The Epic Life- John 18:37, Exodus 3:10, 14

Pilate therefore said unto him, Art thou a king then? Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.

Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt.
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

COMMENTARY

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world
Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
These verses are incredibly stirring. This notion of being called of God, of having an express purpose, a unique role to fulfill, a mission to undertake…these are the things that the heart yearns for! And while Moses took a little convincing to accept his calling, both he and the Savior became incredibly bold in declaring that they were doing what they had been called to do, and no man was going to prevent them in that. Indeed, that is the whole point of what Jesus is saying to Pilate in this first verse: the fact that he is facing the death penalty does not mean he has failed in his mission, rather it is the fulfillment of it. This trial, this crucifixion, this sacrifice…this has all been what he was born to do. “no power here. He’s not the one in charge. He is a pawn, pulled by strings that are pulled by God, all to make this very moment happen (see John 19:10-11).
Once again, isn’t there something exciting in Jesus’ testimony of his own destiny? And the fact that these stories excites something deep within us is significant. That we feel so affected really means something. For if we were not meant to reach for our own great purpose in life, then our soul would not stir at these words. Our hearts testify of what is true by how they respond to it. They race when they come into proximity with ideas that are good and right. These stories of receiving a divine calling are preserved so that they may excite us, and when they excite us we know that we should seek such experiences for ourselves.

Give Thanks- Divinity

I am grateful for divinity.

Many of the things I have already expressed gratitude for in this series can be considered a moment of God showing His hand in my life. A moving piece of music or a sincere and thoughtful tale. A pattern of mathematics. A mentor’s help and a child’s kindness. The variety of the world. The opportunities of time. The desires within us to make new and good things. The healing of the heart. I sense His divinity in all these aspects of life.

I believe that if each of us paused to consider the things we are most grateful for, we would recognize that they are the moments when we glimpse another side of our Maker. Our fondest memories are based around Him in one way or another.

It is true that we live in a fallen world, and it obscures our view of God, but He condescends to our presence in every way that He still can. When He does, these become the defining moments of our lives. They awaken in us the desire to be better. They make us to be our best selves.

#givethanks

The Need for Law- The Three Laws

I’ve spent these last few posts discussing a different laws, their origins and their destinations, and it has been a pretty organic, free-flowing conversation. And while everything I wrote made sense in my own head, I imagine it might have been a bit confusing to follow. Having muddled out all the details for myself, I think it would now be worthwhile to spell things out more clearly.

These are the three different laws that govern our lives as I understand them. The scriptural references to support them are included throughout my previous posts. It is, of course, entirely possible that I am misaligned in some way though. Spiritual study, after all, is a process of constant refinement.

Mortal Law

What I mean by mortal law is the balance of nature that rules our world. These are the purely physical forces that define gravity, magnetism, chemical and nuclear reaction, and all the other natural interactions that make our universe the way that it is. These laws are observable with our physical senses, and can be measured and studied. They are consistent and reliable, as every universal law is.

These laws provide wonderful benefits to us. They allow the matter of our planet to have coalesced into a singular body, they keep it moving in a steady orbit, they retain a breathable atmosphere around us, and they also maintain every other requirement to make our lives possible.

These laws are fair in that they apply equally and universally to all. However they give no assurances for social, moral, or karmic justice. That is entirely outside of their domain. And so the lazy might prosper and the industrious come to ruin. The guilty might be exonerated and the innocent condemned. The unhealthy might survive and the healthy die young.

But whether rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, good or evil, wise or foolish…the mortal law brings all to the same conclusion. Death, entropy, eternal silence. Under this law we all share the common destiny of ceasing all existence forever.

Divine Law

Divine law is where the influence of God enters the mortal realm. As such, it directly addresses the limitations of the mortal law. While the wicked may still prosper under the worldly domain, divine law now requires that they will be stung in their conscience. While the pure-hearted may still die young, divine law assures that they can pass in peace.

To put it simply, where mortal law governs our bodies, divine law’s domain is that of the spirit and soul. And just as how mortal law applies the same rules to each body equally, divine law weighs on each spirit equally, too. No good deed goes without a sense of fulfillment, no evil deed goes without a stinging of the conscience.

And where mortal law consigns us all to the grave, divine law picks us up from that one destiny and turns it into two. It ushers the immortal spirit either into a paradise or into a hell, depending on whether its precepts and commandments were obeyed or not. The problem here is that we, given our fallen nature, have each disobeyed the commandments of divine law, and thus are destined for hell.

Christ’s Law

And here we see the need for one more law. From mortal law our bodies are destined to die, and from divine law are spirits are destined to hell. The final act of everyone’s story is an inescapable tragedy.

Christ’s purpose is to answer the demands of both laws and to offer us a third in their place. He accomplishes this in three steps.

First, he adopts us as his children. To everyone that is willing, he takes us under his wing, and makes himself culpable for our errors, and us worthy of his virtues. Any punishment we receive he may take for us, and any reward he receives he may give to us.

Second, he pays for our crimes. He died to the mortal law and he was condemned by divine law. In Gethsemane he suffered the pain of a soul damned to hell. On Calvary he suffered the death of his body.

Third, he rises above his own death and condemnation, so that he can continue as our adoptive father, able to govern us and give grace as he sees fit.

Unlike the first two laws, this third one from Christ is entirely optional. We may refuse it if we wish. That is fine, we will simply remain under the purview of divine law, still consigned to hell. On the other hand, we may accept his law, and as a result our destination can be changed to life and paradise. He resurrects our bodies back from the grave, and he rescues our spirits from the clutches of hell*.

Of course accepting his law now means living that law’s precepts and commandments. Unlike divine law, those commandments are not total perfection, but they do expect particular behavior from us. The good news is that they are behaviors which we actually can satisfy. We will begin examining exactly what they are with the next post.

*Because the mortal law was not chosen by us, but by our first parents Adam and Eve, Christ provides an escape from it for everyone. Even those that reject Christ’s law will have the benefit of resurrection. This is only fair.
Our individual failure to fulfill divine law, however, is on our own heads, and so reclamation from hell is dependent on whether we accept Christ’s law or not.

The Need for Law- Romans 8:2-4

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

COMMENTARY

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
Yesterday we considered how God gave us His Law, which took us from the destiny of the grave, and split that into two paths, one towards salvation and one towards damnation. The problem, though, was that each of us breaks God’s Law, which consigns us to the path of damnation, an even worse situation that what we were in before.
But God’s plan did not end here. In addition to putting His Law upon us He provided a Savior as well. In a previous study we examined how Christ is able to pay for the demands and punishments of every law. Yes, each of us breaks God’s Law, but now it is Christ who is consigned to our damnation, having taken that burden upon himself as part of his atoning sacrifice.
Thus, as Paul suggests, we are free at last from both the law of death (required by mortal law) and the law of sin (required by divine law).

For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.
It is important for us to acknowledge and appreciate the doom of mortality’s law and the strictness of divine law, but now we do not have to regard them or their condemnations as our own. Now, if we will allow it, we can subscribe to the law which Paul called “The law of the Spirit of life in Christ.” And if we satisfy the demands of this third law (and this one, thankfully, we can satisfy the terms of!), then we avoid the two terrible destinations of death and hell, and may instead access the third destination, the one that we desire.
It took the quite process to get here, but at last we have the option to obtain resurrection, forgiveness, and salvation with God.

The Need for Law- Question

At the end of my last study it came up how the Atonement of Jesus Christ was performed to fulfill the laws of our fallen world, while also enabling a new law, one of grace and salvation. The scriptures say a very great deal about law, and speak to a sense of system and procedure in divinity.

But at the same time, structured religion is becoming less and less popular today. People seek ways to be “spiritual not religious,” and refute the idea of a God who has terms and conditions. I do understand the reason for this, it is a very difficult thing (perhaps impossible) to not project all the limitations and flaws of our mortal laws and governments on the divine. Because we see how our attempts at structure are so flawed, we struggle to imagine what a perfect structure could be like.

But that does not mean that the perfect structure does not exist. Rather than trying to excuse ourselves from God’s law (because we cannot conceive of it properly) we should broaden our perspectives to better glimpse it. And the more we do glimpse it properly, the less hesitation we will have in being subject to it.

With this study I would like to consider what different laws are described in the scriptures and what their purposes are. I would like to consider why we need law, and why God uses this form for leading His children. Finally I would like to examine how the implementation of divine law does not preclude a divine Father being able to have a personal (and personalized) connection with each child.

I would be curious to hear how you have been able to resolve the rigidity of divine law with the warmth of paternal love. What differences are most significant to you between the Old Testament law and that of the New Testament? What reasons do you believe are behind those differences? What do you think perfect law looks like when perfectly understood?

Who Am I?- Question

Our relationship with divinity seems to be a tricky one. We tend to think of God and Jesus as persons, distinct beings, clearly defined entities.

But then there is the matter of the trinity, which suggests that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are one being that manifests in three forms. Other religions take the identity blending still further, where we are all nothing more than manifestations of one single cosmic consciousness, to which we wish to return in a total homogeneous unity.

Even language in the Christian scriptures speaks of God and Jesus as being a part of us, and of us being remade in their image. Does this mean that we are nothing more than manifestations of their own selves? Does it mean that we melt into them at some point of our discipleship and lose our individuality?

I do have my opinions on the nature of God, but that isn’t the question that I want to focus on with this study. I’d rather focus now on the other question: what is the nature of me? I want to consider the purpose of diversity and individuality, and whether they can survive after we have become unified with the divine. What is the correct relationship to pursue with God and/or Jesus? Am I a son? A brother? A creation? An unperfected manifestation of their same self?

I’d be curious to hear if you have ever struggled with questions of your own divine identity before. How did you find your own place in the greater scheme of things? Did your journey involve you seeing God as a part of you, or as separate from you? Who would you say your perfected self is?

Service to Others- Matthew 5:38-41

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

COMMENTARY

An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth
Our carnal tendency is to give as we have received. Not to give as we would like to receive, such as the golden rule recommends, but only to give as we have already received. As such, we have no mortal motivation to show a kindness to another unless they have already shown a kindness to us first. The problem with this approach is that then no kind act can ever be performed, as it requires an initiating factor. The whole pattern must be begun by one who does a kindness without reason, having received no kindness of their own. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.
What is conceivable, though, is an initiating unkindness, a moment where someone takes advantage of another for their own benefit. This would then start a toxic chain of retaliation unkindness through all humanity, and there could never be an end to the series because it requires a terminating factor. The whole pattern could only be closed by one who receives an unkindness and then, without reason, chooses not to retaliate. To the carnal mind, this is inconceivable.

Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also
So would acting charitably mean giving unfairly and forgiving where it isn’t deserved? Quite frankly, yes. And that is the ultimate ambition. It is just that sort of charity that brought our Savior to lay down his life for us, even though we did not deserve any such kindness. And so charity is a principle in direct contrast to that of an eye for an eye. It is an uncomfortable principle, one that goes against our natural sense of indignation. But it is the only way to ever end a dance of abuse and counterattack, and the only way to ever start a dance of benevolence and generosity.