Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at Faith, Hope & Love P51 (08-12-20)
How then is the Christian life to be lived? Can we live it? Not in the energy of our flesh. Not by what we do, or by trying to love or be a loving person. It is so vitally important to understand who God is, to perceive Him correctly. We must know that we are created beings, and as created beings, we respond to the one who created us. But how we respond is in direct proportion of what we perceive or know God to be like.
Why do we love? Because He loved us first. Someone says, “Boy, this guy is a legalist, but he loves God.” That is a lie. That is an impossibility. How are you going to respond in love to a God who hates you or disappoints you, or always turns His back on you or is always mad at you or a God who says you must do all these things or you have had it. How are you going to love someone like that? How I respond to God or to others is in direct proportion to how I perceive God or others.
How then do we know who God is like? That must be revealed to us. We can know about creation, looking at the beauty of a mountain that God created, but do we know about His love, mercy and compassion for us? That is why God sent His Son, so that we might know Him, who is eternal life, the source of life, that God is love. He said that He came to make the Father known. He said if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
It all comes back to responding to that which God reveals to us. He is the initiator and we are the responder. When we get that in reverse, wanting to be like God, wanting to be the initiator, that is when sin entered the world. That is what caused our spiritual death, and the fall of mankind. That attitude of independence from the one who created us, who is life, who is love, and the rejection of that provision, of faith in Him, is what is sin and caused our death.
We were all born in a condition of spiritual death through Adam. The fall of mankind, put us under sin and death, under law, until faith is revealed. That fall produced in us that attitude of fear of God, with all kinds of false imaginations and perceptions of what God is like. We reason with our natural, fleshly mind, and come to all kinds of false conclusions of who God is.
So what did God do to restore mankind back to Himself? The love of God took away the cause of our death, which is sin. He sent His Son to take away the sins of the entire world. He did not come to atone for sin, which is what the blood of bulls and goats did. He came to completely satisfy the wrath of God against sin. That is what propitiation is. That way, God, in His justice, will never ever deal with us on the basis of sin and death. Why? When that is removed, we are free to come to Christ to receive grace.
Yes, we were declared guilty, the sentence was death, but Jesus took it all, the punishment of death for us. God did this so that His very life can be given to us as a gift. This is eternal life, to know God and His Son, Jesus Christ. God is love. God is mercy. God is patient. God is kind. Those truths about God are demonstrated to us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He wants us to be able to respond to that love. But with the constant fear of sin and death, we were unable to receive that love from God. We were blinded to who He is.
God came as light into this world so we do not have to remain in darkness. He did this for us in order that His life might be given to us as a gift. We respond to that love. God did not consult man in creation nor did he consult man for their salvation. He just did it. Why? Because He so loved us. This is Agape love that we have talked about. God is love. We do not know what love is until God first loved us. God made His love known to us by doing something for us, undeserving as we are, so we might know Him, and return back to the condition of original creation, of living in dependence upon God, relying upon Him in complete child-like trust, in a loving relationship with Him, on someone who loves us perfectly.
So to live the Christian life is an impossibility with man. To live is Christ. He is the source of life, and we respond to that source of life. If you have a God that loves you perfectly, and you are going to respond to Him by saying, “God, thank you.” In your heart you are saying, “I love you too.” Then that is a natural result of saying, “If God loves me perfectly, why should I not be able to live in dependency upon that God? After all, if God is for me, then who can be against me? If God loves me perfectly, then why do I have to sit around worrying if someone else does or not? When I live in dependency upon Christ, who lives in me, that gives Him the opportunity to be the controlling factor in my life.”
To the degree that we get to know who God is, the truth about God, not our false perceptions and imaginations from the world or religion, then that determines how much we rely on Him, how we allow ourselves to abide in Him, to let Him live His life in us and through us. We get to know Him by spending time getting to know Him, allowing Him to reveal Himself to us, by reading His word.
We are talking about abiding in Christ’s love. Another way to say that would be dependency upon Christ’;s love. As we look at the Christian life, you see a triplicate, actually, of how the Christian life is to be lived. If you are talking about the Christian life, it is to be abiding in the one who loves the Christian life, and that is Christ. It is the love of God that depends upon the dependency upon God that then results in obedience to God. It is in that order. It is only as we approach the teaching of the New Testament in this order that we are ever going to find the Christian life falling into place. As we look at that pattern, we need to notice that it is our love of God, our dependence upon God and our obedience to God is the result of knowing the love of God for us. It is not that we loved Him but that He loved us first.
1 John 4:19
19 We love because he first loved us.
Let us go back and amplify some of these by just looking at the scriptures connected with the ways and means of living the Christian life. Let us start with where it begins, which is God’s love for us.
1 John 4:10 (KJV)
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Unfortunately, the NIV translates that as an atoning sacrifice for our sins, which is a pitiful translation. God did not come to atone for sins. Atonement is never used in the New Testament. In some bibles, there is a footnote. That footnote is greater than the translation. “The one who came to take away our sins, and not only ours but the sins of the entire world.” When you see atoning sacrifice in a translation, you can notice something that it is not a translation of the Greek language. It is a translation from a bias of understanding in a translator who thinks atonement is something that Jesus did. If atonement is what Jesus did then his blood is no more greater than a bull and a goat. That is what the blood of a bull and a goat did, which was atone for sin. The actual Greek word is propitiation, which means that God’s blood was presented to the Father and the Father said, “I am satisfied.” Propitiation means it is done, it is satisfied and there is nothing else to do. When someone says he is satisfied, that is it. This act satisfied God as a final sacrifice to take away the sins of the entire world. Atonement was to cover sins. Propitiation was total satisfaction of a one time act of Jesus, the Son of God, for the sins of the entire world.
1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
25 I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, 26 and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written:
“The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
27 And this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”[Isaiah 59:20,21; 27:9; Jeremiah 31:33,34]
I believe one of the reasons we dwell in such confusion in regard to the finality of the cross is because we continue to equate what Jesus did with atonement. Quite frankly, with the way the average evangelical community looks at forgiveness today, they may as well use atonement because that is what they believe, that Jesus went to the cross to cover sin just like the blood of a bull and a goat and did not finish his work. So we have to go back and keep getting forgiven over and over again, which is atonement. So maybe when people use atonement, that is what they ought to use because they have never come to settle what Jesus came to do at the cross, which is not to atone for sin but to take away sin. That propitiation took place for us. This is a vitally important thing for us to understand, folks, because I believe you are going to remain as a Christian in the desert for the rest of your life until you cross over and rest in the finality of the cross. You cannot rest in the finality of the cross when you are continually denying the reality of the finality of the cross. How are you going to rest when you are not resting.
15 As has just been said:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion.”[Psalm 95:7-8]
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
(As you read the account in Deuteronomy 1, it was not because of their many sins they did not enter the promised land, for God provided atonement for them during their day. It was because of their unbelief in what God had said that they would not enter the promised land. What do you believe about God in your heart? Is your perception of Him like that of the Isrealtes, who said “the Lord hates us”?)
You can be saved but you are in the desert. There comes a time when Jesus is going to have to take you across the Jordan and enter into a day of rest where you are resting in the finality of the cross, and therefore able to enjoy the reality of the resurrection. I am not talking about salvation. I am talking about resting.
1 John 4:10 (KJV)
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
Finality of the cross. Now, when we come to understand that truth, our knowledge of God’s love brings about a response. Folks, we talked a little bit last week about something that I think is vitally important for us to understand. How I respond to God or to others is in direct proportion to how I perceive God or others. Let me say that again. You might want to write it down. How I respond to God or to others is in direct proportion to how I perceive God or others.
If I perceive God as the man upstairs, who is vindictive, nit-picky, critical, I am going to respond to Him in direct proportion to how I perceive Him. If I perceive God as one who, if I do not dot my “I”s and cross my “T”s properly that He is going to punish me, I am going to respond to Him in fear or I am not going to respond to Him at all. I am just going to say, “the heck with you. I cannot satisfy you. So I am out of here. I will see you in heaven. In the meantime, I am just going to do my thing here on earth because I cannot satisfy you anyhow. You are obviously mad at me. Everybody tells me that. You are disgusted with me. Everybody tells me that. You turned your back on me. Everybody tells me that. So if that is the case, then I may as well go out and eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow I die. But I do know I am saved and so I will see you in heaven, whenever that occurs, but in the meantime, have a good life and so will I.”
How I respond to God is in direct proportion to how I perceive God. If that is a truth, because I am a responder, I am a created being. I am not an initiator to God. Since I am a responder to God, then I must understand that if that is true, then it is vitally important that I have a proper perception of God. Until I get a proper perception of God, how am I going to have a proper response to God? The answer to that is “I won’t.” Folks, that is why the grace of God is what is going to teach you and me to say no to unrighteousness because it is the grace of God who teaches us who righteousness is, and that is Jesus.
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
Tying to what we have been talking about, what we as created beings are responders, we are not initiators. As an example, I do not create the universe. I respond to the universe. I do not create weather. I respond to the weather. I do not create a storm. I respond to that storm. We are not creators. We are responders. We do not create a mountain. We can respond to a mountain. There are many ways of doing that. Let us climb it. We can respond to the beauty of it. Or we can paint a picture of it. We as artists think of ourselves as creators but we are only responding to what God already created.
We have had this in us since the fall of man, that I want to be like God, what God is, a creator and yet we are a responder. We say, “No, I want to be Creator.” “I want to be the initiator of all these kinds of things.” We would have loved to have been the initiator of sending Jesus. If we could figure out some way of teaching that, we would probably teach it. It would make us feel good. “God, I have an idea for you.” We are not the creator of something. We are the responder of something. Salvation is like creation. God did not consult us one iota with creation. And he did not consult us in regard to salvation.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
We are the responder to His sending. He is the sender and we are the responder. When He sent his Son, He did not send His Son to hang there on a cross and then say, “Okay, created being, you initiate now your forgiveness,and He will respond.” He sent His Son to a cross to initiate forgiveness so we can respond to Him, not for us to initiate Him to respond to us. We cannot get that into our feeble brains that God is the one who sent His Son to take away the sins of the world.
We are living in denial of that truth. God sent His Son as a propitiation for our sins. Propitiation, as said earlier, is God looked at that sacrifice, for what? A little bitty sin down here? No, the whole world. The whole sin issue is this. “There is only someone greater than all the sins of the world and that is My Son. His substitutionary death on that cross was of such magnitude that it took away the sins of the world and I am satisfied with that sacrifice. I was not satisfied with the blood of bulls and goats because the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away the sins of the world. It covered them. I was satisfied with a temporary covering until such a time that I could send My Son and take them away.
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
Romans 3:24-26 (KJV)
24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
What we have done is by the same word and the mindset that said the blood of Jesus is just a little bit better than the blood of a bull and a goat, not much, just a little bit better. Therefore, I will call his death atonement just as I called the death of a bull and a goat atonement. We say that all the time. “He is our atoning sacrifice.” “Healing is the atonement.” “The atoning death of Christ.” How many times do we hear that? It is constantly being verbalized in the Christian community. Jesus did not come to atone for sin. He came to do something far greater than that. The blood of a bull and a goat atoned for sin. Jesus is not a bull or a goat. He is God. When God came to this cross and took upon Himself the sins of the entire world, not only our sins, but the sins of the whole world. He did not die for some of them. He died for all of them.
If God is the initiator of that, and we can either respond by saying “thank you” or respond by saying, “I do not like what you did because I was not a part of this deal. So what I will do is become part of your forgiveness package up there. Whether you like it or not, this is what I am going to do. I am going to be a part of this. I am not going to accept what you have done and just be a simple responder down here. I am too important. I am too holy. I am too religious for that. I am going to have something to do with this whether you like it or not.” Whether we verbalize that or not is not the issue. That is in the heart of people who will not accept the truth of the finality of the cross of Jesus Christ.
1 John 4:10 (KJV)
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
1 John 4:19
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
This is the reason why we love. When we understand His love for us, and the grace of God that has been extended to us through Christ Jesus, and we respond to that love, and we get to know more about that love, and the more we get to know His unconditional love and acceptance. There is a world of difference between those two. God not only loves us, He accepts us where we are. Then I am going to respond to God in direct proportion to how I perceive God. I can now perceive God based not upon imagination, not with speculation, but truth. I do not have to sit around and say, “Well, it would be nice to believe that is what God is like.” Quite frankly, that is what liberal theology is. “I do not want to study the word of God. It does not seem to have much place in my life at all, but I will sit here with my imagination and think with my sloppy sentimentality. This is what I think God is like.” New Age is the same way. “I think He is so loving.” You are right. He is. But that is not based on your dumb imagination. It is based on truth. The bible is truth. It reveals the truth of God. God is merciful. How do we know that? Because He sent His Son.
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
AsS Jesus said, “When you see me, you see the Father. To know what the Father is like, look at me. You see mercy. You see kindness. You see compassion.” You see all of those characteristics that you cannot see any other way except through revelation.
18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
God is certainly creative. How are you going to know what God is like by looking at mountains? You certainly know He is artistic. You certainly know He is creative. His creative capacities are unbelievable. When you look at the animal kingdom, you know He has a sense of humor. When you look at us, you really know He has a sense of humor. But you do not know whether or not He is loving, kind, merciful, or anything else. That had to be revealed to us. You cannot do that through imagination. You do, but your faith is based on imagination. “This is what I perceive what God is like and I will hang onto that.”
When we come to Christ and perceive God, then our perception of God is based on truth. The truth has been revealed to us in Christ Jesus. How are you going to know God? By studying Buddha, Mohammad or Paul or anyone else? No. You get to know what God is like by studying Jesus. When you are studying Paul, you say that is what Paul is like. But the reason that is what Paul is like is because of his knowledge of Jesus. So I am not going to look at Paul. I am going to look at Jesus. I am going to find out how Jesus is like and how He loves me. When I find that out, then I have to respond. We are responders. I do not have a choice. I have to respond. How am I going to respond? In direct proportion in how I perceive God.
Why do we love? Because He loved us first. Someone says, “Boy, this guy is a legalist, but he loves God.” That is a lie. That is an impossibility. How are you going to respond in love to a God who hates you or disappoints you, or always turns His back on you or is always mad at you or a God who says you must do all these things or you have had it. How are you going to love someone like that?
A lot of verbiage going on. I get a little bit skeptical when I hear people talking about how much they love God. I, quite frankly, think you ought to be talking about how much God loves us. When you grab a hold of that, you do not need to talk about how much you love God. It will be a natural response to that truth. We got the emphasis, once again, not on how much God loves me, but how much I love God. That is bragging. You do not need to talk about that. What you need to talk about is how much I discovered how much God loves me, undeserving as I am. That is how much God loves me.
I do not have to talk about how much I love Him because, quite frankly, if you cannot figure that out then something is wrong with you, when you realize how much God loves you in spite of you, not because of you. If you have a God that loves you perfectly, and you are going to respond to Him by saying, “God, thank you.” In your heart you are saying, “I love you too.” Then that is a natural result of saying, “If God loves me perfectly, why should I not be able to live in dependency upon that God? After all, if God is for me, then who can be against me? If God loves me perfectly, then why do I have to sit around worrying if someone else does or not?”
The deepest desire I ever had in my life is to be loved unconditionally and to be accepted unconditionally. It appears to me that need has already been met in Him. If it is met in me then I do not need to be like a tic on a dog sucking the life out of my spouse, trying to get my spouse to love me that way. It seems to me that my experience shows me they cannot. But they do not need to because that need has already been met in Christ. That is marvelous. I can depend on that. When we understand the love of God and I am responding to that love, by faith, which is the only way you can, then your natural mind has to go to the fact then, can I trust or live in dependency upon this God that loves me perfectly? Yes, I can.
To a child, and I think of my days of taking Bob on some dangerous rock climbing in Yosemite, but Bob knew I loved him perfectly and he depended on me to get him out and get him back. I am not saying the object of his dependency was too good. But to that little child, he had confidence and he was not worried at all. I have a God who is much more dependable than I am. If that is the case, then why can I not live in dependency upon Him?
So the object of your dependency is worthy of your dependency? That is why getting to know Christ is the solution to your life. Your Christian life is not lived by you and what you are doing. It is lived by Him and what He is doing. We have an object of our faith and it should not be in us. It is not in our church. It is not in our activities. It is not in our programs. Our dependency should be upon the object of our dependency and the only object of our dependency is Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.”
Why did he say that I am the true vine in object to the untrue vine? Because in Israel the vine was Israel. Their dependency was upon being an Israeli or being in Israel. No. Israel is not the vine to abide in. Jesus said, “I am the vine to abide in.” Today, there are people who are still abiding in being Israeli. In other words, “I am a Jew. So do not give me this Jesus stuff, because the true vine is Israel, and I am a part of that.” That is why you have the rebellion you have among the Jewish people against Jesus. Then you have the rebellion of the Gentile people against Jesus because they never did know there was a true or untrue vine. It is just the fact to the Gentile, that we just say, “No, I am the vine. It is not Israel. It is me.” In any one of these things, we have a misplaced dependency. Now Jesus has come and is saying to the Jew and the Gentile, “I, Jesus, am the vine.”
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Then He says you are the branches. The literal Greek translation, is rendered, “You are branch.” It does not even say “the branch.” You are branch. I am the vine. You are branch. If you remain in me and I in Him, He will bear much fruit and apart from Me you can do nothing.
What is He saying? I am the source of life. I am the source of the Christian life. I am the source of God. Everything that you need to know about God is contained in me. I come to show you God. I came to show you who I am and when you see who I am you are going to see who God is because I and the Father are one. When you have seen me you have seen the Father. When you have seen me and the Father, you have seen the godhead.
What Jesus is saying is this. “I am the vine, you are the branch and here is how this life is to be lived, through dependency upon me and your dependency upon me will bring about the control of me in your life.” If I am depending upon alcohol for meaning and purpose to life, that alcohol is going to control me, not because it is a chemical but because of my dependency. My dependency is what brings about the control. That is why someone can drink a quart of alcohol and not be a so-called alcoholic. We say it is chemical. It is not chemical. It is a dependency. One is depending on alcohol to do something and the other is not. One person is drinking it because it is here and something to do. The other is drinking it because it does something for me. It makes me able to be me. That dependency upon that brings about the control of that.
Look at drug dependency. What does that mean? I am depending upon that drug regardless of where I get it. Where I get it is irrelevant, whether off the street or at the pharmacy. If I become dependent upon that drug to do something is the issue. And we are told sometimes that you are not going to live without that then that creates dependency. Then that thing will control your life. I am not going to be without it. Every day of my life and every moment of my life, I will be wondering if the pills are going to be there. I am going to live in total dependency upon that. Why? Because of my dependency upon that.
What Jesus is saying is this. When you are living in dependency upon me that gives me the opportunity to be the controlling factor in your life.
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