Choosing Life Part 2

Choosing life is all about what? I referenced the need to choose to keep partaking of His life in our spirits or leaning on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, if we are to continually partake of the Tree of Life how do we do that? Malachi provides an exhortation.

15  But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. Malachi 2:15 (NKJV)

I have highlighted five words here. We are to take heed to our spirits. When we do so we walk in life. Yet what does that look like? Have you ever planned something and had a nagging sense of unease about it, then felt a need to change direction at the last minute or moved ahead and it simply didn’t work out? It may have made good logical sense but there was something ‘off’ in it. That is the Holy Spirit nudging us from within and trying to get our attention. Another scripture that supports this idea is below.

27  The spirit of a man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the inner depths of his heart. Proverbs 20:27 (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit moves within our spirit shining light on the direction He wants us to go. I am not negating planning. That is wise and practical, yet at the same time rather than making plans and asking our Father to bless them is it not wiser to include Him in the planning and seek to get internally quiet and hear His voice so we are being led by Him? The NT strongly reinforces this message.

16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (NKJV)

25  If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NKJV)

22  Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23  having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 1 Peter 1:22-23 (NKJV)

20  But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. 1 John 2:20 (NKJV)

27  But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him. 1 John 2:27 (NKJV)

The message in these verses is the same as that in Malachi, we need to pay attention to and be led by the Holy Spirit by paying attention to our spirit. The one piece that may be unclear is 1 John 2:27. John is writing a letter teaching his readers something and in so doing says they don’t need anyone to teach them. Seems to be a little confusion! There isn’t any. John was writing combating some form of Gnosticism. The basic teaching was that to experience God you needed to go through someone who was at a higher ‘spiritual’ level, enlightened if you will. John’s teaching point was that all believers have access to be led by the Holy Spirit. So, if we are not already doing so let’s develop the habit of taking heed to our spirit, which I believe is becoming increasingly important in this hour.

The above verses are examples. In my next post I will dig into a more extensive passage on this issue, Romans 8.

Choosing Life Part 1

What role did the first major choice in our ancestors’ lives point to in our lives? When we look we see the first major choice was in Eden.

9  And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (NKJV)

This event set up a pattern in the scriptures in relation to choice. We all know what happened, Adam and Eve both ate of the wrong tree. They chose knowledge over trust. More fundamentally they chose the knowledge of good and evil over receiving life.

In Hebrew the word translated as ‘midst’ in Genesis 2:9 doesn’t just mean the tree of life was somewhere in the middle of the garden, it bisected the garden. The implication is that it was the centrepiece. The idea presented here is that both trees, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were there together. Clearly this was the point of choice. This implication is clearer in the NLT.

9  The LORD God made all sorts of trees grow up from the ground—trees that were beautiful and that produced delicious fruit. In the middle of the garden he placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:9 (NLT2)

Our Father continually gives us choice.  We may wonder why but really it is because He wants us to choose Him because to choose Him is to choose life. The first choice was the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is still the choice we each must make many times each day. Those who have not been born again live from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Their choices are living from the good or evil side of the tree. Many seek salvation by climbing the good side of the tree. However, no matter how high we climb, climbing the wrong tree will not lead us to Jesus.

Once we have partaken of the tree of life in conversion, which is Jesus, we still must choose whether to keep partaking of His life in our spirits or lean on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. More to come on this.



How Am I Looking? What is our View of Others?

What is the favourite verse of those who are not Christians but have some familiarity with Christianity? What I hear quoted most frequently is Matthew 7:1, usually just the first two words.

1  “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)

A number of years ago three of us were having coffee at work (okay, I was having tea). Two of us were believers, the third commented on someone we knew now living with her boyfriend and there plan to get married in the future. I commented that they had it backwards and needed to do the wedding first. She said, “It’s not our place to judge.” That is, she referenced Matthew 7:1. Yet what had she just done? She had judged my view as wrong and hers as right.

We are always assessing things and judging them right or wrong. The liberals judge the conservatives for being too conservative and the conservatives judge the liberals for being too liberal. It reminds me of a little cartoon I used to use in teaching conflict resolution. It was the little ants and the child ant asks his father what a stereotype is and the dad ant responds, “It’s a label we put on someone so we can hate them without having to understand them.”

So, when we take a closer ‘look’ at Matthew 7:1 what is Jesus actually saying to us? What is the context? Jesus statement comes as part of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). A few verses later Jesus references the need to remove the plank in our own eye before seeking to remove the speck in someone else’s. The idea of not judging is to not pass sentence on or condemn someone. We also have Jesus comment in John.

24  “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”  John 7:24 (NKJV)

Here Jesus addresses the religious leaders who condemn Him for healing on the Sabbath while they circumcise on the Sabbath. His point is that they miss the heart of the law, the spirit, while still violating the letter and passing judgment on Him for doing what they are doing.

So how do we look at others? Jesus is clear that our heart approach is to be one of love. That does not mean condoning sin. In John 8:3-11 we have the story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. Now there was hypocrisy here (think judgement) because those who brought the woman violated the Law of Moses by not also bringing the man. Jesus did two things in this passage. He first pointed out that there was sin in the lives of the accusers (Jesus judged their hearts because He knew them) and after telling the woman He did not condemn her (pass sentence on her) Jesus told her to not continue in her sin. That is Jesus was clear that her behaviour was wrong but He was giving her forgiveness.

So what does this mean for us? We are not to pass sentence on others because we do not know their hearts. We are not called to go around pointing out all the sin we see, that is a wrong focus. We are however called to respond and we cannot condone sinful behaviour. So how are we to respond? Paul tells us, we are to respond out of a heart of love and compassion recognizing that we could fall in the same way.

1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. 2  Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3  For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Galatians 6:1-3 (NKJV)

What is the law of Christ? Jesus summed up all the Law and Prophets in a paragraph.

29  Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. 30  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31  And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NKJV)

Paul further condensed it.

10  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10 (NKJV)

As did James.

8  If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; James 2:8 (NKJV)

We are to walk in love toward others, which means helping people deal with their sinful behaviour through repentance, embracing Jesus forgiveness and supporting one another to walk uprightly before our Father. This means not judging hearts but helping people deal with their behaviour and looking to them to help us with ours.

As a fellow shared with me one day at the fitness centre, he doesn’t trust those who don’t have a limp (he was referencing Jacob in his wrestling with God and coming out broken). So, are we viewing others as being just like us, broken people who need grace, forgiveness and support?

How am I looking?

How Am I Looking?

Have you ever considered that what we see depends on how we look? I’m not talking about what we see in the mirror, but how we receive from scripture and our interactions within our environment. I remember once listening to a John Paul Jackson message and he said after a teaching someone came up and said, “What bible are you using?” John told him it was the NKJV version and the fellow responded something like, “I didn’t mean that. I read the same bible as you but don’t see the things you see.”

Let me give you an example. What was the first instance of food being multiplied in scripture? Did you think of Jesus and the loaves and fishes? Would it surprise you to learn it happened in Elisha’s ministry?

42  Then a man came from Baal Shalisha, and brought the man of God bread of the firstfruits, twenty loaves of barley bread, and newly ripened grain in his knapsack. And he said, “Give it to the people, that they may eat.” 43  But his servant said, “What? Shall I set this before one hundred men?” He said again, “Give it to the people, that they may eat; for thus says the LORD: ‘They shall eat and have some left over.’ “ 44  So he set it before them; and they ate and had some left over, according to the word of the LORD. 2 Kings 4:42-44 (NKJV)

This is the first example I see in scripture of food being multiplied. My point is not how clever I am in finding this. I have read it more than a few times but never made this connection. When reading it this summer the light went on. Why didn’t I see it before? I didn’t expect to find it here because I knew it only happened in Jesus ministry.

Our expectations tend to set the level of our faith. Look at scripture.

1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

A primary function of faith is bringing reality to things we are hoping for, making them substantive. I am not speaking of some magical process. True faith is tied to expectant hope that is settled and established in our hearts. So, might it be prudent to ask the Holy Spirit to remove the veils from our hearts and minds that keep us from seeing from His perspective?

How are you looking?