: Our last audio was entitled, “We are forgiven … IF
?” In that audio Jim and I talked about how in the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said no one is forgiven who does not forgive others. Despite statements from Peter, John, Hebrews, and Paul that speak of forgiveness as a done deal, we somehow still seem very worried about this statement from Jesus. Jim what we come out that presenting wasn’t the typical findings we get from the church at large was it?
JIM: Natural-minded forgiveness: self-centered; doesn’t care about others; desperately pursues a release from guilt feelings at any cost, even if it causes harm to others; boasts;
True forgiveness: a true release from guilt by removal of all offenses (only possible in Christ, the new creation)
ADAM: At the end of that audio, you made a statement about being settled with the life within us.
So much of what we are contending with in this temporary life on earth has to do with being “settled with the life within us”. That includes our misperceptions and experiences of being led away from the reality that holds us.
JIM: While we often become unsettled when reading the words of Jesus — especially in view of the fear of not being forgiven — he actually spoke in view of the confidence that would be brought about in himself. The lack of any lasting forgiveness in the Law was vividly portrayed in his every encounter. It’s not that the expectation of God’s promise was invalid — and I’m referring to the many statements regarding forgiveness through the sacrifices of the Law — but rather that forgiveness itself could not be brought about by the thing that revealed what was lacking, which is the Law. Let’s make some connections to what had been written to the Hebrews regarding the inability of the Law and true forgiveness:
ADAM: Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1-4 (HCSB)
JIM: Adam, what do you see in the phrase, “Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come…”?
ADAM: It’s as if the writer is pointing out the truth that the law only shows the empty shell or outline of something wondrous..something real. It’s as if it is the very TESTIMONY or declaration of something greater to come.
JIM: So then, we are not downplaying the truth of the Law by putting it within its proper perspective, are we? I pose this question because we’ve been so influenced by a religious mind that thinks it honors the words of Jesus by taking them literally. And I hope you understand that I’m referring to the same legalistic aspect of literalism that drove the scribes and Pharisees to use Moses’ words against Jesus. Look, if we’re not considering that Jesus said what he did in view of Israel’s long history with the Law then we’re going to misconstrue his meaning by turning the shadow of the good things to come into the actual realities brought about through his one and only sacrifice for sins. And how can we be settled in the life that is within us when we’re trying to make it fit together with the same natural-minded view of Jesus that tried to keep him earthbound?
ADAM: The examples and personal experiences are too many to number Jim. I mean how much time have we wasted listening to the the jumbled confusion of the temporal mind and it’s definition of true spiritual realities? Yet there are so real examples in throughout the pages of the Bible aren’t there?
JIM: Sure, I can think of two of them right off-hand. For one, consider how Peter rebuked Jesus when he began to speak of his impending crucifixion. Matthew 16:22 says that “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” I used to wonder why Jesus got so bent out of shape over what I saw as Peter’s concern for him. I mean, “Get behind me, Satan!” … really? But listen to the rest: “…for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” When Jesus referred to Peter as Satan, we might want to consider that the actual meaning of that name in the Greek is Adversary. This is the same spirit Paul described in Ephesians:
ADAM: And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:1-3 (NASB)
JIM: We need to understand that the spirit that works within a good portion of religion — even religious Christianity — is the same adversarial spirit that continues to keep the truth of Jesus Christ earthbound. Even the resurrected Jesus is mostly portrayed in the form that appeared to the disciples before he was taken up beyond their sight. There’s a logical reason why the religion of Christianity has adopted the Sermon on the Mount as representing its basic tenets, and that’s because the mind religion operates by cannot cross beyond the limits of its bondage. The spirit of Christ within us has been in opposition against the spirit of this world since the time of our renewal, and we have experienced the strain in our attempts to harmonize the spirit of the Adversary with the spirit of Life.
ADAM: Now, you said two examples … what about that other one?
JIM: Interestingly, the second example that usually comes to mind for me is directly connected to the first, as it’s found in the very next chapter, Matthew 17:1-8:
ADAM: Six days later Jesus *took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.
JIM: I say it’s directly connected in the sense that it displays the adverse reaction of the earthbound mind as seen in Peter’s rebuke of Jesus six days earlier. Sadly, this same earthbound mind has dominated the hearts of those who have accepted the spirit of earthbound Christianity in this present time. Now … I’m wondering if we understand the dynamics that were in play here. I mean, what was going on in Peter’s mind? Why do you think he even came up with the idea to make tabernacles? Let’s return to the dialog that preceded Peter’s rebuke of Jesus.
ADAM: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:16-19 (NASB)
JIM: Do you think Jesus’ statement that he would build his church might have triggered Peter’s fleshly imagination? Do you understand what Peter was offering to build? I ask the question, but the truth is that we all understand it. You see, this is the very thing we are hoping to find when we go to God’s house to worship. You see, we want to capture the essence of God in a building that we can access when needed. And in the adversarial mind by which Peter spoke, he also wanted to put Moses (the essence of Law) and Elijah (the essence of the Prophets) and Jesus (the essence of Grace) all on equal platforms. Three tabernacles = three ways to access God — through Law, through ongoing prophecy, and of course, through Jesus. Isn’t that kind of like what we have in much of Christianity today?
ADAM: But God didn’t let Peter become settled upon that course of action, did he?
JIM: No, he did not. Instead, he totally destroyed that vain speculation as the words came out of Peter’s mouth … and, by the way, this wasn’t the only time the father did that to Peter. You want to talk about a vivid demonstration of what true confidence really is, and it is found right here. Adam, read that part again:
ADAM: While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.
JIM: Something tells me that most of us don’t really appreciate the overwhelming sense of power that must have captured those men that day. I mean, this would have been the epitome of anything Peter, James, and John could have ever imagined. And don’t forget that out of all of the disciples, these three had, on more than one occasion, discussed who the top dog among them was. And here, the desires of their ambitious hearts were were being stroked by a spectacle that had to have put them into euphoria!
The face of Jesus shining like the sun — remember the story about Moses’ face shining each time he conferred with God? On top of that, his clothes became white as light. And then, Moses, the one through whom God gave his Law … and Elijah, the prophet, the one who had been promised to return. Consider the final words of Malachi:
ADAM: “Remember the law of Moses My servant, even the statutes and ordinances which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse.” Malachi 4:4-6 (NASB)
JIM: ….and then right in front of them, Moses and Elijah appeared! Moses and Elijah! Apparently, they didn’t need any name tags to be recognized … or maybe Jesus spoke their names as he addressed them. I don’t know, but that had to be one power-packed experience! What would it be like for us to meet the most influential historical figures that have shaped our own civilization?
ADAM: I guess it would be like meeting one of those famous people you have always dreamed of meeting. Someone who had so much influence and shaping in your own life as well as everyone around you. Maybe like a rock star or some sort of major icon such as Martin Luther King Jr.
JIM: Is it any surprise that Peter would have wanted to capture this entire experience? But then, just like that, seemingly destroyed by Peter’s proposal, everything became obscured by a bright cloud. The voices of Moses and Elijah were done away by a voice from the cloud that said,
ADAM: “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well-pleased: listen to HIM!”
JIM: And when they looked up, they saw Jesus … alone. Imagine their disappointment. They had wanted it all, not aware that in him, they would be complete. Of course, it shouldn’t be difficult to picture that kind of disappointment, for you’ve been there, haven’t you? My friends, it is through this same kind of disappointment that we become settled with the life that is within us, for that life is Christ.
ADAM: So Jim, how do we relate this becoming settled back to the Sermon on the Mount? Let’s get specific … how about the introduction, the part that’s been called the Beatitudes … the blessings?
JIM: Excellent … let’s take a look at that. The Beatitudes, the blessings. Jesus opened up with that which is relegated to the realm of weakness according to the logic of this world — including the religious world. Poor … mourners … gentle … undernourished … merciful … pure ones … peacemakers?
ADAM: Jim, what about the many ceremonies and organizations that seem to honor and applaud people who are humanitarians, like the Nobel Peace Prize?
JIM: Yeah, I know some of these virtues can take center-stage for periods of time, but let’s face it, the natural mind of man values those who are strong, those who do what it takes to get the job done, those who are self-made, those who stand up to their fears and overcome them, those who achieve their goals, those who aren’t wimps! Jesus started his whole message out by highlighting the true stuff of life, that which is by-passed by the mind of the world. Don’t let the BS of the natural mind of man deceive us as it pretends to honor that which is true virtue just because it bestows accolades upon some for their selflessness.
ADAM: Do you think that only pretenders are acknowledged?
JIM: I’m not suggesting that all who have been honored by the world are pretenders, after all, many people bestowed honor upon Jesus … but only for a while. But Jesus didn’t accept the accolades of the world, did he? And why was that? Because he knew what was behind it, he knew what was in man. Being settled on the life that is within us begins with the recognition of the one and only source of life … knowing that it truly cannot be recognized by the mind of man. It’s like what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
ADAM: I assume you’re referring to the passage in 1 Corinthians 1, where Paul wrote:
For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NASB)
Jesus told the people to rejoice in the face of the insults and persecutions they would receive from the world. What can we get from that?
JIM: First of all, that the world cannot tell you who you are. It cannot recognize the true life that is within you, so how could it possibly give you any instruction whatsoever as to how to live or to obey or to follow or to love. For them, the rejoicing was something they would eventually understand when the spirit of life came into them.
ADAM: And how about for us at this time?
JIM: For us now, the rejoicing has nothing to do with putting on a happy face or pretending all is well; it has to do being settled in the reality that our life in Christ is being shown for what it truly is in the face of the world’s rejection of it. Some of us are looking for that to happen, but I’m telling you that it’s happening every day. If we would just reflect on what’s really going on within us as that life clashes with the world in which we live, we would see the sharp contrasts between light and darkness.
ADAM: And moving to the next part of the Sermon on the Mount, there is the part about the abolishing of the Law and the Prophets and the examples Jesus used to explain that. Being settled? Some of us have been struggling with those passages for a long time.
JIM: We’ve gone into great detail on these passages in our previous audios so I’m not going to repeat that. However, for us to be settled with the life that is within us, we have to know that there is nothing in the realm of human moral codes — not even those that are supported by Biblical quotations with the words of Jesus in red — that can add anything to that life. Now, for any who think my viewpoint is an attempt to avoid the high cost of discipleship as detailed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, I’m wondering how they might view Jesus’ own contradictory words in Matthew 11:28-30:
ADAM: “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, you you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
JIM: Jesus exposed the tricks and the loopholes of the religious human mind by the very Scriptures men used in the attempt to justify themselves. I’m not suggesting that he was being deceptive at all. No way! The only deception in the Sermon on the Mount verses is found in the hearts of those who twist them back around to make themselves appear more spiritual than others.
ADAM: And Jim, this appearance of being more spiritual is still there even if it’s in the negative sense, as in, “I’m a worse sinner than you” … because behind it lies the implication that such a person is being more humble.
JIM: Exactly! Jesus didn’t preach his Sermon to give the people a renewed hope in being able to carry out all the hypocrisy he exposed, he said what he did to make it all stand out in vivid clarity so that the people would be left with no way to justify themselves according to the Law. You see, the lie that makes us stumble is the belief that we’ve been given new grace laws by Jesus. Each time we’re presented with the success stories of principle-based Christianity, we need to let the truth that Jesus spoke uncover the human effort and the smoke and mirrors that make it look so good. It’s not.
ADAM: So, when we read these seemingly tough-to-live-by words of Jesus about murder and adultery and divorce and making vows and turning the other cheek and loving our neighbor … they should give us reason to become more settled with the life that is now within us?
JIM: That’s exactly what I’m saying. What those hard-to-live-by commands should make vividly clear is the consistent nature of the religious mind that is trying to pull the same stuff on us right now. Many of those we might look up to as our Christian moral examples — you know, those no-nonsense, hard-hitting preachers — are still playing the same game. We let their words and claims intimidate us because we somehow feel spiritually inferior to those who appear to be doing so much better, to those who seem to be on a higher plane.
ADAM: Jim, if we were to see Jesus’ words as continually exposing the religious manipulations of the fleshly mind, we wouldn’t be so caught off guard every time some new principle or Bible verse was preached as a judgment or condemnation against us, would we?
JIM: I do not think we would, for the truth of Jesus’ words tell us that those who condemn us with their Biblically-substantiated principles don’t follow them either, and what he said leaves us no other option than for us to lay those heavy burdens on him.
ADAM: Then what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about not practicing your righteousness before men … or giving … or even praying only highlights the deceptions of religious men who want to keep us under their control and influence.
JIM: Jesus’ insistence on doing these things privately was not meant as yet another means by which to constrict those who had been put under the heavy burdens by their leaders, it was spoken to them to take the pressure off. Do we not see that everything Jesus pointed to was to emphasize that they need not to worry about godly appearances? Tell me that doesn’t also speak to us today? How many of us feel a constant pressure to conform to the same kind of pressure that’s put out by our own religious institutions by our religious preachers and teachers?
ADAM: The religious institution of today has done a pretty convincing job of turning the Sermon on the Mount into a means by which to apply the exact same kind of pressure that you say Jesus was destroying. I mean, instead of a release of pressure, we find only increased condemnation every time we hear Jesus’ words about forgiveness. How can we be settled about the pressure of trying to forgive others so that we will also be forgiven?
JIM: Once again, if we would only listen to the spirit of the words, we would be more and more convinced that there is no lasting forgiveness in the Law. Period. They already knew it when Jesus spoke it, but they had been so heavily burdened by the religious institution — just like we are today — that they couldn’t hear the true testimony of the Law that made a continual reminder of sins, year after year.
ADAM: Jim, let me read that passage in Hebrews 10 again. I think our listeners will benefit from it.
“Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the actual form of those realities, it can never perfect the worshipers by the same sacrifices they continually offer year after year. Otherwise, wouldn’t they have stopped being offered, since the worshipers, once purified, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in the sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
JIM: I mean, do we think Jesus didn’t know this stuff when he gave his Sermon on the Mount? Do we think the meaning of his words had to be revamped because he just didn’t understand how his death and resurrection would change everything?
ADAM: Or maybe he knew exactly what he meant to say to those who were held in bondage under the Law — a bondage made more intense by the lies and hypocrisy of their leaders.
JIM: That’s right, despite our difficulties in understanding his words, Jesus knew exactly what he had been sent to do … and he was speaking of a reality that included the tearing down of the religious facade. Today’s so-called Christian teachers and preachers would be choking on the words of Jesus if they hadn’t been so thoroughly reintegrated back into the same legalism he had ripped to shreds in front of the original hearers. Every time some hypocrite makes you think that your forgiveness is still held in the balances, he is actually projecting his or her own doubts and fears upon you. I mean, where else is forgiveness not proclaimed as the hallmark of our salvation other than within the fading realm of Law?
ADAM: If we were to listen to the testimony of the spirit of Christ within us, we might hear the truth behind the words of those who love to condemn … and that truth would come out sounding much different than the false words that are spoken.
JIM: I’m getting a picture of a scene similar to those in the Jim Carrey movie, Liar, Liar, where a birthday wish made by his son kept him from telling a lie for 24 hours (and yes, you have to give it a lot of leeway). Now, as a lawyer who built his success upon lies, the inability to lie created some intensely funny scenes. Instead of a lie, the truth of his heart was blurted out. It totally ruined his planned defense for a trial that took place that same day, which of course, was built upon lies. At one point during the trial, Carrey requests a continuance, to which the judge demands good cause. Try as he may, he couldn’t come up with any excuse except the truth: “I cannot lie!” Of course, the judge didn’t understand that that was the cause.
ADAM: Jim, how about giving us a preview of a scene like you’re describing? :)
JIM: Okay, there’s a guy telling you, “Hey, I’m a legalist and I haven’t the faintest idea what I’m talking about, but I want you to follow me anyhow!” Of course, his face turns red in embarrassment and frustration as he says, “That’s not what I meant to say! What I meant to say is that I don’t keep the laws and principles I insist that you must keep! No, no, I didn’t say that, I said, I’m a total failure and I envy the freedom that seems to be working in you because it makes no sense to me and I must destroy your confidence because it makes me look bad! Oh no, oh no … what’s happening here? That’s not what I’m saying! Who’s changing my words? …”
JIM: You see, the only way we’ve been suckered into viewing the Sermon on the Mount in any other way than originally intended comes from a carefully planned reworking of the script … and still, the only way it could have been pulled off is for those who have been set free to become intimidated into questioning the freedom by which their freedom has been made. Otherwise, we would have automatically pushed aside the darts thrown at us by the virtue of Christ crucified, and him alone. We wouldn’t be saying “yes, but…” to the truth, but rather “yes, but…” to the lie! For Jesus Christ did away with the very thing that kept us in darkness, which was sin itself. He removed us from the realm in which sin and condemnation rules and translated us into the realm in which sin and condemnation has no bearing at all.
ADAM: This is what it is to be settled with the life that is within us!
JIM: Yes, for in Christ we rest from everything that seeks to condemn us. Anything condemnation that confronts you from Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount is answered in his later words, “Come to me, all who are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, you you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”