Greetings once more friends the world over! Before we leave this important time of year, let me share one last word.
What does Passover mean to Christians? It means freedom, doesn’t it? It was on this day, instituted centuries ago, that the Israelites were freed by Pharaoh to leave Egypt forever as a liberated people. The Bible says they left with their hands held high in defiance against Egypt (a type of sin/slavery), in victory and in celebration. What a day it must have been for 2 million men, women, and children marching out from a life of slavery they have endured for centuries and into the horizon which spelt just one word for them: freedom, a resurrection to a new life! It was a resurrection of a downtrodden people from the dustbin of slavery to the nation God freed for Himself.
The Israelites never stopped observing the Passover, and subsequently ritualized it into the national life of their people.They did it to picture they reality they experienced, but more importantly the reality of freedom they now enjoyed. What they experienced through slavery then freedom was momentous by any description in the annals of history of any nation. But it pictured something even more astounding. Israel’s monumental experience as a slave people and being delivered was to picture an equally momentous event to come – the true Passover Lamb. That reality came when the true living Lamb of God, the Personified Passover, not a lamb the Israelite killed at Passover, but the very Person of the Son of God, who was sacrificed on Passover and as the Passover, but this time to free the whole world from the slavery of sin. To free all people from every walk of life regardless of race, nationality, language, culture, creed, or any wall of divisions we might imagine.
Crucifixion/Passover – Symbol Of Sacrificial Love and Freedom
Freedom! What is freedom? Freedom is a resurrection to a new life. Freedom cannot be appreciated fully without bondage. Everybody has his own definition of freedom. We live in a free society. We have a constitution which protects our freedoms and liberties as a people and as individuals. Everybody wants to be free to make up their own minds. They want to be free to live the future they want to live for themselves and their families. Everyone wants to think freely, live freely, and dream freely. A little boy said, “I’m free, I’m four,” when celebrating 4th July marking American Independence day. Nations want to be free and fight to obtain independence from their colonial masters. Everyone has his own brand of freedom they like to preach.
Yet, the freedom Christ brings is not near any our individual definition. He brings true freedom. True freedom truly frees. It frees us from all manner of slavery and bondage. And true freedom is spiritual in nature – not physical and material. Spiritual freedom will bring physical and material freedom. Paul said, “If you live by your corrupt nature, you are going to die. But if you use your spiritual nature to put to death the evil activities of the body, you will live.” (Rom.8:13) So, that’s the first and primary definition of freedom. Freedom is a spiritual thing above all else. Anything the mind invents for itself is spiritual because the mind is a spiritual factory which manufactures ideas and concepts. Here’s where the road to freedom starts – in our minds. Beasts are free – you may have seen the movie “Born Free.” Their freedom is expressed in the nature and instincts. They don’t have minds to make up how to live. They live “freely” as God created them. Humans, on the hand, use their minds so they have to choose freedom. The Bible tells us that the purpose of Christ’s coming is to bring man freedom – He is the Passover the ancient Israelites was pointing us to when they kept that first Passover in Egypt. Paul said, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal.5:1) Where does freedom originate from?
Freedom is Divine
It originates inside of the nature of God – in their Triune Being! God is one, yet three Persons of the Godhead living freely as the Father, Son and Spirit. They live freely as persons but united as One. Before Jesus was crucified, He said, “The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority (freedom) to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18) The choice to lay down His life was His free choice – He said, “I lay down My life on My own accord,” – and yet at the same time, it was not a freedom that He did without the Father – why, because they are relationally One with the Spirit. They are united in their three, free, Personalities of the One God-head. These three free Persons have relational Oneness. Diversity is required for relationships, so when Go created man in His image diversity was very much part of man’s makeup as God is diverse Himself. When He created man, He did not say, “Let Me..” to indicate non-diversity and solitaryness, but “Let Us…make man in Our image.” (Gen.1: 26-27) “Us” means diversity, diversity means freedom! Their diverse but singular makeup was held together in the bond of Love, for “God is Love!” (1 John 4:8) And it’s from the nature of God that the human personality and freedom is derived. And each personality is connected to who they are in their gifts and calling, just as the Father, Son, and Spirit.That means we are individuals that’s capable of living freely because we are all different; and most importantly, your freedom is a shared freedom with the Father, Son, and Spirit. It is not a freedom of living and acting in isolation from others, but with God and with others in mind. Freedom and Love are flip side of the same coin. Therefore, freedom comes with the responsibility to Love!
Freedom is A God-Attribute
Freedom means to live uprightly and ethically so the result of your decisions does not cause you harm nor harm to others, but Love and goodness. To live in bondage means the opposite. That’s the way the Triune God lived from eternity even before man was created. They lived in complete self-giving Love for one another as free Persons. Love is a relational term. Love is a relational activity. Love by definition means there is someone else different to Love. If there is a clone of yourself, then you love yourself, and that’s an affront to God’s image, and defeats His purpose. Even identical twins have different fingerprints.
Statue of Liberty, Liberty Island, New York – Symbol of Freedom
So freedom originated with God who is Love and brings the same freedom to man who is made in the imagery of God. So how does that affect you and me in the way we live today? If freedom means a way of life which produces good and no harm, then freedom means the absence of sin. For sin, in its simplest definition means, wrong-doing. To do wrong and harm is to be in bondage, not freedom. But sin is all around us. It permeates our environment so much so it suffocates us. We are so intrinsically part of it, we can’t tell the difference between right and wrong. We can’t escape it, even if we want to. Going to live like a monk’s life won’t solve it, why, because sin goes with you.
Author Jon Tal Murphree said, “Without debating the theological views (of sin), I would like to propose that sin can more nearly explained in relational terms. Because sin is moral in nature, it does require moral beings who have a measure of moral freedom.” (The Trinity and Human Personality, Pg.98) The Bible tells us sin gives birth in the human heart. Wherever you go your heart goes. Jesus said this, “18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.” (Matt.15:18-20) The prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer.17:9) So we see these acts involve moral choices and freedom. That is what Jesus, our Passover, came to save us from – our fallen, depraved, and rebellious heart. So going up into a monastery in the mountains is definitely not going to solve anything.
No political, economic, social, or whatever type of freedom we imagine as humans will truly bring us freedom which truly liberates man. In fact, they all enslave us in one form or another. Albert Einstein said, “no difficulty gets resolved by ignoring the problem that created it” – the human heart is what creates problem, so why turn to it for solutions. It’s like going to a doctor who gives you a drug to solve a health problem, and the side effect triggers more health problems. And you go back to the same doctor, and you are given another drug to treat the side effect, which in turn has its own side effect and more health problems. So, man keeps going in this vicious cycle, and he keeps searching for answers from his personal doctor – his human heart which produced the problem in the first place. There is no solution to be found there, but if we continue to trust in our heart, we will have more problems and side-effects. More problems means more bondage and less freedom.
If Jesus is the Passover who came to set man free from himself – from the corrupt human heart, what did He say was the solution? He told the disciples after His resurrection, “This is what is written: “The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luk. 24:46-49) So it is not something from within us, least of all not our human hearts, but from without us – something which the Father promised. Jesus said, “wait for it!” He said don’t go anywhere, don’t do anything, “wait for it!” Of course, we know He was talking about the Holy Spirit which He spoke to them at length about before He was crucified in John chapters 13 to 17.
On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and just as Jesus said, they were filled with power they never had before. This is the new doctor in the house. Paul said you are now the temple of the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor.6:19-20) He becomes the new heart in you. Your old heart, the ‘witch doctor,’ who caused all your problems, was nailed to the cross with Christ. Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) Did you see that, the ‘Faith of Christ,’ your Passover, now becomes the heart that beats in your chest. The Holy Spirit brings Christ’s Faith in us. Jesus said this of the Spirit, “He will take from what is Mine and will declare it to you.” (John 15:16) The Holy Spirit is the sanctifier of man making Christ atonement real to us.
The Holy Spirit is the new heart in man. This is the heart and soul of the New Covenant ratified in Jesus blood.The prophet, quoting God, said, “25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new Spirit in you; (did you see that, what and who is the ‘new heart’ – the Spirit!) I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. (Ezek.36:25-27, emphasis added) So, what is this new heart? It is the Holy Spirit!
Religion has made sin into a humongous legalistic monster in a field of legalistic proponents who tell us different ways on how to cope with sin. They have placed an unsustainable burden on man, akin to the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Matt.23:13-15,4,11-12)
This is what ReligionFacts tell us about the 613 Jewish religious observances, “In addition to the 613 mitzvot (commandments), Jewish law incorporates a large body of rabbinical rules and laws. These are considered just as binding as the mitzvot, although the punishments for violating them are less severe. Another difference is that it is possible, though unlikely, for the rabbinical laws to be changed, but no rabbi can change the Torah mitzvot.” (http://www.religionfacts.com/judaism/practices.htm) So the Jews have all these 613 commandments, rules, and regulations to obey – not to mention the Ten Commandments. Can they keep them all, no! Most Christian beliefs, when you analyze them closely, teach their followers to receive Christ as Savior, and then put people back on themselves by placing burdens of how to cope with and manage sin. They say Christ has done His part, now you do yours. That’s not from the Bible! No, salvation is one hundred percent Christ’s – not a single iota of your salvation is left to you. That was the flaw in the old covenant. (Heb.8:7-8) Does God do that, save us then put us back on ourselves – from the very thing Jesus came to save us from? The reason we came to Christ is because we acknowledge this truth that He is a complete Savior, as Paul reminds us when he said, “You are complete in Christ.” (Col.2:10) Paul goes on, “When you were dead in your sins.., God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Col.2:13-15) Yes, God made a public spectacle of sin by once and for all ridding sin for man, on the high point so the world will never miss it – on mount Calvary!
Fresh Perspective – Sin & Uprightness Are “Conditions”
Sin and uprightness are “conditions” like environment, ambiance, atmosphere. Paul affirms this when he said, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” (Eph.2:1-2) The enemy is always broadcasting his evil thoughts through the air or atmosphere, we are just not in tune with him. This passage shows us that sin is a condition, not some specific wrong-doing. So we ask, what condition are we attuned to? Paul refers to sin as the “law of sin” or “power of the air” or condition. (Rom. 5:10-17; 8:2b). Likewise, salvation is a condition, not specific right-doing. Right-doing, as far as God is concerned, has nothing to do with our attempt to “manage sin” in our lives. Right doing is spawned in the condition of righteousness we have in Christ. When you spend most of the time trying to manage sin in your lives, guess what you think about most of the time – yes, sin! Yet, Paul tells the Philippians, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things,” not sin! (Phi.4:8). To the Corinthians He said, “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Cor. 10:5) So, our minds and hearts are focused on Christ and what the good He is doing in our lives, not on sin!
Paul calls this condition we have in Christ, “the law of the Spirit” (Rom. 8:2a). James says this condition is the “royal law of Love” (Jam. 2:8 emphasis added). Peter tells us, “Love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet. 4:8) The Holy Spirit, who is the personified Love of God, is now the heartbeat of our lives: “God has poured out his Love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 5:5). So your heart beats with the pulse of God’s Love. Further he elaborates, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ and walk according to the Spirit (saved condition). For the law of the Spirit of life (Love), has made me free from the law of sin and death (sin condition)” (Rom. 1:1-2 emphasis added).
Sin is a condition created and maintained by the devil to perpetuate his reign in this world. He is the “power of the air” in the world. Hence, the people who live in the sin condition are always thinking how to manage sin. It can’t be done, that was the purpose of Calvary – to defeat sin once for all.
“Ocean” – The Enabling “Condition” for Marine Life as God’s Spirit is For God’s Love (Pic: Wiki Commons)
Jesus Is the Enabling Condition for Love and Uprightness
When you change the condition of how life is lived, the person’s life changes along with it. Let me present an analogy, not a perfect one, but I think it will serve the purpose. Think of our vast ocean and all the marine life that populates it. The ocean is the enabling condition that supports all forms of marine life – no other life form can exist in it. It is the oceanic condition is what spawns the kind of life which that specific condition will support. An elephant or tiger cannot live in the ocean because they require a different condition to survive. They survive above water, not underwater. If it were possible to empty the oceans dry, what would happen to the marine life? Yes, it would cease to exist, because the ocean is the enabling condition which sustains life. In like fashion, the ocean is the metaphor for the condition of God’s Triune energy and Love. Try to think about the devil’s world as above water, and God’s world below the ocean. Every time someone accepts Jesus as Savior, He is given a new birth, the ability to live in the ocean he never had before. It is a completely new world. The ocean is the covering of God’s Love and Life which gives the person the ability to live and do what that condition moves him to do. You are given the freedom to travel the seven seas for only His Love enables you to do that. Hence we read this passage, “For in Him we live and move and have our being.” (Act 17:8) It’s just like ancient Israel coming out of Egypt which was the condition which kept them in bondage and slavery. God extricated them by miracles and through an exodus brought them to a new condition in the Promise Land. The Promised Land was the geographical condition where Israel had the freedom to serve God. The Promise Land was the oceanic condition. Yet, some of them wanted to return to Egypt because they missed “cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.” (Num.11:5) Would you give up your freedom for cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic? We know someone who sold his birthright for a mere bowl of lentils. No one told them about the richness of the Promise Land beyond their wildest dreams which awaited them.
The good we do is not our self-righteous good of trying to manage sin, but the good which comes from the miraculous life in the Spirit who covers us like the ocean covers the seven seas. For example, who could have orchestrated David’s life to the point of facing and defeating Goliath? It was the single most important event which made him a national hero and catapulted him to be the heir-apparent to the throne of Israel. Before facing Goliath, He had single-handedly killed a bear and lion which prepared him for this one-on-one battle with this giant Goliath. David could not have done it, only the Spirit could have orchestrated it. David had no idea that the lion and the bear had to do with defeating Goliath until after the fact. Only in the life condition of God’s covering ocean of His Love can make that happen. It is a life of the living faith of Jesus beating in our hearts.
So, when Paul tells us, “Christ is our righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30; Rom. 4:6, 22-25; Phil. 3:9; Ps. 32:2). That’s a statement of condition. It’s the condition of right in contrast to sin. Paul is referring to Jesus as the saving condition for man. In this condition, Jesus does His atoning work, which overrides and covers and makes ineffective the sin condition. If this were not so, then His Messiahship falls short and is inadequate. Does this mean we can do no wrong? Does this give us the license to live in careless abandon? No, man’s proclivity to sin is no excuse to live licentiously, but to enlighten man of his need for a permanent Mediator. Man will never stop trespassing, notice I did not say “sinning” for we are no longer under the sin condition, and God will never stop forgiving. When the Covenant says, “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts,” it means we are all God’s work in progress.
There is Only One Sin
If we understand that sin is a condition, then we will see there’s only ONE sin. Jesus said, “The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in Me.” (John 16:9, NLT) The ultimate sin is disbelief in the Savior God has gifted to man for his salvation! Man’s corrupt heart keeps him enslaved to sin. All man’s sins and trespass, past, present, and future, are adjudicated in Jesus’ condition, ocean of Love if you like, as Savior and Mediator, in His High Priestly role in heaven. The life condition we have in Jesus keeps us right with God (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus and the Spirit mutually mediate each other in all man’s activity and make up the condition that sustains us spiritually. This is why the ultimate and only sin is disbelief in Jesus as Savior and Mediator set forth by God for man’s salvation – spiritually and physically. As I said, man will never stop trespassing, whether willingly, ignorantly, or in times of weakness, and God will never stop forgiving us in His Love which covers us like an ocean.
That’s God’s Love to free man is wrapped up in His Covenant Promise to save man, which same Covenant is ratified in the blood of His Son, Jesus. (Heb.8:12, 10-11) Paul reiterates this, saying, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb.9:18, 22) The New Covenant is conditional upon our receiving Jesus as Savior who shed His blood for our complete forgiveness, and brings us into the condition of righteousness in Christ.
When we are living in that ocean of Love in the Spirit, only then we are free! This is a resurrection to new life. We are made free to become who we are in our destiny in Christ. Like the beautiful colorful fish of the coral reefs, the Spirit will reveal our calling and diversity in Christ. Each of you are beautiful, gifted, children of God. God loves you beyond your knowing. Always imagine yourself in this ocean of God’s Love. To help, you can get a screen saver with coral reef and the amazingly beautiful and abundant colorful fish of the coral reefs. This will remind you of the place you’re in Christ, and the covering ocean of the Spirit’s Love. That’s the reality our Father sees you when you received His Son, the question is, is it your reality too?
Until we meet again in my next post, may the blessing of the God who ceaselessly expresses Himself in His dependable Triune Love, be with you today and give you strength for authentic creative Triune Living as a Bula man-river.*
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to write me in the space provided below, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kiang (Your Servant in Christ)
*The “Bulamanriver” is the metaphor describing the union of man with the Love of the Triune God flowing in humans, making possible the “Triune Life” – the source of the miraculous life in man. Man is the “riverbed” and the Spirit is the “living waters” that cover him and flows to all in his valley (destiny). (John 7:37-39)
All scriptures are taken from the NIV Version 2011, unless stated otherwise.
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