The Toggle Switch

(Being Transformed into His Image)

It came to me one day that we have a toggle switch in our mind that determines how we view and appraise the world around us, how we relate to others and most importantly – how we relate to God. If we toggle it down our working mindset will be natural (carnal – fleshly). If we toggle it up, it will be Spiritual. How this switch is set – whether up or down – has a decided effect on how we live out our Christianity. Unfortunately for all of us the initial default position is down (natural) and for too many of us that never changes! We experience moments when the switch is up (Spiritual) and we see clearly for a time but eventually the switch defaults back to the down position. I am speaking of believers here as the unbeliever’s toggle switch is locked in the down position.

Paul was pointing this out when he wrote of the unbeliever: 

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” (Eph 4:17-18 NASB)

Of the believer, Paul wrote:

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” (1Co 3:1-3 NASB)

He wrote too about the importance of keeping the switch up:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2 NASB)”

The natural mind can be traced back to the Garden of Eden when mankind asserted himself and took it upon himself to reason according to his own independent knowledge of good and evil. We often think that the choice for Adam and Eve was that of good or evil. If they obeyed God that would be good – if they disobeyed that would be evil! But that was not the real choice that confronted them. The choice was between living in relationship to God or living independent of Him. Living according to the knowledge of good and evil was the consequence of the choice to live “as god” in independence! Ironically, ever since then man has been frantically trying to deal with the fallout of that fateful choice – trying to fix a world founded on independent reasoning by reasoning independently!

Living according to “our” understanding of good and evil is the underlying basis of all that we think apart from God. It is foundational. Whatever we receive in thought or sensory impression is constantly being sifted through and fitted to our filter of understanding. This process starts from day one and our filter is constantly adjusted as we experience life. As we mature, this filter becomes more and more set until we are pretty much settled into our personal fixed view of the world, of others and of God.

It does not take much by the way of observation to realize that there is great variety in the filters among the people around us. Some people seem to be extremely well adjusted to living in this world while many others just do not fit in from the socially awkward all the way to the hardened criminals. Yet even within this diversity there is one common element that we are generally do not acknowledge. That common element is that we are all born enslaved to sin.

Being enslaved to sin has the effect of tainting the good we try to attain to as unbelievers with the impurity of self-interest. While much of the good that mankind accomplishes without God is welcomed, the fact remains that for the doer of the good there is no righteousness before God because of the self-interest of the doer. His “righteousness is as filthy rags” (cf. Isa 64:6).

“So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;” (Eph 4:17-18 NASB)

It might be said then that all our judgements and perceptions made with the toggle switch in the down position are made in the dark. That is, they are made in complete ignorance of the truth which cannot be seen. Unfortunately much that is taught and believed within Christianity originates in a “natural” understanding of the things of the Spirit.

The antidote to darkness is light and the more time we spend with the toggle switch up (Light), the more quickly we will recognize when the switch has slipped into the down position. As long as we walk in this world the rulers, the powers, the world forces of this darkness and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (cf. Eph 6:12) will continue to try to turn off the light in the children of Light (cf. Eph 5:8).

What is this light? Well it is not enlightenment in the sense of being able to think and reason according to Christian precepts. No, for us the light is a Person! It is seeing all things through the person of Jesus Christ.

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” (Joh 8:12 NASB)

Paul wrote to the Ephesians:

“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom
and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph 1:17 NASB)

And:

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1Co 2:12-14 NASB)

So we can see that “being transformed by the renewing of the mind” is the same as beholding of the Person of Jesus Christ!

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2Co 3:18 NASB) 

 

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Old Testament Christianity

While “Old Testament Christianity” should be easily recognized as an oxymoron, the sad truth is that for many believers it is the reality of their experience. Although the Bible is the record of God’s relationship with man throughout history, there is a failure to differentiate that relationship before and after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It changed! Today much is being taught and believed that indiscriminately draws from both the Old and New Testaments, failing to acknowledge the differences. The Gospel message begins historically at the time of the finished work of Christ on the Cross. Christianity simply did not exist before this!

Even though Christianity does not exist in the Old Testament, this is not the same as saying that the Old Testament is of no value to the believer. Paul wrote, before there was a New Testament:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” (2Ti 3:16-17 NASB)

But in that same letter he also wrote:

“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2Ti 2:15 NASB)

No doubt many of us were initially exposed to a Gospel message of salvation that offered us the forgiveness of our sins and the hope of Heaven when we die through the grace or unmerited favour of God in sending His Son to shed His blood on the Cross for us. This limited view of salvation falls far short of the heart of the Good News (Gospel) of our salvation. It leaves a gap in our experience from when our sins were forgiven to when we finally get to Heaven. It is in that gap that Old Testament Christianity comes to the rescue, offering all the do’s and don’ts that are guaranteed to complete our wonderful salvation experience. However, the real Good News is that salvation is only found in our union with Christ as we “are saved by His LIFE” (cf Romans 5:10). We are in Christ Jesus, who has become to us righteousness and sanctification, and redemption (cf 1Co 1:30). In Him there is no gap and in Him our salvation experience is complete.

The Old Testament saints could only look forward to the promise of a Saviour. With reference to these Old Testament saints, the writer of Hebrews says:

“And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” (Heb 11:39-40 NASB)

The essential difference between New Testament saints and Old Testament saints is the heart of our relationship with God. For New Testament believers, the indwelling Life of Christ is our relationship to God. For the saints of old, their relationship with God was conditional on their conduct. They related to God from a distance as best they could. They had the prophets and the law. Their relationship to God was conditional on their obedience and faithfulness. The New Testament believer’s relationship to God is unconditionally centred in expressing the indwelling Life of Christ rather than in their own obedience or faithfulness.

A good example of this is a verse that most of us have heard somewhere along the way applied to Christians:

“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” (Mal 3:8 NASB)

Nowhere in the New Testament is tithing mentioned in connection with the Christian life yet believers are told that God’s material blessing is conditional on tithing. Jesus made an unconditional promise when He said:

“Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Mat 6:31-33 NASB)

The Old Testament Christian constantly takes the promises of God and makes them conditional on our performance. In the above passage they would make God’s provision conditional on us “seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness!” But in speaking of seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness, Jesus was simply promising those who would become believers that the Father would take care of them in this world. The New Testament says of our salvation that the Father has “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13, 14) and that:

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Co 5:21 NASB)

We have also heard these Old Testament verses applied to believers:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9 NASB) 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (Psa 51:10 NASB)

These were the legitimate conscious concerns of the Old Testament saints but believers, under a new and better covenant, (cf. Hebrews) have had their hearts cleansed. Quoting from Jeremiah 31 on the new covenant the author of Hebrews writes:

“For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says, “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”” (Heb 10:14-17 NASB)

Jesus said:

“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (Joh 15:3 NASB)

More could be said and will be, about “abiding”, “backsliding”, “recommitting or rededicating,” “obedience” but for now I will end with this: The Old Testament Christian is forever taking God’s promises to us in Christ Jesus and making them conditional on our actions and performance. In doing so they take our eyes off of Jesus who is our only Life for:

“We have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us; and the life which we now live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave Himself up for us.” (cf Gal 2:20)

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The Trouble with I John 1:9 (Part 1)

(Reinstating Sacrifices for Believers)

Ever since our Lord Jesus Christ set us free from sin and death through His work on the Cross there has been a concerted effort by the enemies of our soul to keep us from experiencing the freedom He procured for us. The traditional explanation of 1 John 1:9 has been for many a hindrance to their growth in freedom in Christ. 1 John 1:9 reads: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Most teaching on this promotes one of two ideas, both which put the onus on the believer to practice a legalistic ritual in order to stay right with God. One pastor puts the first idea this way: “One is to keep short accounts in asking forgiveness. Sin separates us from God. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”” In other words, it is our continual confession of sins that maintains our forgiveness with God. Someone has commented that instead of having to confess our sins to a priest for absolution as in the Roman Catholic Church, the Protestants have just eliminated the middle man. Now we can confess directly to God to obtain forgiveness. Before addressing how this kind of thinking is a denial of the finished work of Christ on the Cross the second idea promoted in traditional teaching on 1 John 1:9 should be addressed.

Many traditional teachings acknowledge the faulty logic of needing to continually confess our sins for forgiveness but maintain that continual confession is necessary for us to stay in “fellowship” with God. The Believer’s Bible Commentary puts it this way:  

“In order for us to walk day by day in fellowship with God and with our fellow believers, we must confess our sins: sins of commission, sins of omission, sins of thought, sins of act, secret sins, and public sins. We must drag them out into the open before God, call them by their names, take sides with God against them, and forsake them. Yes, true confession involves forsaking of sins: “He who covers his sins will not prosper: but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Pro_28:13). 

When we do that, we can claim the promise that God is faithful and just to forgive. He is faithful in the sense that He has promised to forgive and will abide by His promise. He is just to forgive because He has found a righteous basis for forgiveness in the substitutionary work of the Lord Jesus on the cross. And not only does He guarantee to forgive, but also to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

The forgiveness John speaks about here is parental, not judicial. Judicial forgiveness means forgiveness from the penalty of sins, which the sinner receives when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ. It is called judicial because it is granted by God acting as Judge. But what about sins which a person commits after conversion? As far as the penalty is concerned, the price has already been paid by the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. But as far as fellowship in the family of God is concerned, the sinning saint needs parental forgiveness, that is, the forgiveness of His Father. He obtains it by confessing his sin. We need judicial forgiveness only once; that takes care of the penalty of all our sins—past, present, and future. But we need parental forgiveness throughout our Christian life. 

“When we confess our sins, we must believe, on the authority of the word of God, that He forgives us. And if He forgives us, we must be willing to forgive ourselves.”

It seems that we have found a way to continue the sacrificial system under the Mosaic Law for dealing with our sins. Instead of sacrificing animals, we substitute our confession of sin for either receiving forgiveness of our sins or maintaining our fellowship with God. It is true that we are to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16) and that we are to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” but that is not what is being addressed here.

Referring back to the first idea that in order to maintain forgiveness of sins we must continually practice confession for that purpose, Hebrews challenges that idea. In Hebrews 9 we read:

“For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Heb 9:24-28 NASB)

And in Hebrews 10:

“For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.” (Heb 10:1-3 NASB)

And:

“By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Heb 10:10-14 NASB)

And finally:

“And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THEM AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS UPON THEIR HEART, AND ON THEIR MIND I WILL WRITE THEM,” He then says, “AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin. (Heb 10:15-18 NASB)

Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin,” NOT EVEN OUR CONFESSION!!!

Part 2 addresses what 1 John 1:9 really about…

 

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I John 1:9 (Part 2)

(What Is 1 John 1:9 Really About?)

Almost without exception, most of the New Testament letters were written to correct some doctrinal error that was being mingled with the Gospel message originally received and delivered by the apostles. In the case of 1 John the problem was that there were certain individuals teaching a form of Christianity known as Gnosticism. This can be easily inferred from reading the letter once there is a basic understanding of what constitutes Gnosticism. One definition reads:

“Gnosticism was (and is) a religious movement that employed the concepts of (1) dualism (consisting of two parts), the material and the spiritual and (2) syncretism (the attempted reconciliation or union of opposing principles or elements) that spread throughout the ancient Near East immediately before and after the time of Christ.”

Gnosticism taught a duality that designated the material world as evil while only the immaterial (spirit) was pure. This was a common idea among pagan philosophies. Those who practiced Gnosticism usually fell into one of two applications of this dualistic outlook. There were the ascetics who were unusually hard on the body because of its evilness. Others, believing that that immaterial was all that mattered lived a libertarian lifestyle believing that it did not matter what was done morally in the body since it was beyond redemption.

The Believer’s Bible Commentary by William MacDonald (available on E-Sword), in its introduction to 1 John, describes Gnosticism with respect to Jesus Christ as follows:

“At the time John was writing, a false sect had arisen which became known as Gnosticism (Gk. “gnosis” = knowledge). These Gnostics professed to be Christians but claimed to have “additional knowledge,” superior to what the apostles taught. They claimed that a person could not be completely fulfilled until he had been initiated into their deeper “truths.” Some taught that matter was evil, and that therefore the Man Jesus could not be God. They made a distinction between Jesus and the Christ. “The Christ” was divine emanation which came upon Jesus at His baptism and left before His death, perhaps in the Garden of Gethsemane. According to them, Jesus “did” die, but the Christ did “not” die. They insisted, as Michael Green put it, that “the heavenly Christ was too holy and spiritual to be soiled by permanent contact with human flesh.” In short, they denied the Incarnation that Jesus is the Christ and that Jesus Christ is both God and Man.”

It was to address the Gnostic influence that had infiltrated this body of believers that John wrote this letter. See if you can see how he does this from 1 John 1:1 to 2:2. John’s letter is the Gospel message written in contrast to what the Gnostics were saying. He was outlining the way of salvation for the Gnostic and reassuring those who were being confused by Gnostic teaching. The verses in bold type addressed specifically some of the things the Gnostics were saying.

“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us– what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete. This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1Jn 1:1-5 NASB) 

GNOSTIC

If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; (1Jn 1:6 NASB) 

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.  (1Jn 1:7 NASB) 

The Gnostics said that they had fellowship with God while yet walking in darkness. John says this is a lie and that they are not practicing the truth – they are not Christians. But to those who do walk in the Light, there is fellowship with one another and complete cleansing from sin through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

GNOSTIC

If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.  (1Jn 1:8 NASB) 

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1Jn 1:9 NASB)

To the Gnostics who say they have no sin (and consequently no need of forgiveness) he says that they are deceived and the truth is not in them – they are not Christians. But to those who acknowledge their sin and need for forgiveness there is complete forgiveness and cleansing from unrighteousness.

GNOSTIC

If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.  (1Jn 1:10 NASB) 

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1Jn 2:1-2 NASB)

To the Gnostics who insisted that he had not sinned, John says that they make Jesus into a liar and that His word is not in them – they are not Christians. But to those Christians who do sin, John assures them that that we have an Advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ who is the propitiation for our sins. This is an ongoing reality in the life of a Christian who, in Christ, is always forgiven. To require ongoing confession of sin for the purpose of receiving forgiveness denies the truth of the Gospel (see 1 John 1:9 (Part 1)).

To be out of fellowship with God means to be children of darkness. Christians are children of Light despite the fact that they might sin. Our behaviour is not the determining factor of whether or not we walk in the Light or darkness.

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-14 NASB)

“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Eph 5:7-10 NASB)

The traditional natural view of 1 John 1:9 has the unfortunate effect of keeping believers trapped in a sin-consciousness (the self-conscious fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil) instead of experiencing the transforming power of Christ-consciousness – that is, a continual looking to Jesus Christ to be the All in All of our lives.

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