What is Christian growth? (2018-02-20)

What does it mean to grow in Christ? What does God want from us? From a human standpoint, we think that to grow means we do more. For most Christians, we help out more at church. We care more about others. We care more for our families. We change our focus from things related to ourselves to that of others. We try to help out with those most poor in this world. We become missional. Have we grown in Christ?

God has given each of us an immeasurable supply of the Spirit. “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:18) What is preached to us is the “unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Eph. 3:8) “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:4-7) The fullness of God, the unsearchable riches of Christ, and the immeasurable riches of his grace in Christ Jesus, is now in us when we received the Lord Jesus. Through “the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phi. 1:19-20) “For to me to live is Christ.” (Phil. 1:23) To grow in Christ, each one of us has to realize that for us to live is Christ. Each of us has been provided with the provision of the Spirit so that Christ would be exalted in our bodies. We have all been supplied with the fullness of God so Christ would be expressed in us. Why do we have so many problems with each other, especially when we get to know each other? It is because of our own wills, our own selves. When we ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we think we know better. We think we are like God. We think we can be righteous by ourselves. That is the problem with mankind throughout history, from Abel, who wanted to give a better sacrifice to God, to the Pharisees, who thought they could keep God’s laws, to the Christians today, who are trying to do right things before God, yet not relying on Christ. By not letting the Spirit be the reality of what we do, we begin to trust in ourselves. We begin to trust in our own abilities to keep the commandments. As such, we don’t need God. This is what happened to the Pharisees. Their worship became a dead ritual. “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.” (Luke 20:38) “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:16-17) A change in each one of our hearts is the most important step in our growth – to recognize that we are broken and we need help. Growth is the offering up of our wills, of ourselves, so Christ could live through us. “I appeal to you, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1) Worshipping God is not what we can do for him, but, rather, what we surrender to him. It is how much we give up, so Christ can live through us. If we have our own wills, how can God exert his will through us? This is the greatest challenge today. The reason why Christians are divided, with their spouses, with their families, with each other, is because we have not surrendered all to Him. There is a desperate need for each of us to surrender all to Christ so Christ can live through us so we would be perfectly one. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) A true change in our hearts can only be effected by the Spirit. The Spirit will change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh (Eze. 11:19-20), softened so God can be expressed though us. So “for to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:23) This is why our faith grows in Christ as we mature. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.” (Gal. 2:20) That is why Christian growth is a growth in faith in Christ. That is why the spiritually matured have entrusted their lives to God. That is why “he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Cor. 6:17t

It is really hard to see ourselves as nothing before God. But when Christ comes alive in us, we have to be like John and say, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) As we do more and more in his name, it becomes harder and harder. As we do more and more in his name, he asks us to be less and less. “My power is made perfect in weakness…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9) That is really hard to do. We just have to rely on the Spirit of reality. We live today so that “Christ shall be magnified in my body” (Phi. 1:20 – Darby) “for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) Christian growth is to become weak, so Christ can become strong in us.

We need to realize that everything that Christ is has been given to us. The fullness of the Godhead was given to Christ, (Col. 1:19) now we are receiving of his fullness. (John 1:12) We just don’t realize we have received of his fullness. We don’t fully realize that God lives in us. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) Christian growth is the different degrees of realizing Christ is living in us. The more we realize Him, the more our faith has grown.

What is the purpose of man? (2018-01-26)

Man was created for one purpose only, to contain God so God could be in union with man to expressed Him. That is why we were made in his image (Gen. 1:26) – so we could express him; like a glove is made in the image of a hand, to contain the hand and express its will. We were made to contain God so the invisible God could be made visible through us. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) This is a new creation. Christ is the first being that combines the nature of God with the nature of man into one. He is the first creation with the life of God and the life of a man! He expresses God in man! God is timeless, so for him, the creation of his Son, a being where divinity is expressed through humanity, is the firstborn of all creation. The Adamic race, the race created under Adam, does not even count in God’s eyes. God and man have combined together to form a new creation, a new ‘species’ so to speak. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity.” (John 17:23) Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:8) The invisible God is made visible, embodied in the Son. “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” (John 14:11) In redeeming us through the death on the cross, and resurrecting, he released the “life-giving Spirit” (1 Cor. 15:45) to dwell in us, giving us his divine life with its divine nature. “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14:20) This is God’s purpose for man, that we would dwell in him and he would dwell in us. We contain him, and he contains us. This mutual co-habitation is how we become perfectly one with God. It is how we will express him. It is how we become his righteous. (2 Cor. 5:22) It is how we could follow the laws. (John 14:23) It is how we could love our neighbour as ourselves. (Mat. 5:44-45) “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) For the Father to make his home in our hearts, we just love him.

In his resurrection, he revealed to Mary Magdalene that humans can have the divine life now, an eternal life. He said to her, “Go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17) We are now brothers of Christ and of each other, and God is our mutual Father because we have received the life-giving Spirit, the divine life, that has now made his home in our hearts. “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Rom. 8:29) Christ was the first human with the life of God. We are to be the same. God is creating a new race of beings – humans that have the life of God. That is why we are “a chosen race.” (1 Pet. 2:9) That is why following the laws of the first covenant could never effect this reality. “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Gal. 6:15) “For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” (Gal. 3:21) We needed God to give us his life, the divine life – the Spirit – that lives within man to follow the laws. The Spirit conveys the Father and the Son, Christ, into us. Christ lives within man to form a new creation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) Christ is the firstborn of this new creation. We are the second, and the third, and the forth, and so on. That in why we are made in the image of God. (2 Cor. 3:18) That is why we are the sons of God. (John 1:12) He is our Father and Christ is the firstborn among many brothers.

Why is creating this new race important to God? So he has an expression through us, joining us to our creator. The invisible God is made visible through us. “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:15) “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9) He sent his Son so we might live through Him, be alive through Him. We become the expression of God’s thoughts. “We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16) To have his thoughts, we have to surrender our wills to him, so “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Gal. 2:20) Surrendering our wills is the greatest challenge we face as Christians who are “press[ing] on  toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phi. 3:14) We know we should surrender our sinful behaviours to him. But what is hardest is to surrender our ‘good’ behaviours to him also, our “confidence in the flesh” (Phi. 3:4). Paul said, “If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I more: circumcised the eight day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews;  as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.” (Phi. 3:4) The greatest challenge is to surrender the ‘good’ that we all feel we have, as it still resides under the wrong tree. It is what separates us rather than unifies us as we fight for our own righteousness. “Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteous.” (Rom. 10:3) Submitting our wills to God’s righteousness is the hardest thing. “Having this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death of a cross.” (Phi. 5:6) God humbled himself for us even to the point of death. We should have this same attitude. This is how we become “united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Phi. 2:2) We must “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” (Phi. 3:3) so that “the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7) It is most difficult for us to be “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead.” (Phi. 3:13) It requires faith and trust in our Lord. It requires the Spirit of reality. (John 14:17) It requires the surrendering of our wills to Him. (Rom. 12:1) Surrendering our wills daily, bit by bit, in how we run this race. Ultimately, when we have surrendered our all to him, living in faith, he will be able to live his life fully through us. We would be in full agreement with him, like when a bride says “Yes!” to her bridegroom of her own free will. This is why Christians are collectively pictured as the bride to Christ, who is the bridegroom, at the conclusion of this age in Revelations. We have said willingly “Yes!” to Christ, surrendering our all to him because of his great love for us. (Eph. 2:4) We can finally say “Yes!” when he asks us, “Do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15) with a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional ‘agape’ love. This is what is most valuable to him as the bridegroom. He simply wishes that, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mat. 22:37) He simply wants our love, freely given to him. This is the greatest moment, even in our human lives, when the bride says “Yes!” to the bridegroom. We have the biggest celebration of our lives! Lets celebrate it with Christ at the end of this age! By saying “Yes!” we have willingly given ourselves to be joined in one Spirit with him (1 Cor. 6:17) expressing who he is. Today if we can offer only a simple smile towards him, he would be happy, as that would be a beginning of our relationship with him. He yearns for it from all of us. “We are a fragrance of Christ to God” (2 Cor. 2:15), a “sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him” everywhere we go. (2 Cor. 2:14) As we get to know him (Heb. 8:11), our love for our Lord and creator will grow and grow, from “glory to glory”” (2 Cor. 4:6) as we are “transformed into the same image.” (2 Cor. 4:6) That is why we were created.

What is the will of God? (2018-02-04)

God tells us what his will is very plainly in Ephesians 1, “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.” (Eph. 1:9-10) Through Christ, he wants to unite all things in him, both things in heaven and things on earth. He is making everything perfectly one. He accomplishes this by dwelling in man. “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” (John 17:23) We are only perfectly one through the Spirit who indwells us, making a home in our hearts (John 14:23), so we could love one another (John 13:34). This is how he makes everything perfectly one. Imagine if everyone in this world allowed God to live in them and they lived in God expressing his will fully, what a world we would have! What a oneness we would have on the earth today! He not only wants to unite all the things on the earth, solving all our differences, and all the things in heaven, dealing with the problem of Satan, the archangel, but uniting heaven with earth so whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever we loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (Mat. 16:19) “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Mat. 6:10) His will is whatever is on earth is whatever is in heaven. This is by us knowing Christ as the Son of the living God. (Mat. 16:16) We now know that he is living and alive within us and that we are living and alive within him. This is the solution of all our problems. We would love the way God loves with his Spirit loving through our spirit expressing his nature, which is love, thereby uniting all things.

In this new unified world, there is no need of a temple. “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:22-23) The invisible God is now made visible for all to see in this united “kingdom of his Son.” (Col. 1:13)

Why is God love? (2018-02-04)

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:8) The Bible does not say God has love for us, but God is love. It is his nature. It is an integral part of who he is. He loved us so much that he came into the world to die for us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) This is how much he loved us. “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” (1 John 4:9) He sent his only Son to us, so we might live through him. We are only truly alive when we live through him. That is why nothing in this world seems to satisfy. He lives in us so we now live through him. “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:12) We need him to abide in us so that the invisible God is made visible by our love for each other. Who God is, love, his nature, is expressed through us by our love for one another. That is why every brother is precious. It is through him that we love one another with a selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional ‘agape’ love.

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3) These words were not written just for weddings. It is for how Christians should live – in love with their families, with their brothers in Christ, with everyone (and not just our spouses). We can do everything right before God, which is what every group of Christians is trying to do before God, but if we do not love each other, we are nothing. The sadness today is all Christians are trying to do God’s will, standing on the ground of righteousness, but have lost the love for each other. The ground of righteousness is under the wrong tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genuine ‘agape’ love emanates from the tree of life. It is the expression of the Spirit of life that abides in us. Just love. It doesn’t matter if all we can do is have a ‘philia’ love for each other (see the blog “Why?”). Just love. “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) God loves us so much that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8) Whatever we do wrong before God, he will forgive us…so lets forgive one another. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (John 13:34) Love triumphs over righteousness. That is why it is God’s new commandant. Showing an ‘agape’ love for one another is selfless. We often say we love one another as long as others meet our expectations. When they do something ‘wrong,’ against our expectations, we are upset. The way we are to love each other is just as Christ has loved us. Regardless of what we have done or will do that is wrong, Christ died for us. Regardless of what others do that is wrong to us, we “are to love one another.” (John 13:34) Love should not be affected by the actions of others, it is a reality in ourselves. It is independent of what others do. That is how God loved us. It is very, very hard to think this way as a man. We have to be the children of God. That is why we need the indwelling Spirit to be the reality of God’s ‘agape’ love in us. “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) Because he has given us of his Spirit. The Spirit gives us the ability to love in an ‘agape’ way for not only God, but for others. We have to have faith in the Spirit. We can only express this selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional love through the indwelling Spirit. Let Him live through us (Gal. 2:20). That is how God will “unite all things in [Christ].” (Eph. 1:10) This ‘agape’ love is divine in nature. “God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” (1 John 4:16) The ‘agape’ love we express for one another is the evidence that God is in man.

Today, to rebuild the temple (Acts 15:16) that God desires is not to uphold principles defining what God wants, to rebuild his unified church, as the “remnant of mankind [who] seek the Lord” (Acts 15:17), we just need to love one another. “Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35) The ‘agape’ love we have for one another is evidence that we are his disciples.

Love is the key aspect of God’s nature that we are lacking. To love Him more and more, means to trust Him more and more. When we love more, we trust more. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” (Gal. 5:6) How does faith work through love? When we love someone, we will trust them. The more we love someone, the more exposed and vulnerable we become because we have given more and more of our trust to them. This is what God in doing with us. As we mature in Christ, we love Him more and more. We are more and more exposed and vulnerable to Him, realizing how far away we are from His desires for us. All the while He has garnered more and more of our trust. So love works hand-in-hand with faith. The more we love Him, the more our faith grows. The more we surrender to Him, the more He can live through us.

Are we predestinated or do we have free will? How does God work through us? (2018-03-14)

The issue of predestination and free will has confused Christians throughout history. From God’s viewpoint, we are predestined because he is timeless and he sees our life, from beginning to end, in its entirety, all at once. For God, time is merely a dimension, like length. It is fully laid out before him. That is why Jesus, even thought he was born in a particular moment in time, is “the first born of all creation” (Col. 1:15) That is how “He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:2) Time does not progress from one moment to the next like it does for us. He sees it all at once. Of course he knows how we will turn out and who will be his children. So for him, he “foreknew” (Rom. 8:29) our futures. From our viewpoint, however, we don’t know how we will turn out. As a creature walking along this timeline, we can turn left or right. So we have free will.

The difficult passage concerning predestination and free will occurs in Philippians Chapter 2. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil. 2:12-13) How can we work out our own salvation if it is God who works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure? To understand this verse, we must parallel this verse with “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20) Working out our own salvation simply means not exerting our own will. We must be dead, crucified with Christ, so we work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he is it that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5) When we “willingly” abide in Christ, surrendering all to him, he exerts his will through us, working for his good pleasure. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Heb. 4:7) Only then does God work in us, both the willing and the working for his good pleasure, so we can “Be anxious for nothing.” (Phi. 4:6) This is Psalms 51:10-13 where we must be passive before God can make us active (explained in the blog “Why?”). “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psa. 51:16-17) The greatest challenge for Christians today is to have a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart both towards God and towards each other. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom. 12:1) When we offer everything to him by prayer and supplication (Phi. 4:6), including our bodies as a living sacrifice, we will be holy and acceptable to God. That is our spiritual worship.

When we look at the passage in context in Philippians 2, Christ shows us the example of humbling himself. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even the death on a cross.” (Phi. 2:5-8) Though Christ Jesus was in the form of God, was equal to God, he emptied himself, humbling himself by taking a human form and died for us, remaining obedient to God the Father. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phi. 2:12) by ‘following’ Christ’s example by surrendering our wills. That is why Paul uses the word, ‘Therefore’ and ‘so now,’ to relate back to the previous passage. We need to be emptying ourselves and humbling ourselves by realizing Christ. Paul is telling the saints in Philippi who have ‘always obeyed,’ they should ‘follow’ Christ’s example now. When we empty ourselves, surrendering our will to him, God is able to exert his will through us. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phi. 2:12) Do you not know it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure? “Do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) Everything is resolved, including our sinful nature, when we realize Christ is living in us as he is willing and working within us. When we surrender our will to God, we will realize it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. God wants to express his will through us so when we work, it is him who is working for his good pleasure. This is what happened to Paul in the next chapter of Philippians. He had to “put no confidence in the flesh — though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, blameless.” (Phi. 3:3-5) All those things that we consider so right in our lives, that gives us confidence in the flesh, we have to count loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Phi. 3:7-8) Whatever we can do for God, is not as important as the surpassing worth of knowing him. He is transferring our humanity, relying on our own strength, willing and working by our own ability, to his divinity, relying on Christ alone, willing and working by the Spirit who is at work in us. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (Col. 1:13) We become dependent on him because we realize we cannot be divine ourselves. As we establish a dependence on Christ, realizing not only what he has done for us on the cross but the working of his Spirit in us today, a relationship of love for him will grow more and more. Our love for him outweighs all that we can do ‘right’ for him. It has to be God who works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure. “Abide in me, and I in you. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5) Our ‘work’ in the flesh will not withstand God’s test by fire. (1 Cor. 3:12-16) Love will. Christ will.

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Phi. 3:8-9) For the sake of gaining Christ, realize we need to surrender all things to him and count them rubbish. Every moment in our lives when someone looks for us, we should be found in him. This only happens when we love him so intensely that all our hearts, all our souls, all our strength, and all our minds, (Luke 10:27; Mat. 22:37) are focused on him. This can only happen through the Spirit who dwells in us. Then it is not our ‘work’ that gives us our righteousness, it is the righteousness from God that depends on faith. We do not have a righteousness of our own based on the ‘good’ that we do, our righteousness comes from God based on how much Christ is realized in us — how much God wills and works through us. The realization of Christ will lead to his working through us. Today, we do not realize fully the Christ that is in us, but we are trying by surrendering ourselves to him, in hopes “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phi. 3:10-11) In our daily life, we are sharing in his sufferings, humbling ourselves like him in his death so others may have the divine life. “Always carrying in this body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” (2 Cor. 4:10) “So death is at work in us, but life in you,” (2 Cor. 4:12) By any means possible, we may also realize Christ’s resurrection power working through us, transforming us so that, “What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.” (1 Cor. 15:42-44) “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way.” (Phi. 3:13-15)

Surrendering our wills to God’s will is what we are ‘straining’ for today. We have to forget all that we have known, all our routines, practises, and even ways of thinking, that have somehow become ritualized, to serve a living and active God who is living inside of us. We should have a freshness of love for him, as if it is the first time we are knowing him. We have not “left [our] first love.” (Rev. 2:4) We ourselves cannot do this. Only Christ has done this. Actually we cannot even submit our wills to God’s will. Only Christ is obedient to the Father. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isa. 53:7) Realize it is Christ who is working in us, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. That is why the first offering by the children of Israel is the burnt offering — every part of the animal, every bit of its being, is completely offered to God as a pleasing aroma to him. (Lev. 1) Christ, the all-powerful God, emptied himself completely by become a man, humbling himself to die on the cross for our sins so we may live. None of us has this level of obedience to God and love for God and man. Christ said, “I can do nothing on my own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:30; see John 6:38; 8:29; Heb. 10:5-10) Realize now that it is Christ, God himself, who is now working in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. This is how we work out our own salvation. This reality is true for us individually and corporately. Guard against doing things out of routine. This is how “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) So this passage in Philippians 2 is not a conflict.

Our life on this earth is only a brief moment in time. God sees it all at once because we are finite. The natural body will perish, but our spiritual body is infinite. People who pass away prematurely has simply been “called home” earlier in time. So it is the spiritual part of our beings that needs to be taken care of, while we’re still on this earth in our natural bodies, as we don’t know when our natural bodies will be cut off from us. Yet, how we take care of our spirit now has eternal consequences, whether we live eternally in the enjoyment of Christ or whether we are “tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10) If we can wrap our minds around what is infinite as merely a dimension, which is really difficult to do because we are finite, the significance of our brief moment in time takes on extreme importance as it stands above time. Infinity is nothing but God in everything. That is why the largeness of our universe is nothing, a nothingness to God. Yet the smallest of every human being is something, something precious to God. That is why “even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Luke 12:7; Mat. 10:30) To do this is nothing for an infinite God. But that is how precious we are to him. That is why “He is before all, and all things subsist together by him.” (Col.1:17) “He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” (1 Pet. 1:20 – NIV) That is why, how we live on this earth in so important. That is why we need God. That is why the first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exo. 20:2; Deut. 5:7) We need Christ in us as our hope of glory. (Col.1:27)

Why do we have a conscience and why can we not keep it? (2018-02-01)

The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines conscience as “our moral sense of right and wrong.” It arises instinctively in each of us defining how we relate to God and to the rest of the world. It is not the instinct of the “survival of the fittest” that is found in animals. In fact, it tells us to care for the weakest. That is somehow morally right. When we violate our conscience, it tells us that we are wrong. It is the internal ‘voice’ that separates right from wrong within us. It is our knowledge of good and evil. We gained this knowledge when Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 3:6) We gained the moral sense of right and wrong. We gained a conscience.

Conscience is an attribute of God. He lives in righteousness. All that he does is righteous. God is light. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5) It is his nature. It is not the rules of righteousness, he just is righteousness. God is light. In Jesus, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The light overpowers and destroys everything that is in darkness.

When man ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, his eyes were opened. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” (Gen. 3:7) We gained the ‘knowledge’ of good and evil. We gained a conscience. The problem is we were not given the ‘ability’ to follow it. We knew something that was divine, but we were human. When we gained the knowledge of good and evil, we were ‘like God,’ able to separate good from evil, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:22), but not ‘God,’ as we were still human and unable to do what we now knew, “For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” (Rom. 7:15) “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” (Rom. 7:18) “For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Rom. 7:22) Our conscience is “A sharp accuser, but a helpless friend!” (An Essay on Man, Epistle II1733). It condemns us but does not help us out. The conscience lets us discern what is right and wrong, but it could not practically help us carry it out. So we are naked in front of God, and can only hide. We were still human.

The only way we can follow our conscience is if we become divine in nature. That is why God had to come to dwell in the human spirit to give him a divine life. He came to solve our sin problem by releasing the life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45), transferring us into the divine kingdom. “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his Son he loves.” (Col. 1:13) Christ has finally bruised Satan’s head by dying on the cross for us so we can receive God into our beings again. We have been restored to eat of the tree of life again, gaining the divine nature, gaining Christ, whose life abides by our conscience as He lives through us. That is the gospel message.

The divine nature within us, God in man, is simply love. The essence, so to speak, of God is love. The centrality of who He is, is love. It is love that helps us keep his commandments. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Why if we love him will we keep his commandments? “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died, and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live to themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15) The love of Christ is what controls us. It is what allows us to keep our conscience. We no longer live to ourselves, but for him who died and rose again on our behalf. That is why the first four commandments are related to God. Even as humans, it is love that keeps us faithful to our spouses, that keeps us from wanting to hurt each other especially when we are wronged, that helps us care for our children and for our children to care for us, that tells us the most important thing to us is our families, not things, so we don’t take what is not ours, that keeps us from lying to each other. (Note these are the last six commandments related to man.) This human love is imperfect, so we need laws and rules to keep us from violating what naturally should flow from our love for one another. We have marriage contracts and volumes and volumes of written laws to give us rules of behaviour as we cannot agree on things. Our love is human. Only when we have the love of Christ controlling our behaviours is this love for each other perfected. “I in them, and you in me, that they may be perfectly one.” (John 17:23) It is through Christ we can all love one another. We are no longer living to ourselves but for him. “And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who died and rose again on their behalf.” (2 Cor. 5:15) We have become selfless through Christ. We have become imitators of Christ. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Eph. 5:1-2) We have become sacrificial through Christ. Then we can love our enemies as ourselves. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (Mat. 5:44) Our love through Christ becomes unconditional. This is the selfless, sacrificial and unconditional ‘agape’ love we express through Christ to God and to man. Through Christ we have the ability to follow our conscience.

When does eternal life begin? (2018-01-19)

Does eternal life begin when our physical bodies die and we continue in our spirit or does it begin while we are alive on this earth? As everyone knows, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” When we believe in God, we ‘shall not perish,’ in the future, but ‘have eternal life,’ in the present. Jesus said this to Nicodemus immediately after telling him he must be born of the Spirit. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6). “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12) When we believed, we received the Spirit. This Spirit came into us so we were born of the Spirit. This Spirit that was brought into us is divine. It is God Himself making a home in our hearts. God is eternal, so went he comes into our spirit, we become eternal. We have received God’s divine life, an eternal life, so we have the eternal life. “Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'” (John 14:23) It is the most significant change a human can have. The human is born of water, burying the things of the world that is human, and is born of God, made alive in the things of God that is divine. Christ has come into us as the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). That is what gives us the ability to overcome sin.  That is what gives us the ability to manifest him. That is what makes us the sons of God.