Tuesday, May 17, 2016

JESUS UNTANGLED: The book in progress




Over the last few weeks I've been taking some time to start writing my next book.

The title of the book is "Jesus Untangled" and it's inspired by the 14 part series of articles I wrote a few months ago.

Just to summarize it: The book will look at how the Christian Church has become entangled with nationalism, politics and denominationalism. We'll also examine why it's so important to become untangled, and how we can set ourselves free.

So far I've finished writing the first 3 chapters of the book and if I can keep on pace to write a chapter each week I should have the first draft completed by sometime in early July.

After that I'll go back and do re-writes, edits, and add in any missing quotes, references and foot notes before going to the final edit stage.

That should take me until the end of July to wrap up.

Hopefully by then I'll be ready to publish this project and then we'll start thinking about the cover, sending out pre-pub copies for review and lining up interviews with various Blog Radio shows and podcasters to get the word out about it.

If you're really curious about the book and my progress going forward, I've created a closed group over on Facebook called "Jesus Untangled" [pretty creative huh?] where people who want the "inside scoop" can follow along with me as I go.

Would you like to be in that group? If so, please follow me on Facebook and then message me about being added to the group. I'll add you and then you'll get to hear how things are going.

Some of what I've shared so far with the group is:
*Chapter updates on the book so far
*My outline for the book
*My process for writing the book
*Articles, posts, quotes and videos related to the topic that have inspired the book

Going forward here's what I plan to share:
*Chapter-by-chapter updates on my progress
*Insight into my research process before I write a book
*Other books that have fueled my research on this topic
*Additional notes or thoughts that may - or may not - make it into the final book
*Updates on getting the book published
*Cover ideas and designs  [Vote for your favorite!]
*Ideas for Guerilla Marketing the book online and in the real world
*And more!

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what else I'll share in the group, but I'm also asking everyone to share their own videos, quotes, links, etc. on the topic to help keep us focused on the subject matter and - who knows - maybe even influence what I write in the final draft of the book.

My hope is that this group will also help me to stay focused on the goal of writing at least one chapter per week and staying on track to finish everything up before August, if at all possible.

In short, I need your help!

Thanks for your prayers and your support as I write the book.

I appreciate it more than you know.

Peace,
Keith


Thursday, May 12, 2016

If Jesus Is Lord Then Why Don't We Do What He Says?



"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?" - Jesus [Luke 6:46]

It's a very good question. Our answers are usually of the "Nobody can do what Jesus commands" variety, but that answer isn't supported by the New Testament.

Instead, we're left with these annoying verses that say that we already have "everything we need for a godly life" if we are in Christ, and that the same grace of God that saves us also "teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives IN THIS PRESENT AGE" and that "we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us", and on and on.

So is this all just bad theology mixed with a dash of "I don't feel like it"?

Yes, partially.

We mix our opinions about "keeping the Law" and our failure to "be perfect" with a side of complacency and wallow in our illusions of powerlessness. Partly because we prefer this reality, and partly because we sort of believe it is the Gospel.

But it's not the Gospel. It's a theology of partial truth marked by a cross, but missing the resurrection power of Christ.

Yes, Paul does stress that we are powerless to keep the Law of Moses. Because of our failure to do so, Jesus came and fulfilled the Law for us and took our sins to the cross. 

But is that it? Is that the end of the story?

Not at all!

The end of the Old Covenant - marked by a strict adherence to a Law that brought death - has been overshadowed by a New Covenant that writes God's law on our hearts and empowers us by His indwelling Holy Spirit to fulfill the Law of Christ by loving God and loving others as He has loved us.

That is the complete Gospel message. 

We are not powerless anymore. Jesus and the Father have made their home within us if we love Him and if we keep His commands. 

That abiding presence is what empowers us to put His words into practice. It's a symbiotic process where His Holy Spirit within us provides the power to love as He loved, and because of this we show our love for Him by obeying His commands which "are not burdensome".

"By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." - 1 John 5:2-4

These "commandments" are not the Ten Commandments. Those are now obsolete and vanishing. No, the "commandments" that "are not burdensome" are the commands of Jesus to "Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength" and to "love your neighbor as you love yourself."

How can we do this? Because we are now filled with the transformational agape love of Jesus which is something brand new and miraculous.

Now that the love of Jesus is alive and active within us, we can actually "love one another" as Jesus loved us!

That's good news!

When Jesus said that his "yoke was easy and [his] burden was light", he was contrasting that with the yoke of the Pharisees [which was the Law of Moses and the Old Covenant] which was heavy and impossible to carry.

Why is Jesus' yoke "easy"? In what way is His yoke "light"?

It's because Jesus, unlike the Pharisees who would not lift a finger to help those under the yoke of the Law, actually DOES help us to stand up under His yoke. It's easy and it's light because Jesus is abiding within us and He gives us "all we need" to "surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees".

[See "Effortless and Free" for more on this]

Does this mean we never blow it? Does it mean we are now perfectly capable of always loving everyone at all times? No, and yes: We ARE capable, but we are not always willing to.

This is why Paul admits that he "has not yet attained it" but that he does "this one thing; forgetting the past and pressing on the high calling of Jesus Christ". [See Phil. 3:13-14]

If Jesus is Lord, then we not only must do what He says, we are capable of doing it because He is alive within us.

Abide in Him and He will abide in you.

That's a promise.

-kg

FOR FURTHER READING:
*Effortless and Free [The Easy Yoke of Jesus]
*A Difficult Path and An Easy Yoke
*If Jesus Tells Me To Do Something, Do I Have To Do It?
*If I Love Jesus, Can I Ignore What He Says?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

If I Love Jesus Can I Ignore What He Says?








Yesterday’s blog post inspired a lot of conversation over on Facebook yesterday. Some of the comments seemed to indicate that a few people were getting tripped up on my basic question which was “If Jesus Tells Me To Do Something, Do I Have To Do It?” and started arguing about the “Have To” aspect of the question rather than focusing on the essential idea behind it.

So, in an attempt to better frame my question, and to continue the conversation, I wanted to approach the issue from another angle.

Jesus talks about obedience in terms of our love for Him and the Father. He assumes that if we love Him then we will do what He says.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says it every possible way:

“If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” – John 14:21a

“Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” - John 14:23

“Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”  - John 14:24

“If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”  - John 15:10

Our obedience, then, is not only something that Jesus expects from us, it’s an indication of our love for Him and the Father.

So, if I love Jesus can I ignore what He says?

Clearly the answer is “no”, according to Jesus.

One very important thing I feel the need to address is this idea that we just need to “try harder” or “just do it” when it comes to obedience.

Here’s why: Because a lot of us have already “tried harder” to love our enemies and turn the other cheek, and lay down our lives for others, and we have failed miserably.

But why have we failed? Simply because we are trying to be like the Son of God without resting on the power of the Son of God to accomplish the task.

Or, as Jesus phrases it – immediately after all those verses about how love and obedience are connected:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

That is the missing ingredient for many of us.

We are trying to squeeze out enough love from within ourselves to pray for our enemies or forgive those who hurt us and it simply isn’t possible. Because the brand of love that’s inside of me isn’t strong enough for that. Until the "Jesus Brand" of love is filling me up and gushing out of me like a river, I can’t come close to doing what Jesus commands me to do.

So, rather than focus on “trying harder” we actually need to focus more on “abiding in Christ” and resting in Him.

For example:

We come to the place where we know we need to love our enemies or pray for those who hurt us and we say, “Jesus, I know you want me to love this person, but it’s just not in me. Please help me now to love them the way you have loved me.”

And then you prayerfully and deliberately step out in faith to show love to those people as Jesus commanded.

That’s walking by faith.

I can remember a time in my life when a friend of mine had hurt me deeply. The betrayal was painful and devastating. I got up early in the morning and went into our den to pray. 

I knew that Jesus had commanded me to “bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” in Luke 6:28, but honestly I didn’t want to do it. I kind of wanted the guy to get what he deserved, which in my mind was to get hit by a truck.

But, against my flesh, and in obedience to My Lord Jesus, I started to pray a blessing for him anyway. 

I prayed for God to bless his family, and his marriage, and his children. I prayed that God would shower him with blessings, and answer the prayers and desires of his heart. I prayed that God would bless his finances and his health, and his friends.

Honestly, in the beginning there was no conviction in my prayer whatsoever. I was still hurt and angry. But as I continued to pray, I began to weep. My heart broke for him and soon I was sincerely begging the Lord to bless this brother with every good and perfect gift in the heavenly places. I sincerely asked the Lord to open the storehouse of heaven and rain down blessings without end on this brother who had so deeply hurt me. 

And I meant it.

The bitterness was gone. The anger faded. I had truly forgiven him and I seriously wanted God to reveal more of Himself to this brother.

That’s how you obey the hard commands of Jesus.

Step 1: Admit you can’t do it alone
Step 2: Ask Jesus to help you obey Him
Step 3: Begin to obey Jesus even if you don’t feel it
Step 4: Receive the Grace of God necessary to follow through

And maybe I could add

Step 5: Experience the joy of the Lord as you express your love for Him in humble obedience.

If we love Jesus we will obey Him.
If we abide in Jesus, He will abide in us.
If we trust in Him to provide what we lack, He will supply it so we can follow through.

In this way, we can do what Jesus commands us to do, in love, and we can experience His indwelling Spirit as He empowers us to walk like Himself.

It’s never too late to start doing what Jesus said.

His love endures forever.

-kg

FOR FURTHER READING






Tuesday, May 10, 2016

If Jesus Tells Me To Do Something, Do I Have To Do It?






Seems like a simple question, and you might assume the answer is obvious, but sadly, you would be wrong about that.

I asked that exact question on social media and the responses I received were along the lines of:

"You can't."

"Even Jesus' closest followers didn't obey Him"

"I can't."

"Mountains can't be moved even though He said they could."

"I tried."


And I have been fielding those sorts of responses for years now. Every time I suggest that we who follow Jesus should actually follow Him, and put His words into practice - or even that we CAN do these things - I am constantly told that we simply cannot.

I've been through a lot of this kind of thinking the last few years and I'm at the place where I can see that Jesus does empower us to do everything He asks us to do.

That's why He can say, "Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say?"

Because if we are in Him, then we can! Otherwise, Jesus is just messing with us, and I don't believe that's what's going on at all.

I think our problem is that Christians today need to move from a Romans 7 mentality into the Romans 8 reality.

Romans 7 is where Paul goes on and on about how the good he wants to do he cannot do and the evil he doesn't want to do he ends up doing anyway. Many Christians live in that chapter and never move on from there.

But Romans 7 ends with Paul asking a question:

"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?"

Which he then answers triumphantly:

"Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"

See, Paul knows that we are all likely to focus on our weakness and less likely to embrace our ability to actually obey Jesus the way He asks us to. So, that's why he gave us Chapter 7 of Romans to sort of get that all out in the open and let it sit there for all of us to see.

Yes. We are powerless against sin. We all feel that way sometimes, don't we? Yes, sure we do.

And then...Romans 8 comes right along and blows the whole thing to smithereens.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death." 
- Roman 8:1-2

That freedom is about so much more than salvation, by the way.

We are set from from the law of sin and death which keeps us pinned down in Romans 7. In Romans 8 we are set free by Christ and we are given life and the power to rise above our powerlessness to sin.

Paul then goes on in Romans 8 to talk about how we are now living "according to the Spirit" and not according to the flesh.

"You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ." - Romans 8:9

See, we often tend to accept the Grace of God as being only strong enough to save us, but not strong enough to transform us into people who are like Jesus.

But the NT says otherwise:

"For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives IN THIS PRESENT AGE, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, " - Titus 2:11-13

And...

"His divine power has given us EVERYTHING WE NEED for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires." 2 Peter 1:3-4
And of course,

"If you abide in me, and I abide in you, you will bear much fruit" - Jesus, John 15:4

And my fave: 

"This is how we know we are in Him: If anyone claims to be in Him, he must live as Jesus did" - 1 John 2:5-6

Do we fall down? Yes. But so do little children learning to walk. No parent says, "Well, he'll never walk, I guess. He just keeps falling down. I guess I'll stick him in this walker forever."

We shouldn't do this to ourselves, either.

More and more we learn to walk in Christ, and we learn to stand more than we fall over time.

It's not about us trying harder. In our strength we know we can do nothing. But we also know that if we abide in Him and if He abides in us, then we will "bear much fruit" and that fruit is the working of the power of the Holy Spirit within us who empowers us to live like Christ in this present age.

It really is about daily resting in Him and learning to abide in Christ. 

It's a process, but it's possible.

If it weren't, Jesus wouldn't say to us, "Follow me" and expect us to do what He says.


-kg

**
FOR FURTHER READING
Our Biggest Problem
Crazy Pills

Friday, May 06, 2016

Jesus and Torah




Does Jesus break the Torah? Does He encourage others to do so? Here, in this guest post, my friend Chuck McKnight makes some very insightful observations which I believe are on the right track.

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Jesus and Torah
Guest post by Chuck McKnight

I made this list a while ago of just a few examples where Jesus deliberately breaks Torah. Take it or leave it.

According to Torah, the Israelites were commanded by Yahweh to swear in his name.

"You shall fear the Lord your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name." - Deuteronomy 6:13

Jesus not only contradicted this command, he said that it came from the evil one, which certainly means that it did not come from Yahweh 

"But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one." - Matthew 5:37

According to Torah, "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" was an absolute mandate. The Israelites were commanded to "show no mercy" in carrying it out:

"Show no pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." - Deuteronomy 19:21

But Jesus directly contradicted this mandate, commanding his followers not to follow Torah's instructions:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also." - Matthew 5:38–39

According to Torah, adultery was to be punished with death. No exceptions were given.

‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death." - Leviticus 20:10


But Jesus broke Torah in order to show mercy to the woman caught in adultery. [See John 8]

According to Torah, no work was to be done on the Sabbath.

"But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do." - Deuteronomy 5:14

But Jesus flaunted his disregard for this particular command on many occasions. Let's look at one of the most direct violations:

When Jesus healed the man by the pool of Bethesda, he not only did so on the Sabbath, but he specifically instructed the man to break the Sabbath with him by carrying his mat.

"Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked. The day on which this took place was a Sabbath" - John 5:8–9


This was nothing less than a deliberate contradiction of Jeremiah 17:21–22, which states that Yahweh specified not to carry any burden on the Sabbath. This command wasn't one of the traditions that had been built up as a hedge around the law; it came straight from Scripture.

"This is what the Lord says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors." - Jeremiah 17:21-22

If Jesus was merely concerned with healing the man, he would have simply done so, but he went out of his way to go against the law in the process, [by asking the man to take up his mat and carry it] and that action was what specifically raised the ire of the Jews:

"...and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.” - John 5:10


**
So, what are we to make of this? I [Keith] have a few thoughts:

First, Jesus himself was the first one to point out the differences between the Old and the New Covenant realities: "You've heard it said....[quoting Moses and the Old Covenant]...but I say to you...[speaking a new way of living under the New Covenant]."

Second, the New Testament writers document these two realities and wrestle sometimes with the ways that the New replaces and modifies the Old in the book of Acts, and in Galatians and Romans, for example.

Third, Jesus is the clearest picture we have of who the Father is, and what the Father is like. The prophets were men like us, but Jesus was, and is, the Word of God made flesh. He is God the Son. So whenever there are apparent contradictions, we take Jesus and apply what He says, not what those ancient prophets said through a veil that is only removed by Christ. 

Finally, Christians are never instructed to keep the Torah or the Law. So it doesn't really matter if Jesus and the Torah are in conflict. We follow Jesus, not the Torah. Christianity is not Judaism with a cross on top. It's based on Jesus and who He is and what He commanded us to do. 

The Old Covenant is "obsolete". [Heb. 8:13]
It is "fading away and vanishing". [2 Cor. 3:7-11]
We should "get rid of it" [Gal.4:30]
Jesus is "the end of the Law" [Rom.10:4]

I'm very thankful to Chuck McKnight for taking the time to identify the specific ways in which Jesus opposed the Torah and corrected it for us.

We are no longer under the Old Covenant. We are gloriously alive in the New Covenant reality that the prophets longed to see. 

God Himself, and Jesus, His Son, has made a home within us. We are now called His children. We are His beloved. 

-kg

Follow Chuck McKnight at his blog: Hippie Heretic

FOR FURTHER READING:
QUESTIONS ABOUT THE OLD AND NEW COVENANT



Thursday, May 05, 2016

Learning To Abide

Fear, worry, and doubt are un-Christian practices.


How can I say this? Because Jesus says this.


Jesus tells us not to worry. If we ignore him and practice worrying, then we are disobedient to Jesus. 


Or, to put it another way, worry is a sin.


When we worry we are saying that we doubt that God is in control. We give power to our fear and we act as if God isn't big enough to handle our life.


Jesus also tells us not to be afraid. He tells us not to fear men, who can only destroy our body but not our soul. He even tells us not to fear Him. 

His Apostles remind us in the New Testament that perfect love casts out fear, and that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 


So, if we are ruled by our fears, we are not behaving like a Christian.


Doubt is a natural human emotion, just like fear and worry. But like those other emotions, doubt isn't something that a follower of Jesus can practice. 


If we are abiding in Christ, then we cannot doubt Him. If we go all in with Jesus, then that means we place all of our hope in Him, and if we do that we are not doubting, but trusting. 


Of course, none of us ever perfectly avoids these three things - fear, worry and doubt - but the point is that we do not practice these things. We don't allow fear, worry and doubt to remain. We cast those things out quickly and we refuse to be ruled by those because Jesus is our King and we are submitted to Him.


If we are abiding in Jesus, then we are practicing faith, hope and love, not fear worry and doubt.


Let's continue to walk in our new nature, which is Christ in us.


-kg
**
READ MORE:
THE SKY IS [NOT] FALLING>
FEARLESS>
WORRY NOT> 

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Beloved One



The entire Universe resonates with love for you.

Your name is on the lips of the Almighty.
Your face is precious to Him.

Your laugh is music. Your smile is His everlasting joy.

The planets spin in response to this love.
The stars burn bright with the heat of it.

Everything He has made is designed to declare His everlasting love for you.
None of it means half as much to Him as you do.

He longs to gather you to Himself. 
He dreams of one day dancing with you at a feast that He’s been preparing for the last 2,000 years.
One day you will see Him face to face. 
On that day, you will look into His eyes and see for yourself how deep and endless His love is for you.

But until that day, He invites you to come away and sit with Him. Listen for His voice.
Delight yourself in Him as He delights Himself in you.

The entire Universe resonates with love for you.

Your name is on His heart.
Make your heart His home. 
Let Him come and live and breathe in you now.

Start today.


-kg