The New Jerusalem – A NEW Creation

New JerusalemFor it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a free woman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the free woman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from mount Sinai, which brings forth to bondage, which is Hagar. For this Hagar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to [is equivalent to] Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (Galatians 4:22-26 KJ2000)

He that overcomes will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches. (Revelation 3:12-13 KJ2000)

Yes, what IS the Spirit saying to the churches? What kingdom are we of? Where are our hearts? Jesus said that where a man’s treasure is is where his heart will be found. I often have to ask myself what kingdom I am of when I find myself being tempted to put a political comment on my FaceBook page,  “Am I of this world system, the old Jerusalem with its murderous religious and political factions or am I of the NEW Jerusalem of the Father which comes down from heaven? ”

Paul wrote, “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 RSVA). Many people claim to be Christians, yet do their lives show the reality of being “a new creation”? Have their “old things passed away”? I was saved out of right-winged radicalism with murder and hatred in my heart and overnight I was transformed into a new creation IN Christ when God put his Spirit in me, yet the temptation is there to revert back to that old political mindset and I have to acknowledge where that temptation is coming from and turn away. It take a lot more faith to rest in Christ than it does to think that real change can come about by political means.

I often thought of myself as a revolutionary and wanted to change America back to its constitutional roots. Yet, true salvation IN Christ is the only total revolutionary reality. We are made NEW creatures, with new hearts, given a NEW Spirit and made one with the Father and the Son IN Christ and are made citizens of the NEW Jerusalem which is above. All things are become new and the old are passed away.

There is a story in Luke that shows that the disciples of Jesus still were still of the old kingdoms of men mindset,

And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
(Luke 9:51-56 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

How many of us are of this spirit today? If somebody gets in the way of your faction and its goals, smoke ’em! How many churches rallied behind George Bush when he waged a holy war against Saddam Husein for the destruction of the Trade Towers in New York?  A Christianized church-going sinner is still a sinner, but one who truly has been born of the will of the Father in the Spirit is a NEW creation and is no longer a citizen of this world, but is of the NEW Israel of God and his life will show it. These will find themselves to be exiles and pilgrims in a strange land in short order. They will be accused by the worldly people around them that they are “so heavenly minded that they are no earthly [worldly] good.”

Men were constantly trying to pull Jesus down to the level of this world and get Him to settle disputes between them over an inheritance or over whether to pay taxes to Ceasar and many followed Him in hopes that they could all join up under His leadership and rise up against the Romans and cast them out of Judea. Yet, Jesus made it quite clear that His kingdom was (and is not now) of this world. This whole concept of “onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war…” and “holy war” is of THIS world! Did you know that the first “holy war” was waged by the first “Christian” Roman emperor, Constantine? He fought under the banner of the cross to take the city of Rome by force so that he could be the new Roman Emperor. With his newly acquired power he began to paganized Christianity to make it more compatible for all parties and often made pagan priests the priests of his new religion. He used force to make sure that there was only one religion in the Roman empire and the “holy wars” continued “in Jesus’ name” wherever people would not submit. The Prince of Peace in the minds of the faithful in Constantine’s Christendom was now the Prince of War. Thus was born “the Holy Roman Empire.” As a result of Christianity not willing to live by Jesus words, “love your enemies” Islam rose up in revenge by the power of the sword under Mohammad just three hundred years later and the Christians and the Muslims have been killing one another ever since. Why? Because neither of these factions KNOW what spirit they are of!

Jesus said,

You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45 KJ2000)

When the Pharisees in Jerusalem wanted to take Jesus and kill Him because He told them the truth about what was in their hearts, He told them that they were of their father the devil for he was a liar and a murder from the beginning. I pray that we may all be found to be “children of our Father who is in heaven.”

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Have We Believed INTO Christ?

I read something the other day by T. Austin Sparks that in few words nailed what the Lord has been stirring up in me over the last year…

“This whole Bible is about bringing man back to God, bringing him into God, and restoring him to his environment. ‘In Him we live and move and have our being’ is the fundamental truth of the spiritual life… Have you got that? You look again at any seemingly ‘little’ thing that the Lord says, and if you could see you would find that you have a universe of meaning in it.”

What seems a “little thing” to the natural man is a BIG thing to God and how I have overlooked it all these years. Take the little words into and in mentioned above. Sparks nails it… the whole Bible is about bringing man INTO God. So that it may be said of us, “IN Him we live and move and have our being”!

Why is it so hard for us to see ourselves as living NOW in the kingdom of God? What environment are we really of? Could the reason be that many Christians live dual lives?  They see themselves as having their worldly lives and their Christian lives which mostly, sad to say, consists of attending church meetings. Yet, is this the “life” that Jesus died and rose again for us to walk in, lives that are neither spiritually hot nor cold, but a lukewarm mixture? Is this the powerful Spirit led ekklesia that turned the world upside down in the first century? Why is it so hard for us to believe that by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross the veil of separation between one another and between us and our Father has been torn down? Why do we live our lives as though we are separate from our Father down here on earth and from being truly “members one of another in Christ” as His living organism? Why do we compartmentalize our lives and think nothing of it?

I believe I have been shown part of the reason and it is because of many poorly translated scriptures by the not always so Spirit led translators that were ignorant of the power of God to translate His saints out of this world system and its controls into the presence of the Father and the Son and make us full citizens of their kingdom. Intellectualism blinded many of these translators to the fact that true faith places us INTO a deep and personal relationship where we abide from that point on IN the Father and the Son and where we are given the mind of Christ concerning the things of the kingdom of God.

Did you know that most verses in the Bible that have to do with our initial step of believing (salvation verses) are translated wrong? Take the Greek word εἰς, eis. Where this word is used regarding the initial act of believing, it is almost never properly translated into its rich, true meaning, the word “into,” yet that is exactly what happens when saving faith has been worked into us by the Father. We are transported out of the Old Adam who abides in the kingdoms of this world, controlled by the prince of this world, and made part of “one new man IN Christ” by being placed into Him and into the kingdom of God. It is a lack of fully realizing our new place IN Christ that keeps most of Christen-dom just that — dumb! We remain ignorant of the fact that “we NOW dwell in heavenly places IN Christ Jesus” and continue to live our lives as if they are just that, OUR LIVES (see Galatians 2:20)!

Typically when a modern Christian “comes to Christ” they “say a sinner’s prayer” and go on living like they are mere humans left here on earth to live by the power of their own energies and thoughts, yet doing them from that point on, “for God.” NOT! I remember how miserably I failed to “be a witness for Christ” when I was a baby Christian. I was told by my pastor that now that I was saved I had to witness to people about Jesus and bring them to church. So I went to the local Christian bookstore and bought a handful of tracts and started giving them to my co-workers. Their reaction was not one of acceptance. In fact we almost came to blows over it. Why? Because the arm of the flesh can not do the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. The one guy that I got to come to church with us was really there so he could get a date with the good looking daughter of the pastor. After he got his date he never came back.

Didn’t Jesus say, “Apart from me you can do nothing”? I am afraid that most of the “good works” that I did back then were just that in the eyes of God – NOTHING! Why? Because they did not come out from Him, but rather were born from a well meaning religious mind that was not yielded to the Spirit of God. Yet, I was only following the example of my church leaders. Go figure! I believe that part of the reason we have overlooked our high callings IN Christ Jesus (see Philippians 3:14 and 1 John 3:1) is due to improperly translated scriptures that fail to convey the message of true faith’s transforming work “taking us out of the kingdom of darkness into His marvelous light.”

Here are some examples where this little word “into” was mistranslated into prepositions that get us to, unto, upon, etc. Christ, but never get us to that place where we believe that salvation actually puts us INTO Jesus Christ and the Father and they IN us (see Jesus prayer in John chapter 17).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in (Grk. εἰς eis – into) him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into (Grk. εἰς eis – into) the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in (Grk. εἰς eis – into) the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJ2000)

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hears my word, and believes on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) him that sent me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into (Grk. εἰς eis – into) condemnation; but is passed from death unto (Grk. εἰς eis – into) life. (John 5:24 KJ2000)

Labor not for the food which perishes, but for that food which endures unto (Grk. εἰς eis – into) everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for on him has God the Father set his seal. Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) him whom he has sent. (John 6:27-29 KJ2000)

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto (Grk. εἰς eis – into) me, and drink. He that believes on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke he of the Spirit, whom they that believe on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) (John 7:37-39 KJ2000)

And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in (Grk. εἰς eis – into) Christ. (Acts 24:24 KJV)

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon (Grk. εἰς eis – into) me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:10 KJ2000)

Once I saw that believing faith actually took me out of the world system (Grk. ek ho kosmos) and placed me IN Christ (Grk. en Christos), then all these other passages about abiding IN Him took on greater depth. Here are just a few verses that speak of our actual position IN Christ…

[There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in (Grk. ἐν en – in) Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in (Grk. ἐν en – in) Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 KJV)

So then they that are in (Grk. ἐν en – in) the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in (Grk. ἐν en – in) the flesh, but in (Grk. ἐν en – in) the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwells in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also bring to life your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you. (Romans 8:8-11 KJ2000)

Every branch in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me, and I in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in (Grk. ἐν en – in) the vine; no more can you, except you abide in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me. I am the vine, you are the branches: He that abides in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me, and I in (Grk. ἐν en – in) him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If a man abides not in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into (Grk. εἰς eis – into) the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me, and my words abide in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:2-7 KJ2000)

I have manifested your name unto the men that you gave me out of the world (Grk. ek kosmos – out from the world system not out from the earth) yours they were, and you gave them to me; and they have kept your word. (John 17:6 KJ2000)

Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on (Grk. εἰς eis – into) me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in (Grk. ἐν en – in) me, and I in (Grk. ἐν en – in) you, that they also may be one in (Grk. ἐν en – in) us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20-21 KJ2000)

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into (Grk. εἰς eis – into) His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 HCSB)

For as many of you as have been baptized into (Grk. baptizo  eis – immersed into) Christ have put on (Grk. enduo – sunk into) Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in (en) Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:27-28 KJ2000).

Seeing myself totally immersed into the Father and the Son, sunk into and become ONE in them, has made all the difference. Oh, what a great salvation we have as we abide IN the Son of God and the Father by the Spirit which has been given us! All things are ours IN Christ. “I have strength for all things IN CHRIST the One strengthening me.” (Philippians 4:13 LITV – emphasis added).

Here is a list of some of the things that are ours as we abide IN Christ.

* We believe and obey by the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16 and Philippians 3:9)

* Our life is His life within us (John 6:53-57 and Galatians 2:20)

* Our light is His light within (John 8:12)

* His Spirit is our spirit within and is our Teacher (John 14:26, 1 John 2:26-27)

* Ours is the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5, 1 John 2:6 and 1 Peter 4:1)

* His inheritance in the Father is ours as well (Romans 8:17)

* His sufferings are our sufferings (Romans 8:17, Matthew 20:23, 2 Corinthians 1:5)

* His death is our death (Romans 6:3-5, Galatians 2:20, 1 Timothy 2:11)

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given… to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages IN GOD who created all things; that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 3:8-10 RSVA- emphasis added)

Maturing in the Fire

Firey trials1“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD.”  (Malachi 3:1-3 RSVA)

The whole concept of fiery trials being necessary to make us mature individuals has, for the most part, been lost on a generation whose parents cut their teeth on Timothy Leary’s teaching of “If it feels good, do it” and Dr. Benjamin Spock’s seditious book on  raising children without firm correction when they needed it,” least we hurt their little psyches.” Thinking ourselves wise, we have become a nation of fools. In the book of Hebrews we read:

And have you forgotten the exhortation which addresses you as sons?– “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:5-11 RSVA)

When was the last time you heard a pulpiteer preach from this text or an educator stress the need for discipline in the classroom?

When I was a teenager my parents made me be home by 9 PM and I hated it. I was complaining about it to one of my buddies who had no curfew imposed on him and said, “I wish I had parents like yours and was free to come home when I wanted.” To this he responded something that blew my mind. He said, “At least you KNOW that your parents love you!”

I remember in the early 70’s after coming to Christ, I started going through trials after a fantastic honeymoon period with Jesus being closer in my daily life than I ever knew possible. I wondered why these trials… what had I done? Was God mad at me? It was then I discovered that God uses the personal cross to correct us and to straighten our paths. Then after many months of trials I noticed one day that I had not gone through any for a couple of weeks. All of a sudden I felt insecure and wondered if God was no longer my Father. I had come to see that His chastisement of me was really a sign of His love and that I was NOT illegitimate, but a son.

The trials have continued through the years and often they were very grievous. I shared some of them with a church lady one time and she responded by saying, “I don’t know why you are STILL a Christian!” I am still a follower of Christ because we share a common Father.

“Although he [Jesus] was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him”
(Hebrews 5:8-9 RSVA)

Living without an Agenda of Our Own

jesus_washing_feetYesterday my wife and I went to a gathering of saints at one of their homes. We had known these brothers and sister since about 1970. Over the years since Jesus first knit us together we have all gone different ways and have had many different experiences in churches and life as a whole. It was really good to just come together as God’s family with no one having an agenda in mind. How often in the past I have seen Christians come together not for the best, but for the worst. When we tried to come together and it seemed that somebody (even me) had an agenda to see something happen or to get our point across and it ruined the whole time. Resting in Jesus’ presence in each one of us made all the difference, yesterday, and it was from there that HE was able to speak and act according to HIS will among us. What a difference it made.

Personal agendas can be a deadly thing in the family of God. Jesus did not live by HIS own agenda. He lived by every word that proceeded from the mouth of His Father. This was His bread (see John 4:7-32). He only did the works that He saw His Father doing. He rested in the will of the Father and in so doing He was without sin. He truly walked by faith all the days of His life right up until the night He was to go to the cross. It was then He prayed, “Father, I would that this cup pass from me… never the less, not my will, but yours be done.” He would not slip into His own will or agenda even to save His own life.

All too often we get together with other Christians with a mind to “minister” to them. We have an agenda to “strut our stuff” and impress others or convince them instead of just relaxing and being members one of another in Christ’s body. I am getting where I hate that word, “ministry,” but there was a time that it was all I could think about. This word “minister” and its derivatives were used in the KJV instead of being properly translated, “to serve,” “servant” or “service” as one who waits on tables. Jesus’ disciples didn’t get it, either. Right up until the end they were arguing over who would be first in Christ’s new kingdom government. He had to finally show them by example that leadership in His kingdom is nothing more than servant-hood and laying down ones life for others. He was a Servant in all ways. Even at the last supper where He stripped Himself of his garments, wrapped Himself in a servant’s towel and washed each of their feet. After He was finished He said to them,

“You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:13-17 RSVA)

Brothers and sisters, let us love and serve one another without an agenda other than to be obedient to the Father in all humility. God is love and love seeks not its own. Only as we abide in His rest will we hear His voice. Remember God’s warning to Israel,

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning [to Me] and resting [in Me] you shall be saved; in quietness and in [trusting] confidence shall be your strength. But you would not, (Isaiah 30:15 AMP)

Let us love one another in deed and in truth, preferring and encouraging one another in all things.