The Law on Trial 2

FROM SIN AND RIGHTEOUSNESS TO RELATIONSHIP

Bible translations use the words transgression, offense, debt, iniquity, trespass, disobedience and sin almost interchangeably. But it’s worth noting that they don’t all mean quite the same thing. An iniquity, for instance, is an injustice or unfairness. Disobedience is a refusal to follow an order. And a transgression or offense violates a standard. But of all of these “sin” stands apart. Unlike the other words, sin is a transgression that’s actually unintentional. It’s a word meaning, “to miss the mark.” Sin is an archer taking aim but going off target. 

The first biblical example of sin in the Bible came with the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2 & 3). But “when the woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it” (Gen. 3:6). 

Encouraged by the serpent the woman didn’t intend to disobey, but was “deceived” by her senses and desires—and she “fell into transgression,” as Paul describes to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:14). Working mostly for our benefit, the senses and desires aid but can also deceive. Caution is given then, don’t get carried away with them (James 1: 13-15). 

For comparison, Adam was not deceived, but disobeyed, doing exactly as intended (Rom. 5:19). He hit the bulls-eye. 

Intention however is a distinction without a difference in regard to the consequences or law. But who would have thought the intention to do right could have the same result as the intention to disobey? 

The apostle Paul calls this “the law of sin” in Romans 7 where the passions of the body overrule the principles of the mind. (Paul used coveting as the example—the woman’s downfall.) “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” he asks. “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:26).

Jesus was anointed to lead the world out of this contradictory mess—not through justice, as the world expects of a Messiah, but through dismissing injustice with forgiveness. The rescue would be by grace through a relationship with God (faith), not by character-building through the commandment. The resolution is a matter of life over death, not righteousness over sin. And what is life, but “to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he sent.” (John 17:3)

“Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life (= the relationship with God) has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). 

So the focus goes from sin and righteousness to relationship with God, where sin has no influence (Rom. 6:2). These are two different laws and two different realms, so best not to confuse them (Rom. 8:9). Salvation isn’t to be reformed, it’s a paradigm shift.

Thanks be to God indeed!

That Judgment Thing 15 – “Lead Us”

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. 

Give us this day our daily bread. 

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6: 9-13)

People generally understand the “Lord’s Prayer” as one of petition. As in, perhaps if we repeat this often enough we’ll get these things?

Not me. This disciple sees the prayer as a simple outline of the Gospel—a contract even—to those who would take Jesus on, by faith. In his three year ministry, Jesus presented his Father to the world, revealed the kingdom of heaven and did his Father’s will as he was provided everything he needed. Jesus also forgave, resisted temptation and stayed away from evil.

That’s the prayer.

The pivotal and most demanding part of the prayer is right in the middle. Forgiveness. That was the point of first contact—God’s kindness toward me. But now because Jesus forgave, we’re pressured to forgive others. Cuts right to the heart, doesn’t it? (I think it’s meant to.) But I’ll take it as an object lesson.

Demonstrated in the Gospel, forgiveness isn’t a piecemeal operation—it’s absolute, once and for all. And in the prayer, it’s a bi-lateral agreement. But if God has forgiven me, and I have forgiven others, who is left to judge? Absent of such judgment, all I can have is faith—faith which in this case is an assurance and confidence in God, not in his promises or my expectations (Heb. 11). Jesus set the example of a faith that entrusts judgment of good and evil to “the one who judges justly” (1Pet. 2:23). Outright forgiveness is hard, but this I can do.

So forgiveness is really about who gets to judge. (Wasn’t that what the warning in the Garden was about? – Gen. 3)  But having turned over my rights to judgment (“your will be done”), God and I are going to be bonded together (Matt. 11:29). From now on.

Following this section, the prayer then says, “Lead us.” This is a disciple’s response to Jesus’ original request of, “Follow me” (Mark 1:17).  Now, where Jesus has gone already (see above), it’s my turn (Rom. 8:29). Understanding doesn’t come all at once, but God doesn’t rebuke (James 1:5). And bonded in this way with him, he explains his business as we go along (John 15:15). One-on-one.

The Law on Trial 1

The Democrats won’t let go of Russian collusion. And the Epstein death will be dragged into conspiracy by the Republicans.
 
But justice must be served. So virtue and guilt are endlessly debated.
 
“You know how to forecast the weather,” Jesus told the legal pretenders who were distracted by their own set of current events (Luke 13:1-5). “Why can’t you determine what is right?” he asked, advising settlement over a court case (see Luke 12:54-59).
 
News headlines, opinion shows, common gossip… they only make sport of the conflict. Maybe we should just put the cause of what’s right to a vote and finally be done with it!
 
So finding the captive innocent—but still at odds with the accusers—Pilate addressed the people one last time. Then he washed his hands in front of them… (Matt. 27)

The Question of Sin—Romans 7

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.” (Rom. 7:21,22)

“Sin,” comes from a word meaning “to miss the mark”—an archery term. People think that sin, then, is “the failure to hit the mark.” But what does the archer aim for? So Paul describes the archer’s (sinner’s) situation in ch. 7:14, “For what I want to do I do not do…”

The Law of Moses was the perfect vehicle, to expose this dilemma. It also proves that attempting to improve the aim isn’t the solution.

Consequently, Jesus didn’t describe eternal life as “hitting the mark.” He described it as “knowing the one true God” (John 17:3). This takes us down an entirely different path than our righteousness-geared minds expected.

But when was the last time you heard sin described as “our attempt at righteousness?”

Now read all of Romans, and every time you see the word “sin,” plug in, “my attempt at righteousness.” It will change your understanding and clear up many questions about Paul’s reasoning.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Taking the Burden Out of 1 Peter

I’ve worked at my job full-time for 25 years. When I was hired, my employers explained among other things, the pay schedule—which changed over the years from monthly to bi-monthly, to every other week. They delivered faithfully. Never once did it cross my mind that if could be any other way.

In Matt. 5: 19-34 Jesus talks about God supplying what we need from food to clothing. He builds the argument with pictures: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them;” and, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you…?”

I naturally tend to worry about this or that. (Hate change to begin with.) As a result I have understood “Do not worry” to be just another commandment to be burdened with. In fact most sermons on the subject treat it as such—justifying Jesus’ discourse with his closing reasoning, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Any good psychologist could have told me that).

But the thrust of Jesus’ argument is, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So like my paycheck, “Do not worry,” is about God’s faithful provision, and a conclusion—not a commandment.

And Jesus wasn’t talking about worry. He was talking about trust.

Peter uses the same tact in his first letter. Though it seems he is talking about marriage and employment behavior, he’s really talking about trust. Removing the apparent commandments to “do this,” or “be that” from the context in chapters 1-4 (the, “do not worry” phrases), it reads as an inspiring epistle of encouragement.

And his advice on servants, husbands and wives are applications of two thoughts: When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2: 23); and Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God 1 Peter 4: 1,2).

Like seeking first the kingdom of God, we “entrust” ourselves to God. to make any judgments. Not our job.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – Unexpected Perseverence

“The Boatman” – Winslow Homer

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.” – Job 42:5

James called it the “perseverance of faith” (Jas. 1:3). We often get the phrase wrong thinking we need to gut it out first. But perseverance begins with faith, not the other way around—then faith proves itself out.

Speaking frankly, I hate this wonderful world that God has made. It has let me down (see Ecclesiastes)—and continues to. But God never said there would be anything satisfying about it. In fact, all he promised is trouble (John 16:33).

Having realized that a few years back, I asked him, “Why?” Passionately (Matt. 5:8). And finally he got my full attention (Job 42:5}. That’s all he wanted. And that was all I needed.

Funny how this works: my feelings about the world haven’t changed, so I keep asking God the same question as I go about my business (Prov. 3: 5.6). I find there’s no theology, belief system or anything else to learn. And only him to know (Rom. 1:20, John 17:3). Oddly I think, how can it get any better?

For me there’s nothing to wait for. I have it all right now (Phil. 3:7, 8).

James was right.

Observations of a Pilgrim in His Own World – The Bread and Cup

“Last Supper” Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret (1852–1929)

“Then He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you.’” – Luke 26:27

Been thinking on food and how complete the imagery is of bread and wine.

Adam and his wife originally ate from trees (Gen 2:16). They reached up and picked fruit. After the “revelation” (Not a fall like Satan – Luke 10:18, their eyes were opened – Gen. 3:7), Adam was sentenced to eat from the “cursed” ground. He reaches down, now (Gen 3:17). The ground (the world) would be worked by him and is where he came from and would return. The world is the interaction and cycling of good and evil—compliments of: light/dark, hard/soft, beginnings/endings, wet/dry, etc. I like to call it “the marketplace of judgment.”

Some of the early field crops were grains from which was made bread. Flour is mixed with water and oil, ferments and bloats (yeasts in the grains trigger this), then baked. Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees (Matt. 16:6). This yeast is dead and just air pockets after baking.

But the bread Jesus identified with, is unleavened (Luke 22: 19). Christ is the “bread of life” (John 6:35), not of emptiness. This bread is also made from wheat, grown from the cursed ground..

But this flesh is broken and dies (Luke 22:19).

This is followed by wine from grapes. Grapes also have yeast—the grapes ferment and produce the drink. But this yeast is living in the wine as it ages, and is drunk, becoming a picture of the Spirit of God in the flesh (Matt. 13:13). The wine pictures Christ’s blood—and his life, not his death (Lev. 17:14).

Grapes are also a field crop with fruit picked from below. But in nature, the vines climb trees and the fruit is picked from above. The perfect image of the union of heaven and earth, Christ.

Well chosen imagery. Or like marriage (Genesis 2: 18/Ephesians. 5:22), were they made to tell the story?

That Judgment Thing 11 – What Is Sin?

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”  (Rom. 5: 12)

If the legalists had it all wrong and Jesus was explaining things, the definition of sin is, “unbelief” in him (John 16: 8-11).

Plugging the word into place into Rom. 5: 12 reads then, “Therefore, just as unbelief entered the world through one man, and death through unbelief, and in this way death came to all people, because all have not believed.”

It takes the mysticism out of the word, “sin,” and changes the discussion.

Then, what was the sin (unbelief) in the garden? Was it the disobedience? Or was it eating the fruit?

It takes belief to disobey.

But it takes unbelief to weigh whether something is good or evil (judge). And we just won’t leave that fruit alone.

A Tale of Two Trees VIII – The Trail Between

After he drove the man out, he (God) placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”  Gen. 3: 23, 24

I started watching a Netflix original suspense series. I forget the title, but it opens to a modern Roman orgy of writhing naked bodies (not what I expected). I backed out of it, but the shock value made me think, Jesus came into a polarized society of acceptable fleshly indulgences like this (Roman culture) vs his own custom-designed, orderly and proper Jews.

It was the Roman-type society that produced the wickedness which resulted in the flood (Gen. 8)—and God wasn’t going to let that happen again (Gen. 9: 11). But Jesus didn’t come to the immoral. Counter-intuitively, he came to the moral ones—and proceeded to chastise the most righteous among them (Matt. 5:20) despite their noble intentions.

But Jesus aim wasn’t just for the Jews, it was especially for the immoral Roman-types. “For God so loved the world…”

I love deliberate misdirection.

People like to short-circuit the Gospel, jumping right to “love one another.”  But the Gospel is more like John 3: 16. And you have to literally follow Jesus to understand where he’s going.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16