Monday, June 26, 2017

GRACE AND THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD: SOME SURPRISES

Is Grace Unmerited Favor?


Christians often and rightly say that grace is unmerited favor. This is a beautiful declaration. However, we Christians easily get tricked into forgetting grace when we we look at our relationship with God and with other people. To say that Christians have a relationship of unmerited favor with God means that merited favor has no place in that relationship. 


What Is Merited Favor?


Merited favor means that some personal performance is in the equation of the relationship. If my wife has to perform properly in order to avoid my displeasure, then I perceive her as needing to merit my favor, in part or in whole. If I were her employer that would be fine, but good personal relationships are free from merit. Since it is never good to lower the standards of goodness, merit in a personal relationship would necessitate moral perfection. Let's be real: none of us are perfect. Thus merit cannot be part of a good personal relationship.  Is a personal relationship about doing good things?

The Symptom of Merited Favor


In your relationships with other people, do you have check lists for them--do you require them to merit your favor? If you say that you don't because it is not good, then it seems reasonable that you would want to know when you violate your own principle. Here is the symptom that reveals that you (or someone else) have been tricked to include merited favor in a relationship. I would like to approach this from a different angle to increase clarity. Have you ever had others irritated, impatient, frustrated, or angry with you for something you did wrong? Of course your failure was not good, but did you appreciate the other person's reaction? We all have been on the receiving end of such treatment and know that it is wrong. But it is also wrong when we have these reactions. And these reactions have only one source: some flawed human faithfulness is perceived to be in the equation of the relationship--some check list must be met--some work done--satisfaction is not in God's goodness alone. Remembering to exclude flawed human faithfulness from the relationship creates peace with God and peace of heart in the moment. It is good to do good and it is good to be faithful, but it is never good to find satisfaction in sin, which is what you are doing when you perceive flawed human faithfulness to be a part of a good relationship. Sin is any violation of moral goodness. Let's be honest: human faithfulness is always flawed and thus is not good. So why not exclude merited favor from relationships? Faithfulness is good and necessary to put our minds at ease. But whose faithfulness? Perceive your relationships through the lens of God's faithfulness and goodness and you will be free to notice human sin in a razor sharp way with no bad reactions.


Does Merited Favor Belong in Parenting?


 Have you ever cringed when observing parents express disappointment, frustration, anger, or harshness toward their children? Did you ever receive such treatment from your parents? Was it helpful to you in learning love, forgiveness, trust, and good behavior? Hardly. Parents are entrusted with the lives of children and given the great privilege of helping those children learn to understand life, goodness, and how to thrive in relationships. Children are born with physical and moral senses that are immature and need development. They need to learn to walk and talk. This is a natural process. In the same way, it is a natural process to learn to navigate the moral world. And that process is shepherded by parents, relatives, and extended community. It doesn't happen in a vacuum. Good parenting is about shepherding a child's heart, realizing that right thinking results in right living. 

It is tragic when parents fail to realize that right behavior flows naturally out of right thinking and bad behavior flows naturally out of bad thinking. It takes practice for parents to notice bad behavior and not take that bad behavior personally. "How dare that child not do what I say." Alert parents will have been preparing themselves by applying this principle to themselves first and then to other people. This is intuitive knowledge and one need not be a Christian to grasp it. Personal maturity is skillfulness in applying this principle in its all-encompassing application to life. Identifying the principle clearly, helps us evaluate and understand our experiences and reactions. Because bad behavior is bad, it is so very easy to get distracted from the principle and then criticize human behavior as the problem. But the root cause of bad behavior is bad thinking--always. 

It is also tragic when parents don't realize that a child is born with a moral sense that needs nurturing. I think and teach that frustration, impatience, manipulation, rage, and abuse are always out of place in parenting, as well as in the rest of life. These reactions are the natural fruit of the parent being offended that the child is not conforming to the parent's wishes. This is a symptom of forgetting the child's common humanity, moral sense, and tendency to make excuses. All of us make excuses, so why be surprised if a child does it? The child's moral sense is very real and touches all aspects of goodness. It is a great privilege for a parent to help a child learn to be honest about that moral sense and to learn to honor it and not suppress it. A child is not his behavior. Realizing and remembering this frees a parent to have a compassionate, tender, and firm response while identifying clearly the wrongness of the child's bad behavior. A parent has no authority to dispense merited favor just as I have no authority to dispense merited favor in any personal relationship I have. The parent is not the child's sin manager, but rather an advocate to help the child learn that sin is managed fully and solely at the cross. Therefore, being disappointed (frustrated, impatient, angry) with your child is always wrong because it is a sign that you perceive that your child needs to merit your favor. 


Where Does God Find Satisfaction?



God is not an impersonal force or vending machine. As the creator of the universe, He is the source of what it means to be a person. He is the ultimate person--good, perfect, and righteous in all ways. We are made in his image, but that image has been distorted by human pride. Since God is a divine person and good, he desires a good personal relationship with people. To be a Christian means to have such a relationship. God initiates and maintains the relationship without our help, otherwise our flawed faithfulness would distort the relationship. 

God does want something from us, and it is good for Him to want it. But it is not our faithfulness, goodness, obedience, or works, for they are all flawed. If you are a Christian then you have done only one thing perfectly, the only thing that a person can do that is not a work. It is to rest in the work of another person--Christ. Paul declares this explicitly in Romans 4:5: "But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness." Christian faith is confidence, trust, rest, and satisfaction with Christ's faithfulness as all one needs to be in a good relationship with God. Our initial conversion was a pure rest in Christ's faithfulness. Jeremiah anticipated the Day of Pentecost when he declared: "I will fill the souls of the priests with abundance and my people will be satisfied with My goodness, declares the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:14) To be satisfied with God's goodness excludes finding satisfaction in your own work or in the work of other flawed humans. Is God fully satisfied with His goodness in the work of Christ on the cross? Are you fully satisfied with God's goodness? Isaiah also anticipated unmerited favor flowing naturally from the cross when he prophesied, "Lord, You will establish peace for us, since You have also performed for us all our work." (Isaiah 26:12) Do you see peace as a fruit of God doing all the work for you and other people? Conversion is entrance into this new mindset, but it is easy to revert back to the corrupt mindset of finding some satisfaction in flawed human faithfulness.


Christians are Royal Children of God


All Christians have the great privilege of being adopted into God's family. In Christ we are God's royal and righteous children. Our righteousness is real and present, but it is not our own; it is the righteousness of Christ. He has taken our identity as lawbreakers under the law and given us His identity as children under the authority of grace. This is very difficult for us democratically-minded people to understand. Read here the testimony of a Jordanian Muslim attorney friend who did not become a Christian. He understands what grace means at a deep level because he has a real king with real authority. He told me that his impossible dream was to be adopted into the royal family. He added that if that came true, then he would be above the law and free to do whatever he wanted. He then made the amazing declaration that he would be so happy for what the king had done for him that he would never do anything wrong again. I pressed him and was finally able to shake his confidence. He admitted that he might do something wrong if he forgot what the king had done for him. He saw that remembrance of that great gift would motivate him to do good always. I suggest that this is what the New Testament teaches Christianity to be: that the death of Christ is what turns the world right side up to provide both a way of royal adoption and a way of good, pure, and sufficient motivation for good works, where they flow naturally and effortlessly out of a vision of love received. Does this seem to you to be too good to be true? 


Is God Ever Disappointed, Frustrated, or Angry with Christians?


Forgetfulness by an adopted royal child can have bad consequences, as my Muslim friend stated. But that forgetfulness and its consequences are not part of the relationship with one's king because human performance is excluded. This is not to deny that consequences can be tragic, but it is to establish satisfaction with the goodness of God as the center of the universe. "God passed over the sins previously committed so that he might demonstrate His righteousness at the present time [the cross]." (Rom.3:25) The cross resolves all evil not just the small stuff. God calls all people to be satisfied with that resolution and He leads the way in being satisfied with it Himself. If God is ever disappointed, frustrated, or angry with a Christian, then He is not satisfied with sin-bearing love at the cross and He perceives merited favor to be in the relationship. There is no way around this fact. In theory, merited favor has had no place in my parenting of my five children. I was tricked to put it in sometimes, but God is a perfect parent and thus never puts it in. This means that God has no disappointment, frustration, impatience, or anger toward any Christian. NONE! If you disagree, then there are two options: either I need to be corrected, or you are unwittingly reading the Bible upside down. If you were, would you like to know it?


Does the Lord Discipline Christians?


The Bible clearly teaches that God disciplines Christians. Have you noticed that the Bible also clearly teaches that God disciplined Israel under law? Discipline simply means training. The question we need to ask is this. What is the purpose of the training? In the Bible the purpose is clearly something moral and not anything like skillfulness at some musical instrument or sport. This leaves only two options for understanding what the purpose is: 1) to take sins seriously and control them, and 2) to grow in skillfulness in seeing life through the lens of righteousness (perfection). If my observation of scripture is true, and my Muslim friend's understanding of motivation is true, then sin by a Christian is always a result of forgetting righteousness. Therefore the two options are not equally valid. The latter is true, real, and good, while the former is counterfeit. If the latter is true then the former plays into the hands of Satan. Satan appears as an angel of light; he is the father of lies; he is a master counterfeiter. And he seeks to deceive us with his counterfeits. Do you ever get tricked by them? I do. What does he counterfeit? I have lived 85% of my Christian life, 33 years, in the den of master gospel counterfeiters. My Mormon culture uses Christian terminology and spins it to make life all about you becoming a better you, rather than about you getting a new identity as a royal righteous child in Christ. For Christians here, the conflict and contrast are very real. Still we get tricked sometimes. Paul declares in 2Cor. 11:15 (see the context of 11:3-15) that Satan counterfeits righteousness. 


Counterfeit Righteousness


I discuss the gospel with hundreds of Mormons annually. In a typical gospel conversation, a Mormon will tell me some or all of the following things about righteousness.

  • It is not good to sin, therefore we should try not to sin.
  • It is good to be righteous, therefore we need to try to be righteous.
  • Righteousness is trying.
  • God said to be perfect, which means that we need to try.
  • God doesn't expect perfection, only that we do our best.
  • It is unrealistic to stop all sins now, so we work on them one by one.
  • Repentance is a slow process of turning from sins and obeying God.
  • God forgives us for the sins we repent of.
  • God will not give you righteousness as a gift. You have to try to be obedient.
  • If you get righteousness as a gift, it will make you lazy. 
Do you see any counterfeits hidden in these statements? The focus is on me, my behavior, and my efforts. Merited favor is here. Mormons tell me that life is a process of learning to make right choices. They say that the discipline of the Lord is about getting people to be serious about their sins individually. All Satan's counterfeits are really just different nuances of the same thing: God's perfect goodness is turned into something manageable--something less than perfection. This is a suppression of righteousness (Rom. 1:18). It is fair to summarize the battle lines in my conversations with Mormons as identity versus behavior. They are striving to get their sinful thoughts and behaviors under control so as to be righteous. They openly declare to me that righteousness goes up and down with obedience and disobedience. They are their own sin managers. I declare to them that compared to Jesus we all are failures and therefore righteousness can only be perfection (all or nothing) and thus only available as a gift. This is the titanic struggle of the universe.  

Have you been tricked into the counterfeit thinking of my Mormon friends: that God's discipline is about controlling your individual sins? Of course your individual sins are bad, but the whole of your sins are bad. Of course it is good to be honest about your sins and take them seriously, but to be fully honest means that it is good for you to deal with them ALL immediately and simultaneously. Anything less is not good. Do you want to take them that seriously? Or do you want to be your own sin manager? You can't manage perfection, but Christ can and did at the cross. Also, your sins are not random actions. They are the simple result of perceiving life in a way that is not good. Read my articles on this: simplicity in Christ,  holiness as a way of seeing, obedience: success or trying? You sin only when you don't see life through the lens of righteousness (perfection as required and given freely as a gift). 


God's Discipline is Always About Righteousness


God's discipline is always about righteousness. The letter to the Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians living between Pentecost and the destruction of the temple. They were under intense pressure from their Jewish culture to go back to the law. From beginning to end, Hebrews is a reminder of the simple gospel to weary Jewish Christians who were giving in to that pressure. They needed encouragement to stand firm and not be intimidated. They needed a long refresher course in the simplicity of the gospel that had come to them at Pentecost and freed them to be righteousness by the work of Christ without their own works. They needed to hear again that though sin is bad, going back to the law is tragic. The Law is all about externals as part of what it means to be fully acceptable before God. The whole letter is about this conflict over righteousness. Hebrews 12 is the go to passage in the Bible on God's discipline. Since this teaching is in this context, do you read discipline in light of this conflict, or as my Mormon friends do? For 25 years I read it as my Mormon culture does. I am living proof that it is very easy to get distracted from identity to behavior and not even notice having been distracted. I still prove it every day. Have you realized that you do it too? Therefore, according to the context of Hebrews, the sin that so easily entangles (12:1) is going back to the law. The race (12:1,2) is about always considering Jesus (His work as all we need). Endurance (12:1) is needed to not give in to the pressure to go back to the law. The sinners (12:3) who were applying the pressure were the super religious Jews, not the prostitutes and irreligious people. Resisting them (12:4) meant resisting going back to the law, not resisting doing bad things. Joy is absent or suppressed while one is not considering Jesus (12:11). Christians are righteous by faith alone; we have a new identity as righteous children in Christ independent of our behavior. God disciplines, or trains, us every waking moment in every situation, to be alert to remember what this identity means and to live out of that identity. God wants us to always see and evaluate every situation in light of His goodness, of righteousness as perfection, not some manageable performance expectation. He wants us to grow in wisdom, and His wisdom is skillfulness in the word of righteousness. (5:13-14) 


Israel was Disciplined to Righteousness as Perfection


The discipline of the Lord is first mentioned explicitly in Deuteronomy 4:36. "He let you hear His voice to discipline you; and on earth He let you see His great fire, and hear His words from the midst of the fire," Was God's word to them some form of do your best, try harder, or partial obedience? No. We see this earlier in the chapter. "You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you." (4:2) We also read, "It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to keep all this commandment." (6:25) "All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers." (8:2) Notice that God's word is inflexible--zero fudging by adding or taking away--it must be kept in full as it is. This means that God wanted Israel to keep their eye on His perfection and not compromise His perfection in thought, word, or deed. To be righteous required perfect obedience. The Old Testament is the record of God's compassion and Israel's dishonor of His perfect law. Their history is an ugly one. Finally Jesus arrived among them. He preached in such a way as to reestablish the honor of the law, that it required perfection. Israel hated that message and killed him for it. Jesus knows (taught, believed, understood) that God wants you and all people to keep all the commandments perfectly now and always, no matter the situation. If you don't believe this, by what authority do you compromise God's expectation of goodness and make it something manageable? 


Honesty About Sin


Let's be honest about sin. John declares that sin is lawlessness (dishonor of the law). (1John 3:4) In other words, sin is violation of goodness--any violation. Life is a spiritual battle to honor God's goodness. If you are not doing it fully, then you are not doing it, and you are a violator. God has brought resolution to this problem by making the cross the place where all sin has been put away by the sacrifice of Christ. (Hebrews 9:26) This concerns the power of sin as well as its guilt. The cross does not make people into robots. Rather it frees them to live in a good way, in a new identity in His righteousness without any need to find justification or satisfaction anywhere else--no matter how great the violation they commit, receive, or observe. God declares, and we all know, that it is not good to seek justification for any human failure in any human action. God is satisfied with Christ's sacrifice of Himself. Therefore, why be satisfied with a vision of God's discipline that does not honor God's goodness (perfection) or His satisfaction with Christ? Let Jesus be the sin manager of the world. Embrace His clarity about sin: that only perfection is good. Embrace His righteousness (perfection as required and given freely as a gift) as the point of His training for you and all other people. Embrace forgetfulness or rejection of righteousness as the cause of all sin. Embrace remembrance of righteousness as the place of restoration, healing, life, truth, peace, and joy. Let's together embrace and celebrate satisfaction with God's goodness and His good training of us. 

God's discipline or training is all about growth in skillfulness in seeing Jesus as ALL our righteousness, holiness, and redemption--our wisdom from God.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

CAN YOU DRIFT AWAY FROM GRACE? SOME SURPRISES

"Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it." -Hebrews 2:1

I have had true Christians tell me that reading the Letter to the Hebrews troubles them. Some have called it scary. If I remember correctly, some have even admitted to avoiding it. Have you ever had these thoughts or heard others say such things? If the gospel is so beautiful and so powerful, then why do true Christians have this response to reading this inspired letter? I have heard this about the letter of First John as well.


Who is the Audience?


The Letter to the Hebrews was written to the community of Jewish Christians living around Jerusalem between Pentecost and the destruction of the Jewish temple and its rituals. That community had been previously under the law of Moses for centuries and had recently been freed by Jesus to live in unmerited favor. They were surrounded by pressure to go back to the old ways. 

Which Message is Superior?


The message of Jesus is about His faithfulness and His work of "putting away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." The message given by angels to Moses at Mt Sinai was of personal faithfulness and the work of the temple system to take away sin. Jesus sits in authority and the angels are merely servants. Therefore since Jesus is greater, His message overrides the old message. 

Is it Good to Get Confused about the Two Messages?


It is never good to be confused about anything, but since Satan is the author of confusion, it certainly is possible to get muddleheaded about what is good. It is easy to get fooled about how law and gospel fit together. It would have been especially easy if one lived in the neighborhood of the beautiful Jewish Temple with its old, respected, and inspired system of sacrifices and rituals.

Confusion in the Word Must


The little word must has two general senses. It is commonly used as some form of threat. "You must give me your money or I will shoot you." "You must clean your plate or you won't get ice cream." "You must give that back because I had it first." "You must change or I won't forgive you." Do you hear the threat in these statements. Another common meaning, that isn't so noticeable, relates to what is natural, fitting, or proper. "You must get here before noon if you want to see your grandmother, as her ride to the airport leaves at noon." There is no threat in this kind of statement. It is simply a declaration of how consequences naturally follow actions. The latter is the true sense in our verse. Those who unwittingly read this verse in the threat sense, can easily turn this verse into a command from God. But this verse is simply helping to set the stage for the first command (3:1). That command naturally follows chapters one and two.

Is it Possible to Drift Away?

 Is it possible to drift away? How confident are of your answer? Let me paraphrase this verse, but set it in the negative for emphasis and clarity. "In light of the above reasons, it is not good, fitting or right for us to not give more careful attention to the message of Jesus, that He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, lest we drift away." I suggest that drifting away is a far greater and more common problem than we think. Have you ever wondered if you or someone else might be guilty of drifting away? Have you ever thought that you need to be careful to not drift away? Have you ever thought that you can't drift away? The surprise is that it is not something that we do but rather something that happens to us naturally.  

Notice that the verse states that drifting away is the fruit of neglecting to do something else. That something is to give careful attention to the message of grace. In short, drifting away is the natural consequence of not considering the work of Christ. To be even more blunt, you do drift away when you don't consider grace. I drift away often every day. I don't intend to drift away, bit it is the natural result of forgetting to see in the moment through the lens of grace. It takes practice to notice that it is this simple.


Here are some examples. When a preacher declares that people must be careful to not drift away, he has already drifted away himself, because he has unwittingly not considered that it is Jesus' job to keep a person from drifting away. When you sin in any way, you have already drifted away from grace. When you are looking at life through the telescope of grace, it is impossible for you to sin. You can't keep yourself from sinning or drifting away, but God can--WHILE you are considering grace properly.


Where Does Salvation Fit?


Salvation is like marriage. Marriage doesn't end with the ceremony; it begins there. In the same way salvation is a new kind of life, relationship, or identity with God--one of unmerited favor. It begins in the moment of conversion and continues on forever. It begins when one for the first time finds satisfaction in God's goodness or faithfulness without holding in reserve any satisfaction in one's own faithfulness. We are all born with our faithfulness in the equation of life. After conversion, only Jesus' faithfulness is in the equation. Thus Christianity is life in the faithfulness of Christ free from the pressure of pretended personal faithfulness. No one is faithful when compared to Christ, so let's get over ourselves. 

Since all Christians have their identity purely in Christ's faithfulness, it is impossible to drift away from one's own identity in grace. Period. If you think otherwise then you have been tricked into thinking that there is some merited favor in the Christian life. It is Jesus' job to keep you from drifting away and, unlike you, He handles His job perfectly. Satan has created many counterfeits and many of God's dear children have been tricked to see counterfeits where there is pure grace. I am currently preaching through Hebrews and in my first sermon declared that I plan to shine the bright light of the gospel on every scary verse so as to reveal the glory of the cross and remove all scariness for the Christian, all the while maintaining that God is a consuming fire. This includes chapters 3, 4, 10, 12, and especially 6:4-6. An article on the last one is almost finished and should appear here soon. Counterfeits, counterfeits, counterfeits. Let's put the blame where it belongs: on us for being fooled by the counterfeits. I have much experience here. Do you?


Whose Faithfulness Do You Consider?


Let's get real. Whose faithfulness are you considering right now? It is never good to be unfaithful. Therefore only perfect faithfulness is good. It is not good to have expectations that are not good. Therefore goodness includes expectation of perfect faithfulness. This makes it simple to realize that 1) only God's faithfulness counts, and 2) it is a deception to expect flawed human faithfulness to count. But the spiritual battle rages--the flesh versus the spirit--flawed human faithfulness versus God's faithfulness--trying to do good versus success at doing good. In the heat of the moment the pressure is on to drift from a vision of perfect faithfulness into Satan's counterfeit of flawed human faithfulness. We need to retrain our minds to what is good if we are to stand firm in God's faithfulness and not drift away into valuing counterfeit faithfulness. If you want to prepare your mind for battle, I would suggest frequent prayer of thankfulness for what God declares to be good, for example:

"Father in heaven, thank you for calling me to always value what is good. Thank you for making your faithfulness is to be all my satisfaction even when I fail or other people fail. Thank you for calling me to remember your faithfulness and to remind others of your faithfulness. Thank you for making Christianity to be the community of satisfaction in your goodness. Thank you that it is your job to keep me from drifting away. Thank you that your son fully put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and that he did this without my help. Thank you for making sin to be overcome easily by a vision that only perfect faithfulness counts. Thank you for making my job to be simple--to consider your son's faithfulness at the cross as the only hope for anyone in any situation."   

Consider Jesus the high priest of our confession, that "He has put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."


Thursday, May 25, 2017

OBEDIENCE: IS IT ABOUT SUCCESS, OR JUST ABOUT TRYING?

How Do You Read the Bible and Life?


In the New Testament we run across the words keep, do, and obey in reference to a proper response to what is good in life or to what God commands. Below are but a few examples. 

  • “If you love me, you will keep my commandments." -John 14:15
  • "Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” -John 14:21
  • "You are my friends if you do what I command you." -John 15:14
  • "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments." -1John 5:2


When you read the above passages, how did you understand the words do, keep, and obey? Let me clarify. When you read the third statement that to be a friend of Jesus requires doing what He commands, did you interpret the word do to mean: feel good about, to unsuccessfully attempt to do, or to succeed at doing? Likely you resonated with the statement and felt good about Jesus' call to do what He commands. This response of yours was good but insufficient because Jesus is calling a person to action beyond just feeling. Do you see yourself as a friend of Jesus? It is good to be Jesus' friend, but have you done what He said is required to be His friend? Do you do what Jesus commands? Think of what you consider that Jesus commands you to do. Have you done it? Do you do it? Has your doing been successful or unsuccessful? In other words, is success in action important to Jesus, or is He simply interested that you put in an effort even though you fail? 

Obedience: Victory or Failure?


In sports competitions, one person or team wins the competition. The winner declares that victory was achieved. The losers declare that they tried to win, but failed. The loser's attempt was unsuccessful. When you think of Jesus' call to keeping, doing, or obeying His commands, have you achieved victory, or been unsuccessful? I suspect that more clarity is needed. First, is Jesus declaring that His friends keep, do, or obey what He desires just when it is convenient, or all the time? Second, does Jesus want us to evaluate success by looking at our effort or the lack of success of others? Many non-Christians have told me that for moral issues, comparison to other people is never good. 

  • Does God desire you to succeed at being righteous, or just that you try to be righteous?
  • Does God desire you to succeed at being holy or only that you try to be holy?
  • Does God desire you to succeed at being free from sin or merely that you try not to sin?
  • Does God desire that you succeed at keeping all His commands all the time, or simply that you put in an effort?


The Standard of Evaluation


It is good for God to desire that you always do what is good. It is not good for God to think or declare that it is satisfactory that you only imperfectly do what is good or only do good part of the time. Thus God's expectation for you (and all other people) is that you always do what is good. No compromises. Do you agree? Are you succeeding at doing good always?

Let's apply this to obedience. Do you agree that imperfect obedience is disobedience? Let's say that God gives you a glass of pure water and commands you to drink all of it. Let's also say that you drink 60% and decide that that is enough for you, and so you don't finish the glass of water. Did you obey God? No you didn't. Imperfect obedience is not good and thus not satisfactory to God. 

Jesus came into this world to reveal what is good. On all moral issues, it is good to compare ourselves and all other people to Jesus. It is never good to compromise that standard of evaluation. Compared to Jesus how are you doing in terms of holiness, obedience, and keeping the commands of Jesus? Are you an obedient Christian? 

Honesty About Confusion


The first step in understanding God's ways is to notice our confusion about what God desires. I have the privilege of living in a culture that is overwhelmingly Mormon. It is a
surprise blessing because they use our words, but with different definitions. This helps us to think more critically about what we believe. As we here are challenged, we at least occasionally realize that we have lies in our own minds. This is a wonderful revelation. Until I notice a lie in my thinking I am unaware that I need to discard it. I witness to hundreds of Mormons annually and in nearly every conversation I hear words something like, "Since it is good to do good, this means that we need to try to do good. God doesn't expect us to be perfect, but only to do our best." People commonly tell me that the commandments are a goal to shoot for, not something to expect success at now. Therefore, I commonly get corrected for telling people that God expects immediate success at doing good, being righteous, and obeying His commands. When I tell them that God always expects perfection now, the conversation opens to the gospel. All people know that I am not perfect, and so how can I so gladly and confidently preach that only perfection counts with God? I preach to myself first this message of perfection now on all topics of the Christian life. I find it in all of life and everywhere in the Bible. Thinking this way makes life a joy and makes it easy to preach non-hypocritically to others. 

Do you preach to yourself first that God expects from you perfection now on all aspects of the Christian life--say holiness, obedience, keeping the commandments, and loving others? If you don't preach perfection now, by what authority do you compromise God's goodness, or what verses or reasoning do you use to correct me to embrace your view that God doesn't expect perfection now--that, for example, He doesn't expect complete holiness now? I have commonly heard Christians (including pastors) talk about obedience, loving others, keeping Jesus' commands and more, and have wondered how they could speak so positively since it was impossible for them (or me) to be succeeding at what they were preaching since what they were saying was clearly about behavior. It is clear to me now that they were not meaning successful obedience but rather an attempt (unsuccessful) at obedience. We Christians know that we shouldn't say try to obey because obedience really includes success. But we have been tricked into a pretense. We mean try but don't say try because that is not good. It is okay to use the wrong words as we express ourselves. But it is deceptive to use good words when we mean something that is not good. God sees the heart. 

The critical issue for you to consider concerns how you use words. It can be painful to be honest, but honesty is important in order to embrace change. When you talk about obedience, doing what is right, or loving others, do you mean success when compared to Jesus, or do you mean just putting in an effort? Is success important to you like it is important to Jesus?


The Next Step: A New Question


If perfection now is God's expectation and imperfect obedience is disobedience, then you need a new question when you read the Bible and when you think about life. I suggest that not asking good questions has us in much confusion in seeking to understand both the Bible and life. If the Bible and life are to be trusted, then either God is confused, the writers of the Bible didn't hear clearly from God, these writers were confused, the Bible has been radically changed all over the place, or you are seriously misunderstanding the Bible and life. Is it possible that you are confused about what Jesus meant by keeping the commandments, obedience, holiness, and much more? Is there even a slim possibility of this? It is true for me. It seems to me that we Christians often talk like God is confused. I suggest that both all of the Bible and all of life are perfectly consistent with God's call to perfection now. The big question I ask myself and I urge you to consider is this: Is it possible that you are confused about what Jesus (or the other writers) is talking about? 

As stated above, my Mormon culture has confronted me much and taught me to daily check myself for confusion. Just because I don't notice any today doesn't mean that it isn't there. My principle it to pray every morning that God would bring to me during the day a Mormon, atheist, or child to say something that would reveal another lie in my thinking, that I might discard it. Please join me in this prayer.

"Do or Do Not, There is No Try." 


This quote by Yoda of Star Wars fame is on a wall at Oasis Books. It gets laughs but also affirmation from everyone I ask about it. Do you affirm it? If you do then it is a wonderful tool to use to cleanse your mind of the polluting affect of manageability--of worldliness--of do and try harder--of the flesh--of human glory--of quenching the Spirit. Yoda's words point to Jesus, since only Jesus succeeded in always doing what is good. 

As you read the Bible or think about your behavior and that of other people, I encourage you to seek to read every verse in light of God's good expectation of perfection now. Think of Jesus. Think of Yoda's words. Learn to notice failure clearly in light of perfection. I predict that you will begin to enjoy the people who previously have rubbed you the wrong way. Also your reading of the Bible will be like a treasure hunt for new riches. It may even feel like you are reading the Bible right side up.

The focus of this post is to tease you to notice that almost certainly your mind is infested with trying where success should be. This is for life and for reading the Bible. I have sought to only hint at fresh ways to understand both. In other posts at this blog you can read my views on what complete holiness now means and the simple way to do it (perfectly), what Jesus meant by the fruit that reveals certainly if a person is a Christian, and much more. Soon I will post an article on how I know why you have done every sin that you have done as a Christian. Do you know? Are you surprised that I claim to know this about you, even if we have never met? Watch for it. Here is Jeremiah's hint (it foretold of Pentecost) "I will fill the priests with abundance, and my people will be satisfied with my goodness, declares the Lord." (31:14)

Let's celebrate God's goodness as our full satisfaction!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND LOVE?

"Brad is patient, Brad is kind, Brad is not envious; Brad does not brag and is not arrogant; Brad does not act unbecomingly; Brad does not seek his own; Brad is not provoked; Brad does not take into account a wrong suffered; Brad does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; Brad bears all things; Brad believes all things; Brad hopes all things; Brad endures all things. Brad never fails." 
-1Cor. 13:4-8, with my name substituted for love

The above is absurd. It would still be absurd if you put your name in the place of mine. Put Jesus' name for mine and suddenly it is not only not absurd, but becomes real and life-giving. This points us to realize that love is about Jesus and not about us. If you are a Christian, then the love of God has been poured out in your heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to you. (Romans 5:5)

This passage is not a command, but rather a description of the fruit of love--perfectly consistent fruit. The command, which comes 6 verses later (in 14:1), is: pursue love. We all are called to not resist this love which is in our hearts. In the moment that you are pursuing love, the fruit of love flows out of you like a mighty river and you look like the above.

The question is: how does a weak person like you pursue love? How do you not resist love? Is it by
  • focusing on proper behavior (the above description of love), 
  • will power (choosing to do the above description of love) , 
  • commitment (committing to do the above description of love), 
  • making vows (vowing to be like the above description of love), 
  • denying your human desires and following Jesus in having only God's desire (and thus doing the description of love), 
  • considering life from God's perspective, that only moral perfection is good? 

Below is Fyodor Dostoevsky's short declaration about love. I find in his statement that each word is carefully placed and each is full of meaning. Ponder each word and especially probe the word see (perceive). Also, meditate on what God intended each person to be. 

"To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be."

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

HOLINESS IS A WAY OF SEEING LIFE

Holiness is about being set apart, about being different. 
The question is: set apart and different from what?


Two Ways of Life


There are two sources of wisdom: heaven and this world. We can read about this in the Letter of James. We can also read it in intuitive human knowledge since it relates to what it means to be a person. Holiness is the label for heavenly wisdom. Worldliness is the label for the wisdom of this world. Holiness is the theme of the letter of James and describes the war between these two ways of wisdom. God's wisdom and true holiness are all about perfect love--that only moral perfection is good and that Jesus died to offer it as a gift apart from personal righteousness. Worldliness is all about moral manageability, the compromise of moral perfection. Moral compromise is the lowering of moral standards from perfection. The only reason this is done--consciously or unconsciously--is to honor human striving. 



Counterfeit Worldliness 


Worldliness is a counterfeit way of wisdom. Worldliness is counterfeit holiness. And surprisingly, worldliness declares that there is a worldliness to be avoided. It is what my culture is all about. We Christians don't have a corner on using the word worldliness. My non-Christian friends talk about avoiding it. Since worldliness is a way of thinking, and since it is manageability (rather than true holiness), it declares that moral laziness is the enemy. It declares the the conflict in life is between laziness and moral diligence. Notice that both of these are about human effort. They differ only in degree.


We Live Only in the Present Moment


We live in time in the current moment. As Christians we have our life in Christ outside of time. That life we have in Christ is real. We are called to live that life out in time in the present moment. Even when we make plans for the future, we are doing so in the present moment. Our past does affect out present, but we live in the present moment only. True holiness is thinking God's way about life in the present moment. This include thinking about the past in a good way and thinking about the future in a good way. Proper thinking about life in the present moment honors both the individual aspects of goodness and that goodness is a seamless whole--that goodness is all or nothing. There is great freedom in embracing these two realities: 



  1. We life in the current moment only.
  2. Goodness is all or nothing.
Do you embrace these two realities that are critical if we are to embrace God's wisdom, His holiness?


Counterfeit Holiness


Worldliness is the shepherding of behavior rather than the shepherding of the heart. Worldliness sees falsely that behavior is the point of holiness. This counterfeit holiness sees that behavior can be addressed directly. Every time you are impatient, frustrated, or angry at other people for their behavior--every time--your sinful responses are a result of embracing the worldly wisdom, the counterfeit holiness, that behavior can be addressed directly without going through the heart. 

Jesus declared that out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. He then lists bad behavior and bad words. Do you agree with Jesus that the heart is the source of all bad behavior? If you agree with Jesus, then why does bad behavior distress you? Of course bad behavior is wrong, but it is only a symptom of a bad heart. Your distress is an indication that you have been tricked to focus on the fruit and not the root of the problem. The fruit simply reveals that there is a root problem in the heart that needs to be addressed. Why not deal with the root? When I had cancer, the appropriate action was to entrust the surgeon to cut out the cancer. Focusing on stopping the symptoms would have been a foolish solution. In the same way it is foolishness to deal with behavior directly. The heart is the problem and the heart of a Christian is super easy and natural to change. For a non-Christian it is a different story. 

In summary, counterfeit holiness focuses on behavior, dismisses the heart as the source of behavior, dismisses the reality that goodness is all or nothing, and seeks to address behavior (conduct) directly. 

True Holiness Brings Freedom


The Bible writers call for complete holiness now. Peter commands "As the One [Jesus] who calls you is holy, so be holy in ALL you do." (1Peter 1:15) Do you think that it is unrealistic for God to expect you to be holy in all things like Jesus was? Jesus' life reveals clearly what goodness is--total freedom from sin. If God does not expect you to live a good life in all ways, then God's expectation is not good. Let's embrace that God is always good and always expects goodness from all people. Do you notice that Peter does not command holy conduct? He is commanding us in all our conduct (thoughts, words, and actions) to be holy. Do you see the difference? The difference is critical. It is the difference between slavery and freedom. It is very simple once we notice what Peter means. 1) Holiness is a way of seeing life. 2) There are only two ways of seeing life: through eyes of perfection or manageability. 3) In the present moment, God calls us to see (discern, appreciate, honor, consider, regard, perceive, be aware of) every person and situation in the light of perfect love (perfection expected and provided at the cross). 4) Right awareness sets the heart in a good place and goodness then overflows in all directions effortlessly. (James 1:25) 5) Bad behavior is simply an indicator that the person has been distracted from awareness of perfect love. 6) The solution of a sin problem is always a restoration to a vision of perfect love (Gal 6:1). 7) In Summary, each moment of life takes care of itself as the mind is set on perfect love. 



Deeply Rooted False Cultural Bias


Counterfeit holiness is deeply rooted in Western Christian culture which is rooted deeply in Roman culture. The Hebrew and Greek cultures saw that life overflowed from the heart--from the big picture understanding of life in the moment. When the Roman Empire took over from the Greeks it slowly imposed its cultural bias which dismissed the value of the mind and culture. Roman culture declared that right behavior was what was important. It also declared that people know the right things to do and are simply too weak or lazy to do what they know is right. What they need is external pressure to help them make their own right choices. This way of thinking became deeply entrenched in the West. Do you appreciate people pressuring you to make right choices?
This cultural bias suppresses the truth of what it means to be human. In the past 150 years we Westerners have begun to notice the fruit of this bias and to seek to confront it. The light is dawning and clarity is coming. We now make a distinction in child rearing between shepherding the heart and shepherding behavior. We need to apply that distinction to all of life. I ask people if they have ever been manipulated to proper behavior. All have said yes and all have said that they both did not like it and that it was not helpful.

Simple Application


Evaluate yourself. The next time you become aware of having a bad reaction toward someone, ask yourself what you are thinking about.
  1. Are you comparing that person to Jesus, the only perfect person?
  2. Are you rejoicing that the only hope in life for that person is the gift of righteousness provided at the cross?
By the way, by what authority do you think of other people in ways that are not good? 

Renew your mind. Why not simply think of them as God does? We all need to continually renew our minds to God's good vision of all people. I suggest another simple application that has many nuances.
  • When you notice someone fail, be honest and immediately talk to God about the violator saying something like, "Hey God, he shouldn't have done that, he should have been perfect." 
  • When you notice yourself fail, be honest and tell yourself something like, "Hey, that sin deserves death, Good thing Jesus died the death you deserve and has taken all your condemnation." 
  • Thank God often that He is good and and expects perfection from you and all other people. Thank Him that He give the gift of righteousness to all who rest in Christ work on the cross. 
  • When you notice someone sin, thank God that the behavior is just a symptom and that the root problem is that the person has simply been distracted from perfect love.
  • Thank God that He has poured out His love in your heart (Rom 5:5) and made loving others so simple as seeing them through the eyes of perfect love. 
  • Thank God for specific riches you have in Christ. Do this also for Christians who rub you the wrong way. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

DO YOU SEE CHRISTIANITY AS SIMPLE?

"But I am afraid, lest by any means, as the serpent in his craftiness deceived Eve, your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity in Christ." -2 Corinthians 11:3


Christianity Is Christ


The New Testament declares in various places and ways that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is the revelation of the Father. This means that we approach God properly by seeing Him in Jesus Christ. To bypass Jesus in approaching God is to approach God in an unauthorized way--in a way that is not good. It is the worship of a false God. Do you agree?

Christianity then is simply the label for proper worship of God, whatever that means. This label is rooted in the name and title of our Lord. Jehovah is the name God declared for Himself for the first time to Moses at the burning bush. Jehovah is good and is the creator and sustainer of life. Jesus means Jehovah brings resolution. Christ is not Jesus' last name as I was self-deceived to believe for much of my Christian life. Christ is Jesus' title and means anointed one. But what was he anointed for? In the gospel of Isaiah we see that the theological meaning of Christ is: Jehovah is my righteousness. Thus Jesus Christ as the revelation of God is full of meaning with His name and title reflecting who God is.

It should be natural then to see that the person, Jesus Christ, is Christianity. When we declare with the apostles various statements that they made, or quote Jesus as having made, we are declaring realities of the universe; we are not merely using words. Words can and do have various and shifting meanings. Words do not determine meaning. Words are simply identifiers used to identify or tag objects. The words: present, gift, bribe, and reward each signify or tag something different . Each of those different things is real. And I suggest that we have been much tricked to drain the meaning out of words. The statement that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life is reality and not merely a doctrinal statement. Paul's statement that Jesus is a person's holiness, righteousness, redemption, and wisdom from God is a statement of reality not merely wishful thinking or sentimentality. Peter's declaration that God commands complete holiness now with Jesus as the standard of evaluation, is not flowery overly optimistic language, or a goad to get Christians to work harder, but is reality. The question that I (you) need to continually ponder is: what is the reality behind the words that I am using, reading or hearing? Since I (and all of us) am easily tricked into shallow or confused thinking, it is not good for me (all of us) to just assume that I or others know what words mean. I see this as the center of the spiritual battle--heavenly wisdom versus worldly wisdom (James 3)--truth versus lies--spirit versus flesh--real versus counterfeit authority--perfect love versus manageability--worship of the true God versus idolatry--honoring others versus dishonoring them. 

In the past few years the above scripture has moved to the center of my thinking and theology as I have begun to scratch the surface in understanding the reality behind the words we Christians use.

"But I am afraid, lest by any means, as the serpent in his craftiness deceived Eve, your minds might be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity in Christ." -2 Corinthians 11:3


What is the simplicity and purity in Christ?


Do you agree with Paul's statement that what is in Christ is simple and pure? Do you share Paul's great concern that Christians can be corrupted away from this simplicity and purity? Is it possible that you may have been corrupted away from this simplicity? This is true for me and is my constant spiritual battle. Do you see this corruption to be about the mind or do you see it as about something else such as behavior, commitment, or dedication? If it is simple and pure, then it is possible to explain it as simple and pure. If I can't do it, then the implication from this passage (assuming or trusting that the passage is true) is that either God is confused or I am. I suspect that I, in my thinking, am always the problem. How would you explain that simplicity and purity? Ponder it a moment. Here is my explanation:

Perfect love.

This simple phrase is full of meaning which shines brightly in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The words perfect and love are both full of meaning. Jesus always saw the world through eyes of perfect love, which has two aspects. 1) Jesus always saw, thought, and spoke that which honored the reality that only perfection is good. 2) Jesus always saw, thought, and spoke that which honored His death on the cross as the only place where sin (violation of goodness) is taken care of.

Do you see the simplicity of perfect love? Perfect love implies that:
1. Imperfect righteousness is unrighteousness.
2. Imperfect holiness is unholiness.
3. Imperfect obedience is disobedience.
4. Love is a way of seeing that honors perfection.

God is and commands perfect love ALWAYS--no compromising of goodness. Do you agree that God ALWAYS calls you to ALWAYS love perfectly, ALWAYS be COMPLETELY holy, to perfect obedience, to perfect righteousness? If you don't, then by what authority do you compromise the reality that goodness is perfection? 


The Opposite of Simplicity and Purity


The opposite or alternative to perfect love is not perfect hate, but rather manageability. Manageability is the compromise of perfection. It declares that God doesn't really mean perfection now--that goodness is about striving not about success at being morally flawless. Manageability is the big lie of Satan. It is THE counterfeit. It is the polluting and defiling thing that Jesus and the apostles continually warned against and criticized. Manageability is the leaven that defiles. It is the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. It is the log in the eye that hinders one from seeing clearly the speck in one's brother's eye. It is the flesh--human strength and wisdom at its best--which bears such ugly fruit. It is spiritual blindness. It is what causes stumbling. It is walking in the darkness. It is hard-heartedness. It is what the prophet's called the people to circumcise their hearts of. It is what defiles the flesh and spirit. It is spiritual slavery. It is the wide gate and the broad road to destruction. It is the rocky soil. It is the eight demons that made the Israel of Jesus' day to be far worse than the Israel that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed. It is worldliness, irreverence, and unrighteousness. It is quenching the Spirit. It is the source of all counterfeit spirituality. It is the demonic or worldly wisdom that James warns about. It is the object of all temptation. It is the draw to honor human performance rather than God's goodness. It is looking away from Christ. It is lawlessness--the dishonor of the law. It is the heart of idolatry. It is a way of thinking that mocks God's goodness, but God will not be mocked. Manageability cries out that since it is good to do good, all people need to try to do good. And it is the only thing that Jesus hated, and he hated it so passionately that He died to create a way of life free from it.

Perfect love versus manageability is the titanic spiritual battle which we all are part of every waking moment. The Holy Spirit always cries out for perfect love and always points to the finished work of Christ. Manageability always cries out "do what is right but don't worry about perfection."


The Application of this Simplicity


At conversion every person receives the perfect love of Jesus. It was poured out in the heart by the Holy Spirit. Have you ever wondered why that love flows out of you and me so inconsistently? If perfect love is the simplicity and purity in Christ, then the reason for this inconsistency is simple. Here is a simple example.

Think of the last time that you were impatient, irritated, or angry with a Christian. While you were irritated, impatient, angry, etc., what were you thinking about? Were you thinking that that person was dearly loved by God, covered by the blood of Jesus, fully forgiven, and clothed in the righteousness of Christ? No you weren't. Guaranteed. You were thinking about the behavior or words that you reacted to. Why were you thinking that way? Now let's say that later today you are praying for that same Christian and thanking God that the person is fully forgiven, delighted in by God, covered by the blood, and righteous in God's sight. Now let's say that while you are thinking and praying this, that person sneaks up on you and does that action that got you upset previously. While you are thinking and praying this way, will you have a bad reaction toward that person? I have asked this of many dozen Christians over the years and all have said the same thing with different intensities and varying humorous comments.

I asked it recently of some BIOLA students who were on campus witnessing. One woman laughed and said she often gets impatient with her friends. She spoke in a way that indicated that her recent impatience was still vivid in her mind. She said that in that moment she was not thinking of her friend's identity in Christ but of her bothersome behavior. To the big question she responded as if her mind was slowly opening to a new reality. At first she hesitatingly stated that while she was praying this way she didn't think she would have a bad reaction. This was obviously a new train of thought for her. She slowly gained confidence, eventually smiling and declaring that seeing a person in their identity in Christ would make bad reactions impossible for her--while she was thinking that way. 

The critical question is this. Why did she declare that it would be impossible for her to have her typical impatient reaction if she were seeing her friend through her identity in Christ? One dear Christian friend suffering from long term depression said that it would be impossible for anyone to have a bad reaction while seeing the violator through identity in Christ. How does he know this about you and every other Christian?  

The testimony of these Christians is what I see in the scriptures. 1) When you see a person through eyes of perfect love--that perfection is required now and that perfection is provided as a gift now and always in the death of Christ--while and only while you are seeing that way--it is impossible for the works of the flesh (bad reactions, evil, sin) to come out of your heart toward a person who is mistreating you, even while you are being mistreated. Actually not only do bad things not come out, but good things overflow naturally from your heart, and in abundance. 2) All your sinful reactions are a result of you seeing life through eyes of manageability. Point one is walking in the Spirit and point two is walking in the flesh. It is that simple.

The surprise in the Christian life is twofold: 1) that what is in Christ is simple and pure, and 2) that we all are too weak to do anything except resist the work of God in our hearts. His work is always perfect love and it is His work not ours. We are called and commanded to maintain and grow in a razor sharp vision of perfect love. The one and only way that you can resist perfect love overflowing all the time from your heart is to get distracted from a vision of perfect love. That distraction is by definition manageability. It has a multitude of forms.

If you doubt my words that it is actually this simple, I suggest an application for you. The next time you are irritated, impatient, or angry with a person you think to be a Christian, ask yourself what you are thinking about. Is it God's viewpoint of perfect love or some form of manageable behavior? Try this experiment many times to confirm it to yourself.

If you are convinced that my words are true and you are discouraged at how easily your get distracted from this vision of identity in perfect love, I would suggest an application for you. Today begin thanking God for details of your identity in Christ. Feel free to thank Him often for this. Then as other Christians come to mind, thank God for some aspect of their identity in Christ. Pray for the Christians by name. Especially do this with the Christians who rub you the wrong way. The more you do this the faster your mind will be renewed. As you do this often, you may be surprised at how quickly your mind runs to identity when you see a Christian fail. This is not about ignoring moral failure, it is about seeing moral failure God's way, through the eyes of Christ--that only His death resolves sin. You may find yourself surprised that you actually like the other Christians and are happy with them even while they are mistreating you. It is not that you are dismissing their sin, but you are no longer playing judge. In that moment, you are their advocate and are delighting in them because of Christ's work and not their own good behavior.

Summary


God calls all people to always to do what is good. Let's agree that that is perfect love. That perfect love was poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit at conversion (Romans 5:5). We are called to continuously set our hope totally on the grace (perfect love commanded and provided) revealed in Jesus Christ, (1Peter 1:13) and to be continually renewed to that new simple vision of life. (1Peter 1:14) We are called to goodness, to in every waking moment have the mindset of perfect love. Having that mindset in the moment makes behavior in the moment to be fitting and beautiful. This simplicity is what holiness is. Thus the call to perfect holiness NOW in all behavior is THE good, simple, easy, natural, beautiful-fruit-bearing call to see life in the current moment through perfect love. (1Peter 1:15) We all live in the current moment.   

Let's be honest about our place in the universe. Let's be honest that we are weak and our problem is that we are easily tricked into pretending that we are strong. Let's be honest that only perfect love counts with God. Let's be honest that Satan is a counterfeit Jesus. Let's be honest that it is easy to get tricked away from seeing ourselves and all others through eyes of perfect love. Do you want to see the simplicity and purity of Christ? Wonderful. This is a good desire. Take the baby step in the current moment of seeing through the eyes of perfect love yourself, those you interact with, and those who come to mind. In the next moment do the same. When you find you have been distracted, simply look back to perfect love. That is the full resolution for your failure. It is so simple and good that we ought to be always celebrating that simplicity and goodness.