Friday, April 17, 2009

BEHOLDING THE NEW HEAVENS AND A NEW EARTH

The Lord tells us that we cannot begin to imagine the good things He has in store for us, but He gives us many glimpses into what the new earth will be like.

When we think about Heaven, most would envision angels, harps, clouds and a beautiful throne upon which our Lord is rightfully exalted. I believe this is the way most people, myself included, view Heaven in the spiritual realm for as close as we can begin to imagine it. Let's think about Heaven in the physical realm and take a brief look at what our Lord shows us about this heavenly, blessed new earth to come.

Isaiah 65:17 (King James Version)
17For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.


Slavery will be abolished:
Isaiah 65: 22
22They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.


No more sorrow:
Isaiah 65:19
19And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.


A true paradise:
Rev. 2:7
7He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.

Righteous justice:
Rev. 22:8
8But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.


James 5:8
8Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Purpose of Christ, and the Gospel he shared.

When preaching the famous beatitudes, Jesus said to those who were following and listening to him:
‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
This was a prophecy to all who would claim to follow him at that time and in the future. Salt is not just a seasoning, it's a great preservative used throughout history (which sometimes meant the difference between life and death if the salt went bad). I believe Christ used the analogy of salt as a warning to preserve the integrity of what we are called to be. Failing to do so doesn't just diminish our worth, it makes us completely worthless. Unfortunately, Jesus gave a lot of warnings and words of caution that seem to have fallen on deaf ears.

However, there is no reason for average church goers to lose hope. It is not too late to reexamine the guidance and caution that Jesus gave to us, for as long as it is called "today", we can shake out of our religious comfort zones, and really apply ourselves to the commands of our faith. I believe the guilt is in the leaders who are charged with preserving the faith, not in those who have been led astray. If someone has been offered light, but has never been led completely from the darkness, it is still possible for them to find the light, and become transformed by it. For God does not desire the destruction of the wicked, but desires that all might come to repentance and do what is good in His sight. Demonstrating our obedience to the commands of Christ can be done at any time, and will always be accepted. God demonstrates his mercy to us by every day that does not end in Judgment. The catch is this: God cannot and will not change the terms of repentance, or the rules of his Kingdom...at the same time he will not fail to meet us if we turn ourselves to face Him.

I believe if people (in their flesh) try to redefine the terms of grace, the definition and duration of repentance, and the message we are called to share, they become the salt that loses it's savor. Though they might use the same Christian terms, and act as if they believed, they are worthless to Christ and to those who would feed off their teachings. They will be "trampled underfoot" (or overcome by the "feet" of the body of Christ).

It's really amazing how the Organized Christian system works: how thousands of different people can work together, building religious empires, recruiting millions of followers on behalf of a man whom they themselves know very little about. Traditions and assumptions have replaced the raw, and powerful message that started this faith in the first place. Churches have used the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method to compete for new recruits, and to maintain full pews.

Most modern pastors don't preach messages that will anger their rich members (though there is plenty that Jesus said on that subject). If they encounter scriptures that warn against the sort of war crimes and selfishness that the republican party endorses, they'll probably preach on something else. There are exceptions to this rule, thank God, but many pastors act this way because their incomes depend on an active and happy congregation. They work so hard at maintaining their flocks (and their livelihoods), at not rocking the boat, and preaching things that they think their congregations want to hear, that they have lost track of the very heart and soul of Christianity. To prove my point, I'm going to explore what should be a very basic and obvious question about America's most popular faith.

What was the purpose of Christ on earth?

The most tempting scripture to use in answering that question is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life". This verse is true, and it's a great promise, but it's not the be-all end-all answer. Many trained evangelicals will say that the purpose of Christ on earth was simply to die on the cross as a price for our sins. While this is common Christian knowledge, it's not a complete answer, or even the correct answer, according to Jesus himself.
Luke 4:42-44
At daybreak he departed (the town of Capernaum) and went into a deserted place. And the crowds were looking for him; and when they reached him, they wanted to prevent him from leaving them. But he said to them, "I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose." So he continued proclaiming the message in the synagogues of Judea.
The purpose of Christ while on Earth was to preach the gospel (good news) of the kingdom of God. Jesus went out of his way to include the words "kingdom of God" when speaking of the good news, because there is power in his message, and the enemy of God will do whatever he can to disconnect us from that power. He knew there would be something less-than-complete, calling itself the gospel after he returned to heaven, because the church would be buried in assumptions and traditions for two thousand years before being resurrected. He knew there had to be clues for the last days people to find in the scripture. These people are not a part of the established church, just as new wine is not going to fill an old wine skin. But by the spirit they are being led to see through the facade, and Jesus knew we would need to be able to find out exactly what has gone missing from the gospel. Jesus said nothing carelessly. Every single word that comes from the mouth of the Logos (word) of God is deliberate, so that we might be able to go to the scriptures and validate what he is revealing by the spirit.

Even though millions assume it is their Christian duty to preach the gospel (good news) about Jesus; the truth is that all followers of Christ are called and commanded to imitate Christ, and by doing that, we must preach the same good news that he preached, as well as the good news about him. We cannot exclude either part from what is classically called "the Gospel", they both must be preserved and shared. That is how we obey Christ, that is how we love Christ, and that is how we can receive the promises of Christ. Thankfully, you don't have to take my word for it, when Christ is describing the end of days in Matthew 24:14, he says this:
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."
The gospel is not just John 3:16, and Romans 5:8, and all of the other verses that talk about how our sins will be covered and we will be saved from the fires of hell. The Gospel is the promise made by God to us all time and time again about his coming Kingdom right here on Earth.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is weaved all throughout the scriptures. It is in the Psalms and in Proverbs, it is foretold by the Prophets, and Moses, and God Himself... In Genesis and Revelation...everywhere. It is precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little, there a little. There is no one verse or sentence that can contain the wonder of the mystery of the Kingdom Gospel. To be able to share it, we must faithfully make the ongoing effort to study the scriptures for ourselves; seeking in them clues and explanations of this coming Kingdom. No matter where you turn, you will be close to a message about the kingdom, because that is literally the cornerstone of Judaism, and Christianity (though it has been rejected by the builders). It was a message that Christ himself learned, and then shared for the rest of his life. When he was 12, he was giving full grown priests a run for their money because of his knowledge of the scriptures. To get this knowledge takes study, and dedication. We must all follow Jesus' footsteps in this regard, as in others, if we are to be prepared for what is still to come. By imitating him and by knowing what is promised, we will be able to overcome Babylon.

I originally published this in my other blog, but figured I should practice what I preached a few days ago in the comments section. We should all feel free to post on this blog as often as we like. With 9 official authors we should be a lot more active than we are right now. It is vitally important for us all to share with one another our perspectives of what we are going through, and what the Lord is showing us.