Realm of the Dead

This entry is part 85 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds

What was the realm of the dead and can you explain the biblical worldview?

There are a number of rebellions in the book of Numbers. Beginning in Numbers 12:1-16 before the Israelites spy out the land, Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam , oppose his leadership. It seems to be over a family dispute but gets public. God strikes Miriam with leprosy for seven days.

I guess the people didn’t get the message. In Numbers 14:1-12, right after Moses sends spies into the land of Canaan, the people want to go back to Egypt. Got almost kills them all with the pestilence but Moses goes to bat for them.

Big surprise. Once again, the people rebel. In Numbers 16, three of the chief leaders rise up against Moses. They mischaracterize him as an arrogant man. And they refuse his leadership. Moses presents a test the next day for 250 chiefs of the tribes who stand against him.

They fill their sensors at the tabernacle and that the whole of Israel moves away from them as these 250 men, leaders of tribes, find that Aaron’s sensor is the one God accepts. Their punishment is to be swallowed up by the ground, the camps and everyone in them.

It was more than 250 men. Their families and everyone in that area where the ground opened up was swallowed. God takes leadership seriously and when he ordains the leadership, no one should stand against it. David understood this when he talked about not touching the Lord’s anointed.

But the question brings us to another point. What is the worldview of how everything works within creation? The biblical worldview was simpler than our worldview might be today. The ancients believed the world could be divided into three partitions.

The first partition is the land that we walk on. This is the realm of humanity. Everyone lives and breathes and works on this part of the world. Especially in the biblical times no human being expected to fly in the sky.

The second partition is the sky or the heavens. From the Old Testament to the New Testament views on these three partitions were expanded. In the Old Testament, they would have understood the sky to be one partition in which the birds, the stars (including the sun and moon), the planets, and heaven where God dwells are all the same area.

In the New Testament, the skies or heavens were expanded into three sub- partitions. The first heaven was the realm of the birds and anything that could fly in the atmosphere. The second sub partition above it was the realm of the stars and planets, the universe. The third heaven, which Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:2 is God’s realm. This is the place where God dwells with his saints.

The third partition in the biblical worldview is the underworld. In the Old Testament, this is named Sheol, the grave, or the pit. Ancient Israelite understanding of the underworld wasn’t well-defined.

They talk about going to the pit where their ancestors dwell. Some of them say things like joining their fathers. As far as we understand it today, they believed that this place was the place they went where they died. It is uncertain if they believed that one day they would be moved from this place to another.

Sometimes it sounds like they believe in the resurrection after death. If this is the case, they would have understood Sheol to be a holding place for their souls until the Lord arrived and took them with him.

In the New Testament, after the influence of the Greeks, Persians, and Romans, they had an understanding of Hades, the underworld as an inescapable afterlife where you are alive in some fashion. You can’t leave the underworld.

This will be the place they considered. Jesus described it in several ways when he preached and taught. This doesn’t mean that he accepted all of these understandings of the underworld in his time. It means he used them as illustrations when he spoke of that place.

Hell is the place you don’t want to go. It is the place where the unrighteous who don’t know Christ end up. These are some of the basic understandings of the biblical worldview. We still work with most of these understandings, especially from New Testament times.

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Relationship with Jesus

This entry is part 99 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay

What’s the importance of being in relationship with Jesus?

Our relationship with Jesus is everything! It’s the reason we can’t just talk about judgment and wrath. But we must all realize that a relationship with Jesus is not a done deal. What I mean by that is that we can’t just profess faith in him and then do what we want.

When he changes our hearts, he changes our desires. What we want to do is worship, love, and serve him. If we still want to do our own thing, then we need to keep listening for that change. I assure you, as we grow in godliness the Holy Spirit will demand obedience and have a list of things he wants to address.

I use the example of a husband-wife relationship. Throughout the Old Testament God likens his relationship with Israel, his people, to a marriage. But don’t think were off the hook in the New Testament. Sorry to tell the guys this, but the church is the bride of Christ.

If a husband ignores his wife I guarantee she won’t stick around forever. If a wife doesn’t receive even what she thinks she needs, she is not going to stick around. And if a husband gets “bored” with the relationship he won’t either. If the wife isn’t “in love” with her husband anymore she’s out of there.

These may be extreme examples but the point stands. We are in a relationship with Jesus. This requires that we put work into it. It requires that we listen and obey. It requires that we trust him without question. It requires that we do what he says if we call him, “Lord.”

Relationships are not static. They had ebbs and flows. David was one of those men whose life is transparent in the Psalms. One moment he’s up and the next he’s down. One moment he’s glorifying God for listening to his every prayer and the next minute he’s asking where God went.

Our relationship with Jesus is going to have its ups and downs. We are going to be high on victory mountain one day and low in the valley another. The one constant is Jesus’ love for us and our trust in him. There’s a deep joy that comes with this relationship.

Those same married couples examples I mentioned above can weather the storms of life. As the relationship matures, they won’t even have the same conversations as they grow old together. Even if each person changes, love will hold them together.

The best that I can tell you is that Jesus never changes. He remains the same. But we are changing. We are becoming more like him. I’ve talked about it before but there is a line where our relationship with Jesus can be severed. I believe that line is different for every individual.

But our goal isn’t to find the line that gives us a “Get out of relationship with Jesus free” card. God knows our hearts and he knows when we slide toward that line. But who can find a love like the love of Jesus? It’s worth the adventure!

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Dramatic Judgment

This entry is part 98 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

What was the difference between the dramatic Old Testament judgments and God dealing with us in the New Testament?

I think a couple of the reasons people think that God is not as judgmental or doesn’t bring his wrath as much in the New Testament can be stated.

First, Jesus is a major difference. God in flesh walking among us changed everything. This was God’s plan to bring salvation to the world. Jesus came to suffer in our place and die. But he also taught us what God expects from us in his life and ministry, his teachings and commandments.

Second, there is a theological paradigm called, “Already But Not Yet.” It states that because God works through time everything he has planned has not yet happened. We’re in the middle between the cross of Calvary and the total fulfillment of his promises.

This suggests to us that we haven’t seen all of God’s wrath yet. When you read Revelation and some other places in the New Testament, you begin to realize that God’s not done yet. He’s not done waiting for people to come to him and receive his grace, and he’s not done pouring out his wrath.

These are two reasons that we should not make the final assessment of his grace or his wrath. He may still allow the earth to swallow people up. We know some of what he is going to do from apocalyptic texts like some of the prophets and Revelation.

What I can tell you is that if you have a vibrant relationship with Jesus you have nothing to worry about. God’s grace is extended to you. Avoid the path that leads to destruction. The time until the end is short. Don’t become calloused toward him. And you will come out approved by God.

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A Different God

This entry is part 100 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Does God seem to act differently in the Old Testament?

At first glance many people believe that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are different. The God of the Old Testament is judgmental and angry. He’s always visiting death and punishment on the Israelites in the wilderness.

But the God of the New Testament, Jesus, comes to us in bodily form and rescues us from sin. He gives us eternal life forever in heaven and seems more concerned about our souls. This is the caricature we get from some scholars and some preachers.

But this is not the case. The New Testament states at least twice that God doesn’t change (James 1:17; Hebrews 13:8). If he doesn’t change, then he acts the same way throughout history. Let me give you a few key points of clarification.

God’s Judgment

In the Old Testament the judgments of God do seem severe. But he was reacting to a people (the Israelites) he had rescued from Egypt out of the house of slavery and made his children. It was his nation and so they had a reputation to uphold.

In the New Testament God’s judgments can also be severe. The church is “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9). This is no different than Israel. And God visits terrible judgments on people like Ananias and Sapphira who lie to his Spirit.

For everyone who is not a believer in Jesus, God’s wrath will be poured out on them both in this life and at the end of time. In the end times God has a large list of judgments and wrath he is pouring out on them. You won’t get very far into the book of Revelation before you want to be part of the church group.

God’s Grace

In the Old Testament God’s grace ranges from the sacrificial system to including Gentiles as his people. The law of Moses had extremely harsh measures and punishments for people who committed crimes against it. Death was a common penalty.

But there is a theological point to why death was the penalty for many broken laws. Sin leads to death. And the laws attempted to keep the people from outwardly sinning against God. The laws were unbearable and many people would have died if it weren’t for the sacrificial system.

This sacrificial system that looks forward to Jesus allowed the people to put in their place and animal to be sacrificed to God. Instead of the person dying, the animal died in his or her place. Without this grace of God in the Old Testament, nobody would have survived the law.

The prophet Jonah is sent to his arch enemies, the Ninevites. God sends him with a message that the people will all die because they have violated God’s laws. If they turned to him he would forgive them and they would know his prosperity.

Even though Jonah didn’t want to go and preach this good news, he ended up there anyway. And when he preached, he was heavy on the judgment and light on the grace. But it didn’t matter because the people got the message and turned to God.

The book of Jonah ends with the prophet sulking under a tree that got provided because the people got saved. And God ends the book on a note of grace that it’s his prerogative to save people who don’t deserve it.

In the New Testament many people find God’s grace easily. Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. He offers eternal life for everyone who follows him. Anyone who becomes part of this group is free from God’s wrath.

So we can see that God has not changed between the Testaments. The same God who visits judgment and wrath in the Old Testament visits the same in the New Testament. And God’s grace is readily available in both.

I am glad that I was changed from death to life, from wrath to love, and from judgment to grace. Anyone who doesn’t know Jesus can have the same experience when they turn to him, repent of their sins, commit their lives to Christ in obedience, and follow him. As just as God’s judgments are, his grace is all the more merciful.

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The Double-Sided Coin

This entry is part 32 of 32 in the series Holiness Matters
Image by Frauke Feind from Pixabay

Everybody is concerned about their image. Our culture tells people that they are overweight. Multiple commercials bombard us in the middle of every TV show break touting this weight-loss system or that one.

But the thing is that we all know food is only one part of the equation. There’s also exercise, sleeping well, keeping stress down, etc. All of these things play into the full equation of life, lifestyle, and habits that determine how well we feel and look.

Holiness is the same way. Scholars and theologians debate over whether it is a complete act of God or whether we have a part in it. They debate about salvation as well. As soon as we’re made aware of Christ and his sacrifice for us, do we choose to be Christians or does he make us Christians?

As far as I understand it, it’s a little of both. God honors our free will decision to follow him and be obedient to him. He honors our decision to serve him with our whole being, to make him Lord and every situation, and to do everything he commands.

And yet, the Holy Spirit draws us toward God and regenerates our hearts so that we can respond to the gospel and become part of his family. God does the work, the Father planning our salvation through conforming us to the image of Christ. The Son gave his life to free us from sin and bring us into righteousness. And the Holy Spirit seals us at salvation and enters our lives to make us like Christ.

All of this happens when we are saved and all of this is part of the plan of sanctification, or the process to become holy. God has already declared us holy at salvation. His declaration becomes reality in our lives over time.

We know the Holy Spirit works closely with us in our hearts to change our character to resemble Christ’s. He is the one who is making us holy little by little. He chooses this area, and concentrates on that issue until we become obedient to him and our character resembles Christ in that area.

But there is an interesting passage in Philippians where Paul seems to indicate that we are the ones who work out our salvation and our holiness. Philippians 2:12 tells us that we work on our salvation but God also works on it. This creates quite a conundrum for many Christians.

What am I responsible for in my salvation and sanctification? What should I let to God for him to do as I take a backseat? This become so confusing that most Christians don’t even take up the arguments or discover how to apply this verse to their lives.

On the human side, Paul indicates we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. What is working out our salvation? Salvation begins our walk with God but sanctification, or becoming holy, is how we continue to walk with him.

To work out our salvation is to listen to the Holy Spirit and to obey him when he speaks. He is the one presiding over our journey toward holiness. The more we listen and obey, the faster he can work God’s desired character in us.

Throughout the Bible, we are commanded to be holy as the Lord is holy (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). Especially the New Testament letters are chock-full of commands for us to 6 to be like Jesus. So on the human side of things, people might think that there become too many things to do.

They might argue, “What happened to salvation through faith by grace?” They get this from Ephesians 2:8 where Paul says salvation is God’s work, not ours. We can’t do anything to earn salvation.

But we’re not talking about salvation. We are talking about sanctification. And the works we do don’t save us. They please God. They are not about us looking good or thinking we accomplish this on our own. They are steps of obedience to the Holy Spirit on the road to holy living.

So our works are not bad things. We are not aiming to be saved because we already are. We aim to obey the Spirit and please God. That’s what works after salvation are all about. And all of these works start with the only thing God requires of all of us – obedience. That is our work in sanctification.

So what about the “fear and trembling” part? We do these things in the fear of the Lord. We revere him and that is why we want to do everything we can find that pleases him. The trembling comes from knowing what happens when we decide not to obey him. He does not punish but he will discipline us.

We must not get too comfortable with sin. If we allow temptation and sin to overtake us without asking God for forgiveness and getting back on track with Jesus, we will eventually slip away from them with a calloused heart. That is the fear and trembling.

On God’s part, he works in us so that we do his will and bring him pleasure. God wants to delight in each of us. Like a doting Father he wants us to be on his lips like Job in the Old Testament. As long as he doesn’t sign me up for those kinds of trials, I want to be on his mind.

How does God work in us? One of the perfect examples of this is Romans 8:29-30. God predestines that those who love them, those who are saved and want to please him will become like Jesus.

Predestination is not to salvation. It is to guarantee that we will conform to Christ if we obey his Spirit through the process of becoming holy. It is through this conforming to Christ that we become comfortable in God’s family.

As he is working out is sanctification and making salvation final in us, as he guarantees the process of holiness, he calls us to service in his kingdom and in his Church. He also justifies us, making us righteous before him. He declares us justified at salvation but makes us justified as we live to please him.

And in the end, he will glorify us. We will finally arrive. This isn’t just some “love the journey” and wish it had a destination. The destination is that we finally arrive. But when we do, it will be in heaven forever more in God’s presence. So it is a journey but it has a destination.

When we look at the process of working out our salvation and seeing what God does on his end, any of us would realize that he does all the work. Our obedience is all he needs to make it happen. But we don’t always make it so easy for him.

The one thing he asks us to do in our sanctification, obedience, is the hardest thing for us. We must learn to trust him even in the midst of the storm. We don’t find that easy no matter how much we mentally ascend to trusting Jesus. We always begin to look at the wind and waves like Peter.

So that is the challenge set before us in this relationship. We must trust and obey that God knows best and is working out our salvation. When we obey him, we are working that salvation out. It will take the rest of our lives to reach this destination. But when we do, what a glorious day that will be!

Leave a comment and let me know what you think about the double-sided process of what God does in our lives and how we obey him.

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Examples of New Testament Judgment

This entry is part 84 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by Bela Geletneky from Pixabay

What are some examples of God’s judgment of believers in the New Testament?

We’ve already discussed some of the judgments of God in the New Testament, like judgment beginning with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17). We also went in-depth about judgment at the Lord’s Supper.

But the New Testament has other judgments. First of all, just about everyone is familiar with the Great White Throne judgment. This judgment is only for unbelievers. Believers will go through the Bema judgment for rewards. I’ve discussed these two judgments in a previous Q&A.

Ananias and Sapphira

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) are another example of God’s judgment upon believers in the New Testament. They chose to grieve the Holy Spirit by lying about the amount of money they pledged to the church (Acts 5:3-4).

They didn’t have to lie. They could’ve told the church they were giving part of what they earned instead of all of it. But they didn’t do that. They said they were giving all of it when they weren’t.

Peter receives a word of knowledge from the Lord that they held back some and lied to the Holy Spirit. This wouldn’t have been a sin except that they lied to the Holy Spirit. And he takes that very seriously. The Holy Spirit doesn’t mess around.

For grieving him, Ananias falls dead at Peter’s feet. Now that is the conviction of God! Sapphira, his wife, comes in later and doesn’t even know her husband is dead. She tells the same lie and experiences the same penalty.

Now you might ask, “Why such a severe punishment? This sounds like the Old Testament.” The serious nature of lying to the Holy Spirit who lives within us and knows everything we do shook the church to its core (Acts 5:11). We shouldn’t even try to sin against God in ways.

I don’t question this couple’s salvation. What I question is how far away they were from God when they decided to lie. They challenged and tested the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were callous before him. So I question how close to God they were by the time they made this decision. Let us never get that close to the edge!

Expel the Immoral Brother!

A final surprising example of extreme judgment comes from Paul concerning an immoral brother in the church. Paul brings up the matter of a man who has a sexually immoral relationship with “his father’s wife” (1 Corinthians 5:1-5).

This is probably his stepmother, otherwise Paul would have simply said, “his mother.” But even if this is a stepmother, the standard of holiness among believers is much higher than this. Paul comments that even the pagans do not allow such arrangements (1 Corinthians 5:1).

Worse than this, the Corinthian church boasts about such “spiritual freedom” (1 Corinthians 5:6). They allow sin to masquerade as freedom in Christ among them. So Paul deals with it when they don’t.

This also seems harsh. He tells them to expel this immoral brother and hand him over to Satan (1 Corinthians 5:2, 5). So they cast this man out. For some of us, it’s hard to understand Paul’s comment about the man’s soul being saved in the Day of the Lord (1 Corinthians 5:5).

It’s almost as if Paul is saying that handing him over to Satan will cause his soul to be delivered when he suffers without the fellowship of the church. But have no fear! This incident works out better than the one in Acts 5.

Later in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul forgives this man and tells the church to forgive him and welcome him back into their fellowship again (2 Corinthians 2:5-11). This man has felt such sorrow over his sin that he is asking forgiveness (2 Corinthians 2:7).

In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, God’s judgment reminds the church that he is sovereign and that revering the Lord must continue. The fear of the Lord reminds us of his power when we get too comfortable.

In the case of the immoral brother, God’s judgment through Paul in the church actually saves the life of the man and brings him back to the fold. We must remember that in those days, Christians were considered atheists because they didn’t worship the Roman gods. They were shunned in the marketplace and in their neighborhoods.

Without the fellowship of the church of Christ, they were alone in this world. The loss of fellowship hurt this man so much that he was sorrowful and repentant. And that truly repentant spirit brought him back to God’s family.

Judgment can remind us of God’s power and high standards. It can remind us to fear the Lord and review his name because he is great. And it can also teach us that God is gracious when we are repentant.

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The Spirit of Jezebel

This entry is part 83 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds

In Revelation 2:20-23, who is Jezebel in that church and what is the situation?

The church of Thyatira looked like a vibrant church. Every time they worked for the Lord, their works exceeded the last works they did. They had all of the essential elements: love, faith, service, and patience (Revelation 2:19).

As Jesus often did with most of these smaller letters to the churches in Revelation, he began with the good things, spoke of the things they must change, and then concluded with the good things for those who were faithful to him.

The thing Jesus had against this church was a woman he names Jezebel and talks about her shortcomings and how she is deceiving the church (Revelation 2:20-23). Have you ever noticed there aren’t too many women named Jezebel today? Although we were not part of this church in the first century, we can gather much about this woman from the details.

John is partially cryptic in recording what Jesus says to this church. But here are the facts:

  1. This is a woman in the church who gives herself the title of a prophetess.
  2. She has the physician of authority as a teacher in that church.
  3. She teaches them something about sexual immorality through seduction (this may be idolatry, for many of the Old Testament prophets spoke of idolatry as spiritual adultery)
  4. She also teaches these people to eat meat sacrificed to idols (Refer to 1 Corinthians 8-10 for some background). This also refers to idolatry.
  5. She refuses to repent and doesn’t think she’s done anything wrong.

From what we can gather it seems that this was a woman in the church who was seductive, titling herself as a prophetess, and using that authority to teach false doctrines that may have pointed to idolatry.

Jesus issues through John quite the severe penalties and discipline for this church. If they refused to deal with this false teacher, he will give her a sickness that relates to her crime against the church. Throwing her into a sickbed is akin to pointing out that sexual morality usually happens in a bed.

But the leader isn’t the only one to suffer for false teaching. All of her followers will endure the great tribulation. Jesus doesn’t specify what these tribulations may be, but I wouldn’t want to find out.

He does specify that he will kill the ones who do not repent. Those who continue in this idolatry and sexual immorality will die. And he will repay each one according to his or her works. None of this sounds good.

God’s discipline and judgment may look different from Old Testament to New Testament but it is the same God. He doesn’t tolerate sin or false teaching within our midst. This may also be what Peter refers to when he says that judgment must begin with the house of God (1 Peter 4:17).

This letter shows us that we should never cave in to false teachers or their false teaching. It endangers the church, the body of Christ. We should not be nonchalant about it either. It may hurt the church in the sense that the false teacher may take people with him or her when confronted.

It may not look good on paper. And people (leadership included) may get used to it or tiptoe around it. But Jesus wants a pure church. No matter how hard it is to cut out the cancer, we must or Jesus will discipline the church most severely.

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Process of Sanctification

This entry is part 97 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
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What are the steps a person takes from being a nonbeliever to being conformed to Christ?

Many people don’t talk about the entire process from start to finish of how God draws us to him and then sanctifies us after salvation. There are various steps out there but, in general, these are the main steps a person takes from unbelief to belief.

A Depraved Environment

It starts from the beginning where Adam and Eve left humans off. People are born into a sinful world, and environment that encourages sin, depravity, and wickedness. If it weren’t for the Holy Spirit drawing them, no one would know God.

This is where we all start from the moment of our birth. It doesn’t mean we’re born into sin. We are surrounded by sin. It doesn’t take long for us to join in the action. But for almost all of us, this is not where we stay.

The Holy Spirit Draws Them

At some point in many lives, people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. They hear about freedom from entangling sin. They hear about the different way of Christ.

But the message doesn’t reach their hearts until the Holy Spirit draws them. We used to call it the “wooing” of the Spirit. He draws them to himself, creates an interest in them to hear more about God. He breaks up the dry, cracked surfaces of their stone hearts.

He uses the gospel and Christians. They wander if God’s way is better. They’ve done their own thing but he gets them nowhere. They are willing to try something new.

The Holy Spirit Regenerates Their Spirits

At this point the Holy Spirit does one of his most powerful acts before salvation. Theologians call it regeneration. Until now they ignored God. From the moment they were born, their spirits were dead to God because of sin.

They’ve ignored God, maybe even spoken and acted against him. Their sin kept them from seeing him. But now the Holy Spirit has enlivened them to new possibilities in him.

He has prepared them in this step, opened them to hearing and considering Christ’s gospel. They look across the shadows into the light. Their minds are open to hearing God and listening to what he is saying.

They Hear the Gospel Message

For the first time, they listen to the gospel and respond. It doesn’t just pass through one ear and go out the other. It sticks. Jesus talked about this with the four types of soils in one of his parables.

The gospel seed lands on open soil instead of a stone cold heart. The Holy Spirit has been working through this process. But this is when the Spirit involves effective Christians to share the gospel and leave them to salvation.

The person commits to Christ. The heart is open to Christ they receive him. The Holy Spirit isn’t done. He guides them to Christ and then in Christ.

A New Creature in Christ

We are a clean slate for Christ to write himself on our hearts. The process of sanctification, becoming holy in character and actions, begins. We become like Christ through this process.

The Holy Spirit dwells in us. He gives us power to live holy before God and others. He transforms us and makes us new. Our desires, thoughts, actions, character, all of it has been made new.

We spend the rest of our lives realizing the implications of salvation and new birth in Christ. It’s an exciting journey into relationship with Jesus.

Conforming to Christ’s Image

Paul talks about being conformed to Christ (Romans 8:29.) We imitate Jesus and walk after him. We put on Christ and his righteousness like a coat. But we never take it off.

The Spirit shows us how to live like Jesus. We learn to please and glorify God. We are looking more like Jesus every day.

When God saved us, he declared us holy and righteous. But now we become in reality what he declared us to be. But we don’t do it on our own. The Holy Spirit gives us the power every step we take.

Obeying the Holy Spirit

Our works don’t make us more fully. Obeying the Spirit and listening to him, following his commands get us there. Holiness isn’t about looking good to others. Its goal is to live in God’s presence forever.

God declares himself our God and we are his people. He’s making that happen in us. We listen, trust, and obey the Spirit. We do what he says. And he leads us into God’s holy presence.

Serving God

Knowing Christ isn’t a stagnant walk. It’s public and corporate. We learn to serve others, and that blesses God too. We advance in holiness. The Spirit uses us in gifts for others.

We volunteer and work for God. He gives us a mission to complete for him. We look for ways to bless others with our God-given talents and gifts.

Making disciples

Jesus laid out one of our main goals (Matthew 28:19). We witness to others and guide them from salvation to discipleship. Disciples are people who learn and study. We all learn to walk with Jesus and we study his Word.

We don’t walk in a straight line with Christ. We walk in the circle from becoming a Christian, to learning from others, to witnessing to others, to teaching them, to learning from others. This is the process to grow it him.

Glorification

Throughout our lives we get closer and closer to Christ. The Holy Spirit guides us to the final destination. Glorification is when we finally arrive at complete holiness.

In this moment God calls us to himself, to live in his physical presence in heaven. We pass from physical death to eternal life. Or, we are alive during Christ’s return, the rapture, and join him.

This end product of the process of salvation and sanctification brings us to enjoy a glimpse and foretaste, a down payment of his forever presence.

We live in hope now and arrive in his presence in them. He brings us home, and over the joy and glory that awaits us whom the Lord brings to himself!

This is a long answer that I hope it helps you see the whole process. We are all on a journey to know God. Remember this process when you witness to others. You never know when the Spirit has prepared them to receive the gospel.

Never give up on witnessing and walking with Christ, obeying the Spirit, and drawing ever closer to the moment of glorification. The Father sets this process in motion for each of us.

Leave a comment and tell me about your experiences in this process. Tell me about the ups and downs and how you are chasing after God with all your heart.

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Grace and Judgment for Unbelievers

This entry is part 82 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds
Image by succo from Pixabay

Do unbelievers experience the same process that believers do with God’s grace and judgment?

For unbelievers, it is a different process. But it has the same goal. God’s goal is that every human being comes to know, love, and serve him with every fiber of their being. To that end, we are familiar with God’s treatment of his children.

For believers in Christ who know God, the process is to draw us closer to him. Through conformity to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29) and imitating Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1), we draw closer to him. We seek to honor and please him and all of our actions and speech, as well as in the inner life of our thoughts and heart.

We’ve already discussed the discipline of the Lord and the road that leads away from him in another question. This specifically involves believers who are on their way to falling away from Christ. But it is the hope that Christians will run toward him.

Unbelievers have a different experience and path. The same goal of knowing Christ and following him is in view. But the approach is completely different than what a believer experiences.

Unbelievers must be wooed by the Holy Spirit toward Christ and his teachings. They must be drawn by the Spirit into a desire to know about Christ and to hear the gospel. This is the first step out of spiritual death.

The next step is that the Holy Spirit prepares their hearts through a process called regeneration. This is where they become open to hearing the gospel, ready to receive the message of the good news of Christ of freedom for the captive.

Once they experience regeneration, they must hear the good news of Christ’s gospel. That’s where we come in as believers. The Holy Spirit must do his work first. And he does the work of salvation itself. But we do the work of proclaiming the gospel.

This is the process for an unbeliever. Both are moving toward Christ. Both will experience the intimacy of his embrace and presence. But each is on a separate path toward him. Each experience is a little different but all when followed will lead to the same goal.

When anyone, believer or unbeliever, begins to go the opposite way and run from Christ, his judgment and wrath are not far behind. But we hope for better things in both circumstances. We hope that every person comes to know Christ (2 Peter 3:9).

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Judgment in the Lord’s Supper

This entry is part 81 of 98 in the series Inquiring Minds

In 1 Corinthians 11:29-32, what is the judgment poured out on believers to partake of the Lord’s Supper unworthily?

The context of 1 Corinthians 11 and the Lord’s Supper in New Testament times will help us understand what Paul refers to. Christians in the Roman Empire regularly practiced “love feasts.” These were the meals that they would gather to eat with one another in their house churches.

They were called love feasts because they focused on the love of Christ and the love the believers had for one another (Acts 2:42-47). When they partook of the Lord’s Supper, it was within the context of these larger meals.

That’s why Paul says things like some of them are eating too much and others aren’t getting enough (1 Corinthians 11:20-22, 33-34). In 1 Corinthians 11:29-32 after Paul recounts the remembrance of the Lord instituted by Jesus in the Gospels he talks about judgment.

But what does this judgment mean? There are clues within the text itself. We already saw that they were not sharing it together (1 Corinthians 11:20-22). They also were not “discerning the body” (1 Corinthians 11:29). The judgment sounds harsh, for some of them were getting sick and others were “falling asleep,” a euphemism in the New Testament for death.

I believe there are two sins committed in the Corinthian church when it came to the Lord’s Supper. The first was that they were going against the body and blood of Jesus by going against his teachings in their practices.

Corinth was the opposite of Jerusalem in its Christian fellowship (Acts 2:42-47). They were supposed to share possessions, even food. Yet some of them were committing gluttony at the meal while others were going hungry. This is not what Christian fellowship looks like.

They were offending Christ by not practicing Christian fellowship with one another. His death should bring people together instead of separating them into classes of the poor and the rich. “Discerning the body” could refer to their position in Christ through their actions or it could refer to understanding where other brothers and sisters in Christ were in their own circumstances.

The second sin of the Corinthian believers in the Lord’s Supper was that they were unprepared to take communion in the first place. Their hearts were not spiritually prepared. There may have been sin in their lives. They didn’t judge their own life before they fell under the judgment of Christ as they communed with him.

I know some churches where the pastor is impressed with his ability to get done with communion as fast as possible. But it should never be that way. Communion is a time to “commune” with Christ. It shouldn’t be about how fast we can be in and out of his presence.

But it doesn’t have to last forever either. There is a happy medium where we enjoy the presence of the Lord, examine ourselves and judge our own lives and bring that to him before we partake of his holy sacrifice.

That is what it’s about. Jesus is holy and we must be holy to dwell with him and partake of him. This is why Paul calls every believer to examine himself and judge his life (1 Corinthians 11:28). How have we treated Christ and one another? Have we carried out his teachings and commandments?

If we haven’t, it’s time to get right with him before we partake of his presence, his body given over four are healing, and his blood, poured out for the salvation of many souls. This is a solemn and serious time in Jesus’ presence. Let us not offend him or one another.

He gave of himself, his body and his blood, so that we might be whole. We must give ourselves to him completely as well. It is a beautiful exchange between Master and servant, divine and human. It’s mystical and we can miss that if we are in a hurry or don’t prepare ourselves.

In a sense, it reminds me of the Ten Commandments. The first four are all about our relationship with God. The second sin of not preparing ourselves for his presence is like breaking those first four. The second six commandments are about our relationship with our fellow human beings. The first sin of unchristian fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ is like breaking those.

The sins they will against Christ and one another placed them in danger. Whether it was God’s judgment that caused the sickness and the death among them or just a reaction to improperly partaking of the Lord’s Supper, a judgment written into breaking fellowship with Christ and one another, we must pay attention to their follies.

We should view this judgment within the bounds of the seriousness of partaking in the Lord’s table together. Let us not commit the same sins the Corinthians did. Let us come solemnly to our Lord, examine ourselves in preparation, and thoroughly enjoy his presence.

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