Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Iniquity, Sin and Transgressions: Breaking Free from Bondage and Addiction

Around the 2010 time frame, I danced around the topic of iniquity in some other blogs without really understanding it's relationship to sin, transgressions and bondage (or captivity and addiction).  But recently I've been encouraged to study the concept further.

As a result, I'm challenging the defacto teaching around iniquity, sin and transgression that suggests they are just different levels or severities of offense.  In example, one might suggest that abortion and murder is iniquity, stealing much money is a sin, but exceeding the speed limit by 5 MPH is just a transgression.

I'd like to suggest that such a concept of parceling sins into escalating offenses is a corruption that enables us to create standards for behavior contrary to our personal belief systems by which we dispense judgements against humanity.  Just such a thing is what many Christians do best: create sorting systems for sins resulting in varying degrees of judgements, penance and punishments - Dante's Inferno, for example.

Consider then, Psalm 32:5
I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Notice the precise construction of "the iniquity of my sin."  The question is this: what is the "foo of my bar"?  Is Psalmist suggesting that God is addressing the silver used to create the jewelry, or He is addressing the jewelry created from the silver?

In Strong's Concordance of the Bible, 'iniquity' is indexed at H5771.  It is derived from H5753, and it means "perversity."  Sin, on the other hand, comes from H2403, and it means "an offense."  So then, does the offense create perversity, or does perversity give rise to the offense?

Lets look at the problem from something a bit more concrete: Adam and Eve.  Adam made a choice, Eve was deceived.  Both sinned.  We call it original sin, the lynch-pin from which humanity is bound in unrighteousness.  So, did the sin cause the perversion, or did perversion cause the sin?  Many people will suggest that the reason Adam and Eve sinned is because satan corrupted Gods word; he created lie, or a perversion of the truth.  From this perversion then, sin and transgression arose.

In the New Testament Paul enumerated a number of sins he called the "deeds of the flesh."
You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth ... For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh ... walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please ... Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Gal. 5:7-21)
The question then becomes, what exactly is the flesh?  Well, for starters, it's not your body.  Although it appears that Paul generally speaks of it in this way, the flesh is instead used to describe a contrary-to-God state from which sin flows, the human nature, or principle of evil, the law of sin that we carry with us.
But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:20-25)
What we find then in scripture, is the concept of two natures: the sin nature, and the Holy Spirit nature.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
So, where does this leave us?  Is there a difference, does God forgive both?  Yes, He forgives both; yes there is a difference.  Therefore, Paul describes the law of sin as the controlling force responsible for sin.  The law of sin, then, is iniquity: and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Just as walking in the Spirit is sourced from the spirit, waking in sin is sourced from the flesh, or iniquity.  And just as there is a relationship with the Spirit, we must put to death our previous relationship with iniquity and give rise to the Holy Spirit within us:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry ... in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside ... since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11) 
The lesson we take from this is that there are two ways to live: from the point of unrighteousness and from the point of righteousness.  While we must deal with sins and transgressions, we also must eliminate the source from which they are birthed: the iniquity itself.  One way this is done is through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6).  Another way we do this is rejecting the lies we believe and knowing the truth (John 8:32).  And yet another way we do this is turning towards God with our heart, so that our minds may be unveiled (2 Corinthians 3:16).  Consider also that we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Col. 5:3) and working to put on a heart of compassion (Col. 3:12).

But most important, we must realize that dealing with sin and iniquity are different.  Sin is the "what."  Iniquity is the "why."  We can confess our sins of lust without dealing with the why of the lust.  And that's where your journey to true freedom will begin: by rooting out the whys of your sins.

But the crux of the matter is that we must learn to live from a point of experience, rather than a point of declaration.  While it's wonderful that God has declared us righteous, it is another thing entirely to live and walk from that perspective.

If you're like me, it helps to see things.  This isn't a perfect model, but it does help us visualize how we live in both the new and the old:

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Obedience out of Love or Duty? Neither.

I was recently reminded of a John MacArthur article entitled, "Obedience: Love or Legalism?" wherein Mr. MacArthur makes the argument that while it's better be obedient due to our love of Jesus, it's certainly our duty to be obedient to Jesus.  He goes on to say that that "it is not quite right to say 'we obey out of love for Christ . . . and not out of duty.'"  He further underscores this sentiment by suggesting the Christian relationship to Jesus should be viewed as one of an "abject slave," and that Jesus underscored this sentiment in Luke 17:7-10:
“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?  But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

That’s a nice underpinning to his argument, but that’s all it is: scripture out of context to validate his doctrine.

The actual context of the instruction is that of relationship between one and another, as demonstrated via the parables of the Shrewd Steward, the Rich man and Lazarus, and finally a summation that “stumbling blocks come,” and we should “be on our guard: if your brother sins,” then we are to “rebuke him,” for the purpose of prompting him to repentance. 

The apostles, upon hearing all of these stories apparently believed they were ill equipped to behave properly, thereby unable to produce the fruits necessary for these particular outcomes.   I would presume that Mr. MacArthur would have suggested to Jesus that He perhaps remind them of their duty to God - problem solved. 

Nevertheless, having spent a lot of time with Jesus and having learned a thing or two, they surmised that their faith needed help: "increase our faith," they said.  Jesus simply replied, “if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”

Contrary to popular teaching, Jesus was not suggesting that they had no faith and needed just a smidgen in order to get things done.  He never said, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” rather “if you had faith like a mustard seed.”  The question then is this: what is faith like a mustard seed?  If a mustard seed has faith, what kind of faith is it?  It is faith that affirms it’s nature and that which it is designed to be. 

Which is why we have the parable of the slave following close behind the instruction to forgive.  The slave knows who he is and his purpose in life, particularly in relationship to his master.  In other words, the slave functions in relationship to his master and others from a state of being.  Just as the rich man should have functioned from his state of wealth and helped Lazarus; just as the apostles could have commanded the mulberry tree to be uprooted, and just as a Spirit filled believer will forgive.

Jesus later defined our relationship with the Father not as “abject slaves,” as suggested by Mr. MacArthur, but as friends, saints, kings, and priests:
No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.  This I command you, that you love one another.  (John 15:15-17)
to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called as saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)
And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10)

But just as a slave is obedient to his master because of who he is, and the mustard seed has an established nature, then we, who have His Spirit, bear the fruit of faithfulness and self-control because of what we are, not because of how we feel towards Jesus, or due to a sense of duty.

The point then is that we shouldn't have to be obedient from a point of love or duty.  To do so is not to walk in the Spirit, but to walk in carnality - to be doers of the scriptures - as any person can pick up a theology or philosophy and be doer of its writs.

The thing that should be driving the life of the believer should never be the need or duty to perform for God or others, rather the need to commune with Him.

In summary, the best way to serve others in the kingdom of God, as Kings and Priests, is from a position of intimate knowledge of who you are.  It's not something that happens overnight - it's a sanctification process of "receiving the implanted Logos, which is able to save your souls." (James 1:21).  It's learning how to accept forgiveness of your sins while at the same time, understanding that the iniquity (unrighteousness) that gives life to those sins, is blotted out.  Follow the Spirit, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, which is love:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-25)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Debunking Dispensationalism: The Two Principle Axioms

When Christians approach spiritual problems - when they see conflict or paradoxes between truth and facts - they have the following choices:
  1. Go to their prayer closet and converse and learn from God
  2. Find someone who functions in the spiritual realm in which they're having a problem and
    • learn from them, or let them solve their problem
  3. Create a doctrine that explains why something doesn't work
In modern Christianity, we've excelled at #3, creating doctrine.

Dispensationalism is one of those doctrines.  It's used to create and explain the ages of Law and Grace (the Old Testament vs. the New Testament); the cessation of some of the spiritual gifts; to create a thing called the Apostolic age, and to generally confuse people by teaching them the traditions of men rather than the truth of God.

As with many things of God, the truth is so much simpler.  Before we learn something in the spirit, we must first understand its sibling in the natural.  At least that's the pattern God had used.

The law of the Sowing and Reaping

Consider the law of sowing and reaping.  In the natural we understand that if we sow corn, we will reap corn and we will reap more than we sowed - it's why we have farmers.  But also consider that God provided it as a fundamental spiritual axiom.  He explicitly stated that if you follow my law, good things will happen to you, but if you disobey my law, bad things will happen:
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known. (Deut. 11:26-28)
In other words, that which they sowed, the also reaped: obedience in the natural resulted in blessing in natural and vise-versa.

The law of Blessing

In the law of sowing and reaping, we receive based upon what we have done.  In the law of blessing, we receive based upon what God has done.

The law of sowing and reaping is the beginning, primary or natural law that points us to the better or higher law, the law of blessing.  In the Old Testament we experience the law of sowing and reaping, but in the New Testament, we experience the law of blessing.

In other words, in the O.T., it's about what we do.  In the N.T., it's about what God has done.

In the O.T., where the primary lesson is the power of sin, if you touch a leaper you become unclean.  But in the N.T., where the primary lesson is the power of God's love, if you touch a leaper, they become clean.

So then, we find that the economy of God dealing with Man has nothing to do with various dispensations, but with precept upon precept, line upon line (Isa. 28:10), teaching us in the natural the principles of the spiritual, as the author of Hebrews explained when suggesting that his audience leave the elementary doctrine of the Christ.

My suggestion is that we leave dispensationalism where it belongs: in the annals of the doctrines and traditions of men.  Where such things are created to explain away the truths of God that stand in conflict of the facts observed by those who placed their faith in reason rather than the Truth, the revealed Logos of God.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Worshiptainment and Cessation: Chasing the Wrong Fox

Mike Livingstone has an excellent blog on what he calls Worshiptainment.

What is interesting about his blog is that it confirms the problem without actually realizing it.  A. W. Tozer acknowledged the worshiptainment problem in his day, when worship music - by many definitions - was being done right. Which means even though Mr. Livingstone makes valid points regarding the entertainment factor present in some churches, we are still beating around the bush and haven't actually yet flushed out the fox.  In other words, if worship services were a problem in Tozer's day, then why do we draw the cross-hairs on worship services today?

It's a particularly telling sentinel that, when researching the problem further, we generally find the blame rests with the congregation: "they won't come unless { some reason }". Why? Because it mimics what the average Christian collectives already do.


Where the rubber meets the Road


Most Christians - throughout history - have read the Bible and compared it with the facts around them. Unfortunately, they're conflicted when truth doesn't match facts. In such a situation, they have several options:
  1. Create a doctrine that explains why their experience (facts) don't match the truth observed in Scripture. 
  2. Find someone that actually functions in the manner in which the Bible describes (e.g., they prayed for healing and it didn't work - find someone for which it does work)
  3. Go back to their prayer closet and talk to God about it - determine why they're not seeing His truth acted out in their experiences
What most Christians don't understand - because it's simply not taught in our churches - is that facts will stand in apparent contradiction with truth.  What God wants however, is someone who is willing to stand in truth until the facts properly align.  If you can't dismiss your questions regarding the facts you observe in the light of the truth you know, you'll never move into the truth.  You'll either live in conflict, or dismiss it entirely.

In example, consider the story of Jonathan slaying the Philistines (1 Samuel 14).  He believed the revelation of God, was inspired to act, and acted upon the revealed truth in spite of the apparent facts.

The facts of the situation were that Jonathan was tactically disadvantaged: there was only two of them, but unknown numbers of the enemy; the enemy was on top of a hill, they were in a valley; Jonathan had to crawl  on his hands and knees, in full sight of the enemy, just to enter the battle.  The truth of the situation was in stark contrast to the facts of the situation.


Creating New Doctrine to Match Facts instead of Truth


Scripture clearly teaches that God desires His will be performed on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:9-13).  There are any number of conclusions and adjunct scriptural evidences that we could draw upon to examine various facts in conflict with this truth.  Consider sickness, for example.

Most Christians will tell you that it's God's will for you to be sick - it's simply factual that people are sick, and you gotta die somehow, and God will somehow use it as a blessing.  Nevertheless, truth says otherwise.  First, the model prayer stands in direct conflict with the facts.  Secondly, every time Jesus is recorded encountering sickness, He destroys it.  Thirdly, Jesus perfectly represented and performed the will of God (here), and finally, if God desires us to be sick now, then there must be sickness in heaven.

But seeing that we can't have it that way, we create a new doctrine.  We call the spiritual gifts 'Apostolic Gifts,' and then have them cease.  I'll leave the rest of the quandary for you to sort out.


The Better Way

What's lovely about the outcomes referenced in Mr. Livingstone's blog is that it is presumable that the church actually went back to their prayer closet - so to speak - and changed their attitudes and position relative to God.  In other words, they observed that the facts didn't match the truth and instead of casting blame or creating a doctrine, listened to Holy Spirit and understood that they themselves needed to make a change.

Their explanation of the success is that "people are hungry for the word of God."  If by that one means preaching and teaching, then I'll respectfully disagree.  But if by that one means they're hungry for a relationship with God, then we're on the same page.

God teaches us that a cognizant relationship with Him begins with a turning of the heart, not with the preaching of the word and understanding with the mind:
but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away (2 Cor. 3:16)
Which is completely opposite of what we hear today: preach the word so people can learn - move head knowledge into the heart.

When a person or congregation returns or is revived, it's not by a will of the mind - it's a surrendering of the heart, from which the mind follows after the veil is removed.