The Body Is Christ’s Not Man’s

one-body-in-christ

…Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly regions, far above all principality, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come; and hath put all things under his feet, and hath appointed him head over all to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. (Eph 1:20-23, Haweis)

Wow! Did you get that? Jesus has been placed by the Father over all authority in this world and in the eons to come. But how many of us read this and really believe it or have minds that can comprehend the meaning of this passage? How many of us allow men to come between us and the will of Christ for our lives as He seeks to lead us by His Spirit?

God has appointed Christ to be Head over all the church. Yet we have millions of heads in the churches who claim final authority over the body of Christ! Because of this we now have 41,000 (and counting) separate Christian denominations and sects in the world today. What confusion!

Paul was careful not to take the place of Christ as the head of the body. He wrote:

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches. (1Cor 7:17, ESV2011)

And Peter didn’t either.

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1Pet 4:10-11, ESV2011)

All glory and dominion belongs to Jesus Christ forever, not to Paul, Peter or even Pastor Wonderful! We have each been given gifts by the Spirit to serve one another in love by His leading, not by the totalitarian leadership of some church organization.

church-bondage

This morning I got an email from a brother that was sitting in a Sunday school class where the teacher told them that they “cannot leave a church until the pastor lets them go”! If we really understood that we are members of Christ’s body and that HE is our Head, would we even give such rubbish a second thought? Yet, this twisting of scripture to make mere carnal men the absolute authorities in the lives of the saints seems to permeate the thinking of today’s Christians.

What part of body life do we not understand? Imagine your own human body that is functioning quite well as it was created. Now imagine some outside force, some Dr. Frankenstein, taking you captive, strapping you down on his operating table and grafting on another head. This new head now has power to send confusing messages to the members of your body according to its own will. THIS is what is going on in churches where a man or woman rises up and demands that you submit to their will in all things. This is not the body of Christ. You already have One Head and it is Christ! As His member in His body, you should never be part of a grotesque two headed monster. It is a cult.

When the leaders of the Jews demanded that the apostles in the early church obey them and not Christ’s Spirit they gave a firm reply,

“We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32, ESV2011)

God speaks to us through Christ and His Spirit. We are members of His body and He, as our Head, directs us through the Spirit God has given to those who obey HIM! I would like to share the following by T. Austin-Sparks.

There must be the liberty of the Spirit in us in order to realize the Body and its ministry. I am coming down to practical questions. There must be absolute freedom from human organization, ecclesiastical government, man’s control AS SUCH if there is going to be a full functioning of the Holy Spirit. To get into a hide-bound religious system, ecclesiastical control, a human organization of the Church… is not the principle of the Holy Spirit, and we must be absolutely free from all such things if the Spirit is going to function freely and we are going to have ministry in the Holy Spirit.

That is the principle of the Spirit. It was that that the Jews, the Jewish leaders, were so set against in the case of the Apostle Paul. He said, “certain came in to spy out our liberty” (Gal. 2:4). What was it? That he had thrown off the yoke of the law and the Jewish system [church systems, too, for the leaders of the church in Jerusalem added nothing to him {see Gal. 2:6}- mdc] and now he was exercising himself in the universal realm of the Body of Christ… He was free from all yokes of tradition, system, and organization religiously on the earth, in order to fulfil his ministry of revelation as the Holy Spirit led him. That is essential to the Body of Christ. By which I mean that to try to organize the Body of Christ, the Church, and to try to set a program for it and hand it to the Holy Spirit and say, “will you kindly take the chair and carry out our programme” …is so utterly contrary to the principle here revealed.

The Body of Christ is a thing emancipated from the earthly systems; it must be to function. It is not our forsaking the earthly system because we have taken hold of certain truths, but our being emancipated. (1)

What an important difference Sparks brings out in that last sentence. Reading the Bible and grasping truths that feed our rebellious hearts is not good, but reading it and having the Spirit confirm that we are hearing His voice and obeying Christ is the way it should be. If our freedom is used to bring us back into bondage it is no longer freedom, but slavery. Living in true freedom takes the leading of the Holy Spirit at all times.

God bless you all as you follow the leading of the Spirit in the freedom that Christ died to give you.

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/000755.html

Bondservants of God… to be Led by the Holy Spirit

by Michael Clark and Susanne Schuberth*

Bondservants of the Lord pic

Austin-Sparks rightfully observed,

Many things are being constructed to which the Name of the Lord is being affixed – things which appear fine and great and like “the Church,” but which are destined to collapse when God’s hurricane and fire test every man’s work. Good works – philanthropy, hospitality, reform, education, religion, relief, etc. – may be the products, or byproducts, of what is called “Christian civilization” …and things for which to be profoundly grateful… but let us not confuse these with “a new creation,” regeneration, a being “born from above.” (1)

Today the highly visible church systems of men have become something that has a life of its own with the leading of Christ’s Spirit among them a rare thing. There is no resemblance of what calls itself “church life” today and what happened when the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who believed in Christ which we read about in the Book of Acts. All of our best attempts to even duplicate what they had back then will fail for one reason, they are our best attempts! Either Christ builds the household of God upon Himself, The Rock, as its foundation and enlivens what He builds or it is a sham subject to the eroding winds of time and the whims of presumptuous men (See Ephesians 4:14), doomed to live without His blessing on it and subject to the wiles of the devil and his delusions.

Jesus left the Holy Spirit in His place to give life, instruction, direction and power to His body (the ekklesia of God) and His presence was so powerful in those early days that those who lied to Him dropped dead and no one dared to add themselves to those who were called and empowered by Him for fear! The body with its many God-gifted members moved in the unity of a normally functioning human body. In fact the human body is a parable of what our Creator meant the body of Christ on this earth to be… unified, coordinated, obedient to the Head as it builds itself up in the love of God. No amount of human organization can cause this to happen.

T. A. Sparks continues,

The Church is nothing which man can build by any resource in himself personally or collectively. The Church is an organism, not an organization: “Behold, I show you a mystery – we are members of His flesh and of His bones.” Build that, if you can! Launch that; organize that; “run” that! It cannot be done. It is the spontaneous outworking of spiritual forces released… in the acceptance by faith of tremendous facts concerning Christ – facts which are proclaimed out of experience in the power of the Holy Ghost. Not the theological Christ; not the doctrinal Christ; not the Christ of the letter; much less the Jesus of history; but the Christ of Eternity in all the meaning of His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension into the Throne of God revealed in the heart by the Holy Spirit – this alone is authority to preach, to serve, to occupy position, to “build” in relation to the House of God. It is folly to spend time and strength otherwise. It is wisdom to labor on this foundation. (1)

Paul wrote,

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good… individually as he wills. (1Cor 12:4-11, ESV2011)

 Today, few who believe in Christ wait on the Holy Spirit to empower us as HE wills, rather we put our eyes on something that titillates our flesh and makes us feel important as we answer our own call. Or if we yield to the will of God in our initial calling, how soon is it until we cast our eyes on something that is more pleasing and appealing to our natural man who wants to maintain his own preeminence and wars against the Spirit within us? We get away with this in today’s church because even church leadership to whom we look to as an example has often fallen victim to such things.

In my own case, I started out with what some called a “ministry of helps.” I was with a street ministry in the early ‘70’s that had many homes and facilities for those being saved off the streets and it was my gifting to rejuvenate, repair and maintain them. I spent many an hour re-plumbing and unclogging sewer pipes in basements and such, out of the sight of those who had the more glorious positions in that ministry. You might say that I was the guy behind the scenes who kept it all going with my mechanical, electrical and plumbing skills. After leaving that group I was often the church janitor and handy man that kept “things” unplugged the sound system, etc. going.

God did not anoint me to write for him for 22 years after He filled me with His Spirit and even then my writings were not allowed to go public for another eight years. It was then a brother found me and put what I shared with him on the web. I did not call myself to this more visible ministry of blogging book writing and website publishing and to this day I am quite content to remain in obscurity in the back woods of northern Idaho, unknown by others even in my own small town.

Somebody high in Christian circles observed a few years back with pride that in the sixties men were pastors. In the seventies they became teachers. In the eighties they became evangelists and in the nineties they became prophets and finally in the beginning of this century they became apostles. It is as if church leadership is a military or corporate machine in which we are entitled to go up the ladder and achieve higher ranks and titles regardless of our original callings. Far from the minds of leadership today is the downward calling of God regarding our flesh ever descending until we, as Paul, we see ourselves rightfully as “the chief of sinners” not the chief of the apostles. Truly, Paul called it right when he said, “The flesh wars against the Spirit…”

T.A. Sparks continues,

When one called of God to do the work of an evangelist assumes the role of a teacher, or vice-versa, or anyone marked out for this particular functioning attempts to do that, or when one goes beyond their scope and assumes any prerogative which is not theirs by Divine ordering, they are in the way of an arrested ministry, and more, they will be landed into serious confusion. People and things – otherwise occupying a vital position in the Divine plan – put into their wrong places have the Divine unction withdrawn from them… The Holy Spirit’s method is to set His seal upon us as we move according to His leading; not according to our fancy, choice, aptitude, predilection or ambition. (2)

 

Bondservants of the Lord

The apostle Paul wrote,

“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship. What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.” (1 Cor 9:16-19 ESV)

How many bondservants of the Lord do we have leading in the churches today? How many men will do the work that God called them to without pay or remuneration from those they serve? How many find presenting the gospel free of charge out of obedience to Christ enough reward in itself as Paul (see also 2 Thes. 3:7-12)? How many leaders seek reward for their efforts because they have not been called by God and have not been entrusted by Him with their stewardship? Today, men in our pulpits shamelessly beg for money and support. If God calls a man to be His servant He meets their needs and as David observed, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps 37:25, KJV). It is not righteous for men and women to approach the service of the Lord as if it is a worldly profession, using worldly methods to ascend and succeed.

T. A. Sparks continues,

“Christian service” has come to be a realm in which all the acquisitive, ambitious, obtrusive, assertive, self-seeking, and numerous other elements of the natural man have been vented and taken hold. It has created a system in which human distinctions are the order of the day. Yes, and much more which it is too painful to mention.

We need an adjustment of our minds by a true spiritual perception of the real nature of service, and it will be well for us ever to remember that all work for Christ is not service to Christ (emphasis mine). A child may be very well-meaning and industrious in its “helping [out] mother”, but poor mother may find rather more work created than done.

Now let us say right away… with emphasis… that the indispensable and basic thing to real service is THE SERVANT-SPIRIT AND THE SERVANT-MIND. The matter of service is infinitely more than busy-ness in religious causes, earthly activities in Christian interests; it is the accomplishment of a heavenly will and Divine purpose which registers its impact in the breaking of another foreign will and destroying the works of the devil. This is the force of “obedience” and the “not my will” …and this is the servant-mind and servant-spirit. (1)

Paul wrote,

“For he who was called in the Lord as a bondservant is a freedman of the Lord. Likewise he who was free when called is a bondservant of Christ. You were bought with a price; do not become bondservants of men.” (1 Cor 7:22-23 ESV)

We are called to be the bondservants of Christ not of soulish, self-promoting men. We have been bought by Him as His own with His precious blood. No man has the right to rule over us in the place of Christ’s Spirit. Yes, we are to obey the laws of the land in which we live (see 1 Peter 2:13-17), but we are always to obey the leading of the Spirit and when these two are in conflict it is better to obey God than man.

For a while I was a part of a church that was founded in California by a charismatic leader from the Hollywood area, in fact he was involved in the music industry there before God called him. He was highly respected in the ranks of the church, but he often taught things that were not scriptural and his will and writings were respected by the church leadership under him without question. Our pastor would quote him before he would quote the Bible and was constantly reading his books and often attended seminars taught by him. He was definitely a “company man.” Finally, when I showed him how what he was teaching was contrary to the scriptures the pastor got offended and I told him that this man did not own me. I knew that I was already purchased with the blood of Christ and that I was to obey His Spirit and not the whims of men with their winds of doctrine. We were finally forced to leave that church and since then that pastor was forced to step down in shame and the denomination’s founder and his son (the heir apparent) both died not long after we left. Jesus said, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be rooted up.” We are called to be the bond-servants of Christ and obey the leading of His Spirit for He alone is our Savior and Lord. Sparks continues,

The Lord’s need is to have bond-servants… even though the extreme pressure at some time might make them say that they would “no more speak in this Name” … they find that they cannot forbear for long; but cost what it may, they must be in it and at it – the fire is in their bones and zeal of His House eats them up. May we be such, and may the true ground and motive of this fellowship in service be:

“I love, I love my Master,
I will not go out free!
For He is my Redeemer,
He paid the price for me.
I would not leave His service,
It is so sweet and blest;
And in the weariest moments
He gives the truest rest.

“My Master shed His life-blood
My vassal life to win,
And save me from the bondage
Of tyrant self and sin.
He chose me for His service,
And gave me power to choose
That blessed, perfect freedom
Which I shall never lose.” (1)

(1) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/001520.html

(2) http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/books/003697.html

* I want to give a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth who sent me these quotes from T. Austin-Sparks and the quotes from Paul that inspired me to write this blog. Once again she and I are hearing the Lord say the same things. What a blessing to walk together in the unity of the Spirit.

How Does God Define Sin?

Walking with God...  (Photo credit https://revlisad.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/walking-with-god.jpg)

This is another joint article Susanne Schuberth* and I wrote together with the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was without sin because He only did what He saw His Father doing and He only spoke His words. This is why Paul could say that nothing of itself is sin, but only that which is done without faith… which is not doing what our Daddy in Heaven shows us to do and say. Faith is not law keeping. Faith is obeying the Spirit and the wind of the Spirit blows where no man expects it to. We must be free to follow the leading of the Spirit if we are to walk by faith. This is why Peter was sinning when he refused to eat with Gentiles, though the law forbade him to do so, but the Spirit of the NEW covenant often surpasses the law. The apostle Paul told us the following,

“I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.” (Rom 14:14 ESV)

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15 ESV)

So, we see in the New Testament that nothing of itself is unclean. We need to only follow the leading of the Spirit in ALL things we do and say. But herein lies the danger as well… If we are not walking in faith and are not in tune with the Spirit, we can fall into delusions for our adversary is good at getting us to believe a lie. It is not by law keeping that we are made safe, but rather by living by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God and not living by our fleshly desires and the lies of the serpent. Remember that the devil used scripture to tempt Jesus to sin!
We also know that if we are acting out of unselfish love in whatever we do, we are fulfilling the O.T. law AND the law of Christ.

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Galatians 5:14, KJ2000)

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4, KJ2000)

But how do we know if we just now are walking by faith – or not? The Bible tells us,

“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” (Isaiah 26:3 ESV)

We can be sure if we are enwrapped in His peace right now, we are in His will, we are walking by faith and there is no sin so that there would be an open door for Satan to make us fear, worry, or a possibility to deceive or delude us. This was summed up in what Paul wrote to the Philippians…

Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:4-8, KJ2000)

So, back to our question, “How does God define sin?” Paul wrote “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, KJ2000) Any time we are falling short of the glory of God we are in sin… That is any time our lives and our words are not glorifying God and His will for us, we are sinning. We are called to walk as Jesus walked on this earth in total obedience to the Father with lives that glorify Him. “Father, continue to mature us in your Spirit so that we might live lives that only glorify you. Amen.”

*Susanne’s blog page can be found here https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/11/21/how-do-we-define-sin/

Why Do We Reason in Our Hearts?

Mary & Risen Lord

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned among themselves, he said unto them, “Why reason you these things in your hearts?” (Mark 2:6-8 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they discussed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were held that they should not know him… Then he said unto them, O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?… And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem… and Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and said unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are you troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones, as you see me have. (Luke 24:13-39 KJ2000 – emphasis added)

As I read the above passages it occurred to me that Hearts were not given us to reason and judge with, but to love. Jesus said, “Why do you reason in your hearts?” Too often as Christians we let our reason displace His love for others in our hearts. As I read these words, the truth of what He was saying hit me. Many of us left-brained religious people do not love with our hearts, but instead turn to “reason” to decide what we are to do in each situation and how we treat people. These early disciples were like the scribes in Mark chapter two, constantly reasoning in their hearts. As a result, they were blinded to the Truth that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He said He would. He had told all of them before He went to the cross that He would have to die and then rise again.

It is interesting that one woman was moved by love and not by reason, and she was the first to see the risen Christ and recognize Him!

Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rab-bo’ni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:15-16 RSVA)

Mary Magdolin, upon hearing Jesus say her name, knew it was Him. Unlike the men that Jesus appeared to, she did not reason in her heart that Jesus was dead, so there was an immediate heart connection! This is one of the most touching scenes in the Bible.

Oh, dear saints, why do we reason in our hearts? God is love and if we are to apprehend all that He has for us, it will not be by our reasoning, but by responding to His love, being moved by Him, and being led of Him with our hearts filled with His love.

Jesus was motivated always by the love and mercy of the Father! Satan used reason to appeal to Eve–if she would eat of that forbidden tree, she would be on the fast track to becoming like God. That got us all in this mess we see today!

The woman was convinced [through Satan’s reasoning]. The fruit looked so fresh and delicious, and it would make her so wise! So she ate some of the fruit. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too. (Genesis 3:6 NLT)

God has given us new hearts in Christ and filled them with His love. Agape love should be the most powerful thing operating in us, telling us how to respond in each situation. The love of God in our hearts is the one earmark of those who are truly born anew of the Father. Jesus said:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

[But it was as if Peter didn’t hear a word of what Jesus was saying.]

Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow afterward.” Peter said to him, “Lord, why cannot I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” (John 13:34-37 RSVA)

Again, his reasoning made him blind to the truth. We cannot apprehend the truth of God by our reasoning, but only by abiding in His love. It was the love relationship between the Father and the Son that opened Jesus to hearing His Father in all things.

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20 RSVA – emphasis added)

Paul wrote that knowledge will pass away, but the greatest of all these gifts from God is love and it will never pass away. The scribes used their knowledge of the law to judge Jesus for forgiving the lame man’s sins. If they had been in their hearts instead of relying on their reason, they would have rejoiced that this man’s sins had just been forgiven and he was made whole and walked again, but they had no love in them, only judgment based on human reason. The law is subject to the knowledge of good and evil. Satan still hangs out in that tree, not the Tree of Life. Jesus came that we might have life, not death.

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 KJ2000)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2 RSVA)

And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17 KJ2000)

There is one commandment that we are to follow in the New Covenant… Love.

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 15:10-12 RSVA – emphasis added)

Or as Paul wrote:

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10 RSVA – emphasis added)

John also expanded on this theme in 1 John 4:17-21.

So dear saints, we should seek to be perfected as children of God. That perfection is found in those who abide in and are moved by His love. The world doesn’t need any more death-preaching of legalism that knows no love. It is the love of God that leads us to repentance, not preaching about His wrath and judging people for their sins. Remember, we will be judged just as we judge others, but mercy triumphs over judgment. Let us love all men with our hearts and not displace His love with our cold reasoning. Amen.

Revelation, Love and Intimacy

Circle-1  It is hard to envision what the Garden of Eden was like before the fall of man. Can you imagine an existence on this earth where there are no laws to break except one, and no conscience to violate, but only love and acceptance? Man dwelt there with his Creator in love and all his livelihood was provided for him with no fear of death or sickness. There were no animals or men to fear, and no weeds or briars to fight. It was a place where there was total peace and fellowship with all God’s creatures. Even the animals communicated with man in love, using a common language that was heard from heart to heart instead of head to head. This is the world that God made for man to enjoy. Adam and Eve ran around like little naked kids with no sense of shame whatsoever and felt such love and intimacy together that their relationship was only driven by God’s agape love for and in them, not by self-centered lust. God was loving and communing with them as their Daddy.

After thousands of years of suffering the consequences of the fall, it is hard for us to imagine such a world. Yet the image of the garden gives us a glimpse of heaven. Man ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and unleashed evil upon the earth, but God has had a plan to fully restore man to Himself and so we can walk in love with Him and one another once again and that plan was summed up with the words, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”[1] Paul wrote of this saying, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.”[2]

God so loved the world that He actually sent His own Son into this vile and dangerous place to restore man. Jesus not only consented to come here to the earth, but to be rejected, falsely accused by His own people and then tortured and killed in the most gruesome way possible, hanging on a cross. He did this so He could blot out the offence of our transgressions once and for all by taking our sin on Himself so we might be justified.[3]

The Hebrew word translated “restore” in the Old Testament is shub (shoob) and is found 1339 times in that ancient text. One of the most familiar verses is in David’s prayer, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me [with thy] free spirit.”[4] Restoration of mankind is high on God’s list of priorities.

The drawing above in my mind pictures what God has been showing many of us in one form or another as He calls us out of ourselves and into Him as His sons and daughters. The tangle of weeds and briars along the bottom represents the curse that man has been under for thousands of years. A concern over good and evil is an endless tangle and a trap that pitches one man against another through sin and the rigidity of laws and regulations. Much of Christianity is trapped there today. The first fruit of this wrong tree was Adam and Eve seeing their God-given state of nakedness as evil and making garments of fig leaves to cover themselves and hide from God. It is interesting that God said to them, “Who told you that you were naked?”[5] It was the serpent who filled them with guilt and shame as they submitted to him in order to become wise. On that day they lost their child-like faith and trust in God.

But God had a plan to pull us up out of the muck and mire of sin, law and death through the death and resurrection of His Son[6], the spotless Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world.[7] We all know His plan to bring about the salvation (the saving) of man by Christ’s death on the cross, but there is so much more to it than just getting us out of the miry clay and setting our feet on the Rock.[8]

God has wanted an intimate, loving relationship with man from the beginning. He identified Himself as a husband to both Jews and Gentiles in both the Old and New Testaments.[9] And finally in the New Testament, Jesus is identified as the Bridegroom and those who truly love Him as His Bride.[10] This brings up the subject of intimacy.

As depicted in the drawing above, Revelation, Love and Intimacy flow between and out from the Father, Son and Spirit. In this relationship, the Spirit reaches down into our lives with what the scriptures and is called the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.[11] Jesus said that He would send the Spirit to us to lead us into all truth.[12]

With this revelation from Him we realized that God loves us and we in turn love God because He first loved us.[13] We come into a relationship with Christ because He calls us and reveals Himself in us.[14] We are also called into the intimacy of the Father and the Son, and from this intimacy comes and ever growing revelation of who They are.[15] With this growing revelation grows an ever greater love for Them in us as well. We are caught up into this circle of love with them as well.

In all this, we who are His elect grow together in our love for one another as we are made perfect in love. The perfect love of God casts out all fear.[16] This freedom allows us to walk in the transparency and the Light (spiritual intimacy) of Christ[17] with one another in true fellowship[18]. We pray for each other and work toward each other’s wholeness as members of Christ’s body[19] where all things are done unto edification.[20] As God unites us together in His love for one another, all our walls of separation come down, because in Christ there is no longer Jew nor Greek, slave or free, or male nor female, but a new creation allowing real intimacy and fellowship between us.[21] As our love grows for one another, our relationships take on a depth we never knew possible in the world. “Love is always supportive, loyal, hopeful, and trusting. Love never fails!”[22] Jesus said:

A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 KJVCNT)

You might say that we are being sucked-up into this tornado of love where the Father, the Son and the Spirit live for us because they love us so much. The closer we are drawn to Them, the more we become like Them and the more the world rejects us because we are no longer of this world.[23] Soon, His love is so strong for and in us that we gladly loose ourselves from our earthly moorings like houses torn from their foundations in a tornado, and are totally caught up into the love of the Father and the Son. All the things of this world that were once near and dear to us lose their grip on our hearts.[24] In my own case I used to live to fish and hunt and have a place of my own in the country that made it easier to do so. I even built my own hunting lodge that was on 20 acres of forest near lakes and mountains, but before I was done, God’s love so changed me that it was all I could do to finish this lodge so we could sell it and move into town where Father wanted me.

Paul, who loved Jesus dearly, put it this way:

 Those things were important to me, but now I think they are worth nothing because of Christ. Not only those things, but I think that all things are worth nothing compared with the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of him, I have lost all those things, and now I know they are worthless trash. This allows me to have Christ and to belong to him. Now I am right with God, not because I followed the law, but because I believed in Christ. God uses my faith to make me right with him. I want to know Christ and the power that raised him from the dead. I want to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death. (Philippians 3:7-10 NCV)

 How else can we as His bride ever become one unless we have a common depth of love for Jesus and the Father? Soon we become so enraptured with Christ and the Father that we are in total identification and unity with them and with one another in this same love. This is the goal of the gospel!

 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he says unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he says unto me, These are the true sayings of God. (Revelation 19:7-9 KJVCNT)

 Speaking of love and intimacy Oswald Chambers wrote:

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them… —Mark 16:12
Being saved and seeing Jesus are not the same thing. Many people who have never seen Jesus have received and share in God’s grace. But once you have seen Him, you can never be the same. Other things will not have the appeal they did before.
You should always recognize the difference between what you see Jesus to be and what He has done for you. If you see only what He has done for you, your God is not big enough. But if you have had a vision, seeing Jesus as He really is, experiences can come and go, yet you will endure “as seeing Him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:27).
Jesus must appear to you and to your friend individually; no one can see Jesus with your eyes. And division takes place when one has seen Him and the other has not. You cannot bring your friend to the point of seeing; God must do it. Have you seen Jesus? If so, you will want others to see Him too. “And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either” (Mark 16:13). When you see Him, you must tell, even if they don’t believe. ~ http://utmost.org/have-you-seen-jesus/

(a special thanks to Susanne Schuberth for sharing this and her own experiences on her blog. https://enteringthepromisedland.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/a-life-redeemed-now-or-later/ )

 Seeing Jesus as He IS makes all the difference in the world. Jesus calls us to be not only His friends, but His bride, intimately connected to Him. As called-out ones, we share a greater intimacy with Him and, as a result with others who have seen him, too. We cast off our earthly moorings and let the Spirit wind take us wherever He sees fit. The perfect love of the Father does a deep work in our hearts and draws us away from the cares, goals and values of this world system. Jesus had a circle of 70 disciples, but the original 12 were closer to Him. Inside this smaller group were the three He took up in mountain where He appeared to them clothed in Light. Finally there was John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”

So it is with the called and chosen. He loves everyone the same, but not all are able to receive everything He wants to share with them. John was not afraid to lay his head on Jesus’ breast because he was connected to Jesus by His great love. Of the twelve, only John was there with Him while He died on the cross.[25] The depth of love for Jesus and the ability to cast off our worldly and religious expectations and be caught up in Him alone will eventually make the difference for all of us.

At the last supper, before Jesus was taken captive by His murders, He prayed a very important prayer with His disciples.

 

Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you: As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know [Grk. ginosko – intimate knowing[26]] you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent… I pray not for the world, but for them that you have given me; for they are yours. And all mine are yours and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are… That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known [ginosko] you: but I have known [ginosko] you, and these have known [ginosko] that you have sent me. And I have declared unto them your name, and will declare it: that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. (John 17:1-26 KJ2000)

 

Here we see a prayer for revelation, love and intimacyONE. I cannot get away from this phrase, “that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and you in me, that they may be made perfect in one.” His desire was and is not only for us to join in their unity and love, but for us to know it among ourselves as His people! This vortex of love between the Father, Son and Spirit draws us up into intimate fellowship with Them.

But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.., and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 RSVA)

This precious promise is not in future tense, but in the present. Dear saints, let these words sink into the depths of your heart, for here is the reality of His revelation and love for us in the greatest intimacy imaginable. May we all come to know this intimacy and love as we abide IN Them. Amen.

[1] Gen. 1:26

[2] Romans 8:29 RSVA

[3] Romans 3:23-26, 1 John 2:2 and 4:10

[4] Psalm 51:12 KJV

[5] Gen. 3:11

[6] Rom. 8:2

[7] John 1:29

[8] Psalm 40:2, 1 Cor. 10:4

[9] Jer. 2:2, 3:14, 31:32; Isa. 54:5; Eze. 16:8, 23:4; Hos. 2:2, 3:1 ; John 3:29 and 2Cor. 11:2

[10] Matt. 22:1-14, John 3:29; Rev. 19:7-9, 21:2-9 and 17

[11] Eph. 1:17

[12] John 16:13-15

[13] 1 John 4:19

[14] 1 Cor. 2:7-16, Galatians 1:5 and 3:27, Acts 17:28

[15] Matt. 13:11; Mark 3:11; Luke 10:23; John 15:15; John 17:6-7, 26; Romans 16:25-26;1 Cor. 2:11-12; Col. 1:26

[16] 1 John 4:18

[17] John 1:9

[18] 1 John 1:5-8

[19] James 5:16, Eph. 1:17-18, Eph. 4:21-25

[20] Eph. 4:14-16

[21] Gal. 3:26-28 and 6:15, Eph. 2:13-22, 4:1-6 , 4:15-16, 2 Cor. 5:17

[22] 1 Corinthians 13:7-8a CEV

[23] Matt. 5:10-12, Matt. 10:22, Mark 13:9-13, Luke 6:22-23, Luke 21:17, John 15:18-20, John 17:14

[24] Matt. 10:37, Luke 14:26, 2 Cor. 5:14-15

[25] John 19:26

[26] Matt. 1:25

Who ARE You, Lord?

Hubble Photos“I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, Ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks and keeps on asking receives; and he who seeks and keeps on seeking finds; and to him who knocks and keeps on knocking, the door shall be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; or if he asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good gifts [gifts that are to their advantage] to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask and continue to ask Him!” (Luke 11:8-13 AMP – emphasis added)

The human mind tends to be lazy. We want to get an initial understanding of something and “get a handle on it.” From that point, it is fixed and we move on to get another theory neatly under our belt. But the wisdom and knowledge of God is infinite. Just about the time we think we have Him figured out, He does the opposite. And how many times I have had the meaning of a verse opened by Him into a greater depth I never saw before!

Imagine the shock that came upon those faithful Jews who administered the daily sacrifices and guarded the temple of God, knowing that what they were doing was necessary for maintaining their covenant with God. Yet, this same God allowed the Babylonians to come down upon them, take them into captivity, destroy the temple, and put an end to their daily sacrifices! The Ark of the Covenant was lost, never to be seen again. The shekinah glory above the mercy seat was gone! Men built more temples, but the glory of God was lost forever. Every time we think we have God in our nice, neat little doctrinal box, He blows up the box with a new and greater revelation of who He is! In this particular case, He was doing away with the Old Covenant to make room for the next one—a new one not based on law-keeping, but rather the mighty power of His grace.

“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 RSVA)

Oswald Chambers wrote,

God cannot reveal anything to us if we have not His Spirit. An obstinate outlook will effectually hinder God from revealing anything to us. If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it. This obtuse stage will end immediately [when] His resurrection life has its way with us.”

We try to resist God with our puny human minds–minds that have been infected with the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil! For instance, we constantly use our minds to categorize people and things (this is good and that is evil). The way the typical carnal Christian thinking works when we meet another Christian is to start asking questions to find out how they believe and where they go to church. Then we say to ourselves, “Oh, you are one of those,” put that person in a convenient pigeon-hole and don’t listen to them any longer unless they are in the same pigeon-hole with us! Our beliefs are not tried and tested when we pigeon-hole people and shut them off if what they say is a challenge to us.

The Pharisees had a hard time with Jesus. They were constantly trying back Him into a doctrinal blind alley. Nicodemus had his mind blown by Jesus one night when he tired to pigeon-hole Him! So, in typical Pharisaic fashion he said to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him…” Jesus stopped him dead cold in his tracks and told him that he was not even in the game, much less on first base. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Jesus was speaking of a spiritual rebirth of the New Covenant in which the Spirit of God comes into those who keep seeking and are not content with their religious status quo. But that old man could only relate to a spiritual answer with another carnal question, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” As Oswald Chamber rightfully wrote, “If we have made up our minds about a doctrine, the light of God will come no more to us on that line, we cannot get it.”

One of the most important aspects of being led and taught by the Spirit of God is spiritual flexibility. Jesus went on to tell that old Jew,The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit”(John 3:8 RSVA). You cannot predict the wind. Its very unpredictability is demonstrated in Tornado Alley in the mid-west United States every year. Hundreds die in those storms in spite of their storm cellars and early warning systems. Religious people use their knowledge of the Bible to put God in their doctrinal boxes. They say, “Oh, God would not do that!” Or, “It says this in the Bible so God has to do it!” God laughs at our attempts to control Him with our puny minds so we can be God. Isn’t this the very motive behind so much of our Bible studying? Aren’t we trying to get a handle on God so we can control this unpredictable, wild Lover who swoops into our lives and longs to take us to ever greater heights of intimacy with Him?

Yes, He is a wild Lover. He calls us to follow Him, keep seeking Him, keep asking what His will is for us each moment of each day, and keep knocking on His heavenly door until He lets us into His inner chambers where He dwells. Here we abandon ourselves to Him and say as Mary did, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to your word.”

Oh, dear saints, our Father has so much more for each of us to discover and experience– who He is and the depths of His great love for us. Don’t be content with your own shallow understanding and stop there, thinking you have arrived. One of the most damaging things men do is give another man a theology degree that tells him He has arrived and knows all about God. Paul had one of those degrees because he sat at the feet of and learned from that highly regarded Jewish scholar, Gamaliel. Then on one fine day when Paul had God all figured out and was going about to kill all those cult followers of Jesus, He had an encounter with the living God. All of a sudden his fine education and training became so much dung. But Paul did ask the right question in his divine encounter, “Who are you, Lord?”

My dear Christian friends, if we are to ever apprehend this God by whom we have been apprehended, this is the question that we all should ask Him every day and then stand by to have our minds blown.

Who ARE you Lord?

“Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no foreign god with him. He made him ride on the high places of the earth, and he ate the produce of the field; and he made him suck honey out of the Rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.” (Deuteronomy 32:11-13 RSVA – emphasis added)

What Is the Purpose of the Old Testament for Those Who Walk by Faith?

woman_at_the_well

Recently I was asked what is the place of the Old Testament in the life of a believer?

When we read the Old Testament we will soon come upon the importance of the Mosaic laws, all 613 of them and how we must keep them perfectly if we are to live under that covenant.

“‘Cursed be he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deuteronomy 27:26 RSVA)

But we who are of the New Covenant are IN Christ by faith and are not under that curse.

But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that does them shall live in them. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:11-14 KJ2000)

So how did God deal with the filling up of the just requirements of the law that we might live by faith in Christ alone? Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17 KJ2000)

And just before He died on the cross He cried out, “It is finished!” Jesus came and filled up the just requirements of the law in one perfect sacrifice for all. In so doing he did away with the first covenant and introduced the New Covenant. Jesus came to establish a New Covenant for the Jews broke the first one and did not keep it for the law was week because of their flesh (See Romans 8:3).

But now has he [Jesus] obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, says the Lord. (Hebrews 8:6-9 KJ2000)

Then what good is the Old Testament to we who walk by faith? It is there to point us to Christ!

And he [Jesus] said to them, “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 RSVA)

So what is the nature of this entirely NEW Covenant? Is it more rule keeping as it seems to be in many of today’s churches that make a law book out of the New Testament and mix in with it the Old? Is it one in which Jesus has the power to save us from our sins, but it is up to us to keep ourselves saved like many churches teach? NO! This covenant is ALL about the power of God to save and to keep us.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. (Hebrews 8:10-12 KJ2000)

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 RSVA)

 Here we read God saying eight times how HE will and not a single “Thou shalt” or “Thou shalt not!” It is all about the power of God to come into us and give us a new heart and put His Spirit in us.

What is this law written upon our hearts in this NEW Covenant. Is it the 613 commandments of the Old Covenant? Not at all. In Hebrews we read,

Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levit’ical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest [Jesus] to arise after the order of Melchiz’edek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. (Hebrews 7:11-12 RSVA)

What is this NEW Law? Jesus told us what it is saying,

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 RSVA)

As for the old law and where are we with that as we walk by faith? Paul wrote,

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.. (Romans 8:2-4 RSVA)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23 RSVA)

Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10 KJ2000)

So, as long as we read the Old Testament and look for how it points us to Christ and the vast difference between the Old Covenant based in the weakness of the flesh and the NEW Covenant based on the power of the Spirit of Christ in us, it is good. But if we read it as a pointer putting us back under the law of the first covenant, we are totally missing the point.

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17 RSVA)

 Let us not be as foolish as some who worship the shadow and have missed the ONE who is casting that shadow.

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1 RSVA)

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17 RSVA)

May God bless each one of you with a new heart and His spirit within you as you walk by faith in Christ alone.

(Note: All bold and italic type in scripture verse was added by me for emphasis – mdc)

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