Adam: Intro…Last meeting was at the end of May[27th]
Jim: Hello my friend Adam! It’s good to be back together again discussing this amazing life that is ours in Christ and how it relates to every single thing we go through. I would think by now, most of you — our listeners — will probably realize that I don’t throw that out there in a religious sense, but rather that it’s somehow connected to our freedom in Christ. The truth is that your learned religious behavior is more closely related to the practice of following the daily horoscope. Well, we’re not here to teach you how to use (or abuse) the Sacred Script in order to get a reading on God so that you can figure out what you’re supposed to be doing moment by moment. Our desire is to encourage you in a reality that seems to have no bearing upon real, daily living and to strengthen your hearts so that you will stand against the constant attacks that seek to convince you that there is nothing behind the curtain of appearance … that curtain that you’ve peeked behind enough times to know it’s there. With that said, I hope you’ll stick around a bit longer.
Adam: Friendly Reminder
Adam: Just a few days ago, you sent out a Spoonful newsletter entitled, The Advice of God. It seems to fit quite well with what we’ll be discussing today, so I’d like to read it for our listeners:
Do you realize that the only true practicality for us in the world is that which comes through our confidence in Christ? That’s right. For how we handle ourselves in this world has everything to do with who we perceive ourselves to be. It’s not that I’m against good advice, for I offer people all kinds of advice during a normal day. However, I believe that we have given into the lie that Christianity is more or less God’s advice for us as Christians … something you might refer to as the will of God or God’s plan for your life.
Like I say, I’m not against some good advice now and again, for it might help you choose a more healthful diet, find a less-expensive product, or select a better cell phone. But there is no advice in this world – even if it comes from a Bible verse or a preacher’s sermon – that can produce God’s work within you. Oh, it might make you appear more spiritually productive, but the working of God doesn’t come from the practical side of the grave … but from the living side that has risen past it. When I tell you that Christ is your life, I’m telling you about the one and only present-tense reality that causes you to live as one who is truly alive in this world.
Adam: Well, our last audio was entitled: Settled With the Life Within Us
We discussed how we, who are in Christ, can experience intense difficulties from within when not settled with the Life that is within us. We have had an encouraging time uncovering these very realities within the context of our ongoing audio series in the book of Matthew.
Jim: Indeed, we have. And as we continue on, we should discover that we will still be touching on the same realities that are behind everything Jesus spoke in his famous Sermon on the Mount. Like I constantly suggest, we’ve gotten so used to reading what Matthew wrote within a formulaic, religious, how-to sense that if we don’t bring his actual words into view, we usually don’t see the amazing connections. I mean, how many of us have to picture the scene within some kind of a religious or Biblical setting? You know what I’m talking about. For some of you, the words of Jesus might be so mentally connected to when you heard them that you can’t separate them from the total experience. You know, the preacher’s voice, the church pews, the fear or even happiness … that old-timey, serious-minded feel. Some might automatically see Jesus standing in the midst of the crowd with his long hair and beard and wearing a long robe saying things like “Verily, verily” and “Thee” and “Thou” and “But I say to you…” Let’s pull those curtains of appearance away so that we can see the living interconnections behind it all.
Adam: Jim for the longest time I think we have been reading passages from Paul not realizing that what he shared WAS coming from the life that was within himself. Many of us have learned to run to Bible passages both old and new testament for some sort of a pick and choose “how to manual” on getting “god” to get into action for the benefit and protection of our flesh. In fact I would dare to say that there are many who really want to go back to the old testament because they are frustrated with the seeming limit of “practical” information on how to live day to day. At least in the old we can find phrases about making money, raising kids and conquering battles with our hands.
Jim: I am well aware of the crutch of using selected Bible verses for a how-to manual, after all, I was brought up in a Lutheran church, moved over to a Baptist church, and then I attended and graduated from a non-denominational Bible college. While there, I learned a dispensational approach to the Bible to help me figure out which books, verses, or passages were applicable to me in this period of grace … and which were not. Now, that approach helped wean me away from some of those Old Testament commands (because we’re not under the Law), but it also left a void that needed to be filled. A how-to manual is still a how-to manual no matter which parts of the Bible you use to create it.
Adam: While I realize that we could go down that road and discuss many things about this, I want to simply point out that what we are here to talk about today will not be some more “how to”s” or “day to day” living tools. At least not according to the outward understanding of it.
During the time of the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there was a very interesting quotation he made toward the end of his letter. I happened to stumble across this familiar quote the other night while reading and it struck me in such a powerful way that I thought we might discuss this in view of the Life of Christ that lives within us. Jim could you read that quotation from Paul for us here?:
Jim: In Philippians 4:12, Paul wrote:
I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
Adam: Yeah I know. We have all read this one before. It’s that ole “just be grateful” deal. That “just give thanks” or ” just be content for crying out loud” thing that Paul always says. But haven’t we been hearing this pretty much all our lives growing up in this world? I mean haven’t you ever heard your mom or Dad say “you SHOULD be thankful, there are children starving in Africa” whenever you refused to eat that last bite of food at the dinner table? Or how about that old stale feeling we got whenever we got something for our birthday’s when money was tight that year and were told we “should be thankful’ to get at least ‘something”? We never felt all that thankful or content though did we Jim?
Jim: Our recording today just happens to land on one of America’s national holidays, Father’s Day. And a very profitable holiday it is. Now, I have nothing against the recognition and celebration of fatherhood — after all, I’m not only a father, but a grandfather, as well — but I wonder how many of us have come to realize that designated days of thankfulness and appreciation only underscore the actual lack of it? I mean, why we need a specific day to honor fathers or mothers or Jesus if they are truly being honored and appreciated to the max every day? Adam, I’m very familiar with that the judgment that I was supposed to be thankful … that whatever was being requested of me was the least I should do. You know what? Any kind of regulated or demanded thankfulness has no real bearing upon the heart.
Adam: Thankfully this is NOT what Paul was getting at as he expressed the life within himself. For Paul wasn’t able to constrain the grace that came out of him in his conversations with these brothers and sisters. No, for Paul there was only One way he had come to know that caused contentment in his heart and it wasn’t more law. No, it was the very Spirit of grace [yes “the spirit of grace” that was referenced in Hebrews] that showed him the way out of being ill content.
Jim: Adam, I am supremely thankful that I was rescued from the poor excuse for thankfulness and contentment that I grew up with. As a side note, I am more and more convinced that man’s lack of inner contentment and thankfulness is what lurks behind most Christian teaching on something like heaven versus hell. I mean, if we’re talking about having some reasons for appreciating God and his blessings, the natural mind can’t imagine a more extreme reason than having been rescued from a never-ending home in the fires of hell and instead given a place in the realm of everlasting bliss.
Now, I called it a side note, but honestly, it’s not. And just so you know, up until shortly after my Bible College days, I would have been stirred up with what I considered “righteous indignation” at what I’m suggesting to you here. Yeah, I would have been gritting my teeth and making objections. Believe me, I am well aware that some of you can’t wait to run this by your pastor or Bible teacher to see what he or she thinks. Just consider this, though: Why else do you think these so-called Biblical teachings end up being used to try to motivate you to do or to think or to say what you “should” be doing, thinking, or saying as a Christian?
According to the life we have learned in this world, we have discovered that unless we force ourselves to consider why we should be thankful and content, that we won’t be. And as long as we continue to let the world’s dead perception instruct us in any way on how to live, we will find ourselves struggling to bring about a thankfulness that has already been put within us.
Adam: See Paul KNEW that the law would only work in his members to be anything BUT content. In fact, this is exactly why Paul spoke so thoroughly about us not being under the law all throughout his writings [see Romans], but completely released from its power through our Lord Jesus Christ. It is a fixed, permanent reality. It is the very thing the Spirit of Christ works so powerfully in us who are His. But these things can not be seen with the outward eye of the world, but only through the reality of that which is Spirit. The Spirit that the flesh would have you ignore.
Jim: Recently, I’ve been having weekly discussions with a brother from my workplace who is becoming more and more aware of the religious sense of fulfillment he gets by performing some kind of church-based deeds. It’s exciting to witness his growing dissatisfaction with that emptiness, even though for him it’s got to be totally frustrating. He’s starting to refer to what he wishes he could see as “the way Jim sees it” and yet as I listen to him, I hear the spirit of Christ within him struggling against those long-held religious motivations.
Can’t we see that all those how-tos and shoulds and supposed-tos have only ended up causing the very opposite reaction within us? Let’s forget those immediate and short-lived outward, observable reactions long enough to realize that we have lived far too long under an illusion. Getting yourself pumped up for Jesus has nothing to do with your life in Christ, it’s the same thing you and and everybody else does. This is fleshly motivation at its finest! We might quote Paul’s words to help motivate ourselves, but in viewing his letters this way, we totally miss where he was coming from, don’t we?
Adam: Now, you will see this constant theme of true blessing and contentment all throughout Paul’s communication with the believers. As matter of fact it was this reality we speak of that moved Paul to witness to the temporal vs. the eternal blessings that are found in the One who lives through us: Jim could you read the next passage from Paul?:
Jim: In Philippians 4:19, Paul wrote:
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Adam: Again, many of us look at these passages and automatically think Paul was talking about some greedy way to cast a spell on god to get him to give us more treasures on earth. But what if what Paul was really saying was His God would meet them in the same way that He met Paul in every need? Could THIS be the secret of being content? Could this be the very thing that caused Paul to be filled when in want? Was Paul not exceedingly glad that he was no longer under the law?
Jim: Like you say, our own backgrounds so often dictate how we view this as well as other Bible verses on God’s provisions for our needs. I remember sermons and Bible studies, and even some classes in public school where distinctions were drawn between needs and wants … and these couldn’t even be agreed upon. When I was a child, it seems that there were fewer needs on people’s lists than when I got older. I think our Americanized perceptions have caused us to become more dependent on more of our civilized blessings. What if our expectations have more to do with our interpretations of Paul’s words than with the actual meaning? And yes, I think that applies to pretty much everything we read in the Bible.
Depending on what form or version of Christianity one has adopted, the expectations can vary as to how one regards the needs God will provide — and those expected provisions might fall anywhere between bare necessities to extravagance. When I was very young, one car per family was considered average, and those from older generations would tell us how lucky we were to even own a vehicle. To only have one vehicle per family in America today is thought of as bordering on poverty. Was God actually withholding his blessings to those who considered themselves blessed to have a car at all … or are we missing the point entirely by judging God’s blessings according to our comparative standards? When it comes down to it, the mind of man believes that as long as one owns more than the average joe, a person can be considered as doing well. So, when we’re looking at things outwardly, how can we possibly imagine we know what Paul was talking about?
Adam, I love how you pose those questions regarding Paul’s secret to contentment. After all, didn’t Jesus pretty much pose the same thing when he said that a man’s life does not consist of the things he possesses? Perhaps that’s why any of our listeners who’ve been trying to fill themselves by acquiring more are getting further and further away from that goal.
Adam: Again, there is NO contentment without grace. Just like there is no inward contentment that flows from our souls under law. Also consider that Jesus nor Paul EVER suggested that we just merely re adjust our expectations in all of this. Meaning, what they said was NOT just a powerless command to just “do without” or get along with less. Thats how the world thinks!
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we [He, Paul and Paul’s companions] have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those [he watched those who were of the fleshly mind go down this road of trying to “sell” the faith and it led to pains in themselves and others]who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all [a]sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. [Interesting that Jesus pointed at the Pharisee and told them that THEY loved money, not God]. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:6-11
Don’t we understand that this had NOTHING to do with just being content with less or lowering or expectations or things like that? It is much more than that! Shoot, the world can do all that, what is so miraculous about THAT?
Jim: That’s for sure, my brother. Now, I find it quite interesting that even though you started us out as if we might be getting away from our series on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, we’re actually touching on the very next part of what Jesus told the people at that time. Even though many people have turned Jesus’ words around in such a way that they now worry about their inability to not worry, he was speaking from the place of life and freedom and true contentment!
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:19-34
Perhaps the most important point to consider in what Jesus said about treasures in heaven and not worrying and not being able to serve two masters are those curious verses around where he talks about the eye being the lamp of the body. We get stuck in the mud with our new Christian forms of worry because we think we’re supposed to make this Christian thing happen. We think we can make our eye “clear” … whatever that’s supposed to mean. However, consider how shortly after those statements, Jesus said: “You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life…” For this reason? And what reason is that? Simply put, it’s his bringing in of the New Covenant, as foretold from centuries back. He was the one who came to do God’s will. He was the one who would cause them to serve in a new and living way.
The eye being clear actually means that it is single. Now, that might not come across in any new and living kind of way, but let’s consider it in view of the contrasting description Jesus gave, as well as in view of the strength of his decree: You cannot serve God and wealth. First, the contrast to the eye being single is that of the eye being evil. Single vision brings light to the whole body, while evil vision brings darkness. Singleness of vision isn’t a demand as what we need to do to make it happen, it is the description of the sight of one who is a servant of God.
For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:14-18
Pay attention to what Jesus said: You cannot serve both!