Saturday, 16 March 2013

Where is the promised land?

"For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." Galatians 2:8

Peter was a messenger of Christ to Israel, the chosen people of God. His ministry was focused on reaching the Jewish people with the gospel. He so identified with his people that Paul even had to correct him for returning to Jewish customs whilst in Antioch (see Gal. 2:11-14). Reading Peter's letters, therefore, gives us a glimpse of his heart for the Jewish people and God's purposes for Israel and the Church.

God's message to His people 

The Good News that "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18) was Peter's message to the Jewish people. He was greatly concerned about the outcome for "those who do not obey the Gospel" (1 Peter 4:17). In Peter's mind, "the end of all things" was near (1 Peter 4:7) and so his letters carry a sense of urgency about Christ's return and the Church's readiness to meet her Master.

Strangers in the world

It is interesting to note how James and Peter address their letters to "the twelve tribes scattered among the nations" and "God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). It seems that both writers primarily have their Jewish brothers in mind who have come to faith in Christ through the Gospel. Rather than calling their Jewish brothers to return to Jerusalem or "the promised land," the believers are encouraged "as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" and to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:11,12). God's purpose for His people is that they live as members and citizens of His Kingdom in this world wherever they are. He is not gathering His people to one place but has scattered His people among the nations to be salt and light for His glory (see Matthew 5:13-16)!

Where is the "promised land"?

God's people are not to live for the seen but for the unseen real. Abraham lived by faith in the unseen reality of God's land, promised to him and his ancestors. 

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Even Moses "regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb.11:26,27).

The message of the writer to the Hebrews, the Jewish people, is that Christ is the fulfillment of all that was forshadowed in the old covenant. "The copies of the heavenly things" (Heb. 9:23) all pointed to the reality of the invisible Kingdom that is found in Christ. God's people are not supposed to be returning to a physical land but are to be waiting in great expectation for the new heavens and the new earth, "to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God" (Heb. 12:22). Jew and Gentile believers eagerly await a "better country" and the city God has prepared for them!

Let us live godly lives as aliens and strangers in this world as we eagerly await the glorious appearing of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and the revelation of our heavenly home!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Realizing the Unseen Real

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain – if it really was in vain?  So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?" Galatians 3:1-5

True Salvation
  • Man is separated from God "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
  • The glory of God - His goodness, His perfection, His purity, His holiness, etc can never be attained by human effort because man is imperfect by nature. Rom.5:14
  • In order to gain access to the glory of God, man needs to be "like God in true righteousness and holiness." Eph.4.24
  • Christ came as the Mediator between God and man. 1 Tim. 2:5
  • Through Christ's perfect life, His death and His resurrection, God gave man a means to be reconciled to Him. 2 Cor. 5:18,19
  • By depending on Christ's righteousness, man is reconciled to the Father and has access to His presence and His Kingdom. It is by depending on Christ's right standing with the Father that the believer has access to the favour and glory of God. Rom. 5:1,2
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained acces by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1,2

The Realm of Grace

It is therefore not man's efforts that give him access to the Kingdom but dependence upon Christ. This is how the believer begins "by means of the Spirit" (Gal. 3:3). The believer is born of the Spirit as he depends on Christ's righteousness and gains access to the Spirit's realm, the Kingdom of God or the Unseen Real. In other words, through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer has access to "him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). Entrance into the realm of immeasurably more, the Kingdom of God, the realm of grace is made possible through dependence upon Christ (John 3:5).

Faith realizes

The apostle Paul rebukes the Galatians for reverting to a life of works and human effort rather than continuing to depend on Christ for their righteousness. Paul not only addresses the issue of righteousness through faith in Christ but also the issue of miracles and the demonstration of God's Kingdom through faith among the believers. Paul asks, "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Gal. 3:5) What Paul is essentially getting at is that the realm of the Spirit (the Kingdom of God) is seen, received and realized by faith in Christ and His Realm and cannot be produced or earned by human effort (John 3:1-12). 

The Kingdom of God is not realized by the believer trying to twist God's arm by human effort but by praying God's will on earth as he sees it in heaven. Jesus taught His disciples to pray this way when He told them to pray, "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Jesus only spoke what He heard the Father say and only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19,30).  

Jesus revealed the Father's will on earth as it is in heaven - 
He  realized the Unseen Real!

Pray in the Spirit

To pray in the Spirit is to pray as the Holy Spirit prays.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26,27 (emphasis mine)

The Spirit prays in accordance with the will of God (John 16:13). When God's will is revealed on earth as it is in heaven, the Kingdom of God is realized. Realizing the Unseen Real is the essence of praying in the Spirit. The believer realizes Christ's righteousness in his own life by faith and learns to realize the reality of Heaven on earth by faith. The believer therefore stops trying to change the natural realm by using human effort and depends on the reality of the Kingdom and calls that which is not in the natural as though it were (Romans 4:17). The believer is called to live for the Unseen Real and to live from the Unseen Real (2 Cor. 4:18; Col. 3:1,2; Heb. 11:24-27; 12:22-28). 

Two perspectives

Either one lives from the natural realm toward the spiritual realm or one lives from the spiritual realm toward the natural realm. The first requires human effort; the latter requires faith. The first is evolutionary; the latter is creationist. The first is earthly, the latter is heavenly. The first tries to attain heaven; the latter lives from heaven. The first tries to become holy; the latter lives as a holy one. The first tries to be righteous; the latter produces the fruit of righteousness. The first works for his salvation; the latter works out his salvation. The first is seated on earth; the latter is seated in heaven.

Kingdom Ambassadors

God is calling His people to live as new creations in Christ and to pray heaven on earth so that His Kingdom is realized in the natural realm. Having begun by receiving the Spirit by faith, let us continue to realize the Unseen Real by faith and see God's Kingdom come!