Friday, November 25, 2016

179. MORE ON THE HEAVENLY REALMS AND THE FOREORDAINED PLAN OF GOD

Our view of the "heavenly realms," as contrasted with the "earthly realms," is a conceptual model to try to understand God's predestined plan for the universe. It is a proposed way of looking at the data made available to us in the scripture, putting different passages together with some interpretation, sprinkled with some conjecture and, even, speculation.  The usefulness of the model is tested by looking at the assembled product to see if it functions in a way that is consistent with the description in scripture.  It is supposed to take human understanding to limit of knowledge (gnosis) and beyond into the area of full knowledge (epignosis). The fundamentals of the model should be securely backed by God's revelation in scripture, but interpretations are just that - our best at this time.  

The heavenly realms are a way of looking at something greater than the status of the human condition -- of human evolution to this point - physically, intellectually, socially, politically, religiously, technically, creatively, and any other "ly" that one can think of.  Something greater than ourselves to reach for.  The heavenly realms is a method to try to understand the revelation of God. The words, heavenly realms, are used in scripture, and some description is given in scripture that is useful for a start.  The heavenly realms might be a real place, a new reality, an alternate universe, something resembling a Star-Trek or a Twilight Zone episode.  The description doesn't matter as much as our response to it, because our response involves faith and not sight.  

Abraham is given in the scripture as an example. The predictive pertinence of the story of Abraham (aka Abram) to the final revelation of the foreordained plan of God thousands of years later is a testimony to the inspiration of the scripture.  Abraham was living in his homeland in Gen. 12:1, when God told him to leave his country, his people, and his father's household and to go to a land God would show to him.  Abraham didn't have a AAA map or an iPhone with GPS; all he had was a trust in what God had said - in God's promise of blessing after blessing (Gen.12:2-3) and, ultimately, "all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."  

It is often presumed that the promised blessing was Jesus Christ.  But Jesus was operationally necessary to make the blessing possible.  The blessing was the Promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit poured out on all people at Pentecost - with the gift of the Holy Spirit, the spiritual DNA of God.  We are thankful to Jesus for what He did; we are thankful to God for the blessings we have through Christ.  But we thank God through Christ by fulfilling the purpose Christ had in coming and the foreordained plan that He launched in final phase by establishing the church.  We do not thank Jesus by recycling what He did in the flesh to bring about this result, because, in doing so, we obscure our vision and fail to see our own destiny in the heavenly realms.  

Abraham left his own earthly realm to go to a place God had prepared for him - a place to which he would be led through his faith in God.  Jesus said He would go ahead to prepare for us a place in His Father's house (14:1-4), which we now know to be the heavenly realms. Jesus is in the heavenly realms, and we have been declared by God to be there also with Him (Eph. 2:6).  Like Abraham, our blessing upon blessing is sourced from out of "above" (or "on high" Luke 24:49) --out of the place God has declared us to already be - the heavenly realms (Eph. 1:3).  Like Abraham, we follow God by faith in the "unseen" - what we do not see from the perspective of the earthly realms, our earthly home, our earthly tabernacle, the "seen."

These are spiritual matters which can be only understood by those through whom the Holy Spirit operates; those without the Spirit cannot understand, thinking everything is foolishness (1 Cor. 2:13-16). Do those who have the Spirit of God understand the eternal plan of God declared in the heavenly realms?

The human nature was in control of all mankind until the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.  Adam demonstrated that even in a symbolically perfect world (Garden of Eden), the creation could not be like God without further development (improvement, maturation, evolution).  Adam was given the caretaker role of creation - the priest of God's temple of creation, representing God to the creation and representing the maturing creation as a sacrifice to God.  Calling Adam's failure to obey God a "sin" and his behavior a "fall" and his consequence inherited depravity is risky, because the scripture doesn't refer to the event in those terms.  The risk is making this "fall of man" doctrine into such an imposing idol that sin and the Old Law are carried past the cross, thus subjecting the work of Christ to shame (Heb. 6:4-6). Adam and Eve operated out of the human nature because that is all they had at that time in the development of God's plan. Because of the work of Christ, we can be declared perfect and blameless in God's sight and  seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6).  The "we" is, collectively, the church, the body of Christ, the kingdom of God on earth.  The stewardship of creation has been passed from Adam to Christ to the church.  We (the church), being led by the Spirit and not of the flesh, have been declared to be sons (children) of God (Rom. 8:14) in the heavenly realms.  Therefore we are sons of God, as declared in the heavenly realms, who need to be sons of God, as revealed in the earthly realms.  In other words, we need to act in the earthly realms as though we believed that we are sons of God in the heavenly realms.  Why?  Because the church is charged with testifying to the rulers and authorities of the manifold wisdom of God in His foreordained plan (Eph. 3:10). 

Paul said that the creation is groaning for the sons of God to be revealed (Rom. 8:18-26).  In what realm does the creation operate - the physical realm, the earthly realm.  What is the creation waiting for?  For the church, declared to be sons of God in the heavenly realms, to be revealed as sons of God in the natural, earthly realms.  The church is supposed to lead the world and entire creation into the likeness of God.  What does the perfected church look like in the heavenly realms?  This is symbolically displayed in Rev. 21-22. "I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God ... " (Rev. 21:2).  If the church is the steward of God to the world, charged with bringing the creation into the perfection of Christ (Eph. 4:12-16), how is the church doing with that one?  If the church were one of the stewards in the parable of the talents, what increase in spiritual resources would the church have to show to the master upon his return?  How much of creation would the church have to offer to God?  Do we have a situation that isn't covered in the parable of the talents - the steward who divided up his talent into 10,000 pieces before scattering and burying the pieces and losing 4,577 of them?  

Some have said that humankind has evolved as far as it can - physically and intellectually.  The innate characteristics of being human - the hand, the eye, the brain, final motor skills, hand-eye coordination -- cannot physically improve fast enough to make a difference in the human quality of life or in increased complexity.  If this is the case, there is only one way to go, and that is devolution, which will begin with a decay of moral and social values.  Physically, there are two ways that further evolution in human characteristics might take place - genetic modification and technical artificial intelligence. These methods could technically produce new species of beings with greater ability, knowledge, and strength that human life as we know it would be overcome and either enslaved or become extinct, which is fate of most species who have been surpassed by evolutionary changes.  The newly created beings could be controlled by humans who want to use the technology for selfish advantage, but, eventually, the technology will overpower the creator.  The Future Frankenstein Factor.  

But God has provided in His plan for a way to evolve into something much greater -the new creation, the new nature, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).  This is transformation through the Holy Spirit of God into His image, into the character of Jesus Christ, using the ultimate genetic modification - the genes of God.  

The old self, the sinful nature is in the physical, earthly, "seen" realms, with eyes on self, pride, greed, self-righteous. The new self, the nature of the Spirit of God, has declared to be like God, redeemed by the blood of Jesus from the limitations of the human nature, raised to walk in newness of life, without sin or blemish, declared perfect in the sight of God, and seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. Since we become what we focus on, we keep eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms and the Spirit transforms us into what God has predestined us to be.

We do not focus on becoming holy by "spiritual disciplines," because in the flesh we cannot crucify ourselves; we are crucified with Christ by accepting what He had nailed to the cross.  

In this model, the heavenly realms have existed since before creation, but our entrance into them has only been available through the work of Christ.  Since God is not limited by time, He can declare all mankind perfect existing since creation, including before the cross and after the cross.  Many by faith have already accepted that which was not yet seen (Heb. 11), and Christ made the choice for salvation available even to those who were disobedient by preaching to them (1 Pet. 3:19-20).  The heavenly realms are there, but available through faith in the promises of God and the work of Jesus Christ.  This faith is counted to us as righteousness, not of our own, but of Christ.  

The foreordained plan of God, made before the foundation of the world, was to make the heavenly realms available to all people.  God told Abraham that through his seed, all people would be blessed - all people.  Joel prophesied, and Peter quoted, that in the last days, God would pour out His spirit on all people - all people (Acts 2:17).  For God so loved the world that he gave His Son, so that no one would perish but all come into eternal life (John 3:16) -- all would come.  God predestined that this would occur - that His Spirit would come and give His spiritual genes to anyone who would choose to accept to enter the narrow gate and begin throwing off the entanglements (Heb. 12:2) of their sinful nature (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:5) and clothe themselves with Christ (Rom. 13:14; Gal. 3:27).

Therefore, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon all people, but those who called upon the name of the Lord would be saved (Acts 2:21).  

So, do we make that into an "if" clause?  What does "the name of the Lord" imply for church doctrine?  Do we start defining what "call on the name of the Lord" means?  Do we get to decide exactly what action opens the narrow gate?  Is it like a magic door in a Harry Potter movie?  Do the "keys to the kingdom" include the key to open the narrow gate at our option?  You must say this and do that!  What happens to people who choose to not accept?  What about those who do accept, but who need to shape up better, in our humble opinion - those who can't seem to give up their "sin" fast enough to remain acceptable to our "standard?"  What about those derelicts who only come to church on Easter and Christmas Eve and the Sundays with donuts?  All those question marks are in the realm of the "seen" - the earthly realms.  Our attention on such "church matters" instead of having eyes on Jesus constitutes idolatry.  We must not get hung up on an earthly mindset, but rather keep heavenly thoughts (Col. 3:1-2). We testify to the manifold wisdom of God by showing what it looks like to have eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms and to be transformed into His likeness. We should be able to say to others as Paul said, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Cor.11:1).  If we are not doing that, what do we have to say of any eternal value, anyway?

The heavenly realms were predestined to be opened, and it was foreordained that all those who would choose to  accept their declaration of perfection and sinlessness by God through Christ and pursue the way of Christ into the heavenly realms, being transformed into the image of God -- for this is the perfect and pleasing will of God (Rom. 12:2).  

Perhaps the heavenly realms will be shown some day to be the collective energy of the highest form of cortical activity that a group of people attain by focusing their attention on the highest entity inside our outside the universe.  A cortical activity that emanates from the "God spot" in our brains, that upon continued use gets larger and more complex and exhibits higher electrical energy so that it is passed on as a deregulated and unsuppressed genetic characteristic to future generations. Perhaps someone will get the Nobel Peace Prize for discovering this; perhaps all the creationists and evolutionists will sit together in fellowship and agree on what goes into the science chapter of the public school textbooks; perhaps Ken Ham will make a "Walk Through Your Brain" theme park on the top floor of the Ark.  Perhaps, perhaps, whatever.  We don't wait for this.  Things will appear in the "seen" realm as God allows, but they will be the result of faith in the "unseen," and what has become "seen" will never take the place of faith until Jesus comes again to receive those whose citizenship is already in heaven.  

For by faith in the promise of God in the heavenly realms,  it is counted to us as righteousness.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

178. THE EARTHLY AND HEAVENLY REALMS IN THE FOREORDAINED PLAN OF GOD

A conceptual model might be described as an organized way of thinking that draws data together into an assemblage that meaningfully functions according to its designed method and purpose.

We've got some data to consider from the scripture that pushes our neurons to the max because the data reveal the mind of God in the design and function of His foreordained plan, made before creation.

There is the Old Testament, the Old Covenant, reflecting the way God interacted with creation between Adam and Christ.  The development of the physical substrate from the instant creative spark to humans is condensed and represented in the first Chapter of Genesis.  There was the physical realm - the natural, earthly, carnal, fleshly, sinful - and there was the spiritual realm - the spiritual, heavenly, "above," holy, celestial.  The perceived relationship between these two realms evolved along with mankind's understanding of God through the Old Testament periods, until the coming of Christ, when a huge disruption in the force occurred.  The interface between the earthly and heavenly realms, maintained under the Old Covenant, was broken down in Christ.  Everything changed.  In fact, so much changed that people could not, and still cannot, fathom the magnitude, and they have filled their lack of understanding with elements of the Old Covenant - the Law of Moses.  The Law represented the highest effort from human performance, and it did not rise any higher than that.  That is why it had to be done away with.  When the church holds onto repetitive, comfortable traditions, liturgies, things, and edifices for a comfort zone like Linus' blanket, it brings humanism into the church, because those things of the Law are maintained by human effort in the earthly realms.  In the spiritual realms, these are idols.   Therefore, the transition to the last age to what God has foreordained, is slow in occurring because of the influence, even control, of humanism in the church. This is a spiritual disaster, because a falling away from the plan of God, as laid out in the epistles to the New Testament churches, was prophesied by Paul. This apostasy began by the end of the First Century, and it continues today.  This choice of disobedience must be recognized and the course of the church changed.

In the approach to history as recorded in the Old Testament, humans were aware of God at special times and special needs, and interactions with God were customarily initiated at God's choice and only with particularly designated people.  People had messages from God, dreams, visions as God determined they need to hear something.  There were few instances of mention of someone who had a relationship with God - Enoch was said to have walked with God and David was a man after God's own heart.  Moses and Samuel seemed to have many personal interactions with God in their leadership positions. Humankind in general (Israel in particular) was depicted as separated from God because of evil behavior (Isa. 59:1-2; Col. 1:21).

The story of Adam and Eve showed that basic innate human intellect and behavior (the human knowledge of good and evil) could not yet understand God or become like God.  It is often assumed that "let us make man in our image" meant that Adam (and Eve) started off perfect and then "fell."  But that places a human time constraint on an eternal God. God is not constrained; we constrain ourselves in our lack of understanding. God could also have been declaring the predestined outcome of His foreordained plan - that mankind would be in God's image starting with Christ (Col. 1:15), followed by our transformation by the power of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16).

God (I am who I am and always will be, Ex. 3:14) is unchanging, but human perception of God expands as maturation occurs - either in an individual's lifetime over decades or as the human species over millennia.  God interacted with mankind to the extent that man had developed comprehension of the nature of God from physical, social, and religious evolution.  The separation between the earthly and heavenly realms may have been real or as comprehended by the writers of scripture at that time.  Either way, the changes in the relationship between humankind and God showed the "mile markers" along the path of development of the foreordained plan of God.

Under the Old Covenant, God's Spirit was recorded as operating from the "outside" upon people.  A frequent phrase was "the Spirit of the Lord came upon ...." (Jud. 6:34; 11:29; 15:14; 2 Chron. 24:20; Sam. 10:10; 16:13), although it was prophesied that a time would come when the Spirit would be poured out (Isa.32:15; 44:3; Joel 2:28-29) and put within a new heart (Ezek. 36:26-27), fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17, 33).

Jesus totally dismantled the interface (real or perceived) between the earthly (human, physical) realms and the heavenly (spiritual) realms.  Everything that held humankind back in the natural realms was completed and put away, symbolized by the Old Covenant vs the New Covenant, the old creation vs the New Creation, the way of the flesh vs the way of the Spirit, the Old Law of sin and death vs the new way of the Spirit and life, Adam vs Christ, the old way of training the natural man in the physical realm vs releasing the spiritual man to become like God.  The heavenly realms were opened and all spiritual blessings in Christ were poured out.

Jesus had all of the Spirit of God contained within Him (John 3:34-35; Col. 1:19) as a human being.  Jesus was born with the spiritual DNA of God (Luke 1:35).  He fulfilled all of the requirements of the Law for perfection in the flesh, nailing the requirements and penalty of sin to the cross (Col.2;14) and triumphed over sin and death by His resurrection.  He preached to the spirits in darkness (1 Pet. 3:18-20) and was supreme over everything under the earth, on the earth, and above the earth (). Jesus ascended back to the Father in bodily form (Acts 1:9) and poured out the Holy Spirit on all people as the fulfillment of the Promise of the Father (Acts 2:33) made to Abraham.  The spiritually cataclysmic event tearing down the barrier between heaven and earth was symbolized in the top to bottom ripping of the curtain to the Holy of Holies, the place of God.  What Jesus received has been given also to us (Acts 1:8) - "you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you," using the same words as in Luke 1:35 -- the only places in all scripture. Emmanuel, the Prince of Peace, came to us (God with us) so that we could receive God dwelling within us and be qualified in Christ to go to God.  We can cross the now porous interface between the physical and spiritual realms. In fact, God has declared this has already happened and that we are already seated with Christ at the throne of God in the heavenly realms (Eph. 2:6).  

This is so incredible and unimaginable ("He is able to do more than we can ask or imagine," Eph. 3:20), that we have to go beyond our human perception to even grasp at the magnitude.  We must look beyond the natural, beyond the earthly realms and into the heavenly realms, in which we stand holy, perfect, and blameless in the sight of God.  This view is only by faith in the promise of God, because we do not "see" it in our flesh, but only by the Spirit into the realm of the "unseen," the eternal, the heavenly realms.  

We keep eyes on Jesus as we throw off (totally get rid of it, toss it off, don't just undo some buttons but keep one sleeve on just in case) the encumbrances of sin and run the race toward the One who went before us, Jesus Christ (Heb. 12:1-2).  This sounds so good; why are there so few that choose to find it (Matt. 7:13-14)?  The Holy Spirit was poured out upon all people (Acts 2:17), but "anyone who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Acts 2:21). What does that mean?

Like the different soils in the parable (Matt. 13:1-23), the Spirit has been poured out on all people, but not all people respond the same.  There are choices that comprise different responses that might be categorized as follows:

[1] the response of Adam and Eve

The response of Adam and Eve was based on pleasant human circumstances - this nice all-natural, organic, climate-controlled garden (might have been "genetically modified"?) with a job description to populate the earth.  It was based on human senses of the flesh and human knowledge of right from wrong. Then came the first challenge -- the first situation requiring some cognitive ability, and they blew it; they couldn't think beyond their basic human selves. That was the best they had, but that was insufficient spiritual maturity to become like God.  Adam and Eve were not ready for the New Jerusalem, so they had to get kicked out into the real world for further development.

[2] the response of the children of Israel

The response of the children of Israel was based on training by the rough and tough tumble of experience - be rebellious and disobedient and self-centered and learn the consequences.  During this phase, the people matured intellectually, socially, and religiously as their natural human natures were brought into the training phase of the rules and regulations of the Law of Moses. But that was far from perfect.  Their experience has been recorded for us (upon whom has come the fulfilment of the ages) so that we would not have to repeat their consequences by our own disobedience (1 Cor. 10:1-13).

[3] the response of the Jewish leaders to Christ

The Jewish leaders represented the end point and peak of a legalistic training of the human nature by the Law of Moses.  But they applied their fleshly nature to the Law, perfecting little trips of legalistic detail around the requirements of the Law while losing sight of the spirit of the Law and its intended purpose "from the beginning."  These Jews were the best of what training of the human nature could offer, but they had gone so far afield in their own sinful nature that when God, Himself, appeared before them in human form, they killed Him.  The Jews had developed a righteousness of self, which was maintained by an artificial doctrine and system of rule-keeping. This direction was opposed to the foreordained plan of God, but the contrast between the law and the Spirit helped Christ to carry out the plan, to remove the Old Covenant, and to bring in the New Covenant. Those who abide by this system from the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom. 8:8) - which is to become like Him in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24).

[4] the response of acceptance, submission, transformation, and salvation.

Taking together the models of conversion in the book of Acts, God has predestined the plan and the outcome, but not the choice that people will make to receive what Christ has done.  Salvation has been offered, and people accept and "those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."  Salvation is God's to offer; the church does not offer salvation or condemn those who have not yet received it, but the church shows the joy, love, peace, and unity of the kingdom of God in the lives of those who are participating in transformation.  Salvation describes the condition of those who are, together in unity of fellowship, traveling the narrow Way of Jesus Christ into the heavenly realms, the predestined goal of the church and where Christ has gone ahead and prepared a place (Jn. 14:2).

The categories appear distinct when listed, but the problem is that we (the church) try to balance some part of all four choices at the same time.  The church seems to want to keep choice #4 on the front burner, so we can put a sign and a web site with it ("for all to see"), but in practice, keep the other three on the back burners for "when we need them."  We think we can have a blend, like 10W40.  We quote the words of Jesus about "cannot serve 2 masters," but that always applies to someone else's toothpick in their eye and not to the telephone pole in our own eye.

Categories 1, 2, & 3 are the wide gate -- responses from the flesh, from the carnal, sinful nature.  These are responses from the earthly, physical realm.  These response predate the work of Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  These are responses from the Law of sin and death - that law that we drag past the cross while claiming that we do not.  

Only response 4 is the narrow gate -- response from the control of the Spirit -- the response of growing to be like God in increasing glory -- eyes on Jesus.  Eyes of faith in the unseen and in the promise of God that we are declared perfect and in the image of God.  This response is made with eyes in the heavenly realms and on Who we are becoming.

The early church in different locations had problems releasing some of the old way of life in the natural realm and putting eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms.  These real problems that surfaced in the churches served as examples of all of the operations that humans had used in the past - [1] operating out of the human nature of fleshly control and desires, [2] operating out of the human nature being trained by positive and negative outcomes of decisions, [3] operating out of the human intellect based on a carefully derived matrix of rules and laws defining the relation between God and man, [4] operating out of the control of the Spirit.

The church in Corinth showed many elements of immaturity and of the operation of selfishness, corruption, and disunity.  The Jerusalem council took on the issue of requiring Gentile converts to Christianity keep the rules of the Law (Acts 15:2). Paul took the church in Rome through the logic of the work of Christ into the foreordained plan of God, which was given in Rom. 12:1-2.  The church in Galatia had a problem with importing elements of the Old Law into the Christian faith, being influenced by the "Judaizing teachers."  The church was trying to blend operations #'s[3] and [4], but they are not compatible, they are mutually exclusive.  One is in the earthy realms - the other in the heavenly realms. We physically exist in one, but we look by faith into the other, because the heavenly realms is our predestined home.
3:1 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?4:9 But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? 10 You are observing special days and months and seasons and years!
What is the problem with observing the law, attaining the goal by human effort, using the weak and miserable principles, and observing special times?  All of these put faith in human effort in the physical, natural, "seen" realm instead of faith in the work of God, which is counted as righteousness.  One cannot keep eyes in the "seen" earthly realm and look to Jesus in the heavenly realms.  We have been declared to be with Christ in the heavenly realms, but we can choose to stay in the earthly realms along with atheists and unbelievers.  Those who have eyes on Jesus in the "unseen" and are, together, being transformed to be like God are in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Those who keep eyes in the "seen" realms, have earthly things as their target, and they have the same goal as unbelievers.

What's the problem with observing special days? Nothing, as long as the attitude is as Paul describes in the entire 14th chapter of Romans:
5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.
What is the difference?  The Galatians were doing things in the "seen" realm as though the acts made them righteous.  The acts were ones of obedience, but it was obedience to human rules they had set up; therefore, the righteousness obtained was to self. They had eyes on self, and they, therefore, became more like self - which is the recycled sinful nature.  There is competition on who can get ahead in the natural realm and judgment tossed at others (as in "biting and devouring" Gal. 5:15).   

In the natural realm, legalism speaks louder than grace.  The work of legalism can destroy 1000 times over the work of grace.  We exist in the natural, physical realm, and the default pattern of thinking is that of Adam, not of Christ.  We have to "lift up our eyes unto the hills" (Ps. 121:1) to see Jesus, because if we are staying in the physical realm happily operating under our own human thinking and hormones and familiar and comfortable preconceptions, the enemy will be sure and fill our day with busyness and cares of the world so that we do not have time for Jesus, except to pay lip service for what we claim to do, but do not do. This is the "yeast that spreads and leavens the whole lump of dough" (Gal. 5:9).  This passage doesn't refer to sin in the camp that needs to be exposed, rooted out, judged condemned, and separated from.  It refers to the pervasive grip of legalism in the church that dissolves into the natural sinful nature of those in the church who believe and promote it and who influence the direction and future of the church.  The sinful nature promotes sin, either for it or against it - it still focuses on sin either way. Thinking that the church is a "sin exterminator" is a trick of Satan to keep the church in the earthly realms; it usurps the authority of the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:8), and it leads to apostasy (Heb. 6:1-6).

One reason the Judaizing teachers were so effective in leading the Galatian church astray was the yeast/dough ratio principle - it takes such a small amount of legalism to ruin a large container of grace. Placing a legalizing person in a leadership position will result in great damage to the church.

Why does legalism destroy grace?  Because the human nature is the default way of looking at things in the physical realm; it takes the energy of the Holy Spirit to look into the heavenly realms.  It does not come "naturally."  It comes by choice.  First, one has to know that the heavenly realms even exist.  If the church is fighting with itself, competing by tossing around a football called "sin," there are no eyes on Jesus and the true kingdom of God is not being displayed.  But, with eyes on Jesus and being in the will of God, the church fulfills the purpose for which it was created (Eph. 3:10).  

Look at the ratio word volume of 'explanation of grace' to 'legalistic influence' of the teachers in the book to the Galatians. The advantage to us is that Paul's words were preserved for us.  But, we can still hear the words of legalism more strongly when we center our theology about sin - "Well, that's just a sin."  "It says here they cannot inherit the kingdom." "These people are included in this list."  "1 Corinthians 5 says to kick them out."  "If they're saved, too, (tear, sob) what are we doing all this for (sniff)?"  (Actually, a good question, why are we doing it? To prove to ourselves that we're "right"?) 

Paul and other NT writers give practical signs of having a focus in the earthly realms from out of the sinful nature - either in an individual or, collectively, in a church.  Except perhaps for Philemon, the letters were written to or about the church.  Some of the signs are bad within themselves, and some are bad when directed into the "seen" realm instead of on Jesus in the "unseen" heavenly realms.

A church trapped in a legalistic campaign is bent on destroying sin and separating the sheep (us) from the goats (them) and telling sinners to either get out of our midst or accept second class status (you can maybe attend as long as you don't make trouble, promote your ideas, pay homage to our interpretation of doctrine, keep a low profile so no one notices your "sin," and put up with our continued judgmental looks, comments, and secret whispers.)  But if you should want to contribute some money, we certainly wouldn't turn that down.   

A legalistic church prides itself in its earthly accomplishments - the purity of its doctrinal interpretations according to the wonderfulness of its very own traditions, its campus (or, better, campi), its preacher (second only to his(her) pride in him(her)self), its finances, its social class, its charismatic practices, or even all the grace it extends to any seeker to whats the church to change to accept them so that they don't have to.  It's all a practice of legalism, and it has eyes on itself in the natural realm.

A legalistic church places traditions of any duration since their origin (1 day or 1000 years - immaterial to eternity) as a filter to keeping eyes on Jesus.  Jesus is seen only through these trained people; only these so-named clergy; only those with these robes and title; only when done in this place, at this time, with these instruments, and in this manner.

A legalistic church is one that looks around to see who does the things in the preceding paragraph more than they do, if they can look past the telephone pole in their eye.  If a telephone pole in one's eye obscures the vision to take a splinter out of a brother's eye, it totally obliterates the view of Jesus in the heavenly realms.  

Jesus didn't identify the heavenly realms and the earthly realms as Paul did when Paul associated the realms with the foreordained plan of God, but knowing that association, the teachings of Jesus become even clearer.  Anything in the physical or earthly realms that competes with the church keeping eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms and running the race to Him is idolatry.  The idolatry of the Israelites was easy to identify in the retrospect of history, because their idols took physical form.  Ours take a more philosophical (spiritual) form (such as greed, Eph. 5:5), but, just as the Israelites fashioned their golden calf, our idols are also of human creation and of human choice to serve.

Because we do not have God's perspective of His design for the universe, we interpret the Bible from a human perspective, which is natural and physical.  Jesus said it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven - why?  Because most of the time such a "lucky" person is consumed with keeping his eyes on his wealth.  Jesus said if you had enough faith you could move a mountain into the sea.  He probably wasn't talking about a volcanic island sinking below sea level during a 8.0 magnitude earthquake in the Pacific Rim.  He was talking about things in the natural realm obscuring the view into the heavenly realms.  It is by faith in the promises of God the obstacles are removed. And what is the kingdom of heaven (God), anyway?  On earth, yes, it is the church; but it is the church with eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms. The church must be the connection between the kingdom of God on earth and the kingdom of God in heaven.  There is no other connection.

If a person does works of self-righteousness to be seen of men, his reward is in the earthly realms with little/no benefit to becoming like Christ.  But, if the person has eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms, that is where the reward will be. And, while the connection between the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and the preordained plan of God for the heavenly realms is often missed, these passages to indicate blessings in the spiritual realms trickle down to physical blessings as God determines according to His will.  

This adds to an understanding of "My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name" (Jn. 6:23) and "whatever you bind on earth has already been bound in heaven" (Matt. 16:19).  John clarifies the picture by including" if we ask anything according to His will" (1 John 5:14-15).  When we ask according to the will of God in His foreordained plan, it has already been predestined to occur.  Jesus knew exactly the will of the Father (Jn. 14:10-14, 24).  The Holy Spirit will reveal God's will to us (Jn. 14:25; 16:13-15; 1 Cor. 2:10), but we have to have eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms and not on fleshly things in the physical realm.

This is the conceptual model - the earthly realm and the heavenly realms.  The heavenly realms came to earth in the birth of Jesus Christ, who did everything in human form, including pave the way for us to go to the heavenly realms by the transformation of character within the temporary body and by the glorious resurrection of the immortal body.  The power within heavenly realms is not available on the whimsical beck and call of humans from the natural, fleshly realm like a magic genie wish factory.  It is available on God's terms, and His terms are those actions in keeping with His foreordained plan.  We don't get to make up the plan by finding a scripture to our liking and making a doctrine around it.  God wants me healthy; God wants me physically healed; God wants me wealthy; God wants to multiply my monetary seed that I plant with this rich TV evangelist who says God wants me prosperous.  Any or all of these things may be within God's will for me, but only if they help me to center my focus on Jesus in the heavenly realms.  If they bring focus on fleshly things, they are idolatry.  If I get them anyway, I should wonder by what power that happened.  The ruler of darkness and the prince of the air is perfectly capable of doing counterfeit miracles to fool even the elect if doing so keeps the focus in the earthly realms.

Sin only exists in the earthly realms.  Sin is defined by the Old Law; sin is judged and condemned by the Old Law.  The Old Law and sin are part of the earthly, fleshly realms.  When the church focuses on sin - preaching against, controlling in the church, condemning in the world, constantly praying forgiveness for sin, constantly exalting Jesus on the cross for my sins instead of Jesus on the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms for my transformation - the church is operating in the earthly realms with its focus on things of the flesh. The forgiveness of sin has occurred; what part of "It is finished" do we not understand?  We are now in the age of looking forward into a complete sharing with the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) fulfilling what we have already been declared to be in the heavenly realms.  We do not look backwards to focus on when the Law of sin and death was closed out and crucified with Christ. Shall we also grap elements of the law and bring them past the cross to encumber us today? These two go together - sin and forgiveness.  If we want to continue to talk about forgiveness, we need some sin to work on.  If we want to define evangelism as escape from condemnation, we need some inescapable sin such as in the human constructed doctrine of "original sin."  That doctrine is handy because sin supposedly continues to exist even past the cross, so we get to preach Jesus and we get to be the instruments that offer forgiveness, under our terms of salvation.  This is like Moses striking the rock, "Shall I bring you water ..."  He didn't go into the promised land; what happens to the church that does the same thing?  "Shall I (I mean, Jesus) bring you salvation?"  News flash.  He already has brought salvation declared to us in the heavenly realms, if the church had the faith to see that, it would be living that faith of salvation instead of preaching about sin and forgiveness that has already happened.  

The church has locked itself in the earthly realms by operating in the flesh and in the commodities and definitions of the world.  All groups today are different variations around the same theme of eyes on the earthly realms.  This apostasy began by the end of the First Century and it continues. Is the institution that calls itself "the church" going to have to be brought down like the Temple in Jerusalem to get people to look at Jesus in the heavenly realms and act like they have been declared to be there also?

This is hard to describe because Christians don't even have the vocabulary for it.  Salvation is either through the church institution (Catholic) or through the church doctrine (Calvin or Armenian).  All groups have a variation of the sin of Adam that must still be maintained to have a straw man for the church to be against.

What would it take to change?  Either a melt-down from the inside or a destructive enemy from the outside.  Both would be a consequence of the design of God, put in place before creation.  Both results would be a consequence of a choice of disobedience by the church.  That would be like the choice and consequence of Adam and Eve, but not because it was "inherited," but because it was voluntarily imported in by the church.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

176. STEPHEN HAWKING UNINTENTIONALLY OPENS AN OPPORTUNITY TO TESTIFY OF GOD'S PLAN IN THE LESSON FROM THE GATES IN THE "SEEN" AND THE "UNSEEN" REALMS

Dr. Stephen Hawking, world-famous astrophysicist, who also claims he doesn't need God as an explanation for anything, said humanity has another 1000-10,000 years to survive on earth (CNN News, Nov 17, 2016, Doug Criss).  This isn't the first time that Hawking has said we are dooming ourselves by depleting resources and accumulating waste on earth. It's probably true, and 1000 years may even be generous.  Many futurists say our only saving alternative is space travel.  Colonize Mars, where the energy/use ratio would seem likely to be even worse?  Hmm.  

But, on a more positive note, as reported by the British newspaper, "The Independent," Hawking also said:
"Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.  Try to make sense of what you see, wonder about what makes the universe exist.  Be curious.  However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.  It matters that you don't just give up."
That's pretty good advice.  Here is some better advice:
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.  (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
It's a real pity that Dr. Hawking doesn't need God. 

But, as Dr. Hawking suggests, let's try to make some sense out of what we see.  The explanation of the universe is in the foreordained plan of God.  The universe was created from the design and template of God's plan and its purpose is to fulfill God's plan.  The expression of the plan of God is the "will of God."  The church is the peak of God's creation within the physical realm, and the church is to lead the universe into its predestined outcome.  Only the church, defined spiritually and not organizationally, has the authority to understand the revelation of the plan of God and be within the will of God for the rest of the physical and spiritual realms to see (Eph. 3:10). 

The earth is subject to entropy - its energy is running down.  The sun is a source of energy, but humans can use and deplete the energy of the earth faster than the physical resources of the universe can provide it.  Thus, we have one to ten thousand years, and, whatever that length of time may be, the last >90% of it may not be all that environmentally pleasant.  

What a blessing to have a source of enthalpy - a source of energy outside of us, outside of the earth, outside of the universe, outside the physical realm.  It is from out of the heavenly realms.  The difficulties of this life are in the realm of the "seen;" our energy of renewal comes from the realm of the "unseen" - the heavenly realms, where we have been declared to be seated with Christ by the throne of God (Eph. 2:6).

Oh, it's too bad that Dr. Hawking doesn't need God.

But, why should Dr. Hawking think he needs God?  What evidence does he see of an energy source outside the physical realms?  What evidence does he see that there is anything outside the physical realm other than people's imagination?  We need something to contrast with the world.   

Here we have this competitive, selfish world with groups trying to out do one another for limited resources.  There are these powerful political lobbies and voting blocks.  There are top people who are held in great esteem by an attached following, who are glad to hand over their money to support opulent lifestyles.  To be fair, statistically the occurrence of this is low, but the publicity of the same is high.  There are groups who fight and argue over who is right, with everyone else being wrong - all based on interpretation of a rule book.  There are duplications of effort by different groups who can't get along enough to work together, as in everyone spending most of the group's budget on buildings, debt, and personnel to serve the buildings, debt, and members.  There are people who give verbal allegiance to one authority, but operate under their own, while claiming it's everyone else's fault. This sounds like political strivings within a human institution.  What a decadent, ungodly world we live in!

Now, the description in the preceding paragraph -- it that describing the church's view of the world or the world's view of the church?  Or, is it the same?  What sort of witness of the manifold wisdom of God are these divided groups (each one calling themselves "the church") proclaiming?  Dr. Hawking says he doesn't need God; but could it be that the God he doesn't need is the one displayed by the church?  And there are millions upon millions of people with the same issue?  Where is all this headed?

The scripture tells us where it is headed - the paths through the wide gate and the narrow gate (Matt. 7:13-14) and their destinations were set up before creation.  The wide gate was the only choice before Christ's work, but Christ opened up the narrow gate to bring us to life.  Before Christ, people only knew about the wide gate, but Christ changed all that.  The consequence of taking the wide path (death) was made clear because of the contrast with the choice to enter the narrow gate to life.  

To those who have much, much will be expected.  We have the knowledge of both gates and of the consequence of the choice between them.  The church is like the servant at the narrow gate.  Many in the church assume this gate-steward role means they are a filter to keep the unqualified out - the riff-raff - those who do not pass the test of works to prove your faith (you know the routine: water baptism, tongues, sign here, attend this, do that, etc) -- all those sinners whom Jesus came to save.  But, the church's role is not to keep the gate from being contaminated, it is to invite people to enter through the narrow gate into the transforming work of the Holy Spirit - not to join a human group like a club, but to join a way of life of growing into the likeness of God.  The gate steward says, "Look, this is how it's done.... unity, love, peace, service..."  And it's not done by splitting, fighting, competing, arguing, pointing out your sin, condemnation .... that makes people want to choose the other path.  Can the church behave in such a way that it makes the wide path to destruction actually look good?  What will the owner of the vineyard say to that when he returns?

Jesus came to save sinners, not to those who claimed their own self-righteousness and rejected Him.  In John 9, Jesus healed a man born blind.  Symbolically, his blindness represented those under the old Law who saw only the wide gate, before Jesus revealed the work of God by opening the narrow gate of the New Covenant.  Jesus healed his blindness - he testified, "I once was blind but now I see." (John 9:25).  The Jews, the keepers of the wide gate, were furious at the threat to their authority and lifestyle this testimony represented.  Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6), opened the narrow gate, which was seen only by having faith in Him.  The blind man had the faith to see; the Jewish leaders did not.  In talking about spiritual blindness, Jesus said:
Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."  Some Pharisees who were with him heard Him say this and asked, "What? Are we blind too?"  Jesus said, "If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin, but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." (John 9:39-41)
Where is the responsibility placed for showing people the narrow gate?  Didn't Jesus charge His followers with carrying out the foreordained plan of God?  (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  The church is to be the ambassador for Christ, inviting people to enter the gate of life, not testing people over an obstacle course to make sure they are qualified.  The corporate life of those with the Spirit should be so good that people (of the world, non-believers, etc) are running to the gate to enter like those did when the mighty rushing wind came on Pentecost.

No one should never receive an invitation to enter the narrow gate.  Oh, right, that means more money for missions; that means a new program; that means we preach against sin more; that means more postage costs; that means we knock on more doors and pass out more advertisements about our free car give-a-way drawing (have to be in attendance to win).  Not hardly.  The first on the list of evangelistic things to do is to present to the world an image of what is on the other side of that narrow gate -- a unified, loving, peacemaking, serving, sharing fellowship of people who are one in mind and purpose with eyes on Jesus Christ in the will of God according to His foreordained plan.  What church programs are done and what they are being called and what scriptures are being referenced are secondary to Who we are becoming.

Jesus came to put together the final phase of the plan of God; the church is supposed to demonstrate how well God's plan works (Eph. 3:10) in the kingdom of God on earth.  Jesus opened the narrow gate and made it possible for everyone to enter in.  Many will choose not to enter the narrow gate - let us be sure that they do not make this choice because of the behavior of groups of Christians.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col. 1:15-20) 
9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Col. 2:9-10)
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.  (Eph. 1:9-10)
Jesus qualified us to be presented to God with Him in the heavenly realms.  We as Christians, followers of Jesus Christ and becoming like God in true righteousness and holiness, have already been given His fullness.  We already have been declared perfect and sinless in His sight.  We have already been taken from blindness to the light; the veil of the Law has been removed in Christ; we no longer regard things from a human perspective; we have the mind of Christ.  We Christians need to act like we believe that, because it is through faith that we are counted as righteous.  Without faith, it is impossible to please God.  And this is the faith that is continually lived out, not just "making the good confession" before water baptism.  

Let's don't fool ourselves, if the church acted like it was seated by Christ at the throne of God, the world would take notice.  What does the world notice?  Consider that to be a litmus test of how well the church is doing at proclaiming the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities of the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10).

Relating the role of the church in the foreordained plan of God to the wide and narrow gates, to Jesus is the Way, and to the "seen" and "unseen" realms.

The foreordained plan of God was a hidden mystery before Christ opened the narrow gate, the Holy Spirit was poured out on all people, and the plan was revealed to God's prophets and apostles to be written down for us.  The wide gate represents the realm of the "seen" -- the physical realm, being controlled by the flesh, the human nature, the sinful nature.  Anything outside of this physical realm was a mystery.  The "interface" between the physical and spiritual realms was penetrated many times in the Old Testament when elements from the spiritual realm appeared, such as "the spirit of the Lord," "the angel of the Lord," God speaking to Moses, or other manifestations of God's power.  Some people, like Abraham, Moses, King David, and some priests and prophets, caught glimpses of the nature of God that were "leading edge" and advanced for their time, but the fullness of the plan could not be revealed except through Christ, the bridge between the spiritual and physical realms.  Christ was born as a human, lived as a human, died as a human, was resurrected in the power of the Spirit of God, and returned to the Father the King and conqueror of all things in all places.  Jesus bridged the gap between humankind and God, between the physical and spiritual realms, between the "seen" and the "unseen."  The ultimate transfer between the "unseen" and the "seen" is the Holy Spirit, the earthly presence of the power and energy and nature of God - the spiritual DNA of God poured into our hearts (Rom. 5:5), that transforms us into the character of God.  

As the "seen" represents the time from creation (Adam) to Christ - including the Old Law, the Old Covenant, the law of sin and death, control by the sinful nature - so the "unseen" represents the "above" (come from above, born from above, sent from above, meaning the throne of God).  The "unseen" is the heavenly realms, where the victorious and reigning Christ is seated at the right hand of God (Eph. 1:20).  The heavenly realms are the source of all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3), where the real spiritual battle takes place (Eph. 6:12), where reside the rulers and authorities who are watching the church for testimony of the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10).  The heavenly realms is where God, through Christ, has proclaimed us (the church) to be - perfect and sinless in His sight (Eph. 2:6).  

So, the plan of God for our perfection - for the church to be filled with the compete fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:12-16) - has been set by Christ when He opened the narrow gate to the Way (which also is Christ) from the "seen" into the "unseen," from the physical to the spiritual, from the earthly to the heavenly realms.  Christ has opened the path and led the way as the firstborn of all creation; and now Christ draws to Himself; Christ beckons us to follow Him like sheep recognize and follow the voice of the Shepherd in the heavenly realms.  

Who is supposed to do this?  Who on earth is to show what it means to follow the lead of Christ?  Who is to have the faith of Abraham when God said, "Go to a land I will show you," so that this same faith in us "will be counted to us as righteousness"?  

Who else can do this but the church?  Who did Christ die for; what did Christ establish (Matt. 16:16-20); who did He commission (Matt. 28:18-20); who is being built as a temple for God to live by His Spirit (Eph. 2:22)?  The church, with believers unified in Christ (John 17:21-23) and not fragmented into a zillion competing pieces.

How is this done?  By keeping eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).  Jesus died so that we could do this by removing encumbrances of the sinful past (Heb. 12:1-2).  Paul said we have been clothed with Christ, so take off the sinful nature (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:5-9) - you cannot wear those dirty rags into the heavenly realms.  Take off your shoes; you are on holy ground (Exod. 3:5).  Even more, take off your sins and leave them back in the realm of the "seen," because people's garments are white as snow in the realm of the "unseen."  There is a cloak rack at the narrow gate labeled, "leave your sins here."  Just inside the narrow gate is a sign that says, "You have been declared perfect; don't crucify Me again!"

But woe of woes, some people can't make it past that sign.  They say, "But I have some business in the physical realm"; "I have to go bury the dead;" "I still have some sin, and I kinda like it."  And they turn and go back out of the narrow gate.  Listen, is that the distant sound of wailing and gnashing of teeth I hear?  I thought we had gotten away from that.

It becomes a big, big problem when much of the entire church performs that reversal trick -- and many groups even make up human doctrines to justify doing it.  

What holds the church back from traveling the narrow path?

The "seen" physical realm is where sin is located, which is control by the fleshly nature, not by the spiritual nature.  It is eyes on self, not eyes on Jesus.  It is the "mammon" part of "cannot serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24)  It is desires of the physical nature - wealth, power, things - those things of the world that Eve first fell for.  It is the world and worldly desires that control human behavior.  It is where the wide gate is located, and many find it, because it is attractive, temporarily satisfying, and contains things that can be observed, heard, felt, tasted, and smelled.  The human senses are not bad, but the control of the human nature in place of the Spirit of God is the wide path to destruction.  Desires under the control of the Spirit and directed toward becoming like God are good; this is the narrow way.  The control by desires directed toward gratification of the flesh is sin; this is the wide path.

The New Covenant is the narrow gate; it is the Way of Christ; it is the provision to view into the "unseen" heavenly realms; it is having the mind of Christ.  The Old Law governs the realm of the "seen," where sin abides.  The Law defines sin; the Law judges sin; the Law condemns sin.  People who choose to live under the control of the sinful nature fall under judgment by the Law, and they condemn themselves by their choice.  They choose to operate under the human nature; they are no better off than Adam and Eve.

What about those who want to keep one eye on Jesus and the other eye in the "seen" realm?  One eye on sinlessness and one eye on sinfulness.  Jesus said that cannot be done; it's either one or the other (Matt. 6:22-23).  Choose you this day whom you will serve (Josh. 24:15).  

So, here's a question.  If the church has been declared perfect and sinless in the heavenly realms, what happens when Christians claim that they "sin" and that they are "all sinners."  This may be thought to be a testimony of the need for the blood of Jesus, but Jesus has already finished that.  The Law that pointed out sin was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14).  Therefore, claiming to be still a sinner is not a testimony to what still happens -- it is more like a faithless response to what has already been completed by Christ and a lack of understanding of where we are going in the future. 

This occurs when the church fails to understand the foreordained plan of God, a failure which will bring its own demise.  

The church was not established to be God's holy sin exterminator

The church cannot focus on sin and focus on Jesus as the Way.  The church's job is not to get rid of people's sins so that they can enter the narrow gate.  The church is not the ticket-taker for gate entrance.  The church shows what the glorious kingdom of God is like on the other side of the narrow gate, and the Holy Spirit convicts the world of the sin that separates them from Christ (John 16:8).  It is not the job of the church to finish exterminating the sins from those who have chosen to pass through the narrow gate.  Christ has already done that.  Everyone is declared sin-free so that we can leave encumbrances behind and grow to be like God.  

Being gate-manager and sin-manager are jobs back in the "seen" realm.  These jobs do not exist in the heavenly realms, and the church who thinks it is a sin-identifier and sin-controller is operating out of the control of the flesh in the physical realms.  

Perhaps some have been watching too many old Dr. Who episodes, when the heinous Daliks go around saying, "Exterminate, exterminate."  Like a bug exterminator going around looking for sin to spray.  Look, here's a sin ... pffasst, pffasst goes the sprayer.  Cough, hack.  "Well, consider this for your own good.  But don't feel too bad; we're all sinners."  Maybe that attitude is why Christians are so proficient at spraying each other (Gal. 5:15).  Or, better yet, the alien robot that appeared on the Starship Enterprise that was programmed to exterminate everything it deemed to be "imperfect."  Captain Kirk tricked the robot into the conclusion that it, itself, was imperfect, so it had to exterminate itself.  That robot is a prototype for self-appointed sin-blasters.

But, think about it - where does this sin identification and attempted irradication take place?  It takes place in the realm of the "seen," because how else can sin be identified?  What is used to identify sin?  The Old Law.  What is used to judge the sinner?  The Old Law.  The church has to operate in the sinful nature to be a sin exterminator.  Those who operate by the sinful nature cannot please God (Rom. 8:8).  Why?  Because what pleases God is located in the heavenly realms, which is approached through the Spirit.  "Leave your sin at the gate."  

To be in the sin management business, the church has to keep running back out the narrow gate to the "unseen" to the wide gate in the "seen" to retrieve something related to the sinful nature.  This retro-action will prevent anyone from getting very far along the narrow path.  What are we supposed to do?

Leave it behind.  The church is to be the model of how to leave it behind and to forward by faith into the "unseen" with eyes on Jesus, who ran the race before us.  

What happens when we drag sin along with us?  We operate out of the sinful nature; we have eyes on sin and not on Jesus.  We preach about "original sin" and how all that was inherited from Adam, how we were born depraved, how Jesus saved us from that, and how we need to be continually reminded of that by the liturgy of the Lord's Supper.  Yes, the Lord's Supper, as the traditional observance has evolved in the church, is basically about sin.

When we run back out the narrow gate, do you realize what we have to run through to get back to the encumbrances and the Old Law of judgment at the wide gate?  And what is on the road back to the narrow gate?  What is that substance covering the ground between the narrow gate and the wide gate?  It depends on the direction.  From out the narrow gate back to the wide gate there are puddles of pig mire and dog vomit (2 Pet. 2:22) to tromp through.  Once we have grabbed some sin and encumbrances at the wide gate and head back to the narrow gate, there is a pool of blood.  It came from the ground under the cross; it is the blood of Jesus that we need to cleanse us all over again of the sins we constantly go back for.  Each trip, we crucify Jesus all over again.  Those who are headed down the wide path see this and laugh and mock at our disbelief in the permanent, once for all, sin-forgiving sacrifice of Christ.  "Ha, Ha.  Why should we believe in your Jesus when you don't, yourselves."  And Dr. Hawking says, "I don't need that Jesus."

And what is a result of all this cycling of narrow gate to wide gate and back again and again and again?  The consequence is described in Heb. 6:1-3 -- we stay in the elementary teachings of Christ about sin and we fail to grow into maturity.  We do not get far along the narrow path, because we have to keep returning.  We stay in the milk of the word instead of the meat of the word by which we are trained in righteousness.  We act as though we forget we have been cleansed of sin once for all time and declared sinless in His sight, and keep grabbing up sin and crucifying Christ all over again, subjecting Him to public shame.  The church that does that falls away into apostasy.  (Heb. 5:11- 6:8).  

Does this sound like the plan that God foreordained before creation?  Does this sound like what Jesus died for?  Does this sound like the church that Jesus died to establish to carry out the will of God?

The church thinks it is accomplishing its God-ordained role by looking for sin within itself - call it sin, call it leaven, call it lumpy, call it depravity, calling it anything.  This is operating out of the flesh, and the church reaches for the very sin that it is trying to condemn.  This dignifies the sin and raises the human flag of self-righteousness of the church, because the church represents itself as the answer for sin when Jesus has already accomplished that.  

God's Prime Directive:  The church evangelizes by demonstrating the fruit of a life for Jesus, and the church witnesses to the manifold wisdom of God displayed in His foreordained plan.

So, Dr. Hawking, this is what the universe is about, and one does need the revealed foreordained plan of God to explain it.  But, this explanation would be much more apparent if the church, itself, could understand it.


Sunday, October 16, 2016

173. THE PHYSICAL UNIVERSE IS BIGGER THAN WE CAN IMAGINE, BUT THE SPIRITUAL UNIVERSE IS BIGGER

What is the church doing about discovery?  God is the Creator of all things in the physical and spiritual realms.  The innate capacity of the human brain changes much more slowly than the explosion of new knowledge to assimilate and comprehend.  Technology (computers; smart phones, glasses, and watches; robots; Internet) has helped a lot in data storage, retrieval, "crunching," and communication.  People have become increasingly specialized in their focus of information they use and bear responsibility for -- greater specializations in medicine, engineering, law, science, etc.  More detail, more precision, less expansive information area.  

Particularly during the 1600's-1800's, many of the scientific discoveries were made by priests in the Roman Catholic Church.  The church had a significant participation in the advancement of knowledge and understanding of the natural realm, recognizing that as a work of God.  But an attitude of protection of theological data (called doctrine) and suppression of anything new pervaded the church, and the self-constraints imposed by the church slowed down its rate of progress in making and accepting new scientific discoveries.  The rate of generation of new discovery of the knowledge of nature has continued to increase exponentially, while the church's leadership in the discovery within the spiritual revelation of God has only slowly increased.  There were several "bumps" in understanding - coinciding with a frustration with the limitations imposed by the "status quo" -- called the Reformation Movement, the Great Awakening, the Restoration Movement, etc.  But these "bumps" have largely smoothed out over the following years as the groups form gatherings around their traditional doctrine with insulating protective blankets to keep intruders out (and the truth in).  

The people of the world make new discoveries that generate new technologies to allow humans to do things unheard of a few years ago -- genetic modification, robots, artificial intelligence, discoveries about the origins and expanse of the universe (or universes), etc.  Other things seems to increase, showing roots in "works of the flesh" -- greed, taking advantage of others, self-interest, selfish ambition, defiant immorality, lust for power, selfish interests and promotion, etc.  Increases in technology combined with works of the flesh yield a bad combination.  As the power and control from technology advances, there is an increase in the number of different ways the human race has at its disposal to destroy itself.  

The purpose of the church is to show the manifold wisdom of God to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10).  This demonstration of truth has to be done in the earthly realms, because that's where the "stage" is that is being watched.  What is the church doing in its assigned role?  It would seem more that science is showing the church what the manifold wisdom of God looks like in the physical creation, rather than the church showing the predestined and eternal plan of God in the spiritual realms.  All things on the earth, above the earth, and under the earth fit into the foreordained plan of God, because God's plan came before creation; and creation came from out of God's plan and with the purpose of fulfilling God's plan.

Science shows greater unity than the church.  When a scientific discovery is made and published, how this discovery fits into evidence from other sources is discussed as well as where this new evidence fits into the bigger picture of understanding this segment of the universe.  What does the church do to those people who dare to make or suggest a deeper understanding of revelation or the equivalent of a new discovery?  The different church groups protect their brands of doctrine like valuable trademarks.  In fact, marketing is a big deal in the church in advertisements, signage, web sites, names, symbols, and appearances.  If science is competitive, it is over funding.  Contribution, attendance, and square footage are the biggest sources of competition among church groups, as well.  

So, while science pursues natural truth through research and discovery, church groups protect their interpretation of truth and repress, criticize, and divide over new discovery.  One group advances while the other recycles.  Can you guess?

How many galaxies?

The Hubble Telescope has revolutionized our understanding of the universe over the past 25 years of its operation.  Based on its imagery, it was estimated in the 1990's that there were 200 billion galaxies in the "known" (by us) universe.  That calculation was based on an extension of what could be seen at that time.  Many years and many images later, scientists have studied old and new images from the Hubble and have made a calculation that if the Hubble had the resolution, it would find 10 times more galaxies than presently estimated.  That's a small 2 trillion galaxies.  The more that is discovered, the more there is to discover.  

This prediction will be tested with a successful launch of the James Webb Space Telescope around October 2018.  This telescope, about the size of a tennis court, will detect objects with 1/10th to 1/100th of the light magnitude required by the Hubble.  It is expected to peer into parts of the universe born 13 billion years ago, a relatively short time after the "big bang."  

A NASA representative said, "Hubble rewrote the textbooks and we're planning to rewrite the textbooks again.  JWST will answer the questions which at the moment we can't think to ask."

"rewrite the book...answer the questions that at the moment we can't think to ask."  Can you imagine an academic theologian making such a statement?   Can you imagine a statement from a church group who thinks their hermeneutic has established New Testament Christianity, so you'd better not mess with it?  Or, a group who has so much institutional investment into their doctrine that the buildings would fall down if something were changed?

Has the universe expanded 10 times in the last 20 years?  Have millions and millions of new galaxies been formed?  Or, have they been there all along waiting for humans to ask the questions that drive the development of the technology to discover them? 

Some Christians will shake their heads and say, "What an amazing God," and then go and argue that the universe had to have been created in 6x24 hour days in 4004 BC, because "the Bible tells me so."  

The God who created the universe and everything in it, with more within its boundaries (if there are any) than we can think of yet, is the same God who revealed Himself, His being, His nature, and His Love from the heavenly realms of the "unseen" to the "seen" by His Son, Jesus Christ, speaks to us today through His Word and His Holy Spirit.  Are Christians afraid of new information?  Are Christians afraid of greater and deeper revelation?  Can God not handle it, or is it we who can't handle it?  God created shovels; are we afraid to use them to dig, or, are we too busy protecting the shallow holes already dug by someone else?  

What do you mean?  How do you know the holes are shallow?  We will never know as long as we are afraid to dig.  "The revelation of God will answer the questions which we presently can't think to ask."  What is the church afraid of?  Has the church created for itself such a large physical institutional footprint that it has limited itself to activities of self-preservation and maintenance instead of new discovery?

The Bible tells us of the foreordained plan of God, made before creation of matter and time.  The foreordained plan of God is bigger than 2 trillion galaxies.  Are we afraid to find out more about God's plan?  Do we pretend that we already know everything because really we are too busy counting the contribution to get a scriptural shovel and dig?  

Paul's descriptions of the power of God are greater than we can ask or imagine.  This is the God of 2 trillion galaxies or more.  The God with answers to questions that we have not even known enough to ask.  How can the church be satisfied with recycling its limited knowledge of God as if there is nothing more to be found?  What do the following verses say about the power of the knowledge of God?
Eph. 1:15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.
Eph. 3:14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Now, again, what are we afraid of?  What the Bishop might think?  What the elders might think?  What the Council of Non-Thinking Bureaucrats might think (or not think)?  What the members might think as they vote with their feet and leave for some place less challenging?  

The church in the "free world" has been given incredible blessings of resources and freedom to pursue the deeper revelations of God.  What has it done within its great museums of theology?  Maybe pursue "revelation light - 40% less meat" in the safe confines of hallways of academia or churchademia or institutionalademia - maybe also publishbookademia, tenurademia, and theological careerademia -- all part of a larger classification of what could be called safeademia.  What is the church afraid of? 

The time could very well come in the not too distant future when the church will wish it had utilized its resources with better stewardship in the pursuit of the deeper revelation of God -- when opposing physical forces are destroying resources and persecuting those who would otherwise use them.  

Other than trying to preserve its comfortable little niche in society, the church has some serious theological problems that are in great need of being scrubbed clean by a fuller knowledge from a deeper understanding of the revelation of God. One problem that is likely the source of a lot of division and competition is the doctrines of sin, the fall of Adam, and depravity.  The root of this problem is a poor understanding of the foreordained plan of God for creation and for the church.  The Roman Catholic Church began carrying elements of the Old Law into the church, and this problem still pervades doctrinal thinking in Christianity like the mortar between the bricks of the building.

Please continue this consideration as recorded in another post, "Jesus Did Not Miss the Target of Perfection, So We Do Not Either." 

Let's get to moving - we have galaxies to discover.