The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Part Two – Fear)

In a previous post, I related the story of the Fall in the Garden of Eden and shared what meaning I see in the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In this post, I am going to discuss the fear that seems to precede the taking of the forbidden fruit, and that now …

Continue reading The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (Part Two – Fear)

Grace and Truth: Perfection and Joy in Jesus and His Finished Work

When we are plagued by our failure, by our abominable imperfection which we hate, where do we turn? The salvation which God offers us in Christ Jesus is exactly what we want – and more. It is, more importantly, what He wants. It is in accordance with His nature. What Jesus Christ died to do is to give us His own righteousness. When He sends His Holy Spirit into our hearts, He makes us new creations. The reason that He became sin on our behalf was that we might become the very righteousness of God in Him. In Colossians, we read, that “you are perfect in Him.” When God says something, it is true, it is truer than we can understand. His word is truth. “Be perfect, therefore, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” “What shall I render to YHWH for all His benefits to me? I shall take up the cup of salvation and go into the House of YHWH.” “The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” “If we confess our sin, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “Rejoice in the Lord. I will say it again, rejoice.” “Your righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and the pharisees.” “I press forward to the prize of the upward calling of God in Christ Jesus.” “All things are lawful, but not all things are edifying.” “For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be sanctified in Truth.” As Christians, we are not content with anything less than spotless holiness. What we want is to be like Jesus Christ, our Master and Redeemer. The Holy Spirit lives in us, and we hate sin – we hate sin to the death, literally. We would crucify the flesh and its passions. Indeed, we want to be perfect for our God: anything less than absolute, pure perfection is abominable to us, as it is to Him. It is for this reason that I hate the term, Christian morals. There is no such thing. Christianity is not about morality. Even the strictest code of morality is minimalistic from our perspective; we do not want to be moral, but holy. We are not content with rules we can pass; it is our desire to be spotless, perfect and righteous throughout our entire being, in our thoughts, in our attitudes, in our words, in our actions, in all things. The absolute holiness of Jesus Christ Himself is our standard and our desire. Any imperfection, any falling short, seems to us a horror and sin of unfathomably abominable evil. We detest and hate it. Anything other than the glory of God is unsatisfactory and must be thrown away. We have begun to see God, and so we are beginning to see reality from God's perspective. When we fall short, we cannot live with it. We must be perfect and holy. In our inner being, we agree with God. It is His holiness, He Himself, that we want. Yet, we fall short constantly. The imperfection we hate with all our might lives in us, and we do not know the extant of this abomination that seeps into everything we try to do, and mars the inmost attitudes of our hearts. It is not a matter of 'Am I saved?' or 'Will God let me into Heaven?' (Such a thought may even appear nonsense to us.) It is a matter of, 'God is holy. I must be holy because my God is holy.' It is a matter of, 'I am in love with Jesus. I am enthralled by my Savior. I must be like Him.' (This is why I would never preach morality. The point is not repentance from sins, but turning to God and repentance from sin.) When we are plagued... In Christ Jesus – which means, in truth – we are the perfect, spotless, holy righteousness of God. We are the reward and the righteousness of the Savior who became sin in our place. We are more righteous and holy than we will ever be able to understand. Yet, we see sin everywhere in our lives. We hate it and struggle against it, and we know we would rather die than continue to sin, and yet we sin. Our love is imperfect. Sometimes, we are afraid to trust that we really are the righteousness of Christ, perfect in Him. We would not only cry for an hour about this horror of imperfection, but we feel like sitting in misery over our failure, our abominable inadequacy, the unspeakable evil of the sin which still infects us. We do not want to rejoice. We rebel against trusting and believing God, living in the freedom that He has bought for us, and rejoicing in what He has done because of pride. On the cross, the perfect Son of God took upon Himself all our sin. In some sense, remaining wholly innocent, pure, and righteous, He became our sin. When He was crushed, sin was crushed. When He died, sin died. When He was destroyed, sin was destroyed. He did away with our sin, so that it is no more. When He rose, He had filled death by His life – His blood – and sin by His righteousness – His blood. All our imperfections are simply gone in the sight of God – which means, in truth. He won the righteousness of God for us – this is absolutely amazing! We do not have the righteousness of a creature, but the righteousness of God Himself – of God as Man. This is more than we could have ever imagined, ever imagined that we longed for, and yet, honestly, anything less than this would be unsatisfying to us. God made us for Himself. In the light of this, we have no right not rejoicing. Jesus, by the price of His own blood, saved us from sin and hell. He suffered what no mere man can ever suffer. He did everything, He paid the greatest price. God Himself died. Think about that! God Himself – always righteous and holy – was made sin for us. This is the most horrible, the most terrible, the most glorious, and the most beautiful thing that ever was done! The righteous and ultimate Man was forsaken for us. He DIED. It would be the greatest insult to His sacrifice and His love not to rejoice in what He has done for us. It would be to say, 'No, what You did isn't enough. I am not content with this gift You give me.' Is that not a horrific insult to pay to Love Himself? It would be say, 'No; I am not content with You. Your righteousness is not good enough.' Could there be a more terrible insult to pay the Eternal King, the All in All, the Righteous One? It would be to say, 'No; I don't believe what You did is real.' Can there be a more abominable insult to pay Truth? Whatever we may feel, however we may fail, Jesus Christ is the Faithful and True. We really were crucified with Him. We really were buried with Him. We really were raised with Him. We really are seated in the heavenly places with Him. This is the truth. Let us rejoice in Him! Look to Him and what He has done. It is satisfactory. It is more than satisfactory. It is real! “Let God be true, and every man a liar.” We rejoice because He deserves that we rejoice. He is enough. Let us rejoice in everything – even our view and experience of our own abominable imperfection – because it helps us to see more truly the amazing wonder of what Christ has done for us and in us – that He makes sinners perfect saints – in every opportunity to trust Him. “Worship YHWH with trembling; rejoice before Him with fear.” Copyright 2018 Raina Nightingale

Temples of the Holy Spirit and Living Sacrifices

It is like the parable of the talents. He loans us all we have, including our bodies and our minds. Spending your whole life trying to take care of your body and eat healthy because you say to yourself, “I belong to God; I should take care of myself,” is like the servant who buried his talent and then said to his master, “Master, I knew you were a hard man, taking what you did not sow and harvesting what you did not plant. So, for fear of losing it, I buried this, your talent. Here is what belongs to you.” We may just as easily be called upon to lose it all for His sake; and, this is no loss, for it was His to begin with. He has the right to demand it back whenever He pleases, in whatever way He pleases, and in whatever portions He pleases... Do not sin; do not live for yourself; do not live or act or choose for your own pleasure; “You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.” All your functions, all your parts, are to be at His disposal. Everything you do should be an act of worship. You should use your body in a way that is worthy of your calling as saints; in a way that is worthy of the Lord Jesus... God Himself lives in us. How dare we unite the very temple of God, the members of the Lord, the Lord Himself, with sin and unholiness? Because we are temples of the Holy Spirit, all sin is sacrilege – sin committed against that which is holy.

(Part II) Who Are You That You Fear: I, Even I, Am He…

There is a lot of talk about assurance of salvation, whether it is possible, how it is to be had, whether it is necessary, on and on and on. I really do not think it is the point. The point is simply this, “It is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me. The life I now live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It's not about whether or not you or I can lose eternal life... It's about the fact that Jesus Christ is eternal life. It is all about Him. How many times did He say, “I am He?” Let us cease to look at ourselves and instead look to Him. “You have been buried with Him through baptism into death.” Salvation – everything – is about Christ. “He who descended is also He who ascended that He might fill all things.” Salvation means that we die and are raised in Christ. This is the way to conquer fear. Fear of what will happen to me? God loves me and is in control of all things. He is sovereign and He loves me as no other can love. This is eternal comfort, but it is not even about eternal comfort; it is about the fact that He is good, that His love is real, that He is YHWH. (How I wish I could say this without using words like I!) Even though I should not know His love, not know His goodness, even though I should forget all that I have ever known of Him (unless He continually gives me the knowledge of Himself I must forget it, for it is knowledge of eternity, eternal knowledge; it is not the kind of thing a creature can keep; it must be continually received by grace through faith,) even though I should turn my back on Him... still, He is good. He remains unchanged. He is Love. He is YHWH – I AM WHO I AM – I am He.

(Part I) Who Are You That You Fear: Introduction and the Idolatry of Fear

This is a form of idolatry. The verse from Isaiah says it perfectly: “Who are you that you fear?” In other words, what are you that you dare to fear? What are you that you dare to fix your gaze on anyone but your Savior? There is another passage in Isaiah (I think, there might also be some in Jeremiah) where YHWH, the I AM WHO AM, challenges the false gods, the illusions of the people, or is it that He calls on the people to challenge them, saying, “Do good or evil, that we may fear you!” In order to fear, we must first take our eyes off God, our Almighty One, our Savior and strong Deliverer, the Rock of our Salvation.

The Day I Would Die

Only God knew what awaited any of us in the arena. Sometimes, it made my blood run cold. But, I knew Jesus was with me. As frightening as it could be, considered in the flesh, this was an honor of which I was not worthy: to be a witness of the Lord. The thought that I would die for Him – it was inconceivable, unbearable joy. And then... I would see Him! I couldn't imagine it. I'd fall at His feet and beg His forgiveness for not loving Him better. I knew He'd forgive me. I just couldn't believe it. To finally see Him whom I loved – Him who had died for me! It was so wonderful it was scary. Scary in a happy way, but I'm not sure it's not as scary as the arena.

Hypocrisy in the American Church: A Scandal and Disgrace

This is a glaring example of hypocrisy. Professed Christians are acting in shameful ways, clearly violating the commands, rather, the character of God, living in public sin and bringing disgrace to the Name of the Lord. To pile shame upon shame, they try to insist that unbelievers, who do not call on the Name of the Lord, live in a way that they deem honorable and righteous. It is as though they clean the outside of bowl and platter while allowing the inside to be dirty. It really seems that there is some conspiracy afoot to try to make the Church and the world look as much alike as possible. Are Christians not meant to shine like the stars in a crooked and depraved world? Are we not called to live such blameless lives that though they slander us they are ashamed to do so? Are we not meant to walk as He walked, as His Spirit molds us into His likeness? Is this not to be our confidence on the day of judgment – that as He was, so are we in this world?

Christian Citizenship

When your nation asks you to give it the honor and allegiance due to God alone, confess, “Jesus is Lord.” When your pride tells you to do what you want or stand up for what you think is your right, confess, “Jesus is Lord.” If you are a Christian, you are a citizen of heaven. You are called to die to yourself every day. Whether that means submitting to a law that galls your pride or being burned alive as lights for Nero’s gardens. Jesus is Lord