The Measure We Use…

The measure we use with God’s Word is the same one He uses for blessings. If we measure out small, incomplete portions of His Word, our blessings come back to us the same way.

You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes. (Haggai 1:6, ESV)

Can’t Do the Law?

Another mask for rich biblical truth is the teaching that we “can’t do the law” as in “we are unable.” You’ve heard it said that if you follow the Law you have to follow it perfectly (citing Galatians 5:3 or James 2:10). Since that is impossible, goes the theory, then the Law must be replaced by the righteousness of Jesus. Again, the Scriptures tell a different story. God tells His people at Sinai that the Law He is proclaiming is not out of reach.

11“For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. 12“It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13“Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14“But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. (Deuteronomy 30:11-14 NASB95)

Paul echoes this principle in Romans 10:1-11. In another place Paul agrees with Moses yet again, and tells us that with Christ all things are possible. “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NASB95.) Jesus wouldn’t have told us we could be perfect (before the resurrection even) unless it was within our grasp.

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48, NASB95)

Our faith (trust and obedience) is counted as righteousness (Romans 4) but we must continue in faith, abiding in every Word from His mouth. It’s not the Law that can’t be done. God’s Word can easily be “done,” or He would not have given it to us. The Law is an easy yoke and a light burden (Matthew 11:25-30). What cannot be done is to earn God’s salvation through following some rules (or Laws). We can’t trade our own righteousness (it is “filthy rags” according to Isaiah 64:6) for salvation. No one can earn enough merit before God to claim any sort of righteous standing sufficient for salvation. Let me say it again: you can’t earn salvation by following the Law. Faith saves; Law pursued as works doesn’t.

Obviously, though, there are Laws we cannot observe. Some of them involve a Temple or a priesthood, which we do not have on earth at the moment. Others involve the administering of penalties. This is mostly impossible now because His body is not a sovereign state recognized by all the other states. At the present time, our kingdom is like leaven working its way through a lump of dough (the earth, Matthew 13:33). We don’t yet have a separate state, with borders and a capital city.

One of the side effects of teaching “we can’t do the law” is that it makes God out to be a sadist. That’s the conclusion if God actually does give us a code we can’t follow. Or we make God out to be a liar, because we create two different teachings that contradict but are supposed to come from God. What we’ve really done with this teaching is to mix truth and error.

Just because there are some things in the Law we can’t do today, or some things we can’t do with the Law, that doesn’t mean what we can do should be left by the wayside. We can take His holidays as our own and forsake the pagan ones. We can go on His diet, which doesn’t include pork and shellfish. We can share His Word and exercise mercy, justice and compassion as much as we are able. In short, there are more things we can do than can’t.

Maturity and the Gifts

One thing I have observed from the Word is that every biblical record of a person exercising the power of the Spirit was a mature believer, who had been in the Word and discipleship for a long time. It seems plain to me from these testimonies that the power of the Spirit comes on the heels of an intimate relationship with the Father fostered by a deep study of, and obedience to, the Word of God. One possible exception is Balaam’s donkey, but she wasn’t a person and I think this just demonstrates that the Father can use any vessel He chooses. And don’t get me started on the puns I can make from this. Ass me no questions and I’ll tell you no lies. Another possible exception might be Cornelius in Acts 10, but it is clear from the context that he has been at it a long time. It doesn’t appear to me from the Word that ‘rookies’ had a great deal to do with relaying the power of God.

Church Dysfunction

I’ve had folks tell me that they and their churches are functioning well without parts of the Bible (or Law). They still don’t look like the first century church, but apparently that’s okay and, well, the missing laws don’t really matter. I’m told any dysfunction I see (or people measure) is a good thing due to welcoming all types with open arms. So of course this book is off base to them; they don’t see anything wrong.

I don’t agree. The mere fact that the whole of the Word is not taught or practiced by the church in general is by itself a huge indicator of building on sand. The facts that discipleship is not effective and the fruit of the Spirit is in short supply are signs that something is not right. If the dysfunction was just from welcoming any sinner, you’d think after a while the old hands would not be as dysfunctional. The fruit of the Spirit would be popping out all over. We’d easily be able to make new Bible disciples, too. But the dysfunction affects long-time attendees the same as new ones. It affects old-line denominations just like newer ones. Based on observation, education, personal experience, other people’s testimony, and professional surveys we need a lot of improvement. We need to repent and get back to the first century church whole Bible practice.

How could anyone be happy with what we’ve got? The church in Acts was full of the fire of the Spirit, growing in love and power and community. The church of today is, um, not so much. The difference is in a whole Bible belief and practice. We still have a little fire, and there are good things being accomplished. We do a good job attracting people with a rock concert or revival, and not so good keeping them going in the faith. We’re great at making decisions for Christ; not so great at making disciples. The people who think everything’s okay are either not paying attention or are like the proverbial frog in a pot of water being slowly brought up to boil (they won’t jump out and will die if you do it slowly enough). I’m sure the people before the flood thought everything was fine. Israel ignored or outright killed prophets for suggesting that all was not right in Jerusalem. The skies were clear over Sodom and Gomorrah the day it rained fire and brimstone too. Some won’t know they’ve got a sandy foundation until the storm hits.

‘Whole Bible Christianity’ chapter 1 A Part Bible Church

What Will You Say?

But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the churches and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness. Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict. You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives. (Luke 21:12–19, ESV)

One word in the above verses has been changed. Can you guess which one it is? And does it make a difference in how you think? Why or why not?

What Do You Want From God?

When you go to a doctor because you are sick, do you want to hear that you are wonderful and special and there’s nothing wrong? Or do you want the straight scoop on what is happening and what you need to do about it?

When you seek the advice of a doctor or nutritionist for health, do you want accurate information about diet and exercise and so on, or do you want to hear how to lose weight on the Krispy Kreme diet?

When you go to God in reading His Word, praying, or listening to a speaker or teacher, what are you seeking? Do you just want reassurance that you’re really okay, and the guilt you feel is just a figment of your imagination? Do you want solutions to the things that are out of whack in your life, or do you just want to feel better about where you are? Are you looking to be challenged out of your complacency and moved to grow towards God, or would you rather hear that you are the focus of God’s plans and God’s Word revolves around how much you are treasured and God loves you just as you are?

What do you want out of God, and what are you prepared to give in order to get it?

Words at a Funeral

Three buddies, David, Solomon and Jacob die in a car crash, God forbid. But they were good Jews so they go to Heaven and are ushered into Heaven’s orientation. They are each asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” David says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” Solomon says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.”

Jacob replies, “I would like to hear them say… LOOK, LOOK! HE’S MOVING!!!”

Continuity Central to Whole Bible Belief

A big issue addressed in the book Whole Bible Christianity is that of continuity. There are those who teach that the Bible is a series of starts and stops in the plan of God. They see Israel and the church separated, the Law stopped and grace started, and so on. Their version of God appears to routinely change His plans because of man’s lack of cooperation. This is called discontinuity.

We see continuity in God’s plan. He doesn’t have a series of starts and stops in His work because He can’t figure out what man is going to do next. He’s always been on top of things, has one plan (He calls it a Promise) one Body, and one faith. That faith is delivered to us in plain language, repeated over and over, hasn’t failed yet, and will not fail. The Body has been around since the beginning and we are privileged to have many outstanding members such as Ruth, Rahab, Noah, David, Daniel, Isaiah, Huldah, Paul, Andrew, Matthew, and all the others named and unnamed. The Promise is Jesus the Messiah, who made possible a reunion (a union broken in the Garden by disobedience) with God by His death and resurrection. The message is clear: abide in His Word and live. Reject it and die.

The only discontinuity is in a break with God. We see discontinuity because it is in our heart. Continuity resumes when we restore our union with Him by His grace through faithful abiding in every word out of His mouth.

Paul’s Conversion

We’ve already figured out that Paul did not convert to Christianity and start writing new commands for a body that was separate from Israel. He was a model of a Law following Jew (chapter 6), and never stopped abiding in His Messiah’s Word. He taught the Law, filled with the Spirit and love, as it was intended – a lifestyle and discipleship method. Many of his teachings have been sliced and diced and taught differently. But when we just read the Word, we can see he held to the ancient, unified message of the Father and Jesus.

Keep three things firmly in mind as you are reading Paul’s writings. One is that he doesn’t downgrade or speak negatively about God’s Law. Ever. Man’s laws on the other hand he’s not so fond of. Two is that the Law was never meant to save anyone. Law was added as a guidepost because of transgressions increasing. Israel was “saved” first then given instruction on living a saved life. Three is that “law” can mean any law including natural law, Roman law, God’s Law, man’s traditions especially Jewish ones, and physical laws. Law is improperly thought of as a legal relationship to earn merit which some think they can trade for salvation.

If you don’t like the Law and have been trained to reject it, then Paul’s writings will look anti-Law. However, if you have a heart of flesh with His Law written on it, then Paul’s writings are easy to understand and easily fit in with the rest of Scripture.

Pentecost 2013

Pentecost is a time for celebrating the gospel given at Mt. Sinai and the Spirit given after the resurrection of the Christ. The good news at Sinai was that God was going to be with us. He gave His Law as part of the preparation. The Spirit accompanies His Law because the Law is truth. God is indeed with us in Truth. Let us celebrate the reversal of the banishment from His presence with His Spirit in a heart of flesh walking in His statutes, keeping His rules, and obeying them.

Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. (Psalm 119:142, ESV)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. (John 14:16–17, ESV)

And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19–20, ESV)