The Ultimate Light

December 25, 2015

Friends,
I really like Christmas lights. I very much enjoy seeing the various ways people arrange theirs across their yards, on their roofs, and in their windows. I like how some sparkle and dance and some just glow. I love seeing all the colors and I appreciate nativity scenes as well as snowmen, angels, reindeer, and the rest. To me, it all spells celebration –celebrating love and cheer, and especially the God who became a human so as to pave the way for mankind’s salvation from sin.

Christmas lights, even ones that don’t appear to speak religion, are still –lights. Lights dotted everywhere. Lights gleaming in the darkness. Lights arranged to show order and beauty and a message. These lights are significant. They are symbols of something bigger. And to me, they are reminders of Jesus –He who is the Light that came into the world (John 12:46) so that all who believe and follow Him “will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (8:12) Yes, to me, Christmas lights are reminders of our Savior and Lord, the Ultimate (Perfect / Genuine / Supreme) Light, “the True Light that gives light to every person.” (1:9) Definitely this is something about which to rejoice greatly!

We wish the whole world understood! For the Light is also the Life that appeared (John 1:4 // 1 John 1:2) on earth, as Jesus. (John 14:6) By being in Him, we walk in the Light, live by the Truth, and progress in the Way to the Father. (Same verse // 1 John 1:7) Because we are in Him, we eat Him (John 6:53-57), meaning we meditate on Him who is the Word-who-became-human (1:1,14), who is “the Word of Life” (1 John 1:1) Himself, whose words are Spirit and Life (John 6:63), and who keeps us clean as we obey the Word. (1 Pe. 1:22) Then, by obeying, we learn how to shine our lights (His Light and Life) out to the world, and this, so that others may see and praise our Father in Heaven. (Mt. 5:14-16)

Consequently, Christmas lights should inspire us, I would think, to rejoice with grateful hearts as we remember the True Light that came into the world –He who has saved us and has enabled us to shine across the globe the radiance of Eternal Life. (1 John 5:20)

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

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Love Naghmeh & Believe Her

December 19, 2015

Friends,
Yesterday at a Christmas party I saw a woman who I know has been working closely with Naghmeh, the wife of Saeed Abedini, the man imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith. When I asked this woman how Naghmeh is doing, the response I got was somewhat evasive though she told me that Naghmeh is under attack, needs a lot of prayer, and that the issue has been in the news. So, today I decided to google it. Here is one of the sites I read at:

http://www.charismanews.com/culture/53685-despite-calls-for-prayer-over-abuse-pastor-saeed-s-wife-can-t-deny-this

Truly it is disheartening to hear that Saeed himself was, and still is, causing his wife pain in his treatment toward her. It is depressing to learn that a man many of us have prayed for and then have wondered why God has not released him, has a heart and mind that chose to repeatedly rebel against God’s holy law. This is what viewing pornography is –rebellion against God, His holiness, and His moral law. As Jesus made clear, it is adultery and a sin that brings with it the payment of Hell. (Mt. 5:27-30) It is the opposite of treating others as we ourselves would want to be treated. (Mt. 7:12) It is hostility to God (Rom. 8:6-8 // Ja. 4:4) and it is treason agains the vows of marriage. (Mt. 5:28 & 19:3-9 // Eph. 5:21-33)

Sadly there are those who would discredit Naghmeh for coming out with the truth. I read one such article and felt repulsed by the guy’s attitude and statements which downplayed the evil of pornography and which called Naghmeh’s credibility into question. Tragically, this type of response is exactly why most abuse goes unreported, particularly in Christian circles. The woman isn’t believed! Or she is blamed. Or she is made to feel ashamed for mentioning it. And this, in spite of the fact that rarely is spousal abuse fabricated. Read here:

http://www.charismanews.com/world/53402-why-pastor-saeed-abedini-s-wife-kept-his-abuse-secret-until-now

Just a few hours after being at the Christmas party yesterday, I received a text from a friend in another state, telling me that a month ago she had moved to a friend’s house to separate from her husband. I was definitely happy to hear this news because for years I have admonished her that this is the best, and likely only, way to help her husband see his need to change. After reading today about Naghmeh’s accusation and some of the fall-out, I found it significant that her dilemma and my friend’s dilemma are similar. My friend, whose husband was deeply into pornography even while they were in ministry together, had a monumental catastrophe happen to him. After months of prayers from people everywhere, God intervened and freed him (physically), but although his sin was exposed, his heart did not genuinely repent. This fakery is no way to try to uphold a marriage, for until a man truly repents in sorrow and brokenness and exhibits a complete transformation of behavior, words, attitudes, expressions, etc., there can be no real reconciliation between him and God or between him and his wife. It’s impossible.

Contemplating these two tragic marriages, along with many more abusive marriages I’m aware of (either broken or still on-going), grieves me, but I am left again with the thought that some tragedies and injustices are, maybe more often than we realize, a direct punishment from the Lord, as well as His warning to the oppressor that he must repent.

It is not easy for any person, especially a Christian wife, and especially one in the limelight, to come forward with the allegation that her husband has been abusive or has been living a lie of any sort. It is tragic for the wife. May the Lord open the eyes of those in the church who have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to these heart-breaking, family-devasting sins rampant among the sheep –and among the leaders. And may the Lord soften the hearts of all who claim to be Christians so that they reach out to Naghmeh exactly as Jesus Himself would and exactly as the Holy Spirit directs.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
The Word of God is replete with admonishments and encouragements for us to exalt God for His wonderful kindness in saving (redeeming and delivering) us from the rule and oppression of the devil. As Col. 1:12,13 remind us, the Lord has rescued us from the power (authority / dominion / domain / rulership / subjugation) of the darkness and transplanted (transferred / converted / transformed / changed / relocated) us into Christ’s Kingdom of Light, forgiving us and qualifying us to share in the inheritance of the saints.

Before our deliverance, we could not see. We were in darkness and our eyes and ears were dull to the Truth. But, by hearing and believing (Rom. 10:17) “the Word of Truth, the Gospel” (Col. 1:5), the Light beams into our understanding and we comprehend not only our deplorable condition and doom, but also that the Escape from Satan to God has been paid for and provided for us! (Acts 26:18 // Rom. 1:16)

Once we have taken the Escape Route, what are we to do? Are we to sit back and indulge ourselves in “those things [that] result in death”? (Rom.6:21) “Should we continue to sin so that grace may abound [increase / multiply / overflow]? Of course not! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (v. 1,2) Being freed from the subjugation of the dark realm means we have been freed from sin’s ability to control us (v. 18,20) and it means we (by having genuinely and eagerly chosen to submit our will to God’s will) have been transplanted into the Domain (Territory / Kingdom / Realm / Government / Person) of Light. (John 3:19-21 & 8:12 & 12:46) Choosing to take the Escape means we have made a vow to God to keep a clean conscience before Him (1 Pe. 3:21) and to live the rest of our lives in the pursuit of His desires alone (v. 2), doing this by seeking His will with all our effort. (Col. 1:9 // 2 Pe. 1:5-11)

Anyone who claims to be saved, but who does not understand these requirements, is simply lying or deceiving themselves about their salvation. (1 John 2:3-6) Anyone who goes back to dwelling in sin (sinfulness) is not saved. (3:6-10 // Heb. 10:26-31) Anyone who keeps sinning, but insists that he is dwelling in the Kingdom of Light because he belongs to Christ, because he has been born again, and because he has supposedly been forgiven of all his past, present, and future sins (Mt. 18:32-35), is going to be told on Judgement Day, by Jesus, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (25:26) And this person will hear the King say to His angels, “Throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 30)

So, if we have been qualified by God to share in His Kingdom, what, stated in one short sentence, is our responsibility? Col. 1:10 reveals to us the goal of our new life: “That you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way.” And how do we do this? Verses 10-12 inform us that it is by thanking the Father and by bearing fruit in every good work and by growing in the knowledge of God, all through which we are then strengthened with (more of) the power of God so that we may have great endurance and patience. And why that? Well, as Ja. 1:4 tells us, perseverance is what makes us become “mature and complete, not lacking anything.” For truly our works do need to be completed in the sight of God in order for us to be found worthy of salvation at the end. (Rev. 3:1-6) Yes, there is initial salvation (rescue / deliverance), but we must hold to that salvation to the end. (Heb. 3:12-14 & 10:35-39 // 1 Pe. 1:9) This we do by obeying Jesus (John 15:6,10) and His Word (1 John 2:5,6) with committed, life-long endurance, and with joyful eagerness, willing effort, and grateful love and worship to the Lord.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

We Do Not Possess Two Natures

December 10, 2015

Friends,
In my last post, I discussed Rom. 7:24,25 and its surrounding context. Much more could have been said, but one verse I want to highlight now is Rom. 6:17. It says, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.”

That one verse says (and infers) a lot. It reminds us that it was because of God that we are enabled to walk in freedom from our previous slavery to sin. It reminds us that this freedom is also due to our obedience to The Truth (who is Jesus, His words, and correct doctrine). And it reminds us that we are no longer slaves to sin. This is what “though you used to be slaves to sin” means. The verse right before it (Rom. 6:16) has told us that if we are slaves to sin, we walk the death path, but if we are slaves to obedience, we walk the path of righteousness –that Path which, as verses 18 and 22 inform us, is the Path (Way / Life / Lifestyle / Road) that leads to holiness, with the result being eternal life.

So in understanding that we are, by our choices (Rom. 6:12,13), either walking the Eternal Death Path or walking the Eternal Life Path (8:13,14), let’s look again at Rom. 7:24,25. They say, “What a wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ, the Lord [Boss] of us! So then, I myself, with the mind, am a slave to God’s law; but in the sinful nature, a slave to the law of sin.” In my last post I quoted these verses as literally as possible from the Greek, but the above translation is fine. What is not fine, is when translations render “but in the sinful nature…” as “but in my sinful nature…”, changing “the” to “my”. It is not fine because it makes the reader believe that this verse is teaching that Christ-followers can be slaves to God’s law with their mind while being slaves to sin in their lifestyle. It is not fine because such a doctrine is contrary to the doctrine found in all of Scripture, including in Rom. 7:24,25.

Christians need to be taught that we do not carry around the sinful nature, but instead possess God’s own divine nature (1 John 3:9), which, being the case, makes us unable to continue to sin. (Same verse) Christians need to be taught that we have died to sin (Rom. 6:2) and are not to live in it any longer (same verse) because we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (v. 18) Christians need to be taught that we have made the commitment to follow Jesus and that this means that we follow faithfully and consistently (Luke 9:61,62 & 14:26,27,33 // John 10:27,28), and that we abide in Him and belong to Him through our obedience to His teaching. (John 8:31-36 & 15:10 // 1 John 3:24) Christians need to be taught that we must choose to submit our will to God’s will in order to learn, know, and progress in the Truth (John 7:17) and that following Jesus (His footsteps and His orders) is a requirement for being His servant and one whom the Father will honor. (12:26) Consequently, before inquirers decide to “become a Christian”, they need to be taught that they are signing up to “become slaves to God” (Rom. 6:22) and that they must therefore renounce all that is not pleasing to Him. (Luke 16:13 // 1 Pe. 4:2)

Let’s get it straight: If someone keeps sinning, they do not belong to Christ. (1 John 3:6-10) Instead they belong to the devil. (v. 8,10) Anyone who claims to belong to Christ, anyone who claims, “Christ’s righteousness has forever been imputed to me regardless of whether or not I keep sinning”, is deceiving himself with an enormous lie. For only “he who does what is right is righteous” (v. 7), and, “Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God.” (v. 10) Only those who live Christ-like are those whom God views as pure and in fellowship with Him. (1:5-7) Only those who are obedient to Jesus Christ’s commands, and who live as He lived, can legitimately claim to be united with Christ (2:3-6) and thus be possessing Eternal Life. (5:20) Only those who obey Christ’s teaching have the Spirit of the Father and the Son living within them. (John 14:23) Yes, Eternal Life comes only by being in the Son (1 John 5:11), which comes only by remaining in the Truth (2:24,25); and by being in the Son, we also possess the Father. (v. 23-25)

To believe that a Christian possesses both the sinful nature and the nature of God within themselves is to remain in ignorance. (Eph. 4:17-24 // 1 Pe. 1:14) It is to be ignorant of the Truth –the Truth which has taught us to reject our former way of life and our former nature that was in slavery to sin. (Same verses // 2 Pe. 2:17-22) The Truth teaches that we have been baptized into Christ’s death (Rom. 6:3) and have been raised with Him to live His life (v. 4 // Gal. 2:20) as entirely new creations (2 Cor. 5:17) who are devoted to His will (v. 15 // 1 Pe. 4:2) and are controlled by His Spirit. (Rom. 8:9) Indeed, this last verse says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” How then can people legitimately claim that Rom. 7:25 teaches that those in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit are also still enslaved to the sinful nature? They cannot, for it is not so.

The rest of Rom. 8:9 says, “And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” So we see that anyone who is still controlled by the sinful nature does not belong to Christ. Could Rom. 7:25 contract this? It cannot and it does not. Instead the verse is contrasting two lifestyles that come as a result of two opposing natures (qualities / characters / dispositions).

Rom. 8:1-14 describes the contrast as well, and verses 5-8 teach that those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on sin, have minds that are hostile to God, are people thereby not able to please God, and are people thus walking in death (the Eternal Death Path). This is the opposite of those who live by the Spirit, and who, with their minds set on what the Spirit wants, have allowed their minds to be controlled by Him, and are thus walking in Life and Peace (the Eternal Life Path).

How can there be so many church-goers insisting that Rom. 7:25 teaches that we can, in our mind, be a slave to God’s law while at the same time, in practice, be a slave to the law of sin? They are in error, for the two natures are not compatible within one person. They teach a falsehood, for anyone possessing the Holy Spirit cannot possess the sinful nature. As Rom. 8:10,11 tell us, if Christ is in us, our old self is dead, while our spirit, along with our mortal body –yes, our existing mortal body– has been given a new life, and this by the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead.

Rom. 6:1-15 speaks of this concept also, telling us that because Christ died to sin once for all, we, “as those who have been brought from death to Life” (v. 13), are finished with sin, even in our mortal body, and that this is because we are under grace, not law. The chapter in question (Rom. ch. 7) speaks of this same thing –that we have died to the old husband / master / reality / way / lifestyle / mindset / nature (v. 1-6), that we have died to the old self who was “controlled by the sinful nature” (v. 5) and who was “unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin” (v. 14), that it is God, through Jesus, who has rescued us (v. 24,25), and that we now “serve in the new way of the Spirit.” (v. 6) All three chapters (Rom. ch. 6-8) are informing us that the divine nature and the sinful nature are entirely incompatible!

Gal. 5:17 is another verse that speaks about the contrasting natures, and along with its surrounding context, we are taught that our choices have us following the Spirit (the divine nature) or have us following the sinful nature, our eternal destiny being determined by our subsequent behavior. Those who live by the sinful nature “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (v. 21), whereas “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (v. 24) This same thing is what Romans chapters 6-8 are most emphatically teaching –that “our old self was crucified with Him [Christ] so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin –because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (6:6,7)

Let’s go back to the verse I began with today –Rom. 6:17. It says, “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” Are we hearing what God’s Word is telling us? Christ-followers (those who belong to Christ / those who are saved) used to be slaves to sin, but through Jesus we have crucified that defiled body and have been raised to a new life –the life of and in Christ. Moreover, it has been explained to us how this life is lived out: It is by continually submitting to the Holy Spirit who guides us into all Truth (John 16:13) and who reminds us of all that Jesus has said (14:26), including that He has taught that remaining in Him and in eternal life comes by eating and drinking Him (6:53-58) –meaning The Word. (1:1,14) For as He has said, “The Spirit gives Life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they are Life.” (6:63) Therefore, by obeying the Truth, we are kept cleansed (1 Pe. 1:22), fully able to enact our obedience through the power, faith, armor, and gifts God has given us. (1 Cor. 12:4-11 // Eph. 1:19 & 3:20 & 6:10-18 // 2 Pe. 1:3,4 // 1 John 5:3-5)

Let’s solidify within ourselves the Truth from Rom. 6:17: “But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted.” If we do so, no one will be able to deceive us when they twist Romans chapter 7, particularly verses 24 and 25, claiming that Christians still possess the sinful nature and are therefore still enslaved to sin. God’s Word states the opposite: That we have been freed. So let’s live in accordance with that.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel

Friends,
Rom. 7:7-25 is a passage which many use when they teach that Christians (who they acknowledge as being Christ-followers) will continue to sin. They claim that, yes, even as we are submitting to Christ, we will, in our sinful nature, be submitting (uncontrollably sometimes and deliberately at other times) to sin. These teachers, in spite of what verses 24 and 25 actually state (as well as what the next two verses, 8:1,2, state) –that Jesus has rescued us from the law of sin and death– they often finish their declaration by quoting the last part of verse 25 as if it supports their doctrine. It doesn’t.

If we read Rom. 7:24,25 directly from the Greek/English Interlinear, with no words added or omitted, it reads like this: “O wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks, moreover, to God through Jesus Christ, the Lord of us! So then, I myself, with the mind, indeed serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.”

These two verses conclude the passage about humankind’s struggle with sin by giving the answer for it. The answer, these two verses tell us, is Jesus! The answer is that Jesus has rescued us from the law of sin and its realm of death! Rom. 8:1,2 repeat this wonderful news: Those abiding in Christ Jesus are no longer under condemnation from God, because, through Christ, the Spirit of Life has set us free from the law of sin and death. Verses 3 and 4 in ch. 8 go on to affirm that God’s moral law, which in ch. 7 is described as good yet impotent in delivering us from sin’s power, can be met (conformed to / followed / obeyed) by those who live by the Spirit! Scripture confirms this doctrine repeatedly (such as in Rom. ch. 6, Gal. 5:16, Col. 2:11,12 & 3:1-3, 1 John 3:6-10, etc).

Instead of Rom. 7:7-25 being a supporting passage for the doctrine that Christ-followers will, until physical death, continue struggling in (with / against) sin –thereby continuing to be wretched (corrupt / pathetic / wicked / sinful) people, this passage draws a word picture that proclaims how wonderful our emancipation from sin is! It is describing that in ourselves, being yet separated from the Deliverer, we are “unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.” (v. 14) Indeed, we cannot carry out the good we want to do (v. 18,19) because the flesh –our own being without Christ– has already been claimed by the evil one, worked on by him to become increasingly decayed and corrupted, and are thus, along with him, under condemnation, the death realm, and Hell. We are prisoners of the law of sin which is abiding and at work within us. (v. 18,21-23) However! This horrid situation is not the reality for the person abiding in Christ!

Instead, Romans chapter 7, as well as the two chapters surrounding it (chapters 6 and 8), are proclaiming to us the Good News of Deliverance! Rom. 7:6 says that “by dying to what once bound us… we serve in the new way of the Spirit…” which means to be controlled by the Spirit alone. (8:9) Truly we have “died to sin” (6:2) and so cannot live in sin any longer (same verse), nor any longer be controlled by the sinful nature (7:5), for we have crucified our old self by being united with Christ. (6:5-7 & 8:13) This is the Christ-follower’s reality, for we “have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” (6:18) Although we used to offer ourselves to sin (sinfulness), we do so no longer (v. 19) for we have been freed up to be controlled by righteousness –which leads to holiness. (same verse) Therefore, instead of reaping death (v. 21) because of sin’s subjugation of us (v. 20), we now, because we “have become slaves to God” (v. 22), reap holiness (same verse), with the result being eternal life! (same verse)

Rom. 6:16 tells us plainly that we are slaves to the one we obey. It says that if we obey sin (if we commit sin), we bear fruit for death, whereas if we follow obedience, we walk the path of righteousness. Doing righteousness reaps holiness (v. 22) and eternal life (same verse), as I’ve already pointed out, and this is the only way to abide in and with the Lord. (Heb. 12:14 // 1 John 3:10,24)

Let’s again look at Rom. 7:24,25 from the Greek/English Interlinear: “O wretched man I am! Who will deliver me out of the body of this death? Thanks, moreover, to God through Jesus Christ, the Lord of us! So then, I myself, with the mind, indeed serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.” Someone may say that the word “indeed” in the last sentence should be changed around so that it says, “So then, I myself, indeed with the mind, serve God’s law; but flesh, law of sin.” That’s okay. But these are the only two ways I believe it could be said if we do not add or omit any words.

So, does Rom. 7:25 say that those serving God’s law are also, with another part of their being, serving the sinful nature remaining within them? No, but many people read the extra in. Is the verse teaching that delivered (saved) people serve God and serve sin? It’s not. Does this verse, along with verse 24, tell us that Jesus delivers us from sin? Yes. So can verse 25 legitimately be used as support in declaring, “I’m saved, but I’m still a slave to my sinful nature”? No, it cannot, and the Greek shows it. Even so, this, or close to this, is how several Bible versions render the last sentence of the chapter: “So then with my mind I serve the law of God, but with my sinful nature, I serve the law of sin.” (Some have “flesh” rather than “sinful nature”.) Either way, the translators are adding words to say what the text is absolutely not saying. The NLT says, “So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.” Wow. Now that’s called paraphrasing the Greek according to one’s bias!

Rom. 7:7-25 needs to be read in its context. And if any statement seems to be contradicting other statements from God’s Word –especially within a verse of each other! –then we should interpret it in light of the rest of Scripture, compare different translations, and even look up how it is worded in the original Greek –things biblehub, by the way, makes available for internet users. (For this post, I began here: http://biblehub.com/romans/7-25.htm )

Let’s not let our biases dictate for us how we interpret the Word of God. Regarding Rom. 7:24,25, therefore, as well as the whole often-misrepresented chapter, let’s teach it correctly –that Jesus has delivered us from our servitude to sin –from struggling with it, obeying it, committing it.

Then we can progress into holiness (Heb. 6:1) and focus on encouraging one another in how to abide in our Deliverer proactively (John 15:1-10) –that it happens by feeding on the Word (6:53-63) and walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) through praise, prayer, and doing what He commands.

Sincerely,
with love,
Rachel