Monday, July 28, 2014
In the interest of increasing the dialog here on the blog, I'll be asking a "Question of the Week" every Monday for the next few months.
People are encouraged to share their thoughts and provide feedback on the comments section all week long.
So, what are you waiting for? Let us know: What Bugs You Most About Church?
Is it long prayers? Boring announcements? The 3 point sermon structure? Or maybe it's something more fundamental than that?
The point is, we won't know until you tell us.
So...let us know!
Friday, July 25, 2014
What were the Jewish people "chosen" to do?
Who is the "Chosen One"?
Who are the "chosen people" of God today, according to the New Testament and what are they chosen for?
Listen as Keith explains in this special podcast.
Saturday, July 19, 2014
Why do you say the Old Covenant is “obsolete”?
Because in Hebrews 8:13 we read:
“By calling this covenant "new," he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.”
But, how can the OT be obsolete if Jesus said he did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill it?
Jesus said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” ( Matthew 5:17-18)
There are two qualifiers here: One is that the Law will not disappear “until Heaven and Earth disappear”, and the second qualifier is that the Law will not disappear until “everything is accomplished.”
So, first Jesus assures us that His mission is to fulfill or to accomplish the Law, and then He tells us that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished.”
The question is: “Was everything accomplished?”
And the answer is: Yes!
“When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30)
The Greek word Jesus used here is literally “accomplished”.
So here, on the cross, Jesus declares that He has accomplished His mission to “fulfill the Law”, just as He set out to do.
What does that mean, then, according to the two qualifiers Jesus placed on the Law? It means that since everything has been accomplished, the Law has now disappeared.
Maybe this is why Paul the Apostle told us that, on the cross, Jesus actually DID “abolish the Law” by fulfilling (or “accomplishing”) it?
"For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace." (Eph. 2:15)
Elsewhere Paul also affirms for us that “Christ is the end of the law.” (Rom. 10:4).
Furthermore, Paul explains for us the differences between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant – not once but twice.
The first time, in 2 Corinthians, Paul contrasts the Old and the New Covenant saying:
“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, [that’s the Old Covenant] came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, [the Old was “fading”] will not the ministry of the Spirit [that’s the New Covenant] be even more glorious?”
“If the ministry that condemns men [the Old] is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! [that’s the New] For what was glorious [the Old] has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away [the Old] came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts! [the New] - (2 Corinthians 3:7-11)
So, Paul tells us the following about the Old Covenant:
- · It brought death
- · Its glory was fading
- · It condemns men
- · It was glorious (past tense)
- · It now has no glory
- · It is fading away
The New Covenant, in contrast :
- · More glorious than Old Covenant
- · Brings righteousness
- · Its glory is surpassing
- · It is everlasting
The second contrast and comparison that Paul does between the Old and the New Covenant is here in Galatians:
"The women (Hagar and Sarah) represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother." (Galatians 4:24-26)
"But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman." (Gal.4: 30-31)
Now what does Paul say about the Old Covenant?
The Old Covenant is:
- From Mount Sinai (where the 10 Commandments were given)
- · Bears children who are slaves
- · Corresponds to the earthly Jerusalem
- · In slavery with her children
- · Should be cast out of our presence
- · Will not share in the inheritance of Christ
- · Not our Mother
Paul says the New Covenant is:
- · Bears children who are free
- · Of the heavenly New Jerusalem, not the physical city
- · Is our true Mother
- · Shares in the inheritance of Christ
To drive the point home even further, Paul tells us many times:
"We are not under the law" (Rom. 6:14; Gal. 5:18).
“We are dead to the law” (Rom. 7:4).
“We are delivered from the law” (Rom. 7:6).
Therefore, those who are in Christ are not under the Ten Commandments but under the “Law of Christ” as Paul says:
“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
But what about the Jewish people, then? Aren’t they God’s Chosen people?
That depends on what you mean by “Israel” and “Chosen”. Paul pointed out to us that not everyone who claims to be “Israel” is actually, truly “Israel” in God’s eyes.
"For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children." (Romans 9:6)
John the Baptist said the same thing to the Pharisees who wanted to claim that they were “Children of Abraham” (or “Israel”) and therefore blessed and favored of God. He said to them:
“And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matt. 3:9-10)
So, the true “Israel of God” is actually found in Galatians where Paul assures us that:
"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:29)
Where does that leave the unbelieving Jewish people? The answer is troubling, and it should give us sincere pause and cause us to fall on our knees and cry out to God for their salvation.
"Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son." (1 John 2:22)
The Jewish people today who deny Jesus is the Messiah have neither the Father, nor the Son. They are anti-christ and they are lost without Him.
But I thought they were God’s “Chosen” people?
Consider what the Apostle Peter says about the Christians he writes to in his epistle:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Who, then, is the true Israel of God according to the New Testament?
Anyone who is in Christ.
Who are the “Chosen people” of God?
Those who put their hope in Jesus as their Lord and King.
So, the Jews are no longer the “Chosen people of God”?
Let’s go back and look at what the Jewish people were “Chosen” for in the first place. Were they chosen to be saved? No, because salvation depends upon trust in Christ as Lord and Savior.
What we find is that God chose the Jews to be the people group from whom the Messiah would be born. That’s it.
So, since Jesus was born a Jew, they have fulfilled their calling. There’s nothing more for them to be “chosen” for.
Christians, according to Peter, are now the “Chosen of God” to carry the message of the Gospel to every nation. This is our calling as God’s “chosen people”.
How can you say the 10 Commandments are no longer relevant for Christians today?
Because the 10 commandments were the terms of the Old Covenant (which is obsolete and vanishing).
“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)
“He declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments, which he commanded you to follow and then wrote them on two stone tablets.” (Deut. 4:13)
The Ten Commandments are only mentioned (by name) three times in the entire Bible. Here in these two scriptures referenced above, and also in Deut.10:4. But in each case it is clear that God gave the Ten Commandments to the Jews as a Covenant. (Note: There are many other terms used such as “Tablets of Stone”, “Stone Tables”, etc.)
Also because the 10 Commandments were a covenant between Himself and with the Nation of Israel, not with the entire world:
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” (Exodus 34:27)
Without this Covenant, the Jewish people had no basis for being called a nation. If this Covenant was in force, then they would have a claim to the promises included in the Covenant, but if they broke this Covenant then they would lose all their status as God’s chosen people and their status as a nation.
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” (Exodus 19:5-6)
In much the same way that the Constitution is a document that outlines the laws of our nation and establishes our system of government, the Ten Commandments (or the Law) outlines God’s terms for establishing the nation state of Israel.
The terms of Israel’s nationhood are dependent upon a few things. First, it says, “If you obey me and keep my covenant, THEN you will be my treasured possession.”
That’s a conditional covenant. We know that the History of Israel records their continual disobedience to God and to His covenant. Because they broke their covenant with God, they were scattered over and over again, until finally they nation of Israel was judged in AD 70 during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, as Jesus predicted it would be (Luke 21) and in the Parable of the Vineyard (Matt. 21:33-46).
Did you know that the promises connected to the Old Covenant have now been offered unconditionally to those who are under the New Covenant?
It’s true! The very same conditional covenant terms spoken to the Jews are repeated in the New Testament as being unconditionally applied to the Church:
“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
Here, Peter declares that Christians “ARE a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…”. The very same conditional promises originally offered to the Jewish nation in Exodus 19:5-6 are now spoken to the Church as being now in effect. So that anyone who is currently found in Christ is the recipient of these promises to be chosen, of the priesthood, a holy nation and God's special possession. We are also promised to be called the people of God and to receive mercy.
The Good News is that Jesus first came and fulfilled the terms of the Old Covenant, and then He made a New Covenant with anyone who would receive Him as Lord and Savior.
THE TERMS OF THE NEW COVENANT
“I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people…and they will all know me from the least to the greatest for I will remember their sins no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34 and Hebrews 8:7-9)
We are now under one Covenant, not two. The first has been fulfilled and is now obsolete:
“In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrew 8:13)
What will it take to bring real, true, lasting peace in the Middle East? Listen as Keith shares some ideas that just might reveal a spark of hope for actual peace between Jews Muslims and Palestinian Christians.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Why is it so hard for Christians to talk about Israel? And what is at stake if we get it wrong?
In this podcast, Keith explains why it matters and how misunderstanding this key New Testament teaching can distort our views of the Church, our purpose and our identity in Christ.
Saturday, July 12, 2014
The Old Covenant had a great run for a few thousand years, but now it is old, and fading, and obsolete and vanishing - at least according to the New Testament it is.
Listen for yourself as Keith explains why the Ten Commandments and the Old Covenant are no longer binding for anyone, especially those who are in Christ.
Thursday, July 10, 2014
Love is painful.
It is also beautiful, sublime, fantastic and awesome.
But love is also painful.
The sooner we learn this, the sooner we can move on to maturity in our faith, and in our life.
We all stood together in a semi-circle under the late afternoon sun, our heads hanging low.
Our eyes red with tears.
"Do you want to say anything?" my wife asked my sons. There was a silent pause as we stood around the hole my wife had dug in the ground near the back fence.
"No," my youngest said.
"It's not fair," my oldest said.
And it wasn't.
A few hours ago my youngest son had found her body, what was left of her, in our back yard.
"I found Little Momma," David said over the phone. "She's dead."
Those words hit me hard. I knew they would hit my wife and my oldest son even harder.
But now here we were, standing around this hole in the ground and doing our best to hold our emotions in check.
There were many lessons to be learned in that moment. Most of them went unspoken. But I did my best anyway.
"She was a gift to us," I said. "She knew that we loved her, very much."
It didn't take the pain away. It might even have made it worse. I'm not sure.
One quote that came to my mind in that moment, as I leaned against the shovel, went unspoken. It was a quote by C.S. Lewis that says:
"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
Later, when we had said all we could say, when we had each placed our own handful of dirt over her, when I had buried what was left of her and our boys had slowly walked back into the house, my wife and I stood alone on the grass.
We reflected on what our boys would learn from this; how it would affect them at this stage of their life. My wife suggested that it would help them to develop more compassion for the pain of others; that it would soften their hearts more.
We both remembered the pain that others we know are suffering now. The passing of a brother, or the end of a marriage, or the sudden death of a spouse.
We were the lucky ones. In comparison, our pain was minimal, yet still deep enough to take our breath away. Real enough to make us thankful for what we still have left to hold on to.
There is a saying - a myth really - that Christians often quote to one another in times of suffering. They say, "God never gives us more than we can handle." As if our suffering is proportional to our level of faith. As if our friends die because we're too spiritual, or our children get sick because we're so close to God?
The scripture we mangle to arrive at this platitude is actually about being tempted and God always giving us a way to escape that temptation.
The truth is that God almost always gives us more than we can handle.
Because He loves us. Because He wants us to know that we can lean on Him - hard - for everything that life can possibly throw at us.
God portions out our suffering in relation to our need to know that He is able to carry us through it.
Because of love. Which is beautiful, and marvelous, and wonderful, and yes, sometimes, very painful.
Our promise is not that we will never endure suffering. Our promise is that, when we do, we will not endure it alone.
He is with us. He will never forsake us.
We will never have to say goodbye to Him, or His love.
For that we are very grateful.
Monday, June 30, 2014
The Path of Jesus led Him up a hill with a Cross on His back. Ultimately, He would be nailed to this Cross, and breathe His last upon it.
Those who seek to come after Him will assuredly encounter the same.
“Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps”
Most Christians are only familiar with one side of the Cross, that being of the side of Christ bearing the weight of the world’s sins, ultimately to death, for our atonement and Salvation. Thank God for this finished work that makes us one with Him.
But Christ was not only on the Cross, suffering for us; He was on the Cross as an example for us. The first side of the Cross is for the sinner; the second side for the follower, the disciple. The Gate was for the sinner; The Path is for the follower.
Jesus said the way to The Path, The Gate, was narrow. He is the only Way. But as The Gate is narrow, so too is The Path, and few find it.
But Jesus said that Life was at the end of The Path, not at the beginning, just inside The Gate. Again, He was speaking of something much richer than an ending destination of Heaven versus Hell. He was speaking of an Eternal reality of Divine Abundance in Life in the Kingdom now.
This is a process. This Life, while promised at the end of The Path, is realized little by little along the Way – as He is increased, and we are decreased. This is the Law of Life. He will become more; we will become less. Life and Freedom are manifested in the process.
Jesus is both Substitute and Example; both Savior and Lord; both Author and Perfecter; both the Narrow Gate and the Difficult Path.
If there is any doubt as to the reason for a lack of Freedom in our lives as Christians, we need only examine our ultimate posture towards the Cross. Is the Cross something that Jesus saved us from, or something that Jesus saved us for? The fruit, or the lack thereof, will bear witness either way. The fruit of Freedom cannot be ripe and abundant without the full, two-sided work of the Cross.
So we may ask: Can we enter the Gate but not walk the Path? Can we be saved and go to heaven and not follow? Can Jesus be Savior and not Lord? I believe, as I’ve said, that these can, by His Grace. But this forfeits so much, and is most assuredly not Freedom. So my question to the question is then:
How free do we want to be?Freedom is not merely embracing one side of the Cross, the side for Salvation, or simply Jesus as The Gate, as Savior. We must “continue” in His Word. We must put what we say we believe into action. We must make our faith seen in works. Jesus said make disciples, not simply believers. He wants a people who will follow Him in The Path, not just step through The Gate.
Jesus’ side of the Cross was done for us, 2000 years ago, once and for all, for our Salvation, the forgiveness of our sins – The Gate. Our side of the Cross is required of us daily, a continual following in discipleship, for our Spiritual Growth, maturity and Freedom – The Path.
Jesus came to announce a new King and a new Kingdom. This is the full Gospel. When we die, we then are raised – new species as citizens of this new, upside-down Kingdom, where:
*Wisdom is foolishness
* Winning is losing
* Lower is higher
* Servants are leaders
* Power is weakness
* Life is through death
The Kingdom Way, the Way of Freedom, is not to be delivered from death, but to be delivered by death, and through death, as resurrected into a new Life, one that is no longer ours. An acorn must fall to the ground and die to fulfill its purpose – that not only a new tree would grow in its place, but an entire forest of trees!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” –Jesus Christ
Go check out Brandon's blog, Zōē Perissos (www.brandonchase.net), and make sure and subscribe (http://brandonchase.net/subscription-form/) to receive all of his blog posts, as well as the FREE eBook The Path of Freedom: Few find it. Fewer walk it. Be one of the few."