Saturday, December 28, 2013

What does it take to have saving faith?

According to the Strong's the Greek word rendered as faith, "pistis" is the conviction of truth. Hebrews 11 expounds the definition of faith further as the 1. assurance of things hoped for and 2. conviction of things we can't see.

I've come to understand that the Hebrew 11 definition of faith is describing the same faith that God required of the Israelites to trust in Him to deliver them from every need or dire situation until they made it into the good land and conquer it. I'll break it down below.

1. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for:

God gave the Israelites assurance of their deliverance in every situation based on the miracles he had previously performed. Witnessing the ten plagues in Egypt and the parting of the Red Sea should have been enough assurance to the Israelites for them to hope that God could continue to deliver on his promises. God gifted faith to the Israelites based on his perfect integrity, but it was up to them to receive this gift.

2. Conviction of the things unseen

2 Cor 5:7 tells us to walk by faith and not by sight. The ten spies who delivered the bad report trusted in what their eyes saw when they witnessed the thirty foot tall giants in Canaan so they didn't have conviction of the unseen promises of God. However Caleb and Joshua ignored what their eyes were telling them instead choosing to believe in God's promise of conquering the good land because they had "conviction of things unseen".

The implications of this definition of faith is enormous if true. Because Paul says we are saved by faith alone in Eph 2:8, this could be the measure of faith God expects us to have in order to be saved. In other words we actually have to trust in Him all the way until we reach our promised inheritance in heaven.

The bible teaches there is a faith that can save us, and a dead faith that cannot (James 2).

For example say someone was forced to renounce his faith in Christ or be martyred and he chose to renounce Jesus to save his life. Does that person have a faith that can save them even if they at one moment "believed" in Jesus and went to church all their life? I would say this person did not have saving faith because he didn't have "conviction" of the unseen promise that awaits him in heaven. I believe Jesus was serious when he says that if you deny him, he'll also deny you before the Father.

I still believe faith is a gift from God and not something we "work" up. I've personally come to receive faith after God has answered my numerous prayers in circumstances that had could not have been given to chance. Because God has delivered so many promises for me personally in my past, I can trust him to also deliver me in the future. I don't have to trust in my circumstances, because I know that God is in control and will continue to deliver on his promises as long as I walk by faith by trusting in him. Scripture says the righteous shall live by faith, faith is something we "live" out until the end of our Christian race.

It's interesting also that Hebrews 11 which is the hall of fame of people who had faith is also a laundry list of works that were produced out of faith! Crazy faith in God will cause us to trust him to the measure that we'll do some crazy things because we trust not in what we see but what God promises in his word and speaking to us.

Friday, December 27, 2013

God never intended to shame homosexuals, instead he loves and wants to redeem them.

When Jesus preached he was actually very friendly towards sinners. He spent a lot of time eating and drinking with the dregs of society that everyone avoided such as prostitutes and tax collectors. When he preached on hell it was always towards the believing Jews who knew the bible well. Unfortunately many in the church have it the other way around by preaching hell to sinners while focusing on love and mercy inside the church. Paul followed this pattern by telling us not to judge those outside the church but those inside it (see 1 Cor 5:12).

The unfortunate side effect of this is that Christians have been bringing shame unto sinners. However this was never God's intention. Scripture says that Jesus bore all our shame on the cross and everyone who believes into Jesus will not be put into shame. Shame always comes from Satan and never from God. Think of the shame that sunk Judas to commit suicide after betraying Jesus. Scripture tells us there is a worldly grief that leads to death but there is also a Godly sorrow that brings repentance unto salvation. The Holy Spirit always gives us the grace to turn back to God, never bringing shame which only sinks us further.

Another example is the prodigal son. After he returned to the father, he was expecting to be shamed. Instead the father received him with open arms with no mention of the mistakes he made but even threw a huge party to celebrate his redemption. This is the heart of our Father God who is always willing to receive us with open arms when we turn from our sin and run back to him.

That said, after you do become a Christian, there is an expectation on believers to progress from being sinners to saints. Jesus' association with sinners confused the Pharisees, but he explained that he was a physician looking for patients to heal. However it's not normal for the sick to stay sick after seeing the doctor. That's why Paul always addressed his letters to saints and not sinners.

God does put on Christians the burden to turn from sins like homosexuality, simply because his nature can't handle what God considers to be sin-- even for things society deems kosher. Isaiah was one of the holiest men of Israel, yet when he encountered God's presence he was totally undone because his eyes and lips were touched by sin. How much more will this happen to people who have sin dwelling inside them from practicing it?

God loves us and is doing everything he can to be with us. His holiness requires that men repent (turn away) from their sin unto God whereby they can receive the life and blood of his Son Jesus into their hearts as a covering for their past iniquity. Because He can't help his own holiness, God needed Moses to intercede for him in Numbers, and that's why Jesus is our heavenly high priest interceding for us. His holiness is like the incredible hulk, it's a part of his nature that defines who he is. But in his mercy he provided the solution for the problem of our sin versus his holy nature through the sending of his son Jesus to die for us.
Isaiah 43:25 “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Believing "into" Jesus

According to the Greek, we have to believe "into" (eis) Jesus. Many of the Israelites went only as far as intellectual acknowledgment that Jehovah was God, but they failed to "believe" their way into the good land which was their promised inheritance. Similarly many Christians "believe" Jesus exists as the son of God, but have they "believed" their way into Christ? Galatians 5:24 says those who belong to Christ has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. How many Christians today are living in envy, strife, jealousy, selfish-ambition, bitterness and un-forgiveness? If you take this verse in its literal meaning you can see why Jesus says few are saved, the road is narrow, and many try to get into the door to heaven but fail to.

We must have faith like Joshua did, by trusting in God to give us strength, enabling us to slay the giants of our flesh so we can obtain our promised inheritance in heaven. We also need to run away from anxiety and worry because that's the result of the same unbelief that led to the demise of the Israelites in the wilderness. 

"Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience." - Hebrews 4:11
If we're struggling to make something happen in our Christian life we're doing it wrong. All the children of Israel had to do to make it into the good land was to relax and know that Jehovah is God, then follow God who was pillar of cloud by day and fire by night, and believe that God would rescue them out of every horrible situation. They just had to live by faith based on God's perfect integrity since he had delivered them from every situation in the past. Instead they chose to live based on what their eyes saw, which included the 30 foot tall giants in Canaan. We ultimately worship what we fear.
"for we walk by faith, not by sight." - 2 Corinthians 5:7
The children of Israel's journey from Egypt through the wilderness into the good land is a wonderful picture God gave us how to live by faith as Christians. First we enter into God's rest by being still and knowing that he is God. Then we follow God by living and walking accord to the Spirit. Then when we encounter horrible situations, we believe that God will deliver us every time. We continue to do this until we enter the door of our inheritance in heaven when our Christian race finally ends.
"Be still and know that I am God! I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted among the earth" - Psalms 46:10 
"Now then there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" - Romans 8:1 (KJV) 
and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:2

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Local Churches of Witness Lee were pretty awesome in the 1950s

Back in the 1950s, the Local Church movement under Witness Lee in Taiwan actually resembled the Charismatic movement in many ways.

My Grandma joined a local church in Taipei around this time after she became a believer. She loves the Lord dearly and I am so thankful to her because I'm only where I am today in Christ because of her fervent prayers. She's a woman of prayer and one of the Christians in my life from whom I can sense a glowing light with my spiritual eyes whenever I see her interact with other people.

That said, my Grandma lived a really colorful life and she used to tell us some pretty crazy stories of how life in the early LCs was like in the 1950s back in Taiwan.

It was like the wild wild west of Christianity. There weren't many mature Christians at the time who knew the bible well because everyone was a new believer. The christians in the early LCs in Taiwan simply read the bible and tried to follow it with little preconceptions. Demons were being cast out, people were being healed, lives were being transformed for Jesus! The supernatural power of God was breaking out everywhere just like in the early church of Acts and people were being wowed by the works of the Holy Spirit. People in the church actually didn't love the world back then and were very loose with their possessions-- they would give freely to other bros and sisters in need.

My Grandma actually received what we know today as "words of knowledge" when she went to heal the sick. She would just know in her mind a secret sin the person had and she would tell them to confess it and repent! After the person did, the sickness would go away. (In my worldview, my Grandma just saved that person's soul. Them being sick was the merciful thing otherwise they never would have repented regardless of whether or not they were "believers".)

And the hilarious thing was no one really *understood* the bible when they read it. My Grandma said a lot of things didn't make sense but she kept reading. Yet God in his grace and mercy honored her faith. When she'd go out to preach the gospel, a specific verse would pop into her mind when she needed it-- instructing her what to do! The word of God is living and active! It's meant to be applied and not just stored up in our heads. As James said be doers of the word and not just hearers deceiving yourselves!

So there were many such stories as this. One time they built a pagan temple next to my Grandma's house. The incense and smoke would rise so heavily next to the house and my Grandma was worried about the demonic presence that came with it. She sat down and prayed that God would protect her home and her children (she was raising 8 children by herself as a single mom by the way! God came through for her in so many ways even though they were dirt poor but they never lacked anything because my Grandma put both *God's kingdom* and *his righteousness* first before everything else).

My mom told me after my Grandma's prayer, one day my aunt who was maybe four or five at the time was lying in her bed when she looked out the window. She saw rows of angels above our house singing hymns in answer to my Grandma's prayer of protection! I was blown away and so touched by God's love for my Grandma and my family when I heard this. I realized that it's possible God does so many things in love for us and many times we don't even realize it because our spiritual eyes are closed! Who are we, that the Creator of heaven and earth should care for us so deeply?

God's presence can either bless or curse you

(Many of the revelations here are thanks to Pastor Del Augusta. Check out his ministry here:

Today we're gonna show how God's presence can either curse you or bless you. We will also show why a loving God could send unsaved Christians who profess Jesus as "Lord" in their lips but not in their hearts to hell or outer darkness. We'll demonstrate that God doesn't send people to hell, as much as they also send themselves there based on their heart.

Remember the Ark of the Covenant in Samuel and David's time? The Philistines once captured the Ark from the Israelites and took it back with them. In 1 Samuel 5 are some pretty hilarious accounts of what the Ark, the container of God's presence (or Shekinah glory), did to the Philistines who by being enemies of Israel made themselves enemies of God. 

After the Philistines took the ark back to their homeland, it became a curse wherever it was. Statues of their false gods were falling flat on their faces, tumors broke out [some other translations say hemorrhoids broke out -- if you don't think God has a playful sense of humor, you may need to read the bible more carefully  if you don't believe me, read the end of Jonah) it was causing so much havoc that the Philistines eventually wanted to have *NOTHING* to do with God's presence and glory and they sent it away.

God's presence and glory brings curses among his enemies, but among those who are his children, it brings blessing! 

We all know what happened to the ark after it resided in Obed-Edom. 

2 Samuel 6:12
"And it was told King David, “The LORD has blessed the household of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, because of the ark of God.” 

It was this very blessing that made David jealous, so he went to retrieve it because no one loved God's presence like David did!

So it seems like when we are in God's presence, how his presence affects us depends on whether we are his enemies or his children (whereby we have his life and thereby the righteousness of Christ in us). Since God's presence is so overwhelmingly powerful, being an enemy of God is really a bad thing!-- and you also really don't want to be God's enemy when he comes back because in Revelation 19 it says Jesus' robes are dipped in the blood of his enemies! Is there anywhere in the bible where it says that self professed Christians could be God's enemies - or not have God living in them?

1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

If God is living in you-- you have to have the love of the Father because God is love! So if you love the world, it's likely he aint' in ya! Where else is this hinted?

James 4:4
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

Is it becoming clear yet? God doesn't just want part of our hearts-- he wants all of it! Giving even part of our hearts away is like doing what the Israelites did by mixing Idol worship with worship of the one true God, Jehovah which is clearly not acceptable to him. Remember the first commandment that Jesus said we should follow above all else? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind!

Does the bible say God comes to live in us if we make a simple profession?

John 14:23
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

Tying it all together we see that God comes to live in us only after we whole-heartedly love him and by doing so obey him by keeping his word. This means following what Jesus said! And he said some pretty hard things like love and forgive your enemies!

I've studied some interesting NDE accounts where people who nearly died and ended up in hell asked God to give them a chance and take him to heaven. In these cases, God actually complied with their request-- and when they got there-- the manifest glory and presence of God blasted them away! They couldn't handle it because they didn't have Christ's righteousness and holiness abiding in them! Their hearts which were defiled with bitterness, strife, envy and un-forgiveness couldn't handle God's manifest holiness and they shriveled and pleaded with God to cast them into hell instead. The presence of God in heaven is so heavy that they'd rather go to hell than enter into heaven, because by living worldly lives and thereby serving Satan even unknowingly, they are enemies of God and become incompatible with his holiness.

(If you'd like to learn more about near death experiences, visit my other website at

There's a verse in Psalms 37:4 that says God will give you the desires of your heart. I believe God does this even to the extent when people desire things other than him. If people give their lives to the world, God gives them up to what they want (sound familiar? In Romans 1 it says 'and God gave them up to their lusts') and gives them to share the same fate as the master that they chose to serve in their life-- false idols whose end is destruction. The world is passing away with is desires but he who does the will of God abides forever! 1 John 2:17.

God is merciful and loving but he can't help who he is - he is a holy God! Because he wants so much for us not to end up there-- he sent his Son to die for us and he sent his Holy Spirit to dwell in us. But we have to play according to the rules of who he is. 

It would be unmerciful and unloving if he told us that getting to heaven only required a simply profession of faith with our lips but not our whole heart-- only to find out that all of us are incompatible with heaven once we get there. Instead he told us narrow is the way to life. This way is Jesus and the words that he spoke telling us how to walk the narrow way. This includes things contrary to our human wisdom like loving our enemies and forgiving our brothers and sisters who have dearly hurt us. It's hard to do but when you actually follow what Jesus says out of love, you will experience his presence and grow in intimacy with him.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

God turned my fear into love

I grew up in a church that taught that sins are forgiven once confessed to God. I don't remember being taught the need to truly repent or in the Greek metanoia (having a change of mind, or according to the biblical definition, turning from evil and back to God). So although I thought I was a Christian, I still lived in addiction and sin because I believed I only had to confess my transgressions to God every time I practiced sinning. I never knew God could actually free me from sin or addiction (pornography, video game addiction), so I continued this practice of sinning and confessing.

Furthermore, since we were lucky enough to be in the age of grace, our sins were forgiven by Jesus unconditionally after we professed belief. We were children of God regardless of whether or not we were living in sin as long as we had called on the Lord and believed in Jesus. After leaving the church I was confronted with the reality that I could no longer defend the treasured dispensational free grace doctrine that had been instilled in me from my youth. It simply wasn't in the bible given faithful exegesis.

When I came to the realization that my salvation wasn't all that assured as I thought it was because I had never repented according to the biblical definition, I felt a mix of emotions.

1. Fear of God and his wrath
2. EXTREMELY thankful and worshipful to God that he kept me alive long enough to repent-- there were many close calls in my past where the story of my life could have ended abruptly. I would have likely ended up in outer darkness or hell for eternity since I didn't truly turn away from sin -- looking back at my life I think my guardian angel was very busy.. I think God had mercy on me because I "didn't know what I was doing" I was ignorant of true biblical grace.

I went through a period of complete and abject fear of hell and losing my salvation in cases similar to a piano falling on my head after a trite sin (Back at the time I listened to sermons by Arminian pastors, however nowadays I lean towards Calvinism or Reformed theology, but still of the Lordship salvation kind).

I used to have a habit of turning on the audio bible on my computer every morning before I sat down for breakfast. One day as I did this routine and started chewing on my instant oatmeal, I meditated in my head again about how much I feared God. Immediately the voice of the audio bible in the background quoted 1 John 4:18 -- "perfect love casts out fear". I freaked out because I knew it was the Father speaking to me. He wanted to cast out my fear by experiencing Papa God's perfect love! Right then I felt a wave of God's love wash over me. I experienced Psalms 147:11 - God was delighting in me because I feared him!

Since then God has brought me on a journey to experience just how much he loves and cares for me. I've been slowly brought to a level of intimacy with him that I feel I would never throw away for *anything*. Part of this is from so many answered prayers. I felt so humbled that the creator of the universe would even listen to my prayers-- even the ones I forgot about and that he reminded me of over and over again. The bible tells us to unceasingly pray-- and I like how Perry Stone puts it -- you do this because God loves to answer his children's prayers to show how much he loves them.

I've become addicted to his presence. Yesterday I was able to share the gospel (well I didn't mention Jesus yet, but I got him to think hard about his eternity and gave him a card to my website that preaches Jesus :]) with the owner of an auto shop. He became so excited when I started sharing about NDEs to heaven and the story of Dr. Eben Alexander that he got a pencil and started writing stuff down. I believe God caused someone to hit my parked car just so I could preach to him. One of his employees was supposed to drive me home after I dropped off my car, but it didn't pan out and he personally drove me home in his truck. Perhaps God wanted me to touch him so he could get his whole Auto Shop saved. After many experiences like this I just feel *SO* satisfied by God's presence. I am addicted to it!

I feel like when you are in God's presence the very idea of sin is disgusting because it affects your relationship with him. Last night Carol pointed me to Psalms 51-- a story of what true repentance looks like -- and she was so right!

God accepted David's repentance because he had the right heart. He took full responsibility for what he did by saying "It was only against you O God that I have sinned!"-- he wasn't just remorseful that he messed up bad -- but he was most of all scared that he would lose God's presence, something that he treasured more than anything in the world ! ("cast me not away from thy presence and remove not thy Holy Spirit from me!"). True repentance is turning your heart to the Lord-- or in other words becoming so desperate to restore your relationship with God to encounter his presence again -- or as John Piper would put it "desiring God"!

Compare this to Judas' false repentance that drove him to suicide. He didn't have the intimacy with God that David had, but only had worldly grief that leads to death (2 Cor 7:10) -- in other words shame drove him to suicide. Shame always comes from the enemy and drives us to sink further. We will never experience shame from God because Jesus bore the shame we deserved as he died on the cross. When the Holy Spirit convicts us he always provides us with the grace to repent - Unlike Allah our God is still a good God! Contrary to the most profound wisdom human philosophy can muster, I've only actually experienced God's goodness and love to the fullest after realizing this same God could also cast me to hell, because only then could I experience *just how much* he didn't want me to be there - and that was love!-- does that make any sense? As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God's ways higher than man's.

Or look at Balaam who also shared a close relationship with God in terms of communication that many other OT prophets would have envied. He was close to God, but he was not intimate with him. He knew God loved Israel, he knew God's ways but he never put his neck out there to love what God loved and that was Israel. The whole story of Numbers 22 is a sad tale of a fence sitter who couldn't decide between God and the riches Balaak had to offer. If Balaam truly loved God, he would have also loved God's desire -- and that is Israel. But by his actions he demonstrated that Yahweh was not his Lord, but rather money.

Jesus told Peter that if he truly loved him he would shepherd his sheep. Because Christ loves the church so much, when we love God we will also love what he loves-- the church! Many of us may encounter situations where we will be tempted to choose between the riches of the world and care of his sheep. The only way to overcome this is through intimacy with God.

This possibly explains how God could allow many "Christians" who were close to God in terms of communication and activities (going to Church, small group, reading bible, even praying) but not intimacy to be in for a big surprise when they reach the gates of heaven. If I'm right, isn't it interesting that salvation by faith alone shut these people out? Think about it- If salvation was by works that would actually be easier than having true biblical faith in God which comes from the heart! (Read Matthew 7, people thought their works could save them but Jesus says he never knew them! Think about that!) Perhaps that's why we could only be saved by a faith that God can give us which he does when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us after we open our hearts to Jesus. This sounds harsh but I'm just telling it how I see it in the bible. I'm not trying to be God. If I was God, I'd probably just let everyone in because the thought of eternal conscious torment in hell for even the worst human that ever lived is terrifying-- but God's wisdom is far beyond my own understanding.

God Bless You All! I pray this over myself and my family everyday and hope you will too: "And surely goodness and mercy shall follow you all days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord FOREVER." May we all experience the love of Papa God. Amen.

And here is a song about Papa God's love that I want to bless you all with. It's called "Abba I belong to you":

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Piano has Dropped on Your Head!

A piano has dropped on your head! You have just died and are now facing the door of eternity into heaven. You consider yourself a Christian who loved Jesus but never confronted your secret sinful habits (e.g. porn, drugs) or maybe your life is really clean but you've held jealousy, hatred or envy against someone that you haven't let go (see Galatians 5:19-21).

Expecting to get in to the door through the kingdom of heaven, Jesus approaches you and declares "I never knew you, depart from me you worker of lawlessness".

You stand speechless and try to confront him how you have lived your faith. You try to reason with him about the saints that you took care of and shepherded and the countless number of church meetings you attended-- the vacations you even skipped to attend conferences.

He points to 2 Timothy 2:19

"But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

You look down below his feet and realize he's standing on a stone monument which no one can move. On it is the very seal (which cannot change) bearing those words and you just realized that repentance was necessary for salvation.

He looks at you again and says:

"Haven't you read my book? I warned you that the road to life is narrow and that very few are saved."

"You may have sacrificed a lot for me, but I desire obedience and not sacrifice"

You plead with the Lord:

"Am I not a Christian? Am I not saved? I thought you only have to *believe* to be saved"

He looks at you for the one last time and says:

Proverbs 14:12

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Could this be you or me?

Can you argue from scripture how this scenario cannot be? Is there any wiggle room in 2 Timothy 2:19 for someone to belong to the Lord but not turn away from wickedness?

Can you come up with an exegetical argument from God's word why this won't happen to someone who is a Christian but is living an unrepentant life in unforgiveness, hatred, envy and strife?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Why did Judas end up in Hell if Jesus called him Friend?

A question came up in church regarding whether or not Judas was saved. Some think Judas might be saved because he showed repentance by returning the silver from his betrayal and was called a friend by Jesus (Matthew 26:50)

Would Jesus let a friend go to hell?

I believe Judas is in hell without a doubt.
Matthew 26:24
The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.
Judas did have remorse-- but it was limited to only worldly grief, he didn't have Godly sorrow which leads to true repentance. I think this verse sums it up the best:
2 Corinthians 7:10
"For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death."
When David committed murder, theft, adultery he didn't pity himself but he repented saying it was only against God that he sinned. David's heart was really that his relationship could be restored with God, something that he treasured more than anything else. 
Psalms 51:10
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
When Satan condemns us, he never gives us the grace to overcome, but often attacks us in a way that we sink further. When the Holy Spirit convicts us, he always gives us the grace to repent and turn back to God.

In my belief, It's also a reminder for us to *NEVER* commit suicide no matter how bad it gets.  Here's a testimony of a woman who almost did, she would have ended up in hell if she hadn't asked for forgiveness before she pulled the trigger:

Whenever we're in a valley, God is always there with us whether or not we can see him (Romans 8:31-39).

With Judas' fate clearly established let's ask another related question:

How could Judas who held the coveted position of being one of Jesus' disciples betray the son of God?

While preparing for a sermon a few weeks ago I realized that there's many things we can learn about the arc of Judas' tragic life by looking at Balaam's. 

Judas and Balaam both enjoyed a relationship to God that would make all of us jealous. Since Judas was in charge of the money bags, the disciples must have trusted him and he must have been close with everyone including Jesus. In the same way, Balaam was also very close to God and Numbers 22 records many direct conversations he had with Jehovah. The bible only records a couple back and forth conversations between God and his servants. Moses and Abraham come to mind at the moment so we could say Balaam enjoyed a relationship with God that few other men on earth have experienced.

Unfortunately both Balaam and Judas also seemed to be torn between serving God and money. In John 12:6 it says that Judas stole out of the money bag meant for the poor. It's possible his enslavement to riches sealed his fate long ago and God may have already given him many chances to repent as he did with Balaam. It's sad because Judas probably gave up a lot to follow Jesus for 3.5 years, but because of his divided loyalty, he had an unhappy ending. Jesus words "you cannot serve both God and money"(Matthew 6:24) was prophetic for Judas.

Although Balaam could never bring himself to curse Israel, he ultimately found a way to betray the God he served for the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:15) and seal his fate.
Revelation 2:14
But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
If you think about Israel's history, this was really their undoing and the seed was planted by Balaam! God prevented the old generation from entering the good land because of their unbelief, but unfortunately the new generation that did enter fell into this stumbling block. Balaam's betrayal must have stun really hard! And we see in Revelation 2 that God didn't forget this betrayal but brought it back into remembrance.

I think it's also a prophetic warning to the church today. Unless Christians repent from the idols of the world and sexual immorality, they will meet the same fate of the Israelites who did the same thing. God is the same yesterday today and forever and his standards for repentance haven't changed (Ezekiel 18). All God ever wanted was for us to repent from our heart. The extreme dispensationalist doctrine that we're in the "age of grace" so repentance is unnecessary is unfair because it would give a free pass to Christians today to worship idols alongside with God, while damning the Israelites who committed the same errors long ago-- who were unfortunate just because they lived in the wrong era.

Balaam was close to God in communication, but he was never intimate with him. He knew the ways of God well, he knew God loved Israel, but he never treated God as a person who had feelings. He didn't care that God loved Israel, all he could think about was the money Balak could offer. Compare the conversations he has with God in Numbers 22 to the conversations Abraham has with God concerning Lot (Genesis 18). One is devoid of relationship and life, but the other is fulfilled with intimacy and intercession!

Judas was close to Jesus, but all he could think about probably was the benefits of being a part of the Messiah's earthly kingdom, and when that didn't pan out he decided to throw everything away.

This is a reminder for us that we can be close to God in communication (go to church meetings, read bible, pray) but we need to go further and have intimacy. It was David's intimacy with God that drove him to true repentance. If only Judas had the same intimacy as David did, things may have turned out different for him.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Does Christ live in every believer?

The Apostle Paul once asked the believers in Corinth to test if Christ was indeed living in them:
2 Corinthians 13:5
"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!"
If Paul was asking the carnal Corinthian believers if Jesus was living in them, shouldn't we also examine ourselves who believe? How do we know if Christ is living in us? I used to think Christ was living in everyone who claimed to be a believer, but Paul seems to make it not so certain.

It turns out Jesus actually gave conditions for his indwelling in believers that went beyond simply believing:
John 14:26
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him."
What other conditions can we glean from the bible? For one, if Jesus and the Father are living in us, we will have the Father's love. If we don't have the Father's love in us, God probably isn't making his home in our hearts. Is there anywhere in the bible where it says believers can be without the love of the Father?
1 John 2:15
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Here the Apostle John seems to imply that God cannot be living in you if you love the world or the things of the world! How many Christians do you know that love the world? Do you love the world?

So at the very least, Christ living in us is conditioned on our loving him, obeying him and not loving the world. Is there anything else?
1 John 3:6
No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.
This is one of the hardest verses to take in 1 John. It clearly states that whoever lives in sin (not just stumbling in sin which we all do, but staying enslaved to sin in a way that it masters and controls us)  has never known God or seen him. There are many Christians today who are living in sin and believe they are going to enter the kingdom of heaven at the end of this age. This would explain why Jesus declares in Matthew 7:23 "Depart from me I never knew you! You workers of lawlessness" to the many believers who said to him "Lord, Lord! Didn't we do all this stuff for you?"

Anyone living in a home becomes intimately familiar with their place of living. If the home were alive, you could also say it should intimately know its inhabitants. John is saying again that Christ can't be and has never lived in believers who continue in sin. Although I'm not a full blown Calvinist, you cannot argue that this one of the strongest verses supporting the Calvinistic doctrine that believers who fall away were never saved to begin with.

Why make such a big issue of God living in us? Why is Christ living in us so important? It's because that's how Jesus fulfills the moral law of the Old Testament. Christ says in Matthew 5:17 that He didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it. Many take this to mean that we are no longer under the moral commandments of the Old Testament and that keeping these commandments is old school and we only need to confess our sins. Free grace Christians often point to Galatians 3:25 where Paul says we are no longer under the law. However, was Paul really talking about the moral law? Or was he just referring to the sacrificial and ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, many which were fulfilled when Jesus died as the lamb of God and rose again. Does the New Testament teach that we are no longer under the moral law?
Galatians 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Read the words in bold again, and you'll realize that they all refer to keeping the moral commandments listed in the Old Testament! However, those of us living in the New Covenant have a distinct advantage, and that is that we know we don't have to keep these commandments out of our own self effort, but by simply keeping the first commandment: "love God with all your heart, soul and mind" which also results in obeying God, both Christ and the Father will make his home in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (John 14:26). This is why Paul says in Romans 8:1(KJV) that those walk according to their spirit and not the flesh are in Christ Jesus and therefore are no longer under condemnation.

Last but not least, before Christ's resurrection life can live in you, first you must die! As Christ was crucified, have you also crucified the desires of your flesh yet? Did you also know that unless you do so, according to Galatians 5:14 you don't really belong to him?
Galatians 5:14
And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
And straight from the mouth of Jesus:
Matthew 10:38
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Praise God though because life doesn't stop at the cross, we can share in Jesus' resurrection life today after we've died to our old carnal man. After we received John's baptism of repentance which signifies the death of our old man, our previous sinful way of living, God is faithful to send the Holy Spirit to baptize us in fire (Matthew 3:11). In the Old Testament, the Israelites would provide the sacrifice and God would send fire to consume it. In the New Covenant, we present our bodies as the living sacrifice and God sends his Holy Spirit of fire to consume us and live in us (Romans 12:1) ! How cool is that?

On an unrelated note, if Christ is indeed living in Christians who past the test, then brothers and sisters need to treat each other as if they are Jesus. Maybe a lot of strife and fighting among Christians could be avoided if everyone treated each other as if they were actually Jesus :) The Matthew 25 sheep & goat judgment also touches on this.
Colossians 1:27
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.