Archive for September, 2009

v91 Cultural Shifts

In case you haven’t noticed things are getting worse, not better. Even the most worldly of persons will admit this. As we gain knowledge, sophistication and progress down the road of technology we are further and further removed from the character and virtues that we would consider good.

Culture is that collective set of beliefs, social forms and material traits that both describe and define a group or social order of people in a particular place and time. God understood the value and impact of culture upon a people. He realized that we are a product of those we interact with to the degree we are influenced and molded by their beliefs and customs and actions.

God instituted a very rigid and well defined social order for his people Israel. Through Moses and the Law, He defined marital laws, moral laws, social rules and methods of teaching the importance of valuing our parent’s wisdom and insight gained from the collective experience of their parents and their parents before them. God very lovingly controlled this cultural shift within His people. This created a type of protective bubble. As other nations were "progressing" rapidly down a path of wickedness and debauchery, God’s people had a relative protective shield around them.  I believe this made a great contribution to God’s people being separated and distinct in the world. The very virtue of honoring parents alone has catapulted the Jewish nation ahead of all its rival nations.

That was then. Then they lived in a community of small groups, tribes and clans and families. These were close-knit and somewhat manageable as each person was subject to accountability within their respective group. Today, the tribe is virtually global. Something can happen in China or another distant place and with the right media spin begin impacting us within days, even hours.

Every generation breaks from tradition and has a new idea or thought of how to do something. We have always considered these new ideas good things and given them a positive and promising name — progress. We have so accustomed ourselves to accepting the newest thoughts and beliefs that we, for the most part, adopt them wholeheartedly as good and helpful just because they are new.

Newsflash, they are not. How do you think we have gotten where we are today? One word – progress. If everything is so great explain why we refer to times past as the "good old days"? It is because our cultural shifts are taking us farther and farther from what is good, wholesome and moral. It is taking us as a whole people, even globally, farther from God.

This is simple math. The change of one person impacts his family, clan and tribe. Tribes influence communities, villages, cities and provinces. Provinces influence nations, continents and the world. God always deals with us as individuals. The only way to stop this madness is for each one of us to buck the system. So culture shifts, you don’t have to. God told us "come ye out from among them". God’s people are to be separate, distinct, set apart, holy.

Let the culture shift. God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. So when the tide of change comes your way, stand on the Rock. Better yet, swim upstream and take back ground for God and His Kingdom. Sure the culture sucks, but greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.
John the Baptist was an enigma to his contemporaries. They did not understand who he was or understand his calling. "And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias." John 1:21-23.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness. The wilderness is that barren, desolate land, with little water to drink or food to sustain you. It is a spiritual picture of the soul not yet sanctified. It is where the Israelites wandered for 40 years although there was a land of milk and honey just within their grasp. But John prepared a table, a banquet for those weary and hungry souls. He fed them spiritual food, the knowledge of Christ.

John the Baptizer linked himself to Elijah as did Jesus, who said that if you could receive it, the spirit of Elijah has already come. John cried in the wilderness. He proclaimed the Lamb of God unto us. He pled with the hearts of his hearers through their ears. You would have thought that they would be glad to hear the message of their salvation and the coming of their king. But, oh, so little faith.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. You can prepare a table but they will not come and eat and receive life. And you can proclaim Truth to men but you can’t make them listen. Oh, so little faith.

30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. 31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. Gal. 4:30-31.

Nevertheless. In other words: even though you are persecuted by the world. Even though Mt. Sinai grumbles and threatens and makes you afraid, even though this Law appears unsurmountable by human efforts, even though it appears that this is impossible and the only way to God, do not be overcome with fear from these bullies, but overcome evil with good.

Cast out the bondwoman … All along we have said that Hagar (the Arabic name for Mt. Sinai) is representative of that effort of the human will to do the thing that will proclaim our own perfection and acceptability, to be good and righteous by one’s own strength, to make something spiritual (i.e. a son of God) with worldly methods (i.e. sleeping with Hagar, communion with a slave without hope of inheritance). Cast out this thinking, it is your bondage. It keeps you from coming to God who is love, not law.

… and her son. The son of the bondwoman is the fruit of our human efforts. "But we are all as an unclean thing , and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;" Isa. 64:6a. These filthy rags refer to the linens used to clean the waste of the menstrual cycle of the woman. It contains the evidence of the thing that was meant to bring life but was inadequate to conceive life apart from the seed. Cast it out.

… for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman. The Spirit and the flesh can not have fellowship with one another. They can not share in the inheritance. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other" Gal. 5:17a. Again Amos 3:3 says, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" No, the bondwoman and her son must be cast out and banished from the land (your earth) never to be given admittance or audience again. They must be made destitute and fatherless. Once they serve their purpose, to teach the utter humility and inability of my works to create a son of God, they have no further purpose or place.

So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. It is this birth by faith which we come to by the revelation from the Word that we cannot create a spiritual work with our flesh, that only God in Christ is our hope. The flesh avails nothing. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God. Heb. 7:19. He is the Promised One, our Sarah in whom we enter into to be born again. We are spiritually children of faith born into the faith by the father of faith, Abraham, by the Bride, Sarah the freewoman. By faith we have been placed into the freewoman and born again. We are Isaac, the children of the freewoman.

 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:36.
Gal. 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.

 … even so it is now. Do you experience this persecution? No, not the "I never have what I want, life is too hard" persecution. The persecution spoken of here is spiritual, not temporal. This persecution is the waging and advancing war against Christ in you, against the advancement of His Kingdom in the bosom of your soul. Against the perfecting and completing of the work of Christ in you and the manifestation of Him to the world through you. The anger of the world against the Son of God is like the rabid, vicious, aggressive violence of the animal with rabies as it looses its mind and is set on harming any and everyone that is in its presence. The world hates Jesus Christ, and do not kid yourself, any tolerance for religion is tolerance for a religion which does not manifest truth or Christ, it is tolerance for the appearance of good not the reality of Good.

We see the first persecution in the account between Cain and Abel. The violent and murderous attack of one brother against the other is grounded, not in jealousy, but in pride. Not the surface pride that was upset that his brother got the attention, praise and acceptance but the deep, terrible pride that sees at once that the thing that I must do is place God before myself and die to what I want to have. I must place God’s desires, interests and agenda over mine. I have always lived my life on a long leash, doing exactly what I please, but now I have gone too far and found that I am restrained and bound to this one law of life — I must bend my knee to my Creator and give Him His due worship.

God tells Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. Gen. 4:6,7

There is this way of man, this way that seemeth right but it always leads to death. The way of external conformity to the law absent of the heart. I do what the law says but I do not love nor fear the Lawgiver. I want to play life on my terms, by my rules. I think God is like man and that I can hide my true heart behind the exterior motions of love that I can demonstrate by mere rote and acting out. But God knows the heart and the world hates Him for this. They want God to be like man so that they can manipulate and exercise power over Him.

The thing that Abel revealed and that Christ reveals and that Christ in you reveals is the true heart of Christ. The heart of sacrificial self-denying love for God and our brothers. By this will all men know that you are My disciples. It is that supernatural ability and desire and act of will to place God and others before my own desires, agenda and will. This fruit only grows in the soil of Gods Love, it can be found in no other place. We love because He first loved us.

The presence of this Love, the Presence of God in Christ in us manifest in the world is what drives the world to murder, both by act and thought. It can not bear this righteousness, this Holy Light that reveals to them their own depravity and need — a need to bend their knee in humble adoration and holy reverence in the presence of God. Instead, it kills the person who reveals this. It killed Abel, it killed the martyrs and most famously killed God himself in Christ.

 … even so it is now.
Gal. 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Here is a critically important, eternally important, point that Paul now makes. You are not saved by birth. The Jews claimed this right, The Jews claimed to be the children of God because they were the children of Abraham. Jesus answered them, Joh 8:39, 40, , "If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham". Again in Romans 9:6. "Not as though the Word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel."

Everyone is a child of God through His creation of Adam but not all are true sons. And in John 8:42 : "If God were your Father, ye would love me." In other words: You are not the children of God. If you were, you would know and love me.

Nor are you a child of God by the will of man. Abraham was promised a child by the Word through Sarah. Abraham made a child by his own will through Hagar, not the will of God. This, I say, is the crux of the problem of the modern church. The church has made itself God and bestowed upon itself the power to make sons of God by the will of man. Man can not make a son of God, only God can.

The only sons of God are those who are sons by the Word and by the promise. Faith cometh by hearing. Hearing what? Hearing the Word of God from the Spirit of God, by revelation. God alone can place His seed in a person and make a new creature. And by the promise. What promise? The Holy Spirit. When Mary was given the seed of God she was told "the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee". She received both the Word and the Promise. These are necessary for a new birth to occur. If you do not receive the Word by faith through grace. If you have not received the Holy Spirit, the promise, then you are not born of the will of God, but the will of man.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12,13

God’s love is irresistible. You would know if God was calling and you would fall on your knees, then run toward Him that you might obtain mercy in your time of need. This is what happens at Mt. Sinai. You stand before God and in the knowledge of the Law, revealed by God’s Spirit you see yourself as you truly are — a sinner, condemned and separated from God. This knowledge would place the Fear of God into you. You would have no thought but to cry out and beg for God’s mercy, not because of your worthiness but because of His loving-kindness.

Sadly, this is not what happens in many churches. The pastor will often preach a message with heart-tugging pleas, begging you to accept the goodness of God, His provision in Christ, His abundant Life, His great riches and joy by coming and joining the church. All these are often extended without the recognition of our need for His mercy, our own desperate state or affair. We skip the whole Mt. Sinai thing. Remember that God when he invited Israel to have relationship with Him he instructed Moses to have the people sanctify themselves and then approach the Mountain. The original plan was a relationship with God by way of Mt. Sinai. The Law needed to teach them their utter depravity.

Today we just skip over that part. The Fear of God in church is rarely seen. We see a lot of nice people treating people nicely and listening to nice little sermons with some cute jokes, a lot of charisma and personality. But rarely do I see the Fear of God, rarely is God reverenced in His church. No, today we are making men of God by the will of men, absent of God, the power of His Word and the Presence of His Spirit. God help us!
Continuing on in our study of Galatians 4:21-31 we have seen that Mt. Sinai (the Law, the bondwoman) is a threatening and awesome thing to deal with. It is meant to bring the fear of God at our own inability to mount its heights. In addition to its shear physical requirements we are threatened in our heart by the fears of the awful weather – the lightning, dark clouds, tempestuous winds and howlings coming from above. We are emotionally fearful of all that is unknown about God and yet he calls us and tells us that He wants to be with us, that He loves us, that we are His children and that He wants to make us Sons. He tells us of a Jerusalem above …

25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. 26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. 27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband. 28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

Notice that Hagar is mount Sinai and answers to Jerusalem. Hagar is a bondwoman who is there to serve and be a maid to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a derivative of Salem, a Hebrew word meaning Peace. Jeru means double, or twice. So we have Double Peace. God has brought His Peace to earth when He made peace by the blood between us and Him and He will bring Peace again when the new Jerusalem comes down from heaven and restores the Kingdom in Peace and Righteousness and our King of kings reigns in peace for ever and ever.

This Jerusalem is above, it is over and superior to Mt. Sinai, the Law. It is not bound, it is free. She is not under the Law but held within Grace. She does not nullify the Law but merely lives above it being within herself a greater Law, that is Love. She is the woman who has a husband and is loved and we know that that love covers a multitude of sins. Love fulfills all the Law yet she is not concerned with right and wrong, only loving her husband. In this she is justified, that she loves and trusts Him, He will keep her and deliver her. That is enough.

Further notice that this Jerusalem is the mother of all who are in Christ. Yet Paul reminds us that she is barren, without sons. The whole earth waits in anxious anticipation for the manifestation, the presentation of the sons of God. For a little while she is barren and the desolate has "many more children than she which hath an husband". Paul is stating a fact we can attest to. The world, the bondwoman, has many more children than the freewoman who has a husband. Break forth and cry for a while. But, but …

Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.

We will pick up here next.

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