JohnSWilson3 Blog


“…since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken…”
June 27, 2012, 2:42 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

The author to the Letter to the Hebrews consistently has warned the brothers and sisters in not so many words to put off the flesh and to put on Christ, to not live by the flesh but to live by His life using Old Testament imagery that would relate to their Jewish teaching. In this last section of Chapter 13 the author makes some striking contrasts.

The author has gone to a great depth to help the ekklesia to see how their moving forward in their life in Christ is related to the suffering and struggles that they have been going through. God is after only one thing, the expression of His Son and that only comes when we see the flesh is dead and has been nailed to the cross. Paul to the Philippian ekklesia describes this as entering into “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death.” When we take our eyes off of our circumstances and fix them on to Jesus our perspective changes from our flesh to Christ. Christ wants to give us eyes to see that He is our life and we “share in his holiness.” As we learn Christ His life of peace is expressed, a life that it “other” than this world, and our family, friends, and neighbors “will see the Lord.”

If we focus on ourselves, on our circumstances, however awful we think they are, and not on Christ in us then we miss seeing “the grace of God” not only in our lives but in the lives of others and this has a subtle way of affecting the ekklesia. How often have you found some, because of their circumstances, have become bitter at life? But if we are living by Christ, by faith loving others, loving our brothers and sisters who are down because of their circumstances they will see the Lord expressed. But if we get caught up with the troubles and the material things of this world with the brothers and sisters we are acting more like Esau, “who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.” Esau lacked “any sense of spiritual values…(and) whose chief concerns are the material interests of the moment.” (1) It is difficult if altogether impossible for an ekklesia once it falls into this trap when it gathers to regain sight of the Lord in their midst. It is a “bitter root” that “grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” It is a spiritual struggle to keep Christ as Head. Haven’t you seen this as you have gathered together when the group loses the headship of Christ in your midst? May we have spiritual sight to hear our Lord and not refuse what He is saying in the moment, but love by faith. How important it is “to detect and nip in the bud (with love) any tendency that would” cause us to focus on the flesh and not on Christ. (2)

The author then gives two great pictures which is the climax of his entire letter to this ekklesia. Two great pictures which describes two different ways that we can gather as a body of Christ. The first describes a picture of the old children of Israel at Mount Sinai in the wilderness; the second describes a picture of the new children of Israel at Mount Zion in the promise land. When we gather together in Christ we do not gather as the old children of Israel did who focused on the outward things of this world, the old creation of the flesh. Because they focused on themselves they saw only condemnation: “fire,” “darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast,” a terrifying sight, causing them to fear God’s voice. When we gather together as the new creation, His body, our focus is on Christ, His spiritual life that dwells within us. He is Head. In Christ there is no condemnation, only the flesh condemns. Listen to the author:

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the [ekklesia] of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”

Wow, what a description of the gathering of the ekklesia! Could we have spiritual sight to see this as we gather together! As we gather together brothers and sisters we are called to live by Christ’s life which means we respond to the Head, what He tells us in and to and through one another. “See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.” As we hear Him we are called to respond with love each by the measure of faith and gift we have been given. When “we turn away from him who warns us from heaven” we will only gather as the old children of Israel did in fear and condemnation and act out of our flesh like Esau. When this happens the body of Christ becomes another religion and God does not get what He desires the most, the expression of His Son through a people who He deeply loves, God does not get a witness of His life to the world.

We must see our sufferings for what they are, the sufferings of Christ, it is the way of the cross, it is the way of fellowship. Though they are difficult at times we have One who has been through them all yet did not sin, who did not lose sight of the Father in Him, He is the One we are to go to as a body, Him who dwells and lives within us. “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” These sufferings, these trials, these difficult circumstances are meant to help remove “what can be shaken,” what does not last, “so that what cannot be shaken may remain,” the expression of His Son, the life of His Spirit, the grace of God. His life is our life. This is how true fellowship is born within the body of Christ, this is how, as Paul told the Ephesian ekklesia, “the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Perhaps what God is really trying to show us is that in fact on the cross the flesh was truly nailed and taken away and Christ is really now our life. It is perhaps the shaking of our lives and trusting in Him together in the process that we really see this truth. “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire.’”

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Comments to “The Tree of Life? Watch Out!” by Jim Wright
June 23, 2012, 2:28 pm
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

This is from my comments from a facebook discussion (a bit edited) between me and my brother Jim Wright based on his blog at http://crossroadjunction.com/2012/06/22/trees/

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John:
– like any teaching guessing it depends if the goal “is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.”
– the importance of learning to hear Christ, living by Him, having a clear conscience by faith love one another.

Jim:
– John, I agree with you. I only urge you to realize, however, that there is no dichotomy between love and truth, or between the Living Word and the written word, or between the person of Jesus and his commands. I just wish folks would stop trying to say it is all the subjective heart – as vitally important and valid as that is. Really, can’t we embrace the fulness of Christ as He Himself has chosen to reveal Himself – relationally, by speaking to the heart, by speaking through scripture, through objective moral code and commands, etc. The either/or mentality is one of the biggest problems facing the organic/simple church community. Where I am seeing fruit is where fellowships and communities have understood there is no such false dichotomies, but have embraced all of Christ.

John:
– Jim, appreciate your words, this is a bit lengthy so I hope you don’t mind if I share some thoughts. I guess I am a bit confused by what you mean as a dichotomy between love and truth or between the Living Word and the written word. (I had to look up the word “dichotomy” to understand what you meant, lol) I will have to say that there are those brothers and sisters who based on abuse or error in the church can often go to the extremes. I do not fault them for this, it is something that must be learned to be put off as we love one another by faith. I am although seeing that only the Father can reveal Himself, whether through the Bible, others, nature, or circumstances; Jesus showed this often in the stories and parables given to us in the gospels. I can read the Bible all day like Martin Luther but until my eyes are open do I see Christ in the Bible, others, nature, or circumstances of life. This is seen many times in the New Testament, such as the two disciples who walked with Jesus and ate bread with Him after His resurrection. Obviously Martin Luther had his issues about truth and love, to the point of exterminating those who did not believe the way he did. The problem of institutionalism, focusing one aspect of Christ over another. I can be focused on the truth yet not have love as 1 Cor 13-14 says. So to some degree there is a mystery here. Christ Jesus is a Person not a book, only with spiritual sight can I see Him described in the Bible and learn more about Him. God does not equal the Bible. Don’t get me wrong I’m not a Bible basher, I love to read it and learn more of Christ from it, to know more about how to live by His life with others, and to better understand it. But this is only milk, not meat. The Bible is milk, Christ’s life is meat. It is my opinion that Christ’s life in His body, no matter the measure of faith or gift given to each, even if we did not have the scripture would still be living according to the principles of scripture. Thinking that many, especially the Gentile ekklesias had no scripture, just Christ by whom they lived by, yet still followed the principles given in the Bible. [Something to think about is that the Jerusalem ekkelsia towards the end of Paul’s journey’s had become legalistic at best, which should give us cause to be wary about focusing soley on following the Old Testament rules and regulations or any cultural traditions over and against the life of Christ in His people, forgetting that in Christ the Old Testament commands with its rules and regulations have been abolished in His flesh. Christ fulfilled them, we now live by the law of Christ, law of love. This doesn’t mean we are libertine. Christ’s life is not libertine but love. To live by Him we will freely love.] There is only one Holy Spirit who inspired scripture and who also dwells within us. He cannot deny Himself. Even John noted that he did not write down everything that Jesus said or did; there is more to Christ to know than we have in the Bible; the unsearchable riches as it were. My thought is that to embrace all of Christ is to embrace all of His people, in whom He dwells, no matter the measure of faith and gift that He gives each, whether those whom God gives to teach about Him from scripture or not, as teaching in this light is but one of numerous ways the body mutually encourages one another. It is my opinion though, as I have learned, that no matter the faith or gift given to each brother or sister we each can learn, are taught, by one another something of Christ in the process, based on light we have been given. I have to say that based on this, subjectivity goes out the window since to see the fulness of Christ in His body goes beyond any one person’s faith or gift of Christ. I sometimes think that we make assumptions about others, judge others if you will, based on our lack of understanding of one another’s vocabulary. I have to say Jim, that you are more learned than I am as I do not have some of the vocabulary that you use since I have to go to a dictionary to understand what you mean such as dichotomy and objective moral code, :). For some when those words and others are used can give someone, especially out of the institutional church an uneasiness, as they can be seen as haughty and as a result become defensive. You may not think so, but I’m just looking at a perspective, it may be because they do not have the same measure of faith and obviously more of the flesh to put off. When you say “objective moral code” my guess is that you are referring to loving one another, such as the “golden rule.” When you say the word “commands, etc.” many see this as a door to legalism, something the institutional church has used, even God’s commands out of context, to make subject God’s people to their own fleshly interests. What commands are we referring to? There is but one command that Jesus gave on the night He was betrayed, to love one another. And that love has many shades of color in each person by His life in us. That is why we are called throughout the New Testament to hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him. And that manifestation or expression will always be love, full of grace and truth. I have to say that it is also possible that the opinions of others in regarding ekklesias living by the life of Christ as presented by others may be the result of not having experienced the “gore and glories” of putting off the flesh and putting on Christ. (as Frank would say,:)) But many have. My guess is that not every ekklesia is going to look the same based on the “field” that they have been planted in. So I guess when we see blogs, books, etc from others learning about organic/simple church life we are only seeing a part of Christ not the whole Christ and so I like to think I hold my judgment, praising God for the light that has been given to each ekklesia. So those are my thoughts brother, from the light I have been given by our Lord.



“Endure hardship as discipline…”
June 19, 2012, 2:50 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

This section in Chapter 12 of the Letter to Hebrews is perhaps one of the more controversial sections of the Bible. It is in fact a mystery. You probably have heard some ask or read a book trying to answer the question: Why do bad things happen to good people? My guess is that it is a matter of perspective; a matter of attitude. In Chapter 12 the author wants us to see life and its difficult circumstances from an “other” point of view, namely Christ’s.

If we were to read the Bible starting with the earliest written manuscript then we would need to begin with Job. Most scholars would claim that Job was the first written book of the Bible. Perhaps we might have a more “accurate” understanding of God’s eternal purpose in the whole of scripture if we looked at it through the lens of Job.

God’s eternal purpose is to reveal His Son in His fullest expression, to be the all in all. Only when the flesh has been buried, seen as dead, nailed to the cross, can the expression of His Son be revealed. This burial, this denying the “soul life” looks different for each follower of Jesus, for each local ekklesia. The results are the same, so that His life will be expressed in and to and through our soul life to the glory of God. Perhaps only when we are brought to our lowest point, whatever that looks like, when everything seems to be against us, and we trust completely in Christ Jesus our Lord and by faith love, will the fuller expression of His magnificent Son be revealed.

“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!”

The author takes an interesting shift in his letter to this ekklesia. Earlier in the letter the author was encouraging the ekklesia “to persevere” in keeping their “confidence” in God because of their various trials, e.g. being “in a great contest in the face of suffering,” “publicly exposed to insult and persecution,” and “the confiscation of your property.” The religious rulers were trying to get these brothers and sisters of this ekklesia to fall back to Judaism, and some were. But here in Chapter 12, this “opposition from sinful men” and “struggle against sin” is being described as the rebuking and punishing by the Lord! This is a totally different perspective; seeing our difficult circumstances as a form of discipline. This word “discipline” means “training of a child, including instruction.” (1) It is a form of correction. Suffering, while difficult at the time, helps us correct how we live and by whom we live. The tests and trials of life happen to help us live by His life together by faith with love. They help us learn obedience to Christ.

As the author said earlier: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” Obedience is not about obeying the commandments with its rules and regulations, this is what Judaism was trying to get the ekklesia to fall back to; these were abolished in the flesh of Christ. It is about obeying the Son who is now our life; we hear Him, believe Him, and follow Him together who is our New Covenant. We live by the inward life of Christ not by the outward adherence to rules, keeping a clear conscience before God, no matter the consequences. Let us then therefore fix our eyes on Jesus, instead of our circumstances; this is submitting to the Father, this is real life with other brothers and sisters, and it’s messy! This is where God gets what He wants, the expression of His Son through His sons and daughters.

Let us keep in mind that the tests and trials in this life are for “our good,” while it doesn’t seem “pleasant at the time, but painful,” they are used by God to help us lose our “soul life,” to break the vessels of our flesh, so that He might possess it, obtain it, so that the light of His life may be seen not our flesh. “Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” An original translation would be “it produces a righteousness of peaceable fruit.” (2) It is the tests and trials of life, the fellowship in His sufferings, that Christ’s resurrection life, His righteousness, gets expressed in His body and will show forth “peaceable fruit,” or “resting love.” (Since peaceable is synonymous with rest and fruit is synonymous with love I have chosen to use “resting love.”) In our struggles let us see that God’s purpose for them is to help us persevere, to endure, by keeping our eyes on Jesus. Jesus has been through them already.

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” As we “press on to the goal” we must remember that we are part of a body. It is His body that is pressing on, it is about Christ expressed in His body. F.F. Bruce comments that this passage describes doing “everything possible to help them,” those who are “feeling especially discouraged and disinclined to make the necessary effort.” (3) As the author noted earlier: “Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison…” Christ’s love is selfless, focused on others, our brothers and sisters, Christ’s body loves one another sacrificially as God enables each one by His measure of faith and gift. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” It is not about you or I going to the throne of grace but “us” and “we.” In Him we find “resting love,” we find mercy and grace in our time of need and as we live by Him together. Helping and encouraging one another, we will see that “resting love,” the fullness of His mercy and grace expressed through the body. Christ is His body’s resting love.

In all of life’s difficulties, let us see them for what they are a means whereby we “make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” As we live by Him together, in the tests and trials of life, expressing by faith love to one another and to “all men,” God gets what He wants, people “will see the Lord,” the Son of His love, and He obtains a witness of life in His Son, who becomes and is the all in all.

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 97.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 667.



My Comments from “Lessons from RUSH” by Frank Viola
June 13, 2012, 1:15 pm
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

These comments were posted on Frank’s blog on September 21, 2010: http://frankviola.org/2010/09/21/lessons-from-rush/

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wow! Frank Viola is commenting on my favorite band! While I enjoy listening to many genres of music, RUSH is definitely the only one band that I can listen to anything they have made and enjoy. Since going to their Signals tour in Atlanta, GA back in 1982 (?) I was hooked. Watching them perform “Countdown” was amazing (although most don’t care for the song). (The song is about the first space shuttle launch.) Neil has a real grasp of human nature and is amazing how much stamina he has had to deal with due to the loss of his wife and daughter in such tragic circumstances. His ability to write lyrics that have such emotional and intellectual depth is amazing. Geddy’s and Alex’s friendship is so unheard of. Their ability to write and play music so complex and yet so mixed with emotional energy is crazy! The documentary was nothing but outstanding (short of some of the language, lol).

There was another video interview done with Geddy and Alex in Canada (I think) and they were asked what they thought of the documentary. Geddy made an astute observation: the power of friendship.

How as unbelievers these three men and their families could have such friendship to care enough for each other and the freedom to allow each other to pursue their individual styles within the band, even though they disagreed, and still stay together is short of a miracle! I believe they did so because they knew it made them stronger. What an indictment to institutional Christianity

To see how people can actually have that kind of care yet not acknowledge Christ is the wonder of the human soul. Some things every church could learn from: freedom to share with each other and have fun, each an equal contributor and participant, caring enough to listen, and a focus on the main thing (for church the headship of Christ).

They have some great songs planned for the next album, one of them is Brought Up To Believe and seems to be a move of Neil’s heart toward acknowledging a God, in the face of his previous lyrics of Freewill and Faithless, but I pray for him and Geddy and Alex that they might receive Christ Jesus as Lord.

Me and the family will be at our next RUSH concert this Saturday here in Houston (with ear plugs on, lol). The Time Machine Tour is supposedly their best yet, even after some 4o years. Amazing!

By the way some of my favorite classic RUSH songs:

La Villa Stragtiato
Natural Science
Countdown
The Trees
Bytor and the Snowdog



Review of eBook “Beyond Evangelical” by Frank Viola
June 12, 2012, 10:36 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Frank’s ebook “Beyond Evangelical” is a discussion of a historical perspective of fundamentalism and evangelicalism and brings out a dialogue that compares and contrasts the religious right and left and looks at a forward option for Christians no longer interested in either, to moving forward in Christ. This forward, beyond option looks vastly different from what the world sees in the media that has taken center stage in propagating a Church that looks nothing like that we find in the New Testament. I really like the questions that Frank poses and the arrangement of the subject. Because this is a collection of Frank’s blog of the same title it can have a tendency to be a little repetitious but not distracting. Frank provides an enormous amount of resources linked to each of the pages of the ebook which help those interested in knowing more about the historical background of fundamentalism and evangelicalism and the different aspects of living by the life of Christ in an organic way. These things have spoken to my own heart and I am sure to many followers of Jesus. Thank you Frank for showing Christ in you, who is beyond all we could ever hope or imagine (paraphrase of Eph. 3:20).

Check out Frank’s blog for his book here: http://frankviola.org/2012/06/11/beyondevangelical/