Thursday, December 1, 2016

181. COULD POPE FRANCIS BE CATCHING A GLIMPSE OF THE HEAVENLY REALMS?

This post attempts to give an example of the difference between thinking in the earthly and heavenly realms in an "everyday practice" situation within the church.  People are usually blind to their reasons behind their own predicaments, which are transparent to them, but they aware of other groups' problems, because the traditional thinking surrounding the situation isn't the same between the groups.  If the groups within the body of Christ were to constructively and beneficially interact to help one another instead of competitively defend and fight about what we can see and criticize in one another, we would all be a lot further along in the growth of the church into maturity.

The Roman Catholic Church is so ubiquitous in both presence and influence that most anything done or said, good or bad, is grabbed by the media and hung out to dry before the world.  This often slanted publicity results in both praise and criticism of the events.  It also presents opportunities for making illustrations about spiritual principles that many people can relate to, although presenting the example in a truly objective manner is almost impossible.  The next best approach may be just "knowing where someone is coming from."  

This post was written by someone who over half-a-century-ago belonged to a fundamentally conservative group with Protestant origins that was suspicious of the Catholic Church. The author still considers himself to be a Christian who is "fundamental," but the definition and application of that term has flipped about 180 degrees.  As is the case involving many terms, "fundamental" in the heavenly realms is inverse to the application of "fundamental" in the earthly realms.

There is an interesting, and potentially very important, dynamic going on in the Roman Catholic Church, that began with the selection of a new Pope.  Pope Francis is someone in this traditional position of the "highest protector of the church doctrine" who is looking past old wineskins to find new skins capable of receiving "new wine."  He is not just breaking with tradition -- that takes too long; rather, he is bypassing tradition that is inconsistent with the foreordained plan of God.  Some don't see it coming -- they only see the tails of his Pope robe as he has already passed them.  From a Protestant perspective, this might seem "ho-hum," but from a Catholic perspective, and from a "body of Christ" perspective, this is huge.  The nature of the internal resistance being formed to adversarially challenge Pope Francis' changes helps tell the story.

There must be more to it than this, but, from an outsider perspective, there is this logical question that can be raised. If the Pope is designated to be the single person who has the authority to speak for God (in the Roman Catholic Church), who are these other people to question what he does and says, just because they may disagree with it?  So what if they are bishops or arches or cardinals or whatever?  Is it only certain times he speaks for God - while wearing certain garments and holding a certain instrument in his hand while speaking in Latin?   And so what is said the remainder of the time -- is that an open target for other's opinions?  How "infallible" is that?  In fact, that may be an undercurrent issue that Pope Francis is addressing.   

This opens the main point here.  All these rules of tradition - what people have said a thousand years ago or so - what someone does or says while they are in an official capacity - so designated by an organization's humanly determined rules, as marked by physical time, circumstance, location, occupation of 3-dimensional space - humanly significant garments and instruments of institutionally assigned authority, involving the senses of the human brain listening to someone who has been placed in control the interface between them and Jesus Christ -- all this stuff .... is this thinking directed in the heavenly realm or earthly realms?  Even if one allows the claim to be made that these rules initially derived from the heavenly realms (as purportedly recorded in Matt. 16:16-18), into what realm has the doctrine of the church evolved and where is it now?  Everything about this is "church business" in the physical realm.

This is further evidence that the institution calling itself "the church" (whatever the name or traditional derivation - Roman Catholic or otherwise) is operating in the earthly realms.  Do the garments and rules and official instruments represent our seat with Christ in the heavenly realms?  You mean, like the physical emblems (Heb. 9:23-24) under the Old Law -- that Law nailed to the cross with Christ so we could be in the spiritual realms with Him (Eph. 2:6)?   Obviously our religious physical trappings are only earthly representations of the true heavenly realms with Christ -- the same as it was under the Old Law. 

But, what is this "new wine" that Pope Francis is pouring - besides a surfacing of the inconsistency of the traditional view of "the Pope being God's voice, but only when he says what I agree with?"  Well, I, for one, am recognizing God's voice within some of what Pope Francis is doing and saying, and it's not because some humanly controlled organization has said so, recently, anciently, or whenever.  Pope Francis is showing the fruit of the Spirit of the mind of Christ by what he is doing and saying - just like Jesus said would be the recognizable character of His work.  The Pope is showing some insight into the "unseen" heavenly realms, and some of the humans within this organization, bound to the earthly realms, are having difficulty knowing what to do with it.  It's strange, different, unconventional, and threatening to a security that says salvation is through an institution that should not contradict itself and that thinks change is dangerous. 

The dissonance involves several doctrines in the Roman Catholic Church - the doctrine of the Eucharist, or Holy Communion, the doctrine of salvation, and the doctrine of sin and forgiveness.

The Eucharist, as practiced in the Roman Catholic Church, is one of the sacraments that must be observed according to the traditional rules in order to maintain one's salvation.  Salvation of the individual is granted through the institutional church, represented by the administration of these sacraments.  Only those approved by the rules of the institution can receive the sacraments of Holy Communion.  So, these doctrines mesh together into a tidy package of the institution deciding who is saved based on the church rules.  The priest is the local representative authorized to offer Holy Communion to the individuals, so the priest is the final "screen" that accepts or rejects the qualifications of a person to receive the sacrament based on the interpretations passed down from the "higher-ups."  

Members who choose to live certain "sinful" lifestyles are precluded from receiving Communion, because they are considered not to be in good standing with God (and therefore with the church).  Traditional (conservative) interpretations of the Scripture have placed people who have been divorced and remarried in this category, and these people have been forbidden from receiving Holy Communion, thereby not confirming their salvation.  

In April, 2016, Pope Francis published a major document urging priests to be more accepting of divorced Catholics, gay men and lesbians, and other people in irregular family situations.  The Pope has also urged priests to offer forgiveness for those having had abortions.

Four senior Catholic Cardinals have published a demand for the Pope to state plainly his intent for accepting remarried Catholics, when second marriages have been considered by the church for over a millennium to be adulterous.  The Cardinals threaten a "formal act of correction" of the Pope, something never done before in the Roman Catholic Church.  Hmm. If we're talking about the Pope's "breaking with tradition" -- what would that "formal act" be called, for which there is no tradition nor precedent?  The Cardinals like to quote Jesus' words in Luke 16:18 for their stance on remarriage and adultery.  Well, while we are quoting scriptural authority, where is a scripture in the Bible authorizing Cardinals to censure the Pope?  (Don't hold your breath while trying to find that one -- might be hypoxically slain in the spirit.)  

So far, Pope Francis has not responded to the critics, but has bypassed them and taken his case directly to the grass roots - the priests and therefore the people.  Is this like a coronary bypass that goes around calcified obstructions in a blood vessel to supply life-giving oxygen to the tissues?  

What is the will of God in His foreordained plan?

What is the focus -- are eyes being fixed on things in the seen realm or the unseen, on human opinions or on Jesus, on the temporal earthly realms or the eternal heavenly realms, on things that are below or things that are above?

Is this a contest?

So what about a 1000 year old tradition in the church; what about a 2000 year old tradition?  How about an eternal tradition of the foreordained plan of God, made before creation of matter and time?  It's difficult find the handle to understand that one.  Maybe because the "handle" is in the heavenly realms, and people are not looking outside the earthly realms of their own history, 1000 years of tradition, and human comprehension.  Maybe the answer is "hidden in Christ," so that one has to see Christ first before the answer becomes apparent.  Surely "Ask and it shall be revealed to you" (Matt. 7:7) means "ask Jesus" and not "ask the traditional doctrinal thinking."  

What has God predestined before creation and how does the church fit into that?  What has God declared through Christ that has already happened in the heavenly realms, and what is the church supposed to be doing about that?

God foreordained before time began that the creation would start and grow into His likeness, into His character of love.  The creation has evolved over 14 (more or less) billion years, and humankind is the highest form of creation, charged to lead the rest of creation (as we know it) into God.  Jesus Christ came from the heavenly realms into the earthly, physical realms to finish the old covenant (of the earthly realms) and to bring in the new covenant (of the heavenly realms), under which we have been declared for all time to be without sin, blemish, or stain and perfect in the sight of God in the heavenly realms (Eph. 1:3-4).  God has declared that we, and collectively the church, are complete.  We are like God in the heavenly realms, and created to be like God in the earthly realms - the image of God.  We know in our mortal bodies that we are not yet perfected in the earthly realms, but by faith in the declaration and promise of God and by the power of His Holy Spirit, we purpose to be transformed into His likeness as we keep eyes on Jesus, who is seated by the right hand of the Father (Eph. 1:20).  Our faith is counted to us as righteousness, as righteousness was declared to Abraham by his faith.  

God loves all the world; God sent His Son to all the world so no one would perish (John 3:16-17).  The Holy Spirit of God was poured out on all people (Acts 2:17, 39). Jesus did not come to those Jewish gatekeepers who had their rules from ancient traditions, which they used to screen people out of institutional (synagogue) acceptance.  Jesus came to sinners, to prostitutes, to the blind, oppressed, sick, and poor.  Jesus came to those who needed Him, not to those who were too elite to even recognize Him.  He died for all of them, and the Spirit was poured out on all of them, and everyone who called upon the name of the Lord were saved (Acts 2:21).  When did Jesus turn anyone away from the kingdom of God because they weren't good enough to qualify?

Jesus came for the sinners, not to the dignified self-righteous Jewish leaders of that day.  Perhaps the Pope sees the self-righteousness of the stance that is taken when people are kept out of the church, even when those who are doing the rejection of people cannot see it, themselves.  I once had this attitude - "It's just what God said."  This, of course, was according to my interpretation, and I didn't have 1000's of years of tradition behind it -- but, nevertheless, I was still convinced that I was right (IMHO).  Jesus came to the types of (so-labeled)
"sinners" being rejected by the conservative elements of the Catholic church, but welcomed by Pope Francis.  


Let's play the matching game.  On the left side of the paper, we have [1] Four Cardinals and [2] Pope Francis.  On the right side there are the following statements.  Match the two sides, left and right.  
(1) Who have their eyes on things in the seen, physical, temporal, earthly realms, and who have their eyes on the example of Jesus, who is the Way into the unseen, eternal, heavenly realms?  (2) Who is taking the scripture of Jesus' words into the context of 1000 years of human tradition, and who is taking the words in the context of the actions Jesus exemplified in His life, which was within the will of the Father?  (3) Who is in unity with the declaration of God that we are perfect in His sight in the heavenly realms, and who is trying to bind people to the Law in the earthly realms?  
 The Pope is extending grace to those types of people that Jesus said He came to save.  When we reject those people who are in need of Jesus, we risk hearing the same words Jesus had for the Jewish leaders in His day.  Yet, leaders in the church feel they have a responsibility to keep the church from contamination, from being spotted by the world, or from an invasion of savage wolves.  But leaders who are shepherds following the Chief Shepherd into the heavenly realms leave these sorts of entanglements behind rather than making a doctrinal abode in the earthly realms and building up defenses to supposedly keep the entanglements out.  "Leaving them behind" implies a rapid movement of the church toward Jesus is taking place.  "Keeping them out" implies a static placement of a self-immobilized church that allows sin an opportunity to catch up.

Perhaps the Pope understands that from a church perspective, continually rejecting and punishing people retroactively is like a penal system in the earthly realms.  There is a conceptual way of looking at Christ's work called "penal substitutionary atonement," which emphasizes Christ's having taken on Himself the penalty of sin that we deserve.  From this perspective, what right does the church have to reattach the penalty that Christ, himself, removed?  The church that claims it is the only one who represents Christ?

This is so easy to see when it's somebody else.  But, come on, now!  Just about every brand of church today does the same thing.  The church puts itself in the sin containment, isolation, and extermination business with its own members or with those people it considers to be "outside" the church because they are "sinners" and "reject Christ."  Are they really rejecting Christ or are they rejecting the church's institutional portrayal of Christ?  Who is in noncompliance with the will of God as laid out in His foreordained plan?  Who has been charged with the responsibility of faithfully representing the will of God to the world?  Who is the steward of the talents left by the Master, and who will give account for their stewardship, or lack thereof?

Some churches will look disapprovingly at other church groups who open the doors and let all those sinners in.  Hmm.  The Spirit of Jesus is living in the chairperson of the welcome committee, and He is living in the person holding the door open.  "Come on in - our commonality is not that 'we're all sinners;' our commonality is that we're leaving all those encumbrances behind and helping one another to run the race to Jesus."

Otherwise, it's like the church identifies with the perpetual condemnation of the Old Law.  This approach leads to a dead end, a blind alley, a "no outlet." What is the answer?  The answer (to borrow from Nobel Prize winner, Bob Dylan) is "blowing in the wind," if one considers "the wind" (pneuma) to be the Spirit.  

The answer for the future of the church, using the prospective view into the heavenly realms, is [1] to help those people trying to get their lives together to move on toward the "high calling" with eyes on Jesus, and [2] to train those younger people who are coming up in age to better understand God's purpose for marriage as part of His foreordained plan. In the future of the church, more and more marriages will be stable, God-honoring, and eternity-preparing, and not ending in divorce.  That's the answer - the church tears down its prisons and builds rehab centers, instead.  The church involves itself in training and teaching and modeling Jesus instead of judging.  Instead of pointing the finger at people of divorce, invite them to be a vital part of the reconstruction of the families within the church.  They have important lessons from experiences to share.

Our traditional interpretations also do not preclude the admonition in James 2:12-13:
"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!"
This skirmish between the Cardinals and the Pope is not a "local argument."  It represents a spiritual battle going on all over the church - every group by any name.  Are we going to keep eyes on our traditional human thinking in the earthly realms, or will we seek the truth with eyes on Jesus in the heavenly realms, where we have been declared and predestined to already be.  "Look, you're already there, so act like it!"

This principle applies to everybody.

We know of this matter going on the the Catholic church because it's "in the news."  There are thousands upon thousands of similar battles going on in all other churches, as well.  The principle of being able to recognize the placement of what we hold big and important as being in either the earthly realms or the heavenly realms is the same, and it require great spiritual discernment from the church leadership and yielding to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who searches the mind of God.  No need to go on a toothpick optical exam - we all have telephone poles obscuring our vision of the heavenly realms that must be removed first.

Why this is important in the heavenly realms?

Paul said the purpose for the church in the foreordained plan of God was to show the manifold wisdom of god to the powers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Eph. 3:10).

The Pope has a preacher's pulpit like no other.  Whatever he does or says is news for the world.  There may not be a human on earth with a greater and wider impact of religious influence.  

The Pope also has a large web of traditional entanglements to get through in order to see past the institution into the heavenly realms.  What he has already done is remarkable.  

Let us rise above differences in Christian tradition and background and unite in prayer for Pope Francis - that he might have the health, stamina, wisdom, discernment, and faith to see into the "unseen" and lead the Roman Catholic Church into the true will of God - even on the stage of the world, highlighted by the glare of the media, being a witness for Jesus Christ and an encouragement to His unified true church.

What about the rest of us?

How much progress has been made by the rest of us who do not have the same degree of institutional entanglements as the Catholic Church and those similar groups?  We have the same battle to fight, but with different names and different human traditions.  But, spiritually, they are not that different - they are all encumbrances to the heavenly Way because they bind us to things in the earthly realms.

Indeed, "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12).  It will take a unified church with eyes on Jesus to prevail.  And let's not settle for a quasi-uniformity about some millennia of traditional human interpretations, regardless of how they came about.  Let's go for the eternal tradition of the foreordained plan of God.  

One of the points of this illustration is to show that the judgmental position of some concerning divorce, remarriage, and communion comes from a human interpretation maintained as a human tradition, whereas the Pope's position is much more in the context of the foreordained plan of God, out of which the creation was formed and predestined to fulfill.

This may seem like a lot of smoke from a little fire, but there aren't many examples of a public nature that can be used to illustrate the choices being made in the church that are either in the plan of God for the heavenly realms or they are not.  "What does it look like" if we discern God's will according to His predestined plan?  What happens if one looks into the "unseen" heavenly realms?  This is an example - may we learn with all wisdom, love, grace, and humility.

Let's pray that the church can recognize the internal choice we still have to grow together in the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, with eyes on Jesus and our place in the heavenly realms, before God has to make the choice more obvious by external persecution in the earthly realms.  

By faith, let's set our goal to what God has already declared us to be in the heavenly realms, testifying to the manifold wisdom of God as an evangelistic witness to the world in the earthly realms.

Monday, November 28, 2016

180. I WILL LOOK UP UNTO THE HILLS RATHER THAN DOWN AT MY FOOTPRINTS IN THE MIRE

We need a thinking inversion 
from 
"self thinking about self" 
to 
"self becoming like God." 

Jesus began making it plain in the Sermon on the Mount. What we have here is a new paradigm of thinking.  It seemed from human perspective Jesus was saying to take what you know now and flip it 180 degrees.  We like to think that we interpret the Bible the way God intended, but is that just a user-friendly, self-reassuring assumption?  Before we can be in the will of God, we must understand God's eternal perspective expressed in His foreordained plan.  

Many things in the teachings of Jesus appear counterintuitive to human logic. The first will be last, and the last will be the first.  The least servant will be the greatest ruler. Except you become as little children. Flip the top and the bottom, the rich and poor; exchange serving the outward appearance to leading with the attitude of the heart. Invert doing things to be seen publicly by people with doing things to be seen privately by God.  

Our fundamental basis for thinking must be changed from being human-centered to being Christ-centered. Does this occur in life because we sing and pray it to be so on Sunday?  No, we celebrate on Sunday because it is occurring in life.  Sometimes, John 4:24 is quoted "worship in spirit and in truth," meaning "from the heart," meaning "really focus and think hard about when you're singing or taking communion."  Don't think about what's cooking on the stove at home or that drill on sale at Home Depot.  That is a struggle against a disconnect that has already occurred because of a religion that has been dominated by the Old Covenant - life between Sunday afternoon and Saturday night has been interrupted by Sunday morning, not celebrated in order to propel our transformation even higher in the coming week.

Inversion technology

So, what are some of the great earthly discussions, contests, arguments, competitions, doctrines, human values need to be inverted or entirely scrapped?  Here are a few under three groupings:

[1] evolution vs. creation; science vs. the Bible; literal interpretation of scripture vs. symbolic

[2] sinner vs. perfect; bought, redeemed, forgiven vs. being transformed

[3] natural vs. supernatural; past vs. future
- - - - - - - - - -
[1] Creation reflects source; evolution reflects method. 

Evolution has been working from the beginning, is now, and will continue to be God's method for creation. Humans create the supposed conflict between them.  The Bible provides the intent of the Creator, the direction of the universe, and the purpose to be fulfilled; science objectively documents how it has been and is being physically accomplished.  
Science and the Bible are not adversaries; they are not two different and dissimilar ways to describe the same thing; they are not two windows to give different information.  Both are sources of truth, but they both require interpretation which may give two human perspectives of the same thing, but they supply complementary, supplementary, identical, and parallel revelation from God.  Humans create conflict and confusion when they center their opinions on themselves and try to argue and "prove" who is wrong.  (Two humans argue to try to prove each other wrong rather than working together to find what is truth).

We must stop trying to find find out how the Bible can be modified to mesh with science, and vice versa.  Stop using "Gap theories" and "theistic evolution" and other so-named compromises of interpretation that seemingly force science and the Bible together as if they were dissimilar grinding gears.  Let us first find God's perspective and truth in the Bible; science describes the method used in carrying out the revealed plan of God.  Determine God's foreordained plan, made before creation, and then everything fits into that. There should be complementation, not conflict.

Biblical interpretation is done by humans for humans. God doesn't need our interpretation.  We need the Holy Spirit to reveal God's intent (Jn. 16:13-16; Cor. 2:10-16).  A literal interpretation is "literal" with respect to what?  Words translated into English?  The most "literal" meaning is that which is in the mind of God.  

A method of interpretation is to "let the Bible interpret itself" (sola scriptura).  That's a good idea unless we select only the passages we consider relevant.  Or, unless we omit those that we do not recognize as relevant.  The foreordained plan of God theme in the Bible begins at Gen. 1:1 and runs through Revelation, so it's all relevant in developing the story.

Those who try to use the Bible as a primary scientific authority would embarrass themselves, if they knew more about either or both.  Instead, they embarrass those who do know more about it.  Those who use science to try to explain the purpose of the world, of life, of our existence would also be embarrassed by the obvious failure - if they could see beyond themselves.

Having self in the way is a common problem.

[2] Do Christians sin; are Christians sinners, or not?  Are we perfect or imperfect?

That depends on how one looks at it - from a human perspective or from God's perspective.  Which one are we supposed to use - ours of God's?  Do we preach against the poison of sin so that we offer Jesus as the antidote?  Are we concerned that if we don't preach against sin, people will not be "held in check" by the threat of condemnation?  If a person is living under control of the sinful nature and will not choose otherwise, do we "withdraw fellowship" from them or do we allow them the consequence of their choice -- to be left behind as we race toward Jesus?  Ever heard anyone say, "Let's withdraw fellowship from 'so&so' while we run as fast as we can toward Jesus?"  Hmm. Neither have I.

The church bulletin of a Christian group makes a familiar invitation, saying: 
"You are welcome to come on in just as you are.  We're not perfect, and we don't claim to be.  We're just sinners, always in need of the blood of Jesus, like everyone else."
How about that statement being made to a "potential person of interest?"  Are those words supposed to them feel better about the church?  Does that set their mind at ease about elbowing with Christians?  Are they now comfortable that they will find acceptance in this seeker-friendly church?  Well, then, "Come o-o-o-n down!"

What is the real spiritual message of this advertising invitation?  This is like an imaginary invitation message in the earthly realms, but translated into the heavenly realms.  In typical fashion, it takes longer to explain truth than error.  
God has declared that we are blameless and perfect in His sight because of the blood of Jesus.  God has said that our faith in that promise through Christ is counted to us as righteousness. God has said we must throw off the entanglements of sin in the earthly realms, because they have been already removed in the heavenly realms.   God has said that we are seated with Jesus by the throne of God (Eph.2:6).  
But we choose to disclaim all that.  Rather, we choose instead to claim that we are sinners and not perfect, even though that is in direct contrast to what God has declared. Rather than agreeing with God, we are saying that we choose to admit to be under the control of the sinful nature, because that is where sin is located.  We also choose to be under the Old Law, because that is where sin is defined.
Therefore, you, "person of potential interest," because you are in sin and because you are judged, found guilty, and condemned, we will try to make you feel better by saying that we are in the same fix.  We would rather deny being the sinless people God has declared us to be in order to avoid making you feel uncomfortable. Of course, our doctrine about the "fall of man" places an automatic condemnation on everyone from their start.  We sure do have trouble shaking off that one.  So, to make you feel more comfortable, we will deny what Christ has done for us and choose to remain condemned under the sinful nature. The sinful nature is under condemnation of the Law, because that defined sin. 
Feeling better, o ye "person of potential interest?"  By the way, this is the church talking - you know, the one for whom Christ died? 
Shall we testify to our human failure or to God's righteousness at work through Christ?  We don't want to be called "hypocrite" because of a claimed self-righteousness, so rather than claim what God has declared us to be, we will claim that we don't have any righteousness. We testify of our human failure instead of God's perfect righteousness, and we justify so doing by saying we inherited it from Adam.  When Christians in the church say they are sinners, they are crucifying Christ all over again and subjecting Him to public shame (Heb. 6:4-6), because we don't believe what God said.  God has proclaimed that we are perfect and sinless; we proclaim that we don't believe that when we say we are sinners.

We have been crucified with Christ so that He can live in us.  Once for all; it has been done; it is finished.  The church has been crucified with Christ once for all - it doesn't need to be done over and over again. Why would we invite the world to come on in and see a church full of sinners crucify Christ again.  But don't we do that every Sunday?  On the church property there is imagery everywhere of Christ's crucifixion - pictures, statues, paintings.  What's the message?  What do we say is the purpose of the Lord's Supper (Communion)?

The Protestant-derived churches so disliked the doctrine of sin of the Roman Catholic Church that they invented their own doctrine.  The Catholic church's doctrine of sin was church-centered (sin forgiven only through the church) instead of Christ-centrered.  But, the Protestant doctrine of sin is sin-centered instead of Christ-centered.  One doctrine is a perversion of truth; the other is just a perversion. Both are humanocentric.  One involves a human controlled institution for sin; the other involves a human centered doctrine of sin.

God came to mankind and went back to the heavenly realms so that mankind could thereafter go to God. This was the design of the foreordained plan of God before creation.  Mankind had to evolve physically, socially, and religiously to understand and comprehend the plan of God to accept it, beginning the transformation phase of spiritual evolution (change) to be like God.  

It would appear that the church still does not comprehend the eternal plan of God and has substituted its own humanistic plan in its place that continues to testify of the condition of human deficiency (as under the Old Law) rather than God's perfect righteousness declared for us (as under the New Covenant).  This substitutes our human plan in the place of God's plan, and this is idolatry and apostasy.

Christ came and reoriented everything in the Jewish religion and then died to complete the old way, abolish its requirements, and bring in the New Covenant, so that our relationship with God could be within the will of God's predestined plan, made before the beginning of time. But the humanistic church has re-flipped it back, again.  We are inviting the serpent into our seeker-friendly garden, when we claim to be sinners, too.  And sneaky snake is laughing.  Are our actions like rubbing on the genie bottle to get our sins forgiven again and again?

The church still has a choice to make a change and become compliant with the will of God.  Are the doctrines and traditional thinking so calcified that new wine will burst the old wineskins?  If so, the owner will discard the old wineskins in favor of new ones, and the institutions of humanism that call themselves "the church" will fulfill the prophecy of scripture regarding those who follow the control of the sinful nature.

A error in a computer program that keeps the program from running or aborts the action is a "fatal error."  This is a an error the church is making that will prove to be fatal.

[3] Retrospective or anterospective?  

Is the natural distinct from the supernatural? How does this relate to looking backward into the past and forward into the future?    
For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  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. 4:17-18)
The natural realm is the earthly realms, the "seen," the temporal, the realm dominated by the sinful nature and under the oppression of the evil one.  We exist as humans in the natural realm, but we have our eyes set on the goal in the heavenly realms, the supernatural, the "unseen" eternal realms.  We do not make up things in the supernatural for our own human purposes.  The natural realm is where we are and it is our past.  The heavenly realms are our future, where we fix our eyes, where we are headed, where Christ sits by the Father's throne and into Whom we are being transformed.  We build upon the past, but we do not go back to the past or live in the past.

The past is the record of God's goodness, the future is His glory.  We should build on the faith encouraged by God's faithfulness and past goodness, but we do not drop the future transformation in order to return to the past.  God reminded the Israelites that He was the God who delivered them from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians.  This was to encourage them to go into the future.  But God was not pleased when the Israelites wanted to go back to Egypt and give up on the future, because they were murmuring and complaining about their present temporary conditions.  Remember that you have been delivered, but don't go back there - no return and no recycling, or else you can recycle in the wilderness until a new generation comes up.  The Israelites had been delivered for a reason - to occupy the Promised Land in fulfillment of the plan of God.

We look to the future and do not go back to the past.  What is in the past?  From a human life perspective, the past can be one generation - say, for example, 72 years (mol).  From the perspective of the church, the past is about 2000 years.  From the perspective of the operation of the plan of God in the universe, the past is from the first instant of creation - however many of billions of years ago.  For this discussion, let's assume a past of 2000 years for the church.  What is in the past and what is in the future? 

In the past is the Law of sin and death and then the life, work, death, and resurrection of Christ, so that we can be freed from the Law to go forward into a New Creation.  We leave the entanglements of sin behind; we do not drag them along with us into the future.  Sin is the carnal, fleshly, natural self.  Sin is not the newness of life.  This does not have to be repeated over and over because we continue to drag sin with us.  We do not continue to move back to the past to celebrate the defeat of sin.  We are reminded of the work and grace of God so that we will be encouraged to be transformed into the true righteousness and holiness of God in the future.  But we do not revisit the events that set us free from sin as though we need to repeat them over and over.  We do not return to the bondage of slavery any more than God would allow the Israelites to return to Egypt.  The Israelites kept the Passover to remind them of the past because the future would not be with the Law but with Christ.  When Christ came, the Law of the earthly realms was done away with, and our future is with Him in the heavenly realms.  Therefore, we do not focus on sin as though we need to be forgiven of it over and over.  We do not claim that we are sinners and in need of forgiveness.  That has happened so that we can move forward, not backward.  We are becoming the future, not returning to the past.  Both actions cannot be done at the same time.  To stay in the past and continually celebrate the forgiveness of sin is to stay in the natural realm instead of moving toward Jesus in the heavenly realms.  

But what about the Passover meal.  Wasn't the Passover meal initiated so the Jews would remember the event of God's mercy through the blood of the lamb?  Didn't Jesus institute the Lord's Supper - the Communion, the Breaking of Bread, the Eucharist - as a ceremony to observe so that the church, the people of God, would always and forever remember the passion, suffering, broken body, shed blood of Christ as a substitution, an atonement, a sacrifice for our sins, accepting the condemnation that we deserved. Wasn't this begun by Jesus and His disciples at the Passover meal, which itself was to remember how God had withheld death from the Israelite firstborn in Egypt?  Didn't Jesus say to remember Him historically as our Passover lamb and to relive in our minds His sacrifice for us?

The answer to some questions is "yes" and to some "no."  The discussion thereof will be a topic for another blog, but the direction must be with the flow of the foreordained plan of God.  

We miss the plan of God completed in the heavenly realms when we become entangled in disputable matters in the earthly realms -- such as the ones discussed above.  

It's like the Rule 1 - Don't sweat the small stuff; Rule 2 - It's all small stuff.  

Rule 1 - Don't get sidetracked away from God by disputable matters; Rule 2 - If it keeps our eyes on one another in the earthly realms, it's all disputable matters.

Our eyes are on one another for the flow of love by gifts of grace and service in the name of Jesus and in accordance with His example and producing the fruit of the Spirit.  This produces transformation into the true righteousness and holiness of God - into what God has already declared us to be in the heavenly realms.  

Our eyes are not to be on one another for arguments, competition, control, anger and other behaviors motivated by the flesh in the earthly realms.  This produces apostasy of the church, and we cannot please God or be in His image.

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 are exist the natural 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.