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Believing dogma over what the heart says is, well, unnatural. And I’ve been there. What kind of freak was I? It’s hard to remember, now that freedom and grace and love have won me.

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This is by a special guest writer and good friend:

 The Knowledge of Good and Evil

 
I was inspired by a friend this morning, preaching about the nature of good and evil and how it relates to us in terms of “the Gospel” and every day life.

A couple of things that I have been struggling to express for a long time fell into place for me.

The problem all began back in “the garden” (I don’t care whether it was a story or a fact – doesn’t change anything) when Adam and Steve, I mean Eve, ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (cue dramatic music).

Basically, they wanted to know the nature of everything in terms of two defined moral and ethical standards, standards they could describe in black and white – standards that required no decisions based on relationship, empathy, love or passion.

Just Good or Evil.

They walked away from relationship, and this is the whole basis of human thinking ever since. We are obsessed with defining everything in terms of good – evil, moral – immoral, ethical – unethical, ad infinitum…

So the greatest challenge to christians is the whole concept that Jesus completely did away with anything to do with that Tree. He didn’t come to help us make better decisions about good and evil, right and wrong. He didn’t come to give us the strength to choose good and right. He didn’t come to give us the power to resist evil and bad things. He didn’t even come to help us sort out our problems.

He came to rip out the tree by its roots!

EVERYTHING Jesus did was to reveal/point us to our unity with God (that was established before the foundation of the world…) – i.e. relationship! There is no more right or wrong, good or bad – there is only relationship with God. Relationship with LOVE himself (I only use the masculine pronoun because english doesn’t have a non-gendered personal pronoun).

I will never get anywhere if I keep thinking about how sinful I am, how much wrong and bad I do, how bad everyone is, how right or wrong/good or evil the world is etc. That thinking is anti-christ. It is negating everything God did in his Jesus manifestation.

Yes, I know, the first thing that pops into my head is “what about the wrong/bad/evil things that people do – that I do?” But let’s stop for a minute, and look at this. Everything is lawful/permissible but not everything is a great idea. Some things have crappy, and even horrific consequences. But the good news is that doesn’t affect our union with God in the slightest – not one little iddy bit. So He’s cool with whatever, but we do stuff that doesn’t help ourselves or others – its not “beneficial”. In other words, its not love – it doesn’t come from (yes you guessed it) relationship!

So now what? Be responsible for the mess you make, in the full knowledge that you and those affected by those non-beneficial actions are actually completely loved and also free from the nasty tree. If I don’t forgive myself, I’m saying I’m more important than God, I have greater power and authority, because he GOT RID OF THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. He doesn’t even judge me, because he doesn’t see us in that light.

I make bad decisions because my mind IS BEING RENEWED to realise my unconditional love union with him.

This is not making light of the messes and damage we do through stupid actions. It is the only solution!

Here’s my idea of how things work (very simplistic, cos if kids don’t get it, it must be wrong).

  1. No good or evil – just love union with God
  2. I can make decisions/actions that do not benefit me or someone else
  3. I take the most loving actions that reflect my union with God to reconcile those affected and fix the mess
  4. I love those affected by the decision – including myself – and move on, refusing to be judged further on the matter by anyone – including myself. 
  5. All my actions are to be governed by love relationship, NOT by right or wrong, good or evil.
This may sound petty or stupid and just ignoring huge amounts of “reality”. But its the only way forward. I am no longer to think in terms of sin. God doesn’t, so its the height of pride and arrogance for me to think that way. In fact its denying everything God established “before the foundations of the world” for us to live in unity with him and everyone else.
 
My un-renewed mind still wants “good and evil” because it gives me the power to judge and condemn, myself and everyone else. But Jesus grabs us by the hand, pulls us into the arms of God and only ever tells us about how much we are loved. That alone bring us to repentance, and repentance just simply and purely means changing our mind – that’s it, no guilt and remorse, shame or self flagellation, just changing our mind about being separated from God in any way.
 
I am whole, loved and complete. I’m still being renewed to this fact, but that does not change anything. Jesus restored us to relationship – end of story. I will not hold anyone in judgement, and I will not allow other’s judgments to affect me. 
 
The more I awake to my intimate union with God, the more I will be love, with no thought of good or evil.
 
This is true freedom. A license to sin? Sorry, I don’t know what sin is any more.

And this will annoy a LOT of people.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgTD0uYClP0

Some are saying that sex is only for marriage (sorry, single retirees, you have to give up your social security and marry your love, should be lucky enough to have one.) I know this is not a new stance, but the ones saying it are also teaching grace and freedom from law. Then they turn around and put people under law and Old Testament thinking, and New Testament rules that were never meant to be rules for all time. This should not be.

Not only that, but they see marriage as a sacrament. It is NOT! It is, and always has been, a contract. They are teaching morality by what is written in scripture. It’s my view that morality is heresy! It is looking to the law (both OT and new rules assumed in the NT) as your guide. Our guide is grace, God’s influence in our hearts, by the spirit, to know His ways (“godliness”).

Like the apostle Paul said, all things are “lawful” (and remember, the law is done away with) but not all things are profitable (or expedient). Grace is often very subjective. That is what scares people. But it is also the only way to live in freedom.

Traditionally we have seen the statements by Jesus about new patches on old cloth, and putting new wine in old wineskins, as illustrating the necessity of the new birth.

Yes, if you try to put the new wine in the old man, he can’t hold it. And if you just try to patch yourself up with new ideas, it won’t work. But I think there is more to this.

In the parables, Jesus tended to be referencing the present day Jewish kingdom, and how it was going away. Of course, the people didnt understand that. It was unthinkable that Messiah would come and not take the Jewish kingdom back from the Romans. That was their hope.

Jesus came to bring the kingdom of God to earth, not save the Jewish one. Jesus came to bring the new covenant, not prop up the old one. Jesus came to fulfill the law, thereby doing away with it, but not to enable people to keep the law.

I submit that the old wine skin is the old covenant and the old fabric is the law. The new wine can’t be kept under the old covenant. And grace cannot be sewn onto the law. Or visa versa. It’s not important which is which.

If you are a believer and call yourself a Christian, but still try to live by the old covenant and the law, or patch the law into the freedom of grace, you are living in the rubble of the old system, and are not really living as a new creation.

When you see God as a judgmental god, you have missed the final revelation of Him in Jesus. He is good. All the time.

When you try to patch a wrathful, vengeful, demanding god onto that revelation and image that Jesus showed us, you are not living in the kingdom of God.

How do you know what is right or wrong? The first answer usually involves the 10 Commandments. The Bible tells us that the believer is dead to the law, so what is the guide line? If we are dead to a law, we can neither keep it nor break it. Adam and Eve discovered right and wrong in Eden. They were kicked out. And while the penalty of death came on us all as a result, the Bible also says that their failing was not counted against them.

After Jesus fulfilled all the law and the rules were nailed to the cross, ending them, we once again live without our failings counted against us. For the Jews, this also meant that their trespasses of the law were forgiven. For the Gentiles, who did not have the law, Paul says this:

Romans 2:14 (The Message)

When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience.

This means that the law makes sense and the natural man knows to do right, at least in part. But the outsider/Gentile is not bound by laws of which he is unaware. His failing to keep the law is not counted against him. And since the cross, neither is the Jew bound by law.

It is over!

This leaves the question, as to how we know to do right, still without an answer. The people came to Moses and asked him to judge, and the result was the law given on Sinai, written on stone. Sacrifices were instituted to make atonement for the trespasses of the people. More laws were written to cover every conceivable trespass.

Still there were problems, so for a while, there were judges in Israel, to decided these things (if you deal with kids, you know that the more rules you have, the more you will need). Later, there were kings. And the scribes and religious leaders advised the kings. The prophets spoke God’s mind and warned of judgment.

Then the perfect came, which was Jesus, and did away with the imperfect, which was the law. And still man seeks rules instead of freedom. Man without the spirit of God within him will always need rules and laws, but those who are born from above by the living God seek rules too. This is should not be.

Having begun in the spirit, why would we then live by rules? Yet, when one tries to live by only walking in the spirit, by faith only, the religious people will seek to put rules on him.

The religious will quote the passage that says if one knows to do right and doesn’t do it, to that person it is sin. Well, it does mean that person failed. It doesn’t mean that person is guilty of anything.

Sin implies guilt, but there is no real guilt in failing. There can only be guilt if a law is transgressed.

Sin is not a good translation of the actual Greek, which is an archery term that means to miss the mark and fail to share in the prize. What mark, you ask? The mark of the high calling that Paul spoke of. And we know that none are perfect. Only Christ was perfect. Only in Him have we hit the mark, because He hit it.

To do what is right is to do what you know you should do. The un-regenerated will need rules and laws. But those in whom the spirit of God lives have His guidance.

One of the meanings of grace is the divine influence on the heart. Grace and the fruit of the spirit are very similar.

 

Grace operates in us and produces the nature of God. No rules, no laws. Only the rule of the spirit of life in Christ – which sets us free from sin and death.

Setting people free to walk in the spirit did not bother Jesus, nor the apostles. It only bothers the religious who want to control and fear freedom. Fear is not from God.

Grace operates out of supply, and does not place demands on us. It abounds to us. Love covers a multitude of errors, and mercy triumphs over judgment. We only need to let go and let God work in us. And in others.

If they don’t like your grace walk, show them more grace. It is the only way to counter those who want to put us under bondage and deny us the freedom we are meant to have in Christ.

So, if you are His, just live your life, because it is hid with Christ in God. The God of all the earth will do right in you and by you and through you. We have many great promises that this is so. Trust Him. Trust yourself. It’s not supposed to be complicated. It is unsettling to the religious mind. It’s called freedom in Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you think this is a lament about the state of the world and/or the church, you are right. But it is not what you may expect. I am not lamenting the usual opinion that winking at sin is the reason the world/church is in such bad shape. Far from it. When a believer thinks in this manner, he has forgotten the message of grace.

The believer in Jesus Christ has no relation to the law and therefore lives apart from sin. (Gal. 2:19 – For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. Rom. 7:6 – But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. Rom. 7:8b ….For without the law sin was dead.)

Shocked? Well, this is the message of grace. What then are we to do? Does what we do matter? How does it matter? And how do we know we have missed the way – can we actually miss the way? Sin means to miss the goal. But God guides us by the Holy Spirit. Is He weak that He can only guide us some of the time? No! He accomplishes His purposes in us. Even when we think we’ve blown it.

Paul writes about our relationship to “sin” in Romans this way:

Rom 6:2 – God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Rom 6:7 – For he that is dead is freed from sin.

Rom 6:11 – Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rom 6:13 – Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

We are to understand that we are living in Jesus, and no longer in unrighteousness.

That’s what it means to “reckon”. When we do something that is not compatible with Christ, we will know, for the Spirit will show us. As we learn to here His voice, we will know, for we have the mind of Christ. There is no condemnation but only grace. Our mistakes are not sins. They are just mistakes. We are sorry for them, but then we go on with Him. That is the true meaning of repentance.

The life in the spirit, that has no relation to the law is a wonderful, glorious life, lived in freedom and grace.

It can be a bit frightening for us, because we are so used to rules. We are not practiced in listening only to the Holy Spirit (who will not lead us against scripture, but often will lead us beyond our understanding of scripture into new understanding – and into things of the spirit which are not written down on pages, for God is still moving and speaking and doing new things. We are to try the spirits, and judge prophecies!)

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;

Note that grace teaches us how we should live. The work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts does this. The heart is where the laws of God are written. We don’t read them but instead we know them, for they are spiritually discerned. We walk in them by faith that He is indeed guiding our steps. Grace looks a lot like the fruit of the spirit.

When we stop thinking in terms of rules and laws, we find ourselves not judging others in terms of sins either. If we judge others by law it has some uncomfortable implications. But if we do not regard the law, we cannot put restrictions of law on anyone. If we do, we will have put ourselves under law again, and will have fallen from grace (will not have lost our salvation, but will have lost our freedom and life in the spirit).

(Galatians 5:1-4 – Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.)

We need to go beyond “loving the sinner but hating the sin”, which is a sham and very condescending anyhow. If you hate what someone does, they really won’t feel the love coming from you! When we stop thinking in terms of sins, we will have begun to see the pure love of Christ.

Jesus is the representation of God to us, and He loved those who came to Him, without condemnation. He was the end of the law, by which sin is known. It truly is finished!

What Does the New Testament Say About Surrender?

Not much!

We often hear that we should surrender our all to Jesus in order to live a Christian life. Is this something we should do? What does it mean? Do we do it so God can use us? So we can be more spiritual or holy? Hardly! He does it all, not us – so none can boast, is how Paul says it. That is grace. Besides, we could never surrender our all. We aren’t capable.

We are imperfect and would always leave something out. God doesn’t set us up to fail.

What does scripture say? Well, the word, surrender, only appears once in the New Testament, and that is in the New American Standard Bible. 1 Corinthians 13:3, And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. The King James Version says, “give”, by the way.

So where do we get this idea of surrendering to God? Romans 12:1 says to present our bodies as a living sacrifice (for there is no more killing of sacrifices) holy and acceptable to God, which is our reasonable service. We are now transferred into the kingdom, clean and holy. That is not exactly the meaning of surrendering. What Paul is saying is that in His mercy He gives us grace, so our lives are acceptable and He works through us. By His compassion and grace, this is the new and living way. He is not served by human hands, and His temple is not made with human hands.

We serve in the body of Christ. This is our logical way of service.

In the gospels, Jesus talks about a grain of corn falling to the ground and dying. In context, he was speaking of his own death, not our surrendering.

John 12:20-20 And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21 The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22 Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified. 24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal. 26 If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.

In verse 25, the word for life is psyche, in the first instances, and zoe in the last, in connection to eternal life. Psyche is the breath of life, or soul. When Jesus lay down his life, the word is psyche.

He never lay down his eternal life, or zoe! Hallelujah!

Back to surrender, then. Where do we get that idea? When we believe in Jesus, our old life is exchanged for a new one. That is not surrender either. It is receiving zoe eternal. It is freedom. It is joy. It is grace in action. We have a spirit of adoption, where we can cry out, “Abba, Father”!

This is not surrender, but is coming home.

We come into the light and walk in the Spirit, as children of God – with Jesus as our brother. We are born again of the Spirit, our old man dies, and we walk in newness of life (zoe) and spirit.

Ro 6:4 – Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Ro 7:6 – But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

Surrender? I think it is the powers of darkness that have to surrender – not that it is necessary, since they are defeated and triumphed over openly!

Christ is in us and we are in him. We live an exchanged life, not a surrendered one, and are more than conquerors in him. We do not surrender.

Surrender may sound good – but it is actually the language of religion, rearing its head. It is bondage, and this is key, for we can never totally surrender.

We can never do it, for we are not capable of total anything.

Like trying to confess all our sins – we could never remember them all! That’s why Jesus died to take them ALL away….. Surrender becomes a mindset that will defeat us every time. We merely rest in Him and trust Him to live His life in us.

An afterthought: perhaps we should choose our lyrics more carefully in the songs we sing. Real change begins with a renewed mind, and I do know that I often change the words when I sing. However, lyrics are poetry and express emotion. Our relationship with God is one of passion. If it isn’t passionate, something is wrong. But to say we have to cut out all songs that don’t match our theology is to become the very thing that we are not wanting to be – legalists.

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