Sin: part 2, what to do about it?

In part one, I defined sin. The sin or righteousness of our deeds is deeper than the surface appearance. This designation–sin or righteousness–is according to which teacher is behind our deeds. The focus of this post has to do with the question “what do we do about sin?” In order to answer that question I will be showing many quotes from various sources on the internet and from the Works of George Fox.

Traditional Christianity answers the question “what are we to do about sin?” as follows:

  1. Sin tempts the best of saints and the godliest commit sin. However, all the sins of believers are imputed to Jesus, and he died for them. God credits Jesus’ righteousness to the believers. (See https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A259/sin-and-what-to-do-about-it)
  2. Reading, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word will help you keep your mind and heart focused on Him, rather than on earthly temptations. (See https://www.godlife.com/en/devotional/5-tips-for-avoiding-sin) [note: by “God’s Word” they mean the Bible.]
  3. Your soul can be free from sin even though your body still sins. Being free from sin on a soul level should mean that you also seek freedom from sin on a physical level…even though it can never be permanently reached. (see https://www.wikihow.com/Be-Free-from-Sin)
  4. [Luther’s “simul justus et peccator”] summarizes and captures the essence of the Reformation view…[W]ith this formula, Luther was saying, in our justification we are one and the same time righteous or just, and sinners…He was saying from one perspective, in one sense, we are just. In another sense, from a different perspective, we are sinners; and how he defines that is simple. In and of ourselves, under the analysis of God’s scrutiny, we still have sin; we’re still sinners. But, by imputation and by faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness is now transferred to our account, then we are considered just or righteous. This is the very heart of the gospel. (see https://www.ligonier.org/blog/simul-justus-et-peccator/)
  5. Justification, moreover, we thus define: The sinner being admitted into communion with Christ is, for his sake, reconciled to God; when purged by his blood he obtains the remission of sins, and clothed with righteousness, just as if it were his own, stands secure before the judgment-seat of heaven. Forgiveness of sins being previously given, the good works which follow have a value different from their merit, because whatever is imperfect in them is covered by the perfection of Christ, and all their blemishes and pollutions are wiped away by his purity, so as never to come under the cognizance of the divine tribunal. The guilt of all transgressions, by which men are prevented from offering God an acceptable service, being thus effaced, and the imperfection which is wont to sully even good works being buried, the good works which are done by believers are deemed righteous, or; which is the same thing, are imputed for righteousness. (The Institutes of Christian Religion by John Calvin, p. 498-499)

The common thread in all the above is that Jesus’ death took care of our guilt, but he is not able to prevent us from sinning. As far as sinning goes, their conclusion is that there is nothing to be done about it until we die. The above statements give Jesus the unusual power of deceiving the Father into seeing righteousness when what I am doing is unrighteousness. This is not good news. This is not the heart of the gospel.

In Lecture 3 of his series on Rediscovering the Teaching of George Fox, Lewis Benson said this about justified sinners:

Mainstream Christianity puts the emphasis on Christ’s priestly office. His saving work is seen as atoning for our sin, forgiving us for sin, and pardoning us for sin…he delivers us from the consequences of sin, but does not deliver us from captivity to sin. By his atoning act on the cross, he reconciles us to God but does not give us the power to overcome sin and temptation. Therefore we will not know victory over sin until we pass into the next world. The theological term for this atoning act of Christ as our priest is “justification,” and a Christian is defined, according to this doctrine, as a justified sinner. It seemed never to occur to John Calvin that the sin of a justified sinner could lead to just as disastrous and tragic personal, social, and historical consequences as the sin of an unjustified sinner. Fox was in revolt against this kind of Christianity. He maintained that Christ also has the power to save us from captivity to sin. When he preached that “Christ has come to teach his people himself,” he was proclaiming that Christ is the expected “prophet like Moses” who is able to teach us what is right and what is wrong, and to give us the power to do the right and reject the wrong. He is able to save us from sin, and not, as the Calvinists maintain, unable to do more than save us from its consequences. (See http://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/407697401?profile=original)

If George Fox was in revolt against the Christianity displayed in numbers 1-5 above, what did he have to say regarding what we are to do about sin?

And dwelling in the light, there is no occasion at all of stumbling, for all things are discovered with the light: thou that lovest it, here is thy teacher; when thou art walking abroad, it is present with thee in thy bosom; thou needest not to say, lo here, or lo there: and as thou liest in thy bed it is present to teach thee, and judge thy wandering mind, which would wander abroad, and thy high thoughts and imaginations, and makes them subject; for following thy thoughts thou art quickly lost. But dwelling in this light, it will discover to thee the body of sin, and thy corruptions, and fallen estate, where thou art, and multitude of thoughts: in that light which shews thee all this, stand, neither go to the right hand, nor to the left: here is patience exercised, here is thy will subjected, here thou wilt see the mercies of God made manifest in death: here thou wilt see the drinking of the waters of Shiloah, which run softly, and the promises of God fulfilled, which are to the seed, which seed is Christ: here thou wilt find a saviour, and the election thou wilt come to know, and the reprobation, and what is cast from God, and what enters: he that can own me here, and receive my testimony into his heart, the immortal seed is born up, and his own will thrust forth, for it is not him that willeth, nor him that runneth, but the election obtaineth it, and God that shews mercy; for the first step of peace is to stand still in the light (which discovers things contrary to it) for power and strength to stand against that nature which the light discovers: here grace grows, here is God alone glorified and exalted, and the unknown truth, unknown to the world, made manifest, which draws up that which lies in the prison, and refresheth it in time, up to God, out of time, through time. (Works of Fox, Vol. IV, pp.17-18)

Right away we see how Fox’s statement differs from 1-5 above. “Dwelling in the light, there is no occasion at all of stumbling…thou that lovest it, here is thy teacher.” Instead of an absentee Christ, he is present with us in his light when we are walking abroad, in our bosom, and when we lie in bed. And rather than the ever loosing battle against sin advocated in numbers 1-5 we are shown the steps of living without sin. “the first step of peace is to stand still in the light (which discovers things contrary to it) for power and strength to stand against that nature which the light discovers…”

Are you hearing this teacher?

Lets look at this from a different angle. Fox also wrote:

And the first Adam was made a living soul, and he died by eating of that which God forbid him, and so all died in Adam; and the last Adam, Christ Jesus, was made a quickening spirit; and it is he that quickens them that be dead in sins and trespasses, and makes them alive; and his grace, which brings salvation, hath appeared to all men, for them to believe in; and he doth enlighten every man that cometh into the world; and he saith, I am the living bread, which came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world’…for, by eating of that which God forbade, came death; and by eating of that which Christ gives and commands, comes life: so they remain in the death for want of believing and eating, who came into death by disobeying and eating. (Works Vol. V, pp. 417-418)

“…by eating of that which Christ gives and commands, comes life.” How do we eat his flesh? Jesus explained to the disciples, “The flesh profits nothing, it is the spirit that gives life. The words I speak to you, these are spirit, these are life.” (See John 6:63)

Are you eating the words of this teacher?

In his letter to Lady Claypool Fox wrote:

This is the word of the Lord God unto you all; what the light doth make manifest and discover, as temptations, distractions, confusions; do not look at the temptations, confusions, corruptions; but at the light which discovers them and makes them manifest; and with the same light you may feel over them, to receive power to stand against them. The same light which lets you see sin and transgression, will let you see the covenant of God, which blots out your sin and transgression, which gives victory and dominion over it, and brings into covenant with God. For looking down at sin, corruption, and distraction, ye are swallowed up in it; but looking at the light, which discovers them, ye will see over them. That will give victory, and ye will find grace and strength; there is the first step to peace. That will bring salvation; and by it ye may see to the beginning, and the ” Glory that was with the Father before the world began;” and come to know the seed of God, which is the heir of the promise of God, and of the world which hath no end; and which bruises the head of the serpent, who stops people from coming to God. That ye may feel the power of an endless life, the power of God which is immortal, which brings the immortal soul up to the immortal God, in whom it doth rejoice. So in the name and power of the Lord Jesus Christ, God Almighty strengthen thee.’ (Works of Fox, Vol. I, pp. 376-377)

Are you looking at the light?

Fox stated in SOME PRINCIPLES OF THE Elect People of God Who in Scorn are called QUAKERS, For all People throughout all Christendome to Read over, and thereby their own States to Consider:

And this Light is within, by which all these things are seen, and you that love this Light, you will see…Christ the Mediator, Christ the Way, the Life, the Wisdom, the Sanctifier, the Redeemer, the Offering for your Sins, and the Sins of the whole World; in that Light you will have the Testimony of it; and so he that believes will have the Testimony and Witness in himself.

And so you all being Enlightened with the Light, receiving it, you receive Christ; you receive not Darkness nor the Prince of Darkness; And as many of you as do receive Christ, to them he will give Power to become the Sons of God; (Mark) you shall have Power through which you shall know Sonship, and not onely [only] to stand against Sin and Evil, but become Sons of God.

…and that is the Light which doth make manifest to every one of you, what you have done, said, thought, and acted, and which doth reprove you; and if you love the Light, ye love Christ, and love your Salvation, and Redeemer, and Sanctifier, and the Offering for Sin, and see him which makes an end of Sin, and destroyes the Devil which brought it in, and his Works, he that destroyes brings in Everlasting Righteousness in you: But…if you hate this Light, and go on in Sin and Evil, that will be your Condemnation; for this Light is with you at your Labours, and in your Beds, and in your Occasions, and Tradings, shewing all your Words and all your Thoughts, Deeds and Actions, which if you love it, it will lead you into the new Life, from the old, out of the Separation, and Degeneration from God his Life, and Image; and with the Light you will see Christ a King to rule you, who hath all Power in Heaven and Earth given to him; And with the Light you will see him a Prophet, to open to you, and a Priest to offer for you to the Father; and in the Light you will see more Light; it shining in your hearts it will give you the Knowledge of the Glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ your Saviour; And with the Light you will see the Kingdom of Heaven within, that never consented to Sin and Evil; like unto a grain of Mustard-seed, the leven that levens into the new lump: And with this Light you will see the Field, which is the World, set in your hearts, where the Pearl is hid, and with what you may dig to find the Pearl, the Power of God; and what you must sell for its sake to purchase the Field. (see http://qhpress.org/texts/gfprinc.html)

Are you loving this light?

These four questions indicate the four stepping stones for dealing with sin. “Are you hearing this teacher? Are you eating the words of this teacher? Are you looking at the light? Are you loving the light?” This process is not a cover-up job as proposed by the teaching of traditional Christianity. Hearing the teacher, feeding on the words of this teacher, looking at the light, and loving the light bring about a transformation of life that can’t be achieved in any other manner. Sin and death–the darkness worked by Satan–are destroyed and thrown out and we begin to live the righteousness of Christ. “Justified” and “sinner” can no longer dwell side by side. The sinner cannot be held “innocent” (i.e. justified), for the light that shows the sinner his sin shows the way out of sin, and is his condemnation if it is not followed. The heart of the gospel is the power of God through the presence of Christ, which works actual righteousness within us rather than imputing to us something that is not deserved. The heart of the gospel is available to all through the light of Christ that enlightens everyone.

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Sin: part 1, what is it?

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matt. 7:21-23)

Much of the “theology of sin” has to do with what we do. Taking that view, there are right deeds and wrong deeds. OK, is casting out devils in Jesus’ name a right deed or a wrong deed, a work of iniquity, a sin?

If you look on the internet at the definitions of sin given by various organizations, you get answers such as:

Sin is described in the Bible as transgression of the law of God (1 John 3:4) and rebellion against God (Deuteronomy 9:7; Joshua 1:18). (GotQuestions.org)

Sin is a riddle, a mystery, a reality that eludes definition and comprehension. Perhaps we most often think of sin as wrongdoing or transgression of God’s law. Sin includes a failure to do what is right. But sin also offends people; it is violence and lovelessness toward other people, and ultimately, rebellion against God. (biblestudytools.com)

The Christian definition of sin is purposely disobeying the rules of God (1 John 3:4). (crosswalk.com)

Sin is a transgression, an iniquity, an unrighteous act. Sin is a deviation from the will of God. It is a form of evildoing since it is in opposition to God’s decrees and desires. Sin is not…merely a deficiency. (carm.org)

The truth is that sin, as defined in the original translations of the Bible, means “to miss the mark.” (allaboutgod.com)

All these definitions have to do with our deeds. Look again at Jesus’ statement above. Sin has more to do with our ears than with our hands; with our teacher than with our deeds. Yes, there are deeds, but the deeds have their rise in the teacher. The righteousness or the sin comes not with the deeds but with the teacher of those deeds. Look at Eve who sought for the knowledge of good. God’s teaching was “You can eat from every tree of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. I alone am the source of the knowledge of good.” Satan’s teaching was ” Eat. You can be your own source of the knowledge of good. You can be your own God.” Look at Cain who sought contentment and happiness. God’s teaching was “sin is crouching at your door, you must overcome it. Then you will find happiness and contentment. Satan’s teaching was “kill Abel. That will solve your problems.”

Most of Christendom looks at the Bible as God’s rule book, a written standard by which we are to live. Sin, therefore, is judged by comparing our behavior to these rules. Usually the rules begin with the 10 commandments. However, the first commandment God gave to the Israelites is not one of the 10. First, God said:

Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6)

Jeremiah puts that command this way,

“…in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them, ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.'” (Jer. 7:22-23)

The Hebrew word translated as “obey” has connotations of both “hear” and “obey.” It is a living relationship rather than a static follow-these-rules command. After establishing this dialogic relationship, God gave the 10 commandments beginning with:

“Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Notice the conjunction of “obey my voice” with “I will be your God” in the Jeremiah passage above. This is the condition, and no other, upon which the Creator will be your God. “You shall have no other Gods before me” means you shall not hear/obey any other voice.

Sin comes into the picture when we hear/obey the wrong teacher, when we fail to hear/obey The Word who was in the beginning, the Creator who speaks to his people without measure.

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Because… Part 2 of The Fundamental Theorem of Our Existence

What does it mean to be a creature?

In part one I looked at the two-fold foundation of what it means to be human–a living being created in the image of God. That foundational law of our being is: (a) our dialogic relationship with God is the only source of experientially knowing good, and (b) without this experiential knowledge we can’t be living beings. I also touched on the serpent’s temptation of Eve, noting that this temptation reveals what it means for the Creator to be our God and what it means for us to be creatures. (The tempter was striking at the foundation of our humanity.) These are the two areas that define the covenant between Creator and creature. One of the primary functions of the Creator is to teach righteousness–right behavior–to the creature. Look again at George Fox’s statement concerning the three states and three teachers that I quoted in part 1. The corresponding obligation of the creature is to hear and follow the teacher. This hearing and willingness to obey should be uppermost in the lives of individuals and in the church as a whole, but the temptation of the serpent was, and still is, to disregard this obligation.

In looking at what it means to be a creature, I want to examine George Fox’s letter To all the Kings, Princes, and Governors in the whole world: and all that profess themselves Christians, and others, to read and consider. In this letter he states:

So now Christ is come, and you that are called christians will confess him; but how does he exercise his offices in you, or amongst you? (Works of Fox, Vol. V, p.319)

Here is an obvious disparity between the role of the Creator to teach and Christendom’s fulfillment of their obligation to hear and willingly obey. The whole of Christendom will declare that Christ has come, as much in our day as in Fox’s. But, for the most part, they do not have a Christ whose function is to teach them righteousness, who is to be experienced within them and among them in all his offices or functions. For them, Christ came to die and will return sometime in the future to transport all believers to heaven.

If we continue reading Fox’s letter, he goes on to list specific offices (or functions) of Christ and the obligation of those who would follow him.

His office, as he is a counsellor; do you hear his voice from heaven, concerning your heavenly state: his office, as he is a leader to lead you out of sin and evil, and to rule in your hearts by faith, as a commander: his office, as he is a shepherd, are you his sheep? and do ye hear his voice? for Christ saith, I am the good shepherd, and give my life for the sheep: and again, I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and I am known of mine.
And he calleth his sheep by name, and leadeth them out; and when he hath put forth his sheep, he goeth before them; and his sheep follow him, for they know his voice.
Now consider, doth Christ exercise this office of a shepherd amongst you? do you follow him? do ye know his voice? and doth he lead you in and out into his pastures of life? or do ye know the voice of the hireling and stranger, and follow them? which his sheep will not.

The offices of counsellor, commander, and shepherd are offices where Christ begins to deal directly with individuals and the corporate body as a whole. These, like all the other offices, are not optional experiences that the Christian can choose or not choose according to what suits his preferences. The counsellor’s voice apprises you of your heavenly state–an absolute must if you are going to enter the kingdom of God. The commander’s commands bring you out of sin and evil and establishes his rule in your hearts by faith. The shepherd’s life is the sheep’s life. Kill the shepherd and you kill the sheep. Our shepherd is an everlasting shepherd with everlasting life. The shepherd’s voice guides the sheep to the pastures of life and to the the springs of living water.

Fox went on to ask:

[H]ow doth Christ exercise his office, as he is a bishop…
[H]ow does Christ exercise his office, as he is a priest amongst you…
[H]ow do ye feel Christ exercising his office as a prophet amongst you…
[H]ow doth he exercise his kingly office amongst you, or in you…
[M]ust people look any where else, but to Jesus the heavenly and spiritual man, to be the author and finisher of their faith…

The benefits to be gained by Christ exercising these offices in and among us are the very fabric our creaturehood. By virtue of these offices we are apprised of our heavenly state, we are led out of sin, we have life and feed in the pastures of life, we are overseen such that we remain living and untainted, we are washed and presented pure to the Father, we are guided in all things, the Father is revealed to us, we are made to understand all that pertains to life, we have a living foundation to build on, we have a ruler ruling in our hearts whose power is greater than the power of the world, and we have a faith that is written and perfected in the heart–a faith that overcomes the world.

So, where are you sitting, individually and corporately, regarding all these functions of Christ? Hear again Fox’s question, “how does he exercise his office in you, or amongst you?” One response I have repeatedly seen to such a question amounts to, “Well, why do I need to experience Christ in all his offices?”

In Vol. I, p.365, Fox listed seven things people could sit down in:

First, they that sit down in Adam in the fall, sit down in misery, in death, in darkness and corruption.

This is a common table around which many sit and feed.

Secondly, they that sit down in the types, figures, and shadows, and under the first priesthood, law, and covenant, sit down in that which must have an end, and which made nothing perfect.

At this table we find seated those who have decided that a strict adherence to all the precepts of the Old Testament Scriptures are the sure way to gain entrance into the kingdom of God.

Thirdly, they that sit down in the apostacy, that hath got up since the apostles’ days, sit down in spiritual Sodom and Egypt; and are drinking of the whore’s cup, under the beast and dragon’s power.

Filling the chairs around this table are all those who put their faith in religion. Whether it is the Christian religion or some other, it makes no difference.

Fourthly, they that sit down in the state in which Adam was before he fell, sit down in that which may be fallen from; for he fell from that state, though it was perfect.

This is an agitated table with unstable chairs.

Fifthly, they that sit down in the prophets, sit down in that which must be fulfilled: and they that sit down in the fellowship of water, bread, and wine, these being temporal things, they sit down in that which is short of Christ, and of his baptism.

This is a table of hunger and profession that does not satiate. The pretense can offer no life.

Sixthly, to sit down in a profession of all the scriptures, from Genesis to the Revelations, and not be in the power and spirit which those were in that gave them forth; that was to be turned away from, by them that came into the power and spirit which those were in that gave forth the scriptures.

This is a table surrounded by deceitful chairs for you never know if what you perceived will be substantial. Your seat could be blown away by the next wind of doctrine.

Seventhly, they that sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, sit down in him that never fell, nor ever changed. Here is the safe sitting for all his elect, his church, his spiritual members, of which he is the living head, his living stones, the household of faith; of which house he is the corner-stone, that stands and abides all weathers.

So, why is it important to experience Jesus Christ in all his offices? Because the organization whose purpose is something other than waiting for and experiencing Christ, the head, is not the church. They have become gods in their own eyes and follow after the serpent, their teacher.

Experiencing Jesus Christ in and among us fulfilling his various functions is what it means to “sit down in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This is the restoration of our creaturehood, the fulfillment of our obligation in the heavenly covenant. (And he breathed into us The Word of Life and man became living beings.) Experiencing Jesus Christ in and among us fulfilling these various functions is the foundation of the people of God of which Christ is the living, active head.

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Why? Part 1, the Fundamental Theorem of Our Existence

And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens. (Matt. 18:2-3)

By the time we reach adulthood, asking “why?” has been beaten out of us, either by intent or by circumstance. But of all the characteristics of children, this insatiable questioning forms the basis of entering into the kingdom of God. Why? Look at Isaiah’s prescription of entering God’s favor:

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

This is the beginning of the created relationship between creature and Creator, learner and teacher.

In The Beginning

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” THE important fact of this whole story of the creation is found in the account of the temptation of Eve by the Serpent. The temptation to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a non-trivial matter, it strikes at the heart of what it means to be created in the image of God. In this temptation we come to understand what it means for the Creator to be our God and what it means to be a creature.

The account begins with the statement:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die. (Gen. 2:16-17)

Why?

The usual answer is “man died because they disobeyed God.” But there is something more profound here than a wrath filled God dishing out just rewards. If God had said “in the day you step off this cliff you will die,” we would merely observe, “gravity.” At stake is a law just as fundamental as the law of gravity. The serpent’s temptation was not about gaining the knowledge of good and evil. Man had access to this before eating the fruit. Rather the temptation was about becoming Gods in our own eyes.

The profound, non-trivial, fundamental law at issue in this temptation is two fold: (a) our dialogic relationship with God is the only source of experientially knowing good, and (b) without this experiential knowledge we can’t be living beings. When man yielded to the serpent, they turned away from hearing God as the source of knowing good. All else is evil. When they listened to the serpent, they attempted to become Gods in their own eyes, they became their own source of knowing good, which will not support their created condition of living beings. They “stepped off the cliff” and they died.

This is the pit man is in. We don’t know what is good. Without this knowledge, we can’t be righteous, we can’t be living beings. Our own wisdom, our own sense of what is right, cannot make us alive. On the strength of that wisdom and that righteousness, we cannot climb out of the pit. The walls give way beneath our feet and we are back at the bottom.

It is in this scene of trying to climb out of the pit that we need to hear what the Psalmist states:

Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the heathen. I will be exalted in all the earth. (Psalms 46:10)

BE still, stop struggling. BE STILL, stop telling yourself what is good. BE STILL, STOP being your own God.

Much of Christendom’s approach is, and has been, to proffer a solution that gaurantees you a comfortable “pit experience.” George Fox’s thumbnail sketch of the gospel given him to preach, “Christ is come to teach his people himself,” is a message to people in the pit showing the way out. How are we to escape when we can’t climb the walls? How are we to become living beings? Christ is come to teach you. He is the teacher of righteousness, whose teaching comes with the power to obey. He is the teacher, whose words are the creational breath that makes man living beings. He is the Creator, the Word made flesh to dwell among us.

What does it mean to have the Creator as our God?

George Fox wrote:

So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:’ and who himself saith, ‘Learn of me (i.e. learn from me).’ This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, ‘Learn of me,’ and of whom the Father said, ‘Hear ye him,’ said, ‘I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.’ So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood. (Works of Fox, Vol. II, p. 144)

The first and foremost effect of the one and only true God being your God is living in this inward, direct teaching. All else flows from here. Living in his teaching is your source of life, your source of holiness within and your source of righteous behavior outwardly. Most of Christendom looks to scripture to provide the necessary rules and regulations for living a life pleasing to God, yet from the beginning God’s mandated order is to be received from this teacher/disciple relationship. God’s first commandment to the newly freed Israelites was:

Now therefore, if you will hear/obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then you shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people… (Exodus 19:5)

And to echo that command, Moses reminded the people saying,

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God shall man live. (Deut. 8:3)

This refrain, “hear/obey my voice” runs throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. The seriousness of this refrain can be found in Isaiah’s account of the despised, unesteemed Messiah (Isaiah 53).

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

This is the picture of sheep without a shepherd, of humanity without the living God. In turning from the living God, mankind creates a pantheon of other gods–stones, trees, religious institutions, states, and themselves above all else. This is the iniquity of us all that is laid upon the Messiah.

Why “hear my voice?” Why not “these are the statutes of the law, the commandments, do them?” The law does not work on the inside, on the heart. No one is made alive by outward conformity to the law of Moses, the rituals and prescriptions of Christianity, or any other law. Jesus said,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:24-25)

Paul said that the letter (or the law) kills, the spirit gives life. (See 2 Cor. 3:6) Jesus said “the spirit gives life” and he then proceeded to define “spirit”: “the words I speak to you, these are spirit, these are life.” (See John 6:63)

These passages give a glimpse of what might be called the fundamental theorem of our being. In my next post I will look at how that fundamental theorem operates, or in other words what it means to be a creature.

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Salvation: Part IV

Hear the word of the LORD…give ear unto the law of our God…To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?…When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?…Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth…when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land… (Isiah 1:10-19, much abreviated)

God’s call to council, “come let us reason together,” not particular beliefs about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, is where salvation begins. You can ‘believe all the right things’ regarding Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, but unless you live by hearing his voice speaking to you in your heart, you have no salvation. George Fox’s statement, “Christ is come to teach his people himself,” sums up all Isaiah stated in the above quotation. Take each statement beginning with, “Wash you, make you clean” and ending with, “let us reason together” and ask “How am I to do this? The answer is “Christ is come to teach his people himself.” Can you cease to do evil and learn to do well without Christ’s teaching? No, you only know good from evil by Christ teaching you in your heart. Can you do any of the other things Isaiah admonished his hearers to do without Christ teaching you what is to be done? No, he alone is the judgment, he is the relief that brings release to the oppressed. He is the Word made flesh through whom we reason together with God.

All this portrays God as one who reveals himself to humanity. This is the profound significance of the prologue to the book of John. We are to know him by direct experience rather than by hearsay (or ‘readsay’). The purpose of this experience is that in this relationship of revelation and response we are made living beings, we are taught what to do and what to leave alone, which amounts to being taught how to continue to be living beings. In this relationship we are clothed in the light and life. Apart from this relationship, mankind is compelled to “stitch together fig leaves” in an effort to hide their nakedness, their loss of the garment of the image of God.

Now, some may object, saying, “What about Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection? Aren’t those critical components of God’s plan of salvation?” If Christ is your teacher, can you trust him to teach you what is necessary to know and do concerning salvation? Will he lead you down the wrong theological path? If Christ is not your teacher, what good is acceptance of historical facts? Yes, Jesus was crucified on a Roman cross outside the gates of Jerusalem. Yes, Jesus rose from the dead because through death he overcame him who had the power of death. But these facts will give you no benefit unless you take up your own cross. Can you die to self unless you encounter Christ who calls you to follow him? Here you must either continue to be your own god or willingly yield authority over your life to the Creator. Can you rise to life any other way than to hear his voice and in obedience to that voice, step out of your grave?

There are many who attempt to come to life some other way. Jesus chided those Jews who searched the scriptures thinking that in them they would come to life. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647, declared that God does not reveal himself nor give knowledge of his will, necessary for salvation, to people in any other way than through scripture. David F. Watson, Acadamic Dean and professor of New Testament at United Theological Seminary, has stated that apart from Scripture and tradition, “we cannot know who Jesus is. We cannot comprehend how we should properly relate to God, including how we should live, and the kinds of behaviors that separate us from God. We cannot understand what salvation is…Without divine revelation mediated to us through Scripture and tradition, we don’t know who we are.” (See https://davidfwatson.me/2019/01/28/on-the-authority-of-scripture/)

Those words, to which the Jews looked, to which the 1647 assembly of Divines and the 2019 statement of David Watson point, those words are a testimony to Christ come to teach his people and this teaching brings salvation and life.

This is the crux of Psalm 14:1, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” This is not talking about the atheist who has examined the evidence put forth by Christendom and declared it to be foolishness. The greater fool is the one who professes belief but neither comes to nor abides in the council of God.

Jesus stated: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” (Matt. 7:21) This “doing the will of my Father” is made possible by sitting in council with God, by experiencing Christ come to teach you. Reading the Bible and trying to follow its precepts are not the same thing as hearing and obeying Christ speaking to you. A self imposed “taking up your cross” and “dying to self” is nothing more than self deception, self is still god.

Jesus told the Jews who believed in him, “If you abide in my teaching you are truly my disciples, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31, my paraphrase). Here is the answer to the question posed in Psalms 15, “Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill?” The Psalmist answered, “He that walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” (Psalms 15:1-2) The only way to know the truth, as Jesus pointed out is to abide in his teaching. The only way to speak truth in your heart, is to walk in obedience to Christ teaching you in your heart. Only thus can you abide in the Lord’s tabernacle.

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Salvation: Part III

In Part II I looked at Fox’s exposition concerning three estates and three teachers wherein he declared that by following the serpent’s teaching, mankind entered the fallen estate. By following Jesus Christ’s teaching, we are brought up out of the fall into the state of Adam and Eve before the fall and into a higher state in Christ Jesus who never fell.

In Part III I am continuing to explore the answer to the question, “How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart that is reflected in life?” In this section, I am asking “How do we encounter Jesus Christ’s teaching?” In Edward Burrough’s introduction to Vol. III of the Works of George Fox, he specifically points out how we encounter this teaching, and he points to its consequences.

And after our long seeking the Lord appeared to us, and revealed his glory in us, and gave us of his spirit from heaven, and poured it upon us, and gave us of his wisdom to guide us, whereby we saw all the world, and the true state of things, and the true condition of the church in her present estate. First the Lord brought us by his power and wisdom, and the word by which all things were made, to know and understand, and see perfectly, that God had given to us, every one of us in particular, a light from himself shining in our hearts and consciences; which light, Christ his son, the saviour of the world, had lighted every man withal; which light in us we found sufficient to reprove us, and convince us of every evil deed, word, and thought, and by it, in us, we came to know good from evil, right from wrong, and whatsoever is of God, and according to him, from what is of the devil, and what was contrary to God in motion, word, and works. (Works of George Fox, 1831, Vol. III:11-12)

The realization of Burrough’s statement was seen as impossible, absolutely out of the question. Burrough wrote this introduction sometime around 1659. As early as 1647, with the publication of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the established church had gone on record saying:

Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare…His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased. (Opening paragraph of the Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647)

Not only was Edward Burrough declaring the Westminster Confession of Faith to be false, he portrayed a group of people living this testimony that Christ Jesus speaks directly to people, giving them life, and making them conformable to his will.

And this light gave us to discern between truth and error, between every false and right way, and it perfectly discovered to us the true state of all things; and we thereby came to know man, what he was in his creation before transgression, and how he was deceived and overcome by the devil, and his estate in transgression, and in disobedience, and how he is driven and banished from the presence of the Lord…And also by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration, and the means by which to be restored, and the state of man when come out of transgression and restored. (Fox, Vol. III:12.)

The usual answer for how we are to know about “restoration and the means by which to be restored” is “read the Bible.” Look again at Edward Burrough’s statement, “by the light in us, we perfectly came to know the way of restoration.” He is not saying “we came to know about restoration.” “We perfectly came to know the WAY of restoration” is a statement of experience. They came to be restored and they knew the means by which that was accomplished and will be accomplished.

These things to us were revealed by the light within us, which Christ had given us, and lighted us withal…And also as our minds became turned, and our hearts inclined to the light which shined in every one of us, the perfect estate of the church we came to know…So that all these things concerning man, and concerning the times and seasons, and the changing and renewing of times, and all things that pertain to salvation, and redemption, and eternal life, needful for man to know, all these were revealed, discovered, and made known to us, by the light which was in us, which Christ had lighted us withal. (ibid.)

And we found this light to be a sufficient teacher, to lead us to Christ, from whence this light came, and thereby it gave us to receive Christ, and to witness him to dwell in us; and through it the new covenant we came to enter into, to be made heirs of life and salvation. And in all things we found the light which we were enlightened withal, (which is Christ,) to be alone and only sufficient to bring to life and eternal salvation; and that all who did own the light in them which Christ hath enlightened every man withal, they needed no man to teach them, but the Lord was their teacher, by his light in their own consciences, and they received the holy anointing. (ibid. 12-13

The consequences of turning to Christ’s light within as their only teacher was that they gathered for the express purpose of experiencing Christ Jesus in their midst to teach and lead them. A partial listing of what happened includes:

  • We ceased from the teachings of all men, their words, their worships, their temples, their baptisms and churches
  • We ceased from our own words, professions, practices in religion
  • We were led out of all false ways, false preachings, from false ministers
  • We met together often, and waited upon the Lord in pure silence, hearkened to the voice of the Lord, felt his word in our hearts to burn up and beat down all that was contrary to God
  • We obeyed the light of Christ in us, and followed the motions of the Lord’s pure Spirit
  • We took up the cross to all earthly glories, crowns, and ways, and denied ourselves, our relations, and all that stood in the way betwixt us and the Lord
  • We chose to suffer with and for the name of Christ, rather than enjoy all the pleasures upon earth, or all our former zealous professions and practices in religion without the power and spirit of God, which the world yet lives in. And while waiting upon the Lord in silence, as often we did for many hours together:

We received often the pouring down of … God’s holy eternal spirit as in the days of old, and our hearts were made glad, and our tongues loosed, and our mouths opened, and we spake with new tongues, as the Lord gave us utterance, and as his spirit led us, which was poured down upon us, on sons and daughters. And to us hereby were the deep things of God revealed, and things unutterable were known and made manifest; and the glory of the Father was revealed, and then began we to sing praises to the Lord God Almighty, and to the Lamb for ever, who had redeemed us to God, and brought us out of the captivity and bondage of the world, and put an end to sin and death; and all this was by and through, and in the light of Christ within us. (ibid.)

Salvation begins and ends in hearing and obeying the voice of Christ Jesus as he speaks to us in his light within. It is not an event that happens in a moment, such that you can write a date on a piece of paper stating “I was saved on __ date. Rather it is a lifetime of living in dialogue with our Creator.

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Salvation: Part II

In Part I, I looked at some of the writings of Paul and considered what they had to say concerning man’s problem and God’s solution (salvation) to that problem. I noted Paul’s statement that man’s problem is death and God’s solution is an influence on the heart that brings life. I asked the question, “How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart (i.e. God’s grace)?

In part II, I want to examine a passage from the Works of Fox, which pertains to the answer to this question.

…I was moved to declare of three estates and three teachers, viz. ‘God was the first teacher of man and woman in paradise; and as long as they kept to and under his teaching, they kept in the image of God, in his likeness, in righteousness and holiness, and in dominion over all that God had made; in the blessed state, in the paradise of God. But when they hearkened to the serpent’s false teaching, (who was out of truth,) disobeyed God, and obeyed the serpent, in feeding upon that which God forbade; they lost the image of God, the righteousness and holiness, came under the power of satan, and were turned out of paradise, out of the blessed into the cursed state. Then the promise of God was, “That the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head,” break his power that man and woman were under, and destroy his works. So here were three states and three teachers. God was the first teacher in paradise; and whilst man kept under his teaching, he was happy. The serpent was the second teacher; and when man followed his teaching he fell into misery, into the fall from the image of God, righteousness, and holiness, and from the power that he had over all that God had made; and came under the serpent whom he had power over before. Christ Jesus was the third teacher; of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him:” and who himself saith, “Learn of me.” This is the true gospel-teacher, who bruises the head of the serpent the false teacher, and the head of all false teachers and false religions, false ways, false worships, and false churches. Christ, who said, “Learn of me,” and of whom the Father said, “Hear ye him,” said, “I am the way to God, I am the truth, I am the life, and the true light.”

Pause a moment and remember what Jesus told the people who believed what he spoke in the temple, “If you abide in my word [or in my teaching] then you are indeed my disciples; you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” (See John 8:31-32) I have had people tell me: “…Christ died on the cross to make them [man] right with God rather than the idea in religion that man is acceptable to God purely by obeying the commandments or even of listening to Christ within and doing what He says.” If you can’t trust what Jesus teaches you to make you “right with God”, then you can’t say you believe in him. Your belief is in something else: a body of doctrine, a theological framework, the “wisdom of the ancients” (Moses in this case), or whatever it may be. God has ceased to be your source of knowledge of good and evil, and you have become your own god. The antidote, as Fox described is:

So as man and woman come to God, and are renewed up into his image, righteousness, and holiness by Christ, thereby they come into the paradise of God, the state which man was in before he fell; and into a higher state than that, to sit down in Christ who never fell. Therefore, the Son of God is to be heard in all things, who is the Saviour and the Redeemer; who hath laid down his life, and bought his sheep with his precious blood.

If you have ever had a course in chemistry, you will perhaps recall how certain chemical reactions are reversible. A + B yields C plus a certain amount of energy. The process can be reversed by taking C and adding energy getting a return to A and B.

In like manner, Fox is detailing how mankind is to be returned to our state before the fall and to a state more stable than that. Man enters the fallen state by listening to the wrong teacher. We are returned to the image of God by following Christ, the teacher whose voice we are to hear in all things. These “all things” include Jesus Christ’s various functions or offices within and among us.

Who hath any thing to say against our way? our Saviour? our Redeemer? our prophet, whom God hath raised up that we may hear, and whom we must hear in all things? who hath any thing against our shepherd Christ Jesus, who leads and feeds us, and we know his heavenly voice? who hath any thing against our bishop, in whose mouth was never guile found, who doth oversee us in his pasture of life, that we do not go astray out of his fold? who hath any thing against our priest, Christ Jesus, made higher than the heavens, who gives us freely, and commands us to give freely? who hath any thing to say against our leader and counsellor, Christ Jesus, who never sinned, but is holy, harmless, and separate from sinners? God hath commanded us to hear him, and he saith, “Learn of me;” and if we should disobey God’s and Christ’s command, we should be like our father Adam and mother Eve, who disobeyed God’s command, and hearkened to the serpent’s teaching…

John 3:16 is often quoted as a key to understanding salvation: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (See John 3:16) However, these quoters seldom clarify what that “belief” is. Is it merely mental acknowledgment of his life on Earth, his death on the cross, and his resurrection?

And whereas, some have objected, “That although Christ did speak both to his disciples and to the Jews in the days of his flesh, yet since his resurrection and ascension he doth not speak now;” the answer is, as God did then speak by his Son in the days of his flesh, so the Son, Christ Jesus, doth now speak by his spirit. Wherefore, John saith in the Revelations, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches.” Rev. ii. “And Christ is said to speak from heaven.” Heb. xii. 25. “See that ye refuse not him that speaketh; for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven.” They that resisted Moses’ law (who spake on earth,) died for it without mercy, which was a natural death; but they that refuse him that speaks from heaven, neglect and slight their own salvation, and so die a spiritual death through unbelief and hardness of heart.

Many who quote the John 3:16 passage are referring to Jesus’ death on the cross. Their “belief” does not encompass a living, present teacher, whose salvation is based on today hearing his voice. Belief that results in life flows from the experience of being taught, of encountering Christ Jesus in these offices Fox is pointing at.

Therefore was the exhortation given of old, “To-day, if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation,” &c. Heb. iii. 15, &c. They, who neglect or refuse to hear the voice of Christ now speaking from heaven in this his gospel-day, harden their hearts. Therefore let all mark well these three states and teachers: the God of truth was the first teacher, while man was in paradise and in innocence. The serpent was the second teacher, the false teacher, who by his false teaching came to be the god of the world which lies in wickedness. Christ Jesus, that bruises the serpent’s head, is the third teacher, who saith, “Learn of me;” of whom God saith, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, hear ye him;” and of whom the testimony of the saints of old was, “That God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son.” Thus they, that come to be renewed up again into the divine heavenly image in which man was at first made, will know the same God, that was the first teacher of Adam and Eve in paradise, to speak to them now by his Son, who changes not; glory be to his name for ever!’ (All the above quotations from Fox are taken from Fox’s Works, Vol. II, pp. 144-146)

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Salvation: Part I

In his recent post, The Felt Need Of Salvation That Drives Many To Seek A Savior, John Jeremiah Edminster opened a subject that is replete with contradiction. If you browse the shelves of bookstores or look on the internet, you will find a widely varying body of theologies purporting to be supported by cited scripture, the texts of which often have little or no connection to their argument.

One of the most used portions of scripture is from Romans 3:10-18, quoted below.

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. [Psalms 14:3] Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; [Psalms 5:9] the poison of asps is under their lips [Psalms 140:3]: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness [Psalms 10:7]: Their feet are swift to shed blood [Proverbs 1:16]: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known [Isaiah 59:7-8]: There is no fear of God before their eyes [Psalms 36:1].

This scripture contains phrases that Paul pulled from various portions of the old testament [see my bracketed citations] to make his point that mankind can only find righteousness in a dynamic relationship with Jesus, the Christ. Often this Romans 3 passage is used to establish the doctrine of the total depravity of humans, but it will not serve their purpose. If you look at all the passages Paul quotes, they all are used to distinguish the righteous from the unrighteous. Take, for example, the passage from Psalms 14. It begins with the statement that “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God.'” It continues with the description of the fool’s condition. Then we come to this: “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous.” (verses 4-5) If, as some contend, there are no righteous people, then the psalmist could not have referred to the wicked eating the Lord’s people nor God being in the generation of the righteous.

Paul’s point has nothing to do with depravity or degeneration. Rather it is a fundamental statement concerning humanity. Righteousness is, always has been, and always will be a condition dependent upon hearing and following the voice of our creator. The fool who says in his heart, “There is no God,” is the one who behaves independent of or indifferent to this relationship of dialog regardless of what professions come out of the mouth.

Our idea of salvation depends upon our concept of what we need to be saved from. So our first task must be to define humanity’s overarching problem. Then we can understand God’s solution. Another often quoted text comes from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians:

Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus…Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Far above all principality, and power, and might, 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 gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all. And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience…But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: (Eph. 1:15-2:6)

First, note the malady Paul names: “who were dead in trespasses and sins…ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Humanity’s problem is that we are dead because we walked according to the course of this world according to the price of the power of the air. Much of what you hear and read from Christianity focuses on Christ being able to pardon our sins. But our problem is that we are dead and a posthumous pardon will not make us alive.

What is the solution to which Paul pointed the Ephesians? Through the mighty power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection we are quickened (made alive). Then comes this parenthetical phrase “by grace ye are saved.” This phrase is bandied about quite a lot, but what does it mean? Many places state that grace is God’s unmerited favor. But according to Strong’s Greek dictionary that phrase should read “by the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life, ye are saved.” The “exceeding greatness of his power” is this divine influence we encounter in the heart. That divine influence comes by the power of Christ Jesus’ resurrection. When we were dead in sin, Christ entered into death, overcame him who had the power of death, and preached deliverance to us captives of death. Those who receive his reproofs and guidance are quickened together with Christ, for by his influence upon our heart we are saved. We are raised up together with Christ and made to sit with him in heavenly places. This is Paul’s prescription of salvation to the Ephesians.

Consider Paul’s statement to Titus:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Again Paul brings us to this divine influence upon the heart that is reflected in life which brings salvation to all who will hear and follow its teaching.

So the question comes, and this is one of the most important questions one can ask: How are we to encounter this divine influence upon the heart?

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The Bush Is Still Burning

The following first appeared on Reddit . This post has been slightly revised, incorporating some of the comments. To see the original, follow the link above.

One of the enduring Bible stories of my youth is the story of Moses and the burning bush. That story came to me again as Dan Davenport and I sat “together” in worship via conference phone call. You may recall how Moses was herding sheep when he saw a bush burning but not being consumed. When he came near, God spoke to him out of the bush saying, “Moses, put off your shoes. The ground you are standing on is holy ground.” The story goes on with God sending Moses back to Egypt to bring about the liberation of the Israelite slaves and their subsequent journey to the land of Caanan. Because most of the Israelites refused to go into Canaan when they got there (basically saying, “There are giants in the land. Why did God send us here to perish at the hands of giants?”), Moses led them in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation had perished. The remarkable statement that during that 40 years their shoes did not wear out, has been something that has stayed in my mind for as long as I can remember.

Now that statement has a different significance looked at in the light of the burning bush and God commanding Moses, “Take off your shoes…” For 40 years this people’s shoes protected them from standing barefoot on God’s holy ground. When you stand barefoot on God’s holy ground there is no insulation, no barrier, between you and the effects of meeting God on his turf. Moses is looked at as one of the great men of history because of all that he did. But what he really did was to take off his shoes. The rest is the work of God through him.

The bush is still burning. Can you see it? The bush is still burning and the voice of God is still calling. Are your shoes on or off?

What is it in today’s society, in everyday life, that represents shoes? Sin?

‘Shoes’ are whatever it is that keeps us from being willing, first and foremost, to listen for and follow the light of Christ within. That could be what Christianity calls sin. It could also be all the trappings of the Christian religion. Taking off our shoes is equivalent to saying “not my will but yours be done.” Living without shoes is a life of dynamic consultation with Christ. When Moses left the burning bush, he did not leave the holy ground behind him. Having removed our shoes, the holy ground now comes to be within.

What can be done to ‘take of our shoes’?

The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth. (Psalms 110:1-3, KJV)

“Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power…” The day of the Lord’s power comes in the light of Christ within us that would teach us the right way to live and will reprove us when we ignore it. When George Fox began preaching this message in the late 1640s, that the light of Christ is indeed the power of God, the priests and people scoffed saying the light was insignificant, natural, weak, etc. (read the opening paragraph of the 1647 Westminster Confession of Faith, which most of modern Christendom considers foundational). However, those who accepted what Fox had to say and followed the dictates of Christ’s light were thereby made into the people of God against which the gates of Hell could not stand.

The key to ‘taking off your shoes’ is not a matter of gritting your teeth, resolving “I am going to do this right.” Rather it begins in the encounter with the light that leads to the life that is in the Word who was in the beginning (see John 1:1). Saying “yes” to those promptings and reproofs brings us out of acting in our own strength and our own wisdom, which I have found to be insufficient. Saying “yes” to the light enables us to stand when our own legs would collapse, because then we are acting under the power of the Lord. This, also, I have found to be true.

For further information, look at Fox’s To All That Would Know the Way to the Kingdom and Edward Burrough’s introduction to Vol. III of Fox’s Works for further insights.

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Through the Lens of Passover: Part 11

We now reach a dividing line that separates two opposite flowing theologies. These both center on who Jesus is AND how he saves man. The dividing line is between the necessity, or not, of a present Christ.

When we look at most of Christendom’s theology concerning the crucifixion and resurrection we see that it comes from their understanding of the writings ascribed to Paul. With that understanding comes the concept of salvation I quoted in post # 2 of this series, which is based entirely on Jesus’ crucifixion:

Salvation is the result of confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died so that our sins are forgiven, thereby reconciling us to God, the Father. We believe, we confess, that’s it. Salvation resides in Jesus plus nothing. That is, we need nothing except to believe in Jesus Christ and our fellowship with God is restored. What follows is an intimate life with God forever. If hearing His voice is a necessary condition of salvation, then the Jesus plus nothing statement becomes Jesus plus something, i.e. hearing His voice.

You will note that this concept of salvation is based on the power of death. Contrast that with Jesus’ statement, “The thief comes to kill and destroy. I am come that you might have life and that more abundantly.” This statement comes in the context of the shepherd who speaks to his sheep and the sheep hear his voice and follow.

The ‘Jesus plus nothing’ salvation does not need a present Christ. Jesus did his work by dying on the cross, and he can now exit the scene only to reappear at the end (finale) of the world termed the ‘second coming’. The ‘shepherd’ salvation depends upon a shepherd actively present, functionally present. Under an absentee shepherd, the sheep scatter and are consumed by the wolf. But the end (goal) of the age has arrived, the shepherd is present, and dwells in and among his sheep.

I want to pull in references from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, as well as those from the book of John that concern Jesus’ work. The parable of the wicked husbandmen is a statement of the situation Jesus found himself in and provides us clues about his view of what he came to accomplish:

There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. (Matt. 21:33-39)

The death of the son is not the redemption of the wicked husbandmen. Their chance of redemption lay in “reverencing” the son of the householder. In their disregard of the owner’s servants and the owner’s son they displayed their disregard for the owner of the vineyard. They were punished accordingly. The sending of the son was the proof of the husbandmen. The householder might as well have stated, “They will regard the son as they regard me.” They did.

A crucial point in the ‘Jesus-plus-nothing’ statement is the concept of forgiveness that it portrays. Biblical translators use one of two words when they translate this concept into English: remission or forgiveness. I will define those words in a moment. But first lets look at some of these texts.

At the last supper with his disciples, Jesus stated:

For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (Matt. 26:28)

John the Baptist’s work, a precursor to Jesus’ work, was to

preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. (Mark 1:4)

What does all this have to say concerning the importance of Jesus’ crucifixion? Specifically at issue here is the question, “Did Jesus’ death on the cross make salvation possible?” Much of the Church’s theology says, “Yes” and they quote Hebrews “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (see Heb. 9:22) And they make “forgiveness” equivalent with “pardon.” Many translations use the word, “remission” instead of “forgiveness in this text. Remission has to do with release from bondage or imprisonment. Forgiveness has to do with removal of the cause of offense. Neither of these words are a good fit with ‘pardon’.

The Hebrews 9:22 text refers to the rituals under the Mosaic Law. When the law refers to the blood of the sacrifice, it is referring to the life of the sacrificed animal. We can then understand that statement as, “without the pouring forth of life, there is no release from bondage or imprisonment.”

Can we say that the crucifixion was a pouring forth of life? No, that happened when life triumphed over death. Under the Law, man did not have the life of the sacrificial animal, only its death. Those animals “gave” their death, not their life to the participants in the rituals of the Law. The Israelites were not to drink the blood of the sacrifices, for the blood was the life of the animal and belonged to God. Under Christ, we have his life. He told the Jews, “except you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of man, you have no life in you.” (See John 6:53) He then told the disciples, “The flesh profits nothing, it is the breath that gives life. The words I am speaking to you, these are breath, these are life.” (See John 6:63) He gives life, his life, to all who will walk in his light, as I have discussed in previous posts. The blood of the sacrificial lamb under the law was a shadow of the life of Christ, which alone has the power to cleanse the soul of dead works that we may serve the living God. This life is our Passover.

Was the crucifixion necessary for forgiveness of sin, as asserted by so much of Christendom? No, Jesus demonstrated his power to forgive before the crucifixion.

When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he explained to them the events surrounding his crucifixion and resurrection.

Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:45-47)

Man’s greatest offense before God is death. We were created to be living beings, but when we walk contrary to the light of Christ that has enlightened us, we die. If I am dead, more death is not going to alleviate my condition. If I am dead, my “salvation” is effected only by being made alive again. “The hour is come and now is when the dead shall hear the voice of the son and those who will hear shall live” i.e. come up out of their graves, living beings. (See Ezekiel 37:11-14 and John 5:24-25) The only way to repent of being dead is to become alive, which is beyond the capability of mankind. We can be sorry for being dead, we can be remorseful for being dead, but we can’t repent for being dead. We can turn a full 360 degrees, but we can only repent in the presence of an outside offer of life! That is why repentance from death and remission of death is to be proclaimed in Jesus’ authority which rests entirely on his life. This demands a present, functional Christ who is actively involved in every step of salvation and subsequent life.

So what did Jesus accomplish by his death on the cross?

I must discuss the crucifixion and the resurrection as an inseparable whole. I can’t parcel them out as an anatomist would dissect an object of study. Let’s start by looking at Jesus’ trial before the crucifixion. He told Pilate,

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. (John 18:37)

A large component of that “truth” is that the power of life, that life that was breathed into man in the beginning that made them living beings, is greater than the power of death. Jesus, as the writer of John indicated, is the Word become flesh, in whom is the life that is the light of mankind. He made man living beings in the beginning. As he hung on the cross, Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In his death and resurrection, he encountered spiritual death, Satan’s greatest weapon, and overcame it. “All power in heaven and earth is given me,” said the resurrected Jesus. The arch enemy of our souls is defeated and holds no power over all who walk in the presence of the eternal shepherd. We encounter this power, we live by this power when we love and obey the light of Christ within us.

This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the…[life] of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all…[death]. (1 John 1:5-7)

Posted in in Jesus' authority, in Jesus' name, life, The Book of John, True Christianity | Tagged , , | 3 Comments