Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Schizophrenic God of Inerrancy



For those who embrace – even insist – on the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible, there emerges a very odd version of a God who simply cannot make up His mind about things.

As an example, the infallible Scriptures are 100 percent clear about the fact that God causes evil and creates disasters:

“When disaster [literally “evil”] comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it?” [Amos 3:6]

“I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster [“evil”]; I the Lord, do all these things.” [Isaiah 45:7]

“The LORD said to him, "Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the LORD?” [Exodus 4:11]

These verses, and several others like them, affirm without any doubt that God is the one who brings disaster, creates evil and makes people deaf and blind.

This is an inerrant and infallible statement of fact supported by an equally infallible and inerrant Holy Bible.

However, there are other scriptures that contradict these ideas and instead say:

"God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all"  [1 John 1:5]

“His works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he” [Deut. 32:4]

Jesus also affirmed that it was Satan who came to “steal, kill and destroy,” not God.

So, taking all of these infallible and inerrant verses together, we know without a doubt that God does no wrong, and doesn’t destroy or kill, but that He most certainly brings evil, creates darkness and hands out birth defects.

We also know that God was the one who commanded David to take a census and then punished 70,000 people by killing them with a plague when David obeyed. [See 2 Sam.24:1]

At the same time, we clearly see that it was Satan who incited David to take a census, not God. [See 1 Chronicles 21:1]

We also know that God never tempts anyone to do evil [See James 1:13].

So clearly these inerrant and infallible verses tell us that God, and Satan, both commanded David to take a census and then God punished David and his people for giving in to the temptation which God never tempted him with.

Does that make sense to you?

Try this one.

“Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please Him to ruin and destroy you.” [Deut. 28:63]

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked!” [Ezekiel 33:11]

So, God is pleased to destroy His people, but He takes no pleasure in their death.

One more.

“I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers.” [Exodus 20:5; Deut. 5:9]

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel…he will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live, but his father will die for his own sin…the son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.” [Ezekiel 18:3;17-19]

Clearly, according to these inerrant and infallible verses of scripture, God punishes children for the sins of their fathers, but a son will not die for his father’s sins, nor share the guilt of his father, nor will the father share the guilt of his son.

Got it?

If you do, please explain it to the rest of us.

All I can see is that there are competing voices in the scriptures. Some prophets see God one way – causing evil, creating birth defects and punishing sons for the sins of their fathers – and other prophets see God a different way – not causing evil or tempting people, or punishing sons for their father’s sins and taking no pleasure in the death of anyone.

Those who insist on an inerrant scripture ignore these discrepancies, or turn somersaults to make each contradictory statement true while ignoring the very obvious fact: The voices we hear in scripture are not infallible, nor inerrant.

So, what can we do about these verses? How can we discern which ones speak truthfully about God’s character and which verses miss the mark?

According to Paul, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things” [1 Cor. 2:15]  and while quoting Isaiah’s rhetorical question “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him!?” [Isa. 4:13] responds shockingly: “But we have the mind of Christ!” [v. 17]

So, who dares to challenge and question the scriptures?

We do!

Why? 

Because we have the mind of Christ.

Paul even reminds us that we will judge angels [1 Cor. 6:3]; and who are “angels” but “messengers from God”? [The word "angel" in scripture is literally translated as "messenger of God"]

Do we have an obligation to read the Scriptures through the lens of Jesus and with the mind of Christ? 

Absolutely!

Otherwise we are left with a schizophrenic God who is both good and evil, who is both tempting and never-tempting, who both creates birth defects and heals them, who delights in destruction and takes no pleasure in it, etc.

Is God the author of confusion? 

No.

Is God the one who is confused about who He is and what He does, or could it be that those who wrote about Him prior to Christ couldn’t see Him as clearly as we do now?

If you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. There is no clearer picture of Him than this.

The only way to know God any better is to know Jesus. The more you come to know Him, the more you can clearly see through the mind of Christ what God is like.

-kg








Wednesday, August 30, 2017

LITERAL HERETICS



The first real "heretic" of Christianity was a man named "Marcion" who saw the radical difference between the God of the Old Testament scriptures and the God revealed by Jesus.

But this was not his heresy. In fact, many -if not all- early Christians also saw this same radical difference between the two testimonies of God's nature.

What's more, all of those early Christians also rejected the violence of God in the Old Testament scriptures and fully embraced the radical enemy-love taught by Jesus.

There are no dissenting voices in the early Christian church when it comes to non-violence and enemy love whatsoever.

So, what was Marcion's heresy? It was his solution for responding to the differing perspectives of God between those two Testaments that got him labeled a heretic.

Marcion's solution was to literally throw out the entire Old Covenant and to claim that the God revealed in those Hebrew scriptures was actually a demon.

[Now, that's a heresy!]

When another early Church Father wrote to rebuke Marcion's extreme response, it was not to dismiss the idea that there were obvious differences between the way God was viewed in the two Covenants.

In fact, Origen agreed with Marcion that there were differences between God as Moses and the other Prophets spoke of Him and the "Abba" Father God as revealed through Jesus.

The most surprising thing about Origen's rebuke of Marcion was that he realized that the heresy was rooted in one thing: Reading the Bible literally.

The reason that is so surprising - even ironic - is that there are Christians today who insist on reading the Bible literally and yet still consider Marcion a heretic.

In other words, today's Bible Literalists see Marcionism as a heresy even though the sin of Marcionism is specifically defined by Origen as reading the Bible too literally.

What they miss is that no one considered Marcionism a heresy for claiming that Jesus was right about who God was and what God looked like.

Every early Christian embraced that idea. All of them.

The idea that Jesus was - and is - the clearest picture anyone could ever have of God was universally accepted by the early Christian Church.

This was not heresy. It was Christianity.

Origen agreed with Marcion that a literal view of God as seen in the Old Testament scriptures "would not be entertained regarding the most unjust and cruel of men" and went on to say:

"Holy Scripture is not understood by [Marcion] according to its spiritual, but according to its literal meaning" [De Principiis, Origen, 4.8-9]

In other words, Marcion went off the rails because he read the Bible too literally. By reading the Bible literally, Marcion could not reconcile the God of Moses - who commanded genocide and delighted in the dashing of infants against the rocks - and the God of Jesus - who showed love and mercy to the just and the unjust and forgave sinners freely.

Therefore, Marcion could only do one thing: He jettisoned the entire Hebrew Bible and rejected the God he read about there as a demonic aberration of Jesus' "Abba" Father God.

But, as Origen and the other Church Fathers demonstrated, there is a better way than this.

Instead of taking everything we read in the Old Testament about God as a literal fact - as if those words are dictated by God and transcribed by dispassionate observers with no bias of their own - we should read those scriptures through the lens of Jesus.

Jesus is our best and most accurate testament of who God really is.

Rejecting Marcionism needs to include a rejection of a literal reading of the Old Testament scriptures.

-kg

NOTE: Special thanks to Derek Flood's book "Disarming Scripture" for a comparison of Origen and Marcion.




Tuesday, August 29, 2017

HERETICS LIKE PAUL




If you and I read the Old Testament scriptures the way Paul the Apostle did, we'd be called heretics.

For example, if you read Psalm 18:40-49, the passage is all about how God will destroy the Gentiles and pour out His vengeance on them:

"I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord, but he did not answer.
"I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.

"The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.
"Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name."



It's pretty gruesome stuff, to be honest. 

But notice how Paul the Apostle quotes - or rather heavily misquotes - this text in Romans 15:9:

"For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God's truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for His mercy, as it is written:

"I destroyed my foes. They cried for help, but there was no one to save them— to the Lord, but he did not answer.
 "I beat them as fine as windblown dust; I trampled them like mud in the streets.
You have delivered me from the attacks of the people; you have made me the head of nations.
People I did not know now serve me, foreigners cower before me;
as soon as they hear of me, they obey me. They all lose heart;
they come trembling from their strongholds.

"The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!
He is the God who avenges me, who subdues nations under me, who saves me from my enemies.
You exalted me above my foes; from a violent man you rescued me.

"Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing the praises of your name."

Wait. Seriously? 

This is what you call "taking scripture out of context" my friends.

Paul completely takes a passage about how God will take vengeance on the Gentiles and destroy them and (mis)quotes it as a way to prove that God is actually glorified for showing mercy to the Gentiles.

Trust me: No Christian pastor or Bible teacher would ever get away with anything so irresponsible as this today.

And this is not the only example. Oh, no.

Paul does it again in the very next verse of Romans 15:10 when he radically misquotes Deuteronomy 32:43 like this:

"Again it says, 'Rejoice O Gentiles, with His people, for He will avenge the blood of His servants, He will take vengeance on His enemies, and make atonement for His land and people." 

Uh....yeah. Ok, then.

What's going on here? How can Paul do such a thing?

Is he trying to pull a fast one? Hardly. 

Instead, Paul is reading the Old Testament scriptures through the lens of Christ. He starts by knowing who God is - who He really is - by looking at Jesus.

In Christ, Paul can clearly see that the Father is NOT a God of vengeance and wrath. He understands that Jesus has subverted that Old Covenant idea of God and revealed to us a God who shows mercy, loves everyone and redeems even His enemies.

See, there was a time when Paul went by the name "Saul of Tarsus" and he went around doing what any good Pharisee did - he persecuted anyone who dared to question the authority of Scripture.

In fact, it was in the act of persecuting the Christian church that Jesus showed up, knocked him off his ass [literally] and opened Paul's eyes to the truth: God wasn't pleased with violence. 

Paul experienced mercy and forgiveness from the very people he was trying to murder. He heard the Gospel of Peace for the first time and very soon he came to realize that God was not who he thought He was. 

After this, Paul counted all of that scriptural "expertise" as manure and devoted himself to one thing: "to know Christ and the power of His resurrection" [Phil. 3:10]

Why would Paul do that? Why is it so important to "know Christ"?

Because without Christ, you and I cannot see God. There is a veil that covers our eyes if we try to understand the Scriptures without reading them through the lens of Jesus. [See 2 Cor. 3:15]

This is why Paul could now read violent passages in the Hebrew Scriptures and dismiss them as the flawed perspectives of men who had yet to know Christ as he had now come to know Him.

By knowing Christ, Paul could now clearly see who the "Abba" Father God really was: A God who looked and acted like Jesus.

As long as we continue to follow the letter of the Law, we will reap death. [Romans 7:10]

Paul and the other Apostles invite us to see God through brand new eyes: The eyes of Jesus.

Through Him, we can clearly see a God who refuses to beat His children. 

We, instead, see an Abba who longs to draw everyone to Himself and transform each of us into people who look and act like Jesus.

"For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." [John 1:17]

-kg

NOTE: Special thanks to Derek Flood for pointing out Paul's Christ-like hermeneutic in his book "Disarming Scripture".




Monday, August 28, 2017

BEING CHURCH IN TENT CITY



Our house church family met yesterday at Tent City - a homeless encampment of around 300 people that has grown up in the shadow of Angel Stadium, only a few blocks from my house.

We brought hot coffee, muffins, danishes and cold water bottles to share with our new friends who call this makeshift town their home.

The first new friend we met was "Fernie." He had matted hair that covered his face in dreadlocks so that only his eyes were visible if you looked through all the hair. He was wearing a pair of shorts, with no shoes or shirt, standing on the sidewalk as we made our way to the Tent City.

We said "hello" and offered him coffee and a some breakfast. He politely replied and graciously accepted all we had to share with him. He was soft-spoken, clear-headed, and grateful.

Next, we met "Gilbert" who allowed us to pray for him and his wife and kids.

The next tent we visited was home for "Angie" and "Ariana" who also received prayer along with their coffee and muffins. Several people in our house church had very specific words of encouragement for Angie regarding her son who was not with her. She wiped away tears as we prayed for her and her son and both thanked us for our prayers and our reminder that God loved them both so much.

We met "Sharon" who asked for prayer for her foot which was in great pain. After we prayed for her, "Paul," her neighbor, asked us for help finding the bus routes that she could take to go to a hospital that he had scouted out for her earlier. He was very concerned for her and talked at length with us about his ideas and vision to start a homeless non-profit.

One of our sisters took ice from the cooler, dropped it into a ziplock bag and placed it on Sharon's ankle which also helped take away the pain.

We met and prayed for a half dozen others and heard their stories: Like "Raya" who simply radiated the joy and the presence of Jesus and shared with us about what the Lord was doing in her life and how He was leading her and giving her great ideas for starting a new business so she could move out of tent city. We also heard her share about her four kids who were all very successful and blessed in everything they were pursuing - and her joy was evident as she told us about each of them.

After about half an hour of sharing coffee, water and muffins - and praying for our new friends at Tent City, we headed under the overpass to worship in the shade.

We had invited everyone to join us, but only one person - "Gilbert" - came out of his tent and came and sat beside us as we sang "Reckless Love" and "There Is No Striving" at the top of our lungs in the shade of that overpass.

One young man who was visiting with us for the very first time was sitting next to Gilbert and he started to talk to him during worship. Soon they were praying together and eventually we saw Gilbert and our visitor hugging and crying and rejoicing together as we sang.

Afterward, we all drove over to a local Indian restaurant and shared lunch together - and talked about all the amazing people we met, and how they had blessed us so much.

Wendy and I glanced at one another several times during that morning and smiled to each other. We were both so blessed to see and experience Jesus in our house church in this way.

There is now such a deep and sincere love for Jesus in our house church family now. That love has spilled out of us and is now bursting forth in expressions of love for the outcast, the homeless, the forgotten and the broken.

It is so beautiful. My heart can barely contain all the joy and wonder. Jesus is so alive in us and so real to all of us. We are truly experiencing the heart of Jesus together. He is abiding in us and moving through us to touch people - and transform us - in so many awesome ways.

We are overwhelmed in His presence.

Yesterday, sitting under that overpass, worshipping Jesus with my church family, I was overcome with emotion. It was such an honor and a privilege to be the Church in that place and to represent Him to so many beautiful people who are so dearly loved of God.

This really is the best thing I have ever done with the word "Church" attached to it.

Halleiuah!

-kg

Friday, August 25, 2017

OLD BEATITUDES VS NEW BEATITUDES




Jesus is famous for his list of blessings found in the Sermon on the Mount. You know, "Blessed are the poor for they will inherit the earth" and "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."

But the Old Testament also contains a few "blessed are" statements which don't always sound quite as beautiful.

For example, can you imagine Jesus saying something like this:

"Blessed is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them on the rocks." [Ps 137:8-9]

That's not the sort of thing we would ever expect Jesus to say, is it?

This is partly why we need to learn how to read the Old Testament scriptures through the lens of Jesus.

See, before we can understand a text, we first need to understand God - and that means recognizing Him for who He really is.

The best way to understand God is to look at Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the one who reveals the Father to us. If we have seen Jesus, then we have truly seen God because no one has ever seen God at any time except for Jesus.

So, when we read a verse of scripture in the Hebrew Bible that has God saying something like:

"Samaria will be held guilty, for she has rebelled against her God. They will fall by the sword, their little ones will be dashed in pieces, and their pregnant women will be ripped open." [Hosea 13:16]

We need to ask ourselves a few questions first, like:

"Is this what God said?"

Or, "Is this what the author thought God was saying?"

Actually, our first question should be: "Does this sound like something Jesus would ever say?"

If not, we know that the verse we're reading isn't what God said but what the author thought God was saying.

Because ultimately we have to decide if our faith is in a Book, or if our faith is in Jesus.

In this specific case, we can see that Jesus showed great love and compassion for people from Samaria. He told parables where the Samaritans were the heroes. He went out of his way to share the Gospel with a Samaritan woman. He refused to look down on Samaritans or to treat them any differently than other people.

Jesus loved Samaritans. So, we can be 100 percent sure of one thing: Jesus would not encourage anyone to "dash in pieces" their "little ones" or to "rip open" their "pregnant women."

Not even a little bit.

There are over 100 verses in the Bible where God reportedly told people to go and kill other people.

In many of those verses God seems to command people to slaughter women, children and even toddlers and pregnant mothers.

If you think Jesus would ever do this you might want to refresh your memory a little. He is the same one who told us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, forgive those who hate us, pray for those who misuse us and overcome evil with good.

In fact, Jesus tells us to do all of these things so that we can be like someone else: His Father in Heaven.

Yes, our compassion, forgiveness and radical love is patterned after the same love that God has for everyone - both the righteous and the unrighteous.

"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." [Matt. 5:44-45]

If God wasn't kind and merciful to everyone, then Jesus would have no basis for asking us to be like Him by showing love and mercy for our enemies.

In conclusion: Jesus reveals a God who would rather die for His enemies than kill them. Jesus shows us a God who loves all the people we hate and He wants us to love them, too.

So, the next time you read a verse in the Bible that depicts God as a bloodthirsty warrior who delights at the slaughter of women, children and pregnant mothers, just remember: That's not Jesus.

And if it doesn't look like Jesus, it's not the Father.

-kg




Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Problem With Saying The Bible Is The Word Of God



Inevitably, whenever I engage with someone over the issue of whether or not the Word of God is Jesus or a Book about Jesus, the argument is always raised that “All scripture is God-breathed” [quoting from 2 Timothy 3:16] and therefore no one has any authority to question the Bible.

There are more than a few problems with this.

First of all, when Paul wrote those words in 1 Timothy, he was not thinking of the “Bible” in the same way that you and I might think of it today. 

To Paul, and to most First Century believers, the “Scriptures” were the Law and the Prophets and the Books of Wisdom, which would include the Psalms. It probably also included works that most Protestants today do not consider to be scripture like the Book of Enoch [which gets quoted in the New Testament book of Jude] and the Wisdom of Solomon and other Hebrew writings like Sirach and Tobit, that many considered to be Holy writings.

One thing for certain is that Paul was not thinking of his own epistles when he said this. It must be stressed that Paul did not think that he was writing Scripture when he wrote to the churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Rome, etc. He thought – correctly – that he was writing letters to various Christian communities who needed encouragement and wisdom about certain challenges that threatened their faith.

He also was most certainly not thinking about any of the four Gospels which were not even written when he said this.

Yes, we are very blessed to have copies of some of those epistles, and other Apostolic writings, but none of those people had any inkling that they were writing something that one day might be added to a book alongside Genesis, Isaiah or Malachi and considered scripture.

Secondly, the book that eventually became known as the Bible went through several wildly different forms before finally being Canonized in the Fourth Century. Before this the church referred to a fluid collection of Hebrew scriptures and First Century Apostolic writings and the various Gospel accounts for insight. 

In other words, their idea of scripture looked radically different from ours and, depending on who you were talking to and what time in Church history, you might be surprised what was considered scripture and what was not.

For example, several New Testament books that every Protestant today considers an essential part of the Bible were, at various times and by various Church Fathers, eliminated from the accepted Canon of Scripture. Books like Esther, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John and James were left out of several lists of accepted books of scripture by many church leaders. 

Consequently, many other books that most Protestants have never even heard of were accepted by some as Canon like the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Book of Baruch, Jubilees and the Letter of Jeremiah, for example.

Sometime around 363 AD several attempts were made to establish an official and accepted list of which books or epistles were scripture and which should be eliminated. There was no firm consensus on the contents of that list for several decades, but eventually a group of Christian leaders – whose names the average christian does not even know – decided for the rest of us forevermore which books were to be accepted and which were to be rejected as scripture.

Today there is still no universal consensus on what is and what is not the “Bible” or Holy Scripture. 

Like the early church, depending on who you ask, and where you live, and what Christian tradition you belong to, the book you carry around and refer to as the Holy Bible might look very different from another book from another Christian community that might be called the “Bible.”

I’ve started to wonder, “How do we know those people who decided what was and what wasn’t Scripture got it right?” Furthermore, I’ve started to wonder who gave those men the authority to decide that God was no longer speaking to His people and inspiring them to write down what the Holy Spirit was revealing to them about the nature and character of God?

Why do we so blindly accept the authority of these nameless and faceless men who made these decisions for the rest of us? What if they didn’t really have the authority to make this decision? What if they left writings out, or included writings, in error? How are we so sure that they were inerrant and infallible in their process?

Ultimately, for those who insist on inerrancy and infallibility of scripture, what they are actually trusting in is the perfection of those decisions made by a group of people centuries ago about what was and wasn't worthy to be included in the Bible.

Frankly, the canon of Scripture most of us hold to today was originally compiled and assembled by people that most consider to be heretics today – namely Marcion and Origen – who were the original compilers of a canon and the basis for the bulk of what we accept as scripture, respectively. 

If we reject many of the theological assumptions of Marcion and Origen, why do we unquestionably accept their judgement regarding what is and what isn’t to be included in the Holy Bible?

Honestly, I am playing devil’s advocate here in many respects because I don’t outright reject everything that those two Church Fathers taught simply because I disagree with some of their theological conclusions. But for those who do reject those Church Fathers as heretics, I have to wonder why they have no trouble accepting their respective lists of what is and what isn’t their Bible.

Ultimately, it boils down to this: Our Scriptures are a loose collection of writings by various people throughout history who were inspired by God to write down what they believed and what they experienced of God. 

Some of what we may currently accept as Scripture might not actually be inspired by the Holy Spirit. Some of what we reject, or are simply unaware of due to obscurity, might actually be worth considering as a legitimate source of wisdom about God. 

But everything - and I do mean everything - needs to be filtered through the lens of Christ. If it lines up with our revelation of Him, we should take it to heart. If it disagrees with the Word of God who became flesh and came to dwell within us, we should dismiss it as being the flawed testimony of men.

Jesus is our hermeneutic. Jesus is our ultimate authority. Everything else is subject to Him and His authority.

So, before you claim that the Bible is the Word of God because Paul claimed that "all scripture is God-breathed" be sure to remember that what he considered scripture and what you're currently referring to as scripture are not the same. 

Also, remember that just because something is "God-breathed" doesn't mean it is infallible and inerrant. Humans are also "God-breathed" and we are neither infallible or inerrant. 

Yes, scripture [whatever that might be], "is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness..." but determining how and in what ways scripture is profitable for us is something that must be discerned by the Holy Spirit of God that lives within each and every one of us.

This should cause each of us to cling more to Jesus and to dive deeper into Christ for wisdom and insight. 

After all, if we abide in Him then we experience Christ abiding in us, and this is the only way any of us can bear fruit.

-kg





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

From New Covenant Theology to Jesus Theology




New Covenant Theology was the "new thing" a few decades ago and many were called heretics for defending and promoting it.

Previously, the two main theologies were Covenant Theology and Dispensationalism.

According to Wikipedia:

"New Covenant Theology (teaches) that the person and work of Jesus Christ is the central focus of the Bible. One distinctive result of this is that Old Testament Laws have been abrogated or cancelled with Jesus' crucifixion, and replaced with the Law of Christ found in the New Covenant."
This view also says that: 

"The New Testament interpret(s) the Old Testament...when the NT interprets an OT promise differently than the plain reading, then New Covenant Theology concludes that that is how God interprets His promise." 

"As an example, Amos 9:11-12 is quoted by James in Acts 15 and is interpreted by him to associate the rebuilding of "David's fallen tent" with the Gentiles' salvation. This would be a highly surprising interpretation to the Jewish believers, since there is no precedent for it to be interpreted as anything other than a promise to the nation of Israel. (Instead), New Covenant Theology says that God has given us His interpretation of that passage, through James."


As for me, New Covenant Theology has been my own personal perspective on scripture for a while now. Most of what I have written here on my blog, and in my various books, has been from this perspective. 

But lately, my theology has started to progress a bit further than this. 

I embraced New Covenant Theology because it affirmed that the Flat Bible perspective is flawed and reorients scripture with Christ as our ultimate authority. But unfortunately it stops short of allowing Jesus to fully reform our ideas about God. 

So, while New Covenant Theology (NCT) affirms Christ as the center of scripture, it fails to completely embrace Jesus as our one and only image of who the Father is and what He is really like.

Where NCT falters is in fully admitting that the revelation of the Father found in Jesus is often at odds with what the Old Covenant prophets have to say about Him.

Furthermore, the NCT position also fails to admit that the prophets themselves are often at odds with one another about what God said and what God's character is like. [See, for example the differing statements made in the OT scriptures about whether God did, or did not, command the Israelites to offer animal sacrifices].

To help explain this, let me borrow an analogy. There are various answers to the question "Where do babies come from?" and someone might say "the stork brings them" and another might say "when mommy and daddy love each other very much the baby starts to grow in her tummy" and still another might say "the male contributes the sperm which he secretes during sexual intercourse to fertilize the egg which the woman provides and in 9 months the embryo matures into a fetus and a child is born."

Two of those answers might be considered "true", one of them is obviously a story designed to symbolize the reality without actually addressing any of the mechanics, and yet all of them are still an attempt to answer the question about where babies come from.

This is similar to what we have in the Hebrew Bible when it comes to question of what God is like. Some voices give us the "stork" version of the story, with great symbolism and hyperbole. Some voices give us an approximation of the answer. Other voices may give us more detailed and specific answers that more closely align with reality.

For us, Jesus is the reality. He is "the exact representation" of the Father. He is the one in whom "the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form." He is "the Word made flesh who dwelt among us."

So, the best picture of the Father is found in Christ. If we have "seen Him," we have truly and accurately "seen the Father" in the most complete and full way possible.

Because "no one has ever seen God" except Jesus and the reason He came was to reveal the Father to us like no one else before ever could, or did.

In our analogy, David the Psalmist might be one who provides the more poetic "stork version" of the Father's character. Isaiah and Jeremiah might be the "mommy loves daddy" version of the story. But only Christ gives us the version of the story that includes every specific detail we need to fully understand who the Father is and what the Father is like.

As long as we insist upon holding tightly to the rigid inerrancy of the Old Testament scriptures, we will forever be kept from fully embracing the clearest and most accurate portrayal of who God really is. 

Until we relax our grip on the idea that the Old Testament prophets were truly seeing God clearly and recognize that the Abba Father we see revealed in Christ overrides those limited and flawed perspectives of God, we will remain confused about who God really is. 

As long as we allow the tarnished testimony of Moses to describe God as one who commands His people to slaughter infants and toddlers without showing compassion, we will forever stand in opposition to the testimony of Jesus who showed us an Abba Father God who loves children, cares for His enemies, shows compassion to the broken and commands us to do the same - specifically because this is who He is and what He is like. [See Matt. 5:44-45]

So, even as those who stood up and defended the New Covenant Theology view a few decades ago were considered heretics and false teachers by the Dispensationalists and Covenant Theology teachers of their day, we should not be surprised when the same charge is leveled at us who affirm a Jesus-centric perspective of God today.

Ultimately I believe it simply boils down to this: Who is our authority? Is it the Bible? Or is it Christ? Do we center our theology on a book, or on a person who is indeed God Himself incarnate?

The Book, as wonderful as it may be, is imperfect. It contains the testimony of men who sometimes saw clearly and sometimes did not. The Book contains the voices of men who don't always agree with one another about who God is and what God is like.

Our choice is simple: We either agree with Jesus about who God is, because He is God made flesh, or we side with those Old Testament prophets who were not perfect, not flawless and not Immanuel [God with us].

I choose Jesus.

-kg



Thursday, August 17, 2017

8 WAYS TO SPOT A MODERN DAY PHARISEE


1) You magnify the sins of others and minimize your own
2) You spend more time talking about what you are against rather than what you’re for
3) You don’t feel like you have any real “serious” sins to repent of
4) You’re quick to judge others but not to listen to them first
5) You read the Bible to justify your beliefs not to be transformed into the image of Christ
6) You’re pretty sure being “Christian” is primarily evidenced by how much people act like you do
7) All your friends are Christian and believe the same things you do
8) You read this entire list with someone else in mind rather than applying these to yourself

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

FROM SECONDHAND RELIGION TO FIRSTHAND FAITH



For too long many of us have embraced a secondhand religion that is based on believing certain doctrines and defending traditions of our faith.

This secondhand religion is based on what we have heard from others - our parents, our family, our church - about who God is what God is like. It defines Christianity, and the Christian life, as nothing more than believing what the Bible says [or what our denomination or church tells us it says].

But the time is ripe for us to shed this dead religion in favor of a more vibrant and living relationship with a person - not a book or a creed or a statement of faith - but a God "in whom we live and move and have our being."

This is firsthand faith. In contrast to secondhand religion, firsthand faith is about an actual relationship with the person that the Bible points to. It's about knowing God and His Son in an intimate way.

All through the Gospels Jesus urges us to abandon the perceived safety of religious information gathering to the truly abundant life found only by abiding in Him.

We are called into an intimacy with God that is scandalous and breath-taking. [Matt. 6:9]

He is our "Papa" and we are His children. [1 John 3:1]

He invites us to draw near. [James 4:8]

He wants to make His home in us. [John 14:23]

He wants us to experience an intimacy with Him that compares to the union of a husband and wife. [Eph. 5:32]

He wants us to experience a "knowing" of Himself that conceives something within us. [John 17:3]

What this intimacy conceives in us is a new life that comes only from our close connection with Himself. [2 Cor. 5:17; Rev. 21:5]

The sad thing is, too many of those who profess themselves to be Christians are not experiencing Christ in this way. They have not yet moved from secondhand religion into a firsthand knowledge of God where His voice is heard, His mind is known, and His heartbeat becomes synced with their own.

Secondhand religion leads to a life of anxiety, fear and stress.

Firsthand faith leads to a life of joy, hope, peace and confidence based on our connection to God.

If you're still stuck in a secondhand religion, I invite you to begin moving into a firsthand experience of God through the Spirit of Christ.

It can be as simple as taking some time to sit quietly alone with the Lord and whispering a prayer to Him, asking for a deeper experience of His presence; being still to know that He is God.

It won't happen all at once, but if you are serious about abandoning your secondhand religion in order to enter into firsthand knowledge of God, you will be rewarded.

"...they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us." [Acts 17:27]

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after God, for they shall be filled....Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." [Matt. 5:6;8]


"...and they shall call him 'Immanuel', which means 'God with us'" [Matt. 1:23]

Are you ready to move from secondhand religion to firsthand faith?

He is waiting to show you more of Himself.

The time is now.

-kg


Monday, August 07, 2017

10 Reasons Why Jesus Surpasses The Law and Prophets



Here’s the deal: There are at least 10 different verses in the New Testament that very specifically identify Jesus as the one and only example for what the Father is really like.

Before I share those verses with you here, let me ask you to notice a few things:

First, notice that in nearly every case Jesus is either explicitly contrasted with the Old Testament Prophets, or it is implicitly suggested that He is the superior source for information about who God is and what God is like.

Secondly, please notice that whenever the New Testament says something about Jesus, it doesn’t affirm that the Old Testament was right and Jesus confirmed it. Instead, it often either ignores what the Old Testament claims or flat-out contradicts it.

This is pretty significant, really. Because it’s not as if the authors of the New Testament were ignorant about what the Old Testament said about God. Yet, their claims about Jesus very boldly supersede those claims made by the Law and the Prophets.

To help you see this, I will point out examples of how these explicit and implicit contrasts are made between Jesus and the Old Testament prophets, just in case they are not obvious.

Ready? Ok, here we go, according to the New Testament:

Who does God speak to us through today? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:1–3, NIV)

Who is the one mediator between God and man? (Not the Law. Not the Prophets.)
Jesus.

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Tim. 2:5)

Who is the one instructor who teaches us? (Not the Law. Not the Prophets.)
Jesus.

“For you have one instructor – the Messiah.” (Matt. 23:10)

Who is the one we should listen to? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

*After removing Moses [the Law] and Elijah [the Prophets], God says: “This is my Son. Listen to Him!” (Matt. 17:4-6)

Who is the only one who removes the veil that covers the Old Testament scriptures?
Only Jesus.

“For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”  (2. Cor. 3:14-16)

Where is the one place we can go to find life? (Not to the scriptures.)
Jesus.

“You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” [John 4:39-40]

Who is the only one who has ever seen God at any time? (Not Moses. Not Elijah.)
Jesus.

No one has ever seen God, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known.” [John 1:17-18]

Who is the “Word of God”? (Not your Bible.)
Jesus.

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” [John 1:1; 14)

Who reveals the Truth to us about the Father?
 No one but Jesus.

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” (John 14:6-7)

Please note in this list of scriptures above how easy it would have been for the New Testament writers to affirm the Old Testament and exalt Jesus at the same time.

But that’s not what they do.

For example, in John 1:17-18, if the author had intended to protect the witness of the Old Testament prophets who claimed they saw God and wanted to affirm their testimony about God's character, how easy it would have been to say something like this:

“Whereas Moses and Elijah had also seen God in the past, Jesus came from God as the Word made flesh to confirm their testimony.”

But, what he wrote sounds nothing like that. Not at all. It says this:

No one has ever seen God, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known.” (John 1:17-18)

That’s pretty harsh. It's almost as if John is trying to make a point here. He wants to say that, until Jesus came, we did not have an accurate revelation about who God was and what God was like. 

Let's think of it another way: Let's say that John wanted to communicate to us that Jesus's testimony about the Father was accurate but the testimony of the Old Testament Prophets was inaccurate. How might he do that? Maybe he would say something like: 

"No one except Jesus has seen the Father. Jesus came to reveal the Father to us because our ideas about God were less than exact."

Or...he might say it like this: 

"No one has ever seen God at any time, but God, the one and only [Jesus] makes Him known." (John 1:17-18)

Now, we shouldn’t assume that Matthew was just using hyperbole or that he had a momentary lapse of memory. Clearly, he was aware that there was something called the Old Testament and that people in the past, like Moses and Elijah, had claimed to see God and to hear from Him. 

That’s why his statement is so radical: “No one has ever seen God…”

The same could be said for every other verse above. If the authors had wanted to affirm the Old Testament, they had every opportunity to do so. Instead, they very boldly contrast Jesus with the Law and the Prophets and emphasize the supremacy of Christ.

Now, before you break out the pitchforks let me say that I do believe the Law and the Prophets point us to Christ. In fact, they do that beautifully. We should be very grateful for the Old Testament scriptures that foreshadow the coming of Jesus.

Jesus Himself said that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them, and this is exactly what He did. 

Because of this fulfillment, those scriptures have become obsolete and are fading away.

What we have now is the Living Word who is alive inside us.

He has written His law on our hearts. This is what the new covenant is all about. [See Jeremiah 31:31]

So, if anyone is to blame for pitting Jesus against Moses or Elijah, or against the Old Testament scriptures, it’s Paul, Matthew, John and the author of Hebrews, not me.

All I’ve done here is to quote those verses that they wrote and pointed out the obvious.


The rest, I believe, speaks for itself.

"For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17)

If I am guilty of anything, it is that I have taken those 10 verses above at face value and I have exalted Jesus above everyone and everything else. 

That's something I can live with.

-kg