Covenants (part one of many)

There are two types of covenants: conditional and unconditional covenants.  God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional after Abraham believed – it’s unconditional because after his belief nothing could reverse the promises God made.  God’s covenant with Israel through Moses [AKA “The Mosaic Covenant”] where He gave the Law was conditional on their obedience to the law in the land [Ex 20:1-31:18].
A covenant has several elements to be looking for:
a) participants [God and Israel through Moses]
b) provisions [The land, the seed and the blessing]
c) a state [active/inactive] if it’s conditional
d) a sign [a sacrifice on an altar, circumcision]
e) a token [the Sabbath] to remind the participants of the covenant
Covenants usually set up what theologians call a ‘dispensation’ or a period of stewardship where the provisions and tokens are observed.  However, covenants can come to an end.  When Christ came and was crucified, died, buried, resurrected, and then ascended God did away with the temple system by literally tearing down the temple through the Romans. The Law could NOT be fulfilled and was rendered inoperative. In the millennial kingdom the Law will be fulfilled again while Abraham possesses the land.

Calvinism-ism

In a phone call with my friend Brad today he said something I asked permission to quote.  He gave it to me, so here you go:

“Calvin [attempted to] systematize scripture.  Everyone [of his followers] after him systematized Calvin”

Substitutionary Atonement: One for All

This year I’ve really gotten into watching baseball.  I think its in part because of my brother-in-law Kurt’s excitement for sports and my grandpa’s love for baseball.  Baseball is a pastime in this country and I am a fan.  I live near the Colorado Rockies’ stadium in Denver (20 minutes or so away) and I keep track of their activities with some regularity.  This last Friday their head coach, Clint Hurdles, was released from his position and was replaced by their bench coach as the interim coach.  This change is one I don’t agree with as a fan, but they didn’t ask me.  Here’s where the theology comes in: the first basement Todd Helton, a believer, was interviewed and had this to say:

“We should be held just as accountable as anybody. Obviously, he takes the sword for us.  He didn’t have any bad at-bats, he didn’t throw any bad pitches. He’s the same manager he was two years ago [editor: when the Rockies went to the World Series]. We realize that. We realize that ultimately we are the reason he got fired because we played bad baseball. We definitely feel responsible.”

There are times when one person takes the fall for a group.  Christ, being the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind made the sacrifice.  We all deserved the penalty for our not ‘playing well’ – there is no minor leagues for real life where you get to figure out this being a human thing and then bring it to the big game.  Instead you get to screw up in front of everyone, blow it miserably in front of anyone, and ultimately stand before God as having failed to live up to His glory (Romans 3:23) – accept if Christ took your place in judgment on the cross.  Then you were identified with His crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and seating.  The Rockies players know that they were saved from being dropped into the minor leagues because of their coaches sacrifice.

We know that without the sacrifice of Christ we would have nothing to stand before God with that would give us any confidence.  Instead of the worry of judgment for punishment, we look forward to a judgment for rewards.  One where heaven will become a place for a bride and the bride groom.  It will be a perfect game, one with no outs, endless innings, and no injuries.  Oh, and I think that there will be no stealing of bases 😉

Preserving the Unity

Recently at Bible Study I had the opportunity to teach through Ephesians 4:1-3.  The verse reads, “Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” in the King James version.  What struck me about this was that I had failed to endeavor keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace on so many occasions that I was hardly qualified to speak on the topic from experience.  Instead I would have to humbly teach with examples of past failure: my life being an example of what not to do.  Without going into every failure, which could take far more time and introduce too much confusion, I abandoned unity because I had learned that doctrine divides and that good doctrine was to be prized above all and at the cost of anything.  While I’m still passionate about doctrine, the Lord has humbled me with the doctrine of Grace and its application in my own life.

You see Paul doesn’t start chapter 4 on its own, instead he starts it after a prayer that outline believers as family.  And before that he outlines who the individual is in Christ.  Nothing about the context of Ephesians allows for my radical and aggressive departures from various churches due to doctrinal differences.  Paul reminds the believer in 4:1 that he should be walking in a manner worthy of the calling to which he was called.  What calling is that?  The life of Christ being lived out through moment-by-moment relationship.  Each believer is called to this relationship with God first and foremost.  That way the life of Christ can be manifest in a daily walk.

Paul, not wanting to stop with the profundity that is a walk that is worthy of our calling, hits the believers up with an immense request in verse 2, “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”  BAM!  Its as if Paul was shooting for the very foundation of the fleshly nature and goes in for the kill: no more pride.  Pride is what hits me and causes me to want to be right and dogmatic about things.  I have dear friends who have endured this pride and still love me (and my family) despite this intensity.  My parents told me growing up that I should consider being a lawyer because I loved to argue.  Over time my love for arguing has disappeared.  I’ve seen the arguments tear people down, destroy relationships and ruin church bodies.  It is not that the doctrine was not important, it was, but that the way that things were discussed rapidly escalated to the point of injured soldiers who were wounded from once friendly fire.

Paul writes that the believers should be lowly or humble, meek or gentle.  With patience the believers should forebear or tolerate with love.  Love!  I hate the term tolerance because it is so often used outside of the context of love.  We tolerate neighbors with house colors and decorations we don’t care for, but we don’t often love them.  Worse is that in the church we could ignore love and simply tolerate brothers and sisters whom we should know intimately enough that we could pray for them without ceasing (I Thes. 5:17), and as the Lord does things in the life of the body we never stop rejoicing (I Thes.5:16).  What wound can be caused between friends when they’re gentle and humble with one another?  What blow struck with the slowness of patience can be described as cutting and haughty?

It is with this attitude of moment-by-moment relationship, walking in a manner worthy of our calling, being humble, gentle, patient and tolerating in love that we are called to then endeavor or preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  If I were to say, “Hey brother (under the Father Eph.3:14-15), I have been walking with the Lord and meditating on His word and contemplating this doctrine for a while (in patience), and I think that we don’t see eye-to-eye and I would love to spend some time going over God’s word with you to see what He says about it so that we can preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” then you would say that I have come with a noble and yet humble attitude.  I didn’t come with a sledgehammer, but instead with graciousness and love.

Doctrine is critical.  It is the clear delineation of what should be God’s revealed truth.  But doctrine does not give us the right to depart or destroy others in the body at the onset of a disagreement.  Yes, there are biblical grounds for separation.  Yes, there are times when believers should part ways because one or more of the parties involved are not behaving in a manner worthy of the calling, but we don’t jump to that conclusion with haste.  We rest in Christ, we seek to preserve the unity.

The Greek for the word preserve or keep there implies a guarding or maintaining of something that is whole, to prevent the decay of that thing.  Unity is fragile, but in Christ it is not only positionally existent, but very easily possible for Him to preserve.  The Holy Spirit has preserved His word for thousands of years and there is not much of a chance that you or I could ruin that.  We’re called to a life that is rich and abundant together.  Consider that togetherness the next time you start to feel your blood pressure rise.  Consider tolerance in love.  Consider the opportunity you may have one day in the future where your failures could be offset by the illustration of God’s work in your life to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Issues in Dispensationalism: Was Jesus in the Old Testament or in the New Testament

My buddy Trint privately messaged me and asked for my take on this particular blog post: I’m Possessed.  The author of the post wrestles with how he should apply the content of the post and looks for an out so that he doesn’t have to wrestle with the guilt of not fulfilling Christ’s command.  The good news is that I think that there is a very simple and low-guilt out: hermeneutics (AKA Proper Bible Interpretation).  There is also another out: Grace (AKA the fact that you’re not under the Law any more, as you have died to this world and its systems with Christ if you are a believer).

While on the surface it looks like this post may be about money and possessions, its really a about the issue of which dispensation Christ was in and how we deal with the life of Christ before His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  How do we as believers address the complexities of what Jesus did and said verses what we’re called to do as His possession?  I believe that fundamentally the question that was asked by the author of the aforementioned blog post is flawed because it presupposes that everything that Christ spoke was directed towards the disciples, the New Testament church, and the believer today.

I’m co-teaching a class on Bible Interpretation at church (Link to Series for download) and rather than start in the middle of why this is a poor approach to interpreting this passage I’m going to go through the processes we’re teaching and attempt to see if I come to the same application that the author of the post comes to.  Join me as we look at observations, interpretations, applications and appropriations.  For the record I don’t for some second think that the author of the other post is attempting to misrepresent the passage, I just want to challenge myself and all believers to be consistent in our interpretation and theological calling to be noble minded like the Bereans (Acts 17:11).

Observation of the passage calls for evaluating language, culture, history, context and as many pertinent facts as we can observe objectively about the passage and its contents.  Lets go through those systematically and see what objective elements pop out.  We’ll also want to ask who, what, where, when, why, and how to make sure we’ve got the right focus of the passage.  I’ll be using the resources publicly availabe at blueletterbible.org for you to follow along with if you want to check my references.

Context

The context of the passage appears to be Christ speaking to his disciples and in verse 13 one disciple asks Christ to speak to his brother so as to instruct the brother toward equality in dividing the inheritance that the man was to receive.  Christ then launches on a series of principles that seem to outline first that Christ was not interested in making that call about the inheritance (v. 14).  Instead Christ was interested in motive and source of life (coveting v. 15).  Christ’s parables subsequent to motive point out God’s provision (vs. 16-31).  Seeking the things of God will show God’s provision for the needs of the believer.

Language

The language of the Luke passage is Greek.  I’m not going to delve into each Greek word, but I will highlight the bits and pieces that seem to carry the most weight in the selected verses.

Fear Not:  The Greek here is two words: phobeō .  We’re all familiar with the English transliteration and adaptation phobia, and the Greek carries with it just such a context [BLB].  The verb tense is present, middle, imperative, which means that the person listening to Christ is to take the command to heart.  The negation of the fear indicates that we should not for any reason let fear rule in the context of this passage.

little flock: The Lord uses a metric indicator to reflect the size of the disciples despite the first verse of the chapter reflecting that a general throng had gathered around the smaller circle of the disciples.  Flock was used analogously of the group of disciples and is apparently common figurative language as all five times that it is translated that way in the KJV the figurative subject is a body of saints (vs. Luke 12:32, Acts 20:28, Acts 20:29, 1Peter 5:2-3).

your Father: interestingly we see Christ identifying the disciples as being sons of the Father.

good pleasure: The Father’s pleasure is is aorist, active, indicative which indicates to us that it is a past action with ongoing results, it is being done by the father to the disciples and it is spoken factually.

the Kingdom: if you want to see theologians argue bring up the kingdom.  However, the disciples, as best as we can tell, would have recognized the kingdom as the coming kingdom of the Messiah [Grk reference].  A rulership that would entail political power, peace, and a fulfillment of the New Covenant (See Jeremiah 31:31).

Sell: The Greek here is imperative and active.  You sell your stuff as soon as is expedient.

alms:  Alms would be a gift.  A benevolent and generous gift that was not earned by the recipient.

a treasure: A storage place for valuables, or the valuables in the storage place.

in the heavens: The dwelling place of God above all of creation.

where your treasure is: is is present, indicative.  It reflects the fact of where your treasure is now.

Culture

The Jewish culture generally operated with the mindset that material blessing was a sign of spiritual right relationship.  God promised material blessing to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and to the Hebrews if they followed Him and made Him their God.  Christ’s apparent countering of this by saying sell this sign of blessing would have had some sort of shock value.

History

Historically wages were earned with hard labor.  There were not normal cases of overnight millionaires (figuratively speaking) and an inheritance was a valuable thing to receive because it may allow you to break free of debt, help establish a stronger business through investment capital, or could be used in various trading businesses to increase overall wealth.  Many households had very simple possessions and were not lavish.  Tax collectors like Matthew would have come into the house and evaluated the apparent wealth based on the possessions and then demanded a payment for Rome.

5 W’s and an H

Who: Christ is speaking to the disciples about God’s character

What: earthly possessions, heavenly possessions, faith

When: every day life

Where: wherever the disciple is

Why: because the disciple was concerned over the inheritence

How: God’s provisions

Interpretation

The interpretation is a summary or re-statement of the passage or verses that attempts to collect the observations into a coherent statement.

My close disciples and followers, you should have no fear over earthly provisions because the Father in heaven will give you the food and clothing and shelter that you need as He brings about the fulfillment of the kingdom.  Take the worldly things that are of value and sell them in faith because those things rust, fade, and lose value.  Instead look forward to the treasures that are in heaven by walking in an abiding relationship with the Father because where you treasure is, and that should be in heaven, there your heart is.

Application

Application looks at the passage at hand and looks for a subjective principle, a fact that can be relied upon, a truth that can be enacted, or an appropriation.  There are two kinds of applications: direct and indirect.  You will need to determine if there is a direct application for you by looking at the intended audience of the interpretation!  If you are not the intended audience (and in this passage you are not)  then there may be an indirect application of principles or truths to rely on.  I’ll list a few applications based on the interpretation and you can meditate on this as well and bring up other suggestions.

Direct application

  • The disciples could rely on the Father for provision
  • The disciples could abide in the Father (see John 15) and that intimacy would build up or store treasures in heaven that would be rust free
  • The disciple who had asked the question about his inheritance could relax about equal distribution because the earthly blessing would eventually lose value even if it had short term value

Indirect Application or Principles

  • The believer can rely on God for provision
  • This passage confirms our need to be heavenly minded just like Paul instructs the believers in Colossians 3:1-3
  • We need to rely on the Lord for our value and not on our stuff

Conclusion

You can see that while these two lists are not exhaustive, the New Testament saint, because he is not the specific recipient of the instructions from Christ has nothing to fear about not fulfilling this passage’s imperative commands.  We can look at other New Testament passages such as Acts 2:44-45, Romans 12:13, Philippians 4:18-19 and evaluate God’s commands regarding provisions in the body of Christ.  There are plenty of opportunities to serve the Lord as we abide in Christ and walk by the Spirit, but we don’t need to worry about commands for Old Testament Saints (and even though the gospels are under the New Testament moniker, they are not directed towards New Testament Saints).

By carefully applying hermeneutics and by making sure that you understand the context of the passage you’re studying you can walk in confidence that you are under grace, you can walk confidently in your position in Christ, and you can boldly assert your Christian liberty.  This doesn’t liberate you from righteousness empowered by the Holy Spirit (see: Romans 6), but it liberates you to be motivated by grace, which is the only true motivation in the life of the believer.

Oh, and I do lift up before our Lord the provision of the autistic son of the author of that post.  We come before you Lord in confidence that you have brought us all together as believers to seek out opportunities to server one another.  We pray (even via the Internet) for your provision for the autistic child, Your peace in the life of the parents, and we pray for the doctrine of agency to be manifest in the lives of your flock.  Amen.

Extrapolation

One of the common points of division in the body of Christ, from my own experience, has been theological extrapolation. Calvinists don’t get along with Arminians because of the extrapolation from what is written in the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, logic is important, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all of hermeneutics. You see, if you have only some of the facts, content, culture, history, language understanding and you start to form doctrines you can come up with some errant ideas because you have started to fill in the ‘blanks’ [even if they weren’t blank, but you didn’t study] with something else that you have brought about by deduction. When you have some ideas that work for you, it is probably a great idea to pursue discussions with mature believers and seek out wisdom. Homogeny isn’t always the most important thing (truth is!), but others who have studied a topic may be able to point you towards some verses that will help you in your studies and find a fuller understanding of what the scriptures say on a subject.  Homogeny can also be dangerous because a whole group has agreed on something but not looked into it.  That being said, discussion with other believers is critical.

When you study God’s word there is a term for inserting your own meanings into a text, its called eisegesis (pronounced like ice o’ Jesus, which is probably what Martha was getting when she complained about Mary listening).  It is important to know what the scriptures say and to apply consistent hermeneutics for this very reason.  If you look at a text and are forcing your own modern context and ideas on the text, you’re not learning from God’s word, you’re changing it.  That’s not extrapolation, but its not useful time with the Bible.

I’ve Been Transfered, Thankfully

In Colossians 1:12-14 Paul writes of our position being transfered from a domain of darkness to a domain of light:

giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
(Colossians 1:12-14)

This passage is in the middle of a recording of a prayer that Paul regularly prays for (at the very least) the church in Collosae [starting in verse 9]. Paul has already prayed for their spiritual growth and for their walk to be maturing, but then he gives thanks to God for a list of important things: God’s qualification of us to be sons (and daughters) that we might be inheriters of God’s Holiness. Paul continues to be thankful for our having been transferred from the domain of sin, the flesh and ultimately being children of Satan to being in the domain of Christ (how just happens to be our redeemer). Paul’s last bit of thankfulness is tied to our redemption in that we can be thankful for the forgiveness of sins.

In short I think there are several applications of this passage, but one that really stands out is that due to God’s work we are set aside into His Holiness so no matter what we do, we have God’s holiness that surrounds us. Since we have that holiness, since we have our sins forgiven we need to walk in that holiness, but if we somehow fail to walk in that then we need to not dwell in guilt, shame and self flagilation, and instead we need to return to our focus on God and His Holiness. We are transfered and the legal documents required of us to be heirs is done, signed, sealed and official. You can’t undo your salvation and God’s grace is completely sufficient. He’s not looking at your forgiven sins, why would you?

How Do You Pray?

I have been really impressed with the idea that we often pray the wrong prayers. Sure, now you’re thinking that I’m making up rules about how you should pray, which I’m not, but I’m going to ask you to pray with doctrinal soundness. That is to say when you pray, don’t ask the Lord to do something that he’s already done. For example, I just heard the pastor of Mars Hill, a church in Seattle, pray, “… for this to be made possible that you would send us you’re Holy Spirit….**” Here’s the kicker, the thing that drives me crazy when I hear this sort of prayer: The Holy Spirit has come, has entered our lives and is indwelling believers right now as a secured seal until the day when we are taken up in the rapture to get our new bodies. Praying for the Holy Spirit to come is like asking God to make your body with about 70% water – it’s done!

When we pray we need to not pray for our weakness to be turned into strength, but instead that we may reflect His strength in our flesh being dead – our life is in Christ, when we live that life, we have the strength of Christ living and working in us. Instead of wrestling with the flesh, hoping that it would be conformed to the image of Christ, instead pray that you would moment by moment reckon the flesh as dead (Romans 6:11). God has promised in Romans 8:29 and Philipians 1:6 that you will be conformed to the image of Christ. Positionally, since you have been identified with Christ in his death, burial, resurrection, ascention, seating and are now hidden in Him (Colossians 3:3).

So, when you pray, the power of your prayer is not that you proclaim your weakness and need for His strength and working in your life, but instead it is the power of His life working in you and your reckoning or applying what He says is already true of you. I’m not talking about ‘word of faith’ type teaching that is full of selfish name-it-and-claim-it stuff, but instead that your attitude towards your life [which is His life, really] is from His perspective and that you take what God has revealed about your newness in Him as a given. This allows us to take into account for nasty things like suffering and trials and see them as lessons for our own growth (Hebrews 12:1-13).

What I’m writing is not an easy shift, but it is one that comes with an understanding of God’s word and the true life of the believer. The flesh wants control, it wants us to pray for its reformation because if it can be reformed then its not dead. I can pray that I would stop doing what is sinful, or I can pray that the Lord would help me identify where I’m letting the flesh creep into my thinking instead of reckoning it as dead. As we learn to see life from God’s perspective it allows us to grab hold of situations and see the lesson rather than having been grabbed hold of by a situation and ripped apart having learned nothing.

I am involved with a few situations currently that are frustrating me, but in their resolution I’m seeking God’s perspective. Maybe there is no resolution because there doesn’t need to be resolution yet because I’ve still got things to learn. But whatever learning there is to do, I’m looking forward to it because I know that God has a plan for my growth that will work in tandem with my life situations so that I will be praying His will, proving His will (Romans 12:2), and showing others God’s will by His life through me. It’s exciting stuff and it makes me want to pray for whomever reads this that the Lord would draw you to His word for inspiration in your prayers and insite into His character in you.

**This quote is from their podcast dated from 01/23/2006, Pastor Mark Driscoll.

The Semitic Totality Concept and the New Testament

More than once in my life as I was growing up did I read the New Testament book of James and walk away wondering how on earth salvation wasn’t some how tied to works. I finally just reconciled it with a passive answer that really did not deal with the problem. Recently, under the tutelage of my dad, I was introduced to the Semitic Totality Concept. This is the idea that was held by the Jews (thus the term ‘Semitic’) that if something was spiritually true, it was to be lived out without question. The Western concept of having something as true not meaning you lived it was absolutely foreign to the Hebrew way of thinking. Thus when God inspired the Law of Moses the Jews lived it out actively. The Western idea of a dichotomy was a foreign concept both culturally and philosophically.

To put it into perspective the Gentile mind could not conceive of a God that was moral and had truth because their gods were completely immoral and were often prayed to for things like the ability to steal better. So when Paul writes in the New Testament about various things needing to be done on a moral level it is having to do with the logical conclusion of what Christ has done in the believer’s life positionally and not assumed that the Greco-Roman mind would automatically take truth and apply it. To a Gentile (non-Jew) truth was not directly related to application. They lived in a world of hypothetical philosophy wherein actually proving out the philosophical assumptions to prove them was considered below the intellectual. Thus, Gentiles would pursue philosophy and knowledge but never stoop to prove their principles due to their arogance. The Jews could not relate to this given their view that all that was true should be applied and worked out.

So, when James writes in chapter 2, verse17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.” he is speaking to Jews (as is evident in Chapter 1, verse 2) and it would seem that the Semitic Totality Concept is in play. This is surely not a scapegoat in that we need to apply proper hermeneutics to all passages when we read them, but it helps us apply proper hermeneutics knowing historically what the culture knew to be normative for Jewish Christians. We can look at the context of whom is being written to about what and understand their cultural tendency and grasp the depth of the content in context rather than trying to mash it into a modern 21 century context.

In short the Semitic Totality Concept is something that was cultural that helps us understand the author’s perspective. It does not necessarily represent a doctrine, but explains why the doctrines are represented the way they are.

Romans 8:28-30

I have been reading, studying and thinking (meditating) about Romans 8:28-30 recently. While I don’t think I’ve sucked every bit out of the passage I have found it to be full of ideas that blow the status quo of Christianity out of the water. Don’t settle for less if you’re a believer. Anything less is just an imitation of Christ, and we don’t need that. Here’s the text:

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

I have heard the first part of verse 28 out of context lots of times, and its not done anyone who is quoting it or listening to it out of context much good. Granted, I’m taking these three verses out of Romans 8, which you need to read in context. Romans 8:28 starts with God’s causing all things to work together for good to those who love God. God is the one who’s in charge, not me. When something happens that seems unjust or unfair instead of asking why (which the answer will be because mankind is corrupt and in desperate need of a savior) we should be asking when will the justice be corrected. Then, immediately afterward we should ask, “What can I learn from this because God is using it for my benefit?” When what looks like garbage happens in my life, including my sinning, God can still use it for His good. He can still use it to His glory.

I used to look at pornography with as much frequency as possible (Mom, I know you read this, don’t beat yourself up for this, God has used it to His glory, seriously) when I was younger. I was addicted to the fleshly feeling of lust. I wanted more and more exposure to sexual things because the emotional feeling was exciting. It wasn’t satisfying, but it was exciting. Then, afterward I would feel guilt for looking at such things. Fortunately I’m not alone in this wrestling of the flesh so when I come across other youth or men I am able to offer them hope and empathy. I am able to take them to places and scripture that lead them to a better understanding of who they are in Christ and how that can help them cease walking in the flesh and live in victory over the flesh. God has been able to take what was a past sin, and use it as one of my very ministries! Instead of my living righteously for my whole life I have constantly wrestled with various sins so that now I can understand my brothers and sisters in Christ and be an edifying member of the body.

But God doesn’t stop there. You see, when you sin, God has covered it in the blood of Christ and you are instead accredited with the righteousness of Christ so God is given glory for His grace, mercy and love even in our sin (which was His sin on the cross). So not only is the event possible to be used by God, but he gets the glory for what happens no matter what. That beats the snot out of any sort of guilt, shame or punishment for our sins, plus it gives us a glimpse into God’s perspective. You cannot be in a situation that God cannot use in your life. Period.

Some look at that verse and say, “But it says those who love God.” And then get off on a high horse about how some people, when they sin do not love God. Not loving God while you sin does not mean that you don’t love God at all, does it? Don’t sell someone a shorted check of Grace. Either Christ died for all of our sins (which we’ll look at in a moment) or he didn’t. God can use events in our lives for His glory now, later or in eternity… don’t limit an infinite God to your puny perspective. I’m learning that I need to quit trying to short sell God in this very area.

Then, the hum-dinger of Romans 8:28, the second part, comes out: Because we love God, we’re called according to His purpose. Instead of lacking purpose in life, instead of not having a calling, we’re called to God’s purpose. What purpose can be better than that? When earthly things take place they’re usable by God for our good, His glory and we are called and can be used for His purpose! Though it is in an Old Testament context Jonah was walking in the sin and selfishness [ha ha, the word fish is in the middle of that word, get it? Jonah? Fish?], then did God’s will through the help of a fish, and then walked in the selfishness again with the plant but God used Jonah for His purpose. Paul died, was resurrected, was lashed, shipwrecked, tortured, homeless, and naked (See II Corinthians 11:23-27). All of those to God’s glory for God’s purpose. Paul could not write with such authority if he had not been associated with Steven’s murder, and then once establishing His relationship with Christ, turning around and being involved with all sorts of physical hardships in Christ’s service. Instead, God used those things to validate Paul’s ministry and Paul knew it. Instead of finding sorrow in those things he knew they were part of his sanctification and growth. On top of that he knew that God had eternity in store of him, in which God would forever be revealing Himself to Paul and all believers (Ephesians 2:4-7).

God has a purpose for our lives and so being distracted by this world and trying to reconcile this world with the flesh is only going to lead to disappointment instead of having a perspective that looks at God’s working in our lives for His glory, our growth and with His purpose. We are called to God’s purpose… there is meaning to life. On top of that Ephesians 2:10 says that we’re going to walk in the good works that God has planned for us. We cannot fail to do God’s planned works for us, they’re predestined.

Verse 29 starts out with God’s foreknowledge of us: “For those whom He foreknew….” God knew us in eternity past. Intimately. He didn’t just know me, Randy Peterman, a little bit, He didn’t just know all about my musical talent [or lack there of], he didn’t just know I’d know how to program computers or that I’d live to be [insert the age I live to be here], but he knew me intimately, 100%. What’s so amazing about that? Several things: God knew me and still He chose to die for my sins on the cross. God knew me and still planned for me to do good works. God knew me and is going to reward me for those good works he has planned for me no matter how many beautiful women (that he created) I defiled by lusting after them. He knew me, knew how I would screw up with my wife, children and anyone else I’m involved with and still died for me on the cross. That’s what’s so amazing about that. God foreknew me and loved me anyway. That’s love.

Beyond foreknowing me He also, “…predestined to [me] become conformed to the image of His Son…” So not only did He know me and promise to pay for my sins, but he also promised to sanctify me, or set me aside to be conformed to and identified with His Son, Christ. I don’t have to worry about whether I will one day be a godly (godlier) man, I know that Christ is my position (Colossians 3:3), but also my destination when I’m with God in the heavenlies. My sanctification (spiritual growth) is guaranteed. There is nothing else so liberating in life than to know that you don’t have to try any more, because God’s doing it and He’s conforming you to the image of His Son. The world sometimes practices self mutilation wherein they carve or manipulate their flesh. By trying in the flesh to live a righteous life we are simply doing the same thing inwardly. Instead we must rest in God’s work and walk in our relationship with Him, it will guarantee results rather than bring them into question because of a faulty source (the flesh). We’re predestined: it is our destiny. That predestination is so that Christ would be the first-born of the brethren. Christ would be the first to be resurrected and we will follow in Him and have eternal life. God uses our Christ-conformance to His glory in many ways, including Christ being glorified as the first-born.

As if being foreknown, predestined to be conformed to Christ image and bringing Christ (and therefore God) glory, we are called with a purpose (again, reiterating what was written in verse 28). But those whom God called he also justified. That’s a past tense word there. I have been justified. I have been made just in God’s sight. When he looks at me He sees a Randy that has no sin or blemish on him. He sees the resurrection of Christ in me. I am made just. As has been said before, “Justified, its just as if I’d never sinned at all.” And I’ve sinned, let me tell you. But I don’t have to worry about it because Christ took care of it. The worldly concern for sin and the flesh is not my concern because mine has already been taken care of and is being conformed to the image of Christ! I can stop worrying about doing righteous deeds in the flesh since the flesh is dead and my new life in Christ is inherently filled with righteousness.

Beyond justification I am also glorified. I’m going to confess to not having grasped all that glorification means. It is hard for my mind to wrap itself around my being glorified. God being glorified is understandable, but I have been glorified. A past tense word, again. Second Corinthians 3:18 says it well: 18But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. We are being conformed to Him who is glorified, therefore we are glorified as well. What an amazing thing that all of this is true of every believer. It makes me want to be more gracious with other believers who are not aware of this so that they may see the truths of this lived out in me. Fortunately as I abide in Christ and rest in what God is doing in me He will do things like that through me.

What a rich passage this is. I suppose much more could be drawn from it, but as I live I learn places that this (and many other verses) apply to me. Furthermore, I am learning how they apply in different areas and scenarios. I find myself looking at trials, past since, present since, and future growth with hope. All of it, every single bit of my life can be used for God’s glory and my good. I can’t ask for more than that.