Monday, March 2, 2009

SALVATION Word Study Devotional

“I have waited for your salvation, O Lord!” (Genesis 49:18 - NKJV) An incredible word, in both Hebrew and Greek, “salvation” means “to be delivered or saved (from)” In Hebrew it’s yesh-oo-aw (SH#3444), from which we get, Joshua (SH#3091) = Jehovah (has) saved (or, J. will deliver); Isaiah (SH#3470) = Yah (has) saved; and, Jesus (SG#2424; from Hebrew SH#3091) = Jehovah (has) saved. Thus, when we speak of salvation, we speak primarily of the saving (or, deliverance) of man from his peril (his bonds) into the safety of God’s place or presence. In the Old Testament, “salvation” is primarily referred to being delivered (or rescued) from bondage, from defeat by an enemy. It is rarely referred to being saved from our sins, except maybe in some abstract sense. Curiously, God uses a form of the word to prophetically describe the rescue of “My people” from their “Baals” (idolatry) into a betrothal of eternal “righteousness,” “justice,” “mercy,” et al., where they will call God, “My Husband” (Ishi, SH#3469), and “my God!” (Elohim, SH#430 = the Almighty, the Supreme Deity; cf. Hosea 2:1-23). “The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation” (Psalm 118:14).

Salvation, in Greek, is soteria (SG#4991), meaning: rescue, safety, save, et al. It is from another Greek word for “deliverer” and “savior.” So, in both Old and New Testament usages, we discover that salvation has a primary meaning of a rescue—a deliverance, a saving—from a perilous place (or position) of bondage into a place (or position) of safety and protection. From a spiritual standpoint, salvation is a place (or position) of complete safety, victory, prosperity, and health. (Cf. SG#4982: sozo = heal, preserve, to be whole.) From both testaments, it is an experience—an event—from which we observe great adulation and worship to God from those being rescued (delivered or saved).

Let’s compare the above word meaning and recipient experiences of salvation with a typical view as shown in some gospel tracts. Many times, salvation is illustrated by showing sinful man on one side of a level and safe plateau, ending at an abrupt precipice. Beneath the precipice is a chasm of flames arising, depicting hell. God, however, is located on the other side of the chasm, on an equally level and safe plateau. Only when the cross of Jesus is placed over the chasm can man “come over” to God’s side and be saved; an easy picture to draw or illustrate. However, I see a disturbing flaw in this depiction: it brings God down to man’s level, on an equal plateau, to save him. This is not a good “visual” illustration of the word meaning for salvation. Explain please?

In order to present salvation as relevant, or acceptable, it is our tendency to make the experience easy to grasp and accept. In doing so, we fail to show lost mankind in need of a deliverance—or rescue—from a perilous position. The whole earth has been condemned by God for a future judgment; it has been corrupted by man’s rebellion. Man does not now reside on a safe plateau, separated from God’s safe plateau by a hell-inflamed chasm, needing only the cross of Jesus to go through to be with God. To accept this visual of salvation means that now a saved man has “peace with God” on His lateral plateau. However, this is not a good illustration, because it illustrates the salvation experience to be a lateral conversion of plateaus where man may now see himself safe on earth with material (or, temporal) prosperity, satisfaction, and health, with a material dwelling place in heaven to go to someday. But until then, salvation means that all things will go well with man while living on this earth on God’s plateau. I call this a “man-level salvation.”

Let’s compare this “level” of thinking with the Scriptures. First of all, take the example of the earthly life and dwelling of Jesus. When you do, you’ll discover that nothing Jesus said or did match the above mentality of which I describe. His message and ministry of salvation were to get man to turn from this world and to turn to God’s kingdom now. His salvation would bring man peace with God, only if man could see his sin payment satisfied with God from above, from a higher level. Jesus taught His followers to look beyond the world into God’s place (or position) for salvation. “You are from beneath;” said Jesus to the Pharisees. “I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23; cf. Jn. 19:11).

Salvation from God is one that transfers man from an out-of-this-world mentality into a spiritual mentality that is from above. It is not a “come over,” lateral move, to experience and receive God here on this earth, on our level; it is a rescue from above into the safety and security of God’s place and position. The “heavenly places” are “in Christ,” where He is currently “seated” (Eph. 1:3, 20). Salvation that is from above places me into this spiritual body of His, called “the church,” (Eph. 1:22, 23) where I now exist, seated in the “heavenly places” (Eph. 2:6). Christ is the “head” (Eph. 1:22; 5:23) over His body and I fit somewhere in it, which is not designed from beneath, but from above. The beauty and majesty of genuine salvation is when man sees everything about himself, from an “above” perspective, as a member of Christ’s church, His body.

Notice what the multitude exclaimed before God’s throne: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:10); and again: “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, ‘Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down’” (Rev. 12;10). What was the multitude excited about? Answer: “Salvation” from above. Were they shouting about the beauties of heaven? No! They were shouting about “Salvation”! Were they running around heaven looking for their “mansion,” or their friends and family? No! They were gathered around the throne, having a spell over “salvation”! When they saw the throne of God and the power of Christ to save, they knew they were at their eternal home, safe and secure from the power and kingdom of darkness that reigned on the earth below. It was the “accuser” who was “cast down” to earth. Read verse 12 of Revelation 12: “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

I have seen and experienced the beauty of the ocean and waterfalls of Hawaii; and I have seen and hiked among the majesty of the Alaska Range. I have seen the sun arise from the Atlantic and set into the Pacific—even at 30,000 feet! But all that I have seen and experienced in this world pales in comparison to what I have found in Jesus. Salvation is found only in the One who has delivered me out of the darkness of this world and has transferred me into the heavenly kingdom of His love and presence (Cf. Col. 1:13).

Do you have a salvation that has taken you “out of this world”? Did you invite God to “come over” to your place and help you make it through this old world, or, did you see the world and all of its sin and then find the rescue and saving offer from God through Jesus? Do you agree with Paul concerning this world: “Yet indeed I count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish [dung], that I may gain Christ”? (Phil. 3:8) You can’t take the dung with you, so why squabble over it? (The more you mess with it, the more it stinks!)

The salvation from above is God’s plan of rescue from this sin-diseased world, having used a sin-cursed cross, with a sinless sacrifice hanging on it: the only begotten, perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. He does not offer you salvation that helps you “make it” down here; but He offers a salvation that sends your spirit and soul to reside in the heavenly places in the resurrected Christ. When you finally see yourself there, right now…nothing—absolutely nothing!—can shake you down here. Now that’s a salvation from above!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

SIN Word Study Devotional

"For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - 2 Corinthians 5:21

The Greek word for sin is an interesting one; it is pronounced, hamartia, giving the -negative prefix (S#1) a rough breathing mark, which makes it sound as ha. Add to it, meros (the base of martia: S#3313), which means “a section, a piece, a portion, a share, an allotment, a part, (in) respect (to),” etc. Add the negative a, and it says: “no section, no piece, no portion, no share,” etc.

It was God’s intention to share (meros) the earth and His glory with Man. Man was to multiply and manage the earth, allowing God to enjoy the shares—the fellowship—of creation with him. Man, in turn, would also enjoy the shared fellowship of God and His creation. To gauge Man’s eternal devotion to Him, God placed one restriction on Man: he was not to eat of one fruit-bearing tree, “…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…” (Gen. 2:17). This tree was the only thing that Man must be banned from, for in its fruit bore a seed of disobedience and rebellion that would produce an eternal a-negative: the sin nature.

You know the story and you know the outcome: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); or, paraphrased: “For Man has lost his share and has fallen beneath the level of walking in fellowship with God.” (“fall short” = hustereo S#5302 = under or beneath; inferior) God declared that anything and anyone not living on His level, in His fellowship, would die. Since Man was given dominion over God’s creation, when he sinned, all the earth was cursed with death; the earth fell beneath God’s level.

Anything and everything with the a-negative reflects the outcome of Man’s sin: disease, hatred, rebellion, natural disasters, wildlife, weeds, etc.—the list is endless. God gave Man two hopes of starting all over: once with Noah, and another time with Moses. But, alas, even these two had the nature of sin in them. Noah got drunk and one of his sons used this incident to prove the sin nature was still in Man (Gen. 9:20-25); and Moses lost his temper and disobeyed God (Num. 20:7-12); and another time, he didn’t have the guts to circumcise his firstborn…well, you think he forgot? I doubt it. (Cf. Ex. 4:24-26) Therefore, “all have sinned.”

To show man the price of disobedience, God provided a series of covenants to bring Man back into fellowship with Him. His covenants were established with His law (His commands) and a sacrificial system. But Man, at his best, could only have temporal fellowship with God. Man could not have eternal fellowship because, although the law was perfect, the sacrificial system could only be temporal until something/someone perfect—untouched by Man’s sin nature—could be found and presented to God as an eternal sacrifice. Both the law and the sacrificial system had to fulfill the perfect, sinless, eternal standard of God.

To restore fellowship with God—to live in the presence of His glory—Man had to be perfect. Yet Man continued to sin through the a-negatives in the world. For example, when someone lies, or reacts with unrighteous anger, or lusts after someone else’s spouse (adultery, pornography, etc.), or shows greed, or cheats, etc., any or all of these show Man beneath the level of God’s standard for fellowship with Him. There is no place where Man can avoid the reminder of sin. Man, apart from God, has no good thing—no eternal thing—to restore his level with God.

Sin pierces the heart—the nature—of God. He cannot have fellowship with the crown of His creation, Man. When He sees Man, He sees His image marred by sin and is grieved over the sight. That’s because He created Man to love him, to have intimate fellowship with him, and to enjoy the sharing of His creation. Man, for the most part, seems driven to achieve a level of acceptance with his fellow man and with his created source, whether he acknowledges God or not; he seeks acceptance or fellowship. That is why, for millenniums, we have an ongoing record of God dealing with sinful Man, offering him a way to relate to Him. In the end, God would have to make an eternal, perfect, sinless sacrifice that would provide an eternal covering for the eternal sin of Man.

(The answer to this dilemma will be discussed in a separate devotional, entitled, SALVATION; or you may go to: John 3:16; Rom. 5:8; 6:23; 10:9-10, 13)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

GOD as SPIRIT Word Study Devotional

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—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. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you… If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” –John 14:15-18, 23 (NKJV; emphasis added)

The Greek verb construction of “love,” “abide,” and “loves” is present tense, subjunctive mood, and active voice (psa). It is defined as continuous (or repeated) action that is contingent upon the subject. “Continuous” defines the action of the verb as linear rather than punctiliar. Its focus is on the kind of action, not the time of action. “Contingent,” in the subjunctive mood, means that the action of the verb is dependent upon the subject acting. Thus Jesus is saying to His disciples that God-like love (agapao – the psa verb; S#25) is expressed in their doing something: keeping His commandments—His directives—NOT in how they felt. They felt deep emotions over Jesus saying He was leaving them (John 14:1; 16:20, 22), but He is telling them here to get over it because Someone was coming to assist them with “greater works” (v.12). Their focus, in order to continue His work, must be to repeatedly hear, understand, and obey His commandments—His goals for man on earth. (This is the psa of agapao.)

God as Spirit would be that Someone of whom Jesus spoke. Verse 16 says that Jesus “will pray [petition] (future tense: ft) the Father, and He will give (ft) you another Helper, that He may abide (psa) with you forever.” “…another Helper” is allos (S#243) parakletos; that is, “another”—an alias—of the same Person, separate, yet same. The King James uses the word “Comforter” for “Helper” (S#3875 = intercessor, consoler, advocate), because He does console believers, as needed; but the subjunctive mood of this present active structure drives the definition more to that as the Spirit who will advocate—that is, assist them in His directives, His goals: “—the Spirit of truth…” (v.17). The drive of the Spirit here is to advocate for “truth.” This passage of Scripture gives, perhaps, the best description of the mission of God as Spirit. Jesus is patiently working His disciples through the transition period of when He, as Son of Man, would have to die so that He, as the Spirit of God, “…may abide with [them] forever,” as their Advocate (cf. 1 Jn. 2:1). As disciples who “love” Him (psa), they would have continual access to God as Spirit. This access—this abiding presence—of God as Spirit would be contingent (subjunctive mood) to their living in obedience to the truth (“keep My commandments.”). Jesus was teaching His first disciples that what He taught and did in their presence, God as Spirit would continue to do through all God-loving, obedient (agapeo – psa vb.) believers from then on. Jesus called the results of this love, “greater works” (v.12) because of the passing of time and the expansion of His presence through God as Spirit.

Unless you have managed to redefine the word “forever,” the above passage tells you that a believer has access to a continual, abiding presence of the Spirit of God and Jesus. “Access” does not mean a complete takeover, nor “appearance,” such as the coming and going of God’s Spirit in and out of the believer, as in the Old Covenant; rather it means the believer can tap into His resources at any given time, provided he is fulfilling the above subjunctive mood condition of verse 15: “If you have Christ-like characteristics, meaning: if you possess the nature of My love, then maintain My directives.” (“Maintain,” instead of “keep” clarifies the aorist imperative active verb, because “keep” is sometimes understood as possessive: “to store up,” which is not the verb meaning here. For the strength of the words “abide” and “Our home,” see ABIDE Word Study, previously written.)

Jesus also demonstrated levels of His presence and power with His disciples by having more interaction with some of the disciples. There was an inner circle of three (Peter, James, and John) among the twelve. This does not mean He loved them more than the others, or that the three deserved or had more access to Him (except when they were alone with Him); rather, it reveals the call of God on these three to have a deeper trust (faith) in Him for future specific tasks. So it remains today that some believers walk in a more faithful—more serviceable—manner than other, equally loved, believers. It has nothing to do with favoritism; it has all to do with living in obedience to His truths by faith.

Some treat God as Spirit like they treat a kiosk or an ATM: when you need something from Him, and you need it fast, you go find Him or you ask Him to come help you; plus, others think you get back from God what you put into Him—neither is correct. First of all, “He dwells with you and will be in you” (v. 17, above); and, second, “We [God & Jesus] will come to him [the believer] and make Our home with him” (v. 23, above). This means God and Jesus are present with you always as the Holy Spirit—the “Spirit of truth.” Plus, in His presence, He gives all attention to you and to your needs in an unselfish and enduring way. All that He is and has are available to you to see you through whatever circumstance you are in, as long as you are maintaining His directives in your life. The Greek verb tenses do not allow Him to run away from you nor to hide from you. The ONLY stoppage of your access to Him is your lack of obedience to his truths, or lack of FAITH to believe His words. He will not come and go as if you were in an orphanage; He will be with you at all times to help you fulfill His words (v.18).

Do not allow your traditional theology or your emotions to cause you to miss out on this very precious truth of God as Spirit. He is the “Holy” Spirit, full of glory, majesty, and power of the Almighty God. He is worthy of all your attention and the time necessary for you to grasp and display His God-likeness in and through you, and to fulfill those directives given to you by Jesus. Concentrate on Who’s you are and all other things needed will be given you to display His truth.