96. No guessing – we know.

People talk about hell. Christians talk about hell. How easily we say, oh they went through hell. The church talks about hell, especially the older, legalistic, hit you with a Bible over the head – churches. I realize there might be some of them still around – how horrible. I truly wish we could stop calling organized religion church. It is not the church at all. The church is such a special, beautiful concept. We should actually be talking about the church of Christ – a fellowship, not organization of children, not people whose beings are being transformed by the working of the Holy Spirit and not people with enough willpower trying to live legal lives in their futile effort to please God and some denomination.

We are in the lovely chapter that talks about the rebirth of a being. Being born a child of God after making a simple decision to surrender your life to Jesus, accept His work on the Cross is a whole new beginning; immigration into the invisible Kingdom of God on earth. There is no hell, only heaven. What is hell and heaven then? Well, I can say: easy.

Hell is where God is not; heaven is where God is.

Generally, hell would be defined as a subterranean place of punishment, as described by the Greek word Tartarus in 2 Peter 2:4. Hades and Sheol are the Greek and Hebrew words for the underworld or the temporary abode of the dead. Gehenna in the New Testament (Mark 9:43, Matthew 10:28) is a place where the soul and the body could be destroyed. It might refer to the second death, which Jesus warned against.

Whatever hell really is, where it is and how one gets there are the things each man must decide for himself. To me, the hell on earth I see around me, is enough to make me flee into the arms of God. I choose heaven. I want to live in the “Shadow of the Almighty” and in the “Secret Place of the Most High”. (Psalms 91:1)

What do we then pray in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is for now, God’s presence, invited and enjoyed is heaven on earth. Where His will is done, is heaven.

The prayer is written in the Hebrew style of parallelism.

The definition of the kingdom of heaven is where God’s will is done. Life in the kingdom is a life submitted to the will of God; fully dependent on His provision, relying on His protection, living out of His resources and direction with His statutes and promises as the imperative of your life.

Full submission to the Word of God is our number one priority. God’s will is clear. There is no darkness only light. He made it accessible to all. No guessing, no confusion. Read His word – that is His will. His specific will for your life will leap from the pages in his Presence.

He has given us the power to become children of God – John 1:12

Eternal life is God life and it starts when we make the decision to become a child of God. The emphasis is not only everlasting life. It is so much more than time. It has all to do with the quality of the life we live here on earth. Earth can never give us what we need to live life abundantly and excellently.

Rebirth is a decision with supernatural consequences. Grace prompts us to surrender and believe and the result is a new life, a spirit reborn. It is an irrevocable surrender to God and life in his Spirit.

It is requalifying experience opening up the possibilities of our whole being to the supernatural dimension of life and fitting us for a beginning in God’s kingdom order.

As Jesus said we are born of water and spirit. Water is cleansing, our past is drowned. The Spirit is power, enabling us for the future.

What is born of the flesh is flesh; what is born of the spirit is spirit. Enablement is determined. Flesh is limited. The Spirit is unlimited.

[John 3:7-13]

There are two kinds of misunderstanding: a person misunderstands because he has not reached the knowledge or experience to understand or because he is unwilling to understand and fails to see because of the refusal to see. A man can deliberately shut his mind from the truth.

Nicodemus should have known about the doctrine of a new life.

 Cast away from you all the transgressions, which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. (Ezekiel 18:31)

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you” (Ezekiel 36:26)

The prophets spoke about a new man, the need to be changed fundamentally from the inside out.

Nicodemus threw out another objection how does it work? It is physically impossible, ridiculous to think it.

The Greek word for spirit pheuma also means wind. In Hebrew ruach means breath or wind. We do not understand the wind or know how it blows, but experience the effect. Before we can determine the direction of a wind we see the leaves move and the air moving our clothes and hair. Many things of the Spirit we do not understand, but the effect is clear to see and experience, therefore we cannot deny it.

The power of a testimony is the work of the Spirit and the power thereof is undeniable!

One man testifying about a new life in Christ was made out to be a fool to believe that Jesus turned water into wine, but testified that in his house Jesus turned “beer into furniture”.We do not know how things work. Some things we believe in we cannot see. Mostly we do not see a teacher’s brain but we hear what he teaches and see the result of his thinking.

Jesus says to Nicodemus: I talk about everyday stuff and you do not understand, how will you understand the deep things of heaven. The intellectual truth of Christianity is one thing. How does it change you in your inner man? How do you experience the power?

Most of the time we accept a prescription from a doctor without knowing exactly how the medication will impact every aspect of our anatomy. We do not know the intricacies of redemption. It remains a mystery but we need to appreciate it intellectually.

In the last phrase the authority of Jesus over the truth of the discourse is confirmed again. Jesus is telling us about God, because He came down from heaven and is the only truthful source. His authority and truthfulness is confirmed by His death. He is the only One who knows the heart of His father personally, because He is the embodied mind of God.

At this stage of the discourse it is uncertain where the discussion with Nicodemus ends and John’s words start again.

In the last two verses he touches on a strange story in the Old Testament. We will connect these two to the next chapter for coherence.

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94. Tabernacles, Temples, Cathedrals and Churches.

A trademark of life on earth is worship. Just think for a moment. All through history and all over the globe, places of worship are central to the culture and history of every nation on the face of the earth. Since ancient times, elaborate buildings and even natural wonders have been dedicated to gods and higher beings as appeasement and admiration.

The desert people with their fold-up version of a place of worship, was no different. Freed from the sun-worshipping Egyptians, who built magnificent architectural wonders in awe of their gods, they ventured into the desert with nothing to anchor their renewed faith in the miracle-working YHWH (Yaveh), the God of their faith-ancestry, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Not too far into their desert wanderings, we find the meticulous and awe-inspiring prescription of the Tabernacle, based on the detailed instructions of Moses whose ear was inclined to hear God’s voice. Under Holy Spirit-inspired craftsmen, the Ark of the Covenant is built, to symbolize the Presence of the Most High God, with thick embroidered woven linen to separate it from the section where the Table of Showbreads, the Lampstand and the golden bowl with incense symbolize the Word of God, illuminated by the Light of the World, Jesus, and the worship that prepares for His presence, are located. In the forecourt was the altar of burnt offering where innocent blood cleansed from sin and the bronze laver with water symbolized baptism. This ancient pattern of worship is the foundation of our regular religious reunion with God.

I am always encouraged by the scripture, describing the gifting of art and crafts for men and women that came from God.

…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.

34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works. (Exodus 35: 31- 35)

Settled in the Promised Land, a few centuries later, it is David’s desire to build a Temple for the God He loves and pours out his worship to. His son Solomon, builds a magnificent Temple to mark the high point of Hebrew culture in the ancient world and earn the respect of neighbouring nations for almost four centuries. After Solomon’s death the kingdom divides and slowly falls away from true worship until the hostility of other ancient Empires (Assyria and Babylon) brings destruction and exile.

After the exile, the reconstruction of the Temple dominates the lives of Ezrah and Nehemiah who re-establish worship in the physically restored Temple, carefully recorded with the many miracles accompanying their daunting task.

Under Roman rule, the Jewish king Herod the Great, works for decades to restore the Temple to its former glory. He is well known for his grand architectural projects throughout the Judea of that time. It is the centre and pride of the city of Jerusalem, built to the pattern of the original desert Tabernacle and the Temple of Solomon, with a few modern additions like the Court of the Gentiles and the Court of the Women that were never included in the original plan.

The Temple was the pride and joy of the Pharisees, priests and people at the time of Jesus. It was the centre of Jewish culture and everyday life. Jews lived and worked in their culture of worship. There was just no alternative. If you were born a Jew daily prayer, sacrifices, the Sabbath and celebrating the feasts, marked your life, diary and pleasure. Nothing else was important. Worship of YWHW was above all else in life and the world.

Acts like Jesus cleansing the Court of the Gentiles where the money was collected, would produce immediate reaction from the leadership. Their reaction is discussed in John 2:17-25.

Jesus’ disciples remembered the words of Psalms 69:9. The Psalm is talking of the Messiah. He would be consumed with zeal for the House of God. Zeal means passion or even jealousy. In the minds of the disciples Jesus was being established. His actions befitted the Messiah.

The reaction of the Jews is understandable. They needed to establish Jesus’ credentials through some sign. They knew the Messiah would be established by wonders and signs. Jesus needed to prove His claim. He had to do something supernatural.

Jesus’ reply presented them with a problem. This is John’s interpretation written long after all the events. He is writing seventy years of perspective into the narrative.

The words of Jesus were later used against him as accusation in His trial (Matthew 26:61). The accusers said they heard him say:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (John 2:19)

Jesus never said He would destroy the Temple building and rebuild it. Jesus knew the end of the Temple was near. He said to the Samaritan woman that people would worship in spirit and truth without a specific place.

Temple worship did not lead men to God. It should have. It became obsolete. He would never have suggested rebuilding the old ways.

God makes things new, always better than before. It is the miraculous principle of restoration. He makes something you never envisaged. Look out for the new thing. (Isaiah 42:9, 43:19)

Jesus wanted to bring a Temple not made by hands. His coming would bring an end to man-made, man-arranged worship and bring Spirit-worship after the ultimate sacrifice had been made. (Mark 14:58)

He came to introduce a new way to worship God without elaborate buildings and animal sacrifice – a new way of coming into the presence of the living God.

In 19BC Herod started work on the Temple to appease the Jews within the Roman political system. In 64AD the building was finally finished. It took 46 years to build. Only six years after that in 70 AD, the Romans army under generalship of Vespasian destroys the Temple so that only the wailing wall stands.

With this background Jesus makes a shocking statement. Did He really mean all the lavish magnificence and splendour would be nothing and completely obsolete? All the money they spent would be irrelevant in God’s plan. Jesus calls men into discussion with his statement. He sets the literal against the figurative, the physical in contrast with the spiritual.

Further more, His statement was a prophecy of the Resurrection. All would then have access to the glorified Jesus. The ever-present God was to be reachable to the ends of the world. The true depth of the statement could only be known after the resurrection.

The scripture that they believed is that they will be saved from death. Death was an absolute mystery and very frightening. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol (Psalms 16:10). Peter quoted it at Pentecost (Acts 2:31) and Paul quoted it at Antioch (Acts 13:35). It expressed the confidence of the church in the power of God and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Our approach to God is not dependent on anything man-made or man-built. We worship in our own inner-Temple in the presence of the risen Christ.

Jesus obviously did many miracles in Jerusalem. Many believed in Him, but He did not openly declare Himself.

Jesus knew human nature and how quickly a miracle becomes old news. In journalism they talk about the “one day wonder”. Sensation is only sensational for a very short time.

They would follow signs and wonders, but not many will follow the self-denial and service. Surrendering to the will of God, carrying a cross would separate the superficial from the real.

Jesus was not in it for the popular vote. The mob would have declared Him Messiah. He did not want acceptance until they all knew exactly what acceptance meant.

John calls miracles signs and uses three words:

Teras means a marvelous thing. It has no moral significance; simply an astonishing thing. The New Testament does not use this word alone to describe a miracle.

Dunamis means power. Our word dynamite comes from this word. It denotes extraordinary power, effective power to be recognized by all.

Semeion means sign. This is the word John uses. The deed told men about the man, revealed his character and it was done in order to understand the person doing it better. Miracles told men something of the nature of God. Jesus showed whom God is in healing the sick, comforting the poor, feeding the hungry.

Jesus performed signs of the love of God.

In any miracle there are all three meanings included, revealing the heart of God.

 

80. Through the door.

In searching you find a door. This is quite a mystery. In all your prayer, all your beseeching God for your fears and worries – is there still a place where you have not been?

Of course there is!

There is a more excellent life awaiting.

Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus.  This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.  So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.( Acts 18:24-26)

Are you ready for more? Are you willing to go where Jesus leads?

Jesus adds a third command in Matthew 7.

Knock and it shall be opened unto you.

Have you ever had the experience of knocking at a door that is almost immediately opened? Just as if your arrival has been precisely anticipated?

God initiates also this part of prayer. He says to the church in Laodicea:

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:20)

Dine with me? In Judah breakfast was mostly on the run; getting out there to work. Lunch was packed and eaten in haste. But dinner was the evening meal, the time to get to the roof of the house and sit down in the coolness of the evening to dine with the family and talk. The word used here is the word for the lingering evening meal. He wants to sit down and talk.

So if you knock, he has already knocked. The door swings open. When the door of your heart opens, you can sit down at the table set before your enemies, that table that is spread in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23), for a long and peaceful chat with your Father.

Then you will come to know what His promise to Jesus was and is.

The Promise of the Father:

 Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)

 Jesus said:

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23,24)

 The Father is seeking people whose worship is spiritually alive and true-hearted”. He is seeking worshippers, so we can be assured that if we will worship Him, He will show up!

 Worship invites and gives place for the glory of the Lord to be realized and to bless at a given place. It is an act of God’s sovereign choice and grace, but it is not arbitrary, random, or accidental. It is a decisive action He promises in response to genuine human hunger for Him.   Jack Hayford

To worship in spirit and truth does not imply more effort on our side.

It leads us into the heart of God. God is spirit, therefore He communicates to our spirit, the reborn new man. Jesus Himself said: I am the Truth, the Life and the Way.

In prayer we live in the power and enabling of the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit. Since the day of Pentecost and the outpouring of the Spirit, the official birth date of the church, we live in the dispensation of the Holy Spirit who is:

The comforter and reminder of Jesus Himself.

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also. 20 At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (John 14:12-20)

 The Holy Spirit initiates prayer, long before you start praying it. When you make the decision to accept Jesus, the Holy Spirit had already done the work to prepare you for His indwelling of your spirit-man. Jesus breathed on His disciples to receive the Holy Spirit.

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:22.

Jesus talks to Nicodemus about being born again into the Kingdom of God, the invisible kingdom on earth that Jesus and John the Baptist talked about. Then He says:

Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. (John 3: 5,6: The Message)

So, if we make the decision to accept Jesus into our life, we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit initiates and enables the new man, the new creation in Christ. [2 Corinthians 5:17]

And yet Jesus’ last words were:

But you shall receive power (ability, efficiency, and might) when the Holy Spirit has come upon you… Acts 1:8

The Holy Spirit is the key to receiving the gifts that enables the church for all the work to be done.

 

Come walk the power-walk of the church of Jesus.