March 15, 2009

Weekly Facebook Scripture

אַתָּה יְהוָה לֹא־תִכְלָא רַחֲמֶיךָ מִמֶּנִּי

חַסְדְּךָ וַאֲמִתְּךָ תָּמִיד יִצְּרוּנִי

כִּי אָפְפוּ־עָלַי רָעוֹת עַד־אֵין מִסְפָּר

הִשִּׂיגוּנִי עֲוֹנֹתַי

וְלֹא־יָכֹלְתִּי לִרְאוֹת

עָצְמוּ מִשַּׂעֲרוֹת רֹאשִׁי

וְלִבִּי עֲזָבָנִי

רְצֵה יְהוָה לְהַצִּילֵנִ

יְהוָה לְעֶזְרָתִי חוּשָׁה

"You, O LORD, do not withhold your compassion from me;

may your faithful devotion continually guard me.

12 For evils beyond counting surround me;

my iniquities have caught up with me,

and I’m unable to see.

They are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart has forsaken me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to rescue me;

O LORD come quickly to deliver me."

(Psa 40:11-13)


God is concerned with hearing and obeying rather than religious piety.


He always has been and He always will be.


He wants the law to be in the heart of His people.
We often think of this as something that comes into existence only in the New Testament, but that is based on ignorance of the Hebrew Scriptures and centuries-old stereotypes rather than on the Biblical text itself. When Jesus called people to inner holiness and devotion to God, He wasn’t introducing a new concept; He was calling God’s people back to the God who had delivered them from slavery into freedom and had chosen them to be a light to the whole world through their relationship with Him.


This relationship would be characterized by Ḥesed (חֶסֶד) or “Faithful devotion.” Though sometimes translated as “loving-kindness”, “steadfast love”, or “mercy”, these all fall short of conveying the actual meaning of this word. Its meaning is better “summed up as ‘steadfast love on the basis of a covenant’. It is employed both of God’s attitude towards his people and of theirs to him.”[*]


Ḥesed is life.


Ḥesed is peace.


Ḥesed
is the ultimate assurance.


When things are at their worst, God’s Ḥesed remains as a sign to His people that He has not abandoned them. Alternatively, the prospect of God withdrawing His Ḥesed is utterly devastating and leaves one in a state of hopelessness.

Whenever two humans had an agreement (covenant) and one of them went back on it or abandoned it, the other would no longer show Ḥesed to them. The guilty party would have completely broken off the covenant relationship through their disobedience. At best, they would no longer be friends; at worst, they would be enemies.


However, as David, who wrote this song (that’s what Psalms are, by the way!) knew from his own life experiences, if someone goes back on God’s covenant but then realizes it and confesses their guilt (rather than trying to hide it or shift the blame to others) in a spirit of repentance, God’s Ḥesed remains—not because the person deserves it; but because God is merciful beyond measure and is devoted to His people. David had known this all his life, as we see in one of his earlier songs:

"Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close." (Psa 27:10 NLT)

In Psalm 40, David joyously celebrates God’s love, goodness and faithfulness. He then vividly depicts in the verses above what he has described thus far in the song: His guilt, his forsakenness and his fear leading to his crying out to God for forgiveness and for God to treat him with unmerited, undeserved covenant love and faithfulness. He knows God will do this, not because he deserves it, but because God promised that He would be faithful to those who come to Him in true repentance and trust.

Usually WE are the ones who are unwilling to forgive. Despite God’s continual promises of forgiveness through simple repentance, faith and trust, we constantly feel the need to do something for Him—to offer some type of sacrifice in order to earn back His Ḥesed. But what we fail to realize (or don’t allow ourselves to believe) is that there is no sacrifice we can make when we turn away from God and break covenant with Him. As David realizes in the song, we are surrounded by evils and blinded by our innumerable iniquities.
In other words, Sin, by its very nature, is an enemy that pursues us and, when we give in and allow it to manifest itself in our lives, captures us as its prisoner.

BUT…

God, in His Ḥesed, has already taken that into account and provided in His own flesh (literally, through Jesus!) the means by which Sin’s grasp can be broken and its claims rendered powerless. The ultimate enemy has been beaten. Thus, those who come to God in humble confession and turn away from (the literal meaning of “repent”) Sin are lovingly welcomed into His grace, mercy and kindness…His Ḥesed.

This leads to the final lines of the song, in which David ends on a note of both tension and anticipation. He has not experienced God's full deliverance by the end of the song, but he knows it’s coming and maintains hope—all the while reassurring his enemies that when all is said and done, God WILL deliver him and put everything right.


“I am needy and poor;

Yet the Lord will give thought to me;

You are my deliverer and my rescuer.

My God, do not delay!”

(Psa 40:18)


And as he makes clear, this is not based on David's amount of faith or his own prestige. Rather, it is based on the greatness of the God, with whom he has entered into covenant, and God’s desire for a relationship that goes to the very core—“the heart” in Hebrew—of the believer.


This is indeed “good news” (the meaning of the term “gospel”)…right here in the “Old Testament!”


How will you respond to God’s offer of Ḥesed?



JMS



[*] cf. Koehler & Baumgartner, A Hebrew-Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT), p.336

6 comments:

Andy Denton said...

Thank you JM! This verse has been speaking to me a lot this week. I think i continue to struggle with letting go of the grasp and guilt of sin. Letting go of the painful memories of the past to allow God to work in my life, and to be a testimony of others.

I often think that's what makes us human and flawed. That our heart (as David says) "has failed within me". God gave us a heart that longs for greatness and love.

It's a constant struggle for me. I'm so ever thankful for God's promises, revealed not only thru Christ but here in the OT as well.

silentstorm said...

JM,
Sorry its taken me so long...
I don't disagree with your message I disagree with some of the symantics. And the reason I even bother to bring up symantics is because I believe that we are seeing a whole group of "agnostic Christians" quit their faith over the Church and its symantics and Laws.

1. The Law, what law are you speaking of? The OT law? And what Law is it that we are now supposed to obey?

2. I kinda have an issue with "Steadfast love on the basis of a covenant." First, because God's love is Agape love (unconditional/ selfless love). So if His love is based on a covenant then it would no longer be Agape love , but rather philos love (see my FB note). Second, all NT references to the Covenant relate creating a new covenant, but I haven't found where Jesus spells out what the new covenant is.. my theory is that, in the OT we were supposed to fulfill all these rules and regulations in order to try to get right w/ God. God, knowing that our human nature won't allow us to be anything other than pond scum, said I give up they can't do it. So to give us a fighting chance, we got Jesus who fulfilled every letter of the OT law, and freed us from the Law. As a result, the word "Covenant" becomes antiquated in the NT.
3. The statement "He would be faithful to those that come to Him in true repentence and trust," gives me the willies. First, we were saved before we were born; Jesus' death offered that to us. Now we just have to accept how stupid (my term for Sin) we are. As a result, I disagree with the notion that we have to come to Him.. rather He comes to us, over and over, and over again- The only proactive party in the relationship is God. It is arrogant to think that we could be anything but accepting in our salvation.

Also, the word trust is a big issue for me at the present moment. I fully accept that I'm NOT a trusting person. I want to be more trusting, but I'm not really sure how, and no where in the Bible have I found the magic formula for being more trusting. So then, would God not love me because I'm not trusting- even though I want to trust Him more? I'm not saying that I have NO trust, just that it is very little trust.

just my .02
hb

JMS said...

Great questions! Thanks for bringing them to the Dojo, Heather. I'd like to respond to them one by one because there are some presuppositions in there that I want to clear up as to where I'm coming from:

"1. The Law, what law are you speaking of? The OT law? And what Law is it that we are now supposed to obey?"

The Law I'm referring to is the moral law of God--His will for His people. Under the Mosaic Covenant, this law was expressed through Torah. The 613 commands of Torah embodied what it looked like to follow God as part of His Covenant Nation Israel.

Later, God promised His Covenant Nation that He would one day bring this 1st Covenant law to completion and inaugurate a New Covenant wherein He would take His law and write in on their hearts rather than on tablets of stone (Jer.31 & Ezek.36 are the clearest expressions of this in the OT). This is the Covenant that Jesus brought into being through His blood (thus the "this is my blood of the New Covenant shed for you and for many" line at the Last Supper Passover Sedar). This is the Covenant under which we now live. Therefore we do not follow the form of the Mosaic Covenant in order to keep God's law, rather, we follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in community with all those who have entered into this New Covenant as our means of living out the law of God today. The New Testament Epistles contain numerous "case studies" of what this looked like to Christians in the 1st century from which we can see how God's law under the New Covenant applies to believers on this side of the Cross.

"2. I kinda have an issue with "Steadfast love on the basis of a covenant." First, because God's love is Agape love (unconditional/ selfless love). So if His love is based on a covenant then it would no longer be Agape love , but rather philos love (see my FB note)."

I don't think it's that simple. God's love for His people is described using all of the words for love in Greek. The above distinction, while popular among preachers, is an example of Word-Based Reductionism--that is, taking a shade of meaning from one word and making it an airtight separation from other terms of the same nature.

Here's an excerpt from an article on this very concept in IVP's New Dictionary of Biblical Theology: "Doubtless the most famous form of this error received its classic exposition by A. Nygren. He analysed love with reference to three Greek words: erōs, denoting acquisitive affection, often connected with sexual love; philia (and the cognate verb phileō, ‘to love’), having to do with reciprocal friendship, including all the emotional life that sustains such friendship; and agapē (and its cognate verb agapaō, ‘to love’), denoting a self-sacrificing commitment to another’s good. In some expositions, agapē has no necessary emotional component...
This analysis is deeply flawed. ...When Amnon incestuously rapes his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13, lxx), twice we are told that he ‘loved’ her, once with agapaō and once with phileō. It is hard to see how this love differs from erōs, acquisitive and sexual love (though the word erōs is never found in the Bible). Twice John tells us that the Father ‘loves’ the Son, once using agapaō (John 3:35), once using phileō (John 5:20), and it is difficult to detect any difference in meaning. When Paul tells Timothy that Demas has forsaken him because he ‘loved’ this present, evil world (2 Tim. 4:10), the verb is agapaō; this love is scarcely a willed commitment to the good of the other...Such considerations are easily multiplied.
In other words, although there are unique and wonderful elements to the love of God, they cannot be univocally tied to one particular word-group.
"

God's love embodies every element of what it means to love. And the specific term used to denote His Covenant faithful love in this passage is "hesed". In fact, this type of love/faithfulness is the primary way in which God Himself spoke of His relationship to His people when He physically appeared before Moses and passed by Him in the cleft of the rock at Mt. Sinai:

"6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love (hesed) and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love (hesed) to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin...""
(Exo 34:6-7a TNIV)

"Second, all NT references to the Covenant relate creating a new covenant, but I haven't found where Jesus spells out what the new covenant is.. my theory is that, in the OT we were supposed to fulfill all these rules and regulations in order to try to get right w/ God....

This is the traditional Augustinian/Lutheran understanding of the role of the Covenant to Israel, but it is not accurate. Augustine and Luther (and their theological descendants) were not familiar with 2nd Temple Judaism and misread much of Paul when it came to the Torah. Thus they developed the stereotype that Jews believed they earned their salvation through Torah obedience. This, as any orthodox Jew can attest to, is not correct. Jews under the 1st Covenant kept Torah because they had already been redeemed by God as His People, not in order to gain such standing before Him. (For more on this, check out some of the writings of N.T. Wright or Ben Witherington.)

God, knowing that our human nature won't allow us to be anything other than pond scum, said I give up they can't do it.

Again, I believe you're holding to a late-Augustinian/Lutheran theological view of humanity and the Law. But I have to disagree completely (in love, of course! :). Nowhere in Scripture do we see God commanding His People to do anything that they cannot do. The Torah was not impossible to keep. God's moral law was not unable to be followed. Seth, Enoch, Noah, Job, Caleb, Joshua, Elijah...there are many who Scripture speaks of as being righteous and living according to God's commands.

And while some modern popular teachers may take the "humans are pond-scum" approach in their teaching on Total Depravity, I don't see that in Scripture. Despite the Fall, humans are still bearers of the Image of God and are considered the crown of Creation. While Sin has infected and twisted human nature to the point of needing God's salvation and deliverance from it, it has not denigrated His Image in us. Jesus didn't die for pond-scum; He died for God's glorious creation--you and me included.

So to give us a fighting chance, we got Jesus who fulfilled every letter of the OT law, and freed us from the Law. As a result, the word "Covenant" becomes antiquated in the NT."

Again, I have to disagree. What becomes antiquated in the NT is the "Mosaic Covenant", but not the concept of Covenant in general. In fact, the word "Testament" is just the Latinized term for "Covenant"! We can see the importance of the concept of Covenant in the following passages in the NT (in fact, I would argue that it is impossible to understand the entire message of the NT without a proper understanding of the nature of Covenant):
Matt.26:28,
Mark 14:24,
Luke 22:20,
1Cor. 11:25,
2Cor.3:6,
Heb.7:22, Heb.8:8, Heb.8:13, Heb.9:15, Heb.10:16, Heb.12:24, Heb.13:20

"3. The statement "He would be faithful to those that come to Him in true repentence and trust," gives me the willies. First, we were saved before we were born; Jesus' death offered that to us."

While many in Reformed circles teach this, I don't believe it can be found in Scripture. Scripture does teach that God foreknew those whom He would save (which even in those passages I believe the context is speaking in more of a communal rather than individual way) and that Jesus' death was determined as the means by which God would redeem His People before any of us were born. Some people use Rev.13:8 to make the case, but that passage only speaks of God foreknowing (i.e. people's names being written in the book of life) those who would be saved. We have to keep in mind that that very same book of the Bible warns believers against allowing their names to be blotted out of that book! (Rev.3:5)

From the first book of the Bible to the last, salvation has always required faith and repentance on the part of humanity.

"Now we just have to accept how stupid (my term for Sin) we are. As a result, I disagree with the notion that we have to come to Him.. rather He comes to us, over and over, and over again- The only proactive party in the relationship is God."

Both the OT and the NT declare loudly and repeatedly the need for people to come to God in faith and repentance. Here are just a few examples:

"and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you."
(Deu 30:2-3)

"Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD. Let us lift up our hearts and our hands to God in heaven, and say: "We have sinned and rebelled and you have not forgiven."
(Lam 3:40-42)

"Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other." (Isa 45:22 TNIV)

"Come, let us return to the LORD. He has torn us to pieces but he will heal us; he has injured us but he will bind up our wounds. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence. Let us acknowledge the LORD; let us press on to acknowledge him. As surely as the sun rises, he will appear; he will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth."
(Hos 6:1-3)

"Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity." (Joe 2:13)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Mat 11:28)

"As for those who come to me and hear my words and put them into practice, I will show you what they are like." (Luk 6:47)

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."
(Joh 5:39-40)

"All whom the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away." (Joh 6:37)

"For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day."" (Joh 6:40)

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day." (Joh 6:44)

"On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them." (Joh 7:37-38)

"Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water."
(Heb 10:19-22)


Scripture speaks both of God coming to us and of us coming to Him. If we downplay or remove either side of this coin, we end up getting away from the Gospel message in its fullness.

It is arrogant to think that we could be anything but accepting in our salvation."

Ah yes...and "accepting" is the act of putting our faith in Him and turning to Him (and by definition, away from Sin) for salvation. Putting all our hopes, fears, trust, pain, guilt and shame at His feet and allowing Him to consume it with His all-consuming love--this is what I would say a Biblical portrait of accepting God and coming to Him in faith looks like. This is what brings us into Covenant with Him and allows us to experience His 'hesed'/'agape'/faithful lovingkindness.

"Also, the word trust is a big issue for me at the present moment. I fully accept that I'm NOT a trusting person. I want to be more trusting, but I'm not really sure how, and no where in the Bible have I found the magic formula for being more trusting. So then, would God not love me because I'm not trusting- even though I want to trust Him more? I'm not saying that I have NO trust, just that it is very little trust. "

You're definitely not alone in this! It's so hard for us to feel that we are able to trust God...especially when we've been the victims of misplaced trust all our lives by those we thought we could trust completely.

But this is why I love the fact that true Biblical faith never requires us to "feel" like we trust God. Rather, He calls us to live act in faith and He will do the rest.

This is why perhaps my favorite verse in the entire NT is this one (and I'll end by sharing it with you and everyone else in the Dojo who may be reading this):

"19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence:
20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything."
(1Jo 3:19-20)


AMEN!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Heather. They're worth much more than .02! :)

JMS

silentstorm said...

"The Law I'm referring to is the moral law of God--His will for His people. Under the Mosaic Covenant, this law was expressed through Torah. The 613 commands of Torah embodied what it looked like to follow God as part of His Covenant Nation Israel. 6
Why bother w/ OT Law? …I’m not Jewish; I’m a bad Christian. “For if there has been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” Hebrews 8:7 “By calling this covenant “new” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13


"2. I kinda have an issue with "Steadfast love on the basis of a covenant." First, because God's love is Agape love (unconditional/ selfless love). So if His love is based on a covenant then it would no longer be Agape love , but rather philos love (see my FB note)."

I don't think it's that simple.

But, I do. We overcomplicate things. Saying “I love…” has lost its meaning.It is only when we categorize it, that we actually know what we’re talking about.. For example, If I said that I love my cigarettes, you would know that I didn’t plan on having a relationship with them, rather you would know I was speaking about my lust for them- my relationship to this love last as long as I am happy. And if I said, I love my boyfriend, I am speaking of a relationship of give and take. There is love and relationship there, but if either one of the parties fail then the love is gone. Finally, if I said I love you enough to go to hell and back. That would be agape love…. Jesus loved us to hell and back, and it should be noted there wasn’t a “but” after the sentence. “To hell and back.” kinda love is impossible for us to understand at God’s level. God loves us with full knowledge that we will disappoint Him (which makes us pond scum)- and the cool thing is He loves us Reguardless.
The real interesting thing here is that in the New covenant (thanks for the scripture references!) God chooses to “put my laws in their minds, and write them on their hearts.” Heb 8:10. The following scriptures you listed gave me were interesting
Matt.26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 1Cor. 11:25, 2Cor.3:6,
These scriptures all mention “covenant of blood” or “blood of the covenant” Any time we use the term blood it implies that we will suffer. See John 15 1-17. Reguardless, which route to the after- life we take its gonna be painful. In these passages you also will notice that there is no reference to the law.
And for specific references to the law Galatians 3… some of my favorite parts of the chapter include: “I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing?” Gal 3:1-3


Augustine and Luther (and their theological descendants) were not familiar with 2nd Temple Judaism and misread much of Paul when it came to the Torah.
Your gonna need to start a whole new topic on this one… First I’m not following the “misreading of Paul,” and second that is a rather arrogant notion to discredit Augustine, and Luther… this matter is in time out, for now.

Thoughts on the Rightousness;
”I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained thru the law, Christ died for nothing!” Galatians 2:20-21
Thoughts on Pond Scum & Turds:
Have you ever stopped to contemplate how God gets thru to us? God doesn’t get thru to us when we are doing ok. When we’re doing “fine,” (Fine is another word that is ambigious) God can’t reach us because of our inate arrogance. We think we can do everything for ourselves, and we add in God as a spice. Only when we’re swimming in a sea of turds, do we start looking up. When we are broken, God gets thru to us, and then He can really work with us. Our American paradigms don’t jive w/ the message of Christ. I believe that God has a process to get thru to us 1. We are humbled 2. We start getting really honest about who we are and who we’re NOT (when we are honest about our ugliness we seek change, if we are always stuck on we are the crown of His creation- we deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re not that bad, and change isn’t forth coming). 3. When we are humble and honest we begin know the true extent of our nature (and it’s not pretty), we begin to let go of the things we have fought so dearly for, and we begin to have Faith.
Scripture speaks both of God coming to us and of us coming to Him. If we downplay or remove either side of this coin, we end up getting away from the Gospel message in its fullness.
The interesting thing about a coin is that you can never look at both sides of the coin at the same time. They are 1 but they cannot be viewed together. So Faith, and Repentence are like a coin. They are linked together, but you can’t look at them at the same time. Faith happens before true repentence happens.
Putting all our hopes, fears, trust, pain, guilt and shame at His feet and allowing Him to consume it with His all-consuming love--this is what I would say a Biblical portrait of accepting God and coming to Him in faith looks like. This is what brings us into Covenant with Him and allows us to experience His 'hesed'/'agape'/faithful lovingkindness.
I love your portrait, but for me it shows how first God is accepting of us. It shows me- how inspite of myself, God still loves me. And it is because of that amazing love, that I can surrender control. The only proactive part I play is the act of “Giving UP!!” Giving up, isn’t really proactive by any American ideologies, is it?

But this is why I love the fact that true Biblical faith never requires us to "feel" like we trust God. Rather, He calls us to live act in faith and He will do the rest.

If God has placed truth in our hearts, the law in our heads, and paid for it with Jesus’ blood; it leads me to believe that God just made our relationships with Him- private & individual. Although, we will all experience God in our lifetime, it will be with Him alone- probably in our darkest hour. Relationship between 2 parties can’t happen if other people are medaling around with turds that don’t belong to them. We can share our stories with one another, but any good relationship resists influence from outsiders opinions.
JM- this is both thought prevoking and fun (yes, this would make me an incredible dork). But I think we are going to have to narrow the topics. This is too much…

JMS said...

"Why bother w/ OT Law? …I’m not Jewish; I’m a bad Christian."

We can't live apart from God's moral law. What you're referring to is TORAH Law (i.e. the Mosaic Covenant that the author of Hebrews is talking about). Go back and read Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 carefully... The New Covenant's purpose is not to do away with the law (Jesus Himself said so at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount); rather, it is to enable God's New Covenant People to finally be able to keep His moral law that the Holy Spirit writes on their heart.

The Christian is not freed from law-keeping through Christ. As Paul would say, "me genoito!" ("God forbid!"). In fact, as we read in the NT, lawlessness is the very essence of sin! (The entire letter of 1John is about this...particularly 3:4)


"JM: I don't think it's that simple.

But, I do. We overcomplicate things."

No, it's not overcomplicating; it's being accurate in our use of language. You're imposing English nuances of the word "love" back onto the original Hebrew and Greek texts of Scripture. We have to find out what Scripture says about God first before we begin to form our theology based on terms in English...particularly nebulous and near-meaningless terms like the modern notion of "love".

"Saying “I love…” has lost its meaning.It is only when we categorize it, that we actually know what we’re talking about.."

I agree. But we have to categorize it according to the grammar and syntax of Koine Greek. Many preachers and teachers know just enough Greek to be misleading. This is why I posted the excerpt from the article. It shows the traditional airtight compartmentalizing of "agape" from "phileo" is not accurate and does not reflect what we find in Scripture about God's love.

"Finally, if I said I love you enough to go to hell and back. That would be agape love…."

That might be called "agape" by some ancient authors and "phileo" by others. They are often used somewhat synonymously in Scripture.

"Jesus loved us to hell and back, and it should be noted there wasn’t a “but” after the sentence."

After what sentence? Scripture doesn't say this anywhere. You're interpreting a number of passages which speak of Jesus' love and devotion to God's People while they were enslaved to Sin and death as saying this. But nowhere in Scripture is God's love ever presented as something that we don't have to respond to in faith...and nowhere is faith separated from the notion of obedience. IN FACT...Jesus links them directly! "Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.
Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
(Joh 14:23-24 TNIV)


"These scriptures all mention “covenant of blood” or “blood of the covenant” Any time we use the term blood it implies that we will suffer."

Not necessarily. The blood in all these passages refers to Jesus' blood and therefore, Jesus' suffering. Of course, we will experience suffering as a result of following Him (in that I completely agree with you); but it's not the mention of blood that automatically denotes this.

"In these passages you also will notice that there is no reference to the law."

Sure there is. It's just now given in the form of the "law of Christ", "law of the Spirit of life", or "law of love". What's no longer binding is the TORAH Law (everything from Exodus 20-Deuteronomy that is not narrative).

"Gal 3:1-3"

Precisely! Paul is telling the Galatians that the Torah Law is no longer binding, nor is it a pathway to deeper and more authentic Christian faith, as his opponents, the Judaizers, were teaching the Galatian Christians. But notice how Paul goes on to explain to them what living in freedom through Christ looks like and what it doesn't look like:

"For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.
For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the [Torah] law.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

(Gal 5:14-25)



"Your gonna need to start a whole new topic on this one… First I’m not following the “misreading of Paul,”

But you did. When you said, "my theory is that, in the OT we were supposed to fulfill all these rules and regulations in order to try to get right w/ God." you were taking the very position that has been shown to be an incorrect understanding of 1st century Judaism. Luther popularized the notion that Jews believed they had to keep Torah in order to gain acceptance by God. Since the mid-20th century, numerous studies of 1st century Judaism have shown this to be incorrect (See the so-called "New Perspective on Paul" for more on this).

"and second that is a rather arrogant notion to discredit Augustine, and Luther… this matter is in time out, for now."

Haha...that's such an ironic statement given that it was exactly the charge laid against Luther by the Catholic church in his day! lol

Augustine, as influential and brilliant as he was, taught numerous errors, particularly later in life as he became reactionary against the Pelagian heresy. Also, he forever skewed the Biblical teaching on sex by claiming that it was "necessary sin" and the means by which original sin was transmitted! (Of course this was due to his being an extreme sexaholic before conversion and thus his becoming an extreme ascetic afterwards.

Likewise, Luther, while used by God to do great things, particularly early in his ministry, was quite wrong on a number of issues--Paul's view of the Law, the "I" of Romans 7:14-25, the canonicity of James, Hebrews and Revelation, and most infamously, his last writing before his death: "On the Jews and their lies" (Google it...you'll be shocked if you've never read it!).

So no, I'm afraid it's no more arrogant to disagree with Augustine or Luther (or any other person in Church history) when they go astray from the text of Scripture. Perhaps this would make for a nice blog entry on its own... :)

"Our American paradigms don’t jive w/ the message of Christ."

Agreed!

"I believe that God has a process to get thru to us 1. We are humbled 2. We start getting really honest about who we are and who we’re NOT (when we are honest about our ugliness we seek change, if we are always stuck on we are the crown of His creation- we deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re not that bad, and change isn’t forth coming)."

This might be the case for some people, but it need not be the case for everyone. The self-flagellation that many Christians seem to revel in simply goes too far to the opposite extreme. We're not pond-scum, nor are we righteous angelic beings. Rather, we are the image-bearers of God who have been bent and misshaped by Sin's mastery of us and are in need of salvation that we ourselves can in no way attain.

"The interesting thing about a coin is that you can never look at both sides of the coin at the same time. They are 1 but they cannot be viewed together. So Faith, and Repentence are like a coin. They are linked together, but you can’t look at them at the same time."

This is where the coin idiom breaks down. Scripture holds both faith and repentance/obedience up and makes us look at both dead-on. Both are required, both are necessary, neither can be separated from the other in Scripture.

"I love your portrait, but for me it shows how first God is accepting of us. It shows me- how inspite of myself, God still loves me. And it is because of that amazing love, that I can surrender control. The only proactive part I play is the act of “Giving UP!!” Giving up, isn’t really proactive by any American ideologies, is it?"

Agreed. We aren't called to be "pro-active" in any way other than in seeing our own sinfulness and need of salvation (as Paul rhetorically illustrates beautifully in the famous "who will rescue me...?" passage of Rom.7:14-25, where we get an inside glimpse at what someone trying to be righteous apart from faith in Christ and indwelling of the Spirit). Once God has brought us to that point, we can only be "Re-active" in responding to His love in humble faith/repentance and recognizing that it is His Grace that makes us who we are and our identity is found only in Him, not in our own merit or status in comparison to those around us.

"If God has placed truth in our hearts, the law in our heads, and paid for it with Jesus’ blood; it leads me to believe that God just made our relationships with Him- private & individual."

Personal? Yes. Private? No.

Corporate? Yes. Individual? No.

The whole notions of "private" and "individual" are part of the afore-mentioned American mindset that doesn't jive with Jesus' message. No one in the 1st century middle east would've thought in these terms. Community was everything. Of course God loves and cares for individuals, but not at the expense of community. Jesus came to save a people, not a person. We have to hold the tension in the middle and not dip to either side. We don't become Borg-like, impersonal automatons when we enter into the community of God's People; nor can we live a "just-me-and-Jesus" life and remain faithful to the Gospel message. Rather, we must always see ourselves as individuals within the community of God's people (or in older language, "the communion of the saints").

"Relationship between 2 parties can’t happen if other people are medaling around with turds that don’t belong to them. We can share our stories with one another, but any good relationship resists influence from outsiders opinions."

I don't think you can find anything remotely teaching this in Scripture. I say that in love! :)

We belong to Christ and are therefore members of one body. United in faith as one people of God. Called to not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but rather to encourage one another all the more (Heb.10), to restore those who go astray (Gal.6:1), to bear one another's burdens so that each can carry his/her own load Gal.6:2-5), to be open, honest and vulnerable with one another...which is something that is hard, dangerous and often messy. It requires not just trust for others, but faith in God that He will sustain us and dwell in our midst even when we don't see Him anywhere near.

"JM- this is both thought prevoking and fun (yes, this would make me an incredible dork). But I think we are going to have to narrow the topics. This is too much…"

Haha...I agree, particularly as a fellow Bible-nerd! :) Feel free to drop me a line suggesting any follow up topics and we can discuss them periodically here in the Dojo. I'm always looking for good topics!

Say hi to the family for me next time you talk to any of them!

JMS

Eric Orozco said...

Great lunch JM... I'm looking forward to our opportunity to learn from the HS together.

Hesed is a great background term for John's Gospel. It connoted going beyond obligation or honor. The service most meritorious was called Gemilut Hassadim (work of lovingkindness). It was a service that couldn't be repaid (and typically done secretly when the receiver of the service was still alive...to avoid the receiver's obligation of repayment). Gemilut Hassadim was performed thus most perfectly in two ways: By honoring a bridegroom at his wedding, or by preparing a body for burial (and grieving with the survivors). Notice this is relevant to the first and last signs of John's gospel.

Hesed is central to how John presents the new covenant. So, Moses brought down God's Law, Jesus the love and devotion (1:17). The light of the first day, to John, is the revelation of God's attributes, Hesed v'emet. John saw Day One of the creation, as the manifestation of God's radiance on mankind. While He was with us, the light of the earth walked among us.

The theme of Day One is loyalty and love (read the first letter in Rev).

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