Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Always Go to the Source, Jesus

In my testimony (see links on sidebar), I wrote about how I struggled with my faith for many years before reaching a breakthrough during a time of great personal loss, including the loss of my marriage, job and church community.

One insight I gained through this ordeal was a greater understanding of the difference between TRUTH (Jesus), truth with a lower-case t, and church doctrines. This absolutely liberated my faith and I believe it will do the same for others who are trapped by a spirit of religion  

Jesus Christ, the TRUTH and the WORD

The philosopher asks, "What is truth? How can we know truth?" Truth is an accurate presentation of reality. Truth reflects what is. The opposite of truth is falsehood or deception, which reflects what is not. Satan is the author of deception.

Jesus said He is the TRUTH:

"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'" - John 14:6

Jesus contains and radiates all TRUTH. The truth about God, life, humanity, salvation, heaven, hell, and everything else.

Jesus is also the foremost WORD (expression) of God the Father:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." - John 1:1-4

When God speaks a word, it becomes reality. As in Genesis 1:3: "Then God said, 'Let there be light'; and there was light." Before God spoke into existence the earth, the heavenly realms, mankind, angels or anything else, He spoke Jesus Christ, the first and foremost WORD of God, the only begotten God.

By Jesus Christ, all things were created and in him all things hold together. He is also the head of the church, of the "called-out ones":

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." - Colossians 1:15-18 

Jesus is THE TRUTH and THE WORD of God. To know God and to know the truth, one must know Jesus Christ.

The Bible, the truth about the TRUTH

The Bible is the inspired word of God, the truth about the TRUTH (Jesus), as stated in this verse:

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." - 2 Timothy 3:16

When the Apostle Paul wrote those words, he mainly was referring to the Old Testament because the New Testament canon was not yet established. The New Testament is inspired as well, but I want to affirm the importance of the Old Testament because some pastors and churches minimize it or give it a position of secondary importance, as if God or his standards of righteousness and justice changed between the Old and New Testaments. This is not true - God never changes - and his standards of righteousness are a reflection of who He is. The Old Testament is the foundation of the Christian faith, and the New Testament builds on that foundation. The writers of the New Testament quoted the Old Testament as Scripture.

Next, I want to draw some important distinctions. First, the words on the page in your Bible are the truth about the TRUTH and the word about the WORD (Jesus). In that sense, they are a degree removed from the Source. While reading the Bible is the best way to learn about God, that alone does not mean a person knows Jesus. What we know must be combined with faith (trust) in God:

"And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him." - Hebrews 11:6

In Jesus' day, the scribes and Pharisees knew the Bible very well, but they denied Christ and persecuted him and his followers. They were religious hypocrites. Isn't it ironic that Jesus picked as his disciples men who were mainly blue collar workers like fishermen, not the scribes and Pharisees who thought they already knew everything about the Bible and God

The spirit of religion, the leaven of the Pharisees, is a very toxic and deceptive force.

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." - Mathew 23:13

Second, all true understanding of the Scriptures comes from the Holy Spirit who enlightens our spirits, hearts and minds. It does not come from the minds of men or from intelligence, education or institutional status. There's nothing wrong with being smart or educated or holding a position, and we can certainly make good use of these blessings, but we shouldn't make the Pharisees' mistake of thinking they mean a person knows God. Sadly, it has become the norm in many circles to look up to people with seminary degrees, MDivs and PhDs, as if they are gurus who know God better than others. This too is ironic because the Bible tells us not to do that:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding. 

In all your ways acknowledge Him, 
And He will make your paths straight."
- Proverbs 3:5-6

In John 16:13, Jesus said:

"But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." - John 16:13

Jesus said the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth. To discern any and all spiritual truth, we must learn to hear the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Jesus said the Spirit will disclose to us what is to come, information about the future. In other words, by the Spirit we will prophesy. What amazing riches we have in Christ. 

"'Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard,
And which have not entered the heart of man,
All that God has prepared for those who love Him.'

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit;
for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
- 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 

Finally, I want to quote this wonderful passage from Jeremiah:

 "'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" - Jeremiah 31:33-34 

In this age of the Spirit, God puts his law directly in our hearts. We don't need to have experts to teach us because we all know the Lord personally and directly! Of course, we can and should learn from others, but always looking to the Spirit to confirm whether what anyone says is true.

Church Doctrines Are Men's Interpretations of the truth about the Truth

Church doctrines are men's interpretations of the truth about the TRUTH. At this point, we  are two degrees removed from the Source. Church doctrines may or may not be accurate. However, putting faith in them blindly means we are not trusting God, nor are we trusting our own understanding. Rather, we are putting faith in other men's understanding. This is faith in man, but man cannot save. We must go directly to the Source, to the WORD, to the TRUTH (Jesus).

Go to the Source, Know the Lord

In one of the most profound statements in Scripture, Jesus said:

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand."

- John 10:27-28  

Jesus said his sheep, the true children of God, hear his voice. They hear him speak directly and personally to their hearts. Jesus is not a cold, stone Buddha statue that says nothing. Our God is the Living God who Speaks. Jesus knows and loves each of us individually; we follow him; and He gives us eternal life. So the mark of a true child of God is one who hears his Shepherd's voice and follows him (i.e. does what he says). We have fellowship in a body of believers, but we never allow religious institutions or priests or pastors to stand between us and our Shepherd.

Another profound statement in Scriptures affirms how we know we belong to him:

"The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God." - Romans 8:16

God's Spirit testifies to our spirit that we belong to him. We hear his voice and perceive it in our hearts. It's not about praying a prayer or going to the altar at an evangelism crusade, though that might be the point of rebirth for an individual. We know we are his if God's Spirit confirms it in our heart.

Always go to the Source, who is Jesus. Know the Lord. Believe in THE TRUTH.

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