“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were given their testimony to the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what they sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (ESV)
One of the things lost to the churches today is this sense of communal sharing. But it is clear that the first Believers, those who called it “The Way”, did consider all things to belong to God. They had no material desire nor thought as anything as being worthy of holding onto. They had a deep desire to turn over all worldly excess as offerings to God for the better use of the community as a whole.
They thought as one being, a gestalt, each having a distinct purpose within the community yet a part of the whole. This is also dealt with by Paul when he speaks of the gifts in several of his letters. The problem with church communities today is that we have forgotten this unique oneness that was obvious to the first church. We have been seduced by the world to think of worldly possessions solely “ours” and spiritual things as God’s. Profit, hoarding, materialism has overridden the desire to be “Community of One Mind”. We have set aside the commandment to love each other as we love ourselves and reject the poor.
Oh, we give tithe (reluctantly), or we give to charities. But we do not give with Charity, the Agape Love that is unconditional. We even go so far as to preach that the poor deserve their fate because they are “lazy” or “uneducated” or “to stupid to know how to manage their money”. This is a lie of the world. The poor are what they are, not because the deserve it but because they have been made poor or kept poor by our negligence to uplift and support their need. We have rejected their gifts because they do not meet our expectations. We do not recognize the gestalt they bring to the table of community.
With the sense of interconnected community there not only is more effective ministry, there is a greater expression of the Holy Spirit. Those communities that give without reservation, are blessed far greater in the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives. They have less stress, greater humility, stronger drive and are much happier than those communities that worry about how to pay bills or complaining about giving. Those communities that have to remind people of tithing, take special offerings, have “fund raisers” to make ends meet are lacking in the Oneness of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Prayed (according to John) that we be one as He and the Father are One. That applies not only to being in one accord as believers, but to be on one mind as community.
What we lack, as believers in the 21st Century is the oneness in giving. The breadwinner of a family does not say to the children, you do not earn money, so you do without until you can contribute to the family, but that is what has happened in our society and it has spilled over into the church. As we are Family, as in the Family of God, we are also family in community. And as family, it is just that those who have much to offer, give freely and joyfully.
In the Community of the Faithful, these offerings, this sharing, should be voluntary, not mandatory as was the Tithe of the Old Testament. As the First Church, gave according to their ability and laid it at the feet of the Apostles, those who can give generously, must do it freely, willing and without regret. No one demanding they give a percentage, but according to the ability to give gifts to God. If it means sacrifice, then it should be a sacrifice of Love, not duty. And those who can give nothing, should not be coerced into giving from their meager earnings but to receive gifts from the Community. The church I belong to doesn’t tithe but asks instead that those who can give greatly do so and those who live paycheck to paycheck or on fixed incomes, give lightly even if only $5 dollars. For no family should do without to honor God as duty. God does not ask that of us.
As a Community of Believers, no family should do without. As a family of Community, no member of Society should do without either. As a Church, and as a Society, No member should be left outside while other bask in warmth and over abundance. If we are to live in a society that claims faithfulness to God and thereby Jesus (as many claim), then we as a society should assure that no member go without. And that is perhaps why we are failing as a nation,not because we have so many in need but because we fail as Christians to offer at the feet of the Apostles, freely, gifts so that none are in need. There was a time when churches ran the shelters, food banks, orphanages, “Welfare programs”, and hospitals. There was a time when doctors were church leaders and even pastors. There was a time when all charity was dealt with by the religious community, both ordained and laity. Governments did not have to deal with those in need because the churches took care of the people. But as much as the churches do help today, there is not enough to go around. Ant that is because we no longer think of ourselves ads being of one mind with Christ and the Holy Spirit. We think of church as a place to get fed but not to feed others, to feel good about ourselves but not to help other feel relief. We go to church to surround ourselves with people who think, dress, live even look like ourselves. What we should be doing is creating a community that brings outsiders in to include, encourage, build to to be like us but to add to us what we are not. For it is not a gestalt if everything is the same. It is a gestalt if new is added and what is built is made stronger, greater than it was.
Many are fearful of adding new, especially if the new is the poor and needy. But let me say this: The poor bring humility where there is Pride, Simplicity where there is complexity, Grace where there is vanity, wisdom where there is “book knowledge. Peace and meekness were there is conflict and arrogance. But most of all they bring acceptance and gratitude where there is denial and selfishness.
So let us build this community of One Mind, one Spirit, one Community of Faithfulness and let us then be wholly and holy in Christ Jesus. Let us turn away from the traps of worldliness and rebuild at the feet of the Apostles,the Community of the Way of Jesus Christ. It is time to rebuild our Faith as Community
Many years ago, I wrote something like this for a young lady who suffered from low self confidence and emotional abuse. I lost the copy I made for myself over the years so this is a new letter, a new direction but I hope that it will bless many.
(Scripture is from the New Living Translation – Ephesians 1:3-14, 3:14-19)
The Promise: Ephesians 1:3-14
“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.” Dear ones, I have blessed each of you with gifts far greater than man can imagine. For my gifts are heavenly, not of worldly things that decay and rust. Do you fear these gifts? Do you doubt them? Do not, for my Love is far greater than any love the world can offer. And by these gifts, we are united, we are joined together in a desire of Love, pure love, unconditional love that the world can not separate or destroy.
“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” I know you are not perfect, I know that you are subject to many snares of the world, but from the first light of Creation, I have loved you. In my eyes you are made holy, in my spirit you are blameless and pure, because of his Love. Do not fear my wrath, dear one, for it is with Love I discipline you, not anger. It is with Love I hold you close and dry your tears when things go badly for you. And when you are alone and afraid, I am close. I am closer than you can imagine, I am within your very trouble.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This was what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” I made you mine, I decided at the very beginning that we are to be together. We are family and family never forsakes each other. With great joy, I adopted you as mine. With a pleasure that can not be measured, I desired you. This was what I wanted to do, from the very beginning of time itself! We are together, we are one! I am the one who created the world, do you think I would let anything I created separate us? Have no fear of that! What I joined together can not be pulled apart. That is the power of my joy that we are family, you and I, we are one!
“So we praise God for the glorious Grace he has poured out on us who belong to his Son.” Yes it is grace, glorious grace, that I have given. I have poured out like sweet wine, filling your marriage cup, I have poured blessings like holy oil anointing you as a blessing, making you sacred to me. I have poured out my Spirit that you might be full of peace and promise. I have poured out living water, that you might be made clean as new fallen snow. I have poured out the Communion Cup that Forgiveness and Mercy are forever, only Love can live within where I have poured out blessings.
He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. You were once slaves to your emotions, doubts and fear. You were once in bondage to the desires of sin. But I have set you free! I have given you new life! I, and only I, have paid the price, I am the one who gives you new hope, and new life! Come to me, welcome me into your heart, dear one. See what my love can do for you. No price was to great for me to purchase your freedom from sin, fear and doubt. Come accept my blessings, my Love. For my kindness is ever-enduring, everlasting, without end!
“He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.” Like a gentle rain, I have showered kindness upon you, so that you, like the lilies of the field, may blossom in majesty. But I also showered you with a new Wisdom, My wisdom, such as I showered Solomon. I gave you understanding that even the prophets of old did not have. You only have to accept it, receive it in the fullness I intend for you. That you place in your heart the purity of Love I offer, the grace in abundance that only my love is capable of offering. As a rainbow bends invisible light into many colors, my love shows the splendor of wisdom and understanding that was invisible to the seers of old. You, my child, can grasp what was inconceivable to the wisest of them. This is my gift to you.
God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.” Through Jesus I revealed my goal, the desire to find your heart, your desire, and make it mine. And I did it because I find great joy in having your love, as much as I love you. Do not be in despair, I have not forsaken you, or ever forgotten you. It was always my plan to include you, to accept you and to love you. Through Jesus I have proven my love for you, my great pleasure in your life, a life that we shall enjoy together.
“And this was the plan; At the right time he would bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth.” Yes! It is the right time! Everything is set in motion. All my desires are fulfilled through the Love I gave under my Son Jesus. Under him, I gave all authority of Heaven and of earth. No longer are the ways of the world to direct your life, but the ways of Heaven shall guide you. That is the plan! You, I, Jesus. Heaven and earth as one Kingdom, one another as lovers, you and I.
Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.” Yes! It is still the plan, that everything is according to my will, that we are united, that you have an inheritance that was not yours before. It was and always will be the plan. You, dear one, have the honor of being an heir of Salvation. You are no longer left alone, outside, rejected. You were never rejected but it was at the right time, this time that you are to be included in the inheritance, so that you may be made glad, made whole, made perfected in grace. I chose you, I wanted you to be included and set apart to show the wondrous love I have for you. No longer on the outside looking in, but in the company of angels, co-heirs with Jesus, adopted by grace.
“God’s purpose was that we Jews who were the first to trust in Christ would bring praise and glory to God. And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you.” Once the Jews were my only people, excluding all others because they were blind to truth. But, dear one, that is no longer the case. You have heard the Good News, the News of Salvation, the inclusion made possible by the Cross of Jesus, and no longer are you excluded, you are included, and set high by the Good News. My love was so that you would be able to accept me, to know the Truth of Grace, and be welcomed as equals in Christ Jesus. Do not think you are set apart from others any more for you are included in Grace and trust in the Living Christ. You are set apart only to bring others to Me, just as Peter and Paul and the others of my chosen were set apart to bring you to the knowledge of my Salvation. So great is my love that I sent others to seek you out, to bring you to me so that you may be included with them as mine.
“AND WHEN YOU BELIEVED IN CHRIST, HE IDENTIFIED YOU AS HIS OWN by giving you the HOLY SPIRIT, whom he promised long ago.” Dear one, you are mine, you are chosen to be blessed and I have given you the Holy Spirit, my Spirit. I breathed new life into your soul, eternal life. Just as I breathed life into the form of man at the time of creation, I create in you new life, eternal life by the breath of the Holy Spirit. I have called you and identified you as my Child, my beloved child. As I promised the prophets and the Jews, you are made mine. It has been fulfilled what was told of old. And by my Holy Spirit, it is made true and forever. I have put my mark, the mark of the Cross upon you soul. This mark can not be removed by anyone, for it is the Mark of Your Salvation, you inclusion into the Family of God.
The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him.” The Holy Spirit is my guarantee that it is made so. My word fulfilled, my Son as the purchase price, the Spirit as the witness that it has been done. I kept my word, my promise to you, that the day has come that you are no longer slaves to the world but free to be my love. So, dear one, praise me, offer me glory in thanksgiving. But more importantly, love me! Love me as I love you, with your whole heart, your complete mind and in all of your spirit. But never forget that I love you, I have always loved you and now that you believe, return love for love. It has been made true, it has been fulfilled, it has been guaranteed and it has been sealed for all eternity. We are one! You are loved, you have been restored as was my plan from before time itself.
The Response of the Disciple; Eph. 3:14-19
“When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”
This is the call of Paul not only to the Gentile Christians of Ephesus, but to all Christians today. And in like manner, I get on my knees and pray for you that you might have strength, encouragement and grace beyond your understanding. I pray that God give you his unlimited resources, his empowerment to do mighty works in his name. There is no limit to his Grace, no restrictions to his gifts. Be bold to use them, to glorify God, to edify his mercy.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”
This is the desire of my soul, that you take root in God’s love, his perfect love. And that you place complete trust, faith and Hope in Christ Jesus. You have been given the promise, it was sealed by the Holy Spirit, so take control of fear, doubt and misgivings and rely solely on God. Let Christ Jesus make his home in your heart, casting out all others.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.”
It seems to be an impossible task to grasp the might of God’s Love, But even with our limitations, we can see beyond the ways and limitations of the world and see wonders beyond our dreams. We can see miracles, we can see healing, restoration, reconciliations, grace abundantly. There is no limit to God, we can know that even if we can not fully understand it. And lastly,
“May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
Yes a fullness that only comes from God. Impossible to know God’s grace in its completeness, yet even as we grow in Christ, we see more and more. We never stop growing in Love, Mercy, Compassion, healing of our own spirits as we pray for others. May we all be made complete, may we always grow in grace. May you, dear ones, see exactly how important you are to God. And may we all go to our knees in thanksgiving and Praise to God for what he has done, to include us, as unworthy as we are, and to lift us up as his own children, sealed, marked and guaranteed his wondrous Grace and Salvation.
In the Name of the Most High God, Blessing to you who read this.
The following day John was again standing with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” When John’s two disciples hear this, they followed him. (John 1: 35-37 NLT)
Then Eli realized it was the LORD who called the boy. So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if some calls again, say, “Speak, LORD, you servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:8b-9a NLT)
So Ananias went and found Saul,. He laid his hands on him and said. “Brother Saul, The Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the Road, has sent me so that you might regain sight and be filled with the Holy spirit.” Act 9:17 NLT)
Three times, three ways. Men were called to be followers of God. And today, many are still called. Maybe not like Samuel, Andrew Simon or Paul but we are all called. And we are each called to serve a distinct and powerful purpose. We may feel unqualified, in adequate or be reluctant but we are still called. With Samuel it was by a dream. What dream calls you? What special cause draws you to do what you think is godly, holy and purposeful? It may well be a call of God. A chance to do something for His Sake without being aware of it. Do not shy away from your dream if it is a good dream, a goal worthy to pursue. Seek out the avenues that might make your dream come true. Like my friend Elaine who went to Haiti and started an orphanage, or Wendy who quit her job to go to Zimbabwe to work in refuge camps. Or like my friend Mike who started a home group for recovering addicts and Dave who works at a kitchen feeding the homeless. Or like others who simply form prayer groups for women. There is always something that needs to be done, some grand and some simply comforting. Some take a lot of effort, some a lot of time. But each dream is worth fulfilling.
Some disciples are called by the understandings of others, to follow a teaching, a mission or to study the word. As Andrew and the others, John, James, Simon Peter who when they heard the Word, gave up everything to devote their lives to Jesus. You look at the twelve Jesus took on as his “special friends”: four fishermen (a dirty, smelly job), a Tax collector (legalized extortion), laborers and craftsmen. None were people who held prominence in the community. Yet each of these went on to become teachers. Teachers that changed the world. Mark was a mere boy when Jesus talked about creating a new life. Luke wasn’t even in the picture, Paul (Saul) was in Taurus studying to be a pharisee. Jude didn’t even like him. Barnabas was a fan but not in the inner circle. Yet each became important to the message. They were disciples ore who followed the ones who followed Jesus. What Is conveyed is that those who follow a teaching become the teachers of others. Here are two components of Discipleship, 1) having a dream, 2) following a dreamer.
Then you have the third, the reluctant disciple. The one who not only resists the dream and the followers of the dreamers but contend with the dream. Saul of Taurus. The villain of the Way! The one who went looking to quench the dream. This is the one who is hit on the head by lightening. But this man became the most aggressive believer of all. The “converted” disciple is the most energetic of disciples as a rule. As it was with many others who fought with God about doing His will, Jacob became Israel (He who contends with God), As Jonah, as Elisha fleeing Jezebel. Each fleeing the will of God, become mighty in His strength. Now I won’t say that we are as bad as all that, but we each have a tendency to not want to hear what God wants for us and we are reluctant to move out of our comfort zones. We don’t want to take giant steps, we want to stay safe, secure and minimalism our potential. Perhaps you are Ananias, who did not want to meet with Saul for fear of his life. We are the reluctant disciples for different reasons. But we must put these things aside if we are to become real disciples of Jesus.
What we need to become is “converted” to the idea, to the dream, to the dreamers. We need to waken to the call. We need to either have a dream or follow someone’s dream of faith. I am a dreamer, I freely admit that. But I have few who dare to follow the dream. My dream is simple, the unity of Faith. The concept that the church divided is no longer Church but nothing more than broken pots. Shattered vessels lost to any good purpose. My dream is to mend the pots, to reform by union of Faith. We have to many churches, to many divisions, to many half truths being spread. Jesus did not come to divide the people, but to unify them with the Father, to join us to Himself. Why then are there so many “faiths” without true God Faith? Will you join in the discipleship of the One? Will you follow Jesus, do as He commands? Do as He desires? Will you listen to those who follow Him? Will you stop resisting Him?
I listened to those who heard His voice, I walked with those who walked His Way, I gave up fighting Him. Will you also do this? Will you be an Andrew, a Samuel, a Saul of Taurus? Will you be a Francis of Assisi? A Dr. Livingston? A Martin Luther King? A Teresa of Calcutta? An Elaine of Haiti? a Mike who consuls the addicted? Even a Dave who feeds the homeless. Whatever you do, let it be a call of God, a vision of kindness and a grace of mercy.
Adhere to the call, however small or great it may be, adhere to it for as James said do not let your faith die by inaction. Blessing to all.
Let them listen attentively.
Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
I, Yahweh, your God, teach you what is good for you.
I lead you in the way that you must go.
If only you had been alert to my commandments,
your happiness would have been like a river,
your integrity like waves of the sea.
Your children would have been numbered like grains of sand,
your descendants as many as its grains.
Never would your name have been cut off or blotted out before me.
This seem a strange verse for a Christmas message but Isaiah is the Prophet that chastised the Hebrews and promised them restoration. And this verse choice is to illustrate both. God (Yahweh) proclaims that He is their Redeemer, He is the Holy One of Israel. He is the One who will lead them in the way to go. But he warns the people if they continue to disobey, they are lost. The whole point is follow God, obey and allow yourself to be led by God’s Commandments. If you do so your happiness will flow like a river.
I know about rivers, they effect every thing they pass. As followers of God, we should effect everyone we touch. We are to cause things to grow. Faith in particular. Grace by association. Mercy in all things because God showed us mercy. If we do these thing instead of the ways of the world,we will grow in numbers beyond our imagination. For it was during the time of the greatest persecutions, under Rome and the Jews that the followers of Christ flourished. It was then that as the nations tried to stamp them out, they increased daily. There should be a joy in obeying God. He never intended the commandments to be “punishment” or restricting happiness. So it with great joy that Christ came into the world not to condemn it but to bring Salvation and with salvation there is immense joy.
So the message is simple, Enjoy God! Enjoy the freedom given by obedience. Enjoy the Commandment of God, the Holy One of Israel. This Christmas season as in every season, be joyful, be loving, be merciful. Do not wrap yourselves in sorrow, grief or despair. But reach up to the heavens and make joyful sounds Let you integrity be the sounding board of angels. And be numbered among the saints, those who are to be called holy and blameless. If we seek out the ways of the LORD, Yahweh, instead of trying to justify our sinful nature we will find that life is healthier, happier, more sane. If we reject the deals, the ideals and the desires of the flesh, power and wealth, we will find peace. Through the Word,through the commandments through the mercy of God, we endure hardships without struggle because we surrendered our self to the Will of God. And that is a happy thing.
We are quick to say “Blessing” but that very word means Happiness. So if we are to be Blessed by God,we are to be made happy by God and that is the Way of the Commandments, to make us happy. And in that, even under persecutions and trials, turmoil and threats, we prosper,we grow in numbers as grains of sand worn down from the rocks of Oppression by the River of Life.
Blessing (Happiness) this Christmas.
“For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others.” God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this too.” 2 Cor. 5:9-11 (NLT)
This is the last of the four part series on Hebrews 10, and the message is very clear that we have a responsibility in our Faith to be just, righteous and, fearful of failure. Starting with were I left off, “The Lord will judge His People. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” <(Hebrews 10: 30b-31) I want to empathize the importance of being righteous in our faith. Both in what we truly believe and in how we express that belief. The writer reminds us, “But recall the former days when you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” Hebrews 10:32,33. (ESV) and in the Book of Revelation 3:2,3 “Wake up; revive what little you have that is left: it is dying fast. So far I have FAILED TO NOTICE ANYTHING IN YOUR LIFE THAT MY GOD COULD POSSIBLY CALL PERFECT, and yet do you remember how eager you were when you first heard the message? Hold onto that. Repent! If you do not wake up, I shall come like a thief, without telling you at what hour to expect me.” (Jerusalem Bible) Is it then enough to simply say, I believe or are we to be held accountable for our faith?
Wake up! Relive your Faith! Be renewed in the Same Spirit that drew you to Christ! Strive for perfection in Christ. Never say, I am saved, that is good enough for God! Do not believe that you have all that you can for Christ. You will never be perfect but you are being perfected. Every day your faith should be stronger, more endurable and more refined. You will face hardships, doubts, conflicts but these are not to weaken your faith but to build Faith. I recall that in my youth, I had the biblical knowledge and instructions. I was taught the Word and the Life of Jesus. Bu there was not faith. But when I surrendered to Christ my life, my very being, everything changed. Faith came in abundance. Faith was born into my being. Nothing could prepare me for the overwhelming joy I felt having received Faith. I faced many hardships, many loses, many trials and often mocked for my understandings, even expelled from a church. But Faith endured, Faith grew, Faith brought understanding and peace. So again I say,wake up! Wake up to the reality of your Faith as a free gift, an enduring gift an everlasting gift, lest it be wasted and dry up into dust. Be eager as you were when you first believed, in fact, be even more eager, more enthralled by God’s Beauty and Grace.
For our faith to be superior, to be held worthy to God, it must then be viable and constant. It must not weaken or be diluted with false assumptions of small expectations. For our Faith to be true and honest, it must flourish, not slacken or fade. There is no grace in standing in contentment with being unconcerned with spiritual maturity. Faith must be as a flower, growing in the Son-Light, watered by the Holy Spirit. If it is NOT standing in the Light of God’s will and fed by the Holy Spirit, it will fade away, it will die and then you are left without Faith at all. But if you strengthen you Faith with constant love, obedience and willingness to do God’s will at all times, then it will grow, and be more vibrant than ever. If in the face of the struggles of the world, you rely on your faithfulness and the grace of God to see you through, you will be better for it. If you expose yourself to public ridicule for His sake and if you stand with your partners in Faith, you will beheld in high account with Christ in the Judgement. But if you remain silent, if you step back from your Faith and do little,then your Faith will die, and you with it.
The writer expresses his (or hers, it is unknown who wrote it but Priscilla is suggested by some) knowledge of commitment by the Hebrew believers as being devote. The write continues with, “For you had compassion for those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. Hebrews 10:34,35 ESV. To much effort is placed on worldly possessions in today’s churches. We are more concerned with worldly acquirement and material wealth than on the spiritual gifts we have received which can not be stolen or destroyed.
Don’t throw away all the blessing you have by the obsession of possessions. In this age of plenty,forget the wealth, the “toys” the mega TV and I-phones and the X-Box 4. They will not provide you with one iota of blessings that is greater than the ones you received the day you first believed. Trials, turmoil, persecutions build faith. If it does not then your faith was immature or false. If you are fearful of the spiritual villains in the street. and lock your hearts door because you might die tonight, then where is your true Faith? Is not the reward of Heaven far greater than the trial and persecutions on Earth? Where is the Faith you received from the sacrifice of Jesus? Where is the Faith of the Cross? Is not the assurance of Christ’s offering of Salvation, perfect Atonement enough to build your trust in the will of God and to seek after Him in all the ways of your life? I speak to those who have once heard the Word and accepted it but still do not rely fully on Christ. Do not be like the people predicted of in 2 Thes. 2:3-12. beginning with, “Let no one deceive you in any way.” and ends with “in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Hebrew goes on, “For you have need of ENDURANCE, so that you have done the WILL of GOD you may receive what is Promised. For,
‘Yet a little while and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but My Righteous One shall LIVE BY FAITH,
and if He strikes back,
My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:36-38 ESV
Do not rely on the weapons of man to defeat the weapons of Satan. Do not place your hope on armies,governments, or even your own self, but place your Hope and your Faith in Him who is coming again. Don’t lock your doors against the enemies but welcome them that you might share the Glory of Your Salvation and Faithfulness. Do not fear the unknown strange, but embrace Christ in every situation. Do not place your faith in mortals nor the material things built by mortals but in the Eternal and the things of eternity. Do no let fear rob you of the pure joy of Salvation. Faith must not weaken under trial, it must grow and be stronger. Faith must be superior to the World! Faith is the weapon that can not be defeated if it is founded on the Holy Spirit. Endure through Faith, do not let the things that die and decay,destroy you. Be bold, be encouraged,be forceful through prayer. Always place Faith foremost in the struggles that surround you. For it is as the writer says; “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but those who have faith and preserve their souls.” Hebrew 10:39
Thus this lesson is made complete,when we turn from the ways and desires of the world and turn solely to Christ Jesus. Relying not on the ways of men, but on the Pure and Holy Assurance that the Sacrifice of Jesus atones for us the place of Faith that withstands all oppression. That by the Celebration of Christ’s offering on our behalf, we receive the fullness of Faith to set aside the failing of mankind so that we can live in Superior Faith in the Living God who comes for us. The Righteous One who brings Salvation and Eternal Life to those whose Faith endures all things. Amen
” When Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1 NLT
“And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.” Hebrews 10:18 ESV
I begin with the verse I ended the last article with for a simple reason, it is important to remember that our sin was atoned for and we need not swell, on the past. The writer of Hebrews then moves on with instruction as to how to now live, being freed from the past. Our Faith, the Faith of Christ, is stronger, more endearing and more superior in every way to the Law of Moses. And since this letter was written to the Jewish Christians, it was to serve as a reminder that they have advanced from the Law of Moses to the New Law of Salvation. “And so dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heavens Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By His death, Jesus opened a new and life giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.” (Hebrews 19-21 NLT) This is in reference to the veil that separated the Ark of the Covenant from the people. When Christ died on the cross, that veil was literally torn in two from top to bottom. The high priest was the only one who was able to offer sacrifices and the people were not even allowed to watch. But with Christ, the sacrifice is done, and there is no more offerings to hide, no separation from access to God. We are free from the exclusion from the Presence of God.
The Jerusalem Bible translates the next verse, “And we have the Supreme High Priestover the House of God.” I like this translation because others simply say “great” but the use of the word implies superior. And this is the basis of our Faith, that Christ is Supreme! He is the Supreme Sacrifice, the Supreme Reconciliation. And through Him we are unified and strengthened. So, “Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting Him.” (Hebrew 10″22a NLT) Let us walk into the assembly with uplifted hearts, great peace and pure intentions. Evaluate ourselves with pure intentions, gravely consider the ways of our living, and are they intent with goodness, kindness and mercy as was shown to us by Christ. For He is the Most Holy and we are to walk in His Holiness at all times. The writer is not content with the “Once Saved” notion that allows for continued sin, but is saying that having been freed from sin, we are to be holy. We are to trust fully in Christ, and no longer rely on the ways of the Flesh. We are to be sincere in all things before God because we can walk into His Presence and make our Thanksgiving offerings.
“For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s Blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 22b NLT) This is a reference to the passion of Christ and our Baptism. But it can also be connected to the Eucharist, in that when we partake of the Blood offering, we partake of Christ. (1 Cor. 10:15). It also refers to the water that sprang up from the rock in the Wilderness when Moses struck it. In each way we see the Power of God given to us to be made Holy and Clean.Through Christ, we have been made clean! Our Bodies have been made pure!
Now we are set to do the Perfect will of God! But do we? The writer cautions us. “Let us hold tightlyto the HOPE we affirm, for God can be trusted to KEEP HIS PROMISE(!) Let us think of the ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” (Hebrews 10:23,24 NLT) WOW! here it is again, love and good works in the same place! And motivated by our trust in God! We have significant privileges with our relationship with Christ and among these are toe pure ability to have Hope, to Love and to do good works. We enter into the Presence with God with pure intentions and clarity of mind and spirit. We do not enter with confusion, bad thoughts or continued sin. Having been sprinkled with the Baptism of Christ’s Blood, we enter with grace.
There is one more positive thing we do, but somehow this message has been lost to many believers. We Assemble together to worship Collectively. And not selectively, for this means we separate ourselves from each other. “And let us NOT neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but ENCOURAGE one another, especially now that the day of His Return draws near.” In the early church they met daily in the temple and often in the homes to receive instructions from the apostles and elders. And to pray together, and to help with the needs each faced. We no longer do that. We gather to sing songs, feel good about ourselves and then go home and forget each other. I am guilty of this myself, so I speak from my own shortcomings. But this is also a new trend among many Christians we feel that they have been betrayed by their church experience. And so they leave church, vowing not to return. To these I say, go back! Do not forsake others because you were forsaken. Do not reject the assembly because you were mistreated,but seek to repair what was damaged with grace and pure hearts. The Churches have historically cause much harm to its people, but then the Word of God is there to correct and encourage. DO NOT forsake each other but join together in building Hope and Faith in God’s Word.
It is here that the writer turns on those who forsake God’s Intention, who abandon Christ and His Teaching and pervert His Word. The danger of apostasy! The every present deception of the two-faced frauds who speak words of kindness then wake away from their faith and obedience to God. Those who hide old beliefs in their hearts and then deny Christ’s Covenant. Again, I go to the Jerusalem Bible for its scathing translation:
“If, after we have been given knowledge of the Truth, we should deliberately commit any sins, then there is no longer any sacrifice for them. There will be left only the dreadful prospect of judgement and of the raging fire that is burn rebels. Anyone who disregards the Law of Moses is ruthlessly put to death on the word of two or three witnesses, and you may be assured that anyone who tramples on the Son of God, and who treats the Blood of the Covenant which sanctified him as if it were not holy,and who insults the Spirit of Grace, will be CONDEMNED to a far more SEVERE PUNISHMENT.” We are all aware who it was who said: Vengeance is mine; I will repay. And again: The LORD will judge His People. It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.” Hebrews 10:26-31
I get very angry at those who say, my sins are forgiven, even those I intend to commit in the future. My anger is that they mock their Sanctification, they insult the Holy Spirit, they reject the Covenant of Mercy. They say, I can do what God permitted and ignore what God prohibited. They contend the LAW IS DEAD, I can do evil in the sight of the Lord because His Mercy covers my sins forever. But judgement comes to them. They forsake Christ yet still call His Name out as “believers. They are worse than the Pharisees and Scribes of the Temple! They reject what is good and holy and deceive themselves, they delude themselves with false hope by their mockery! And the Lord,in the Final Judgement will show them no mercy, for their lives were without mercy.
This is the danger of being compliant with the world and still claiming Christ. The World pollutes your Faith until it is nothing but a shell and void of any Hope or Grace. This is why the writer states the message in this manner, to wake up the Jewish Christians that the way they practice their “Religion” reflects their heart. But the same hold true today, the way we practice our Faith reflects our Heart and if it does not contain grace,then it is not of God, neither our religion nor our heart. The message is clear; to good works, love, encourage each other, lift each other up, pray for each other, do what is right at all times and worship together constantly or you are in danger of apostasy and false faith.
None are completely without fault, all fall short of the goal but it is the heart that matters most. Is our intentions honorable? Are we making every effort to be righteous? Are our actions of wrongness, deliberate or accidental? God forgive what is not deliberate sin easily, but He will judge and judge severely those who mock His Grace with deliberate disobedience. What yourselves. be on guard that you do not fall into the snares of evil and mock Christ.
Be blessed with a Heart of Grace and His Merciful forgiveness so that you can walk in holy and blameless ways.
“…As he is the Beginning,
he was first to be born from the dead,
so that he should be first in every way;
because God wanted all perfection
to be found in him
and all things to be reconciled through him and for him,
everything in heaven and everything on earth,
when he made peace
by his death on the cross.”
Colossians 1:18-20 (Jerusalem Bible
For so many years we have been taught the dead and suffering of Christ as a bitter and hard sacrifice for our sins. But I have come to a new understanding, that it was not the suffering that we should be lamenting but the Joy of the Atonement. Christ came for one purpose, to be a joyful offering to The Father for our reconciliation. Every thing about his life reflects that he joyfully, willingly and deliberately went to the cross for this singular purpose; that we be reconciled and be made one with God.
From the words of the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son…. He will be great and will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:31-32) to every action of Christ, every miracle he preformed. All that Jesus did was to share the Joy of God for the people. And we know that it was God’s plan from the beginning of time that man be reconciled with Him. Jesus came for that one purpose. Ephesians 1:3-14 clearly states the divine purpose. And in verse 4 is revealed,”Before the world was made, He chose us in Christ, to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in HIS PURPOSE,” (Jerusalem Bible). Verse 5 says it “Was for his kind purpose TO MAKE US US PRAISE THE GLORY OF HIS GRACE.” Verse 9, “God has now revealed to us His mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill His own great pleasure.”
Why would God cause Jesus to suffer? Because to Jesus as God it was not suffering but JOY. As a mother suffers bringing a life into the world, Jesus, suffered bringing us into eternal life. As a mother is joyful in this suffering because she understands that the suffering is in bringing life, so did Christ willingly and joyfully go to the Cross. This is how we should see the crucifixion, as a mother giving birth. Not as death, but birth pains. We speak of being born again, but without the pain of the Cross where is the New Birth? Jesus said at the Last Supper, “This cup is the new covenant between God and His People – an agreement confirmed with MY BLOOD, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.” (Luke 22:20 NLT.) Remember this is why Christ came to us, to pure out his life that we may have eternal life. Look also on the cross as opening of a door shut before under the Old Covenant. Look how the Jews offered Atonement Offering without receiving Grace. See how they carried the guilt and shame with their constant sacrifices and still the Atonement was temporal. While the Sacrifice of Jesus is eternal. The moment he said, “It is finished”, the New Covenant was completed, and the New Birth was started for man.
As this New Covenant is eternal, the reconciliation is everlasting and complete, Jesus willingly went to the Cross, He joyfully went. This is why God,the Son of God was born. He told Judas, “Do what you MUST do.” He did not say, do what you want to do, but what must be done. He said, “The son of man must die, and in three days rise again.” Christ is God, He did not have to do anything, He did not have to suffer. So why did He? It was for His great pleasure, His Joy that He should die in the form of Man that we might be born again into eternal life. The JOY of the LORD, was not that Jesus was born, but that by His Sacrifice, we are born again.
And this brings me to the Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, offered up for the Atonement, not to offer up a new sacrifice but to rejoice in the one of the Cross of Jesus. So that when we partake of the Elements of Communion, we take part in the Same Sacrifice of Jesus, becoming as He desired in the Garden One with Him as He is One in God the Father. That in partaking of the Eucharist, we are made whole with the New Covenant, the same covenant of the Cross. The Joy of the Cross is that we are reborn in Christ, united by the Holy Spirit, one with God. There is no sorrow, their is only Joy in the rebirth.
John 6:43-51 (NLT) tells us why this must be. “Stop complaining about what I said. For no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me, and in the last day,I will raise them up. It is written in the Scriptures, ‘They will be taught by God.’ Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from Him comes to me. (Not that anyone has ever seen the Father; only I, who was sent from God,have seen Him.)
I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the Bread of Life! Your ancestors eat manna in the Wilderness, but they died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever, and this bread, which I offer so the world may live, is my flesh.”
Where then is the sorrow? Here is the Joy, that by the New Covenant, given in the Sacrifice of the Cross, is the New Life. And by the Eucharist, we share in the New Covenant that is permanent and everlasting. It is not a new sacrifice, it is the same sacrifice,the continuing offering of the Cross, the Joy of our Salvation. The reason Jesus came from the Father, not as a sorrowful suffering, but the pain of New Birth for us, that we may never suffer the Loss of Heaven! Do not linger at the Cross, the Crucifix as a symbol of pain and death, but as the Sign of our Rebirth in Christ, to be one with the Father. Take Communion, not as a simple memorial of death, but as the continuing Covenant of Peace and Grace as New Creations in Christ. There is not longer death, because we are now reborn into Eternal Life for this was God’s Great Pleasure, that we be one with Him.
There is no sorrow in the offering, it was an offering to bring Eternal and Perfect Joy. Weep no more, there are no tears, no more spiritual sorrows,no more guilt, only Joy, for Christ Joyfully died that we might have New Life in Him. Look upon the Crucifix with thanksgiving and great joy, by it we are born into Salvation and Grace. Without it there would still be shame, guilt and no true repentance and still death without grace. By the Cross, Jesus grants us God’s Great Pleasure, and we are a New People, New Life and New Hope.
Be with Eternal Joy with the Cross of Salvation, the offering of God for perfect Atonement. Christ willingly and joyfully offered Himself for our Rebirth in the Eternal life. Live in His Perfect Peace.
And the Holy Spirit testifies that this is so.” Hebrews 10:15
In Part I, I wrote of the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses,and the Atonement as being a shadow, not removing guilt. This part continues with that vein of thought. One of the problems with the liturgical churches verses the Evangelical one is the rituals of Worship. While many of the rites, and services of the older churches still resemble the Jewish customs, they are not solidly OT rites but New Testament concepts using the old ways to show continuation of the Covenant of God with His people. Hebrews 10:11-12 shows us the difference.
“under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day,offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins.” Hebrews 10:11 NLT.
The concept of once saved, always saved seems to condemn this as wasted offerings. But the reality is that the Communion offering that the historic Church offers is not this at all. This is because we do not offer the Old Covenant, but the New Covenant. The Eucharist is the continued offering of Christ. It is not a guilt offering as was the Old Covenant but a “Thanksgiving Offering.” And that makes all the difference in the World. When we remember the death of Christ for our sins it is with joy we receive His Grace. There is no guilt, that is still on the cross. The Eternal Atonement is Calvary, not on the altar of the church. The word Eucharist translates as “Thanksgiving” not Atonement.
“But our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins,good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s Right Hand.” Hebrews 10:12 ESV
The Pastor, Priest, Minister is the representative of Christ in the presentation of the One Atonement. The Single Sacrifice. He does not offer up another sacrifice, but the same living sacrifice. Christ’s work has been done, but we celebrate it as a memorial and as the living offering with Thanksgiving. The work of Christ, His Perfect sacrifice is in contrast to the Jewish Priest in that it is final, it is complete and with acceptance from the Father. When we fully accept Christ’s Sacrifice, we are completed with God, made right to do the glorious will of God and to be in full service to Christ. This is why we offer the Thanksgiving.the cross of Christ is not a reminder of the death of one man,but the end of guilt, the end of sacrifices of bulls and goats. For what was impossible for man has been made true and permanent by God’sown Sacrifice. As Christ sits at the Right Hand, “waiting for his enemies to be humbled (Satan) and made a footstool under His feet.”
“for by that one offering He forever made perfect those are being holy.” Hebrews 10″14
“And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so.For He says:
This is the new covenant I will make
with My people on that day,says the LORD
I will put My Laws in their hearts.
and I will write them on their minds.”
Hebrews 10:16 ESV
The one thing that is missing in today’s Christians is God’s Perfect love being written on their hearts.Here we have the Perfect Atonement and the witness of the Holy Spirit and yet we still walk around living with sin in our back pocket. We have in our minds, not the will of God,but the desires of the
World. We still carry weapons to defend ourselves,we shut out homeless, the elderly and the immigrant at our borders and say to God, we have no faith in Your Will,Your Plan, Your Desire. God has made this New Covenant, and we ignore it. What good is the Atonement, if we squander it with not putting God’s Covenant on our hearts? What is our Faith if we are faithless to the Mind of God? David said that he came to do God’s will, and he was under the old covenant. We have the New Covenant of perfect atonement and yet we remain faith less. Are we shunning Christ by our reliance on the words of men over the will of God?
Here we have the perfect offering, to which the writer says,”Then He [the holy Spirit],
‘I will never again remember
their sins and lawlessness.’
And when sins have been forgiven,there is no need to offer any more sacrifices.”
Many have used this verse to justify continued sin,saying God forgave all my sins, so I am not responsible for them, I am not held accountable. But this is rejection of the New Covenant, not conforming to God but to remain in the lawless state. If we have been made perfect,holy and forever forgiven, we then do we continue to dally with sin? It is because in our hearts and minds,we have not yet fully accepted the fullness of the Atonement. WE ARE WEAK! So while we celebrate the New Covenant, we still cling to the old guilt and the old shame. Our sins have been forgiven, let us rejoice and strive to lead sinless and blameless lives. So we can truly be the People God Made in HIS Image.
This is the end of Part II Part III will deal with the Superiority of Faith,the call to preserve each other though Christ
Hebrews 10: 1-10 Christ died Once and for ALL
The old system of the Law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim view of the offering that the Sacrifice of Christ gave us. One of the complaints about the Historic churches is that they seem to be repeating the Law of Moses with their rituals and customs. The complaint of the traditional Church is that the Evangelicals have abandoned the heart of the Law. Both are correct and both are wrong. The system set up by God through Moses was for a people to hold fast so that they could have structure, continuance and stability. The Mission of Christ to end sacrifice was to complete the people and connect with the One Sacrifice for all. Sacrifices repeated year after year, time and time again were not required any longer but the word is REQUIRED. The purpose of the old was the reminder that reconciliation was not possible through the acts of men. It could only be fulfilled by an act of God.
“For since the Law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never,by the same sacrifices that are offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.” (Hebrews 10:1 – ESV)
How can anything given by men be equated as perfect? Only by Christ[God Incarnate] can it be made perfect. The Atonement is the completion of the perfection offered by God for all times and for all mankind. We are given a new sacrifice, and a new festival of reconciliation through the offering of Communion, a continuing offering of the One Sacrifice. In this we hold fast to the old and at the same time hold onto the New. Communion, or Eucharist. is the New Sacrifice, the One Sacrifice. Not a reminder but the continuation of the One Sacrifice. For Jesus said “When ever you do this, do it in remembrance of Me.” When ever we offer up the One Perfect
Atonement, we do it as the One Sacrifice, not a tradition of the old Law.
“Otherwise, would they not ceased to be offered (Sacrifices of Atonement), since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any conscientiousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the of blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Hebrews 10:2-4 – ESV)
Much is said about the Old Law being abolished, but this is not the point of the writing. It is not the abolishment of the Law, but of the Sacrifice that did not take away the guilt of sin. The Law of Atonement is still in place, But Christ is the Atonement, not bulls or goats. The imperfect Atonement sacrifice has been replaced by the One Sacrifice for all, Christ. And this Perfected Offering for atonement is the only one that removes not only the sin,but the consequence of sin, the guilt of sin and the pain of sin. Once confessed, once the offering of self through communion, once the repentance is made true, there is no more sin, or guilt of sin. The Grace, Perfect Grace is given up to God and in partaking of the Body and Blood we receive perfect grace.
And we know this because the writer quote Psalm 40:6-8 as evidence. Using the Jerusalem Bible,
“You, who wanted no sacrifice or obligation,
opened my ear,
You asked no holocaust or sacrifice for sin;
then I said, ‘Here I am! I am coming!’
In the scroll of the book am I not commanded
to obey your will?
My God, I have always loved Your Law
from the depths of my being.”
God demanded animal sacrifices as atonement but He did not want them. He wanted the contrite heart, He wants the obedient heat. He want the heart that says, I am here! I am coming to Your will. Put aside the rituals that are empty, put on a clean heart, repentant and changed. And answer His voice saying I am here, I am coming to You O LORD. The blood offering was to demonstrate the seriousness of sin and the cost of sin was death. But through Christ we now have eternal life. Death has no victory over us. David loved the Law but sacrifice was still empty, for it was Love of the Law, not the ritual, that David served. And the Law was God.
The writer continues in this vein with: “First, Christ said, ‘You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them.’ (though they are required by the law of Moses).” Then He said. ‘Look, I have come to do Your will.’ He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect.” (Hebrews 10:8,9 NLT) So we have a new tradition, a new offering. Not one that is temporal, but one that is spiritual. Not one that a reminder of our guilt, but one that absolves us from guilt. Jesus cancels our sin offering by becoming the sin burden Himself. And when we partake of the Sacrament of Communion, we renew ourselves with this One Sacrifice, not making a new offering, but continuing to be partners with he One Offering. As the writer sways in verse 10, “For God’s will was for us to be made holy (pure) by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ,once and for all.”
this ends part one of four parts.