Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Living the Future

In the teaching of Jesus, the secret to living a right life here is to constantly be considering the future, especially one's future with God.  Jesus' ethical teaching is constantly referring to the future state-- not necessarily "heaven", but the final judgment of God and one's eternal state.  There are three basic principles he refers to:

    a. How we treat others is how God will treat us
    "Judge not lest you be judged" "Forgive and you will be forgiven" "By whatever measure you measure, by that measure you will be measured."  "Enter into the kingdom prepared for you... for when I was a stranger you invited me in."

    b. Whatever we take for ourselves, we will be given the opposite
    "Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, those who humble themselves will be exalted."

    c.  Whatever kind of suffering/comfort we find ourselves in now, we will be living the opposite
     "In your life you received good things and Lazarus evil; even so, now he is comforted and you are in agony."  "Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted." "Woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort; woe to you who laugh now for you shall mourn and weep."

In the end, Jesus' recommendation for us to live beyond the present is to remember the future.  He told us clearly what the future holds (in general terms), if we can remember the future, it will actively change the present.  And this is the most important thing: the point of looking beyond the here and now is to change the here and now.  Because if we do not change the here and now, then our "beyond" will always look the same.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jesus Not Making Sense

Jesus had been harshly judged by the officials from Jerusalem.  Until this point, there might have been a possibility that the politicians in Jerusalem might have accepted him as King.  But not now.  Jesus recognized this, and was prepared for this—saying ahead of time that God’s people would be rejected and persecuted.  Because of their rejection of his clear message, the Father determined that they must be judged. 
However, the judgment was not one of destruction—rather, it was one of ignorance.  Now they would not be allowed to understand the message Jesus came to teach.  It is at this point that Jesus began to teach everything in parables—to keep people ignorant of God’s truth.  Those who truly desired to understand Jesus would come and ask him, or be his disciple, to whom Jesus explained all things.  But to everyone else, these would just be stories and the truth would be hidden.

Jesus told this parable: “A farmer took his seed and scattered it everywhere.  Some of the seed landed on the hard road, beside the field that never planted properly and birds came and ate it all up.  Some of the seed grew up among thorns, and as they grew the thorns sucked all of the seeds’ water, and they died.  Some of the seed grew up among the rocks, and the plants had shallow roots, and so when the days grew hot, the plants withered.  But some seed was planted in good soil and it grew up and produced abundant fruit.”

            Jesus told another parable: “The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.  It is only a tiny seed, but after it is grown, it becomes huge and all the birds will rest under its branches.  The kingdom of God is also like a man who plants a field and waters it.  He waits, and the plants grow up—but he does not know how.”

            The crowds were completely confused now, so Jesus told one more: “A man planted a vast field.  In the middle of the night, his enemy planted weeds that look just like the grain in the midst of the field.  As the plants grew, the man’s slaves came to the man and said, ‘There are weeds among the grain! Should we pull them up?’  The man replied, ‘My enemy has done this.  Let the plants grow up, because if you pull the weeds up now, you will also pull up some of the grain.  When they are all grown, then I will have you pull them all up and we will separate them.  The weeds we will burn, but the wheat we will bring into the barn.’”

            Jesus’ disciples were also confused, so when they were alone with Jesus they asked, “Could you please explain these parables?”  Jesus replied, “The crowds aren’t supposed to understand them, but you are given the meaning of the parables. 

            “This is the meaning of the parable of the soils:  The seed is the word of God about the kingdom, and the farmer is the evangelist.  Some people hear the word and reject it immediately—these are like the seed on the road.  Satan comes and steals the word out of their hearts.  The seed in thorny ground are those who hear the word and receive it, but they are too concerned with the things of this world—possessions and concerns and money—and so they do not abide in the word.  The seed among the rocky soil are those who accept the word, but then they are rejected and persecuted and so do not continue in it.  The seed in good soil are those who abide through all the difficulties and worries to remain in the word to bear abundant fruit.

            “This is the meaning of the mustard seed: The kingdom of God begins very small, but in the end, it will be the ruler of all the nations of the world.  Also, the kingdom of God is going to grow huge—but it will do so by the power of God.  Although I send you out to spread the word, you will not cause the kingdom to grow, only God will.

            “This is the meaning of the parable of the weeds: The field is God’s people, and the owner is the Father.  Satan has placed false worshippers of God in the midst of God’s people.  But the Father is not judging them all now.  Rather, he will wait until the end of the age, and then he will send out his angels to separate the good from the evil.  The evil will be punished in eternal fire, but the righteous will come into the kingdom of God and live in blessing forever.”

            Jesus also placed a riddle around himself.  He called himself “Son of Man” which no one knew what it meant.  Most thought he was just calling himself a prophet, like Ezekiel did.  One day, Jesus told the crowds, “Your fathers ate manna in the wilderness, and they all died.  But I am the bread of life that comes from heaven.  Whoever eats my flesh will never die.”  The crowd wondered, “How can he give us his flesh to eat?”  Then Jesus said aloud, “Truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man, you have no life.” 

Many of his disciples heard this and said, “Who can abide this kind of teaching?”  Some of his disciples ceased following Jesus at this point.  Jesus then looked at the twelve and said, “Are you going to leave too?”  Peter answered, “Who else can we go to?”  And they remained.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Paul the Apostle on Religion and Jesus

You used to be dead to God due to your non-religious lifestyle and because you didn’t belong to the right church.  Jesus made you alive, putting you in His resurrection, forgiven us of all our religious inadequacies.  Religion has a list of our inadequacies before God, and they said that we owed God because of these inadequacies and they fought against us due to them.  But Jesus took that list and nailed it to the cross to show that it was their list that was inadequate.  Jesus’ death ridicules the religious authorities and laws and policies and his resurrection shows them all to be a mockery.

So don’t let anyone judge you by their standards: by the church you go to, the holidays you celebrate, the day you worship God, what you eat or drink—all of those things are insubstantial compared to the Reality of the King.   Don’t let anyone convince you that you are spiritually inadequate because you haven’t had the “right” spiritual experience, or  you haven’t sat under the “right” teacher, the importance of which they inflate in their own human mind.  Instead, cling to the true Lord, the Head which supplies and provides all the other parts of the body,  which grows by God’s power.  If you have died in Christ, don’t submit to any other spiritual “law”, which are of the world, as if you were still living apart from God.   The religious laws of “do not drink” “stay away from the opposite sex” “don’t partake in pleasure” “don’t eat this kind of food” are all rules that show their inadequacy as we use them.  Don’t live according to these human commandments.  Yes, they seem wise and powerful, but they are religious inventions for the sake of self-abasement and harsh treatment of our bodies, but they have no real value fighting real sin.

So if you have been resurrected in Jesus, seek true heavenly authority, in our King, seated at the right hand of God.  Focus on Jesus, not on earthly authorities. 

A paraphrase of Colossians 2:13-3:1