Seth’s Line

This entry is part 384 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Linus Schütz from Pixabay

Did God appoint Seth to be a replacement for his older brother Abel?

It’s probably better to think of Seth not as a replacement of Abel, but as the continuation of the godly line in the beginning of Genesis. What I mean by this is that it’s not that Seth replaced his brother. To our knowledge, Abel didn’t have any children.

However, Cain clearly represented the ungodly line because of his actions and the actions of his descendents. It was clear after God banished him from the garden and from the land around the garden to wander with a mark on his forehead that God could not use his descendents in the same way he could use Seth’s descendents.

The descendents of Seth seemed to be more godly than the descendents of Cain. So it is most likely that the idea here isn’t replacement of Abel but more of a continuation of those who seek to please God not only in their sacrifices and offerings but also in the way that they live.

When you trace the genealogies throughout the early parts of the book of Genesis, you see that Cain’s line looks a lot different than Seth’s. And Seth’s line tends to lean more toward the godly individuals we look at in the genealogy.

At least one example of these is Enoch. He walks with God for 365 years and then God takes him from the earth because of his righteousness. You don’t see anything close to that in the line of Cain. So it is most likely that the Bible is tracking two different ways of living, two different lines, one more godly and the other one is godly.

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Our New Identity in Christ Part 2

This entry is part 71 of 71 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

One of my favorite kinds of stories is whenever there is a hero whose world is changed in an instant and he must learn how to conquer all odds, find confidence in himself, and become the person who can win the battle of his lifetime.

They call this the “hero’s journey” model of storytelling. And if you are not sure what I’m talking about, you’ve never heard a story. Almost every story that has a hero, and every story must, talks about this transition from the way things were to the way things are now.

Consider with me that the Christian life is also the story of the hero’s journey. Except this time, the hero of the story is Jesus because of the changes he makes in every Christian. He’s the one who turns life upside down at the moment of salvation.

The life we used to live, it dies at the cross. And the hero, Jesus, begins his masterful work in us, changing us from the inside out. He declares us to be victors with him but then we become victorious as we obey the Holy Spirit.

As we talk about the first set of identity changes Jesus makes in us to make us conquerors, I want to focus on that moment of conversion. All of these parts of the identity of Christ in us begin at the moment of salvation.

Each is an image of conversion that shows how we can never be the same again. As we look at each one of these, you will see the total change Jesus makes. It’s not that it’s impossible to go back, but like the hero on his quest, Jesus compels us to go deeper in him and farther on our journey toward becoming like him.

From Darkness to Light

A common theme, or motif, used by several of the New Testament writers focuses on the difference between darkness and light. Jesus talked about being late of the world and us as lights with him (Matthew 5:13-16; John 8:12).

John uses this image probably more than others in the New Testament. Darkness leaves us wondering what is ahead of us while the light illuminates our path. It represents wickedness and evil in the world. The whole Bible likens evil forces and wickedness to darkness. Down to

But the light represents righteousness and goodness. John declares God is light and there is no darkness in him at all (1 John 1:5). So God is on the side of goodness and righteousness. When Jesus declares he is the Light of the world,, he declares he is God in the world.

But we are also in the world and we are lights for Jesus. In Ephesians 5:8, Paul describes our journey with Christ from darkness to light, from the old life to the new.

Then Paul gives us one of our identities in Christ, as his children of light (Ephesians 5:9). We now live to serve Jesus, the Light of the world. Children of light do righteousness and good in the world.

We represent Jesus as his lights in the world. We make choices that honor God and please him. We glorify him in our actions. Paul further describes righteousness as fruit, or works, that are good, right, and true.

Unlike before we met Jesus, we reject selfish desires and please Jesus. We understand the world in a wholly different way. We choose to live for him every day. We don’t always get it right. Not every choice or action is always good or pleases God.

But we strive to obey the Holy Spirit, and he always leads us to the fruit of a child of light. So we shine like Jesus’ lights in the world. We show the world what it’s like to work for the Light of the world. We do it because this is who God has declared us to be. We are children of light. We know no other identity.

No Longer Strangers

Paul also describes us is no longer strangers and aliens. We began our journey by being God’s enemies. In Ephesians 2:11-17, Paul highlights how Jesus became the peacemaker, making peace between Jews and Gentiles.

In the Bible, you are either one of God’s people as a Jew, or you are a Gentile. No matter how you look at it, Paul explains in the first half of Romans that whether Jew or Gentile, we have all failed to be God’s people on our own account.

This is why Jesus came, to make peace between God and us. He came to bring reconciliation. And once you meet Jesus, you don’t want to go back. It’s possible to fall away from him, but you don’t want to.

Paul focuses on Gentiles in the flesh, because he is speaking to the mostly Gentile East Asian Christians. He defines their relationship, and ours before we met Christ, as hostile toward God (Ephesians 2:11-12). We fought God at every turn.

He could’ve left us there, but instead he sent Jesus to be our peace. Paul uses language that shows a clear-cut difference between then and now. He begins Ephesians 2:13 with, “But now…” He uses language of distance. He says we were far off and have now been brought near, the same kind of language Peter uses in his sermon in Acts 2:39

The power of the blood of Jesus changed our lives forever (Ephesians 2:13). It brought us close, now part of God’s family. We are no longer strangers or aliens in a foreign land. This land has now become our home. We have become part of the people of God.

Jesus broke down all the barriers that kept us from a relationship with him (Ephesians 2:14-17). Paul describes a physical wall in the Temple in Jerusalem that kept Gentiles in the outer court. They weren’t allowed to go into the court of Israel.

This wall had a sign that threatened immediate death to any Gentile that tried to cross it. But Jesus removed every barrier that kept us from him. He made it possible for us to be reconciled to God so we can be part of his family.

Now everyone who believes in Jesus has access to the Father through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:18). This is a beautiful image of our conversion experience. Once locked out of heaven, we are now children of light, friends of God. Only Abraham and Moses were called friends of God. Because of Jesus, every believer in Jesus is a friend of God today.

Putting on Christ

Another image Paul uses is that of putting on Christ like a coat (Galatians 3:27). This is the choice we make to serve Christ every day. If we don’t have it in our minds eye that we can put on Christ on a regular basis, be enveloped in him in his presence, we will go backward instead of forward.

Paul is in the middle of talking about what it means to put on Christ, to make his identity our first identity. Jesus doesn’t change everything about us when we become Christians. For instance, I’m still an American citizen. I’m still a male.

He follows this verse about putting on Christ to show that these other identities we have, the other ways that people think about us, are secondary to the fact that we now belong to Christ. His identity is our first identity.

All the things the world uses to divide us into groups don’t matter anymore. We are first and foremost Christians, part of God’s family and members of Christ. It doesn’t mean that we are no longer these other things. I’m still a guy and I’m still an American.

But before I am those things, I consider myself a Christian, united with Christ and the other saints that are part of his body. If I can illustrate it like this, I don’t like to call myself an American Christian. I would rather call myself a Christian American.

You see what I did there? I placed my identity in Christ above my country of origin. But I have a much greater and more lasting identity in Christ than in anything else the world considers me to be.

When we “put on Christ,” a reference to water baptism that symbolizes our conversion in Christ, we make him our first identity. Being part of Christ is a greater identity to us than any other identity we may have.

The world uses our identity to divide us. They put us in groups and strip away our individuality. They say our power is in these groups to get what we want. But being identified with Christ is our greatest power. His power is the greatest.

Conclusion

Can you see the power in our converted identity in Christ? When we become Christians, we receive an identity unlike any other identity we’ve ever had. It is the very best of us because it is Christ in us.

When Jesus converts us to children of light, friends of God, and we put on Christ above all other identities, he gives us a strength we didn’t know we had. This is why it’s so important to know our identity in Christ.

This identity has spiritual power to break down strongholds and claimed great things in God’s promises. It has the power to be part of God’s side, no longer enemies and part of his judgment. We gain a power stronger than anything we ever knew.

Leave a comment and tell me what you think about the power of these first ways of looking at our identity in Christ. Have you ever realized exactly what Jesus did when we became believers in him?

In our next deep look into our identity in Christ, we will speak of a change in perspective that Jesus brings into our lives. This will reorient our mind to understand how we are different from the world and how we can show the world this difference. Stay tuned!

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Suppressing the Truth

This entry is part 383 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In Romans 1:18, what is the relationship between men’s unrighteousness and their suppression of the truth?

Paul further explains the point that he makes in Romans 1:18 as you continue through the paragraph. Romans 1:18-23 gives the complete thought of the apostle Paul concerning the suppression of truth and wickedness of humanity.

He lays out the main point he is making in Romans 1:18. The focus is on God’s wrath. God’s wrath is coming because of the unrighteousness of humanity. But how are they righteous? They suppress the truth about God.

Suppressing the truth about God is the unrighteousness of humanity. The two are one and the same. Humans know that God exists because they can see the evidence of his existence (Romans 1:19-20).

God’s invisible qualities that cannot be seen (his eternal power and divine nature) are seen through what he has made (Romans 1:20). Creation itself shows God’s eternal power. It took his power, only the word of his mouth, to speak everything we see into existence.

Creation is the first witness of God’s existence to humanity. But instead we turn to things like chance and evolution to explain got away, suppressing the truth of God’s existence. Romans 1:21 expresses the idea that it is not that humans don’t realize God exists from what they see. It is that they do not want to recognize him as God and honor him.

Atheists are not necessarily saying that there isn’t a God. Philosophically, to be an atheist, you are saying that there is no God. But to say this, you have to have infinite knowledge of all things to be able to declare this as a fact. Instead, most atheists reject God’s rule over their lives in favor of doing their own thing.

Instead of recognizing the truth of the light of God’s existence, humanity chose to become futile in thinking which resulted in darkened hearts (Romans 1:21). By suppressing the truth about God and returning to their own ways of thinking, humanity made a bleak way ahead for itself.

Part of this may be Paul’s own commentary on Genesis 3 where Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They in a sense became their own gods, making their own moral decisions for themselves. They chose to rewrite history in that moment and ignore God as Creator.

Instead of seeing the big picture of God as Creator and Lord of heaven, they chose their own narrative instead and became their own arbiters of reality (Romans 1:22-23). Just to suppress the truth and be their own gods, they gave up the glory of the God outside of creation, the immortal God, for the images they could make on their own.

The problem with idolatry is that we are the ones who make the images that we then turn and bow down to. Yet as the creator of the idol, we relinquish our status as Creator to worship something we made with her own hands.

In the same way, we as the creation of God try to become God. But it doesn’t work both ways. While we can give up our status as creator of an idol we made, we cannot give up our status as the creation of a greater being like God.

The idols we make can only become our gods if we give them that status. But because we are the lesser thing God, created, rather than the Creator, we cannot choose our own status over him. We can deny the Creator his place, but we cannot change reality except in our own minds.

The true wickedness of humanity can be seen in our suppression of the truth because we allow ourselves to believe through deception that we can flip the script and make ourselves greater than we are. We can keep this deception up until we meet our Maker.

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God and Time

This entry is part 382 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by anncapictures from Pixabay

If a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day for the Lord, why did he create time in the first place?

This idea and phrase comes from 2 Peter 3:8. Before I talk about God and time, let me lay down the context of this passage so we can understand why Peter says this. Here’s the passage:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:8–10, ESV)

When Peter states that it is a fact that a thousand years is as a day to the Lord, he is using an illustration or example to show that the Lord is outside of time. The Lord does not endure the passage of time as we do. He is eternal and we are not.

This is one of the major differences between God and humans. Peter states this fact of God’s eternal reality to show that he can be very patient toward us and humanity in general. After he states the principle that God is outside of time, he gives the specific meaning for us, that God is patient toward us (2 Peter 3:9).

God had not yet sent Jesus back to retrieve the Church in the first century when Peter wrote this. People were calling God slow because he didn’t send Jesus back already. Perhaps he is speaking to false teachers and even persecutors of the church who are mocking the church for believing in the imminent return of Christ.

So Peter defends the idea of the imminent return of Christ at any time by saying that God is not slow but waiting on the full amount of people who will repent to repent before he sends Jesus back. And in case we thought that he will wait forever, Peter says that’s not the case.

He says that after God has waited patiently for the full number of people to repent, you will then bring the Day of the Lord, his day of judgment on all the people who did not repent (2 Peter 3:10). As part of that judgment, we will see amazing astrological and celestial signs of destruction because of the judgment of God.

I am not a physicist or scientist. However, I have the understanding that space and time must exist simultaneously. So for God to create the universe, time had to be part of the equation. But beyond this, I believe you are asking a more philosophical question than a scientific question.

Some people take this to literally mean that a thousand years can be compared to a day in the Bible. Then they take this idea and put it across all of Scripture. For instance, some of the people who hold this literal stance suggest that the six days of creation before the seventh day of rest for 6000 years instead of six literal 24 hour days.

The problem is that if you take this literalist view about a thousand years and a day, every time a day as mentioned in Scripture, they must make an interpretive decision on whether this is a 24 hour day or a thousand years.

It’s much better to understand what Peter is talking about in context and not use it as an overall rule to interpret the word “day” in all of Scripture. I hold to the standard that unless otherwise made clear, when we see the word “day” it probably means a literal 24 hour period.

If you see the word appear in apocalyptic literature or even prophetic literature, it may mean something other than a literal day. As we have seen, Peter is laying down a principle that God is eternal and outside of time.

This is a really neat thing when you think about it. God sees all of human history in one shot, and nothing as a surprise to him. Because he is outside of time, he knows what’s going to happen at the end. Nothing that happens to you or me is beyond his capability.

He is the God of human history, the King of all of creation and time. Time was created for humanity, not for God. He can choose when to insert himself into human history. He can decide when to interact with humanity. And we see throughout the Bible he does exactly that.

I caution against taking this principle of Peter literally. It is only an illustration to show that God is above time and he can use it however he wishes for his purposes. But we must be careful to not presume to know why God takes more time or less time from our perspective. God is in control.

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Noah and Wine

This entry is part 381 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Was Noah the inventor of wine? Does that help explain Genesis?

In Genesis 9:20-21, the Bible tells us that Noah became a man of the earth, a farmer of sorts, planted a vineyard, made wine, and became drunk. It further goes on to tell us about something that happened between Noah and his son, Ham, who saw his nakedness (Genesis 9:22-24).

What we know about this event is that Ham does something that makes him  and his descendents cursed. We don’t know exactly what he does or what the taboo is here. The Bible is not clear. But it makes definite illusions to something evil that Noah’s son does.

It’s not likely that Noah is the creator of wine. It’s much more likely that wine was already something that existed on the earth before the flood. Noah learned about it or how to make it before the flood.

Then after the flood, it’s one of the things he does. There’s nothing wrong with planting a vineyard. The Bible doesn’t speak anything against drinking alcohol. There is no prohibition against drinking alcohol in the Bible.

However, drunkenness is a sin. So for some reason Noah decided to push the issue and go to far. Everything was good until he became drunk. You can see from the cautionary event here that happened in his family with one of his sons that is drunkenness made him lose all of his inhibitions.

This is how he ends up uncovered in naked. Something happens because of Noah’s drunkenness. But his son is also at fault, perhaps more so since his father is drunk and not able to pay attention to what is happening. But the Bible has this event for some reason.

The reason in my opinion is to show us how dangerous drunkenness can be and why God does not permit drunkenness among his people. It leads to the release of inhibitions and bad things happen after people get drunk.

As far as the rest of the book of Genesis, the only lasting effect is the cursor over Canaan and Canaanites because of the sin of their descendent Ham. Genesis in the beginning eleven chapters highlights the sins of humanity that led it astray from God.

Noah’s single event of drunkenness here shows that humanity has really not changed. Even though God started over with a man who was righteous, he still had flaws. Earth would not be the perfect paradise that God originally intended when he created the Garden of Eden.

God would have to do something even more drastic than a great flood to get his creation back from sin and darkness. As much as Genesis 1-11 talks about all of the sins and wickedness that were on the earth that caused God to act in the flood, it also highlights some of the hope for later.

Genesis 3:15 prophesies in the midst of the curse on humanity, creation, and the serpent, that God would bring out of the woman his own seed or offspring. This refers to Jesus who would come much later but is the final solution to the sin problem of humanity.

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Our New Identity in Christ Part 1

This entry is part 70 of 71 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by ar130405 from Pixabay

Everyone needs to know who they are. Without knowing who you are, you will not be successful. You’ll spend most of your life still trying to find your identity. More than that, if you don’t know your identity, you won’t act like the person you’re supposed to be.

Identity is the foundation of our whole lives. We can search for years and years before we figure out who we really are. It’s hard to be comfortable in your own skin when you don’t know your identity.

So it’s even more important that those who follow Jesus, whose lives have been completely changed, know who they are in Christ. If we don’t know our identity in Jesus, we will spend most of our walk with him trying to be what we already are.

Christians who don’t realize their full identity in Christ bang their head against the wall of temptation and sin. Over and over they find themselves locked in a mortal battle with an enemy Jesus has already defeated.

As we embark on a study of the identity we have in Jesus Christ, I hope that you will not only learn your identity in Christ, but you will embrace it and live like what Jesus already has declared you to be.

A Sneak Peek at Identity

The New Testament says so much about our identity in Christ that it’s hard for me to put it in one blog post. I’ve decided to split it up into six. But I want you to know what you’re in for. I split the individual identities in Christ into four categories.

The first category we will cover is images of conversion. This has to do with how Jesus has changed our lives forever and what these images mean to us. They show us how we have changed in Christ and are fundamentally different than we used to be in our old lives before we met him.

The second category falls under a change in perspective. Each one of these explanations of identity in Christ shows how we now are different people and we operate in different ways. They emphasize how different we are from the world around us.

The change Jesus made in us is so significant that we don’t even look like the people we used to. This doesn’t mean that we don’t retain anything from before we met Christ. But it does mean we act a whole lot different than we ever did.

Each of these show how we are representative of Jesus Christ now. We live differently than the world and we act in different ways. Now that we are Christ’s representatives in this world, these qualities greatly affect our witness in the world and our lifestyle.

The third category of our changed identity is a new status. The discussions on these changes in our identity focus on a brand-new understanding of our place in God’s kingdom and family.

God has included us in a new inheritance and this changes how we see ourselves to agree with what God declares of us and how he sees us. This changes everything about our destiny. We are no longer condemned to God’s judgment and eternal death. Now we’re heading for a glorious destiny.

The final category of our identity in Christ declares the blessing we receive from him at salvation carrying on through in our walk with God. This category talks about our spiritual blessings received in Christ, our privilege to be his temples, exactly what he does in saving us, and how he is using us in the world today.

I’m excited to talk about our identity in Christ because I believe it is the reason most Christians do not advance toward holiness. Not knowing identity in Christ keeps us from achieving the level of obedience that moves us forward in our walk with him.

The Crucial Component

What specifically holds us back in our walk with him? It’s not only not knowing our true identity in Christ and practicing what we know to be true of ourselves in our lives. It’s much more than that.

If we could only understand with our minds what Jesus thinks of us, we would advance by light years in following him. There would be no more worrying about our salvation, temptation, sin, and a host of issues Christians rehash in their minds and hearts.

The mind is the battlefield for holiness, and knowing who we are in Christ can win that battle. This is one of the reasons one of the pieces of the Armor of God is the helmet of salvation. Our minds are not protected as we face the devil in battle.

He continues to question our faith in Christ, our commitment to the gospel, and our understanding of who Jesus says we are. When we are unclear on our identity in Christ, we cannot use it in the everyday battles we face.

Protecting our understanding and application of our true identity in Christ gives us the fortitude to fight and win every battle we face. It is locking in our mind who we are in Christ that gives us the upper hand.

When we clearly understand who we are in Christ, we don’t give up ground to the enemy, to temptation, to our fleshly desires, and to anything else that hinders us. We listen to the Holy Spirit and respond with obedience.

Changing Our Nature

Jesus changes us from the inside out, saves us, and sets us on this new path in him. But the change is so deep, so all-encompassing, that we really understand exactly what happens in our salvation. More than that, as we grow in Christ, become sanctified or made holy in him, it changes everything about us.

Jesus changes who we are, are very identity, when he sets us on this path. The old nature that we had, the old understandings we had, the old desires we had, are made new in Christ. Identity is at the core of our being. When he changes that, he changes us.

But if we don’t have a clear understanding of the deep changes Jesus has made, how he has transformed us, we easily go back to the old identity, the old self, and the old ways. When we don’t see ourselves the way he sees us, we revert to our worldly ways because we live in the environment of the world.

It’s when we truly understand who we are in Christ that we can stave off temptation and worldly desires. This is when we can be who Jesus declares us to be. When we know we’re different than the world, we act differently than the world does.

What we know about ourselves changes how we think, speak, and act. If I think that I grew up on the streets, not knowing that I was adopted and my parents were royalty, I act like a homeless vagabond. I learn my identity from others on the street instead of from the King who is my true father.

We must learn of our identity in Christ because it changes our thinking processes. We think like Jesus instead of the world. We speak life into our situation and those around us. And we reach out to be Jesus’ hands and feet, to represent him in this world.

One of the main contentions people in the world have against Christians is that they are hypocrites. This is because we can get our identity in Christ in our heads, but it doesn’t extend to our hearts. We don’t truly demonstrate our new identity in Christ regularly.

But knowing who we are in him gives us the ability to be more consistent with who we truly are. Sure, we will stumble from time to time, but when we walk with Jesus knowing who we are, we represent him better in this world.

Conclusion

As we embark on this series about identity in Christ and how it changes the way we live our lives for him in this world, I hope you enjoy our study and learn who you are in Christ. But even more than that, I hope you practice your identity in Christ in front of everyone you know.

It does us no good to know what the Bible says about us and how Jesus looks at us if we don’t live out our knowledge. It must be both a head and heart knowledge. As we begin this look into true identity, I pray that the Holy Spirit would place deep in your mind and heart these truths about who you are.

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Jesus’ Kingdom

This entry is part 380 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Parker_West from Pixabay

John 18:36 what’s your application and reflection?

This is one of my favorite conversations between Pilate and Jesus. It is the ultimate testimony of a pragmatist (Pilate) who cannot deny Jesus’ message. He’s not even trying to trap Jesus like the Pharisees and religious leaders of Israel.

He is only trying to figure out what to do with this man. He can understand that Jesus is innocent. But he is also between a rock and hard place. If he doesn’t do what the Jewish leaders want him to, he could have a riot on his hands.

He was always a pragmatist, someone who seeks their own gain in every situation. Everything he did in Palestine was for his own political gain. He hated dealing with the Jews because they were such a hard people to work with.

And then they bring him this Jesus who proclaims that he is a king. He doesn’t know what to do with this. If Jesus does proclaim himself a king of Palestine, and the Romans have a problem. The only king of Palestine they recognize is Caesar.

These would be grounds for him to do exactly what the Jews want him to do, kill Jesus for treason. But that’s not how it plays out. Jesus explains that he is the king of a different kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. That rules out killing him just because he thinks he is better than Caesar.

Jesus doesn’t even fully admit to it, telling him that everyone else has told him that he is a king. If it were up to Pilate, he would just like Jesus go and get on with his day. But the Jewish leaders are not going to allow him to do that.

He has to choose to act. A couple of times he has already said that he things Jesus is innocent. He can’t find any fault in him. But that doesn’t matter to the Jews. They want Jesus’ head. They will stop at nothing to see him crucified.

The Jewish leaders cannot kill Jesus and the common Jewish way. They can’t stone him to death. It’s illegal in the Roman province of Palestine for the Jewish leaders to handle their own matters in the way that the Torah prescribes.

So they’re left with going to Pilate, the Roman governor, to do their dirty work for them. He doesn’t want to do it, but he has to. In John 18:36, Jesus declares that he does have a kingdom, but it’s not of this world. And then he gives the proof that his disciples have not raised a finger to defend this “kingdom.”

Jesus’ kingdom begins in the hearts of people. He sits on the throne of our hearts as our Lord and Savior. It is nothing like the kingdoms of this world where our leaders Lord their position over us and tell us what to do.

Jesus’ kingdom is based on everything but the kingdoms of this world are not. His kingdom is based on love as the motivator for action. He doesn’t force us to do anything. We choose to do it out of love and gratitude to him.

Pilate would’ve never understood any of this. His only goal was to get Jesus out of his home so he could do what he wanted to do. Unlike the kingdoms of this world, Jesus’ kingdom is based on truth, God’s truth.

Pilate asks one of my favorite questions of the New Testament. He asks, “What is truth” (John 18:38)? But the saddest part is that he doesn’t wait around for the answer. He goes back out to declare Jesus innocent again.

The important thing to recognize is that truth has already been defined in the book of John. Go back to John 14:6 Jesus declares himself to be the “Way, Truth, and Life.” Truth is not objective or subjective. Truth is the person of Jesus Christ.

Pilate was this close to discovering who Jesus really is not only as a king of a different kingdom but also as the truth that he so long for all of his political career. The seeker of truth was sitting in front of the Truth. But his pragmatism didn’t allow him to take the closer look at Jesus he should have.

How would I apply this? First of all, Jesus’ kingdom is in the hearts of people, completely unlike the kingdoms of this world we are used to. We can look at our nations and our leaders and know that this is not the final state of things.

God is going to bring his kingdom through Jesus. He already began to inaugurate the kingdom of God when he first came to this earth. He preached and taught God’s kingdom, and then he showed it on the cross. It’s not a kingdom the nations of this world can control.

After they killed him, three days later Jesus rose from the grave. This kingdom of God cannot be stopped. Even the gates of Hell cannot prevail against it. We belong to a kingdom that will shake the nations of this world. We belong to a Savior who’s the ultimate Victor over this world.

We belong to a kingdom that subverts the nations of this world and its kingdoms. But it doesn’t do it in the way you think. It does it through love and peace. It does it one person at a time. God’s kingdom comes through the message of good news.

Second, I would apply it by saying that we need to slow down from our busy schedules and busy lifestyles to see the King of Kings standing before us. Jesus is the Truth we are all searching for. He is the one person who fills the holes in our hearts.

If we would wait long enough to see him for who he is, he will change our lives forever. Everything that we’ve been searching for we find in him. But we must take the time to evaluate his claims and see him for who he is.

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Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit Part 4

This entry is part 69 of 71 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Mauro Borghesi from Pixabay

None of the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit happen in the world around us regularly. We would be more surprised to see any of these nine virtues are characteristics of the Spirit in our world.

Even if we do find them in the world, they are only used for selfish gain. But the fruit of the Spirit is not to make us a better person so we can show off our superiority to others. His fruit in us makes us holy, conforming to Christ’s image. It shows the world the difference Jesus makes in us. It gives us access to the presence of God to dwell with him forever.

In the last several posts I have described the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work he does in our character and lives. I want to conclude this list with the last three, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Paul completes the list by talking about how they apply to the law of the land. He has really nailed down the character of Christ in these nine choices for explaining the Fruit of the Spirit. These characteristics of the Spirit’s work in us deal with inner character transformation. But people observe these characteristics in us as we act. They deal with our interactions with others.

Faithfulness

The seventh characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. But the word in the original language is just the word for faith. Just about everyone understands this to be a characteristic instead of the ability to have faith.

Faithfulness is the characteristic of being believable. When we speak about something, people should not think it is far-fetched. Some people will think this no matter what we say. But most people should understand that what we’re saying is believable and accurate to reality.

Faithfulness means that we are dependable and reliable people. Others can count on us when we give our word or say we will do something. We don’t want to be the kind of people that others can never take at their word.

We must be trustworthy people on every account. Faithfulness doesn’t come naturally to us. That’s why the Holy Spirit is working this quality in each of his people.

As with all of the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit, Jesus is our example. He is always faithful. All of his promises come true. We can trust his word and we see his works. He has never led us astray.

In relationships, we must be loyal friends, loyal family members, and loyal saints. We must stand for those in our relationships, defending them and telling the truth at all times. We keep our commitments to everyone.

We must be faithful to the gospel, God’s people, and God. When we speak about Jesus, we must be faithful in our witness, consistent. This is the only way lifestyle evangelism works. People will only listen to our witness if they see holy lives.

The last way we can think about being faithful is being a good and faithful steward of all that God entrusts to us. He must be able to put things in our hands to manage. Other people must be able to trust us as faithful managers.

Joseph was a great steward of all that was put before him whether he was in prison or the second in command of all of Egypt. The Holy Spirit is working faithfulness in each of us. It’s going to take time and we will improve in increments. But he never gives up on us.

Gentleness

Gentleness is hard to describe. This is a lot like meekness. It is a quiet strength. It’s power under control. It’s a person that can’t be provoked easily. Meekness is a synonym for gentleness.

The gentle person has a mild manner. Gentle people show consideration for others first, put others before themselves and think of others before themselves. They don’t have selfish ambition. They are considerate.

Already you can see that the Spirit must give us this quality. So many people like myself one to rise up in anger, especially when offended. And yet the Holy Spirit wants to guide us into the quality that uses that anger at the right time for the right reason.

Gentleness is often seen as a strength by Christians but not by the world. It’s patients and humility together. In fact, humility can be one of the hallmarks of the gentle person. Gentleness is the preferred quality when we deal with conflict, a fallen brother who needs to be restored, and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, to name a few approaches.

The gentle person is generous in giving themselves and their resources to others. He or she is a selfless person. This is a person who doesn’t demand their own rights and don’t think of themselves as superior to others.

They don’t assert themselves or their own agendas. This doesn’t mean that gentle people don’t have an agenda or any power. It’s that they yield them to others first. There’s always a time to address one’s own agenda, especially if it is a kingdom agenda.

A gentle person is always teachable, ready to learn, and open to correction. This is why we need the Spirit to cultivate it in us. Putting others first and being able to deal with conflict without becoming part of it is a special quality of the Spirit and takes his strength to instill in us.

Self-Control

Some people can be self-controlled with their own willpower for a time. Willpower sometimes helps us to attain self-control. But when we do it without the Spirit’s help, it doesn’t last and is often for selfish reasons.

One of the most holy things the Spirit can help us with his mastery over temptation, our impulses, fleshly desires, and sin. Just because we are new creatures in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t still have to keep the flesh under control.

Temptations weigh on former desires we must keep in check. Self-control helps us to do that. It helps us to live in the world but not be like the world. With self-control, we don’t yield to temptation.

Jesus is our example. He was tempted by the devil three times in the wilderness and yet did not yield to him at all. Self-control gives us complete control through the Spirit’s power.

The Bible often contrasts it with self-indulgence in sexual matters, drunkenness, and the like. But self-control is much wider than these issues. Self-control Christians control everything about their behavior, thoughts, and speech.

We can’t keep our desires and passions under control without the Spirit dwelling in us. We need his power every day to deny the flesh and our own desires. The Bible calls us to take up our cross daily. Self-control helps us to do it.

We might momentarily fall to our temptations. But the power of the Spirit lives in us. We can be restored in Christ and walk with him again. We must avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power as he teaches us to have self-control.

One of the best ways to understand self-control is through discipline. Like athletes, we deny certain things as we run the race Christ marked out for us. Discipline keeps us from worldly passions and allows us to stay on the right path with Christ.

No Law against Them

Paul ends the list by saying that there is no law against these nine qualities. Some people believe Paul targeted the fruit toward the Galatians. But if they’re in the Bible, they give us a starting point to understand the Spirit’s work in us.

He is cultivating more than just these nine characteristics of his fruit. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list. The Holy Spirit works in us whatever we need to conform to Christ’s image. But this is a great template for him to start from.

Paul says this as an understatement. It calls to mind what he said earlier in the passage about the works of the flesh, that they disqualify us from inheriting God’s kingdom. Laws are made for the works of the flesh, but the fruit of the Spirit works for everyone, not against us.

No one will charge you if you demonstrate the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit rather than the 19 works of the flesh. The character of the Spirit isn’t against any law a nation creates. But it does work against our natural tendencies. This is why the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ.

Conclusion

We have talked about the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work of the Spirit in our character and lives. We can see how the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ, to conform to his image (Romans 8:29).

But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just wave a wand and make us the holy people of God. It takes our obedience to listen to the Spirit, knowing which part of the Fruit he wishes to address and work on next.

We work with the Holy Spirit through obedience. He changes us little by little as we walk the path of righteousness with Jesus. Leave a comment and tell me if this short study on the Fruit of the Spirit has helped you.

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Old Testament Saints

This entry is part 379 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Shutterbug75 from Pixabay

Were the Old Testament saints limited only to the Israelites according to the Bible or were any gentile nations included in the contract with God?

When you say contract, you are probably referring to the covenant. The covenant itself was only for Israel. It was Israel that God was making not only a nation, but also his nation. So they are the only ones to have received the covenant at Mount Sinai with Moses.

However, throughout the Old Testament there are signs that other people from the nations, Gentiles, came to become believers in God. Yahweh may have taken Israel as his own nation, but he also meant for them to evangelize nations around them.

For instance, take Jonah. He goes to Nineveh for the express purpose of telling them that God’s judgment is coming their way. Nineveh was the capital of Assyria, at the time, Israel’s enemy. Cereal was the nation to take the northern kingdom of Israel into exile.

Jonah was no friend of the Ninevites. When he went to Nineveh to proclaim God’s judgment, he almost relished telling them that God was going to destroy them in his wrath. However, as is always the case with God’s judgment, there is always a note of grace.

Jonah was not only required to tell the Ninevites that God was going to judge them and destroy them but that if they would repent he would turn from his judgment and embrace them. The nightmare for Jonah is that the people responded to the message he gave by repentance. God spared his arch enemies, the Ninevites.

Throughout the Old Testament, we read stories here and there of one or two, maybe even an entire family, accepting the message of Israelite prophets who brought the same types of messages as Jonah to Gentiles who received them and changed from their ways.

So while there is probably only the one reference to the Ninevites, a whole city of Assyrians, accepting the message of repentance and responding to it, we see Gentiles coming to God through Israelite evangelism in the Old Testament.

The sad thing is that these are rare occurrences instead of the regular operation of Israel. They tended to look down on the nations around them because the nations did not receive the special revelation of God’s Law.

Israel enjoyed knowing exactly what God expected of them, but the nations around them scratched in the darkness hoping to stumble upon whatever would please their gods. Most of the time, the Gentiles had no idea how to please their idols.

The Israelites could have used this as part of their witness to the nations around them, but sadly most of the time they scoffed at their neighbors. Nobody is perfect and evangelism efforts. We all make these mistakes from time to time.

May the story be told of Christians that they reached out at every opportunity to preach God’s kingdom through words and actions to everyone they met.

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Apocrypha and the Bible

This entry is part 378 of 396 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Bohdan Chreptak from Pixabay

Why are the Apocrypha not part of the Bible? Who decided they shouldn’t count?

The Apocrypha was never actually part of the Bible. Let me explain a little bit further. Even the Jewish people did not consider the Apocrypha to be part of Scripture. They saw the Apocrypha as Jewish history.

The difference for criteria for a biblical book is that it must be inspired by God. Although the Jews considered the Apocrypha helpful for history, they did not believe it was inspired by God. The way it found its way into Scripture is that it was often included in the back of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament from around the 200s BC to 200s AD.

It was included as popular literature among the Jews, especially in the first century. We can see its popularity because Jude and a couple of other New Testament writers include examples from apocryphal books like Enoch.

If it makes it into a sermon illustration, it’s a pretty popular thing. So as long as the Septuagint, read by Jews all over the Greco-Roman world who had never come back from the exile in the Old Testament, survived and was copied, the Apocrypha survived.

It was probably continued by the early church, still being popular reading. There is nothing wrong with the Apocrypha as long as you don’t consider it inspired Scripture. Christians have carried on the tradition of the Jews in this matter. Because the Jews did not consider it inspired or Scripture, so also the Christians did not.

It has been included in most Catholic Bibles. Even today you can open up a Catholic Bible and will see the Apocrypha in it, right between the Old and New Testaments. During the Reformation, the Reformers did not include these books in their translations of the Bible. So you will be hard-pressed to find it in a Protestant Bible.

When the Canon of Scripture, the books of the Bible accepted as inspired for the church, was considered, Christians accepted the 39 books the Jews considered inspired as the Old Testament. Then by the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, the church finally affirmed the 27 books of the New Testament we have in our Bibles today.

They also considered the Canon closed. This means that there will never be any books added to the 66 books of the Bible. These are considered the ones inspired by the Holy Spirit. You will find them in every Bible, whether you find other books were not.

I would also like to point out for the New Testament that the 27 books the Council of Nicaea finally acknowledged have earlier been mentioned in other Canon lists, as early as the 160s AD. But Jews and Christians alike have never considered the Apocrypha part of the Bible.

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