“Jesus has been distant for a while” | Matthew 21

bethany

It’s been a while since my last post, but i’m still alive! Here’s something that’s been resonating in me this week.

I met two people on campus this week in the space of 20 minutes and I asked them how many years they had been studying for because they didn’t look like freshman. The first guy said that this was his 8th year, he was doing a masters. The second guy was in his 6th year. I asked both of them this: “In your years at University have you ever come across Jesus?”. They both said yes, and in their own ways added that it had been a while since they had experienced or had a real touch with the Lord. The one specifically said that it seemed to him that Jesus had been distant from him for a while.

I’ll pause that story for now. But later I considered why this had been their experience. There’s probably different ways to explain why, but this is how I see it based on whats been resonating within me this week.

Matthew 21:12-22 is a record of Jesus’ last week on the earth before being crucified and He goes into Jerusalem riding on a donkey and is welcomed by a group of people. But then when He enters the temple He overturns the tables of the money changers and casts out the people who were buying and selling there because He wanted His Fathers house to be a house of prayer. But He was rejected in Jerusalem and the chief priests and scribes often wanted to kill him. So, due to this rejection He would go to a place called Bethany just outside Jerusalem where He would be with people like Mary, Martha, Lazarus and Simon who loved Him and didn’t reject and persecute Him. In Bethany He was with His lovers. (The picture is an artists rendering of Bethany)

Where am I going with this?

What about the two college guys?

Well, our experience is often that we believe into the Lord and we get saved and so He comes into us as His temple and cleanses it and deals with things like “the world” that we were previously involved with; this is Him “casting out those buying and selling”. But then often He just “goes away” and it seems as though Jesus is not with us in our experience. Obviously the Lord never actually leaves us, but in our experience He has gone to Bethany to be with His lovers.

Often we don’t experience Him because we don’t love Him or He doesn’t have the first place in our heart. So we might still be in Jerusalem, but He’s gone to Bethany, and if we would open our inner being to Him in a genuine way and be His lovers, then in our experience we are in Bethany and He’s dwelling in and with us. The picture of the house of Bethany is so sweet and intimate to me. I love it that Jesus had a sanctuary in the midst of being persecuted, and in that place there was just love flowing.

So I hope those two guys on campus can come back to Lord to love Him. Hopefully our meeting people doesn’t turn them away from God because we compel them to do something, but rather causes them to fall in love with Jesus.

Is the Old Testament Law Still Applicable to me as a Christian?

I met a Christian the other day on campus and he was speaking about him not needing to keep the law because he’s been saved by grace. “The law is gone right? There’s only the grace of God who saved us.” And didn’t Paul say in Romans 10:4 that “Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to everyone who believes.”

Then I thought that there’s the other side where Christians try to keep the law because in Matthew 5:17 the Lord Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” And there’s this urge within us to be really good and to keep a requirement that someone put on us. So that’s why some people try to keep the law given to us.

Then another party may say “well there’s your proof that the bible is fake, the bible contradicts it’s self clearly in these two verses, the one says the law is over but the other that it needs to be fulfilled”

Just read on. The bible isn’t as black and white as it appears here. This is how I see this situation. So the way God dealt with His people in the Old Testament was according to the law; that was the basis for Him in receiving them. But in the New Testament the principle of how God deals with us is different; it’s by faith. We are believers who have faith in Christ, and that justifies us before God. That’s all He requires from us in the way He deals with us today.

What has ended is the principle of how God deals with people; He does it according to faith, not the law as He used to. Another thing that’s over are the rituals of the law that were meant to be kept, like offering sacrifices at the temple and keeping the Sabbath – so the “ritual law” is over too. But the commandments of the law haven’t been done away with, in fact they’ve been uplifted to higher standard than they were before. This is seen in Matthew 5 where for example the Lord said not only to not murder someone, but to not even be angry with them in their heart. It’s Impossible right!? So here the Lord definitely didn’t remove the law in the way of “morals”, or the moral law. He actually made it higher and harder to keep. He definitely doesn’t want lawless people in His kingdom.

So when reading Matthew 5 of things like committing adultery not just being the physical act, but actually it being to look at a woman lustfully, what’s your response? Are we going to say “but there’s grace so it’s okay”, or will you say “let me try harder to not do it”? If you have the “it’s impossible, I’m hopeless, I know I’ll fail” response then you’re on the right track.

The Lord knows we aren’t able to keep His very high requirements, so the way we need to read them is not just as requirements but to see them as the capability of His life that is able to meet the demands that He places on us. However high the demand is, that’s how much the Lord can do for us by His divine life in us. Whatever He demands, that’s how much He can do.

Quick recap – Yes God does deal with us by faith through grace. The “ritual law” is over; we don’t need to offer up bulls anymore. But the “moral law” still exists and it’s higher than before, making it impossible for us to keep by trying – so it seems we are in a dilemma.

Okay, so here’s the drum roll verse to put the cherry on top of it all. Romans 8:4 “that the righteous requirements of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the spirit.” This is God’s thought here, the law can be fulfilled by us, it is possible, but it’s by those who see their own life as hopeless, they realize they can’t make it, and they choose the Lord’s divine life by walking according to the Spirit.

When we flee to Jesus to walk according to the Spirit then His life can do all that is required to live in His kingdom. So yes, the law is still here, we are not exempt from it, and until we stop trying by our natural life to keep it and learn to walk by the spirit in constant fellowship with God then we’ll keep falling short. The point is to walk according to the Spirit. This is quite an aspiration to have. And surely if you love someone you’ll walk by them.

Twitter: Useful for Building up the Body of Christ

This topic might be an obvious statement to the younger christian generation in predominantly first world countries; yet to the conservative(especially religious) folk it might be seen as a form of leaven entering the Church for its subtle degradation. Well, the Church has already degraded and is in need of much building up. I’m just very impressed with the usefulness of Twitter in this regard; we just need to learn to use it wisely for God’s purpose.

Just like Rebekah rode on the dirty camel in Genesis 24:61 to meet Isaac; we are going forth to meet Christ as our bridegroom, and when we meet Him we too will need to “spring off the camel” like Rebekah did and leave all the camels behind. But right now the camel is needed.

So in order to meet Christ at His second coming, we need to build up His body today. 1 Corinthians 14 shows that this primarily takes place by the members of His body speaking forth Christ to one another. When we speak forth the Christ that we have to others, it builds them up. This obviously takes place in “prophesying meetings” typically held once a week and also when we are in each others’ homes during the week. But how about all the time regardless of where we are in the world? This is why Twitter impresses me so much.

I think I followed the Lord to live in South Africa at the moment, but a lot of my friends and people I follow on Twitter are in the USA. In the past month there have been two Christian conferences held which a lot of them attended and as ones riding the camel, they had  hashtags for the conferences. So it kept me eagerly awaiting the posts for those two conferences because I received the same portions of Christ that they had been receiving.

Here are some highlights from #latham12:

“1 Corinthians= MAJOR problems. But many times, the problems open the door for the Lord to unveil who He is. #AllInclusiveChrist#latham12

“If there’s no exodus after Passover, something’s wrong. #latham12

“”To sum up the conference: I’m not but He is.” #Latham12 #quotes

“”For our entire Christian life we are keeping the feast of unleavened bread, Christ!” #latham12

“In the eyes of God there are only 2 men on the earth: Adam and Christ. Which one will we be found in? #latham12

And here are some from #DivineStream:

“ALLOW Him! Put your trust in the flow and let the stream float you!#DivineStream

“God’s salvation is to flow into us continually–this is to be saved to the uttermost where we are saturated with God Himself#DivineStream

“everyone is drinking something…what are you thirsty for?#divinestream

“What is practically preeminent in your life? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it were the Lord Jesus. #DivineStream #NEFallConf

I got so nourished every time I checked the hashtags, and South Africa is 8 hours ahead of the USA so I was like a kid waiting for his favorite program to come on later in the day here which was only morning there during the conference as the “hot bread” came out.

Twitter allows for micro-prophesying for the building up of the members of Christs body. And just to consider our everyday capacity to take in information; we don’t always want to listen to something long like a sermon or have to read a chapter of the bible in order to be spiritually nourished(although obviously we’ll do that at certain times, I’m not saying that Twitter should replace our bible), but to quickly log in and be fed instantly from others’ enjoyment in the word is a real edifying to you. Actually, it didn’t stop with me; the #latham12 conference was covering 1 Corinthians and in my small group we are also covering 1 Corinthians(good timing), so I ended up sharing something from the #latham12 conference to my small group meeting which gave rise to much positive fellowship between us.

I’m not praising Twitter, I’m just overjoyed that there are more ways to build up the body of Christ; as long as we ride the camel properly, Isaac will get His Rebekah.

Choosing to Experience God

 

If you’re a six year old and your mom takes you to a candy store and says “choose whatever you like”, firstly, your eyes go big, and then your will begins to work overtime because you’ve been given carte blanche to have whatever you would like in the candy store. This may be a pleasant memory for you or perhaps one that never got fulfilled; my point is to show the function of our will. If the kid was passive in his choice, then he may not get everything he actually wanted, or worse, he may not get anything at all. So what should he do? He should choose the most desirable candy and then enjoy it while his mom pays for it. Sounds like a kids paradise.

 

Okay, time to wake up out of the dream and consider your Christian life. At the time you got saved and probably on numerous occasions afterwards, you experienced a joy like never before. This is because the meaning of your life was being fulfilled; the final puzzle piece got put into your being that you had been missing for so long and without knowing that you were looking for it, you found it. Christ entered into your spirit.

But now as we go on day by day in the Christian life we somehow have the concept that the Lord will just “descend” upon us or will miraculously appear without us doing anything. Right, we’ve all thought about or hoped for this kind of experience, but it doesn’t happen. So now you consider, “how can I experience the Lord as before?”, or “how does this Christian life work?” Then you look in the bible and find a verse that somewhat points toward this issue that you are facing.

You flip to Deuteronomy 30:19 which says “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life that you and your seed may live”. And then you remember back to when you were six when your mom said “choose”; and you remember the oversize bag of candy you walked out with because you exercised your will to choose that you were created with. And you think “in front of me is a store of life and death, and I can choose life if I want to, and God is going to pay for it… well, it worked like a charm last time.”

Then you’re panning through the news feed on facebook and you see someone’s status (which you would normally never read because it’s in the “religious” category in your mind which is partly offensive to you because you don’t like to be ‘bible bashed’), but is says “for the mind set on the spirit is life and peace – Romans 8:6″, and now you’re thinking of the “life and death candy store” that’s in front of your eyes, of which you obviously want to choose life because of the memory of your previous joy of the Lord where you had experienced Him as life.

Now the concept of waiting for God to “descend” on you for your experience gets thrown into the trash can like a ball of scrap paper because of a bad drawing. You realize  “I just need to choose to set my mind on the spirit and then I’ll walk out of the ‘store’ with an oversize bag of divine life”. “I need to USE MY WILL to choose to set it on my spirit, any time, any place, and I get the life candy.” “Lord Jesus!”

What Would You Write if You Were Paul?

If you were entrusted with the ministry of the age by the Lord Jesus to complete the word of God, what would be the last thing you would write? It takes some thought doesn’t it?

Let’s look at how some of the books of the bible end.

John at the end of revelation gives a revelation of the holy city, New Jerusalem. His ministry was one of mending the degradation that had crept in amongst the Churches; he was mainly mending Paul’s ministry, but also bringing the divine revelation that Paul was entrusted with to a consummation. So John‘s epistle ends after opening the matter of the fellowship of the divine life that we are all involved in. Then as mentioned, he ends Revelation with the New Jerusalem which you could say in general is a picture of all of God’s work in and on man to completely mingle Himself with man so that they are the same in their life, expression, nature and function. He also leaves us with a warning and a promise of Jesus’ return.

James in his epistle mentioned some helpful things to do in the daily Church life such as praying for one another and turning one back from sin. However, I feel like James is kind of giving me a lot of do’s and don’ts at the end of his epistle; it’s almost like he wants things to look right and be in order but he’s not really caring for me so much. He doesn’t really have much of a heart for me.

Paul at the end if Romans in chapter 16 mentioned lots of names of the believers there even though it seemed that he should’ve stopped writing at chapter 15. Why did he greet a whole list of people? One reason is that after seeing the progression in Romans of a sinner being justified before God by faith, getting transformed and eventually becoming part of the body of Christ, their needs to be a practical expression of what that looks like. Paul wasn’t merely concerned with theory, there was an actual living out of the body of Christ which in this case was the Church in Rome, and so he mentioned all their names because they were on his heart and they were the Church. The Church in a city is composed of the believers in Christ who meet together in the Lord, love and care for each other.

Now Second Timothy was the last book that Paul wrote after his second imprisonment under Caesar Nero’s persecution and he realized that he was going to be martyred shortly afterward. This is what I want to get at here. The content of this letter was his speaking about the decline of the church because he cared for the going on of the Church against the decline due to the different teachings that had caused people to divide from one another. He spoke a lot about knowing and speaking the truth, the contents of God’s plan. But let’s not look at what’s the best content to write about, that obviously has a place, but what would your last words be to whom you are writing?

Well, like Romans, in second Timothy he mentions a list of names of the believers he was close to. These ones were on his heart. He must have visited them many times in their homes. In their homes they were written on his heart. His address to them is so intimate as though they are his family. He does end off the last verse by saying “grace be with you” because he realized that only the Lord as grace to us can meet our need. But think about it, it’s his last words to people and he doesn’t tell them what to do as an instruction, he mentions their names showing his care for them, people that were on his heart, people whom he longed to see. This comes from being in peoples’ lives in their homes caring for each other. This is Church. Of course we need to be in the truth of the bible as the Church, but do we know and care for people the way Paul did. Are we in others’ lives? Are they in ours and do they know our situations? Are we members one of another in our experience? And so that it’s not just a social group, once we know people, do we give people grace by bringing them to Christ Himself to meet their need? These were Paul’s last words.