Hebrews 10:16-18 talks about the Holy Spirit writing laws in our hearts. The question is are they the same laws that Moses received on Mount Siniah or is there a different law God wants us to follow. The first law in the 10 commamdments says to Love God with all your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength and to love each other as we love ourselves. The problem is twofold because some people don’t love themselves and others, well they love themselves just a little too much. to be honest I have never figured out how to love with all my mind or strength. Jesus says in John 13:34 that He is giving us a new commandment. It goes like this. Love one another as I(Jesus) have loved you. So now we see a clear standard where we can compare love to. Take a look at the love that Jesus shoed us and then love each other like that. Also trust in the Love that He has placed in your heart through the Holy Spirirt according to Romans, and the you soon realized not only has he placed His love in you but He will do the loving through you. It is this revelation that made the early christians the talk of the town. When our wouild be killed in the colosseum 5 more would be born again. Stay tuned in the days to come as we look at the other laws God now writes in your heart.
Psalms 23 says that goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. The word follows is the word RAWDAF in the original hebrew. It means to chase and to run after. to hunt as one preditor goes after its prey. David is saying that goodness and mercy will hunt you down. There is no where you can run to and hide where God’s unconditional lave can’t find you. So just give up and let Him love you.
The purpose of the tithe was twofold. First of all it was to teach the Israelites to put God first in their lives (Deut 14:23). The Israelites in the Old Testament were a spiritually dead people. They were not born again. They did not have God’s Spirit living inside of them. Today if you are born again then Jesus has become the Lord of your life, his spirit is within you and you have already put God first in your life. At some point in your life you realized that with you being the lord of your own life, your life was going nowhere and you made Jesus Lord of your life. Now He wants to direct your giving on a voluntary, agreed upon basis rather than the debtor/creditor relationship that is the tithe.
Secondly the tithe was a tax. The nation of Israel was a theocracy (i.e. God ruled) with God being the head of state. His directives came through the prophets, judges and the law. The tithe/tax was necessary so that the government/church of Israel would have the resources necessary for the operation of a sovereign state. In Israel the church was the government and was responsible for carrying on the functions that most governments of today are responsible for, things such as caring for the poor, national defence and maintenance of infrastructure etc (Deut 26:12). Today we don’t live in a theocracy but in a democracy which means “the rule of the people”. God doesn’t rule as the head of state anymore but as Lord of those individuals who accept Him as Lord. Those individuals then elect the head of state.
The word tithe is an ancient transliterated word and was never translated into English. Translated it means “a tenth part” and was common as a tax all throughout the ancient world. In Israel the tithe was only on crops, fruit or animals grown in Israel (Lev 27:30&32). Israel was an agrarian society so many people worked in agriculture and those who worked for wages were not required to pay tithes on their income. The tithe was only on crops grown and cattle raised in Israel, on that which came from the land because God had given them the land to start with. The tithe was only on that which God increased through the miracle of growth on land He had provided, not on the self efforts of man providing for himself. Those who worked for wages were not required to tithe on their wages. There is no record of Joseph or Jesus paying tithes on their income as carpenters, for that matter there is no record of Peter paying tithes as a fisherman or Paul as a tentmaker.
The tithe was based on a debtor/creditor relationship between the Israelites and God. New Testament giving is voluntary and Spirit led, based on a love relationship between you and your Father. With these thoughts in mind then for a man to tithe on that which he increases through own self effort is, in effect, putting himself first in his life and making himself his own lord. For a church to demand that people tithe on their income not only contradicts the purpose of the tithe but it is a double tax, taxing people for services it no longer provides. Services that they have already paid for and their governments are already providing.
In 1858 the Illinois legislature–using an obscure statute–sent Stephen A. Douglas to the U.S. Senate instead of Abraham Lincoln, although Lincoln had won the popular vote. When a sympathetic friend asked Lincoln how he felt, he said, “Like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.”
Rejection is one of the most painful experiences known to humanity. Unconditional love and acceptance is one of our basic of needs. We were created with the need to be accepted by others, especially our Heavenly Father.
In the world and in many churches we learned that if we performed well we were approved. The problem was we always came up short and if we could somehow just do better we would be accepted.
The need for acceptance is so strong that people will compromise their most basic moral principles to receive man’s approval. Young women will forsake their values just to be accepted and loved by a man. When I was a renovation contractor I did a renovation in the home of motorcycle gang member. As I worked I overheard the conversation between a young man and an older man talking in another room. The older man spoke with the intonation of a priest and I could tell that their relationship was similar to that of a priest and a parishioner. I realized then that the young man had found the love and acceptance of a father in the gang. He felt accepted by a man he looked up to as a father. one of the most powerful attributes of a family is acceptance and one of the best things you can do for your children is to always make them feel accepted by you, regardless of what they do.
We were created with the need to be accepted by our Heavenly Father, which is why we need to be accepted by others but when you begin to understand who you are in Christ you begin to understand that you are already accepted by your Heavenly Father.
Religion has led us to believe that our Father is hard to please and that we have to do certain things and live a certain way to be accepted by Him. Legalistic thinking has led us to believe that we have to earn His approval but the scriptures tell us in Ephesians 1:6 that “He has made us accepted in the beloved”. That means that you are accepted just as you are.
Strong’s defines accepted as highly favored, to make accepted, to make graceful, charming, lovely and agreeable. It is used only one other time in the NT and that is in Luke 1:28 when the angel came to Mary and said “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” In Latin acceptance means “to take to oneself”.
I like what the author Gladys Hunt says about acceptance. “Acceptance means you are valuable just as you are. It allows you to be the real you. You aren’t forced into someone else’s idea of who you are. Your ideas are taken seriously since they reflect you. You can talk about how you feel and someone really cares. You can try out your ideas without being shot down and you feel safe. No one will pronounce judgment on you even though they don’t agree”.
Friends this is your Heavenly Father’s attitude toward you, not because of anything you did but because of what He has done in you through Christ. He has made you accepted in Him, the beloved.
Concerning the 23rd psalm, I’ve heard people say “I don’t get much comfort from a rod and a staff”. The 23rd psalm gives us a picture of peace and security but people have difficulty with verse 4 because of the teaching that the rod is symbolic of God’s discipline. Some even go to Hebrews 12 and tie it n with the “chastisement” or discipline of the Lord. How can a Psalm that is intended to be a picture of peace and security tell us to find comfort in discipline and punishment?
“Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.”
Many have assumed that the rod was used to discipline the sheep but shepherds don’t discipline sheep with a stick.
Josephus tells us that there were wolves and lions in the Middle East in his day and so there would have been lions in Israel in David’s day. The Romans trapped the European lion to near extinction to be used as entertainment in the coliseum. The last Middle East lion was captured in Turkey in 1870. The rod was a weapon that was used to protect the sheep from these lions. It was heavy club, about three feet long with a large knot on the end of it and was used to protect the sheep from lions, wolves and other predators, including sheep stealers.
The staff was a typical shepherd’s crook and had a hook at the end to rescue sheep that had gotten themselves into dangerous places. When a sheep got stuck in a tough spot the shepherd would catch it by the back leg and drag it back to safety.
The rod and staff are a type of God’s word and His Spirit. They keep us safe from predators that would fill our heads ideas and demonic doctrines that are meant to control and manipulate us. They also save us from our own wrong-headedness as we heedlessly go into dangerous situations. The Spirit of God opens our eyes to the danger and tells us, “turn around, your going the wrong way”.
In John 15 Jesus uses the grapevine illustration to show the relationships between Himself, the Father and us. By misunderstanding the Hebrew culture of the day and the Greek language many believers have an erroneous understanding of their relationship with both Christ and the Father. Because they think that God is going to reject them if they don’t bear fruit and somehow prune them if they do, their relationship with Him is cold and distant. God is someone to avoid if at all possible.
We have seen in part one that the custom of the day was to grow grapes on the ground. Grapes won’t produce fruit on the ground and so they would wash the vines off, lift them up and place them on a rock. That rock is Christ. When we fail to bear fruit God actually lifts us up, washes us off and carries us so that we can. In part two we saw that the pruning process that God uses is actually a cleansing and purifying that He does with the word.
In John 15:6 Jesus says’ “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned”. This has been interpreted to mean that if we don’t obey, God will reject us and we’re going to Hell. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This phrase “cast out” is better translated; “goes away”. It means to let go of a thing without caring where it falls or to give over to one’s care uncertain about the result. The picture is that the branch lets go of the vine, not caring where it will land and uncertain of the results of its actions.
The onus is on the branch to leave the vine, not the vine to cut off the branch. The JB Phillips translation reads; “The man that does not share my life is like a branch that is broken off and withers away. He becomes just like the dried sticks that men collect and use for firewood”.
Friend, our life is in Him. He is the vine and we are the branches. The same life that is in the vine is in the branches. What Jesus is saying is that He is the source of our life. Life comes from the vine into the branches. We have no life without Him. Every one of us knows, if we’re honest with ourselves, that we had no life before we met Christ and we have no life without Him.
God will never reject you. Like the parable of the unfruitful fig tree in Luke 13, God never rejected Israel, Israel rejected Him. Don’t let the misunderstanding that has come from the traditions of men create a barrier between you and your Heavenly Father. He loves you and He accepts you just as you are.
In part one we looked at how we have mistranslated “airo” in John 15:2 as “takes away” rather than “lifts up” and people have come to the erroneous conclusion that if we didn’t bear fruit for God that He would “cut us off”. That we would lose our salvation or that we probably weren’t saved in the first place. As we saw in part one, the truth is that God doesn’t cut us off when we fall into sin; rather He lifts us up and carries us. Now we’re going to look at the second half of verse two.
John 15:2 reads; “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes that it might bear more fruit”. The way we have traditionally translated this verse has not made the Christian life too appealing for the unbeliever. If we don’t bear fruit we’re thrown away, if we do were “pruned”. Nice! We’ve already seen that “takes away” should have been translated “lifts up and carries” but what about this idea of pruning? Let’s read on and look at verse three.
John 15:3 reads; “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you”. The word used for clean in verse three is the same word used for prune in verse two. It is the Greek word katharos and it means; to cleanse. Of 28 times that it is used in the New Testament, 17 times it is translated; to purify and 10 times it is translated; to cleanse. Strong’s defines katharos as; “to free from corrupt desire, sin and guilt, to free from every admixture of what is false, to be sincere or genuine, to be blameless or innocent, and to be unstained with the guilt of anything”.
In accordance with the culture of Jesus’ day and the Greek language; John 15:3 should read; “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He lifts up and carries; and every branch in me that bears fruit He cleanses and purifies that it might bear more fruit”. How does God cleanse us? Verse three tells us; He cleanses us with the word.
The Holy Spirit will never come to you and tell you you’re an idiot, you’ve had it, you’re not bearing fruit. No He will tell you who you have become in Christ and what you have in Him, just as Paul did in the Epistles. He will take the scriptures and reveal them to you, cleansing you from all guilt and shame, telling you that which is true. That my friend is our God and that is what Jesus was talking about.
In part three we will look further into John 15 to better understand the analogy of the vine and the vinedresser.
Jesus used an analogy in the gospel of John in which He pictures himself as a grape vine and His Father as the vinedresser. In John 15 He makes some very startling statements to His disciples. Jesus said “I am the vine and you are the branches”. In verse 2 He goes on to say, “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit”.
There has been a tremendous amount of misunderstanding about these scriptures because of a lack of understanding of the culture in which Jesus lived. In Israel in Jesus’ day they let the grape vines grow on the ground, not on arbours as we do. If they were left to grow wild like this they would produce very little fruit and so the vinedressers did two things so that they would bear more fruit. First they lifted them up by putting large stones under them and secondly, they washed the dirt off them.
The Greek word that has been translated “takes away” is airo. We get our word arrow from this word and it means, to pick up, lift up or elevate. It literally means, to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear. In Jo 8:59 this word, airo is translated; “picked up”; “at this, they picked up (airo) stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself”.
In fitting with the vine dressing practices of Jesus’ day, and the original greek, the better translation is that when you fail to bear fruit, the Father lifts you up and carries you. When you have fallen into the muck and mire of life, God doesn’t push you away or reject you. He knows you cannot bear fruit mired in the muck and so He lifts you up and puts you on a rock and that rock is Christ.
John 15:1-2 then is better translated like this: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the Vinedresser, every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He lifts up, elevates and carries; and every branch that bears fruit He cleanses, that it may bear more fruit.
So much fear and condemnation has come because we haven’t fully understood what Jesus meant in this passage of scripture. I will look at more of this in a future blog so that we can get a better understanding of what Jesus was really saying.
I have asked myself this question many times in the past. After all the damage that has been done to the people you sometimes wonder if God can resurrect the body from the ashes of despair. I firmly believe that not only can He but He will. The healing that Jesus has started in the lives of many is very evident. They are slowly learning that their relationship with the father has absolutely nothing to do with the organization we would call church. In my personal life it was only when I went into the “desert place ” that I actually found out He was my Father not just my savior. I say desert place but what I mean is I started to have a personel relationship with Him and not just the church. Church had taken the place of God and that is trulty sad.
So sometimes we do need to step back from religion and need to find out who He is and who we are in Him to actually be able to get that perspective we all need. Church is not God. We can find Him anywhere and that is what He is doing in the lives of countless believers. Resurrecting them and giving them His life, apart from the demands of religion.
Many people pray to God for a healing or a financial blessing and then get discouraged because they do not see it right away. What most people do not realize is that God is a Spirit and everything he has done is in the spiritual realm. Long before they ever had a need God saw their need and already supplied it. Take for instance our need to be free from the sin nature that Adam put us into. God dealt with that issue once and for all 2000 years ago. Ephesians 1 says that we are blessed with all spiritual blessings . That is not we will be but we are. So if we are than that is a fact we can take to the bank. No longer do we have to ask God to do something He already has done. All of His promises are yea and amen. In other words if He has promised He will never change His mind. Now we only have find out what we all have and who we are in CHRIST.