"So," they say, "nobody's perfect!"
But the Vinedresser won't buy that.
Given the opportunity, He will trim the unproductive suckers and shape the branches so each one will bask in Sonlight.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

We Can't Have, "Dry"

        Many believers in the Lord Jesus avoid too much exposure to the Old Testament. "It's too dry," they say, or, "It's too hard to understand." Such believers are missing out on some of the richest of God's teachings. True, some Old Testament wording is daunting, but who said we have to pronounce every single word we read? And true, Jesus fulfilled the Jewish ceremonial laws. But even though the Law of Moses no longer rules our behavior, each law God gave has an application to our lives in Christ Jesus.
        Take, for instance, Exodus 20:25:
        The alter was to be of earth, not of hewn stone. The verse expands on that idea with, for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it. The reason for that distinction is solely for our instruction. Do we build stone alters? Never! Since Jesus was the last sacrifice, there is no need for an alter of sacrifice in the church(Hebrews chapter 10). Hewing the stone for the alter symbolizes our unwarranted requirements for religious ritual, rules and prohibitions. When we enforce our own machinations upon our corporate religious practice, we profane the alter upon which we offer ourselves, rendering the offering profane as well.
        Is that to say, as some do, that we must pattern our religious practices exactly after those of the apostolic church, or the synagogue, or even the temple worship? Of course not! That would place the emphasis of our worship upon formality, rather than upon our Savior. Instead, we are to worship as Jesus instructed the Samaritan woman: John 4:22-24 ESV You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."
        Does that mean we must "worship in the Holy Ghost," including mandating "tongues" in our worship, as Pentecostals assert(1 Corinthians 12:27-31)? Or does it mean that we should prohibit speaking in tongues(1 Corinthians 14:21-40)? Such requirements are nothing more than "hewing the alter-stones" on which we sacrifice ourselves. John 4:24 simply means our worship is to be spiritual, not ritualistic. Spiritual worship is concentrating solely on God, rather than on formality or program.
        "Is Pastor Frank raising his hands in worship? Oh, yes he is. So I'd better do the same. But I'm embarrassed. What will people think of me? Maybe if I just sort of half-raise my hands, or lift only one hand, they won't think I'm trying to act spiritual." Those who entertain such concerns are nothing more than people-pleasers, and God has some strong things to say about that behavior(Eph_6:5-7, Luk_18:9-14).
        All that is to say, "Don't sweat it!" Worshiping is to the believer as breathing is to any animal. If you're a believer, you will worship. Concerns about worshiping according to custom or liturgy miss the point completely.
        Neither studying the Old Testament, nor participating in worship, will be a dry experience to whose who are walking in God's Holy Spirit.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

What Am I, A Sheep, Or A Man

        We don't know what sort of voice the Self-Existent One used when speaking to Moses and Aaron, whether it was audible, or a strong, sub-vocal impression. But we do know that it was undeniable; it grabbed their attention.
        If the phrase "Self-Existent One" is unfamiliar, it is the meaning of LORD, Jehovah, or Yahweh, because God told Moses, I Am That Which I Am, in response to Moses' question about His name(Exodus 3:13,14 YLT). He is the only being in the universe for whom the fact of His existence points to no one beyond Himself.
        Anyway, the Self-Existent One clearly demonstrated through the series of miracles delineated in Exodus, chapters three through twelve, the work he planned to execute through Jesus. Establishing the theme of 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come, He declared that this Passover would establish a new beginning for His people.
        Some might ask why God had tens of thousands of innocent lambs slaughtered. To them it seems wrong to kill so many in the name of religion. Why would God demand that sort of bloody obedience?
        God welcomes hard questions. For sincere inquirers, He always has an answer if they are willing to accept it. The believer in God's faithfulness would assume that He had a higher purpose in the lambs' slaughter, as in fact, He did. First, God demanded the paschal lamb be without blemish. That symbolism is obvious.
        Second, while God's word doesn't distinguish between the paschal lamb's nature and its physical perfection, there is significance in the fact that God chose a sacrificial animal that is naturally prone to wander and get into trouble. The great I Am came in human form to demonstrate the wonderful truth that fallen, human nature does not necessarily hold mankind in an unbreakable strangle hold. Jesus become the Lamb of God, bleeding out and dying after the Romans drove spikes through His wrists and ankles, that we might enjoy the choice between bondage to our rebellious nature, or abandoning that accursed "old man." The question is, will we choose to remain sheep, mindlessly following our lower urges? Or will we choose to become the humans He created us to be?
        It's as simple as that.