasses them.

No other human being but this Simon has had the opportunity to help Jesus, in this way, at that time when Jesus was in agony and suffering.

Simon helping Jesus, against his will, is a picture of authentic ministry.  It is not prestigious, lucrative, performed to applause, nor clean.  It is dirty, bloody, embarrassing and filled with misunderstanding.

Authentic ministry is to and for Jesus and it is done today in the most dirty places that are unprestigious, not on stages, with blood, dirt and tears and very embarrassing to our pride and selfishness.

The highest call that we are all called to but few of us answer that call, is the call to be a slave to Jesus, child of God and friend of God.  I would imagine that people argue about these three, about which one is the top.

I would say that since Mary cared so much about Jesus and went to the tomb, that Jesus saw her as his friend: Lord and Savior and friend.  I’m not sure if being his slave is a higher calling that we are all called to or if it is a three fold calling of child, slave and friend.

This is our identity.  Many people want to be famous and there is nothing wrong with that and Christians should be the famous ones.  But what are you famous for and did you get famous through him and his love or some other way and was that other way selfish and hurtful to other people?

Have you found out who you are in the Bible?  I mean which Bible characters do you identify with or which ones has God given you a calling similar to?

There is no one in the Bible who desired fame or wealth who ended well.  There is no leader in the Bible who had the need to be in charge so much that he pushed others out of the way and was controlling, who ended well.  And there is no one in the Bible who talked but did not listen who ended well.

Easter is about God’s plan colliding with our plans and the Devil’s plans, and with God winning.  We either get to oppose God or die with God.  We either get to be monumentally frustrated and become jaded, cynical, carnal and at a loss of faith; or we can die and experience God’s new life for us.

What if being born again is not an event, but a process?  What if being born again means to follow God’s call and the life of God in us, to start over in every area of our lives?  What if being born again means to begin a new life that is continually renewed and starting over with God’s life in my life?

What if what God has always been after with believers is changed hearts, but we have continually resisted changing our hearts and have sought to please God and others through actions without inward change and the dying with Christ, which is the only path that leads to his resurrection life, which is the Christian life?

God’s plan has always been to bring his plan or his life out of your inward life, through your death and his resurrection.  We were never meant to just believe in the resurrection of Jesus, but to also live in his resurrection life, in our lives.

The plan of God 
That will prevail 
Despite any other plans 
That will take us 
In all sorts of directions 
Is his plan 
To take us 
Through the cross 
For cleansing 
And death
Then give us 
Resurrection life 
In Christ
To be 
Real Christians 
And live 
His life 
In our lives

The Journey into Union With God

I long and yearn for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.

Even a sparrow finds a home, and a swallow, a nest for herself
where she places her young— near Your altars,

Lord of Hosts, my King and my God.
How happy are those who reside in Your house,
who praise You continually.

Happy are the people whose strength is in You,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
As they pass through the Valley of Baca,
they make it a source of springwater;
even the autumn rain will cover it with blessings.
They go from strength to strength;
each appears before God in Zion.

-Psalm 84:2-7
The center of life is union with God.  We all have all kinds of things we are involved in and all sorts of relationships.  A common misconception is that life is about building things like a family, a business, a ministry, a following, a resume, an education or gaining wisdom, wealth or fame.
These are really the incidentals to life, that while being good and important, are not the center of life.  The center of life is union with God.  If we do not make union with God the center of our lives, we become off center, misguided, unhappy and discontent.
Psalms like Psalm 84 are not meant to be nor have the meaning of how wonderful it is to go to church, for Christians.  These songs are not about the longing and desire to get to corporate worship times.  Pieces like this one are prophetic poems about union with God in the life of the believer.
The courts of the Lord is God’s presence.  The psalmist tell us that in his next refrain: “My heart and flesh cry out for the living God.”  The longing is not for congregational singing nor for contemporary worship, but for union with God who is the center of my life.
God is my source, my wellspring and my only hope.  That is who and what I long for.  That is who I must have and who I must and need to be with.
Without God, front and center, in my thoughts and affecting my heart; my life falls apart.  I have an overwhelming desire for God and to be with God.
Every day, there is an opportunity for all sorts of things to creep into my life and crowd out my relationship with God.  I never lose God, but sometimes these things turn my attention away from God.  And I don’t like that and don’t want that.
I want God to be front and center in my life, in my thoughts and in how I see, hear and feel life and the people I come into contact with.
The psalmist looks and sees the birds who have found their homes, in and on the temple of God.  He sees this as a powerful metaphor of living in God’s presence and making that your home where you create your own and give birth and raise your own families.
Next, the psalmist gives us a picture of how a life of pursuing God works in daily lives.  We are each on a journey, on a road or a pilgrimage to God.  We are all people on our way to heaven.
That is what life is about, being on our way to God.  Everything that we go through or that happens to us is raw material that is a bridge to union with God.  Since mankind fell, life has been hard; and every hardship is softened and transformed by relationship with God.
Being a believer has always been an inside job.  We are changed, transformed and live from the inside out.  The strength of the Lord is deposited into our hearts through grace and by faith, resting on God’s steadfast love or faithfulness.  From the strength God provides in a heart under His care, that has begun its journey, the life of the believer is lived.
The Valley of Baca is the place of weeping.  We all pass through places of sadness. We have losses: disappointments, failures, injustices, seeming silence from God, betrayals, sicknesses, setbacks and loneliness.
The valley of weeping is part of the journey.  There are three things to know about this place of sadness on our journeys:
  1. It is unavoidable.
  2. Our time there is finite.
  3. We get to take our sorrow and see it transformed, redeemed and recompensed.
When we encounter sorrow, how we respond is important.  Children do react and respond childishly, but adults need to face troubles in a grown up way.  “God, help me to grow up, before I grow old”, we say.
Being in denial or sinking into shame are two examples of the wrong way to respond to sorrowful circumstances.  Another destructive one is to get stuck in anger.  
We can not and should not avoid our valleys of weeping, because they are a place of transformation.  With every sorrow or thing that makes you sorrowful, there is a gift attached.  Where their is sorrow, we get to find wells of living water or springs of nourishment.
In the same place where we feel the pain of loss or disappointment, God has already provided sustenance and living waters.  A place of springwater is just below the surface in our valley of tears.  We just have to dig down and find it.
God never blesses us small.  God’s blessings are overflowing and there is always extra.  And that is the picture of autumn rains falling on us in that valley of tears.
The place of revival or renewal 
is in our daily routine lives 
as we meet with God 
in our circumstances of life 
that are sometimes sad.  
The place of revival or renewal is in our daily routine lives as we meet with God in our circumstances of life that are sometimes sad.  God puts a deposit in us at the beginning of our journeys and that deposit accrues interest and our benefactor puts in more deposits along the way.  But we also procure our find compensation that has our names on it, in the midst of the sorrows of our lives.
Bravery is called for for every adult saint.  We valiantly face our trials, setbacks and failures; and go forward, finding new grace packages in the place where we are lamenting.  And God transforms us into the image of Christ.
Even in the greatest of losses, that are shocking, God has reviving waters stored up for us.  God takes wrecked lives and transforms, renews, heals and redeems them.  The greater the loss, the greater the work that God has in store to recover us.
Our hearts are set on the journey of union with God.  We see the birds, raising their families, in and on the temple, as a picture of living our lives in, towards and to God; living lives of worship and service to God.  And then, we embrace the reality of small and large losses and sorrows along the journey and we discover that God has hidden help and sustenance waiting for us, to strengthen us; making us more godly.
Life is a journey into union with God.  That is the center from which life is lived and sustained.  

Forget About Yourself

Then Jesus said to all the people:

If any of you want to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross each day and follow me.

-Luke 9:23 (Contemporary English Version)
I was in a situation where someone else made or stated that they had already made a decision for me. Then, I had a passing thought that said, “hey, wasn’t that my decision to make?”.  But, in that moment, I submitted myself to the other person, and the way I would describe how it felt was, ‘strangely peaceful’.

I realized that Jesus had been with me, beside me, between us and in me; at that very moment.

In this state of ‘strange peace’, I reflected on what was going on in me, and I said, these words, in my mind: “I’m dead”.

This is what it feels like to be dead to self.  I sort of captured the moment and wanted to learn from it.

And it felt good, but in an unusual way.  I was not in control and I was not getting my way, calling the shots, or dictating to others; and I felt peace.  I realized or came to believe that this is an example of denying my self and allowing Christ to live within me.
Jesus made this statement a number of times, that if you want to be his follower, that you must deny yourself, take up your cross and follow him.  We call it self denial.  We are supposed to truly deny our own selves to follow Jesus.  I like this translation, the CEV, that says, “you must forget yourself”.  
Do you know the song, “Let’s Forget About Ourselves”, by Bruce Ballinger (1945-2004)?

Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Let’s forget about ourselves
And magnify the Lord and worship Him
Oh worship Him, Jesus Christ our Lord

I think that forgetting about ourselves is a good way to put what denial of self means.  It is the norm for some of us to be consumed with thinking about our selves.  Jesus calls each one of us to lay down our all consuming thinking of and living for our selves.

Forgetting yourself means denying yourself.  It also means disowning yourself, giving up your way, or saying “no” to yourself.  Disowning yourself is blunt, and strait up what Jesus means.
Walking with Jesus, following him and taking on a life of learning how to live his way, is not something we dabble in or take the course of or go through the program of.  But it is a life where I die and he lives.  It really is about death, my death, and life, his life.
My life or rather my self, as in selfishness or self-centeredness, has to die, for me to have him.  He may be very attractive to me and I want to follow him.  I believed that he saved me and I believe who he is, so I want to follow him.
Before I get to the next step or what happens next, I have to cover this category of people who say they believe and many of them also would say that they are Jesus’ followers, but they have not heard him call them to self denial, or to forgetting about themselves.
When we read the gospels, there are crowds that followed Jesus and who received from his ministry.  I imagine that the people in the crowds ran the gamut from just curious people who did not believe, to full throttle, lock-stock-and-barrel believers.  In Jesus day and also today, people can choose to be in the ‘Jesus crowd’, or to be an authentic disciple.
To all who were in ear shot, Jesus said these words: “if you want to follow me, you must forget about yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”  The people is the crowds as well as people who were close up to Jesus, had a self awareness or a self identification as followers already.  
They might say something like, “what do you think I am doing here listening to and watching you?”, and, “don’t you know that I am missing work or took leave from my family to be here?”, and, “do you not realize the risk I am taking by being around you?”, or, “excuse me, but I have actually been giving money to you to help you with what I think is a great work of God”.
To these people, and to all the people around him, who at any level, deem themselves to be his followers, he says, “forget yourselves, take up your cross daily, and follow me”.  Do you get it, how this could be taken as an insult to some of the people?  They might see themselves as followers, but he says that if that is what you really want, here is how you have to do it.
In other words, Jesus is saying, and he says this exact thing, later in Luke 14, that this is the only way and if you do not deny yourself and take up your cross and then follow him, you actually are not a disciple.  And a disciple simply means a learner.  Jesus says that you are not his learner, pupil or student if you refuse to deny your self and take up your cross.
And discipleship is not an event, but a life long process.  The living Christ disciples us each, but we also disciple one another.  
Another way Jesus would say this, is that there is no other way to follow him, to be a Christian.  If we do not let go of our selfishness and continue in self-absorption, but claim to follow Christ; we are what?  We are fans, we like Jesus, and we say we believe; but…
When I am driving my life, when I am doing all the talking, when I need to be in control, when I have to be in charge or when I am selfish; I am not following Jesus, because following him means to forget about me and say no to myself and give up the “my way” thing.  Where this plays out in my life and where he is taking me is that he is calling me to let go of my (selfish) need to have things my way or be bossy with people and be absorbed with him instead.
The rub is, that we control because we are afraid of not being in control.  I learned that statement from John Jolliffe.  Jesus wants to teach me that he has a life for me where I do not have to fear losing control, because he is there, in-between me and all the other people I interact with.
The fear is that if I don’t take care of me, even think about getting my needs met, and look out for my self; then I will suffer.  But Jesus says, stop doing that and let that (your self) go. and follow me.  And we know that being a Christian means Christ is in me, not just in ethereal theory, but in actual practical living here on earth.
The good news is that I get to give up my life and my self for Jesus and walk with him and let him lead me into and onto his life, here and now, today.  When I let others go first, as an example, I get to see them as someone to whom Jesus comes, and I get the opportunity to serve them and let Jesus shine or be to them through me.  The great reward of that life is intimacy with God, which is beyond imagining in satisfaction and peaceful, love filled, enjoyment.

Rooted In Love

I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, overflowing with gratitude.
-Ephesians 3:16-19, Colossians 2:7

There is a saying that the fruit reveals the root.  If we are rooted in Christ, we will have the fruit of Christ’s life in our lives.  We want our lives to be rooted in love, rooted in Christ; so that we experience and display good fruit.

If there are other roots functioning in our lives, if we are rooted in and are functioning from rootedness into unredeemed, unhealed or unsanctified places deep in our hearts, we will unconsciously display their distasteful fruits.  Roots tapping into bitterness, shame, unprocessed or repressed anger, unforgiveness, and false ideas about one’s self, others and God, bring forth diststeful fruit.

There is another saying that goes something like this:  That being saved happens in a moment, but becoming a saint takes a lifetime.  Every Christian has areas that God is working on, saving, bringing to sainthood, redeeming, sanctifying and giving deliverance to.

Being a believer has never been about you doing the right thing and then God accepts you.  Being a believer is to come to God through Christ and begin a process, where God changes you and you begin to live a more righteous life in God and through God, only by Christ and through the Spirit of God.  Jesus today, is still saying, “I have not come to call the righteous”, and when he says that, it is tongue in cheek, because no one is righteous and those who think they are will not hear and see him and will actually oppose him.

Being a believer is to be in connection with God and with the love of God and then to have that connection, that plug in, or that root fill our lives and cause the metamorphosis of sinner to saint to take place in our libes, as a process, over time.  There is no life outside of connection to God, to the love of God, in Christ.  We retain our individual personalities, and person-hood, but now we have died to our selves and are living in Christ, and rooted in His life, with his fruit flowing up, through, and out of us, for our nourishment and for the blessing of others.

The reason that we want to be rooted in God is that we must be rooted in God to live in God and if we are not rooted in God, we will be rooted in something else.  The alternative is to live in our selves, whether that means self-righteousness or in vanity, which Paul calls, “walking in the futility of their thoughts” (Eph. 4:17).  Everyone lives from a place, is rooted in a place that their life draws nourishment from and then is shown to others.

If we are rooted in Christ, we will grow in Christ.  And if we are rooted in Christ, we will be thinking about Christ and He will inspire and temper our thoughts to be thoughts like His thoughts.  And we want to be thinking what He is thinking.

What thoughts do you think that Jesus is preoccupied with?  The answer is the Father, the love for and of the Father and the Father’s love of people and the Father’s love for the Son.  This is what everything flows from that is good and what we are thinking on and preoccupied with, that runs our lives or carries life from the inside to our whole beings and out into the fruit we display to others.

Below is a list of symptoms of bad roots.  You can have any or all of these going on in your life, and still be a believer.  You can be rooted in Christ, with an ongoing process towards sainthood, while still having every single one of these issues alive and not well in your life.

We work out our own salvation, with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:17), which means it is a process that is lived out between individuals, in community, and with and through God.  The bad roots are taken over by the good root.  We first live in the love and then we change our thoughts and then our behavior, based upon the love and the new thoughts.

We have it backwards and will quickly become disillusioned, if we think that we are supposed to do everything the right way, immediately after we become believers.  The authentic way is that we first live in love and then we learn to live the right way, which comes from being loved and changing the way we think, based on the love.

Here is a list of things you might struggle with, that come from a bad root.  Every dysfunctional way of living is shrunk by our simply endeavoring to be more rooted in the the love of God, in Christ.  There also may be a particular strategy, healing or deliverance application for each particular problem that we need to explore, along with our foundational need to be rooted in the love of God. 

  • Do you have problems with other people?  
  • Are you a co-dependent?  
  • Do you constantly critique others and engage in a prosecution of them and a defense of yourself?  
  • Do you often muse about how you wish others understood who you are and need to affirm you or give you credit?  
  • Do you often have the thought that if that other person would change, would repent, apologize or admit fault; that then things would be better?  
  • Do you feel like you are in competition with others and wish you were ahead of them?  
  • Do you compare yourself to others?  
  • Do you struggle with envy?  
  • Do you have trouble celebrating other people’s good fortune?  
  • Have you noticed that you are selfish?
  • Have you noticed that you are narcissistic?
  • Have you noticed that you are jealous?
  • Have you noticed that you lie?
  • Have you noticed that you are cheat?
  • Have you noticed that you maliciously gossip?
  • Have you noticed that you are a busy body, with your nose in every one else’s business, while you have troubles of your own that you ought to be tending to?  
  • Are you a person who wears a mask, and no one really knows you?  
  • Are you filled with fear?
The answer to all these issues of life and a hundred more is simple being rooted in God.  All of my problems with other people cease to be anything that bothers me, if I would just be rooted in God.

This does not mean that if I am, when I am rooted in God, that I become indifferent to other people.  Actually, if I am rooted in God, I will be heartbroken about others, compassionate about others and grieved for their troubles; all out of love, God’s love in me, flowing naturally through being rooted in God.  But when I am rooted in God’s love, I have no need to fix people.

Loving people and fixing people is very different, and there is a ‘holy indifference’ when we do not have a need to ‘heal’ someone or bring confrontation or five-fold ministry to someone who God is not guiding us to, just like how Jesus said that the Father is at work and he only does what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19-20).

When I am troubled by others, when I judge them, am jealous of them, in competition with them and feel like I am on a roller coaster of high and low emotions, depending on what others say and do, whether it is with my most intimate loved ones or strangers or neighbors; this is a sign that I need to be rooted in God and rooted in Christ who is God.  The believer’s life is a life of living the “nothing can separate us from the life of God in Christ Jesus”, life.
The fruit reveals the root.  If I am upset and vexed by people, it tells me that there is a root into something other than God.  My job is to get healed and freed from that thing that the root is feeding on and begin and often begin again letting the root, at the center of my life, feed on the love of God.

The cure or remedy for all that ails is the love of God.  Being rooted in God, in Christ, brings healing and light into a whole life, resulting in wholeness.  When I am rooted in God, I don’t have a problem with others.  I don’t have a need to prosecute them or defend myself.  I just love them, period.

And there is a way, in Christ, lovingly to confront and lovingly to disagree.  And it is loving also to disengage, at times, from people, even who you deem to be wrong in your eyes and to even let them be destructive, in their own lives, separate from yours, as they make their choices.

But this is all and always needs to be rooted in love.  I am not trying to be loved or upset that I am not loved, but I know I am loved, by God, and that is the controlling factor in my life that decides how I respond to everyone else.

The Christian life, the life of the believer is and must be rooted in the love of God in Christ.  That love, that life, is what will begin and continue to preoccupy the thoughts of the believer, resulting in a change of heart and a change of life style.  Thinking thoughts that are rooted in the love of God, in Christ result in my changed mind that becomes incompatible, more and more, progressively and over a life time, giving me a life that is more like Christ.

Ministers of The Light of The Gospel

Therefore, since we have this ministry because we were shown mercy, we do not give up. Instead, we have renounced shameful secret things, not walking in deceit or distorting God’s message, but commending ourselves to every person’s conscience in God’s sight by an open display of the truth. But if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case, the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we are not proclaiming ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves because of Jesus. For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
-2 Corinthians 4:1-6

The light of Christ is shining.  Letting that light into our hearts is the beginning of and the way on in the life in Christ.  The light is that God has now acted in history to change humanity through Christ.

Being a believer is not about going to heaven, but about being transformed by God and then becoming an agent of God.  Being a believer is not about doing the right thing, but about knowing God and acting according to that knowledge.  Being a believer is to be a person who’s life is centered in and has come under the rule and reign of the kingdom of God, empowered by God’s Spirit and living in and for God’s glory in Christ.

Being a Christian is not being an evolved or enlightened Jew or a Gentile who has joined the true Israel, who is now able, through Christ and the Spirit of God dwelling in them, to live a lawfully wedded life to God and serve Him for all his or her days.  Being a Christian is to be a person who has placed not only their faith in Christ, but has given their whole lives to God, in Christ, and have become vessels or agents of God’s Spirit in the earth for the sake of the gospel.  Being a Christian is to be a person in whom the light of God has shone and is now shining.

The light of Christ comes as a blinding light to some, like how when Paul was blinded by the light of Christ, on the road to Damascus, which was a part of Paul’s dramatic conversion.  For others, the light of Christ is like what a poet called “the hound of heaven”, that is there in a person’s life, continually pursuing them, until the person gives in and lets the Son shine in.  T-bone Burnett has a song, where he says that God’s love is relentless; and Francis Chan describes God’s love displayed in the light of Christ as “Crazy Love”.

A Christian is a person who has gone from darkness to light, through a work done by God.  A Christian is a person who was once in the dark but now is in the light, and it only and completely happened for them because of God’s initiative.  A Christian is not involved now in a self-improvement program, but has seen the light of God in Christ and is now in a death, burial and resurrection process orchestrated by God and modulated by their own desire to know God more.

To be a Christian means one has encountered the light of God and been regenerated or born anew into everlasting life through Christ.  And just as the sun and all the stars did not come out of nothingness by themselves, but were supernaturally created by God; so too, people only become saved or are regenerated and born anew by the supernatural work of God.  Christianity is not something we thought of, that we made and that we do; but being a Christian is something that only God can make you through a supernatural creative work that only belongs to God.

Being a Christian is to be in Christ and to be in Christ requires a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Christianity is not a philosophy or religion that one accepts, adheres to, practices and participates in.  Christianity is part of the new creation of God that only begins and lives through the supernatural, creative life of God.

The whole of the ministry of Jesus Christ is to be agents of and participate with the work of the Spirit of God, who shines the light of Christ, to be seen by people, so that they will come to know Christ and then be transformed.  Ministers are agents of the grace of God, who though flawed, God mercifully uses to share and shine the light of Christ.  We see the light, but many are blind to it and will only see when the Spirit of God does a work in them to cause them to see the light.

We can not make someone see who is blind, but only let the light shine through us and welcome those who respond to it or begin to see the light through the working of the Spirit of God in their hearts.  We can love, help and speak to spiritually blind people; but only God can open blind eyes.  As agents or heralds, it would seem that we are calling attention to our selves; but we are only drawing attention to our selves in order to point to or shine the light on the one we are serving.

The beauty or handsomeness, the talent, the engaging personality or the lovableness of the minister is for one purpose, and that is to promote Christ.  Yes, follow a person, but only as they follow Christ.  Yes, listen to a person, but hear Christ.

If Jesus constantly pointed people to and reflected his Father, then we should copy Jesus and constantly point to him and to our Father.  Ministers are servants who serve on someone else’s behalf, and reflect their master.  Ministers are faithful slaves, who announce, promote, and reveal the light of their master.

I Saw The Light, by Hank Williams

I wandered so aimless life filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Just like a blind man I wandered along
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I was a fool to wander and a-stray
Straight is the gate and narrow the way
Now I have traded the wrong for the right
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light.

Three Kinds of Believers

“And now listen, Jacob My servant, Israel whom I have chosen.
This is the word of the Lord your Maker who formed you from the womb;
He will help you: Do not fear; Jacob is My servant;
I have chosen Jeshurun.

-Isaiah 44:1-2

There are three kinds of believers.  There are called people, there are saved people, and there are righteous people.  God loves all three groups.

You might know the story of how God changed Jacob’s name to Israel.  Abraham also had his name changed from Abram.  The changing of the name, by God, signifies something that God is doing or has done.

The name Jacob means supplanter, heel-catcher, or seized by the heel.  The original Jacob was born, grabbing his fraternal twin brother’s heel.  Supplanter means replacer, displacer, superceder, or one who takes over from another.

Jacob lived up to his name, when he tricked his dad, with the help of his mom, and persuaded his brother, to give him his birthright. Throughout his tumultuous life, Jacob worried that his brother would seek revenge on him.  On the fateful night before the feared confrontation, God came to Jacob, had a wrestling match with him, and changed his name into Israel.

He was told, “You have contended with God”, and that is what Israel means, or God contended. Israel also means God triumphant or triumphant with God or who prevails with God.  The manipulator or schemer met his match in God and God touched him and changed his name.

In scripture, we do not hear about the nation of Jacob, but God often refers to Israel as Jacob.  God loves Jacob, but calling Israel ‘Jacob’, may be saying that there is a problem, in that the people are not saved: still called, but not saved.  Today, we are a people who are supposed to be or have had the opportunity to be saved, yet we do not act saved: in a nut-shell, believers who act sinfully as a life-style.

Perhaps also, God calls Israel Jacob at times, to remind them of where they came from and their need for a transformational experience.  Being born into Israel does not make you a believer, just like having Christian parents does not make a child Christian and attending Church, and even belonging to that group of believers does not make one saved.  Getting saved happens between the individual and God.

The third name here, that signifies the third kind of believer, is Jeshurun.  Jeshurun means upright, or righteous one.  Perhaps Isaiah was trying to get across the idea that God is after not just a called and saved people, but righteous ones.  The saving of people brings them into a transformational relationship, that results in righteous living, through their relationship with God.

God wants the saved people to become the righteous people.  The righteous people are not self-righteous, nor have they somehow earned a place at God’s table through their righteousness.  Righteous people are simply people who are in a transformational process with God, and are letting God live through them.

Many people are saved people, but not very righteous people.  This is and has always been a paradox.  We can be called and saved and start becoming righteous, but then lose our salvation and go back to just being called again; because of our willful sin.  Transformation is an inside job, where we continually say yes and make choices to do the right thing and live through God, with God, and in God.

There are three kinds of believers.  There are people who say they are believers, but are not saved.  And then there are believers who have been saved, but are not walking or living an upright or righteous life.  And finally, there are believers, who have recognized the call, been and are being saved, and now are living out God’s life or Christ’s life in their lives, in righteousness.

Living a righteous life is not a perfect or sinless life.  Part of the righteous life is walking in love and humility.  When we stumble, and stumbling is normal, we receive grace and forgiveness.  Righteous people live in the love from God and love their imperfect selves.  And surprise, righteous people still sin, but when they sin against others and God, they ask for forgiveness.

Righteous people walk in forgiveness, receiving forgiveness and giving forgiveness, often, as a style of life.  Righteous people do not live as being right, over others, but seeking to be in God’s rightness, that is filled not only with holiness and truth, but mercy and love.  Righteous people, walk in the light and do expose the sin or unrighteousness of those around them, but it is done with wisdom and in love.

Being an upright person is to be a disciple.  Discipleship is not an event or a certain course in time, but a life-long journey.  Upright people are constantly learning how to live and let God live through them.  They are constantly humbled and in so doing, given grace.

Being upright is not a destination, but a path of living, in an ongoing transformational, learning process.  God has always wanted his people to not just realize they are called or just to begin a salvation process and come to a point of arrival.  But God has always wanted his people to be upright people, living in his righteousness and living that righteousness out in an ongoing journey in love and lovingness; to be a people in the earth who point back to him.

It’s Me!

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

-Galatians 2:19-21
I was thinking about my troubles, my struggles, challenges, and relationships; basically every negative aspect of my life.  Is it spiritual warfare?  Or did I take offense?  Or am I just sleep deprived and have a stomach ache?
Maybe all of the above.  You know the phrase, “get a life”?  Well, how about, “get a new life”?  That is kind of what Galatians 2:20 says.  I groused and grouched.  But when I stilled myself, turned to the Lord, and listened, Holy Spirit gave me my verse, again, for the umpteenth time.  
And that verse says: “When my heart is weak, I cry out to you from the very ends of the earth: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”  I read that, and said that, and prayed that; again.

And after I took it in, I looked back, over my shoulder, at the road I had just traveled on, and the things I was just thinking about.   And I said, “It’s me”.  It’s not all this or all that or all them…  it’s me.

And that brings me to Galatians 2:20.  The whole “me” thing:  Have you noticed how many times “I’ and “me” are in Galatians 2:20?

  • I have been crucified with Christ.
  • I no longer live.
  • But Christ lives in me.
  • The life I now live in the body.
  • I live by faith.
  • In the Son of God, who loved me.
  • And gave himself for me.

“I” and “me”, is what I am responsible for in my life.  And “I” and “me” is very different in Christ than not in Christ.  “I” and “me” needs to be crucified with Christ, and then “I” and “me” needs to walk in Christ’s redemption, transformation, and live his resurrection life in my “I” and “me” life.

After and while I am doing that, I will still have my life, with my stuff, with my troubles, and with all my relationships.  But, I am now living out of, relating to it all, all people, and even to my self; “I” and “me”, through Christ.  And that is the Christian life, that I am still learning to live, and I will always be learning and re-learning it.  Disciples are always learning.

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