Monday, April 24, 2017

Faith and Allegiance (4) Switching

Matthew Bates has a long discussion about the link between continued allegiance and good works. Good works is expressed allegiance.

I think that there should have been more emphasis on the act of giving allegiance. We become a Christian by switching our allegiance from the world to Jesus. We are actually switching from unwitting allegiance to the spiritual powers of evil to allegiance to Jesus.

A switch in allegiance is a pivotal moment with permanent consequences. Once Simon the Zealot switched his allegiance from his zealot group to Jesus, he could not go back. If he had tried, they would have perceived him to be a spy and tried to kill him.

If a soldier in Saul’s army went to live with David in the Cave of Adullum and switched allegiance he could not go back. If he tried to meet with his old friends in Saul’s army, they would kill him because he was a traitor. If he were a senior officer, they would have tried to kill him anyway, because he would know too much.

Switching allegiance is a life and death issue.

When give allegiance to Jesus, we are withdrawing our allegiance to the spiritual powers of evil. They are not happy.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Faith and Allegiance (3)

Allegiance is a good word, but unfortunately, modern people are not familiar with the concept.

American Children make a pledge of allegiance to the US flag. Unfortunately, a flag cannot issue commands. so this pledge can be made without any need for obedience.

The flag represents republican government and the US Constitution. The republic is considered to be of God, so pledging allegiance to the constitution does not conflict with any allegiance to him.

However, the constitution provides liberty. It provides people with freedom to do what they like. It does not require obedience to God.

This vague allegiance to a flag is totally different to allegiance to an ancient king. Once you gave allegiance to a king, he owned you. You became his property. He could make you do whatever he chose. He could send you on a mission that would result in you being killed.

The king owned everything. You could only hang on to your property, if he allowed it. He was free to take the best of your property, if that suited him. Samuel described this well in his warning to Israel (1 Sam 8).

If you withdrew allegiance to a king, he would probably kill you.

Allegiance is a serious business. It is quite different to standing in a circle under a flag.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Faith and Allegiance (2)

The Greek word translated faith is “pistis”. The related verb is “pisteuo”. It is often translated as “believe”. In his book called Salvation by Allegiance Alone, Matthew Bates explains that the word “pistis” is much broader than faith, although it sometimes does mean faith. He explains that the pistis has three dimensions.

  • intellectual agreement
  • proffessed fealty
  • enacted loyalty.
Bates says that intellectual agreement with the gospel is not enough. God expects allegiance to Jesus.

I would put it this way. The Greek word for faith included the following elements.

  • Intellectual assent to the truth of the gospel
    Jesus is the son of God.
    He died on the cross,
    rose from the dead
    and ascended into the spiritual realms.
    He is now seated at the right hand of the father,
    far above all spiritual authority.
    The person choosing to follow Jesus must believe these facts about Jesus are true. This is belief.

  • Trust in the reliability of God
    We decide to trust God
    He can be trusted to do what he says he will do.
    He is good, so he will do good things.
    He has the power to do what he says he will do.

  • Transferring allegiance to Jesus
    We are saved by giving our full allegiance to Jesus.
    We renounce all other loyalties,
    to the world and to the spiritual powers of evil.
    We give ourselves to be be subjects of Jesus.

We can give allegiance by declaring, “Jesus is Lord” or “Jesus is King”. This is a bit problematic, because the words “Lord” and “King” do not have much content in the modern world. We also declare our allegiance by baptism. That is why baptism is so important for getting free from the spiritual powers of evil. A person being baptised is renouncing any loyalty to them. They are declaring to them that they now fully belong to Jesus.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Faith and Allegiance (1)

When I wrote a summary of the gospel last year I used the word allegiance to describe our relationship with Jesus. Here is the good news in in my words.

Good News
God has installed a new government. Jesus came to earth and lived a good and generous life. He amazed the people with his wisdom and healed broken lives, but he was killed by the political and religious leaders. However, God raised him from the dead and gave him a place of supreme authority in the spiritual world.

Jesus new government is different from any government that we have known. Human government have always exercised authority imposed from top down with police and military power. This makes them vulnerable to the spiritual power of evil, who picked off the people on the top and then manipulate them to wreak havoc on earth. This is why human governments have been so disastrous, and so many have been evil.

The government of God is based on love, not power, so all authority will be freely submitted freely from below to those the people love and trust. This leaves no room for the powers of evil to work, because Jesus death on the cross set those who trust him free from their power.

Challenge
God’s new government has come. He is calling people all over the world to shift their allegiance to Jesus, and become part of his new government that his emerging on earth.

My Response
Jesus has done a lot for me, so I have chosen to follow him and do his will by following the voice of his Holy Spirit.

So I was intrigued to see that Mathew Bates has just released a book called Salvation by Allegiance Alone. I have just finished reading this book.

I like Bates’ approach to allegiance and faith. It reflects my experience in choosing to be a follower of Jesus many years ago. I was not buying a ticket to heaven. I was switching my allegiance to a new leader. I chose to give allegiance to Jesus because I trusted what he had done and the wisdom of his Spirit.

A switch in allegiance is a pivotal moment with permanent consequences.

However, allegiance is tricky concept in the modern American world, where the predominant allegiance is to flag and the political system. Not many want to switch their allegiance from that to Jesus. Most want to serve both masters, so split allegiance becomes weak. More on this in the next few posts.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Three Things

I observed three things last week that were a little disturbing.

  1. Serious deception – Politicians and their followers will accept a lie if it will get them what they want, especially if they dislike the victim.

  2. Massive hypocrisy – Feigned outrage at an enemy that does bad things, while turning a blind to a friend that does greater evil.

  3. Immense love for bully power.

All these lead beastward.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Territory

We should focus our prayer on the places where we have authority. We have authority in our lives and our family’s lives. We have authority in the lives of people who have submitted to us. This is why groups of believers need to submit to each other for spiritual protection. Three or for four people who are united by love and submission can be together spiritually in the same way as Jesus is with them (Matt 18:20). They can establish a spiritual space where Jesus reigns.

However, establishing spiritual space for Jesus to operate is not enough. The principalities and powers operate through the political authorities that control physical territory. To eliminate their power and replace it with the Kingdom of God, Jesus needs to extend his authority over physical territory.

Territory is important. We need a better understanding of the relationship between authority and territory. Jesus currently controls very little territory in most cities. He has authority over the homes of his followers and church building. He has authority over any businesses that are owned by Christians.

Looking down on the city from above, it would look like several thousand dots, scattered all over a map of the city (with each dot representing a family, church building or business). Between the dots would be swathes of territory controlled by the enemy.

If a general looked at this map to come up with a strategy to expand Jesus’ territory, he would say, “This is hopeless”. Jesus army is scattered and isolated. They are not a threat to the enemy, not matter how vibrant their worship when they come together on Sunday. They can be picked off one at a time, and that seems to be happening.

God’s strategy is essential. We must operate where he leads. A wise general would generate his troops together and establish a few strongholds on the ground and secure them from attack. He would then push out from these strongholds into places where the enemy is weak.

The spiritual powers of evil cannot be everywhere at once. We can overcome them by working where they are weak. They tend to concentrate on the centres of power (civic and religious), because that is where their power is amplified. They are usually much weaker on the edges of life at the edge of the city.

We should work together to establish spiritual enclaves where the spiritual powers of evil are weak. From there we can push back against the power of darkness from a position of strength. As the enclaves expand, the principalities and powers that control the city will be weakened as their authority is fragmented.

The principalities and powers operate through the political authorities that control territory. We must be ready with a system of authority over territory for when they are defeated. (I explain how this can happen in my new book called Government of God). Otherwise, an alternative political power will rise and establish imposed authority over the territory. The principalities and power will use them to recover their spiritual authority over the territory.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Praise is the Power of Heaven

A common teaching is that praise breaks the powers of darkness. This is stated as truth by many worship songs, but it is not in the scriptures.

Years ago, I attended a large worship service in the city centre. A team of a dozen musicians led the worship in a very polished manner. The singing was enthusiastic and the presence of God could be felt. As we were singing a song about the Jesus seated on the throne in heaven, the Holy Spirit allowed me to hear what the evil one was saying. The voice I heard said:

Who cares;
I am winning.
You can do what you like in here,
I am winning out there where it all happens.
You can sing about heaven as much as you like
I am winning in the world where it counts.
Praise is good. It is the right way to enter God’s presence, but praise does not change the authority situation on earth.

The principalities and powers that dominate a city or nation are there because they have been given authority to be there, by people with authority. They are quite happy for God’s people to gather and praise, because it leaves authority in the world unchanged.

We are in a season when worship has been marvellous, with great new music and songs, but the situation in the world has got worse. More of the same will not change that.

The same season has seen a huge amount of prayer, but it has not been effective in breaking the darkness. It may have prevented the situation from getting worse, but it has not released the massive victory many expected. Instead, many intercessors have been battered. More of the same will result in more of the same slow decline.

The powers of darkness are there, because they have been given authority to be there by people with authority. They will refuse to go while their authority to be there remains. No individual Christian or group of Christians has authority to make them go, because the people who let them in have greater authority in the city.

This is the challenge we need to resolve. It will take more than praise. It will require a greater understanding of authority.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Law and Judaism

In his book called Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid points that the nation of Israel has shown very little interested in implementing God’s law in the political sphere.

After the second Jewish temple was destroyed in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans, Jews would, for more than eighteen hundred years, find themselves living as minorities under the rule of largely Christians and Muslim powers. This meant that Jewish law could not be implemented by the state. Judaism had to make its peace, to the extent that it could, with non-Jewish rule. Delineating between the political religious realms became necessary, sometimes even a matter of life and death. Legal thinkers had to adapt their understanding of the laws accordingly. In exile, rabbinic Judaism, particular in the Talmud and subsequent commentaries, became preoccupied with personal and communal responsibilities rather than political rule.

With the founding of the state of Israel, Jewish law and its relationship to the state became relevant once again. By the time, the Jewish states earliest citizens were just as much of product of European concepts of religion and state as they were their own. The new state, being democratic was a reflection of the preference of its citizens, and these had now been indelibly marked by secularism. Religion would play an important role in public life, just as it did in the Untied States, but few questioned the mostly secular, foundations of the Israeli state. On this there was a wide-ranging consensus, even if it has eroded somewhat with time. Meanwhile, Ultra Orthodox movements, as illiberal as they may be, have little interest in re-creating or returning to an invented past. They seek to guard, rather than dismantle, the long, rich tradition of rabbinic Judaism, a tradition that had, for nearly two years, little to say about law and governance (p.44).

Instead, Israel has copied America’s democratic militarism.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Law and Government

In his book called Islamic Exceptionalism, Shadi Hamid explains that Christians have mostly been ambivalent about law and government.

That the Christian tradition seems ambivalent about law, governance and power is no accident…When Jesus died on the cross, he, in effect, released man from the burden of law. With the coming of Christ, salvation is achieved through faith in Jesus Christ rather than through observance of the law.

Christianity’s story of salvation is one of progression, with humanity passing through different states of spiritual development. Jewish or Mosaic law was provisional, meant for a particular time and place and for a particular chosen people, whereas Christianity was universal and everlasting…. The Mosaic Law was never intended to be either universal or eternally binding.

In short, it is not so much that Christianity has little to say about law, it that this ambivalence, or even opposition, to law was a feature of Christian theology during its early development.

In later centuries, Christian no doubt played a powerful role in public life, but this did not lead to legal development. As Ralston writes, “Simply put, there is nothing resembling a developed Christian account of public law in the New Testament.” This had important implications: “Christian theology, especially in the medieval period, primarily, divides ecclesial law from civil law into distinct sphere of society. Ecclesial laws govern the church and civil laws govern the public” (p.48)