Well Jim, it has been about 2 weeks since our last audio and in our last discussion “No Strings Attached”, we presented the modern day preaching of ‘unconditional love’ as it’s found in the mind of the natural man vs. the living reality we’ve been brought into through Christ. Quite a difference isn’t there?
It’s a huge difference … and one we often overlook because we’ve gotten used to imagining God’s love from the perspective of that natural mind. The belief that there should be a love that has no strings is inherent within the human race, and that’s because of the simple reality that man was originally created in the image of God. You see, through the sin of Adam, the whole world continues to suffer the sense of emptiness in everything.
For sure my brother. We talk about all mankind being made in the “image of god”, being made in His image. But do we ever stop to recognize that it was our brother John who said that this image we were made in was Love? For God IS LOVE.Certainly the world might be able to appear as though it has love, but it is only a mirage and a deception of enormous proportion! This is reality, this is our experience.
Yes, those in the world may boast how their love is unconditional, but hey, let’s think this through. If there were no conditions to a person’s “love” … for example, if a man professes that nothing could stop him from loving the girl of his dreams, then what possible force could ever make it go away? Yeah, yeah, I know we might give a lot of weight to those claims of unconditional love when they’re being espoused, especially those contained in lovesongs, but let’s never forget those follow-up tunes about no longer being in love. There is unconditional love, but the one in whom it is real didn’t try to win us over with empty words. The one who loves unconditionally IS love.
Well Jim, this week’s shovel audio is entitled: To the Pure: Love and Provision
Speaking of “love and provision,” you had a wonderful discussion with a brother recently that gave light to much of what we are hearing in this day and age regarding provisions from God didn’t you?
I did. In fact, when I got your preliminary notes for this week’s audio, it hit me how often you and I deal with some of the same issues or questions during the same time period. I had to smile when I saw it written, “Paying bills, dues, obligations of the world,” because the question I had just that morning responded to was this:
Knowing that His freedom defines everything is what I want to understand. Can you help me see how His freedom relates to paying my bills or everyday stuff? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.
Now, this brother had asked that in response to something you had written to him. Maybe you could tell us a little more about what triggered this brother’s question.
It was something I heard lingering behind some things he had written. To tell you the truth, it’s the same thing I hear so often among believers: a sense of separation between grace and the real stuff of life. It’s like, we can see grace as that which opens our eyes to an amazing freedom, but that it doesn’t seem to have any effect on how to walk by faith in regards to life in general.
Adam: Hmm so sort of like a “thing”, a “truth” but, not touching down to the very life that we live?
You know, stuff like finances, family, and so on. It’s the feeling that seeing truth is great and all, but that we need to move on into the practical things in life.
Adam: Yes, as if these ‘practical things’ were to serve as a replacement for living in freedom through Christ. I can hear our brother Paul now lovingly saying “Who has bewitched you?”
It’s as if grace and freedom in Christ represent only one area of God’s working.
My question to any believer is the same that I asked my friend:
Do you see the freedom of Christ as being primarily a realization rather than as defining everything for us?
For some reason I sense a similar reality in James statements here:
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?…
Interesting observation there, my brother. Yeah, I think James was indeed dealing with the fleshly reasoning that had found its way back into the perceptions of the believers. Somehow, we think we can actually separate grace from real life.
You see, our growing in this grace, this freedom, this life … is all connected. Having been made alive in Christ — which is the only true freedom — goes way beyond simply knowing some crucial truths, for it is the everything in which we walk. Don’t let anyone or anything convince you that realizing his freedom is the first step from which you need to move on to other areas of life. Everything we experience becomes the continuing realization of how far and wide and high and deep this freedom truly is. :)
Yes, Jim when you said : only true freedom goes beyond just knowing truths but, that it is the everything in which we walk, I immediately recognized this as the very “practicality” we get lured into striving after according to the worlds mindset. To beckon our listeners to not be convinced of any other supposed “practicality” falls into the very same heart of protection that Paul, John and Peter brought forth in their warnings to the brethren back then!
Consider what our brother Paul said in one of his letters:
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. – Colossians 2:6-7
But getting back to this brothers questions to you, how did you answer him?
Prepare to be underwhelmed, for all I have to offer you is the very same truth you saw in me at the beginning: Christ. I have no magic secret or principle to follow regarding how your bills will get paid … only that in everything you do, you do so as one who is truly free. His freedom relates to everything because Christ in you is not a mere concept, but a reality. Consider the expression, “Wherever you go, there you are.” Everything Christ is in you and to you goes everywhere you go. The problem we have with that comes with our expectations of how all of it should work or pan out. We begin to make separations between how we’ve come to realize Christ as our life and then everything else, because everything else doesn’t seem to directly relate. Heck, sometimes, it doesn’t even seem to connect at all. But what if what that really means is that our expectations of how it’s supposed to relate are out of whack?
Adam: Jim, when you said that everything Christ is in you and to you goes where we go and that we learned separation in the midst of coming to know the meaning behind this reality, It dawned on me that those who want to live by “sight” and not faith and want to replace Christ with that of the flesh derived works of practicality, that they have had their influence on us. They speak to the former wisdom we were once stuck in when we were in the flesh, and we get thrown off in a big way! It is very persuasive since it appeals to the natural minded wisdom we knew all our lives.
A quote from my article Poltergeist of the World:
In the wisdom God has given, our plans are not secured but are simply pursued knowing that they may happen or they may not. It is only the ignorance of the world that gives the illusion that our plans are guaranteed. We can ignore the religious demands upon both our successes and our failures. A success in this world does not mean success with God, so that if we fail it does not mean that God was against us, nor does a success mean that God was for us. A failure doesn’t imply that God was teaching us a lesson, it just means that it didn’t work out. If our office had been located in the World Trade Center we would have lost everything along with everyone else there, but to suggest that God was trying to teach us a lesson reeks of the same superstition that keeps fortune tellers in business. Maybe we will discover that we have good business sense and maybe we will find we trip ourselves up, and maybe we will learn from our own mistakes or by following some good business practices, but God is FOR us one way or the other.
The truth is that you might always have difficulty taking care of business or even fail to get your bills paid on time, despite all your efforts. And I say this as one who is still going through those same difficulties. I’m not saying that God doesn’t sometimes intervene with financial blessings [the seen] that somehow show up just when you need them, but I am saying that we are looking in the wrong direction when we assume that this represents the core reality of what it really means to trust God in the everyday. For the everyday stuff revolves around the working of God through faith, hope, and love [the unseen] — that which even now defines who we truly are in this world.
We walk in faith, not in relation to paying our bills but, simply because the one who is in us calls us to live in the dimension that is not only unseen but also not comprehended by those who live by a faith that makes sense in view of the everyday stuff of this world.
Paying bills, dues and the obligations of the world there is a passage that comes to mind for me:
When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?” He *said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. “However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.” Matthew 17:24-27 NASB
“The sons are exempt”-nevertheless so we don’t cause them unnecessary offense give this to them…this is love working it out through Jesus…and us now.
I always enjoyed reading that story. Many of us — and yes, I definitely include myself — but we may have taken it as a pattern as how to trust God for all our bills, but somehow, I don’t think that’s how Peter took it. I think what happened had more to do with him being put on the spot regarding Jesus. I think this might be the same kind of intimidation he faced as described by Paul in Galatians. Peter gets approached about whether Jesus pays the tax. Peter says yes. Was he sure? Was he second-guessing? Did he answer in the affirmative mostly because of the authority behind the tax-collectors? What would he have said to Jesus if Jesus hadn’t spoken first? I obviously can’t say for sure, but based upon Peter’s history, I suspect that he wasn’t sure how he would have approached Jesus.
What I’m getting at is that for Peter, the whole experience didn’t provide him an example of how God would provide a fish with a coin in its mouth every time a bill came due. Oh no, for I’m sure he would have been impacted by the reality of the meaning that the sons are exempt but that they would pay the dues of the world so as not to offend. Of course, this has no real meaning to the mind of separation, but only as you stated, that this is love working itself out.
Oh for sure. I too was trained up in the understanding that this was how God was obligated to supply my needs. But it always had that hitch, that hook of ..well..did you believe? I mean REALLY BELIEVE? It was always taught with the emphasis being on my production of faith. lol In fact almost ALL of the Gospels were pitched to us with that as the emphasis as I saw it! It was all meant to take our eyes of the reality of the unseen things of Christ and put them back on the works of the flesh which is found in the realm of the seen.
Paying bills. He knows we have to do this. Love doesn’t go out of it’s way to create an offense in view of freedom.
For sure. And you know what? We know this, for we know what stirs up those offenses … and it’s not love.
Flip off the govt.-give an active offense to ‘prove” freedom.
No, freedom can simply be enjoyed and when it comes to creating offense..we still can rely on Him for…
Yeah, that whole thing with trying to prove freedom has affected every person born into this world. Sure, there are those who pursue it on the front lines, but let’s not deceive ourselves into the assumption that someone else’s extremes means that others don’t do the same thing in a less noticeable way. And I can say this from personal experience, as I was not one of those who stuck his neck on the chopping block in order to make a point … but I could still vicariously put myself into such an offenders shoes in order to enjoy the feeling.
Yeah Jim, those on the front lines as you say whether they be a Pastor, teacher or simply a politician there really is no difference from these folks than that of some outspoken neighbor or colleague. We have to ask ourselves if Christ in us even wants a supposed freedom that must be proved outwardly!
Anyhow, I often consider what Paul wrote to the Corinthians in view of the backward life we’ve been called to. I’m going to post a whole section, so bear with me:
Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago–whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows–such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man–whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me–to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 NASB
The first part of this passage is often attributed to Paul’s own experience as recorded in Acts 14 when he was stoned and presumed dead (even though it was expressed as referring to someone else). Maybe it was then, or maybe he was describing his own experience during the time he was blinded on the road to Damascus (aka. his conversion). Either way, I think those who view Paul’s words as descriptions of heaven miss most of what he was telling the Corinthians here. What if Paul was describing the very same thing he started out telling the Corinthians and reaffirmed all the way through? That is, what if he was speaking of the same distinction between the wisdom of this world versus the wisdom of God?
Excellent distinction Jim! Is it possible that we too are getting these very same messengers of Satan? For Paul goes on to name the messages of the messenGERS that came to him didn’t he? [persecutions, difficulties, insults etc..]
I think a great disservice has been done to the believers by having put Paul on such a pedestal — one he would have objected to — for all of us in Christ are confronted by some form of the very things that hit Paul so hard. And I don’t say this to take anything away from how God was working with Paul, but to bring out the very realities he did regarding those he so cared for.
And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.” For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 NASB
I am going somewhere with that that directly relates to your request, so please bear with me, okay? :) Anyhow, if Paul was referring to himself when he said, “I know a man,” on what basis would that have been? What if it had everything to do with how he said the Corinthians had forced him to become foolish?
Again I say, let no one think me foolish; but if you do, receive me even as foolish, so that I also may boast a little. What I am saying, I am not saying as the Lord would, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting. Since many boast according to the flesh, I will boast also. For you, being so wise, tolerate the foolish gladly. 2 Corinthians 11:16-19 NASB
I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. 2 Corinthians 12:11 NASB
In that case, what if he was seeing himself in Christ from the perspective of the foolishness of the world? I mean, don’t we often look back on our experiences this way from time to time? We know that we have the mind of Christ, for we have been moved by it to recognize things that simply cannot be expressed to any man. How often have you looked back on the inexpressible revelation of Christ in you in order to figure out how you can express the inexpressible to those you wish could hear? How often have you thought you could say it or write it the right way and others would understand you?
Adam:For sure Jim, I mean we all go back and view our past with the old understanding of that which can be seen vs. unseen sometimes.
This is the heart of what Paul described when he said that he was given a thorn in the flesh to keep him from exalting himself. For if he could just declare the power of God in an understandable way to the world around him, they would recognize the wisdom given to him. But the world cannot see, for it is only in Christ that we do see and understand. Maybe if we can just come up with some doctrinal viewpoint by which we can make all people understand this amazing revelation that we’ve been given, we won’t seem to be as foolish as we often feel.
Yeah, that ‘doctrinal viewpoint” or “practicality” of the faith. It is only that place of the boastful flesh that can conjure up a supposed faith that would have our God who is only worshiped in Spirit and in truth come down and pay homage to the mind of the flesh. To get us looking at life from the perspective of the things we see, touch and hear in the natural realm of man.
This is what I suspect is behind your own struggles. After all, shouldn’t you be able to be more successful? Shouldn’t trusting God mean that you will be watching him provide everything for you? Wouldn’t financial failure mean that you have somehow missed out on something that should be in your life? How many times have you asked God to remove these hindrances from your life so that you could be successful? What is it that you have begged God to remove from your life? What if those things remain so that you are strong?
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NASB
What if trusting God has less to do with him providing the desired resources and more with becoming content with their lack? What if true strength is actually found only in weakness? What if your family will see more of that strength the same way?