1 Chronicles 26 / Ezekiel 35 / Philippians 3-4
Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
"It is we who are the circumcision" is an affirmation and a warning to those who might be swayed by the Judaizers to listen to their point of view and entertain their teaching. Paul is saying that there is a more authentic identity to be had as a circumcised Jew than the humans who called themselves that because of the outward things. Paul says that if someone calls himself a Jew he isn't a Jew, because the real Jews (those considered Jews by God) cannot be seen as such by the humans at large. The identity as real Jew is secret, just as the Father who bestows that identity is secret, not known by the humans.
It doesn't matter if someone says they're a Jew, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. The terms humans claim for themselves and bestow on one another just don't matter one bit, because the outward things don't matter one bit. To the humans it is and must remain everything, because that's where they love, live and have their existence of being—in the world that can be seen, heard, manipulated, willfully engaged in and controlled by them for their own benefit, each per his own situation and circumstance. The sons who are called to their true Father in the present age must enter into a secret journey that has nothing much to do with the humans, because what they're entering into is hidden and secret, not publicly disclosed.
That's one way it's very different than what the humans do and know about. Therefore it can't be analyzed, judged, rejected or validated by the humans, especially by those who willfully accept the term "expert," or "leader" (pastor, minister, etc.) for themselves. Much to their ultimate despair because they arrogantly think they can decide and control things for God, that's how the hidden Father is secretly gathering up His own sheep while the humans just go about their business as usual. The hidden Father is not in what's obvious and observable; He exists, moves and works in the dimension that's inaccessible to the humans at the level on which they exist, move and work—unaware that anything is even going on, thinking that everything that happens with God is happening in the world they observe and can control.
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
The idea of Jesus "coming back" is a misnomer that's heartily misunderstood by the natural creatures who need to think of him "coming back" in a way they can understand—that is, being able to see him with their eyes and observe him with all their natural faculties as though he were "coming back" to be a human again. The last we heard from the real Jesus was him promising those he loved that he was coming back to them, that he would not abandon them forever, as orphans are abandoned by those who would take care of them in the world. On the contrary, he and the Father intended to "come back" to them, to live inside their bodies as the Father had been living in his before he left to become One with the Father.
You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.
If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.
There are many more instances of Jesus promising to come back in this secret, mysterious way to inhabit the bodies of those who were chosen and called; than there are references to or hints about his physically coming back in an outward form that the humans can see and verify with their natural faculties of seeing, hearing, observing and understanding. This journey which began as the subtle, secret thing that could hardly even be perceived let alone held onto and controlled, doesn't all of a sudden become what we might want it to become because of the animal instinct in us, that wants everything to exist on the outside (so we can control it and don't have to actually trust the unseen, non-manipulable Father who called us in this secret way).
Whether or not something will ever happen on the outward levels isn't our concern. Putting that possibility away is the best course of action so that we can concentrate on the relationship at hand, which started in private and we must assume will continue to exist there, where only we can see it. If it's verified it will be verified by those who also are experiencing the same thing, but not by the humans at large. By coming to know that, we will gain the perspective that we are those who are called, the true family of the living Father who has hidden that little piece of His life in our heart, and has been cultivating it so it's been steadily growing within us, getting clearer and more able to be understood.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
There may be things which could be read as indications that those first century sons assumed there would be some kind of "coming back," even in their lifetime. However, that would have been a hope for something other than what they had at the time, which is a more powerful thing than that which they could have been wanting, apart from what was in them already, that which they could "hold onto."
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul encouraged them not to look for something else than that which they already had (like the humans who wanted more than what the Father gave them—the ability to know good and evil), but to be and remain certain of what lived inside them, and to nurture that life in a kind of cooperative effort with each other and the promised teacher/counselor inside them; to fiercely guard what they had been given, like a soldier fights and guards what has been entrusted to him.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
The mystery that gripped these humans wasn't about the human sphere of natural phenomena. If it were, then Paul would have every reason to just remain what he was before the mystery was revealed in him.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Neither was it a process that happened in him, like a deal that happens and then it's done. A God who creates the visible universe shouldn't be assumed to be able to be figured out. As the mystery is revealed, it becomes a bigger mystery, and that which we think we have figured out is exposed as just the tiny little pinhead of what's behind where it came from. The entire balance of our human existence should be searching for more of that tiny pinhead's worth of the life of the Father that has already been revealed in us.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
We should see what we know for what it is and never something to become lazy or smug about. Once we understand our former nature as frightened little animals who are compelled to hide behind their walls of defense, we should become increasingly driven to give up that tendency to hold on to our pathetic little life that we instinctively consider so incredibly important, and search for more of the Father's life by a desire for things formerly misunderstood as worthless to the self-preserving animal. The words were preserved to give us an example of someone who was gripped by the life, and who made the right choice to throw off everything in order to get more (because that's what it takes).
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.
The enemies of the way of the real Jesus (going to to cross instead of grabbing the life by the power of his own hand) are the ones who will only ever live to satisfy and fulfill what their animal instincts dictate to them to get and retain for themselves, in which good little animals are supposed to be engaged. They must think they're inherently good in order to properly survive, because of the lie that God allows them to believe out of His mercy for them. They live to work for the food that perishes so they can fill their stomach and pay for their luxurious excesses (another validation that one is surviving better), even if those excesses don't seem like excesses at all to the humans (everything is relative). The lives of the good little industrious animals are spent in slavery to the other humans who control them, who have the power and resources to take 30, 40, or 50 of the best hours of their week and give them back money so they can buy more stuff, or pay off what they've already bought. They've been thoroughly trained to buy, buy, buy, because that reinforces what's already instinctually in them—that tendency to surround themselves with stuff so they'll feel a little more insulated from the fearful, naked creature driven to hide, what they are at the core of their identity no matter how big and fat their defense walls are, or how many jewels they're encrusted with.
Their mind is on earthly things.
Paul could have continued to be on the track he was on, but he was chosen and grabbed by the Lord to be used for his purpose, while Paul gave up his own as the proactive choice he made, because he knew what was true and what was false. Paul could have denied what happened to him, then gone back to his life as a wealthy, powerful Pharisee; but he knew that what had happened to him was too good and too real to let go of. So he hung on to that unseen thing, and let go of all the other stuff that the humans love and run after.
Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.
God wants honesty from His called sons, not on the outside but within the deep parts of their heart where only He can see, because that's all that matters. That is where the actual identity of the man is, not in the external things where the humans can see. Even as I write all these things I may tend to convey that my heart is clean, because of my slavery to those instincts that makes me always want to hide and not reveal my true self (ironic). But when I walk away I am at the mercy of whatever whim is brought up by those instincts to hide, be afraid, desire acceptance, play the human games, etc.
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
"I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid."
Hiding from the One who wanted to be their Father was the first thing the humans did after they were tricked by the animal, and were cursed by that which clung to them—their new nature. The animal instincts are devious and deceptive, because even in its most fundamental mode, which is to hide, we are driven to even hide the presence of those instincts from ourselves, a kind of double irony. The humans do that by the thing that's in them to feel like they're good and right, a special kind of fondness toward themselves which is in them for the purpose of survival, just like the instinct to mate is there so they will keep producing more of themselves.
All the things that are naturally in the humans are good for them, particularly since they're animals who need to continue to survive. However, their presence in them isn't just a little here, and a little there, but for the most part they exist to drive them to consider themselves intrinsically good, therefore they must be redeemable according to the gods they create who fall into line to obey their whims to survive (the idea of going to heaven is the ultimate form of eternal survival for the animal driven to survive). The instincts within them completely dominate and enslave them, to the point where they cannot be recognized by those who carry them (because they're driven to consider themselves inherently good, they couldn't ever accept anything else). If they are faintly recognized, there's always a good explanation as to why it must be some other reason than just flat out that's what they are: driven and led by all the animal instincts in them, which keep them bound to the earth, each other and all which can be touched, held onto and controlled by them for their benefit (to survive longer and better like any wild animal). They're the carriers of the disease called death, but since it's such the norm it's an acceptable condition, as though there were nothing wrong. Death in God's world is the condition of existing without ever an intention on His part that they be remembered by Him. It's such the case with the humans that it's actually something good to them, and the thought of life is something they've been made to believe is just their right and privilege.
Our citizenship is in the spiritual world where God lives (heaven, not earth). And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly (earthly, natural) bodies so that they will be like his glorious (spiritual, united with God therefore eternally alive) body.
This is the testimony of a human who was being transformed. There is an obvious power at work in his life that is driving him onward, away from the things that most men busy themselves with all their lives (his own self, life, destiny, respectable position and honorable legacy as one of the humans), and toward something much greater and magnificent (the life of the Christ in him, the fulfillment of the Israel of God, the better thing which exists mysteriously as something the humans can't figure out). It is something so fantastic that Paul is willing to leave behind a highly valued life, not because he had to, but because he was compelled to by this power which was driving him on.
He, being so thoroughly acquainted with the OT scriptures, was also able to see that what was happening in and around him was that promised new covenant, promised extensively by the word of Isaiah, which before he thought would be and look like something else (a thing which could be envisioned and recognized by the humans at large). He, like all the other Jews, thought that it would be something natural and earthly, that the new covenant would be about earthly power—the extension, or renewal of David's earthly kingdom. On the contrary, Paul was experiencing first hand exactly what the new covenant power was about, and it had a significant, totally unnatural effect on him. It was hidden from the earthly, natural creation (the humans who rule it). The only thing the earthly creatures could observe was the result of that unseen power, which to them was negligible. Like the leaves blowing because of the wind; they can't see the wind but they know it's there because of what they observe. However, their observations of the result didn't find agreement with what they knew as their own reality, so their conclusion is in line with the rest of the humans.
"You are out of your mind, Paul!" he shouted. "Your great learning is driving you insane."
This is not a man who had one encounter with the Lord and then was changed for good. This is one who had a continuous, growing relationship with the Son which was constantly being renewed, and a growing love for the Father and His sheep, the true yet secret "Israel of God." Understanding the love that came from this risen Christ was his life's goal, and it became that because of that renewal of the good things that were put in him as a seed, and then grew by being nurtured. It isn't something that we get and then poof it's all just there. It is only planted as a tiny seed, and its growth and development is something that is done slowly, incrementally, as we are willing to give up our lives in exchange for it.
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
It is something of such high value that it costs a lot too. What does it cost a man who wants to know it? Not just things, but everything that the man has, loves and wants to protect and hold on to. That is the cost. There is no way to get just a part of it, because once a man tastes it, he isn't satisfied with just a part of it. He will want more and more, and be driven toward either being found complete in him, or have to abandon the whole pursuit. The sons of God can't be humans, participating in the humans' systems and running after what all the humans run after. The sons of God are sons of God, specially loved children whom He knows personally; not humans who are run of the mill, base, standard, dime a dozen like ants, rats, or wild cats. The title of son of God means nothing in the minds of the christians, because they presume that anyone can be that, so it becomes a very common thing, which is also clearly displayed in their lives looking like every other animal.
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, `This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'
Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
That's where the suffering comes in; some of it is saying no to those instincts that want to rule/lead/guide us, and part of it is actually just choosing, believing and knowing that we believe enough to choose, even if we don't feel like it. That's when the man has to start losing his life in order to get more of the thing he has already tasted. There is indeed significant suffering in not gratifying the animal within us, in beginning to put it down and say no.
It's not just a conceptual death, not just token scraps we throw to the Lord with which we expect him to be satisfied while we hang on to what we love in the deep places of our heart. That's why it cannot happen unless one has been specifically chosen to be able to accept the word; otherwise one cannot even know what that self is that one must be dying to. That's what the religious leaders say one can do, just cursorily identify what the "sinful nature" is, and then just die to it, which is why christianity's a total, man-made joke. There may be sincere humans within it, desiring to find God, but the leaders say that following the Lord can just be another human thing, right along side everything else.
Sure they say the words, because they've studied the bible, like any ordinary academic exercise of the mind so they know what to say, but they don't mean them as those who wrote the words knew and meant them, because that meaning isn't revealed to them—the seed of the life hasn't been planted. They don't want you to lose your life, because they need your money to keep paying their bills, to keep their earthly lives afloat. Their enterprise is natural, and natural creatures need to survive. They love to justify themselves with verses about the workman being worthy of the wages, and not muzzling the ox while it's treading in the presses. However, they overlook the companions to those verses: Paul's declaration that he didn't take anything from them because his heart was pure, his intention was pure and he wanted to protect that for the Lord's sake.
But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. Don't you know that those who work in the temple get their food from the temple, and those who serve at the altar share in what is offered on the altar? In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.
But I have not used any of these rights. And I am not writing this in the hope that you will do such things for me. I would rather die than have anyone deprive me of this boast. Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.
Dying to the animal is the slow, steady death of our very selves—which is not an easy thing to identify because its the MO of the deceiver to not allow that to happen—and death is painful. Our life and self is what we have spent our entire lives learning to nurture, cherish and love, so it's not going to be something easy to identify because it's what we love most. And will especially not be something easy to let go of, because we've been programmed all our lives to protect it. That's why even the identification of what it is will be elusive, because the self knows that's the first step of its elimination. So the self will offer up other token things, what is encouraged by the religious leaders to give up, because they're expendable. If we give up something that doesn't mean that much, what is sanctioned by the leaders as things that the "bad people" do, then we can hang on to what we love—our dignity, respect, aspirations, human loves, dreams, money, self-fulfillment, identity, earthly family, friends, and other noble, respectable and valuable (according to the humans) endeavors—all the things we instinctually hang on to and which define us as unclean animals before God, unable to be brought near Him.
What the real Jesus offers isn't anything the humans consider valuable, not a thin veneer of superstition based on man-made lies which drives the present, common interpretation of the preserved words. If he did what the leaders encourage the humans to do he would have been wealthy, married, and would have claimed his natural title as king of Israel, the fulfillment of the hope of Israel's Messiah—until his body expired, then he would have gone into the ground to rot like every other earthly thing. However, God would not have a family of sons, because he would have been just like the first son who trusted the animal more than his Father.
Even though we might be suffering, we are not suffering for no reason, and the thing we already tasted, which is driving us on, is still there. It is growing within us, and allows us to, makes us, continue. That is the gift that we have to keep asking for, because it has to be renewed daily in us or we'll revert back to what we were before we started, just another dying piece of the earthly creation. It's not just some passive idea in our minds, another theory or concept that can only parade as the truth. Otherwise we'd be dead in the water, unwilling to do what must be done to continue running the race we have started. No matter how much we suffer in these bodies, there is something we can count on from the Lord: he will never abandon us as long as we're willing to accept the unseen, what can't be verified, what is hidden from the humans, and reject what is. That is, everything we learned to love, consider valuable and run after because of that, which all the humans run after because it's in their nature to. What the humans consider harmless, benign, and even noble; God finds detestable.
What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.
Not just the easy things, what the "bad people" do, but the hard things, what will make us look like crazy stoopid fools in the eyes of the humans around us. Actually, not theoretically.
I will not leave you as orphans...
Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"
It is the living word in us that will make us go on, the seed which was already planted and is growing, changing, transforming our lowly bodies. That is the voice of the living teacher, the life force of Jesus and the Father together as one body. Not just the words written in the book, but the living, growing life of the Christ inside us. It's dynamic, not passive. It's a power that comes from somewhere beyond the natural. It lived in Jesus, and it lived in Paul; and it must live in God's sons or they cannot be sons; they will not be alive, nor will they see the kingdom. The kingdom is totally spiritual, and not one tiny bit natural, which is the point of the entire NT testimony of the humans who were living under it. It doesn't automatically extend out to this time period, unless that is the purpose of God to make it so.
Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the spirit."
We have to honestly ask this question: how could a mere concept, an idea in Paul's mind, drive him on toward something he couldn't see, that most people in the world said wasn't there? That stripped him of his wealth, power, future, dignity—just so he could spend his life roaming about with nothing, telling people about this "treasure" he had found?
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
Then we have to honestly say that that power is not evident, in any of the experiences we've had observing the humans who say they have it. It left the earth a long time ago, so any attempts to revive it by man's effort are always obviously futile.
Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.