HERETIC ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WARNING; READING THIS BLOG MAY PROVE UNHEALTHY TO YOUR ORTHODOXY!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mere Humanity

'Re-elect no one'!

Okay, this may seem a bit extreme, but is it really?! Where has electing/hiring 'the lesser of two evils' for the past couple hundred years gotten us? I mean sure; you may listen to the main-stream Christian who tells you something like, 'it's only your civic duty before God to vote', and 'if you vote for someone who doesn't have a chance ( 3rd party ), you're throwing away your vote; even worse, it's a vote for the more evil of the two ( D & R )'! While it is true that 'someone' has to govern, why must we have someone else to govern 'us'?

The problem of evil, for as long as it has been around, has been a human problem, and as long as mere human beings hang around, the problem of evil will never be completely solved, or done away with! Yes; I'm saying that humanity is inherently evil, and no, I'm not saying they're all bad, or totally corrupted! ( confused yet? )

There are too many people out there, including the majority of Christians, but specifically leaders of all sorts, who seem to think that we can solve our problems through the same means that created the problems in the first place. The founding fathers of this country did many good things, and we honor them for the things they did right, and the sacrifices they made for the foundation of this country, but they were not perfect! There were flaws in the documents that they wrote, and the laws that they made. ( please don't get me wrong: both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are well-written and very workable documents, for their purposes ) Beginning even before those exalted fathers even thought of drawing breath, the notion of the separation of church & state was proposed. At the time, it may have seemed like a good idea, and indeed it was very much a necessity for religious freedom, to say nothing of civil liberty. The Catholic Church, which made the claim of being the only true church, was in control of the state, and you need not much of an imagination to see how that would all trickle down to the lowest peon.

'No King, but King Jesus'

What a noble cry and aspiration! If we would shout this from the housetops as the patriots did on the battlefield and live it as our founding fathers did, shedding their blood, both on the courtroom floor, from the pulpit, and on the battlefield, we might have a fighting chance to turn this beast around and bring this nation back from, it seems, the brink of destruction.

It is necessary, you may say, to have these laws, to have these governors, and for the purpose of holding evil in check, and of punishing law-breakers, I would tend to agree. However, realizing first of all, that Jesus ( God ) IS our King, not because we say He is, but just because He is, we must understand that 'we the people' have been given the power and authority to govern, not others so much as ourselves. If we would correctly, according to the Revelation of God's Word, govern ourselves, without the interference of any outside contender, think how that would, not trickle down, but flow outward!

Should we then just give up the power that God through our founding fathers vested in 'we the people', without a fight? Should we just let the world go to hell ( in a hand-basket )? Should we not make every effort to place governors in office that will rule ( lead ) according to that Revelation? Damn right, we should!!! Should we vote for 'the lesser of two evils' because they're the only choices available?? Hell no!!! If Jesus is truly your King, then act like it; acquit yourself like a man, govern yourself, and tell those who would claim authority over you that God did not give them, to 'GO TO HELL'!

True Authority

Man, in all his wisdom, is not God! This may be a shocking revelation to some, more or less, but this much is abundantly clear. We have lately been reminded by a dear brother that even his God-given gift of wisdom could not save king Solomon, and neither the Law nor the Temple could save Israel! Though men are gifted howsoever by God, it is only through, or by, Wisdom itself that Rule can be truly just, and everlasting!

'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.'

Solomon himself wrote this famous proverb ( 3:5 & 6 ), and though it would seem that he didn't take his own advice, it is most just and true. We can have all the wisdom in the world, but if we do not lean on the Wisdom which founded the world, but trust to our own questionable and unstable wisdom, then we may as well vote for 'the lesser of two evils', give up on the idea of ( any ) government, and let the world go to hell in a hand-basket!

'Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.'
'For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.'

According, not only to Paul above, in Romans 13:1, but in all of Scripture, and even common sense; where does authority originate? Where does anyone get their power? The simplest and truest answer to those questions is 'God'! God alone has the power and authority to exert His will over others, and He gave that power and authority to His Son, Jesus the Christ ( Matthew 28:18 ), and through Him, to His people!

The question stands firm then, I believe; 'does one truly have authority if he does not wield it for good, as it was intended?' We can say, with authority, that, just as one does not truly have wisdom unless he leans upon the True Wisdom, then one does not truly have authority unless he leans upon the True Authority!

By the authority vested in us,
Charles Haddon Shank

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Healing the Hurt

It's out there!

If you're not careful, you may be in for it too ( even if you ARE careful ), but there is no doubt, unless you live the life of a totally separated hermit, you're going to run into it ( of course, even if you DO separate yourself from everyone and everything, you'll hafta deal with a different sort ); as the song goes, 'Everybody Hurts ( Sometimes )'!

You can't get away from it; it's gonna get you! Hurting, unless you have the ability to stifle all your feelings, is inevitable! The problem is called the human condition. We humans, though we have great capacity for kindness and compassion ( empathy ), also have a capacity ( maybe even more in this case ) for selfishness!

Selfishness is the cause of, if not at the very base of, much of the hurt in this world. A marriage partner wants 'this' out of the marriage, but the other partner wants 'that'. Unless this problem is worked out to the satisfaction of all involved, this often ends in divorce, to varying degrees of nastiness, not that it must needs end in divorce to cause pain! When it does end in divorce, however, it has a detrimental ( emphasis on 'mental' ) effect, both on the divorcees and, if there are children involved, on the children!

Selfishness also has an effect on our everyday lives, even if we are not married, but with much the same effect as on a marriage. Examples of this have even eked into our religious life. Even among Christian brothers, 'falling-outs' often happen because one believes that something is or should be this way, and the other believes they are or are not that way, but should be or are the other way. There ARE certain clear truths, and I'm not saying that we should not uphold these at all costs, but too often, brothers are willing to separate ( selfishly ) over matters of hermeneutics ( interpretation ) and semantics ( wording )!

We all, and some hide this better than others, want things OUR way, and if ( when ) we don't get things our way, we tend to get bent out of shape, and more often or not, this leads to someone getting hurt, emotionally ( spiritually ), or physically. Yes, believe it or not, this condition often leads to physical pain! Even if a person has only suffered emotional pain, it often leads to physical pain because of stress on the body. I can relate to this!

How?

'Okay, so selfishness causes pain, not only to the ones who are selfish, but to those who suffer from their selfishness; what can we do?' 'You've admitted that it's a human condittion, and we ARE human, after all!'

Well; the simplest answer is, of course, 'stop being selfish!' Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done; not perfectly, of course ( 'we ARE human' ), but with the help of the Holy Spirit of God; we can squelch those feelings of selfishness! The answers to our problem are all right there in the Revelation of His Word!

Most famous, probably, is the apostle Paul's biblical injunctiopn in Philippians 2:3 & 4;

'[ Let ] nothing [ be done ] through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.'

Think you can handle that?! If we were able to put this into practice, it would sure go a long way towards taming our own lusts!

The problem in society today is that we are taught, even encouraged to look out for 'number one' ( ourselves-'who's going to if we don't? ) and to ( selfishly? ) pursue our own interests, even if it means stepping on or over others to get to the top! This only heightens our innate ( human ) desire for selfish conquest! I won't get into it much here, but this is something I can relate to, and I'm sure that most of my readers can. This takes place, most notably, as we've seen, in that world of hurt called divorce, and related to this, but hopefully less noticeably, in the marriage chambers, or the bed. ( Use your imagination; YOU ALL know what I'm talking about! )


It's not easy, believe me, I know! It's a lot easier said than done, but it can be done!

Like love and many other verbs, being selfish is a choice. Yes; I know with all that garbage about the human condition and all that, I seem to be contradicting my own report, but really. I'm not! We ALL have a choice whether to do this or that, to act contrary to ( in spite of ) our feelings. Yes, it is often difficult, even with the Holy Spirit, to stifle those selfish feelings, but if we are to 'heal the hurt', starting with ourselves, 'stifle' them we must!

Just like with acting unselfishly; it's not gonna be easy either, to 'heal the hurt'! This society is so inundated, overwhelmed, you might say, that with all the hurt that is just one hurt piled upon another, ever since human beings came into existence; it will be a very long journey to right the wrongs that have been committed, to 'heal the hurt' that has been going on since the beginning of Creation!

This may seem like a daunting task ( it is ), and it may seem that we have such a short time, and as individuals, this is true; we DO have but a moment, but as the People of God, the Body of Christ; we have all the time in the world: we have eternity!

Let's get started!

Charles Haddon Shank

Monday, October 15, 2012

True Authority

'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth'.
Jesus-Mathew 28:18

'Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven,
 and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven'.
Jesus-Matthew 18:18 

For the past 150 years, give or take, our culture has been on a downward slide! Some may blame it on some outside 'force' ( many Christians will tell you that this world is 'Satan's ), and since we're only passing through, anyway, on our way to 'heaven', it seems most feel that to get involved in politics, if not an outright sin against God, does no more than to 'polish brass on a sinking ship'.

The separation of church and state, if not the most egregious crime committed in the past several centuries, has to be one of the most insidious and far-reaching ideas ever perpetrated. This country was founded upon biblical principles, and thus, for a while truly prospered. As the Church began to loose Her impact though, both in the pulpits and the streets, more and more immoral and irreligious behavior began to take place under her up-turned nose, and so much so that it has become, not just accepted, but in many ways and places, even encouraged or mandated!

One only need read a history, even up till a few centuries ago, to see what impact, though questionable, maybe, the Church has had on the Culture around Her. Up until a century ago or so, the Church still held this sway, but with the notion that the Church, even individual institutional churches, should not be involved with civil matters, or matters of state, Her influence has rapidly dwindled!

Society, as a whole, should be a reflection of the Church, but instead, we too often see it the other way around! Seeker-friendly churches are just one example; rather than leading the sinner to repentance, we have joined in his sin so that he will fill our coffins, I mean 'coffers'! 

This missive is aimed, not only at the institutional church, where much of the problem most visibly lies, but at the very 'heart' of the Body of Christ Herself! This is not to say that every individual member of the Body of Christ should feel pangs of guilt for this ignominy, because there are many out there, within and without the institutional church who have taken very serious note of this problem, and have quietly, even subversively been working to correct the problem. As a whole though, we need to take far more seriously, and with greater fervor, the original ( creation ) mandate, to tend the Garden, and to have dominion over the entire creation, not just what lies within the four walls of our church buildings!

The political landscape of this country, sad to say, is directly proportional to the saving influence of the Church! Because of the aforementioned decision to separate Herself, for whatever reason, from matters of state, both Church & State have suffered, the difference being that the Church, because of her focus on 'heavenly' things, has reclined, while the State, because it has not the Church to show it a better Way, has declined: one could almost rightly say that the Church ( yes, the Body of Christ ) has declined as well!

Though this may be the case, and the Church, along with the State, may seem to be caught in an inescapable down spiral;  all is not lost, we ARE the Body of Christ, and with the authority of Christ ( God ), Who IS the True Ruler of this world, we CAN once again exert the influence on the State that we once held, and should have!

Can this nation be turned back to the course which Her Creator set for Her in His Holy Word, and revealed though His Church? Can we, the Body of Christ, His Church, through the power and authority given to US, bring this nation back from the seeming brink of disaster?!

You bet we can, the question is, 'will we?' 

With fear and trembling,
Charles Haddon Shank 

Monday, October 08, 2012

Implications and Applications

Right theology is important, don't get me wrong, and even, to a great degree, necessary, but it really doesn't do the dishes or take out the trash, when it comes down to it!

Covenant theology, in my opinion, my belief, is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! The implications of Covenant Eschatology, on the one hand, are turning the world up-side down, reaching all the way back to the beginning of Creation, the Genesis of the People of God. On the other, however, the application of these freeing principles could be another matter!:(

The belief that the 'world' is 'going to hell in a hand-basket', or some other idiotic and misinformed notion, has caused more than a bit of trouble for nearly two centuries now ( probably more ). The belief that Jesus will be coming back anytime now ( imminently ), after which God will literally burn up this present heavens and earth, and fully establish His New Creation, is both irresponsible and biblically indefensible. Most will admit, to their credit ( or is that 'shame' ) that we are already in Christ a New Creation, but not realizing that it is through His New Creation that He is burning up, or purifying His New Heavens and New Earth, they think the best thing to do is to hunker down and wait for Jesus to physically come back and rescue them from their own ignorance, apathy, and stupidity!

I do believe that II Peter 3 was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD70 ( that WAS a literal burning up of the 'heavens' and 'earth' ).

Leaving the Old World Behind

As we live our lives in this 'New World', which Jesus spoke of as 'the age to come' ( Mark 10:30Luke 20:27-38 ); we should realize that the Judaistic practices which Jesus, Paul and the Apostles struggled with in their several ministries were indeed ready to pass away, but I believe that we often forget, almost, what exactly it was that was about to vanish. It was not the Law itself which was about to be taken away, about which Paul says, 'the righteous requirements of the law': it was not even the cleanliness and dietary or even Sabbath laws, per se, that were removed, for these all pointed to the Christ, and are fulfilled in Him. It was that, as Jeremiah wrote, God would 'put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts'; instead of 'on tablets of stone' ( II Corinthians 3:3 ); no longer would it be an external command, written in stone, for men to obey, and thereby seem to be righteous and wise, but now it was written in their hearts, seared into their conscience, so to speak, for none can be purified through external observance, it is only through an internal conviction that a man ( or woman ) can be purified!

As we explore the implications of a totally fulfilled eschatology in the 'new age' of discovery and Kingdom Life, we should first of all remind ourselves that it is ALL about Christ! Jesus was God Himself who came to earth ( became human-one of us ) so that He could save His people from their sin, the sin of Adam, and pursue a more intimate relationship with us! Secondly, we must realize that we ARE part of a greater story, the story that is laid out for our instruction and understanding in Scripture! Although we, as believers in a totally fulfilled eschatology, teach that all Scripture is fulfilled in Christ, we do NOT mean to imply a conclusion of the story. As 'sons of the resurrection' ( or better, 'THE Resurrection' ), we are partakers in, and benefactors of ALL the promises made to Israel, whether under that first covenant, or in the New Covenant, for all the promises in that first covenant pointed to the Reality which is Christ in the New Covenant. The chiastic structure of Scripture, beginning in Genesis and ending with Revelation shows us the end goal of the eschaton; that end goal was that, as in the original Garden, God would again make His home with ( in ) His people; this is why Jesus had the name 'Emmanuel' ( God with us ), and why Paul called us 'the Body of Christ', and 'the temple of the Holy Spirit'!

Beyond AD70

There is some talk going around these days that if all is fulfilled, then there is nothing more to be done than to 'eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die'; there is talk, as well, that there is no more activity of the Holy Spirit, since God in the fullness of Christ dwells with us, as per John 14:23. The Holy Spirit was given to the first-century church as a Comforter until Jesus' Parousia, right? I believe that questions and statements like this only prove that there is much misunderstanding of the nature of the Trinity and of the God-head within the Church throughout the ages. The traditional construct of 'Father, Son, and Holy Spirit' was never meant to convey three separate Gods! I believe much of the problem in misunderstanding comes when men have tried to explain it as 'three separate persons' within the God-head. This is no better, and maybe even more confusing then 'three separate gods'! As the Father ( Creator ) of all things, He, in Genesis One, 'was hovering over the face of the waters', as the Son, He was born of a woman ( became human ) in order to 'save His people from their sins'; during the 'transition period' ( between the death of the first covenant, and the Life of the New ), He invested His people through His Spirit to comfort them in their 'Great Tribulation', and to show them the true meaning of 'God with us'!

The Scriptures have also come to be in danger of almost totally being discarded because of a lack of understanding of the fullest implications of their covenantal nature! Scripture is one 'meta-narrative' ( as a good friend of mine calls it ), and because it is one continuous story, it is easy, though covenant eyes, to see that God's purpose, as described earlier, to return and dwell forever with His people, was worked out through centuries, even millenia of covenant death ( separation ) and renewal ( salvation ); we can read this history throughout Scripture, beginning with the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, throughout the book of Judges, on into the books of the Kings, and finally up to the Advent of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem. As before, being 'sons of the resurrection', we were born into what Jesus called 'the age to come', the never-ending age. Being thus born, we are 'equal to the angels and are sons of God' ( Luke 20:21-38 ), and are become, as those 'sons of Abraham' according to promise ( Galatians 3:7 ), 'the leaves of the tree' that ARE 'for the healing of the nations'!


'How should we then live?'

By no means have we exhausted the implications of a totally fulfilled eschatology here, and it is not my purpose to do so; you must search out for yourself ( be a 'Berean' ) the full implication ( s ). The purpose of this article is to reveal the sheer stupidity of stopping at 70AD ( like the Reformed seem to say, 'this/thus far, and no further' ) and with their focus on 70AD, sit around arguing like 'nincompoops' about how this or that was or was not ( couldn't have been ) fulfilled by then, tearing apart ( rabidly ) the Body of Christ, creating schism, and further making a 'blooming' mess out of what God in the Christ did for His people!

What is needed, and some have already begun to do this, is to apply these principles of Fulfilled Eschatology to our Kingdom Life, to make application of the implications! How do we do this? Well, for one thing, we shouldn't sit on our asses, making inane arguments that usually lead to a separation of some sort, between brothers and sisters in Christ! How many times have we seen this happen throughout the years since Max King first reintroduced ( most notably, anyway ) these principles? I'm not here to 'sling mud' or to name names ( point fingers ), but there are so many 'brands' of preterism out there, with new ones popping up like 'tulips', that it seems they can no longer be counted on one hand. Is it any wander that some are going off the deep end and coming up with all kinds of crazy notions, even going so far as to say that we do not belong to the Israel of God?

We need to stop resting in our beliefs ( that's what the Pharisees did ) and start resting in the One we claim to believe in! If we are ever to be, in actuality, 'the leaves of the tree' that ARE 'for the healing of the nations', then we must live as He lived, not tearing each other apart, as we are prone to, but dealing with one another in love, as well as with those who are outside. We need to live as a new creature, not as the old one, the mere human being who wants to snarl and fight for every piece of meat! We need to live as this world IS our home, as God is the Ruler, and as we ARE His vice-regents! This IS His Kingdom, and we are rulers ( of it ) with Him ( in fact, this is basically what 'Israel' means, look it up )! Let's take the bull by the horns, ( gracefully ) take exception to those who would deny His rule on earth, and live ( starting with ourselves, our families, our churches, and on down the line ) as kings in this 'new' world!

Living in the New World

It's easy to say 'we are kings', but it's not easy to live it. Sure, we could take our cues from our earthly examples from the past few thousand years, even from the many of the kings of Israel, but we'd end up in the same boat, that metaphorical and mythical ferry-boat that floats back and forth across the river Styx ( in other words; 'DEAD'! ) There is one notable difference between those kings and us: we live, not in that old 'world', under all those laws, signs, and symbols that merely pointed to Christ, but in the new 'world' that God made His re-creation, that He transformed, as Paul wrote almost 2,000 years ago to the Church at Rome, 'by the renewing of your mind'. One might might ask, too, 'what does it mean that we are kings?'
'I sure don't feel like royalty!' True enough, too many of us have given up on the notion that we are royalty, as God Himself said, 'you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation' ( Exodus 19:6 ), and 'has made us kings[b] and priests' ( Revelation 1:6 ); furthermore, He said, almost 2,000 years ago, that 'we[f] shall reign on the earth' ( Revelation 5:10 )! Most, if not all of the time, we don't feel like this is true, and this is part of the problem that has been festering within the Body for years, spreading like a malicious cancer, and weakening the knees of the greater multitude of the Church! For the past several hundred years anyway, the Church has been intimately attached to the notion that we are just 'polishing brass on a sinking ship', that 'this world', though maybe a 'training ground', 'is not my home'. We need to return to the notion, as a Body, that we are given the original Creation Mandate', to 'have dominion', to spread abroad the good news that the Creator of all things, and the Father of glory once again dwells in the midst of His people, through which He wishes to have a personal relationship with His creation! When we bicker and fight amongst ourselves, instead of working together peaceably, even with those with whom we disagree, are we not showing those who still have their blinders on that we are no different than they? If we cannot work together to heal the rifts in our own lives, how will we heal the nations?

Again, we are faced with a daunting choice; will we continue to wrestle with the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, spending hours upon hours of debate, and thousands of dollars to prove we are right, or will we accept that God is right, and make the applications in our own life. Part of living in this 'new' world is realizing that, as kings and priests ( or, a kingdom of priests ), we DO reign in this 'world'! God's people are the ones with the power and authority, not those who stand against God and threaten our freedom in Christ! We need to stand up and let these false rulers know where they stand, not above us, but below us, beneath our feet, if you will. If we can begin to make application of the implications of Fulfilled Eschatology, then, and only then, will we begin to have a real and lasting impact in this 'world'!

The Separation of Church & State?

As well as theological implications; there are political implications as well, and it is mainly in this area that application needs to be made! Yes, I said 'politics'! For far too long, people have had the notion, Christians especially, that the Church and State governments should not, could not mix. I think that much of this came about because of state-sponsored ( and enforced ) religion, which was a big problem as early as Constantine, in the 3-400s A.D. Again, it is not my purpose here to go into a lengthy study of the many atrocities that have been committed in the name of God by the state-sponsored churches; the Inquisition, which lasted for many hundreds of years, is a glaring example!

On the other side of the coin, probably much the same could be said about Calvin's 'Geneva', and about other such instances where a certain church, or sect, has gotten control of state ( or city ) government. Some might say that this would be better than a state-controlled church, but maybe it would be wise, in this case, to ask those who may have suffered unjustly under the reign of a church-controlled state! Either situation is not good, unless it be according to the principles laid out in Scripture, rightly interpreted, of course! The government of South Africa from its founding, all the way up through the atrocities of 'apartheid' might bear some scrutiny in this respect, as well, even, as the foundling years of our own nation.

As we come to whatever conclusion we might, and I come near to the conclusion of this article; we might think now, on our necessary application of the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, as concerns our own life, liberty, and happiness in this nation of ours, the United States of America. The Founding Fathers were inspired, in many respects, to lay out a good course for this new nation, but we must understand that though their intentions may have been the best, and because of that, and the blood, sweat, and tears of many like-minded patriots, they were not perfect, and neither was any documentation they constituted for us! One might wander if their beliefs, especially concerning eschatology, had anything to do with this! Don't get me wrong; I'm not saying that just because they may have believed that Christ's coming was in our future, they had everything wrong: I'm just saying that this might be something worth considering in our clamor for a return to their principles. They, at least, did have the motto of 'No king but King Jesus'!

As bad as things have gotten in this country, and things may get worse before they get better; we still enjoy a few, anyway, of the freedoms for which our forbears fought, and in many cases lost their lives for! Living in this great nation, with the admittedly dwindling freedoms that we do still enjoy, what have we to do but to stand up for the freedom, the liberty which we have been granted by our Creator, which rights are inalienable, i.e., no one but that very Creator can remove or otherwise transfer those rights from us!

Conclusion

In conclusion then, we cannot stand idly by while our liberties are unjustly and unrighteously withheld, but rather, we must, as a nation, a kingdom of priests, begin to act, once more as priests, first, as we have seen, to our families, then in our county and state governments, then to the nation and the world! This is, after all, our Father's world, and like it or not, yea or nay, He IS here and NOW, and He has given us, His people, the dominion, not those who deny Him! It is up to us to finish the job, not alone, for He dwells, once more, in the midst of His people! If we do not, in this generation, stand and fight for our freedoms, much as, but maybe even in a greater respect than our forbears did; God will surely raise up a deliverer from some other quarter, but what kind of life will we have to show for our inaction? What kind of life will our children enjoy? Our grandchildren?

There are serious implications, and logical conclusions that we must draw from the truths that have been revealed to us, and I have not exhausted these either! Unless we make application of these truths in our own lives, however, they will be of no use to those around us, and in fact, we could probably imagine at least one way in which these implications without application could prove detrimental to the Cause!

Let us stop bickering with one another about the implications of a fulfilled eschatology, although these may keep us busy for an infinite period of time, and focus instead on making the necessary applications of this important truth, the fact that we ARE a chosen nation ( not the United States, but the people of God ), we are a royal priesthood, we have been raised to new life in and with Christ, and we ARE the Temple, the dwelling-place of our Creator, Father and God!

Let us keep these important and inspiring truths in the forefront of our mind, as we LIVE our lives, giving our utmost, heart, mind AND strength, for His highest, in service to Him and His Kingdom, His people, His Creation!

In His grace,
Charles Haddon Shank





Thursday, October 04, 2012

Baptized Into His Death

Amazingly, there is a dis-concordant note being played today within even the ranks of what is called 'full-preterism'. This dis-concordant note is not a new one, but is rather a hangover, an old note that was never removed when the symphony was renewed. The note in question is the notion that water baptism is necessary, whether as salvific, or as a sign that Jesus Himself commanded. There is no doubt, it being pretty clearly laid down in Scripture, that water baptism was practiced, and even commanded during the transition period in particular, throughout the period between what may be called the first and second advents of God in the Christ!

Most would think that the signs were no longer necessary when the destination to which the sign pointed has been reached, or revealed, but apparently the destination, or at least the fact that we, as a Body have reached that destination, has not yet been made clear, or revealed to those who 'seek for a sign'. The destination of which I speak, or write, is, of course, the righteousness of Christ, or the cleansing which we, as the Body of Christ have received through 'The Baptism of the Holy Spirit' of which Joel wrote in Joel 2, and which Peter confirmed in Acts 2. This 'Baptism of the Spirit' was the true baptism to which the various water baptisms pointed, an outward sign pointing to, or hopefully indicating the work that the Holy Spirit had done inwardly, the 'circumcision of the heart', which was the ultimate goal, not merely a circumcision ( cutting ) of the flesh!

'An Outward Sign of an Inward Reality'?

As we saw earlier; 'why do we need the sign once we have reached our destination?' Another way to put it is, 'once we have the Reality, do we still need the picture?' Now it could well be argued that if one does not have the reality, then one might find a picture useful, or if one has not reached the destination, then that one still needs signs! However, if one were to argue that way, then that person must not be a believer in a totally fulfilled eschatology, because if eschatology is fulfilled, then we have the Reality, and there is no more need for signs; we have, as it were, reached our destination, and signs are useless!

One might say that 'signs are helpful', as in the case of receiving water baptism as 'an outward sign of an inward reality', and purportedly an act of obedience to our Lord's command, and in a sense, they might have a point, but if one cannot show by a changed or holy life that they have been baptized by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God, then how is a water baptism going to be 'an outward sign of an inward reality'? In other words, if one receives water baptism, but does not show by his life that he has received the baptism of the Holy Spirit, what good does that water baptism do? It does no good, but in fact, will do much harm to the Body of Christ!

'Buried with Him'

What did Paul mean that 'we were buried with Him'? Did he mean that in order to be 'raised with Christ', we must first die physically ( that's what Jesus did, right? ), and be buried, either in a tomb, as He was, or 'six feet under'? Although this seems a ridiculous question to ask of those that believe in a fulfilled eschatology, there are those out there who believe and teach this! As believers in a fulfilled eschatology, however, we know that Paul's terminology referred, not to a physical death and burial, but to a separation from the 'ministry of death' that Jesus encountered when He began His earthly ministry, and finally, to His physical death on the cross, after which He rose  again, bringing with Him to New Covenant Life the dead Body of Israel!

Many Christians like to symbolize this 'death' by being immersed in water, in which case, coming up out of the water after being fully submersed is supposed to signify being raised to this new life. As before though, what good does this sort of action do unless it actually signifies a true circumcision of the heart, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit of God? It does no good, as we saw, but instead does harm!

'If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.' ( Colossians 3:1 )

Here's where the true eschatology of victory comes in; having been raised with Christ, we are to set our minds ( hearts ) on 'things above, not on things on the earth'. What is Paul saying here? Is he teaching a form of Gnosticism here, encouraging Christians to be 'so heavenly-minded, they are of no earthly good'? Did the pietistic dualism that we all know so well ( legalism ) come from the teachings of Paul?

We have been blessed of late, to listen to the teaching of one of our elders here at Covenant Community Church, as he leads us on a journey through Paul's letter to the Colossians. We have seen, throughout this study, and particularly in the latest sermon, that this was not what Paul was teaching at all, but rather that his brethren were to turn their focus away from the physical sign ( and other accoutrements ) of that first covenant, and rest their gaze upon the Reality of the New Covenant in Christ!

As with Paul's words of admonishment to the Colossians, so were Jesus instructions to His followers. Take, for example, Jesus' words to Nicodemus, in John 3. If one were to do a word study, which is not my purpose here, I believe that one would find that when Jesus told Nicodemus 'you must be born again', the 'you' in this statement is in the plural, meaning that Old Covenant Israel must be born again, strongly implying that they had died, and must be 'raised with Christ'!

So, what, if anything, does this have to do with baptism, and specifically water baptism? Why bring John 3 into the discussion? Well, I bring it up for two reasons; one, because the baptism of the Holy Spirit ( as per Joel 2 ( Ezekiel 37 ) is HOW Israel was to be born again ( raised from the dead/re-born ), and two, because, as believers in fulfilled eschatology, we know that this resurrection happened in the first century, beginning with Jesus own 'baptism by fire', continuing on with the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, as recorded in Acts 2, and coming to finality in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70AD. Water baptism was commanded to Israel after the flesh, in order to symbolize the cleansing of their dead body, and later to the Gentiles to identify their unity with the Body of Israel. After 70AD, this was no longer necessary, as the fulness of the Gentiles ( nations ) had come in, and they had become 'one Body' ( I Corinthians 12 ), and no longer dead, for they had received the Spirit poured from on High, and had been born again; raised to new life in the Christ!

Conclusion

In conclusion, then, we should understand that, although we, here in the 21st century, are a part of the covenant Body of Israel, much as they were, we were never a part of that 'dead' body, the body that 'must be born again', through the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Israel under that first  covenant was given many signs, which, as Paul said, were simply a 'tutor' to point them to Christ, and since we have Christ, we no longer find necessary any of those signs, or symbols which led them, or brought them to the Revelation of Jesus as the Christ. That these signs, in particular, the sign of water baptism, are no longer needful should be abundantly clear by now, but nevertheless, they are still in practice by some who claim a fulfilled eschatology.

The baptism into His death, of which Paul wrote, was clearly not a water baptism, but was a circumcision of the heart, wherein the Spirit was poured out into our hearts, enabling ( causing ) us to cry out 'Abba, Father'! Must we receive this water baptism in order to do that? Obviously not; the thief on the cross, though he received the same baptism that Jesus did, was, to all accounts, never baptized in water! Must we receive water baptism in order to be obedient to God? Again, 'no': water baptism was a sign for the first century, both to signify the cleansing of the dead Body of Israel, and also to symbolize the unity of the Body of Christ, with the two becoming one, a marriage, you might say!
 

In the Love of God,
Through the Baptism of the Holy Spirit,
Charles Haddon Shank

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Conversations With a Bullfrog; the Resurrection of Jeremiah Bereano

Again, I had not heard anything from my friend for a good long time ( over a year ); in fact, I had begun to wonder if he was dead!

Just the other day, though, I heard the old, familiar strains of 'Amazing Grace' by the Statler Brothers emanating from my phone. As I eagerly answered the call with a hearty 'Hello!', he interrupted me in his usual brusque way, wondering why I had not called him. I tried to explain to him that I had received no answer when I tried calling him and that I had left numerous messages for him, but never heard back, so I stopped calling after several months. 'Likely excuse', he said, 'my phone busted on me, and I lost your number' ( he's really good at giving one a guilt-complex! )!

Whether because of my guilty feelings or for some other reason; I just decided to let my friend ramble on, and ramble he did! He began his story by revealing to me a history that sounded strangely similar to my own, and one that showed me that I had made some untrue and unworthy assumptions about my friend! 'I have MS', he said.................Hastily, my first response was, 'oh man, I'm so sorry, I didn't know.........' Again, he ( quite rudely ) cut me off; 'SHUT UP!', he said, 'let me finish!' 'I didn't say anything at first because I didn't want you to feel sorry for me; I wanted you to fellowship with me because YOU wanted to, NOT because you felt obliged, out of some need to show charity or something!' I tried to explain to him that I could empathize, that I knew exactly where he was coming from, but he was on a roll, so I let him roll! He went on to explain that his wife had left him, after a 15 year marriage, for what reason, he didn't say, but that his 'radio silence' was also somewhat caused by all the drama he had been going through in the past years.

As he unraveled his story before my listening ears, I was unpleasantly surprised to hear how closely his life experiences related to mine! Before I had a chance, though, to reveal this to him; he, seemingly 'out of the blue', asked me this simple, but stunningly profound question: 'why are we here, Charles?' Somewhat caught off guard ( I'm sure that was his purpose ), I managed to stammer, 'for our good and His glory', all the while racking my feeble brain for the catechism answer that I had memorized as a child. 'We are here', he reminded me ( although I knew this, he just caught me off guard ), 'to be Christ to the unbelieving world around us'! I had to admit; that was a good way to put it. When Jesus walked this earth, to whom did He minister? Was it to the Pharisaical Jews, those who thought they had everything they needed, including salvation in their religious ideals ( which actually were mere idols ), or did He minister to those who were unbelieving, those who had a life that was full of sin, and followed no creeds or even worshiped in a four-walled enclosure ( the Temple )?

'Why ARE we here?'

By his question, my friend had set off an avalanche ( no doubt his purpose, again ) in my head! If we were here to be Christ to an unbelieving world, did that mean that we were to act as He did? Were we to act in love to those who were outside, and who even acted, seemingly in hate, or defiance of Him, and thus, us, and laughed at our own feeble efforts to 'redeem' them? Do we act toward those we deem outside as if they are meant to stay outside, as if they are 'vessels of wrath', as were the Pharisees? If we were to go that route, we might end up saying that we ARE looking for another eschaton! Are the dispies and full or partial-futurists right? Is Jesus going to return at the end of time in judgment on the wicked? Well, of course now I'm starting to get ridiculous! We know that the eschaton was finished in the first century, that Jesus did return ( as promised ) and punished those 'vessels of wrath', for they had been 'prepared for destruction'. To top it all off was Jesus' promise of dwelling in His people, in John 14:23; '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'!

There is no question that we have many Christians today who act like Pharisees, who seem to rest almost more in their creeds and their religion, trusting that their religion will be their salvation, rather than focusing on the Master of the Universe, and on what they believe about Him, as much or more than on what He did and what we, as little Christs, should be doing. So many of us are quicker to break fellowship with other believers over matters of belief ( religion ) than with unbelievers! Rather than being the healing leaves ( Revelation 22:1-3 ) that we were meant to be, it seems that in the history of the world, Christians have done as much harm as they have good ( yes, this may be argued )! We can trust, thankfully in the fact that it His purpose that is accomplished, not ours, and that 'If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself'; even through our often faithless, and always feeble actions, His will and purpose is done! ( I should point out here that we are still responsible for our faithless actions, and 'reap what we sow' )

All the while I was turning these thoughts over in my head like a large heap of compost, my friend had been rambling on ( I hope I didn't miss anything important ). He was now relating to me how, now that his wife had left, and thus, much of the stress had melted away, his MS had not been affecting him as badly. Now, instead of being wheelchair-bound, as he was when his wife was still with him; he, like me, had experienced a resurrection of sorts, wherein he was able to stand ( and walk ) on his own two feet again! As he related his subsequent experiences to me, chills ran up and down my spine; I knew I had to get off the phone pretty quickly, or else I was gonna have to find my Kleenex. I rather haltingly told him then how closely our lives had paralleled over the years and could tell right away that I was not the only one who was having trouble keeping his composure!

Quickly changing the subject ( thank you God ); my friend mentioned that he had heard that I was embarking on a new journey, and had even written a few lines in that regard ( he sometime reads my blog ). 'I heard that you are in danger of becoming even more of a heretic', he said, 'getting all extra-biblical and calling even those who have not entered into Covenant with their Creator 'children of God'! 'Yes', I replied, 'I have been trying to reach logical conclusions on those subjects, trying to search out in my own mind how far beyond the eschaton we can, or ought to go'. 'Because all Scripture is fulfilled; how far do we go in living our lives as little Christs, as healing leaves?'

Long pause...............

'Well, brother', he said huskily, 'keep searching, and may God give you grace as you travel; goodbye!'

God; I love that man!