Thursday, September 17, 2015

An Appointed Time

“When I select AN APPOINTED TIME, it is I who judge with equity” (Psalm 75:2 NAS).
Time is a concept only real in the boundaries of the material creation.  It is the fourth dimension context of the three dimensional reality that we are temporarily placed into.  Consequently, we are often tempted to be impatient and to accuse the Lord of indifference and/or injustice, or even both.  From our limited perspective, it often appears that justice is never served.  But God declares that there is “an appointed time” when He will “judge with equity.”  And because there is an appointed time for equitable justice, we can logically infer that there are many un-appointed times when justice is not equitable.
Solomon, speaking with extraordinary wisdom, said that “there is an appointed time for everything,” and “a time for every event under heaven;” and that God “made everything appropriate in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 11).  And that’s the key; everything has a time, an appointed time, to become appropriate.  And because a thousand years is like a day to God, we are left to see but little if any connection between the cause and effect of many equitable judgments.  When Solomon declared that all men—both the righteous and the wicked—will be judged by God (see Ecclesiastes 3:17), he first declared that “in the place of justice there is wickedness, and in the place of righteousness there is wickedness” (Ecclesiastes 3:16).

From scientific observation alone justice is not served, but inherent in all human observation is an extraordinary limitation of the full spectrum of all the reality there is to see and understand.  Thus, we can only embrace the idea of equitable justice by faith!  And faith, being “the conviction of things not seen,” and also being spiritual in nature, is a force that transcends time.  But while we operate here in the natural world, we must comfort ourselves with transcendent realities.  Yes, often our faith secures the supernatural and causes a manifestation here in the natural world, but until everything is thus realized, we must wait for our Lord from heaven.  He is the Judge, the appointed time comes when He comes!
Until then, time is the container of our dimension and the context of our natural life.  Until the appointed time, the time when time ceases to exist, we—like those martyrs who cry out for justice from beneath His throne—are required to patiently wait for our justice.  Indeed, “A time for every matter and every deed is there” (Ecclesiastes 3:17).

Ultimately, it behooves us to always remember that we have the mind of Christ, and as such, we are both inside and outside of time, living both a mortal life-span and an immortal eternal life simultaneously.  Time is God’s creation, a marvelous thing indeed, but time is transitory and fading.  The idea of getting our minds on things above and not on the things of the earth is practical in nature because—although we are both born from above and a vapor here below—the vapor will dissipate, but that which is born from above will overcome the world (and consequently transcend the time constraint).
Our Lord has already prepared a place for us.  Indeed, “I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear Him.  That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by” (Ecclesiastes 3:14-15).  From God’s perspective (the only perspective that really matters) time is already past; it’s now simply about us catching up to that reality.     

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Enemies of the Cross of Christ

“Many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST” (Philippians 3:18 NAS).

There is hardly a character in the Bible I admire more than Paul; his conversion is perhaps the most dramatic, and his impact upon the world, one of the most profound.  It seems that more than anyone, he strove with the grace of God to become like Jesus.  He, more than anyone, knew what it was like to be an enemy of God (having persecuted the early church).  And because he knew the depths of that enmity, he developed a keen insight into the opposite sentiment: friendship with God.  He, perhaps more than anyone, recognized and embraced “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

It is called the upward call because it requires a distinct mindset, a mind set on “the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2).   Paul reminds us that “Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that he has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20).  This is an extraordinary mouthful!  The redemption of our bodies—and the consequential ultimate defeating of the last enemy (death)—is the final act of God’s redemptive plan concerning us specifically.

The cross of Christ is the means by which God executes His redemptive plan; those who claim the benefits of salvation while remaining earthly minded ultimately sabotage their part in this redemption plan and make themselves enemies of the cross of Christ while doing so.  Paul wept for those who set their minds on earthly things, those “whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame” (Philippians 3:19).

Unfortunately, there are myriad souls who glory in their shame.  This means they glory in down-disfigurement (the meaning of the word “shame”); they also relish being ruled by their base or animal appetites.  This may appear to be counterintuitive, and perhaps it is to some, but to the majority of those who relish debauchery and natural glorification, this is—I believe—a concession.  It is grounded in either a lack of revelation or in a self-concentric worldview or a combination of both; for all the revelation they may have of Jesus Christ, they have little or no revelation of their own fallen nature.

Furthermore, the cross of Christ is scary to flesh (in its current state of fallen-ness, while it is still a body of death); that is why we are to mortify our flesh (deaden its power of expression) by—and with the help—of the Holy Spirit.  It is normal to anyone who truly fears God to say unashamedly that “My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments” (Psalm 119:120).  Nonetheless—fear or no fear—flesh is to be controlled by spirit (and our spirit by His Spirit); to walk in the Spirit is to make no provision for the flesh.  Otherwise—if only by concession to our natural inclinations—we walk as ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Discipline of Delusion

“They (those who bow to idols of their own imagination and fashioning) are altogether stupid and foolish in their DISCIPLINE OF DELUSION” (Jeremiah 10:8 NAS).

There is a grave and silly irony in anyone who disciplines themselves in an erroneous way.  Think about it!  Discipline is inherently difficult and self-sacrificing and would seem to warrant that it only be done for a purpose that is both correct and beneficial.  If the premise is wrong (the starting point), then the conclusion (the end point) is wrong.  To discipline a delusion is even more egregious than someone that says “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (1 Corinthians 15:32).

Humility demands that we understand the most basic of all truth, that not only does  God exist, but that there is none like Him, none to compare Him to, no man like Him.  And as a corollary truth, that man is helpless and at the mercy of a fate he cannot imagine or know.  Can we say, like the prophet, that “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself; nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps”? (Jeremiah 10:23).

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money.’  Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].  You ought instead to say, ‘If the Lord is willing, we shall live and we shall do this or that [thing].’  But as it is, you boast [falsely] in your presumption and your self-conceit. All such boasting is wrong” (James 4:13-16 AMPC).

Ah, ‘presumption” and “self-conceit,” that which fuels the discipline of delusion.  Deliver us, O Lord, from ourselves!  Deliver us also from self-esteem—that insidious and evil idea that permeates and pollutes our times.  Help us to focus on you, O Lord, and not ourselves. Do not let that deluding influence affect us.  Indeed, God will send upon them (those who did not “receive the love of the truth so as to be saved”) a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12).

Monday, September 14, 2015

Something Greater is Here

“But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here” (Matthew 12:6 NAS). 

“Behold, something greater than Jonah is here”; “something greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12: 41, 42).

The temple, Jonah, and Solomon are three great things, and representing—respectively—worship, repentance, and wisdom.  Jesus Christ is undeniably greater than each of these things, both separately and in combination.  Each is founded on Him and draws its existence from Him; He is the object of our worship, the ground of our repentance, and the very essence of wisdom itself.

The strain-at-a-gnat-but-swallow-a-camel Pharisaical mind contended with Jesus when His disciples ate grain as they passed through a grain-field.  Jesus reminded them that David and his men unlawfully ate consecrated bread and were not admonished for doing so; also, priests worked in the temple in violation of Sabbath law, yet also, they were not admonished for it.  Compassion, not sacrifice is the key to understanding how violators remain innocent.  The greater law, the greater temple, is the Son of Man as the Lord of the Sabbath; in this role, the innocent are not condemned, but rather afforded forgiveness and grace.  The better covenant based on better promises is introduced by and in Jesus, and past examples of great aspects of Judaism are eclipsed by the new covenant made in His blood.

Greater than all that the temple teaches us and represents in both religious form and function, greater than temporary national repentance and fleeting wholesale revival, and greater even than extraordinary wealth and wisdom, is our gentle but powerful Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.  So great—and yet so obscure to the mind and heart of man—is this wonderful Lamb, that the apostle Paul was compelled to pray that we “may become progressively more intimately acquainted with and may know more definitely and accurately and thoroughly that mystic secret of God, [which is] Christ (the Anointed One).  In Him all the treasures of [divine] wisdom (comprehensive insight into the ways and purposes of God) and [all the riches of spiritual] knowledge and enlightenment are stored up and lie hidden” (Colossians 2:2-3 AMPC).

But that which is hidden is that which is to be sought and found, and the key, again, is found in the idea that God desires “compassion, not sacrifice.”  The Pharisaical mind is a mind bent on the rigidity of rule devoid of life and compassion; being technically right is not the same as being right (as in reference to the spirit of the intent of rule).  The Law was given to curb man’s foul behavior and to teach man the parameters of fair behavior (in the context of community).  We are all judged by the judgment we meet out to others; if we are rigid and unmerciful, we cannot afford to make mistakes.  It is wiser to be compassionate and forgiving than to be perpetually sacrificing according to the strict dictates of law.  Jesus came, not to undo law (right parameters), but to broaden our interpretation and application of the law of liberty.  Something greater is here!