Obedience in the Coming Age: Letting Go of Needful Things

Picking up where we left off last time, I realized while sitting in Kansas where once there was a heavy veil, torn asunder upon Jesus’ death, I replaced it with a sheer of my choosing, a barrier used to keep the full essence of Christ out of my life.  The spirit of the word propitiate act of atoning for sin or wrongdoing (especially appeasing a deity), became real.  I was beginning to understand the differences between the Covenant of the Law, its pitfalls without the correct heart application and the Covenant of Grace. The points we are discussing are:

  • Obeying God’s law
  • Choosing which laws to obey
  • Don’t judge me as a weapon of silence
  • Propitiate

As I write this, God brought a novel to mind.  In Stephen King’s book, Needful Things, many of the characters in the story, purchase a special item which feeds a desire from a recently established Knick Knack shop.  For one character, she wanted to be rid of her arthritis pain.  She found a necklace and while she wore the pain vanished.  Another saw themselves differently with a set of sunglasses and kept gazing endlessly in a mirror.  As the story continues, we find that the town will go to great lengths to hold on to their one item at the expense of others.  The characters in the book traded their souls  to hold on to the one item they felt would solve an issue in their life that prevented them from enjoying life to the fullest.   However, it actually caused more pain and strife in other areas of their life which they were blind to. These items needed to be protected and paranoia ensued the community. In the case of the arthritic women, she feared having to live with the pain of arthritis over everything else and as long as she held on to the amulet she experienced no chronic pain.  So when it was pointed out the necklace was the root cause of the malice in her life, in so many words…… How dare you come in here and tell me what I should and shouldn’t do.  You don’t understand what I have been through. (paraphrase). The store owner (Satan) used religious disagreements to bring two characters to a sinister end.  Other arguments and disruptions ensued and before you knew it everyone began to stake claim on “their” items. The store owner obtained a cache of guns and started selling them for the protection of their property.

Sin feeds a desire, we must be wise to.  In the novel, they were not wise to the effects of sin.  One area, covered in sin, can poison the rest of your life.  As the novel accurately describes, Sin plays no favorites; Equal access is provided to all.

The fear of losing the precious item they believed made them whole, was the key factor to all the chaos.  They we all trying to make sure their lives wouldn’t hurt.  And because they feared that the actions of others might cause the loss of that one thing, they turned to themselves for a remedy.

Sin has a way of isolating people.  You gain from the story that once they realized what is happening, the sheer reluctance to let go of their needful thing and the fear of what they are left with, is too much to bare.  What they don’t realize is who they are, they were fearful of:

  • A women with arthritis past her prime.
  • A person who does not think highly of themselves.
  • Drug addict trying to get out of debt.
  • and the list of character shortcomings throughout our cast members continues…..

The harder they work to maintain what they hold dearest in their heart…….. Well let’s say all hell broke loose.

Who would have thought, Stephen King could clearly describe how someone will go to any length to hold on to the sin of their choice.  Satan uses worldly things and personal desires to convince us that things have more value than a true relationship with Jesus.  When I read that book years ago, I understood it, but not the way I see it today.

God has opened my eyes.  Before it was doing the right thing, a.k.a. Good Orderly Direction; today it is seeing and sensing the right thing but not always following through.  When I started part one, I said that this teaching was for Christians.  When we talk of obedience in the present and coming age; The church and it congregations has a list of needful things they have grabbed hold, especially for the target audience.  In some cases, they are actually doubling down on the bets that their course is the right one.

When discussing some of the reasons why many fail in following and obeying God’s law, I was reminded of a phrase I used in part one to describe my own reluctance to follow through on the counsel of others.

You don’t understand my situation is different, you have no place to judge me or tell me what I should do in my life.

Many others and I have conveniently turned any comment about holy living, even pointing out destructive behavior into an accusation of judgement.  We are coming to a point in our society where everyone should be allowed to jump off a cliff without any warning. Feelings aren’t facts but an indication of where you stand within reality. God uses feelings to convict us and mature us. How else can that be accomplished?

Just recently, a student at a college was upset after a sermon on love.  He formally complained; the sermon made him uncomfortable, because he realized where he was not showing love.  We are at the crossroads my friends.

“Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic,” he wrote. “Any time their feelings are hurt, they are victims! Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them ‘feel bad’ about themselves, is a ‘hater,’ a  ‘bigot,’ an ‘oppressor,’ and a ‘victimizer.’”……

Dr. Piper’s brilliant take on the current state of affairs on college campuses came about after a student complained about a chapel sermon on 1 Corinthians 13 – the Bible’s love chapter……

The student felt offended because the “homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love,” he explained. “In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.”……

Dr. Piper offered some wise advice for the young man.

“If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for,” he wrote. “If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.”

From <http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2015/11/30/university-president-rebukes-self-absorbed-narcissistic-students.html?intcmp=hplnws>

“Don’t’ judge me!!” and Don’t tell me what I am doing is wrong,” Is heard throughout the land and in this regard, one Bible verse is magnified one thousand times over to keep you in your place, Matthew 7:1-3.

 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  (NASB)

Again out of context on face value, this verse is used without applying the “heart” test and then we get the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12.

12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Now for a moment let us stretch our imagination and see what is really going on here.  These little arguments are spoken from the context that you are worse than the person you are dealing within some regard and from there we begin to compare sin and how well one follows a Christian lifestyle, to prove points of theology. Remember you are not perfect yourself, there is no way on Earth you can even offer an opinion on someone else.  Hold that thought.

Don’t judge lest ye be judged, because it will come down harder on you!!!!  These verses of Truth, taken out of context, are craftily asserted to keep our lives just the way they are, providing fear for attempting to live life wholly for God or suggesting that your neighbor should too.

What could I possible mean by that? Treating people the way you want to be treated, can only mean (from this view point), that you shouldn’t point out errors in anyone’s else’s life. Why?  Because, turning the tables, if they found out who you really are,…. let’s not forget that many of us like swimming in the sinful sludge of our choosing.

If you live under your interpretation of the Covenant (of the law), living a Christian lifestyle is always a challenge, as at some point, in our attempt to carry the message, you will “should” over people.

No one likes the seat belt moments, when we need to be sat down, like the case of our college student. They are needed in everyone’s life and God uses people to bring light where there is darkness to a willing heart.  But Satan turns those moments into paranoia, to keep us from getting closer to God at a personal or national level.  He uses emotions to dictate how we should interact with others and God, instead of with the Truth.  If you are bringing truth to a person, for it to be valuable, your heart needs to be fertile to comprehend the love behind the Truth. Without love behind the truth, we just have words, yada yada yada.

As long as we don’t face who we are,  we won’t have to feel the hurt of what we are.   Isn’t that the crux of the problem.  In all our arguments, we try to maneuver and wriggle our way into a posture of our choosing so it won’t hurt so bad.  We expect consequence for our behavior and if we limit the damage then might limit the magnitude.  If I can get out of paying full price, then why should we even follow the rules. How about this if we can tolerate the pain, we just keep going our own way.

The effects of sin are like simmering. The temperature slowly increases as the fallout from sin envelops you.  Before you know it, we suffocate; instead of ridding ourselves of sin, we nurture it.

Fear of being found out is a needful thing.

While the church may have moved away from preaching the law and preaches The Good News/Prosperity Gospel, I doubt God’s law is etched on their heart.  Just like myself, the church tries to appease God in a manner of their choosing, so it will be more palatable.  The church looks for atta boy’s from their councils and congregations, evidenced through tithes and offerings, affirmations for obeying parts of the law and performing kind acts,  But God did not ask us to do that once He sent His Son to us, actually he wanted the opposite, which I will illustrate later.

But before we go on, we have a small rabbit trail we must venture to help further the point.  I was amazed one morning as I was listening to the radio, letting our little dog Lily out for a stroll in the yard.  I heard a commercial advertising an upcoming workshop for pastors and worship leaders:

  • “Learn how to keep your congregation engaged from week to week”;
  • “Re-create worship like you never heard it before”;
  • “Come one, come all learn how to keep them in tune week after week”;
  • “Share ideas on how to engage your congregation”

Everyone will still look at the backs of everyone’s head, but they will be standing instead of sitting.   It sounded great, it was like a commercial on how to keep your business growing, I wanted to drop everything and yell, “Sign me up!”

However, the commercial could have easily gone like this;

  • Are you tired of the same old worship songs week after week.
  • Does it seem like the pews are a less full as time goes on?
  • Are the tithes drying up?
  • Is the note on your church becoming harder to pay?
  • Are other churches attracting larger crowds?

Well don’t worry, our upcoming workshop will help you get that tired congregation on its feet again.  Join us and other local churches (your competition) and we will reason together and address the challenges your churches are facing today.  We will teach you proven techniques to bring life, once again, to your pews.

You see, what happens when the God is not present?  We resort to gimmicks to spark interest, resign to entertaining our congregations and shade what little of the “TRUTH” that is spoken.  We attempt to get people to enjoy the order of worship instead of actually worshiping and obeying God.  We are appeasing the people and hoping the tithes will come in, not because God requires it but out of charity and good will.  Place a coin in the bucket if you like the song just played. We can name big churches who enlist the services of highly successful musicians for their Celebration Arts.  It is not a jab, but a point to ponder.  The music is “great” and we all enjoy it.

In our current church society, the needful thing that is being used to keep people in their seats the very things that shouldn’t keep us there.  This is not an axe I grind, the commercial said it all.  It identified a desire, a pain point Satan is using to keep us from the Truth.

How can I (pastors and worship leaders) keep my congregation engaged, obviously speaking the Truth isn’t doing it?

The needful thing here is making sure they keep the pews filled.

This is nothing new, Paul spoke of this to the Letter to the Colossians in 2:8 when the Gospel was being watered down.

See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (NASB)

Wouldn’t it be great to go to church and have Holy Spirit move the people.  Today, if you are not entertaining enough and not growing your church in size and square footage, it is a failure.  What many fail to realize is that the church body moves around from one place to another to feed their desires and what they feel church should be. If it is growing, its growing for what is offered or spoken.

All of us practice this in some form or another.  Here is a common phrase I have used and heard my friends use; I left that church because I wasn’t getting fed. We obey by showing up to church and leave when we don’t get what we think we need.

What should we actually obey?

(As a side note, when God calls my wife and I to another place on our journey, we explain our position to those we are in relationship with.  We don’t disappear, we ask for their blessing.)

So while the church experience is gearing towards a lesson in entertainment to keep certain pews filled;To make matters worse, we are taught through coercion, in our day to day life, to be careful and speak in politically correct terms regarding God and Jesus Christ. We must be careful not to upset anyone or discourage their unbelief in needful things.  If you do and you offend them, the price you pay will be insurmountable in the public’s eye and financially. The last thing we should do is question, challenge, confront someone’s faith or lack thereof; Why would we want to make evil angrier?  Better yet, would we appreciate the same?

When you contemplate sharing portions of the Truth about Jesus Christ, instead of obeying the prompting by Holy Spirit, you are living under an abridged version of the Covenant of Law (Torah) and Grace so that it suits your lifestyle not the one God has in for you.

The biblical narrative, as best as I can understand, shows a religious system that hated Jesus, separated itself from the people and from God.  The religious system of that day while following the Torah actually separated itself from God,  it was based on obeying rules rather than establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ while following the Torah. Why do you think more home churches are popping up?  It is for the same reason, more home schooling is taking place.  We do not trust society to actually teach our children or preach the TRUTH. Today there are so many religions and variations to satisfy opinion and worldly views, the Truth is being covered up, behavior and compliance is how one is judged spiritually through fleshly eyes.  This is nothing new, it just has a different shade of lipstick.

Let’s go to Luke 19:9-14 and see the difference.

And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13 But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus spent time, telling people He loved them and the Kingdom of God, accessed through repentance, was near.  The more time they spent with him, the more they were amazed. Amazement can only be derived from a childlike innocence.  When we are amazed we have hope and hope breeds faith. As we walk with Christ our faith strengthens and the old me slips away. I am amazed that Jesus even loves me………the wretched man in the mirror……….

When I attempt to zip up the veil instead of accept the grace Jesus offers we try to serve out the punishment we think we deserve for the sin we have committed or ignore our sin altogether.

For those of us who have a deep desire for righteousness, if we could only have the shadow of someone’s glory (who has a special relationship with God) cross over us, we might be more blessed.  If we follow a certain ministry their covering will bless us.  If I tithe or trade with the “right” people we will be blessed and if I am obedient to specified traditions my life will turn out well.  If I follow the special knowledge revealed to an up and coming prophet, pastor, or circuit speaker, I might get a magic bullet that will make sense of my life, Paul spoke of these things in Colossians 2:17 as but “mere shadows.” 

Paul was keenly aware of the temptation believers faced with this. Desiring to know God better, and longing for stronger experiences of his presence, predators and pocket philosophers often found easy targets among well-meaning Christians. The antidote against such was to heed Paul’s constant warning that Christ was sufficient, and all that God wanted to reveal was revealed in him. No additives were needed.  Telling God’s Story by Preben Vang and Terry G. Carter

Whenever you try and obey the Christian lifestyle as a list of do’s and don’ts, you continue the enforce a set of laws which sound good to obey but may have no relevance.  You are minimizing the power of the Covenant of Grace given to us through Jesus Christ.

It is a condition of the heart and how deep you want God to reside in it, RIGHT NOW.  As God’s chosen we shouldn’t settle for a shadow or crumbs at a someone else’s table, as others want you to believe; we have a place at Christ’s table TODAY!!!!  We all have equal access as evidenced by the tearing of the veil. Your place at the table is part of the Mosaic Kingdom of God, which is at hand; sit at the table, fulfill your destiny and in the fullness of time help Jesus establish his Kingdom.  It’s your banquet table, it’s your temple and the Presence of God is waiting for an open heart so he can welcome you to the banquet.

Talk about an invitation!  Let’s look at Jesus’ baptism.  He was a man who went down to the river to pray, but something was different this day.  This day, Jesus was not obedient to the law, but to God.  As I demonstrated in part one, God shows up when he is pleased.  On this day, the Heavens opened and God spoke.   Do you know why, at that moment, God was pleased?  Jesus offered His life to the Father, to settle the account of His people.  Jesus’ heart was in the right place and submitted Himself to full essence of the Torah. His actions and the words of John Baptist could have easily drawn awe from the people, but Jesus wasn’t obeying the law or pandering to the crowds.  Jesus submitted to His destiny; he did not wait for destiny to appear, He accepted it.  From that moment forward Jesus’ life was in the Father’s hands, and God was pleased.

AND JESUS SAID

John10:17

17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.

And God said on the Mount of Transfiguration Matthew 17:5

         While he (Peter) was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!

So what did Jesus do for us again? This is what God told Ezekiel.

Ezekiel 36:26-28

26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. 28 You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. (NASB)

This is the Covenant of Grace and obedience flows from it not as a work of the hands, but as a work of the heart, through His ordinances, which is the Torah.

To deliver the Covenant of Grace, God sent His Son, to Lord over His House.  A landlord to deal with everyone directly.  This was God’s House, but He presented Himself through Jesus Christ empowered to act on His behalf…NO QUESTIONS ASKED!  A Spiritual Power of Attorney handed over to Jesus.

AND JESUS SAID,

John 5:22-23

22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (NASB)

John 14:6

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (NASB)

  • Jesus will speak on your behalf.
  • Jesus would propitiate on our behalf.
  • Jesus atoned for our sin
  • Jesus appeased God

AND JESUS SAID, we were forgiven, if we did what???????

If we would submit, let me repeat, If we would submit to Him as our Lord and Savior, then He would deal with the property owner, on our behalf and keep our account IN GOOD ORDER.  Jesus said all record of our sin (late payments, disagreement with other tenants, mistreatment of the laundry, etc) would be of no concern, the only thing that mattered was that our account was IN GOOD ORDER and we need to bring all our issues to the Landlord, Jesus Christ.

GOD DID NOT SAY, OBEY THE SON, BUT LISTEN HIM in Matthew 17:5

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

After all these years of trying to do the right thing for God I was only listening to half of what I heard.

I had tried so hard to behave and practice good orderly direction, going to church every Sunday, walk with a Bible in hand, get into the music and feel like I was a part of the body of Christ.  I worked hard to identify the sin in my life, be a good example and judge my own righteous behavior by comparing myself to others.  THIS IS NOT WHAT GOD WANTED…..

Now I understand, the essence and fullness of propitiate and how Jesus relates to the word.  I realized at that moment in that Kansas Hotel, I tend to obey God more than I go to Jesus believing the end result would be the same.  I would rather obey the law than spend time with Christ, who said, “FOLLOW ME”.  While Jesus tore the veil and invited me in, I was busy sewing it back up to a lesser degree.  I choose to obey God above following Jesus, because it is easier.  Following rules is easier for everyone, until they get in our way of our desires. I can gauge myself in the relationship by making it a relationship on my terms and waiting to be rewarded for good behavior which inevitably will come from man.  I will hold off for tomorrow getting closer to Jesus, while bathing in the spiritual residue from of the sin, I willingly holding on to today.

God presented Himself a certain way in the Present Age, when He presented Jesus we were supposed to follow Him into the Coming Age. BUT many of us do not understand or do not want to understand what that truly means.  While we talk about Jesus, we do not follow Jesus.  That is why it seems we are stuck between two worlds.  The external law, as Stephen King put it, is a needful thing.  Many are afraid of what they might lose if they let go and surrender to Christ. They will lose the illusion of control.

Christ is sufficient. He appeased God with His offering, nothing we do can replaces that.

Now go back to when Jesus entered the temple prior to Passover. Everyone was coming, from all over, to bring their sacrifices to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.  To help those that traveled long distances; merchants sold lambs and other animals for those that did not bring anything with them.  Money needed to be converted into the temple currency. They were being obedient, but in a usurious manner.  They were after all, presenting an offering outside of the main temple in the colonnade to help with the sacrificial system.

When God showed up, He was not happy!!!  He saw merchants peddling the best of the leftover lambs for sacrifice.  Not one of those animals was worthy of being sacrificed to God because they were not anyone’s best lamb.  They had perverted everything, they could have been selling t-shirts, books and CD’s for that matter.

 The temple cleansing was significant because, Jesus demonstrated that the religious system, NOT THE LAW, needed to be replaced.  Everyone was hell bent to just show up and follow the rules instead of worshiping God through reverence and Fear of the Lord.

Sound familiar, please place hand on hot stove and tell me if it hurts.

Jesus was presented as the perfect sacrifice for God to fulfill the Law and follow Him.

“I repent for living like that, Father.  Jesus strip me of myself to follow you, no matter how much it hurts. Holy Spirit, come into me.”

To be continued……..because the law still needs to be etched on the heart.

I love you all and the is nothing you can do about it.

 

 

 

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