What is the relationship of gentile Christians to the nation of Israel, the land of Israel, and the scriptures of Israel (i.e., what we know as the Old Testament)?
The short answer is that gentile Christians are actually counted as Jews, having been grafted into Israel by their salvation. (Rom. 11: 17-24) The entirety of Romans 11 is a crucial passage for understanding this relationship.
Scripture is very clear that God chose to put His grace on Israel, giving them His presence and His Word. His full intention in this was that through the seed of Abraham, all the nations of the world would be blessed. (Gen. 12: 1- 3; 18: 17-19; 22: 15-18)
This blessing occurs in many ways.
1. God was introduced to the world through His relationship with Israel. He was revealed to them and through them to be fundamentally different than the "gods" that other nations worshipped. Foreigners came to fear the power of Yahweh and also wanted to be part of His provision and protection. (Is. 61: 1-9; 62: 1-12)
2. The Scriptures, which were entrusted to Israel, were not just for their benefit, but also for the benefit of any person who wanted to be joined to them. (Rom.3: 1-2) Throughout the Old Testament, God made allowance for foreigners to be counted among the people of Israel.
It is important to note that whenever the New Testament makes a reference to the scriptures, it is referring to the Old Testament. (e.g., 2 Tim. 3: 16)
3. Ultimately, the Messiah would be born of the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the fulfillment - the end goal - of all that God began when He first called Abraham to be His own.
4. God revealed through Abraham the conditions through which people would be saved and brought into a relationship with Him. That is, that salvation has always been and will always be the result of faith, rather than of good works. (Gen. 15: 1- 6; Rom. 4: 16-25). This was true in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. Nothing we do will accomplish our salvation - not good behavior or the circumcision of our flesh or going to church. These are things that result from our salvation but they do not grant salvation. (Rom. 3: 28-30; 4: 4-13).
Ultimately then, Jewishness or citizenship in Israel, is not accomplished through genealogy or culture or tradition. Rather it is defined by the condition of the heart. (John 8: 37-42; Col. 2: 11-12; Rom. 2: 26-29). This is why we have passages such as Eph. 2: 11-19
"Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household …"
5. Being grafted into the people of Israel through our adoption in Jesus makes gentile believers joint heirs to the physical land of Israel and to all of the promises and charges given to them as a nation (e.g., Ezek. 47: 21-23; Gen. 12: 1-3).
6. It also makes them joint keepers/guardians of the Word of God entrusted to Israel.
Benefits of understanding the Hebraic roots of Christian faith
By viewing Christianity as the fulfillment of Judaism rather than its replacement, we reap several benefits.
1. It helps us to better understand the meaning of scripture. The Bible was not originally written in English but in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic. The only way to really understand scripture is to ask what the phrases would have meant to the people to which they were originally spoken. This takes into account the culture in which it was spoken/written as well as the customs of that day.
All language is a reflection of that language's culture. When you translate a Hebrew word into another language, you lose subtle shadings that are dependent on Hebrew culture and history. For example, the Hebrew word torah means instruction. It implies an honor and privilege given to us, a responsibility that we undertake as part of the covenant we made with God, a good deed that we are eager to perform because it please the God who saved us and because we recognize that it is given for our own good. When it is translated into English, torah is usually rendered as the word commandment or law. "Commandment" has a much different implication - a law or order imposed upon us by a stern and punishing God.
2. It help us to see the continuity of Scripture. We have mistakenly believed that the Old and New Testaments were two separate entities, two separate covenants, two disconnected stories. But the truth of scripture is that it is a single story which spans the Old and New Testaments. It is the story of the birth, death, and redemption (resurrection) of the children of God, the sons and daughters of Adam. This is the story of God's desire to have children for Himself and a bride for His son. It is about the lengths He has gone to in order to accomplish those things. Ultimately, the Bible tells the story of God's heart poured out on us, the objects of His great affection.
By way of example ...
As an example of the continuity of scripture, in Lev. 23 God instituted what He called the feasts or festivals of the Lord (notice that these were not called the festivals of Israel, but rather festivals of the Lord). These seven events were prophetic rehearsals of the birth, death, resurrection and second coming of Jesus. They were designed to point the way to Messiah, as their fulfillment would be found in Him. Consequently, many of Jesus' statements which are recorded in the New Testament are references to elements of the festivals (something we cannot understand if we fail to view Jesus in the context of His Jewish culture and faith). For example, Jesus' statement in John 7: 37-38 is a reference to a symbol used in the Feast of Tabernacles. Therefore, some of its significance is lost if we don't understand that Feast.
All people who belong to the Lord were instructed to participate in these festivals until the end of the Age (that is, until the second coming of Christ).
In Lev. 23: 2, the word for feast is the Hebrew word mo'ed, which means "an appointment, a fixed time or season, a cycle or year, an assembly, an appointed time, a set time or exact time. God is saying here that He has ordained specific times (or exact time or an appointed time) when He will meet with humanity to fulfill certain events in the redemption. E.g., Jesus came to earth at the exact time ordained by God (Gal 4:2,4), and God has an exact time or set appointment when, in the future, He will judge the world (Acts 17:31).
Mo'ed is also translated as the tent of meeting that was to be part of the tabernacle of Moses. The tent of meeting contained a table on which was the bread of the Presence and a lampstand that burned oil continually before God. (The book of Revelation uses lampstand to represent the church). The ark of the Covenant was in an area of the tent of meeting called the Most Holy Place. (Exod. 25: 8-22) Here, God would meet intimately with Moses at the mercy seat. It was also the place that contained the word/instruction of God, the staff of authority, and the manna/provision.
In the appointed time (during the festivals), in the tent of meeting (which now includes the human heart and not just a physical structure), we come face to face with the presence of God. We also receive the word/instruction of God, the staff of authority (which allows us to minister in His name), and the manna (provision of God for our lives).
Eddie Chumney has written a very useful book about the relationship of the seven festivals to Jesus (and therefore to Christianity). Below is an excerpt from his book, The Seven Festivals of the Messiah. I encourage you to visit his website. There, you may either order the book or download it for free.
Reasons for studying the feasts
Although God gave us the festivals to observe, God never gave the festivals so we would obtain salvation from Him by observing them because salvation only comes by faith. However, God did give the festivals for the purpose of teaching and instructing His people concerning His plan of redemption and our personal relationship to Him.
The Bible provides several powerful reasons for studying and understanding the seven festivals of the Messiah:
1. The feasts are in the Bible, and all the Bible is inspired by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
2. The feasts are a shadow of things to come that teach us about the Messiah (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1).
3. The feasts are prophetic types and examples foreshadowing significant events in God's plan of redemption (1 Cor. 10:1-6,11; Rom. 15:4).
4. The feasts, as part of the Torah (which means "instruction"), are as a schoolmaster or tutor that leads us to the Messiah (Gal. 3:24).
5. The feasts will point to the Messiah and God's plan for the world through the Messiah (Ps. 40:6-8; Heb. 10:7).
6. The feasts set forth the pattern of heavenly things on earth(Heb. 8:1-2,5; 9:8-9,23; Exod.25:8-9,40; 26:30; Num.8:4; Ezek.43:1-6,10-12).
7. God gives the natural to explain the spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46-47; 2:9-13; 2 Cor.4:18).
This teaching outlines what we know concerning the Father's position on healing from the written Word and Jesus, the Living Word.
You will also notice that when He healed these people, He did not pray a prayer asking for their healing. Rather, Jesus commanded healing to occur out of the authority that had been given to Him. Neither did Jesus use the "if it be your will" approach. Jesus came to these situations knowing that it was Father's will to heal - all the sick who were willing, any time they asked.
Finally, many of these passages illustrate the importance that God places on our faith. This is no different than the role of faith in receiving forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation. It is the same faith, in the same God. Healing is no more difficult for God than forgiveness. We never question whether God wants to save people. Why would we question whether He wants to heal them?
Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship - see in particular their page on Healing and deliverance as well as the link to their School of Ministry
Global Awakening - This ministry also hosts the Randy Clark School of Healing & Impartation
Bethel Church - Check out their School of Ministry and the link to Sozo training. Bill Johnson is Bethel's senior pastor. Two of his books are listed below.
The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind: Access to a life of miracles, by Bill Johnson (Destiny Image Publishers)
Healing: Our neglected birthright (a 6 CD series), by Bill Johnson ( www.ibethel.org or 530-246-6000)
Iris Ministries Iris Ministries also sponsors the Holy Given International School of Missions. Heidi & Rolland Baker, who head Iris Ministries have written the following book.
There is Always Enough by Heidi & Roland Baker
Fresh Fire Ministries sponsors the Supernatural Training Center . Todd Bentley, Fresh Fire's founder has written the following:
Christ's Healing Touch: Understanding how to take God's healing power to the world, by Todd Bentley (published by Fresh Fire Ministries)
All Nations Ministries Roger Sapp heads this ministry and has written several helpful books, among them:
Performing Miracles and Healing: A biblical guide to developing a Christ-like supernatural ministry, by Roger Sapp (Morris Publishing)
Blessed be the Lord, my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle.
Ps. 144: 1
1. There is more than one realm of existence, more than just this tangible, physical world. Scripture repeatedly speaks of spiritual realms and the forces and beings that inhabit them. For example, Eph. 6: 12 says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but principalities (a military ranking applied to certain levels of demons).
This leads to an important questions: what constitutes reality? Is it defined by our five senses or determined in spiritual realms. The movie, The Matrix, presents this issue well. Most people live believing only in a temporal, physical reality. They mistake it for the truth, they mistake bondage for freedom. References: 2 Cor. 4: 18; 2 Cor. 4: 4; 1 Cor. 2: 14
2. Truth begins in the realm of the Spirit. Truth originates in the person of God. Nothing on earth has a higher authority than that - not logic or science or experience or what we perceive by our senses.
3. Spiritual realms and this earthly realm interact and intersect. For example, consider Daniel 10 - warfare in a spiritual plane produced a 21-day wait for Daniel. Also there is the example of Job 1: 6-11 where Satan issues a challenge before God that results in events on the earth.
What happens in one realm affects the other. This works in both directions. Things in the spiritual realms affect the earth and things on earth affect the spiritual realms. E.g., Eph. 3: 10 says that the church bears witness to the inhabitants of spiritual realms about the wisdom of God.
3. Whether on earth or in the spiritual realms, every person, thing, situation, etc. belongs to either the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of Satan, whether or not they know it or intend it. There is no such thing as neutrality (Matt. 12: 30). There is no power vacuum in heaven or on earth. All territory, all people, all resources are claimed by and under the control of one Kingdom or another.
4. The reality of the world is that it is a battle zone where the 2 kingdoms clash. Rev. 12: 11-17; John 10: 10. In Waking the Dead, Eldredge write, "Until we come to terms with war as the context of our days we will not understand life. We will misinterpret 90 percent of what is happening around us and to us. You won't understand your life, you won't see clearly what has happened to you or how to live forward form here, unless you see it as battle."
Being a child of God - actually knowing what that means and operating out of that relationship - means that the battle will be brought to your door. Warfare occurs because of who you are. You cannot stop that.
1. God (Father, Son & Holy Spirit)
God is ALWAYS good (Job 34: 10,12; Ps. 5: 4; James 1: 13; 3 John 1: 11), satan is ALWAYS evil. This distinction is important - God doesn't author evil. Instead, God redeems what has been meant for evil, turning it to our good Rom. 8: 28
A. heavenly hosts who serve the Kingdom of God. They are described as ministering spirits Heb. 1: 14, e.g., Michael guards Israel (Dan. 12: 1; 10: 21). They are organized militarily (e.g., Jude 9 "archangel") with different ranks and positions
B. fallen angels, aka, demons. In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes, " One of the things that surprised me when I first read the New Testament seriously was that it talked so much about a dark power in the universe - a mighty evil spirit who was held to be the power behind death and disease and sin."
1. emanates from God Matt. 28: 18; 1 Sam. 17: 47 Eph 1: 21 Rom 13: 1
2. because it's part of His identity Exod. 15: 3
3. is a point of law (legal right) and power delegated to us by God (Genesis mandate 1: 26-28; Matt. 10: 1; Mark 3: 15; Luke 9: 1; 10: 19; Matt. 10: 1; 9: 35; Mark 6: 7; Luke 10: 19; 1 John 3: 8
4. you can only walk in authority if you're under authority and can only use authority in a manner consistent with the One who delegated it (you rule in His name, on His behalf) Matt. 8: 8-9. Matt 16: 19 NAS, AB
5. we can also give it away (e.g., Eden; Esau and the birthright - Gen. 25) Luke 4:6
6. The blood of Jesus redeems back every piece of authority that we have forfeited. It translates us from one kingdom to another, from a position of injustice to the kingdom where Justice reigns. Nullifies every curse and penalty; arrests false inheritance and demonic assignment; removes every accusation and source of condemnation. Jesus' blood brings life and has power over death Lev. 17: 11, 14; John 6: 53; Heb. 2: 14
Christ paid the price in full for everything (salvation, freedom, healing, deliverance). So, healing, deliverance and salvation are not an issue of our own strength, discipline, or feeling of anointing. Thru His death and resurrection- thereby redeeming the Fall of Adam- Christ gave us all power in heaven and earth, we have regained the legal authority Adam lost.
7 ways Jesus shed blood and what each redeems
1. Gethsemane: not my will, but Yours. Redeems will power (ability to make and enforce choices rather than being at the mercy of sin or flesh desires; self-control = a sound mind)
2. stripes: produce healing Is. 53: 5
3. crown of thorns: overturns curse on land/prosperity that was issued in Gen. 3: 17-19
4. pierced hands: dominion over what we touch
5. pierced feet: dominion over places we walk Deut 11: 24;
Gen. 1: 28 Mark 16: 15
6. pierced side: redeems relationship between men and women (Jesus was pierced in the same place from which a rib was removed from Adam to create Eve)
7. bruised (inner bleeding): redeems inner hurts
The role of Identity in warfare
We've been talking about the authority that originates in God, was delegated to humankind, lost by sin, and restored by the blood of Jesus. The question is: who gets to wield that authority now?
Genesis mandate/ Rom. 8: 13-16
1. Understanding one's own Identity/position (adopted son of God)
Jesus replies, "I never knew you." (Meaning: to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of; to understand; Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman indicating intimate knowledge).
And then says, "Away from me you evildoers." (lit. you who are "without name", without authority; the condition of lawlessness, contempt and violation of law, iniquity, and wickedness)
These people had used authority without having the right to it - they were not intimate with God. Were not in God. The same issue comes up with sons of Sceva in Acts 19: 14-15
Being in Christ or in Father appears to be a matter of relationship as much as it is obedience. It is critical to see the difference between claiming the position of son and acting in relationship as son. Walking in relationship increases authority.
Many times we attempt to take on the position of sons without engaging in the relationship behavior of sons. This results in impaired sonship. It is rather like the predicament of the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. He is unable to rejoice over the return of his brother; in fact, he actively resents his father's joy. Remember the exchange when he confronts his father: (Luke 15: 29-31)
The older brother's resentment is born of not living as a son. He had acted dutifully toward his father but had never availed himself of the pleasures and rewards of sonship, even though the father would gladly have given them.
(Note: for more information about sonship, see the topic God as Father, Us as Sons)
Diagnosis & Identification of the enemy/issues.
Warfare is more than casting out demons. It includes things like resisting temptation, standing against the lies and oppression of the enemy; and the advancement of the kingdom o f God against the resisting force of the enemy;.
1. Anything that contradicts the Truth of Scripture (about you , about the Body, about your calling, about relationships) is of satan.
There has to be a plumbline to measure things by. The plumbline is the character of God. Basically anything that causes you to be or live in a way that is not the full measure of God's desire/plan/character for your life, is the enemy.
2. To differentiate the source of something (God vs satan) look at its fruit. If it drives you away from God or other people, its source is evil. E.g., shame vs. discipline. Matt. 7: 15-20
3. look for destructive patterns (within the life of a person or across generations of their family). These may reveal generational curses. Pay especial attention to things that defy treatment, e.g., illnesses that don't respond to medication.
4. Identify the root or source of the issue. This could include sin, unhealthy spiritual ties, false vows (e.g., "I'll never say I'm sorry", I'll never make myself vulnerable to another person again"), false prophecy (e.g., "you'll never amount to anything"), victimization, trauma, etc.
5. When dealing with demonic oppression, pay attention to the effect the demon has on the person's life. This will need to be arrested. The effect of the demon is its identity. A word of caution: While it is important to see the effect the demonic influence has on the person, too much emphasis has been placed on knowing a demon's name. This strategy sprang from a single incident in Jesus' ministry (when He dealt with the Gerasene demoniac who was possessed by Legion). And even in that incident, knowledge of the demon's name was not part of Jesus' strategy for casting it out.
1. By looking at Jesus' ministry we can see that there is not one stategy or methodology for warfare. We tend to make Moses' error. He mistook method for truth (struck the rock rather than speaking to it as God told him to, because striking it had worked before).
2. Jesus commanded demons and disease (didn't plead with it, didn't treat it nicely, didn't ask Father to do it, didn't pray for the person, and especially, didn't pray "if it be your will")
3. Warfare is mostly a matter of understanding and declaring Truth.
4. the battle is always the Lord's (1 Sam. 17: 47): e.g., Joshua and Jericho; David against the Philistines
5. importance of discernment over the plans of God and the activity of evil spirits. There are 2 sources of discernment. One is a gift of the Holy Spirit (just as there are gifts of healing or prophecy or wisdom; 1 Cor. 12: 10). The other comes from simply having the Holy Spirit within you. Discernment is a critical part of warfare because satan is a master illusionist.
6. authority is in the name of the Lord, Ps. 91: 14 (AB); 1 Sam. 17: 45
7. authority is in the word of the Lord, e.g., Jesus in the wilderness with Satan. Replace error with Truth (substitute scripture for lie)
8. submission to God will determine the tide of battle. E.g., Israel's defeat at Ai was due to sin in the camp (Ps. 91: 1-2; James 4: 7; Matt. 8: 5-11) God's instructions really are for our benefit. Violation of them has negative consequences. We submit to God by:
9. clothe yourself in the armor of God Eph. 6: 10-13
10. understand the power of the tongue (linked to our own position and authority) to declare life or death. What we say and how we say it matters. Prov. 4: 24; 18: 21; Ps. 39: 1
11. Binding and loosing in accordance with the truth of the Kingdom (Matt. 16: 19). This also includes blessing and cursing.
12. Forgiveness is a weapon (removes legal debt of others, frees us from bondage to bitterness, places us under grace rather than justice). It is also important to address forgiveness of self. 2 Cor. 2: 5-11; Matt. 6: 14-15
13. role of love in warfare: love is a weapon 1 Peter 4: 8
15. Mark 9: 14-29 Jesus and boy with deaf/dumb spirit whose father operated in unbelief: role of prayer and fasting in dealing with "this kind" (i.e., unbelief).
16. Luke 11: 21-22 taking away what the strong man has trusted in. Satan has trusted in our participation/cooperation. Has trusted in the wounding/lies he placed over us. Has trusted in his own worth and power.
17. Assemble your warriors, do NOT fight alone. Unity in the Body is crucial. Pursue and support it with all your might.
Principles of Legality
1. scope of authority: you have the same authority as Jesus (performed deliverance and healing for unsaved people who were willing to come to Him). Can minister to the same people and in the same places.
2. The only time scripture records a limitation to Jesus' ministry was Nazareth Mark 6: 1-6 (Matt. 13: 53-58). This same limitation was evident in Jesus' encounters with the religious leaders - did not attempt to heal or deliver them as it was evident that they operated in unbelief and wanted nothing from Him.
3. Deut.11: 22-25 ability to claim where you set your foot is linked to love for God and obedience to Him. Although this promise was given to Israel over a specific geographic territory, Ps. 115: 16 and Gen. 1: 28 suggest that whole earth belongs to us
Generational Curses: What they are
1. recurring patterns that manifest in multiple generations
2. the result of iniquity. Could be something a person did or something that was done to them (e.g., victimization of some kind)
3. manifestations may be
1. understand that the cross broke all curses (Gal. 3: 13 Jesus became a curse for us so that we would be free from the curses due us by our sin). Jesus' blood doesn't just forgive our sins; it frees us from the curses that our sin would have produced.
2. understand that you have to assert your right through the cross for those curses to be appropriated (may have money in the bank, but you have to write a check or go and withdraw it for you to actually be able to use the money)
3. substitutional repentance for the sin of past generations. This brings the cursed act under the blood. This appropriates forgiveness and cleansing.
4. repenting of any way in which you've participated (may have been through ignorance - simply agreeing with a lie or making room for that same behavior in your life). Includes making a declaration that you break any agreement with the demonic.
5 revoking the enemy's claim to you and rejecting the generational assignments against you and the generations that proceed from you. E.g. declaring to the curse that "you (generational curse) are not my inheritance and I am not your inheritance."
6 walking in righteousness. To remain in the blessing rather than in the curses requires that we walk in obedience. We must choose life (blessing) by choosing righteousness (Deut. 30: 15-20).
Love one another as I have loved you (John 13: 34)
To live in community within the Body requires a commitment to the law of love. Love, in all its forms, comes from God and is, at its heart, the desire for the well-being of the Beloved.
1. Love gives itself/pours itself out for the sake of the Beloved.
E.g., Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend. (John 15: 13)
The problem is this: Laying down your life isn't just about dying for someone else. Dying is easy (relatively speaking) and rarely required. Living for one another is much harder. While we focus on Jesus' crucifixion, we tend not to notice that His death only had power because of the way He lived His life up until that point. Only a sinless life, a life poured out in love for humankind, could qualify Jesus to redeem us.
We must expect love to be costly and full of sacrifice. It's like becoming a parent - your life is not about you anymore and many of the things you want take a back seat to the things your kids want.
Laying down your life for people requires sacrificing time, energy, hobbies, etc. It means watching each others backs and reputations. It involves applying all the principles of love - both the supportive and the confrontive.
Laying down your life means helping when you don't feel like it; giving up something you want so someone else can have what they want or need; doing it their way rather than your way; giving or doing something that isn't deserved; doing what's right for someone even when it costs you; risking making someone mad by speaking truth in love; caring about what the other person cares about even if it wouldn't normally interest you; making an effort to remember important details; offering without waiting to be asked.
Laying down your life is expressed in the specific traits associated with love in I Cor. 13
3. 1 John 4: 10-11 love acts first (makes the first move) - seeks out the beloved and it makes the last move John 13: 1(NAS) "to the end"
4. love blesses (Deut. 7: 13) bless (barach)= to bestow good (literally, or prophetically speaking heaven's intention to bestow). The opposite of blessing is envy/jealousy: wanting the good thing that someone else possesses; viewing someone else as a threat to the good thing you possess.
5. love redeems (Is. 63: 9)
Dealing with Conflict
"I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those who will believe in me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they may also be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one: I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected 1in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." (John 17:20-23)
Why has this not been answered? Largely because of our inability to handle conflict, because we have the wrong priorities, the small perspective. (e.g. leaving churches over trivialities, or wanting to be right more than wanting to honor the desires of God regarding community)
Understanding the value of conflict
"As much as it depends on you, be at peace with all men" (Rom. 12: 18). Notice that peacemaking and peacekeeping are different. Peacemaking is an active process that may require conflict along the way. Peacekeeping often involves an avoidance of conflict so that it is really more about placating. Peacemakers are called sons of God (Matt. 5: 9)
In the Body, we have often embraced the myth that all conflict is wrong, - that to be in community means not to fight. But there is no iron sharpening iron without some level of conflict. This means no personal/spiritual growth, no deepening of relationships, no strengthening of the church body.
Love requires appropriate conflict. "My son do not despise the Lord's discipline and do not resent His rebuke. Because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father [disciplines] the son he delights in." (Prov 3:11-12) A fight is the not worst thing that can happen. Sometimes lack of conflict is even worse. For example, when Adam chose passivity and conflict avoidance as Eve was being tempted by Satan in the Garden, he sentenced Eve (and ultimately himself and the rest of the human race) to death. We are obligated to teach and correct one another in love.
So the problem is not so much that we have conflict with one another, but that we don't resolve the conflict. Unresolved conflict is deadly. It creates walls between two parts that should be functioning smoothly together.
Not all conflict is appropriate or useful, so how do you know what is worth conflict? The basic rule of thumb is whether the conflict will ultimately advance the kingdom.
How to engage in healthy conflict
There are a million ways to get it wrong, but only a few ways to get it right. Over and above all else, conflict must be governed by the laws of love.
1. We have to be committed to each other, to put community before ourselves, our own wants. Do not be quick to break the unity of the Body. This is a last resort, only to be used when there are issues of sin for which people are habitually unrepentant.
2. Communication 101
4. It is better to be wronged/suffer injustice, than to break community (I Cor 6: 1-8). So if you have a problem with a brother, approach him first in humility and love. If not resolved ask a wise brother to help mediate. If unwilling to abide by that, take it to several elders. If it is still not resolved take it to pastor. But do not take one another to court.
5. Guard your tongue. Before speaking always assess whether your words will advance the kingdom, whether they reflect the truth as God sees it. Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Do you want to speak for him? Speaking evil (lies, slander, gossip) of a brother desecrates the temple worse than showing up drunk and naked.
6. Don't say anything bad about another person without speaking to that person first. If you must get advice first about how to approach the person, then do that wisely and quietly.
7. At the end of the day we have this: "as those who have been chosen by God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you [forgive]. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. " (Col 3:12-14)
Dealing with Offense
offense: (scandalizo) - to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall
Offense is different than simply not liking something. It makes the thing personal, and it passes judgment & draws conclusion. You can put a stumbling block in someone else's way by giving offense or put one in your own way by taking offense.
Sources of offense
1. Religious spirits
Rom. 9: 33 refers to Is. 8: 12-15 Jesus was, and continues to be, a rock of offense, a snare, and a stumbling block to religious spirits who follow the traditions of men rather than the heart of God.
There were two issues for the Pharisees: Jesus walked in a liberty that frustrated their control, (e.g., healing people on Sabbath; consorting with tax collectors, allowing a formerly sinful woman to wash his feet with her hair) and He walked in a righteousness that made them look dirty by comparison.
Truth is often offensive
- to the status quo whose power base is threatened by it;
- to Satan who operates in lies and misdirection;
- to flesh and pride which doesn't see it's own failings
Religious spirits can operate within Christianity by setting up false standards. E.g., the belief that going to church on Wednesday nite makes you more holy than those who don't. Or religious spirits can be from outside Christianity, e .g., those who are offended that Christianity claims to be the only way to God/heaven.
Religious spirits partner with pride because they include a sense of being better than others who do not measure up to the religious standard. (Col. 2:18)Pride becomes a matter of offense because it is a divisive snare that alienates the person from others.
2. spirit of offense
There is a demonic spirit whose function is to perceive and create offense. It seeks to misinterpret behavior and words so that they have the worst possible connotation. The spirit of offense causes the person to operate insensitively towards others so that they are either unaware of how their words and actions impact others or they simply don't care.
3. Differences in belief/practice
There are differences of belief and practice throughout the Body of Christ. E.g., what language is acceptable, what style of worship is acceptable, what manner of dress, whether to drink alcohol or coffee. The issue is what to do with those differences.
a. Rom. 14: 1-13 we have different beliefs based on maturity of faith. These cannot be basis for judgment or condemnation on the part of either party.
b. choosing to restrain liberty to keep a weaker brother from falling (Rom. 14: 13 - 15: 2) vs. refusing to live by "religious" standards which appear to be wise but actually have no value (Col. 2: 13 - 23). Both options can be seen as acts of love. Which one you do depends on the particular person and particular situation.
c. This is why we have to believe the best of each other - including trusting each person to get with God over issues and to wrestle out their faith (salvation). This will lead us to interpret their behavior as being born of what they have faith for - see their behavior as an act of trying to live in accordance with their understanding (even if their understanding is immature or wrong)
How to stay in fellowship when there are disagreements
1. priorities and perspective:
The day is here and increasingly coming when Christians will be persecuted, put to death, hated by all the nations, ostracized and called evil (John 15: 20; Matt. 24: 9; Luke 6: 22; John 16: 33). When real persecution arises, trivial things fall away. All of the sudden, it doesn't matter whether we baptize by immersion or sprinkling, whether you drink, dance, play cards, wear pants or makeup, listen to secular music, wear head coverings, or shave your head and get tattoos . The time will be over for disagreements over whether clergy should wear robes and what style of worship to use. The only thing that will matter is your willingness to stand with Jesus - to confess His name above all names. We have to keep that perspective.
If an issue will not matter in the end, maybe it shouldn't matter so much now. It isn't that God doesn't care about behavior - the standards of holiness were established by Him after all - but God's priority is always on the heart. Ours should be as well (see for example, the story of Hezekiah in II Chron. 29-30)
2. look for common ground - keep your focus on what's important (e.g., that Jesus is the only way to God) rather than the trivial.
3. adopt the view that there is only one bride of Christ, one wife. This is not a Rachel and Leah moment. You have to love the Body in its entirety rather than loving parts of it and hating other parts. In Matt. 25: 31-46, giving food and drink and clothing and ministry had nothing to do with whether they agreed on everything. It was based on their need and the fact that they were brothers.
4. maintain relationship (fellowship) even if you're not part of that particular local Body. Befriend a Baptist, a charismatic, a Presbyterian. Build relationships across the Body, get to know their hearts, find the common ground and emphasize it. Churches need to work cooperatively and not territorially.
5. let disagreements be amicable - without hostility, judgment, accusation, or fracture. I may choose not to be in a particular local church because my understanding of issues is different than theirs, but I still need to bless them, build them up and not down, pray for the fullness of God for them, want their prosperity and health, not be threatened by or envious of their success.
There are two platforms from which we can operate: Justice and grace. Justice is based on the righteousness of God, a very good thing. It protects society by using "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" strategy to curb bad behavior. But this approach is ultimately flawed, because we all end up missing eyes and teeth. And even that doesn't reverse or undo the wrong that was done. It simply exacts a price. There is no redemption in this platform.
Grace acknowledges that a wrong has been done and that a price has to be paid. But it chooses to allow someone else to pay the price. In doing that, the offender's debt is cancelled. So I'm standing on the platform of righteousness and justice, and I'm condemned. Then God comes and says, "I'll pay the price for you." On this platform, I walk away with my eyes and teeth intact and no stain against my character or conscience.
The punchline: you can stand on one platform or the other but not both. If you want justice for others then you deserve justice for yourself. As you judge others so will you be judged. The common mistake we make is to judge others by comparing ourselves to them. The problem is that on the justice platform we're not judged against other people or graded on a curve. We're judged against the perfection of God's righteouness, and there we all fail, resulting in death and damnation.
If I want grace for myself, I must offer grace to others. "Stop judging others and you will not be judged, stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven." (Luke 6:37) "Forgive our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us. … For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." (Matt 6:12, 14-15)
Forgiveness: definition and process
Forgiveness is not forgetting (only God can do that). It is not downplaying what has been done (e.g., saying 'it's alright'). It is not an emotional act. The pain of betrayal will remain for at time. Forgiveness doesn't mean that you don't feel the pain but rather that you release the debt despite the pain. It is not the same thing as trusting that person again (forgiveness is an unearned gift but trust is earned. The restoration of trust can only happen when others have repented.)
Forgiveness is an act of will - consciously releasing the person from the debt they owe you.
There are several steps involved in forgiveness.
1. admit to being hurt, acknowledge the depth of the pain/betrayal
2. admit since they wronged you, they owe you a debt.
3. As an act of will, release them from what they owe you (money, an apology etc). E.g., "Father today I choose your grace, I choose to forgive _____, for _____. I cancel their debt and declare that they owe me nothing."
4. as an act of will, let go of your expectation that they should repay you (e.g., you can't say, "I forgive him but he still owes me")
5. When Satan brings up thoughts about past hurts, don't entertain them (2 Cor 10:5 take thoughts captive). When you think of the person who hurt you, choose to set aside (i.e., don't focus on) what they did. You may have to do this repeatedly before Satan stops bringing their offense to your mind.
Consequences of unforgiveness
Unforgiveness is basically staying in the place of justice (by not extending grace), therefore it gives satan a legal right to visit the fruits of your actions against you.
1. When you don't dwell in grace, when you remain in anger and judgment. No healing or growing can occur, and bitterness sets in. "Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be used against you." (Matt 7:1-2 ) "See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." (Heb 12:15)
You will reap what you sow. Sow bitterness, get bitterness, sow love and forgiveness, get love and forgiveness.
2. "If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven." (John 20:23) If you don't release someone, there's a spiritual anchor on him/her.
1. All people are created by God (Ps. 139) and given to families as an act of grace (Gen. 33: 5).
There is a common misconception that pregnancies are the result or consequence of having sex. This then leads to another misconception that pregnancies can be a kind of punishment if the people have engaged in sex outside of marriage. But the truth is that children are the result of God's effort and not man's. (e.g., Ps. 127) While God uses our behavior as a means of getting children to the earth, having sex does not guarantee pregnancy (ask any couple who is trying to have a child). God authors us. We do not create life. We only receive it from the One who does.
2. Consequently, people are never an accident, but always planned by God (Ps. 139: 13-16). They might be a surprise to their parents, but are never a surprise to God. By extension, this also means that your gender is not an accident, nor a curse. Girls are sometimes made to feel less than. This happens in subtle and not so subtle ways. (E.g., some cultures endorse aborting girl babies or abandoning them after birth.) But the truth is that God made you the gender He wanted for you.
3. You were foreknown by God before the foundation of the world (Jer. 1: 4-5; Eph. 1: 4; Eph. 2: 10)
4. God always wanted and planned for you to be His child thru adoption. (Eph. 1: 4-6) He wants no one to perish or to remain an orphan. (2 Peter 3: 9; Matt. 18: 14)
5. You were born to be a blessing (Ps. 127)
6. There is a grace that has been individually and uniquely apportioned to you (Eph. 4: 1, 7, 11; I Cor. 12: 4 - 31)
7. You were born at the right time, in the fullness of time (Esther 4: 14), and in the right place. (Acts 17: 26)
Your value to God and the Kingdom
(Gal. 1: 15; I Chron. 12: 31, Esther 4: 14; Eph. 2: 10; Exod. 31: 1-5)
1. It is vital that you see your abilities thru the eyes of heaven. Consider the story of Bezalel (Exod. 31: 2-6). I love this story because it blows away the crazy thinking that has plagued the church wherein we divide the world into natural abilities and spiritual gifts. They are one and the same. Bezalel was an artist, a carpenter, a stone mason. Good blue collar work. But he was those things only through the Spirit of God. These natural abilities were supernatural in origin - as all natural abilities are - because they were imparted by God and intended for lofty, God-sized purposes.
Whatever your talents and abilities are, you can be assured that heaven has plans for them. The emphasis isn't merely on the carpentry or the artistry, but on their use by Father to accomplish His purposes on earth. It's time we understood that all of our lives - not just our church lives - are part of the Kingdom of God.
Maybe you're wondering how your life and abilities fit into this picture. Perhaps you don't yet have a vision for how Father intends to use the gifts and abilities He has given you by His Spirit. Ask Him. Let Him speak over the bigness of your life and your calling. Ask Him to show you how your work as a secretary or plumber or lawyer is part of the Kingdom. Ask Father for instructions on how to do what you do unto the Lord, and expect Him to respond with specific strategies and timing.
2. You were created to reflect God's nature and His glory. You received a grace uniquely apportioned to you. (Eph. 4: 1, 7, 11; I Cor. 12: 4 - 31) This means that you reflect God to the world in a way that no one else can.
3. God ordained your praise to silence His enemy Ps. 8: 2
4. You are to walk in the ministry of life.
"Sir," the woman said, "you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?" … Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." (John 4: 11, 13-14)
Here is the promise for the sons of God: Life will well up in you and will flow from within you. Flow where? Out. Life will flow out of you and onto those you meet. It will flow out of you onto the ground on which you step. Life will flow from your words and from your hands. It will ooze out between your toes. Living water, which represents theSpirit of God, will pour out of you washing over the lost and weary who have lived in a land where there has been no water. And drinking it, they too will live.
Being a son of God means that you possess the words of life, for that is the nature of the Son after Whom we are patterned. We stand on the earth holding the only words by which men can live. There is nowhere else for the lost to go. They must come into the words of life which light men's darkness. Philippians 2: 14-16 puts it this way,
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life
You, who have become the righteousness of God, have words in your mouth that will sustain the weary, be a fountain of life and a source of healing and wisdom. (Is. 50: 4, Prov. 10: 11 & 12: 18) The words have been written on your heart by the Son of Love, by Life incarnate. And the Spirit of the Son will bring them to your lips. Your only part in this is a faithfulness to utter the words.
Your delegated authority
John 14: 12-13; John 17: 18 Matt. 10: 1
The Genesis mandate: we are born to rule with authority in the name of Father (Gen. 1: 26). Creation groans and waits for the sons of God to be revealed - that is to return to their authority so that the earth can be reclaimed and redeemed (Rom. 8)
The Truth of your redeemed heart
God recently prompted me to do a word study of Psalm 23. This is a very familiar psalm and certain of its phrases have always stirred my heart, but I had never really looked closely at the Hebrew words behind our English rendering. I have always loved the phrase "restores my soul", as it seemed to address all the wear and tear on my heart that comes from living in this place. I was surprised, however, to learn the depth of its intent.
The implication in Hebrew is that in restoring my soul, God returns it back to the point of departure. Our soul, our life and identity, our will and desires, are restored or returned back to the place of their beginning before the Fall - back to agreement with God. Our soul is not merely patched up to its status before the most recent wear and tear, but instead receives renewal, restoration, and reconciliation with the plan of God over our lives.
In the church, we frequently struggle with scripture's insistence that we are saints (which means sanctified or holy ones). Much of our struggle is based on the misunderstanding that sainthood exists on the basis of something we do, for example, extraordinary good works. In the Catholic tradition, the term has referred to a select few who are set apart from other Christians by some inherent miraculous power. But in scripture, the term refers to a state of identity conferred upon us by God. It is what He makes us, not what we do.
In the beginning, Father made us in His image, to reflect His glory. We were holy and without blame, set apart and devoted to Him as a wife might set herself apart for her husband and reserve her affections only for him. But then we departed from it. We gave our affection and delight over to other, less worthy things. We divided our hearts and became tarnished mirrors of His image and glory. But then Father came, and adopted us, and restored our souls. He returned us to the place of our beginning. The place of delight and purity and holiness. He restored us to sainthood, to being holy and set apart, reflecting the truth of Him. Father restored our souls to a position of being blameless and untainted by sin.
The truth of our regenerated hearts is that they are not motivated by greed, or lust, or ambition, but by righteousness and the desire to see Father's plan and Kingdom enacted on earth. God puts it in our heart "to will and to work for His good pleasure." (Phil 2: 13, NAS) Because we "have been crucified with Christ" and no longer live, Christ Himself lives in us. He animates us with His own inclinations and desires (Gal. 2: 20) This means that we live our lives with the very mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2: 16)
The truth of parents
To be a parent is to walk in the father/mother heart of God. God uses parental analogies throughout scripture to illustrate His own heart for us. e.g., Is. 49: 15a. In the same way that true love is defined by God, so is true fatherhood/motherhood.
Being a parent creates two kinds of opportunities. You get to receive the heart of God who is a parent. And you get to give away that same heart to your children.
There is a validation that parents are meant to give to their children. Parents are supposed to be an accurate mirror for the truth of the children. We are to treat them according to the truth of them as authored by God. This means affirming their worth, ability, potential, and character. No other person has that kind of power in children's lives. Failure to do that creates deep wounding that cuts to the heart of who we are. Similarly, when parents engage in abusive or neglectful behavior, it creates wrong expectations about fatherhood that we then apply to God (e.g., God is silent, critical, disapproving, evil, capricious, doesn't keep promises, is unavailable, etc.)
God designed for there to be a generational passing of spiritual inheritance and skills. Parents are charged with shepherding the grace that's been given to the family and to its members. Gifting has to be nurtured, faith matured. We have to learn how to walk in salvation and in gifting.
Parents are also supposed to model proper authority and obedience. You can't exercise authority without being people under authority. This means that as parents are properly submitted to the authority of God over their parenting, they can teach submission, obedience and honoring to their children.
Note: several passages in this teaching are taken directly from The Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Man.
Gen. 2: 24 When Adam first sees Eve, he pronounces her "bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh" then says that for this reason a man shall leave his father and mother andcleave/join to his wife. This is the word dabaq, which is also used in the following passage to describe our relationship with God.
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life. Deut. 30: 19-20
From the beginning, God designed marriage between men and women to imitate and point to a larger truth and an ultimate destiny: the marriage of Jesus to his Bride.
Marriage as a prophetic symbol
The ancient Jewish wedding ceremony God gave was a prophetic symbol of Christ and the church. You'll notice that many of the traditions and oral statements foreshadow things that Jesus will say and do. The ceremony was given as a way to help Israel recognize Jesus.
Marriage as a model and standard
Marriage provides a model or standard for
Sex as a model for worship
I realize that this may sound very strange to your ears, but sex as part of marriage, is a model for worship. They have very similar characteristics: intimacy, a lack of inhibition, giving oneself wholly over to another, full of adoration, a focus on the Beloved, affirms the worth of the Beloved.
For example, the Song of Songs is a picture of the love affair between Solomon and his wife, and also the Great Romance between Jesus, the Husband, and us, His Bride. Consider the language in light of how it is used to indicate sexual union for the couple as well as how it describes the relationship of adoration between Jesus and us.
SoS 1: 4 the Beloved (female figure): "Take me away with you - let us hurry! Let the King bring me into his chambers." This is the cry of the Bride for union.
Also, the Lover (male figure) in SoS 2: 14 says to the beloved, "show me your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely." This is God calling out to us His desire to be intimate with us. He wants intimate worship that pours out of the nakedness of our souls - not out of duty or to please men, but out of true passion. This is why God is constantly saying to us that our heart attitudes are more important to Him than outward shows of religious behavior. He wants worshippers who worship in spirit and truth of heart.
The following passage demonstrates God's pairing of sex and worship through a passage in Romans 1. God assigns judgment to the people's idolatry (which is a worship sin) in the form of allowing sexual perversion to flourish unchecked.
In the context of Rom 1: 18-27, verses 25/26 say that "they exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator - who is forever praised. Because of this God gave them over to shameful lusts …"
This relationship between sex and worship is why God addresses sexual sin so strongly. When sex is misused, it no longer helps to point us to spiritual truth (just as bad marriages fail to be accurate prophetic symbols). It also explains satan's aggressive attempts to pervert sexuality and to entice us into the misuse of it. As with many other issues, satan has covered sex and sexuality with lies, and our culture has endorsed those lies. (E.g., you can engage in sex without it meaning anything). Unfortunately, the church's response has largely been to focus exclusively on the "thou shalt nots" associated with sexuality rather than imparting a vision for what Godly sexuality represents.
The need for restoration
In the Spirit, we have not guarded our marriage relationship with God. We have bitterness toward Him, anger, blame, and suspicion. We have broken faith (i.e., believed wrong things, not believed the best of Him, broken our loyalty.) We have walked in a spirit of harlotry and have given our worship to things that aren't worth it. It is not a surprise then, that those same things show up in our human marriages.
This is the end of the age when God is raising up a righteous remnant who will walk the earth in truth, and who will accurately represent the grace of God. If we are to be part of that remnant, we must be transformed - including our marriages. Marriage has to return to the truth of its original design: a representation of the way in which Jesus loves and relates to His Body.
Hosea 2: 14-23 & Eph. 5: 21-33. Designed to tell us something about how God feels about us and how He wants us to relate to Him. E.g.,
"Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her. …I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion .. I will show my love to the one I called "Not my loved one.' I will say to those called 'not my people', 'you are my people'; and they will say 'you are my God.'"
"Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her … In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. .. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery- but I am talking about Christ and the church.
Below, you will find The Husband's Love Letter. We developed this based on a series of scriptures to help you hear the heart of Jesus as your Husband.
Note: much of the information concerning the Jewish wedding ceremony is taken from The Seven Festivals of the Messiah, by Eddie Chumney. For more information about this topic or Mr. Chumney's books, visit his ministry website, Hebraic Heritage Ministries International.
The Husband's Love Letter
Arise, my darling, my love, my beautiful one, and come away with me.
I have chosen you; I have called you by name and you are mine.
Let me be your husband. (Jer. 3: 14; Is. 43: 1)
See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone.
Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come,
the time of birdsong in the land.
Arise, my love, my beauty, come away with me. (SS 2: 10-13)
I have loved you from the beginning of time and will love you 'til its end.
Eternity itself will hear of my love for you. (Jer. 31: 3)
Look at you - how beautiful you are. (SS 1: 15)
You fill me with joy and I find myself singing and shouting your name. (Zeph. 3; 17)
You are carved into the palms of my hands
and your face is always before my eyes. (Is. 49: 16)
I will be yours 'til the end. I will carry you through flood and fire.
I will be the Kinsman-Redeemer in the midst of your distress to rescue and save you. (Is. 43: 2; 63: 9)
I will know every tear you cry, for they are precious to me. (Ps. 56: 8)
Everything about you is beautiful, my love - perfect and unique;
you are flawless to me. (SS 4: 7; 6; 9)
You are a garden locked up, my bride; a spring enclosed, a garden fountain,
a well of flowing water. Open to me, my darling, my dove. (SS 4: 12; 5: 2)
In the clefts of the rock, in the secret place on the mountainside,
show me your face, let me hear your voice for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely. (SS 2: 14)
You have stolen my heart, my bride;
You have stolen my heart with one glance of your eyes.
You have ravished my heart and in so doing, given me courage. (SS 4: 9)
How sweet is your love! Better than fine wine!
And your fragrance fills me like a flower's perfume fills the air. (SS 4; 10)
I am overwhelmed by the look in your eyes. (SS 6: 5)
You are like a tree laden with fruit and I long to climb your branches,
to breathe the sweet fruit of your mouth, to taste your exquisite delights (SS 7: -10)
When the day's cool breeze comes up and the shadows lengthen,
I will get myself to your mountain of myrrh, to your hill of frankincense. (SS 4; 6)
All of my desire is for you. (SS 7: 10)
I want to show myself to you, to tell you my secrets. (John 14: 21; 5: 15; Matt. 13: 11)
I long to be in you, and you in me. (John 17: 20-21) You are my beautiful Beloved.
Come away with me my love. Come into my chambers.
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!" (I John 3: 1)
"Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.'" Here is God, the procreator, God the Father. This marks a clear change in the creation story. Although God clearly authored the plants and animals, the water and dry land, the day and night and all the heavenly bodies, He fathered Adam and Eve. He intentionally put into them the likeness of Himself.
In the beginning, Adam was created as a son. That was how Adam knew God - as the One Who gave him Life, the One Who fathered him. In the beginning, Adam had a home with Father, and they lived in perfect communion and relationship. But Adam broke that communion. In that moment, he forfeited a birthright that included dominion over the earth and intimate fellowship with God. He was still born of God, but no longer existed in a relationship of sonship. The likeness he bore to his Father began to be eroded and covered over by sin.
But Father could not bear the loss of His children, and so He planned for our redemption. In love He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will. (Eph. 1: 4b- 5) Your identity and relationship as a son or daughter of God is the primary component of redemption. The whole point of the cross was to restore the sons of Adam to the truth of their design as the sons of God.
God's affection for us has absolutely nothing to do with anything we deserve or earn. We cannot make Him love us more than He already does. Love is what springs from One who designed and labored over our lives, breathing His own life's breath into our bodies. Love is what pours from One who is delighted with us, truly overjoyed to be our father. And love is what causes Him to watch over us with tenderness and compassion and fierce protectiveness. This is the heart of Father. This is love. (e.g., Deut. 10: 15 (KJV); Micah 7: 18- 19; Jer. 31: 3; Zeph. 3: 17)
In the same way that a husband and wife long to create a child that is born of their love and of their union, God longed to create you. You are the beloved of God, created to be His son, His child. You were created for God's pleasure; your very existence delights Him. He wants to live in intimate relationship and partnership with you. That is our ultimate destiny and our true identity.
One of the best summaries of how Father feels about you as His child is the Father's Love Letter, written by Barry Adams of Father Heart Communications). Click here to read it.
Jesus exemplifies life as a son.
When we come into relationship with God through Jesus' death and resurrection, we receive the Spirit of Sonship. He causes us to be sons by adopting us. As sons, we inherit the life of the Son, the identity of sons, and the ministry of the Son. As the ultimate Son, Jesus teaches us how to walk in these things.
1. Affection, intimacy, & confiding Luke 3: 22 John 5: 20; 15: 9 NAS
Long before any issue of obedience or sacrifice, Father loved His Son, and Jesus loved His Father. All of Jesus' obedience flowed from His love for His Father. All that He suffered, all that He risked, all that He gave up was because He was rooted and grounded in that love. This is the kind of relationship that results in bear hugs and kisses, not handshakes. (Eph. 3: 17-19, AB)
As you come into the love of Jesus for you, you come into the love of the Father and the heart of the Son. Salvation was meant to be a joyous, deeply emotional event. Your adoption isn't a business offer or some obligatory transaction, but one born purely of love and longing.
Love and intimacy lead to confiding in, sharing secrets and information. (John 5: 20) Understanding that with your heart (not just head) produces the behavior of affection:
2. Imitation: "You're just like your father" (John 5: 19; 1: 18 AB. Luke 6: 35-36, AB) We are called into intimate sonship where we really come to know Father - what He thinks and feels about things. And then, the expectation is that as sons who bear His name, we would accurately reflect that to the world.
3. The family name (John 17: 11-12; Phil. 2: 9-11 NAS)
Loyalty to the family name is a form of loyalty to the family. Father (Yahweh) gave Jesus His own Name (Jesus means "Yahweh saves") with the expectation that Jesus would do everything possible to preserve its honor. We have been given Jesus' title: "Christians", or "little Christs". We need to guard the reputation of the family name by not engaging in behaviors and attitudes that would dishonor it.
4. Loyalty and Responsibility 1 John 4: 20-21; Col. 3: 15-16
What are the differences between being a son in a family and being the friend of the son who is present as a guest in the home? Both may benefit from the family's resources, but the two boys differ in their responsibility to the family. The friend has a duty to be polite, grateful for the provision and kindness, and respectful of the host family's rules while in their home. But the son's responsibilities go far beyond that. He is expected to participate in the life of the family, to help take care of its members, to guard its reputation.
We don't need for God to prove His love for us; he has, at the cross." (pg. 174, The Journey of Desire) And yet, over and over again, we weak-hearted sons find ourselves willing to entertain the questions, "Does God love me? Is God good? Can Father be trusted?" Those questions are never appropriate for sons. (The Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Man)
One of the most basic behaviors of sonship is to continue to engage in the very thing that made us sons to begin with: faith, particularly in the character of Father and of Jesus.
Deut. 1: 26-27 contains one of the clearest descriptions of faithlessness in the entire Bible. After being rescued from Egyptian slavery and receiving God's repeated miraculous provision in route to the promised land (e.g., manna from heaven, water from a rock, safety from enemies), Israel loses its collective mind. "In spite of this," - against all evidence of Father's tender affection and commitment to them, Israel renders this accusation: "The LORD hates us." (Deut. 1: 30-32)
6. Openness to instruction: "Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]." Rev. 3: 19, AB
"Have you completely forgotten the divine word of appeal and encouragement in which you are reasoned with and addressed as sons? My son, do not think lightly or scorn to submit to the correction and discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage and give up and faint when you are reproved or corrected by Him; For the Lord corrects and disciplines everyone whom He loves, and He punishes, even scourges, every son whom He accepts and welcomes to His heart and cherishes. You must submit to and endure correction for discipline; God is dealing with you as with sons. For what son is there whom his father does not thus train and correct and discipline? Now if you are exempt from correction and left without discipline in which all of God's children share, then you are illegitimate offspring and not true sons at all." (Hebrews 12: 5-11, AB)
Sonship and warfare
Why did Herod try to kill Jesus as a baby? Ultimately, It was because of Jesus' sonship. He is Father's son and sons inherit their fathers' thrones and kingdoms. A king had been born and Herod felt threatened by that.
What was the Pharisees' primary complaint against Jesus (i.e., what got Him killed)? His claim to be the son of God. They could tolerate all the other things Jesus did - the miracles, the healings and deliverances and raising of the dead. But they could not stomach Jesus' claim to be God's son.
What one thing did God publicly address with Jesus at His baptism? The issue of sonship. Out of all the things Father could have addressed (and there are many), He chose this one thing: "You are my beloved son in whom I am well pleased."
This was important for many reasons, but among them was the fact that Jesus was about to face his enemy in the wilderness. What was Satan testing when he harassed Jesus during His 40 day fast in the wilderness? Sonship. The first two tests begin with the phrase, "if you are the son of God". The third tests Jesus knowledge of His inheritance as a son.
One of Satan's primary goals is to prevent sonship. He does this a variety of ways, chief of which is to try to kill us before we can come to relationship with God. It is no accident that children are abused and aborted in record numbers. It was the strategy he tried to use on Jesus through Herod's insecurity.
If Satan fails in preventing sonship, then the goal is to confuse or hide the meaning of sonship. If he fails in that, then he spends the rest of eternity knowing that you are dangerous to him. He regards you as an enemy and is pledged to rob, kill and destroy whatever of your life he can.
Being a son of God means that the battle will be brought to your door. Warfare occurs because of who you are. You cannot stop that. You can, however, win the war. But only if you fight.
Note: some of the content of this teaching was taken from The Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Man. (see publications page for details)