The image above is about wholeness.
The perspective is from Eastern religion and the Tao.
More on all this later.
Jesus is the key to being a whole man, woman, boy or girl.
Nearly every day I meet eccentrics who claim they know Jesus. They aren't weirdos, most of them, and they seem to have been spiritually regeneration ("saved") by Jesus. The Apostle John describes three stages of growth for Christians: "newborns, young men and fathers." It's possible (and very common) to get stuck along the way and never become what you should have attained to much earlier in life. Some of my best friends have known our Lord Jesus for decades, yet they're lopsided as a result of compromise with one or more of the great icons of the fallen world: the flesh, the world, and the devil. Never mind! When you see this is where your at, restart, reboot! The last one percent of surrender to the Lordship of Christ will change your life by orders of magnitude! This is because the universe belongs to Jesus. We are His house guests here--for a short time.
One huge hurdle for many today is our failure to understand the duality of "masculine" and "feminine" in the universe. It was called "the war between the sexes" in my day. Some people I know appear to be sexless zombies floating through life like lily pads in a frog pond. Whatever! This article is intended to get you unstuck and moving on to real life in Jesus.
I was reading the Letter of Paul to the Galatians today. It's the first of his Epistles written from Antioch, Syria about AD 49. Paul's immediate concern back then was the apparent disconnect between the Law of Moses and the radical New Covenant introduced by Jesus. Chapter 4 is so content-rich I copied it below pasting in a few Greek words that light up my switchboard every time they come to mind. To refresh my memory I first listened to David Suchet's audio narration of Galatians, (David Suchet reads Galatians) and then Ray Stedman's summary of Galatians from his series, "Through the Bible, Book by Book." (Ray Stedman: Overview of Galatians). Please listen to Ray, as the printed version leaves out a fabulous overview by Ray which was not transcribed. (Also recommended: Notes on Galatians by Thomas Constable.)
The transcribed version on Galatians gives a wonderful overview by Ray: "It is interesting, as someone has pointed out, that every single religion known to man is a religion of works -- except the Gospel of Jesus Christ! Hinduism tells us that if we renounce the world and relate ourselves to the "spirit of the universe," we will at last find our way to peace. Buddhism sets before us eight principles by which man is to walk and thus find himself on the way to salvation. Judaism says we must keep the Law absolutely and inflexibly and then we will be saved. Islam says that a man must pray five times a day and give alms and fast on the month of Ramadan and obey the commands of Allah. All are ways of works. Unitarianism says that man is saved by having good character. Modern humanism says salvation is by service to mankind. But in every case salvation is said to be achieved by something we have to do.
But the good news of the Gospel is that Christ has done it! He alone has done what no man can do for himself and thus has set us Christianity is not merely going to heaven when you die. It is also living now, in this present life. It is being set free from the controlling bondage to the world and its ways, it evil and wickedness, in our life now. It is to be delivered from this present evil age right now. This too is by the gift of Jesus Christ...
I have been crucified with Christ; It Is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 RSV)The old self-centered "I" has been crucified with Christ so that it no longer has any right to live, and your task and my task is to see that it doesn't live, that it is repudiated, that it is put aside, along with its determination to express what Paul calls "the works of the flesh." (Ray Stedman)
The heart of Galatians Chapter Four is a discussion about slavery and sonship in ancient Rome. About 60% of the people in the Roman Empire were slaves. Slaves were bought and sold and owned by any family with enough income to afford slaves. There was no law (before Christianity came) on how slaves ought to be treated, though the influence of the early church changed everything. Onesimus is man Epistle you must meet: See Philemon: A Brother Restored. Sons, either an emancipated slave, a natural born bio son, or an adopted son had no rights until they came of age. This allowed fathers to train their sons and help them grow up! To this day, the Jewish Bar Mitzvah models this coming of age. Twenty-two hundred years God gave Abraham the rite Circumcision to dramatically highlight "adoption of sons," leaving childhood and becoming a man.
"Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, 2 but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. 3 Even so we, when we were children, (nepios, minors) were in bondage under the elements (stoicheion) of the world. 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth (exapostél) His Son, born (ginomai) of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.
6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. 8 But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.
9 But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements (asthenēs kai ptōchos, to which you desire again to be in bondage? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years.
11 I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain.
12 Brethren, I urge you to become like me, for I became like you. You have not injured me at all. 13 You know that because of physical infirmity I preached the gospel to you at the first. 14 And my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise or reject, but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. 15 What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bear you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me. 16 Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? 17 They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them. 18 But it is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
19 My little children, (teknion) for whom I labor in birth (odino) again until Christ is formed (morphoō) in you,
20 I would like to be present with you now and to change my tone; for I have doubts about you. 21 Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?
22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic.
For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children—
26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written:
“Rejoice, O barren,
You who do not bear!
Break forth and shout,
You who are not in labor!
For the desolate has many more children
Than she who has a husband."
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
29 But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman (paidiske) shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” (eleutheros)
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free." (Galatians 4)
Life tests us all, and God disciples everyone of His kids. Testing and Temptation are two sides of the same coin. Note also that our word "proof' --referring to a coin or string of pearls is a measure of quality and lasting value. We value genuine antiques as well. No one likes counterfeit money.
A watching world dislikes fake Christians. But they are everywhere now. George Barna's recent survey showed that 50% of Americans professed to be Christians, yet only 6% knew Jesus. See On Knowing Jesus in regard to marginal folks, and secret Christians who may know Jesus after all, because "love covers a multitude of sins." India has 1.4 billion people of whom about 5% are committed Christians. This translates to about 24 million Christians in the U.S. compared to about 70 million in India.
No one likes hypocrites. Most of us can spot a phony and some Christians have an amazing gift called "discerning of spirits." Discernment (of spirits) (diakriseis pneumaton), is a gift to judge or evaluate the spirits so as to distinguish whether something is from God or from an evil source. Similar to the natural talent of intuition but of course more reliable and consistent.
But in some parts of the world calling yourself a Christian is a good way to get yourself killed or sent for rehab ward of a state prison. Yes, there have been, are, and will be, martyrs.
Yes, followers of Jesus are tested.
"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness.
Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears." (Hebrews 12:1-17)Ray Stedman notes about testings from God.
"I've long wished for some kind of a test which could be used in Bible schools and seminaries to determine the degree of spiritual maturity the students have attained. All the tests that are commonly used reveal only the amount of information that has been amassed. There is little which reveals the real spiritual achievement of the life. It is quite possible, and in fact demonstratively possible, to graduate from seminary with a Doctor of Divinity degree or a Doctorate in Theology and not possess true spirituality or true maturity in Christ.
Nevertheless, although man has not been able to devise any such test, God is always testing us, and his testing does not come when we are warned and ready. Anyone can pass a test then. If I tell you that I am going to test you to see if you exhibit love under pressure, whether you can keep your temper when you are being irritated, and if you can be sweet when things are going wrong, you are likely to pass with flying colors.
But God never tests that way. His tests catch us unprepared, off-guard. It is when we are confronted with some simple situation that no one will know about that the tests of life really come: When you are relaxing at home and the phone rings and suddenly you are confronted with a call for help, or a demand for a response -- and you had planned to relax and enjoy yourself all afternoon -- what happens then? That's the test."
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